The Times, 23 May 2002

It has been reported from India of the death, on the 19th May 2002, of Subadar Bhandari Ram VC, 10th Baluchi Regiment, in his village of Auhur, Himachel Pradesh.

Bhandari Ram was a Hindu from the Simla Hills. He was born in the village of Serunia in 1919 and enlisted in the 10th Baluch Regiment shortly before the outbreak of war. He had taken part in critical actions against the Japanese before the incident in November 1944, including the bitterly fought battle of Ngakyedauk Pass in northern Arakan, which lasted for 25 days during February 1944, and finally brought to an end the much-vaunted Japanese "March on Delhi" - their last strategic offensive against India.

Towards the close of 1944, having been warned not to expect further reinforcements from Europe, General Sir William Slim decided he must release three of his own divisions from the Arakan Peninsula, where they were containing the Japanese 28th Army between the Irrawaddy and the Bay of Bengal. Although the Japanese had only two divisions they would be enough to threaten the right flank of Slim's planned offensive into central Burma.

Slim therefore ordered Sir Philip Christison's 5th Corps of two Indian and two West Afican divisions to clear Arakan, leave one division in occupation there and divert the other three to the main offensive. As a preliminary, the 25th Indian Division was given the task of clearing the route into northwestern Arakan through the Mayu hills.

For the award of the Victoria Cross

[ London Gazette, 8 February 1945 ], East Mayu, Arakan, Burma, 22 November 1944, Sepoy Bhandari Ram, 10th Baluchi Regiment, Indian Army.

On the 22nd November 1944, in East Mayu, Arakan, during a Company attack on a strongly held Japanese bunker position, Sepoy Bhandari Ram was in the leading section of one of the Platoons. In order to reach its objective, it was necessary to climb a precipitous slope, by way of a narrow ridge with sheer sides. When fifty yards from the top of the slope, the leading section of the Platoon came under heavy and accurate light machine-gun fire. Three men were wounded, amongst them Sepoy Bhandari Ram, who received a burst of light machine gun fire in his left shoulder and a wound in his leg.

The Platoon was pinned down by intense enemy fire. This Sepoy then crawled up to the Japanese light machine gun, whilst in full view of the enemy, and approached to within fifteen yards of the enemy position. The enemy then hurled grenades at him, seriously wounding him in the face and chest. Undeterred, severely wounded by bullets and grenade splinters and bespattered with blood, this Sepoy, with superhuman courage and determination, crawled up to within five yards of his objective. He then threw a grenade into the position, killing the enemy gunner and two other men, and continued his crawl to the post.

Inspired by his example, the Platoon rushed up and captured the position. It was only after the position had been taken that he lay down and allowed his wounds to be dressed.

By his outstanding gallantry, determination to destroy the enemy at all cost, and entire disregard for his personal safety, this young Sepoy enabled his Platoon to capture what he knew to be the key to the whole enemy position.

Bhandari Ram was invested with his Victoria Cross by the Viceroy of India, Field Marshal Lord Wavell at the Red Fort, New Delhi, on the 3rd March 1945.

Bhandari Ram served on after the Second World War, but the Partition of India in 1947 presented him with a problem. Predominantly recruited from Baluchistan, which was to become part of Pakistan, the 10th Baluch was no longer the regiment for a Hindu. He therefore transferred to the Dogra Regiment in the new Indian Army and served for a total of 22 years.

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Iain Stewart, 24 May 2002