The Times, Monday, 3 July 2000

Ganju Lama was born on 7th July 1922 in the village of Sangmo in Sikkim of a Tibetan father, who was a mandal ( village headman ) and a Nepalese mother ( who died when he was two ). He was admitted into the Gurkhas at the age of 18 only because in wartime the regiment let slip its usually stringent ethnic criterion.

Subadar ( Captain ) Ganju Lama VC, MM, 1st Bn, 7th Duke of Edinburgh's Own Gurkha Rifles, died on the 30th June 2000 at his home in Sikkim.

The spring of 1944 saw General Sir William Slim's offensive into northern Burma countered by the move of the three divisions of General Mutagachi's 15th Japanese Army into the Imphal Plain. Mutagachi aimed to block Slim's lines of supply through the mountain passes from Assam, but first had to take Kohima and Imphal.

For the award of the Victoria Cross

[ London Gazette, 7 September 1944 ], Burma, 12 June 1944, Rifleman Ganju Lama, 1st Bn, 7th Gurkha Rifles, Indian Army.

In Burma, on the morning of the 12th June 1944, the enemy put down an intense artillery barrage lasting an hour on our positions north of the village of Ningthoukhong. This heavy artillery fire knocked out several bunkers and caused heavy casualties, and was immediately followed by a very strong enemy attack supported by five medium tanks.

After fierce hand-to-hand fighting, the perimeter was driven in in one place and enemy infantry, supported by three medium tanks, broke through, pinning our troops to the ground with intense fire. "B" Company, 7th Gurkha Rifles, was ordered to counter-attack and restore the situation.

Shortly after passing the starting line it came under heavy enemy medium machine-gun and tank machine-gun fire at point blank range, which covered all lines of approach. Rifleman Ganju Lama, the No. 1 of the PIAT gun, on his own initiative, with great coolness and complete disregard for his own safety, crawled forward and engaged the tanks single-handed.

In spite of a broken left wrist and two other wounds, one in his right hand and one in his leg, caused by withering cross-fire concentrated upon him, Rifleman Ganju Lama succeeded in bringing his gun into action within thirty yards of the enemy tanks and knocked out first one and then another, the third tank being destroyed by an anti-tank gun.

In spite of his serious wounds, he then moved forward and engaged with grenades the tank crews, who now attempted to escape. Not until he had killed or wounded them all, thus enabling his company to push forward, did he allow himself to be taken back to the Regimental Aid Post to have his wounds dressed.

Throughout this action Rifleman Ganju Lama, although very seriously wounded, showed a complete disregard for his own personal safety, outstanding devotion to duty and a determination to destroy the enemy which was an example and an inspiration to all ranks. It was solely due to his prompt action and brave conduct that a most critical situation was averted, all positions regained and very heavy casualties inflicted on the enemy.

Ganju Lama was invested with his Victoria Cross by the Viceroy of India, Field Marshal Lord Wavell, at the Red Fort, New Delhi, India, on the 24th October 1944.

On the partition of India in 1947, Ganju Lama joined the 11th Gorkha Rifles of the new Indian Army. The regiment had been re-raised from the soldiers of the 7th and 10th Gurkha Rifles who opted to continue their service with the Indian Army, rather than join the British Army. On his retirment the Government of Sikkim granted him a piece of land near his native village in the Ravangla District where he farmed both potatoes and the profitable spice crop cardamon.

Medal entitlement of Subadar Ganju Lama - 1st Bn, 7th Gurkha Rifles

  • Victoria Cross
  • Military Medal ( MM )
  • 1939 - 45 Star
  • Burma Star
  • War Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • India Service Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal ( 1977 )
  • Raksha Medal ( 1965 )
  • Indian Independence Medal ( 1947 )
  • 20 Years' Long Service Medal
  • 9 Years' Long Service Medal
  • Pema Darjee Medal ( Sikkim )

VC Deaths

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Iain Stewart, 3 July 2000