Nepali Times Asian Paints
"I beheaded him with my khukuri"

The Gurkha and African brigades suffered heavy casualties. Tul Bahadur Pun of the 3rd/6th Gurkha Rifles was awarded the Victoria Cross for extraordinary bravery in attacking Japanese positions single-handedly and killing scores of Japanese soldiers, including some he beheaded with his khukuri. In this continuation of his memories from last week, he describes his platoon's attempt to capture the town. This serialisation of the testimonies of retired Gurkha soldiers is translated from Lahurey ka Katha by Dev Bahadur Thapa and published by Himal Books.

As we planned our attack, I stressed that it should take place between 1 and 2AM, since that is the time the enemies would be asleep. However, the officer in command seemed reluctant, since attacking in the dead of the night would not be easy. However, I insisted that for this very reason, the timing was ideal. I stressed that there were chances the enemy sentries may be asleep at this time, making it better for attack. The officer nodded his assent.

We made a scheme to be on our guard by 1AM and to attack by 2AM no matter what. Two companies were assigned for the task. The first would enter the bridge at the front. As soon as we started firing, the second company would begin making noise, creating the impression that a large contingent was on the assault. Our company was to lead.

They pushed me to the front, saying I had already made reconnaissance of the situation. I was a rifleman at the time, and was accompanied by another man of the same rank, a section commander and a company officer captain. We were to make the first assault and the rest were to jump off if anything of consequence took place. A full company was kept in the rear to making diversionary noise.

The enemy had no idea of our plans. We were to take two different courses, with the commanding officer remaining in the middle. We had to throw grenades on his instructions. We had them ready and when the signal came we instantly threw them at the enemy bunkers. The enemies stuck the barrels of their guns out of their bunkers. The bombs started exploding and we threw more, one after another. Those inside the bunker started shouting. It seemed that was their end. At the opportune moment our company started pouring onto the bridge. Our troops got mixed up with theirs. Some fired bullets and some hit the enemies with the butt of the rifles. The hand-to-hand combat ended with the elimination of all the enemy.

At dawn we saw that most of them were killed and those who survived had managed to escape. We had the bridge under control and our troops went out to capture the town. We fixed our camp near the town in open fields, with no place to hide and some of us were killed because of this. There were, however, a number of mango trees. One could hide behind one of these trees.

On two nights we made false attacks. We fired away and pretended it was the real thing to deceive the enemy. On the third night we actually marched in, but made the mistake of taking positions directly in the line of enemy cannon fire. Almost all of our infantry was wiped out. Since there was nowhere to take shelter, many were killed.

We were pinned down in the open fields. I was leading my platoon and was in the extreme right corner and the section commander was in the middle. Everyone else was killed, I escaped because I was on the edge. The platoon sergeant hid behind a mango trunk and escaped. He called and asked me to leave my weapon, take a gun and charge. I looked to the right and left and found no trace of anyone, they had all been killed. I was the lone survivor and it was clear I would also be killed.

I raised my head, and the enemy spotted me. I jumped forward twice to reach where the section commander's gun was lying. I picked it up and jumped into the midst of the enemy, firing at all sides until they were all killed. A little distance away there was a bunker and a circular sentry post. Four enemy soldiers were in the process of loading their guns. When I jumped in among them, they were surprised and couldn't figure out what to do. I pulled the trigger, but had run out of ammo. They were advancing when I threw a grenade into the trench and killed them all off.

There were artillery pieces and machine guns all around. Suddenly the British officer who was with us when we captured the bridge appeared. He had been hit by a bullet and was imploring me to take him away. He instructed me to retreat by crawling. I managed to hide myself, and in this position I was unhurt when the enemies started firing with machine guns. Not one of our troops raised their heads as the battleground was so flat that nothing could escape the enemy's notice.

I was in a dilemma. The bullets were very close, yet I didn't know how to get to them. A British regiment was fighting close by, firing at the enemy posts. In one leap, I got to the ammunition boxes and threw them inside the bunker. Since they contained cartridges on a belt, I wrapped the belt around my body, then starting loading the bullets. Each stripe could take 30 bullets. First I tried to throw hand grenades at the enemy, but they kept bouncing back and exploding behind me, no matter how hard I threw them. I kept reloading and firing. There was uninterrupted firing from the other side, which destroyed part of my hideout. After five or six attempts, I hit the enemy and the firing from his side stopped.

I raised my head and saw him lying flat on the ground. I went to the edge of the bunker to take his gun, but found there was a wire mesh in front of him to protect him from grenades. That is why all my grenades were bouncing back. I took out my khukuri and cut through the mesh. As I was snatching the gun off the fallen man, two enemy soldiers came up from behind and tried to capture me. I had left my weapon outside, and all I had at my disposal was the khukuri. I beheaded one of them and hit the second one on his shoulder and I had to cut him several times before he also died. Suddenly, a third enemy appeared, but I cut him with my khukuri too. Others from the trench followed, but I kept slashing them with my khukuri. When there were too many of them, I took out another grenade and threw it at them. There was some rustling, and then it was all quiet.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)