b. 22/07/1924 Sangmo, India. d. 01/07/2000 India.
Ganju Lama (1924-2000) was born at Sangmo Busty, Sikkim on 22nd July 1924 and although he was enlisted into the 7th Gurkhas in 1942 he was not an ethnic Gurkha nor was he a Nepalese subject. At the time of his enlistment during World War II, Gurkha Regiments were prepared to accept any potential recruits who closely resembled the Gurkha and who lived near the borders of Nepal. Ganju came from Sikkim. At the time he was enlisted, Ganju’s real name was “Gyantso” which a clerk at the Recruiting Office wrote down as “Ganju” and Ganju he remained.
After leaving the Regimental Centre in 1943 Ganju joined the 1st Battalion 7th Gurkha Rifles in Burma near Imphal. In May 1944 during operations on the Tiddim Road, 1/7th surprised a party of Japanese and killed several of them. For his part in this action, Ganju was awarded the Military Medal.
By June 1944 the 14th Army in Burma had made steady progress in clearing the Japanese from the area round Imphal and Kohima, although the Japanese were not yet on the run. One morning the enemy launched a major attack, with tanks in support, on the 2nd Battalion 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles, which was in the same Brigade as 1/7th Gurkha Rifles.
On 12th June 1944 at Ningthoukhong, India , 'B' Company was attempting to stem the enemy's advance when it came under heavy machine-gun and tank machine-gun fire. Rifleman Ganju Lama, with complete disregard for his own safety, took his PIAT gun and, crawling forward, succeeded in bringing the gun into action within 30 yards of the enemy tanks, knocking out two of them. Despite a broken wrist and two other serious wounds to his right and left hands he then moved forward and engaged the tank crew who were trying to escape. Not until he had accounted for all of them did he consent to have his wounds dressed.
After the action, he was rescued by men of his own section, and taken on a stretcher to the Regimental Aid Post prior to being evacuated to a Base Hospital. Ganju Lama was eventually traced through the chain of evacuation and was presented with his VC in Delhi by His Excellency the Viceroy, Field Marshal Lord Wavell, in the presence of Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, General Slim, and members of his own family from Bhutan.
After Indian independence in 1947 he joined the 11th Gurkha Rifles, a re-raised Regiment comprising Gurkhas of the 7th and 10th Gurkha Rifles who had opted to continue their service with India as opposed to joining the British Army. In due course he was promoted to Subedar Major and in 1965 appointed Aide de Camp to the President of India. The year before, a large boil had developed on his leg; when it burst, a Japanese bullet came out. He was granted the honorary rank of Captain in 1968 while still serving and, on retirement, returned to his home in Sikkim having been appointed Honorary Aide de Camp to the President for life.
Ganju Lama passed away, aged 75, on 1st July 2000 in his native Sikkim, and was cremated in Sangmo, where he was born. Ganju Lama’s impressive medal group was donated to the Gurkha Regimental Museum, Winchester, Hampshire.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: GURKHA MUSEUM, WINCHESTER, HAMPSHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: CREMATED AT SANGMO, INDIA.
Ganju Lama's medals on display at the Gurkha Museum, Winchester, Hampshire (August 2012).
Constitution Hill Memorial
Ganju Lama VC (second on left) with the King of Nepal in May 1998.