b. 23/03/1923 Myagdi, Nepal. d. 20/04/2011 Myagdi, Nepal.
Tulbahadur Pun (1923-2011) was born on March 23rd 1923 at Banduk village in the Myagdit district of west Nepal. He enlisted in the Gurkha Brigade in West Nepal and, after completing his basic training at Abbottabad in Northern India, joined the 3rd Battalion 6th Gurkha Rifles for the Chindit Expedition.
Early in March 1944, the Second Chindit Expedition, a force of six brigades comprising some 9,000 men together with stores, was air-landed in Burma. The main objectives of the Expedition were twofold: first, to support the advance on Myitkyina by the American-led Chinese troops and to establish a strong position astride the Japanese lines of communication; and secondly, to impede the build-up of Japanese forces for an invasion of India by harassing them in the Mogaung area.
The Chindits were supplied by establishing a number of fortified bases with airstrips south of Myitkyina. These strongholds provoked a strong reaction from the Japanese, and some of them subsequently proved indefensible and had to be abandoned.
On May 27 the 77th Indian Brigade was ordered to capture the Japanese supply centre of Mogaung. After almost a month of savage fighting which had greatly depleted the brigade’s numbers, the 3rd Battalion 6th Gurkha Rifles was ordered to attack the railway bridge at Mogaung on June 23rd. As soon as the attack had been launched, the Japanese opened concentrated and sustained crossfire at close range from a position known as “The Red House” and from a strong bunker position 200 yards to the left of it.
Captain Allmand, in command of “B” company, went forward alone and charged a machine-gun nest, but he was mortally wounded. So intense was the fire that both the leading platoons of “B” Company, one of which was Rifleman Pun’s, were pinned to the ground. Pun’s section — apart from himself, the section commander and one rifleman — was wiped out.
The section commander led his two remaining riflemen in a charge on The Red House, but he was at once severely wounded. Pun and his comrade continued the charge — but the latter, too, fell badly wounded. Pun then seized the Bren gun and, firing from the hip as he ran, continued the charge on the heavily bunkered position. He charged alone in the face of a shattering concentration of automatic fire directed straight at him.
With the dawn coming up behind him, Pun made a perfect target for the Japanese. He had to cross 30 yards of open ground, ankle deep in mud, through shell holes and over fallen trees. Against all the odds, he reached The Red House and closed with the occupants.
Pun killed three of the enemy, put five more to flight, and captured two machine guns and much ammunition. He then gave accurate supporting fire from the bunker to the remnants of his platoon, enabling them to reach their objective. Among the lives saved by Pun’s action was that of Major James Lumley, father of the actress Joanna Lumley, who has become one of the Gurkha Welfare Trust’s staunchest supporters.
The citation for Pun’s Victoria Cross declared: “Rifleman Pun’s courage and superb gallantry in the face of odds which meant almost certain death were most inspiring to all ranks and were beyond praise.” Pun was invested with the Victoria Cross by the Viceroy, Field Marshal Viscount Wavell, at a special parade held at the Red Fort in Delhi on March 3rd 1945. After Independence in 1947, he transferred to the British Army and joined the 2nd/6th Gurkha Rifles, seeing action in Malaya and Hong Kong. He rose to be regimental sergeant major of his battalion and retired from the Army in May 1959 in the rank of honorary lieutenant.
Pun returned to Banduk village, where he farmed. Always concerned about the education of children, he opened two primary schools in the area. In 1986 his farm was washed away by floods, but he was able to resume his life on the land after a “benefit” football match in Kathmandu raised the necessary funds.
Pun came to England in 2007 and settled initially at Hounslow, west London, before, last year, moving the short distance to Chiswick. He attended many reunions of the VC and GC Association, supported many Gurkha charities and in 2009 was made a Freeman of the borough of Hounslow. Pun, who presented his VC to the Gurkha Regimental Museum, Winchester, died on 20th April 2011 at Banduk, where he had gone to be present at the opening next month of a new secondary school. He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered in the Kali Gandaki River, Nepal. He was twice married, and was survived by his second wife, Punisara, and by his two sons and eight daughters.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: GURKHA MUSEUM, WINCHESTER, HAMPSHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: CREMATED - ASHES SCATTERED IN THE KALI GANDAKI RIVER, NEPAL.
Tulbahadur Pun's VC on display at the Gurkha Museum, Winchester, Hampshire (August 2012).
Memorial Gates, Constitution Hill, London
Chindit Memorial, London
Courtesy of The Gurkha Museum