Havildar Bhanbhagta Gurung’s Knife Wielding WWII Assault


In March of 2008, the world lost one of the
most fearless soldiers to have served during WWII; a man who single-handedly cleared five
heavily fortified positions with nothing more than a knife, a few grenades, a rock, and
a complete disregard for the bullets flying around him the whole time. This is the story of Bhanbhagta Gurung. First thing first, we should address the fact
that there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus on how exactly Havildar Bhanbhagta Gurung’s
first name is supposed to be spelled (Havildar is the rank he held, not his name). While some spell Gurung’s first name as
“Bhanubhakta”, others list it as “Bhanbhagta”. Since even the most reputable of sources can’t
seem to give a satisfactory answer on which spelling is correct, we’ll be using the
name listed on his Victoria Cross citation, Bhanbhagta for the duration of this piece. Moving on. Little is known about Bhanbhagta’s early
life save for that he was born in the small Nepalese village of Phalpu in September of
1921. In 1940, at just 18 years of age, Bhanbhagta
joined the British army a few months after World War II began, at which point he was
drafted to the “third battalion of the 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles.“ For those of you unfamiliar with what Gurkhas
(sometimes spelled Gorkhas) are, that’s the name name traditionally given to soldiers
recruited into the British or Indian military from Nepal. The word Gurkha is taken from an area once
known as the “Gorkha kingdom” which was folded into, and became part of, Nepal around
the turn of the 20th century. The Gurkhas were originally formed after British
soldiers fighting in Nepal were simultaneously impressed and terrified by the soldiers they
encountered during the Anglo–Nepalese War of 1814. After the war ended in 1816, the British,
spying an opportunity to bolster their ranks, offered these fearless Nepalese soldiers a
chance to volunteer to serve in the British army, referring to them collectively as Gurkhas,
a name that is still used today regardless of which area of Nepal a given soldier happens
to hail from. Back to Bhanbhagta- although he joined the
Army in 1940, he didn’t get his first taste of combat until 1943 when he fought alongside
several thousand other men behind enemy lines in Burma. During this time, Bhanbhagta was promoted
from rifleman to the rank of Naik (the equivalent of a corporal). However, he would later be demoted back to
rifleman in 1944 when his commanding officer told him to patrol the wrong area and then
refused to admit he’d made a mistake, instead putting the blame on Bhanbhagta. Bhanbhagta’s shining moment would come a
year later on March 5th when he single-handedly took out five entrenched Japanese positions
under heavy fire and out of ammunition for his gun, doing his best impression of Lance-Corporal
James Welch, who once captured four armed German soldiers with an empty gun. Bhanbhagta was part of a platoon of men given
the singular goal of taking a hill colloquially known as “Snowdon East”. The hill was a strategic foothold that had
been overrun by the Japanese who, in the process, killed about half the Gurkha company after
the Gurkhas had run out of ammunition and been forced to fight their way through the
enemy lines with nothing but knives while under heavy fire. Bhanbhagta’s platoon was told to take the
hill back “regardless of cost.” Bhanbhagta apparently took this command quite
literally. While Bhanbhagta and his men were sneaking
up on the position, they were spotted and initially pinned down by machine gun and mortar
fire. Because of their extreme close proximity to
the enemy troops, support artillery from their own side wasn’t possible. They were stuck. While all of this was happening, an enemy
sniper from a tree approximately 75 meters to the south began picking off Bhanbhagta’s
comrades one by one. Realising that he couldn’t get a clean shot
if he was lying down, Bhanbhagta stood up while still being shot at from several enemy
positions and managed to take out the sniper. Bhanbhagta then signalled to his men to follow
him as he sprinted up the hill in the face of the enemy fire raining down. Several Gurkhas were killed in the dash and
they were again pinned down. Apparently not one to just sit around while
being shot at, Bhanbhagta sprinted the remaining 20 meters or so to the nearest enemy trench
and quickly dispatched those inside with a couple of well thrown grenades. He then ran towards a second enemy position,
killing the armed soldiers inside with his bayonet. Bhanbhagta then rushed two other positions,
taking them out with his now trademark combo of grenades and furious rifle-stabs. All of this happened while Bhanbhagta was
being “subjected to almost continuous and point-blank machine-gun fire,” particularly
from a fifth position slightly further up the hill. Bhanbhagta then headed towards the final position,
a small bunker where a machine gunner was raining down heavy fire and doing a boatload
of damage to the Gurkhas. Nevertheless, Bhanbhagta managed to get on
top of the roof of the bunker without being shot, and then, being out of explosive grenades,
hurled two smoke grenades into the opening from which the machine-gun was firing. When two Japanese soldiers emerged, Bhanbhagta
pounced on them with his kukri (a curved blade not dissimilar from a machete), dispatching
them both. He then ran into the machine-gun nest, having
to kill the machine-gunner with a rock instead of his kukri, because of the extreme close
quarters. Bhanbhagta and his men then took possession
of the machine gun and managed to hold the position from the counterattack by the enemy
soldiers, proving that you absolutely do not want to mess with a Gurkha. No seriously, the Gurkhas are feared and respected
in equal measures for precisely the reason Bhanbhagta is the subject of this article-
they’re utterly fearless in combat. For instance, during WWI, despite their relatively
small numbers, thousands of Gurkhas earned medals for gallantry and there are dozens
of documented stories about Gurkha soldiers encountering seemingly hopeless odds and still
coming out on top. Even outside of war, for example, there’s
Bishnu Shrestha, a retired Gurkha who fought against 40 armed robbers and won. Next up, we have Taitex Phlamachha, a former
Gurkha who punched a mugger to the ground whilst that mugger’s own knife was lodged
inside Phlamachha’s arm. Then there was Lachhiman Gurung, who, according
to the July 27, 1945 edition of The London Gazette, was manning the most forward post of his platoon
which bore the brunt of an attack by at least 200 of the Japanese enemy. Twice he hurled back grenades which had fallen
on his trench, but the third exploded in his right hand, blowing off his fingers, shattering
his arm and severely wounding him in the face, body and right leg. His two comrades were also badly wounded but
the rifleman, now alone and disregarding his wounds, loaded and fired his rifle with his
left hand for four hours, calmly waiting for each attack which he met with fire at point
blank range. Afterwards, when the casualties were counted,
it is reported that there were 31 dead Japanese around his position which he had killed, with
only one arm. Despite losing the use of his hand and right
eye during that battle, among other injuries, Gurung lived until December 12, 2010, dying
at the age of 92. Apparently, it took Death a while to work
up the courage to pay Gurung a visit. Perhaps the thing that sums up the Gurkhas
best is this quote from Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw: “If a man says he is not afraid
of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha.” After WWII, Bhanbhagta’s superiors tried
and failed to convince him to continue serving. As it turns out, Bhanbhagta had an elderly
mother and young family to support and he wanted to go home to be with them. Before he left the army though, Bhanbhagta
was re-promoted to his previous rank of Naik when it emerged that his previous indiscretion
wasn’t actually his fault. He was also given the honorary rank of Havildar
(sergeant) for obvious reasons. He died on March 1, 2008, at the age of 86.

100 thoughts on “Havildar Bhanbhagta Gurung’s Knife Wielding WWII Assault

  1. Keep your mind sharp by watching this video about The Curious Case of the Gun Knife
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqnHwRPAty0:

  2. My grandfather told me they were the fiercest fighters and kindest people you could ever meet. When the order was given to surrender in Singapore ,with no ammo food not water he and others did but the company of gurkas said their goodbyes and fought on till the last ,armed with only their blades. The japanese really respected them and beheaded their corpses for prizes. I assume this story to be true as my grandpa had pictures of his friends at that time and half of those that surrendered died in prison camps or building the bridge over the river kwai. My mother told me he was a living skeleton when he came back, he never talked about the war much, but always brought me and his picture book along to the army gravesite on memorial day, he died in 1985 at the age of 76 on his rocking chair holding his memories with a smile. I was 16 and lived with him since I was 10. On a sidenote he met Hitler once during the Olympics, but that is another story.

  3. Bhanbhagta Gurung, Lachhiman Gurung, Mad Jack and Adrian Carton De Wiart are just some of the men who were just cut above the rest when it came to War.

  4. A friends grandfather (so… anecdotal) who fought with the US army in WW2 said even they were afraid of the Gurkhas. His only contact with one was when he was on guard duty on a dark and very still night. He was staring into the darkness and listening, when simultaneously a hand covered his mount and a knife was held to his throat. The hand left his mouth and felt around on his shoulder for his insignia, felt he was American, then both hand and knife disappeared. After a few seconds he turned around, but no-one was there.
    When he told this to his commanding officer, he was told that it would have been Gurkhas.

  5. I have so much, SO MUCH respect for the Gurkhas! There was a saying: “If a man says he is not afraid to die, he is either lying or he is a Gurkha”
    They are extremely honorable men who are incredibly brave, loyal and courageous! I remember the first time I had the honor to meet one, that handshake alone was memorable! I am from Singapore and we have a Gurkha contingent here protecting and securing our country since British colonization. Stories and legends of their honor and bravery has been passed down from generation to generation. They fight not just for money but for honor and for the rights to be called a Gurkha. Much respect, and big **salute**! Sir!

  6. As I am sure the last million or so people said – it's a KHUKRI, not a machete. In fact, I daresay that the khukri needs it's own video. A whole lot to cover there… Like the time a Ghurka was attacked by a tiger, and having the use of only one arm (because the tiger was eating one), he used his khukri to hack through it's own sheath, and then the tiger…

  7. Yes, the Gurkhas are special indeed. I have met them in the field in the tropics. Very kind people but incredibly tough. Most stories (except this one though) is "low hanging fruit" from the UK or US about their own soldiers' courage. However, I can not imagine the level of courage among German and Soviet soldiers in WW2, especially on the East front. Unfortunately, especially for the Germans, these stories are generally not on the web. If you read the book of Hans von Luck you will get a sense of how much courage we never hear of. It is too bad that history is written only by the winners. So some German hero stories please! (PS: I'm not German but acknowledge their courage in war, also WW2).

  8. Havildar Bhanbhagta Gurung VC used a Kukri not a machete. Gurkhas are a proud people when referring to to the holder of a Victoria Cross recipient in writing you should include V C after there name

  9. I live in the garrison town where the Gurkhas are based at Bramcote Barracks, just outsid of Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Not only do these young men wear a tie, jacket and uniform slacks when simply shopping, they are the most polite troops you come across. Unlike any other military town, we don’t have the Military Police picking up drunk squaddies at night, it’s simply not seen. There’s no Gurkha in any pub or club to be seen. The people of the town raised the money together with the hundreds of retired Gurkha’s who live in Nuneaton, for a war memorial. Now, the town comes to a full stop each year when the Gurkhas march through it to remember these brave men.

    As a by-product of retired Gurkhas being welcomed into the community, there’s some Gurkha restaurants and market stalls selling Nepalese food. Until you have visited the Crossed Khukris Gurkha Restaurant in Nuneaton, you’ve never had a real Curry. The most amazing food by the former and serving Gurkhas there.

  10. Though Gurkhas have built a reputationv as fearless fighters for their clan, it's regrettable that they let themselves be used by the British as mindless, brainless fighting robots and slaves, Often against their twin brothers the Indians.

  11. PLEASE! get your facts right, They have never used a Machete their weapon of choice for hand to hand fighting is called a Kukri , These brave and fearless soldiers have the utmost respect from all British Soldiers and civilians alike, For a Gurkha being in the British Army is all they dream of as they grow up and if they are accepted into the Army it is a source of great pride for both them and their whole family, They are the most loyal soldiers in the world and if you have one as a friend you are privileged indeed as they will be your friend for life.

  12. They are to this day some of the most fearsome soldiers of our time, upmost respect from Australia 🇦🇺

  13. Our family also have 3 medals out of 8 which was honoured to my great grandpa for services to brits during seconds world war in Burma…it is the most valuable to us..

  14. yet they had to fight and almost lost the right to live in the UK.while any member from the religion of peace were welcomed with open arms.

  15. He must have a pair of strong legs. Or else, how do you explain him running up the hills, charging the Japanese with the size of his balls?

  16. Nice report but would you consider providing footage of the legend himself instead of the bald Englishman – no offense.

  17. How about a piece on the Muslim Victoria Cross holders of the British Indian Army in WWI and II. A few are alive today.

  18. Not all Nepalese are Gurkhas, only those people who served the British & Indian Army are Gurkhas, Majority of Magars, Gurung, Rai, Limbu, Chettris peoples has been originals ones before WW2.

  19. Jai Mahakali! Ayo Gurkhaali! Along with the Sikhs, Dogras, Kumaonis, Jats and the Marathas, the Gurkhas form the mean fighting machines of the Indian Armed Forces! Thank you my Gurkha brothers for maintaining the integrity of my nation and the reputation of my armed forces as one of the best professional and ethical armies in the world! Love you Gurkhas ❤️❤️❤️❤️!

  20. How well were these Gurkhas decorated? I know of one Gurkha who was the recipient of two VC's, that is to say, he was awarded a bar for his second VC. They are indeed fearless, yet gentle natured, and I have been privileged to have met a few. Hundreds would apply for service, but few would be accepted because of requirements. The rejection was a family shame and quite a few would commit suicide on their trek home. The Gurkhas are the best of the best displaying fearless courage, yet humility and a humble demeanour. I have met British officers from the Gurkhas and they are dedicated to their regiment. Gurkhas served Britain with pride, it's a pity that some of our soldiers are lacking in that department. During one tour of Northern Ireland, I was almost shot by the idiot next to me whilst unloading our SMG's, I took pleasure in kicking the shit out of him. I mention this only to show the occasional disparity in soldiering in the army.

  21. Respect to the Gurkhas. My mother's side has a family line of Gurkhas. Proud to have Nepalese mother and a Japanese.

  22. It's called a Kukri not a machete. Simon, as a Brit you should know that. The Queen has Gurkhas as bodyguards when she gives medals, honours etc..An Argentinian I worked with had been told they were mercenaries during the Falklands war. I explained they were part of the British army.

  23. I guess it's bhanubhagta and bhanubhagta is an important figure for the creation of the language of grurkhas, Nepali

  24. My grandad worked alongside Gurkhas in the Burma campaign as a radio operator, he was always very humbled by how dedicated they were

  25. Every Gorkha solider who fought in WWI and WWII have got a story and an oscar winning movie can be made out of it.

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