British officer’s kukrie attack earns VC

India 1944: A Gurkha soldier transporting a wounded man on his back through the jungle. Photograph by Cecil Beaton for the ministry of information.

India 1944: A Gurkha soldier transporting a wounded man on his back through the jungle. Photograph by Cecil Beaton for the Ministry of Information.

While the Normandy invasion captured the headlines distant battles in Burma continued without pause. On the 6th June British forces at Kohima discovered that the Japanese had finally abandoned their last positions.

Elsewhere the Chindits were ordered to attack north to take the pressure off the Chinese forces attacking south. By now the fighting strength of 77 (Long Range Penetration) Brigade was down from 3,500 men to 550. Malaria, typhus and malnutrition from continued action on the most basic of diets had taken their toll. As they advanced towards Mogaung there would be more casualties.

Within the Brigade were 6th Gurkha Rifles. Their British officers had also adopted the fearsome kukrie which the Gurkhas carried (and still carry) with them everywhere – and they knew how to use it, as recorded by the citation for the Victoria Cross for Lieutenant (Acting Captain) Michael Allmand:

Gurkha_Captain_Michael_Allmand_VC

Captain Allmand was commanding the leading platoon of a Company of the 6th Gurkha Rifles in Burma on 11th June, 1944, when the Battalion was ordered to attack the Pin Hmi Road Bridge. The enemy had already succeeded in holding up our advance at this point for twenty four hours. The approach to the Bridge was very narrow as the road was banked up and the low-lying land on either side was swampy and densely covered in jungle.

The Japanese who were dug in along the banks of the road and in the jungle with machine guns and small arms, were putting up the most desperate resistance. As the platoon come within twenty yards of the Bridge, the enemy opened heavy and accurate fire, inflicting severe casualties and forcing the men to seek cover. Captain Allmand, however, with the utmost gallantry charged on by himself, hurling grenades into the enemy gun positions and killing three Japanese himself with his kukrie.

Inspired by the splendid example of their platoon commander the surviving men followed him and captured their objective. Two days later Captain Allmand, owing to casualties among the officers, took over command of the Company and, dashing thirty yards ahead of it through long grass and marshy ground, swept by machine gun fire, personally killed a number of enemy machine gunners and successfully led his men onto the ridge of high ground that they had been ordered to seize.

Once again on June 23rd in the final attack on the Railway Bridge at Mogaung, Captain Allmand, although suffering from trench-foot, which made it difficult for him to walk, moved forward alone through deep mud and shell-holes and charged a Japanese machine gun nest single-handed, but he was mortally wounded and died shortly afterwards.
The superb gallantry, outstanding leadership and protracted heroism of this very brave officer were a wonderful example to the whole Battalion and in the highest traditions of his regiment.

The Gurkhas also fought in Italy. Gurkhas of 4th Indian Division keep watch on enemy positions in Alpi di Catenaia from high ground on Monte Castiglione, 29 July 1944.

The Gurkhas also fought in Italy. Gurkhas of 4th Indian Division keep watch on enemy positions in Alpi di Catenaia from high ground on Monte Castiglione, 29 July 1944.

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