Two VCs in one day for ‘British’ soldiers

The Arakan Campaign January 1943 - May 1945: A Gurkha soldier at a camouflaged position in the Arakan jungle.

A Gurkha soldier at a camouflaged position in the Arakan jungle.

The British Empire still encompassed many nations during the war, representatives of which found themselves fighting under the title of ‘British forces’ around the world. Many had never seen Britain. There was no discrimination when it came to awards for valour – all men were treated equally when it came to recognising the most courageous acts, even though only a minority would live to receive their award.

The 23rd June saw actions by ‘British’ troops in two very different jungle theatres. For the Chindits marching north in the most arduous conditions, there was another VC award for the 6th Gurkhas:

Tul Bahadur Pun VC

Tul Bahadur Pun VC

Rifleman Tul Bahadu Pun, 6th Gurkha Rifles, Indian Army.

In Burma on 23 June 1944, a Battalion of the 6th Gurkha Rifles was ordered to attack the Railway Bridge at Mogaung. Immediately the attack developed the enemy opened concentrated and sustained cross fire at close range from a position known as the Red House and from a strong bunker position two hundred yards to the left of it.

The cross fire was so intense that both the leading platoons of ‘B’ Company, one of which was Rifleman Tulbahadur Pun’s, were pinned to the ground and the whole of his Section was wiped out with the exception of himself, the Section commander and one other man. The Section commander immediately led the remaining two men in a charge on the Red House but was at once badly wounded. Rifleman Tulbahadur (sic) Pun and his remaining companion continued the charge, but the latter too was immediately wounded.

Rifleman Tulbahadur Pun then seized the Bren Gun, and firing from the hip as he went, continued the charge on this heavily bunkered position alone, in the face of the most shattering concentration of automatic fire, directed straight at him. With the dawn coming up behind him, he presented a perfect target to the Japanese. He had to move for thirty yards over open ground, ankle deep in mud, through shell holes and over fallen trees.

Despite these overwhelming odds, he reached the Red House and closed with the Japanese occupants. He killed three and put five more to flight and captured two light machine guns and much ammunition. He then gave accurate supporting fire from the bunker to the remainder of his platoon which enabled them to reach their objective.

His outstanding courage and superb gallantry in the face of odds which meant almost certain death were most inspiring to all ranks and beyond praise.

London Gazette, 7 November 1944

Sefanaia Sukanaivalu was a Fijian, fighting in the jungles of Bougainville, which, earlier, Navajo Indian Chester Nez had discovered was no paradise island:

Sefanaia Sukanaivalu VC

Sefanaia Sukanaivalu VC

On June 23rd, 1944 at Mawaraka, Bougainville, in the Solomon Islands, Cpl. Sefanaia Sukanaivalu crawled forward to rescue some men wounded when their platoon was ambushed.

After recovering two men this N.C.O. volunteered to go alone through heavy fire to try and rescue another – but on the way back was seriously wounded and fell to the ground unable to move further. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to rescue him; and realising that his men would not withdraw while he was still alive Cpl. Sukanaivalu raised himself up in front of the Japanese machine gun and was riddled with bullets.

This brave Fiji soldier, after rescuing two wounded men with the greatest heroism and being gravely wounded himself, deliberately sacrificed his own life knowing that in no other way could his men be induced to retire from a situation in which they must have been annihilated.

The London Gazette, 2 November 1944

A Fijian medical orderly administers an emergency plasma transfusion during heavy fighting on Bougainville.

A Fijian medical orderly administers an emergency plasma transfusion during heavy fighting on Bougainville.

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