22 July 1924 – 1 July 2000
“Gyantso Lama was born in Sikkim, Northern India, in June 1924. At the age of 17 he enlisted in the 7th Gurkhas, despite not being a Gurkha or even Nepalese. The enlisting officer got his name wrong, writing ‘Ganju’ instead of ‘Gyantso’ – and he kept the name for the rest of his life. After training the 7th Gurkhas were posted to Imphal in Burma in 1943 where they took part in operations against the Japanese.
Ganju won his first major decoration, the Military Medal, after his unit surprised a Japanese formation on the Tiddim road and killed several of them in May 1944.
By June Allied forces were pushing out of Imphal and Kohima and the Japanese were beginning to retreat, although not yet en masse. On the morning of the 12th of June, Japanese troops launched an attack on Gurkha positions north of Ningthoukhong. Opening with a sustained artillery barrage which lasted over an hour and caused heavy casualties, the attack followed up with an infantry assault supported by five medium tanks.
After a firefight the Gurkha perimeter was broken and Japanese infantry poured through with three of the tanks. ‘B’ Company, with Ganju, were ordered to counterattack and quickly came under heavy fire from both machine-guns and tanks, pinning them down. Ganju, manning the PIAT anti-tank gun, crawled forwards on his own to get into range and became the target of crossfire which hit him in the wrist and leg. Despite these injuries and a broken wrist, he opened fire on the tanks, destroying two of them. With the third tank also knocked out Ganju, still on his own, then advanced and engaged the escaping tank crews, killing or injuring them all and clearing a path for his company to advance.
As his VC citation says:
Not until he had killed or wounded them all, thus enabling his company to push forward, did he allow himself to be taken back to the Regimental Aid Post to have his wounds dressed.
Throughout this action Rifleman Ganju Lama, although very seriously wounded, showed a complete disregard for his own personal safety, outstanding devotion to duty and a determination to destroy the enemy which was an example and an inspiration to all ranks. It was solely due to his prompt action and brave conduct that a most critical situation was averted, all positions regained and very heavy casualties inflicted on the enemy.
As rescue by men of his own section, Lama was stretchered to the Regimental Aid Post and then evacuated to a Base Hospital. He was eventually traced through the chain of evacuation, and travelled to Delhi to be awarded his Victoria Cross by His Excellency the Viceroy, Field Marshal Lord Wavell, in the presence of Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, General Slim, and several of his Bhutanese family.
After independence Ganju chose to remain with the Indian Army and was assigned to the 11th Gorkha Rifles, where he was promoted to Subedar Major and then honorary Captain and was nicknamed “VC Sahib.” In 1964 a medical examination revealed that a large black boil on his leg was, in fact, his body finally ejecting the bullet he had taken that day twenty years earlier.
He was given the position of Aide De Camp (ADC) to the President of India in 1965, and after retiring in 1972 was given the honorary title of ADC to the President for life.
He died on the 1st of July 2000 but lives on in the regimental song of the 11th, where to this day soldiers still sing of “the bravery and courage displayed by Ganju.” (David Wade)
The film shows His Majesty the King paying tribute to the Gurkhas, and in India the Viceroy paying a similar tribute for their gallantry on the eastern fronts. Footage of Nepal, showing the people and the countryside, with a discussion of the governmental and ruling system. The Gurkhas coming down from the hills to British India, which they do every year – the old men to draw their pensions and the young fellows to join the regiment. The recruiting procedure. A discussion of how the organisation looks after a Gurkhas affairs even after he has left the regiment, and film of the bazaar that the department has built to help with the Gurkha’s shopping. More footage of recruitment, with an emphasis being placed on the high standard of physique. The film concludes by showing some successful recruits and indicating that they are about to start their careers as Gurkha soldiers. (35 mm) © IWM CIN 231