15th August each year is commemorated as Victory over Japan Day. We will uploading content on here about Gurkha activity in Burma on the lead up to the Victory over Japan (VJ) 75 years ago on this website but also on our social media and our museum website on the link below.The Gurkha Museum’s 2020 Summer Exhibition: Remembered – Gurkhas, VJ Day and the End of the Second World War
The Burma campaign started with the Japanese invasion of Burma on 15th December 1941 and immediately the strength and manoeuvrability of the Japanese gave them the upper hand. A re-organisation of the British, Indian, Burmese and Gurkha battalions early in 1942 saw Major General “Bill” Slim arrive to command Burma Corps and conduct a hard-fighting retreat through Burma to beyond its borders with India.
The 17th Indian Division containing six Gurkha Battalions was pivotal to Slim’s plans. Following this withdrawal, the troops were reinforced, retrained and resupplied and Slim, now Lieutenant General and 14th Army Commander, oversaw the heroic battles around Imphal and Kohima in the early spring and summer of 1944.
Having turned the tide, Slim’s 14th Army drove the Japanese back through Burma until their surrender was announced on 15th August 1945, 75 years ago. Such was the level of engineering, communication and logistical support that Slim’s plans worked well and saw the Japanese defeated. The Battle Honours of The Royal Gurkha Rifles record these epic battles including, Sittang. Imphal, Mandalay, Meiktila, Tamandu, Chindits and many more.
Nine Victoria Crosses were awarded to Gurkha Regiments for Burma. In May 1943 Havildar Gaje Ghale (2/5RGR) was awarded the Victoria Cross for an action in the Chin Hills. Three more Victoria Crosses would be awarded for the fighting around Imphal, while two would be awarded for the Arakan and three as Chindits. The Gurkha Museum in Winchester holds the Victoria Crosses of Captain Michael Allmand (3/6GR), Rfn Tulbahadur Pun (3/6GR), Rifleman Ganju Lama (1/7GR) and Havildar Bhanbaghta Gurung (3/2GR) as well as many other gallantry awards for this campaign.
There were also nine Divisional Commanders associated with the Burma campaign whose careers had started in Gurkha Regiments including Major General “Joe” Lentaigne who commanded the Chindits from March 1944. General “Bill” Slim had served in both 6th and 7th Gurkha Rifles before the war.
During the Burma campaign, 27 Battalions of Gurkhas fought numbering some 35,000 with all Regiments of the Gurkha Brigade represented in the order of battle.
By Gavin Edgerley-Harris, Director of the Gurkha Museum in Winchester