VC Agansing Rai

Agansing Rai VC, MM (1920–2000) was a Nepalese recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Agansing Rai was a 24 year old Naik in the 2nd Battalion, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles, in the Indian Army during World War II, when he led his section in an attack on one of two posts which had been taken by the enemy and were threatening the British forces' communications on 26 June 1944 near the town of Bishenpur in the state of Manipur, India.

Under withering fire Agansing Rai and his party charged a machine-gun. Agansing Rai himself killed three of the crew. When the first position had been taken, he then led a dash on a machine-gun firing from the jungle, where he killed three of the crew, his men accounting for the rest. He subsequently tackled an isolated bunker single-handed, killing all four occupants. The enemy were now so demoralised that they fled and the second post was recaptured.

He later achieved the rank of Hon. Captain.

Agansing Rai's VC group was later sold at auction.

THE TELEGRAPH OBITUARY  Published May 30 2000

In June 1944 the 5th Gurkhas were under great pressure to stem the fanatical Japanese assault on Imphal, where success would have enabled them to break through into India. The Gurkhas were holding the Bishenpur-Silchar track, which had already been the scene of much hard fighting.

On 26 June, C Company of the 2nd Battalion of the 5th Gurkhas was ordered to capture an enemy position which dominated the track and had already changed hands several times. It consisted of two strong points, 200 yards apart and mutually self-supporting. Whereas there was dense jungle on the west of the enemy position, the hillside on the other sides was completely bare. Any assault would have to be launched in full view of the enemy for a least 80 yards up a slippery, precipitous ridge rising to a crest.

When the Gurkha company reached the crest they were immediately pinned down by fire from machine-guns and a 37 mm gun, suffering many casualties. Agansing Rai (at that time a Naik or Corporal) realised that delay would only lead to more casualties. So he led his section immediately at the machine-gun, firing as he charged. He killed three of the enemy machine-gun's crew of four. Inspired by this example the Gurkha company swept forward and drove the remaining Japanese off the strong point which they then occupied.

However the Gurkhas now came under heavy fire from the other strong point, as well as from the 37 mm gun concealed in the jungle. Once again Agansing Rai led his section towards the gun. Half the men were killed on the way, but Rai reached the gun and personally killed three of the five-man crew; his section killed the other two.

Rai then returned to his former position, took over the rest of the platoon, and in spite of heavy machine-gun fire and a shower of grenades, rushed forward with a grenade in one hand and a Thompson sub-machine gun in the other. Having reached the position, he killed all the occupants of a bunker with his grenade and bursts of Tommy-gun fire. The remaining Japanese, thoroughly demoralised, fled into the jungle, leaving these two vital positions in the hands of the Gurkhas.

Apart from Rai, another member of the 2/5th Royal Gurkha Rifles, Subedar Netrabahadur Thapa, also won a VC for his part in the action, which proved to be a turning point in the struggle for Imphal.

Agansing Rai was born in the village of Amsara, in the Okhaldhunga district of Nepal on 24 April 1920. He enlisted in the 5th Gurkhas in 1941 and was posted to the second Battalion. In 1943 he was promoted to section commander with the rank of Naik and saw action in early 1944 in the Chin Hills, where he was awarded a Military Medal.

He was presented with the VC by the Viceroy, Field Marshal Lord Wavell, in 1945. Besieged by reporters, who asked him how he felt and what he thought during the battle, he smiled disarmingly and said: "I forget." After the war he became an Instructor at the Regimental Centre and took part in the Victory Parade in London in 1946. He then served with the 2nd/5th Gurkhas in the army of occupation in Japan and was promoted to Subedar (company commander).

After Independence in 1947, Agansing Rai remained with the regiment in India, and in 1962-63 served in the Congo as part of the UN peacekeeping force. On retirement from the Army he was granted the honorary rank of Lieutenant. He was presented to the Queen during her visit to Nepal in 1986.

He attended many reunions of holders of the Victoria Cross and George Cross in London, where he was much admired as a man of stature and presence. He is remembered as a wise and quiet man, but one with a sense of humour and an ability to enjoy life.

Agansing Rai leaves three daughters and two sons.