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RAI Agansing

Agansing Rai

Agansing Rai VC MM (24 April 1920 – 27 May 2000) was a Nepalese Gurkha 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. He was born in the village of Amsara, in the Okhaldhunga district of Nepal
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.

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.

Published May 30 2000

22 July 2004

The Victoria Cross, WW2 campaign medals and Indian medals of Naik Agansing Rai have been sold at auction by Spink of London for the sum of £115,000. The VC group was sold by the Rai family for the benefit of a charity the proceeds going towards a planned Trust for Education and Healthcare in Nepal. The VC group was bought on behalf of the Michael Ashcroft Trust, the holding institution for Lord Ashcroft's VC Collection.

Medal entitlement of Rifleman Agansing Rai,
2nd Bn, 5th Gurkha Rifles, Indian Army

Victoria Cross
Raksha Medal ( 1965 )
Indian Independence Medal ( 1947 )
Sainya Seva Medal ( India ) clasp "Jammu Kashmir"
Videsh Seva Medal ( India ) clasp "Congo"
United Nations Service Medal ( 1960-65 ) ( ONUC ) Congo ribbon
1939 - 45 Star
Burma Star
War Medal ( 1939-45 )
India Service Medal ( 1939-45 )
Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )
Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal ( 1977 )
20 Years' Long Service Medal
9 Years' Long Service Medal

Agansing Rai was born in Amsara in east Nepal on 24 April 1920. He enlisted in the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles ( Frontier Force ) in 1941 and, after joining the 2nd battalion, soon became a section commander with the rank of Naik ( corporal ). Following his service career, he lived quietly at his home some three days' walk from Katmandu. Subedar-Major and Honorary Captain Agansing Rai, VC, hero of the defence of Imphal, died on 27 May 2000, aged 81.

In June 1944 the 17th Indian Division was still under intense pressure from the Japanese at Bishenpur, southwest of Imphal. Their supply route, a mere track running through the hills to Silchar, became a scene of bitter fighting. On the morning of June 25, C Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles ( Frontier Force ) was ordered to recapture an enemy position dominating the track.

[ London Gazette, 5 October 1944 ], Burma, 26 June 1944, Rifleman ( acting Naik ) Agansing Rai, 2nd Bn, 5th Gurkha Rifles ( Frontier Force ), Indian Army.

In Burma on 24th and 25th June 1944, after fierce fighting, the enemy, with greatly superior forces had captured two posts known as "Water Piquet" and "Mortar Bluff". These posts were well sighted and were mutually supporting and their possession by the enemy threatened our communications.

On the morning of 26th June 1944, a Company of the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles ( Frontier Force ) was ordered to recapture these positions. After a preliminary artillery concentration, the Company went into the attack but on reaching a false crest about 80 yards from its objective, it was pinned down by heavy and accurate fire from a machine-gun in "Mortar Bluff" and a 37 millimetre gun in the jungle, suffering many casualties.

Naik Agansing Rai, appreciating that more delay would inevitably result in heavier casualties, at once led his section under withering fire directly at the machine-gun and, firing as he went, charged the position, himself killing three of the crew of four. Inspired by this cool act of bravery the section surged forward across the bullet swept ground and routed the whole garrison of "Mortar Bluff." This position was now under intense fire from the 37-millimetre gun in the jungle and from "Water Piquet". Naik Agansing Rai at once advanced towards the gun, his section without hesitation following their gallant leader.

Intense fire reduced the section to three men before half the distance had been covered but they pressed on to their objective. Arriving at close range, Naik Agansing Rai killed three of the crew and his men killed the other two. The party then returned to "Mortar Bluff" where the rest of their platoon were forming up for the final assault on "Water Piquet".

In the subsequent advance heavy machine-gun fire and showers of grenades from an isolated bunker position caused further casualties. Once more, with indomitable courage, Naik Agansing Rai, covered by his Bren gunner, advanced alone with a grenade in one hand and his Thompson Sub-Machine gun in the other. Through devastating fire he reached the enemy position and with his grenade and bursts from his Thompson Sub-Machine gun killed all four occupants of the bunker. The enemy, demoralized by this N.C.O’s calm display of courage and complete contempt for danger, now fled before the onslaught on "Water Piquet" and this position too was captured.

Naik Agansing Rai's magnificent display of initiative, outstanding bravery and gallant leadership, so inspired the rest of the Company that, in spite of heavy casualties, the result of this important action was never in doubt.

Agansing Rai was invested with his Victoria Cross from the Viceroy of India, Field Marshal Lord Wavell in Peshawar, India, on the 23rd January 1945.
4” x 6” photo card

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