Itahari, July 12
Exactly on the same day today 54 years ago, Ram Bahadur Limbu was conferred the prestigious Victoria Cross at the Buckingham Palace of the British monarch.
The British Queen had decorated Limbu with the VC on 12 July 1966. After 54 years of this great military achievement, the 85-year-old Limbu is the only surviving Victoria Cross recipient Nepali Gurkha soldier. Out of hundreds of Gurkha soldiers fighting on behalf of British military in the first and second world wars and also in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Borneo, Cyprus, the Falklands, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, among others, 13 Nepalese Gurkha soldiers have been awarded the Victoria Cross so far.
Limbu is the last and the only surviving Victoria Cross recipient Gurkha soldier in the more than 200 years of the British Gurkha service in British military that includes the death of thousands of Nepalese Gurkhas with 43,000 deaths in two world wars. Gurkha soldiers of the British Army are regarded as ‘brave’. And, Victoria Cross (VC) recipients are termed ‘braver’.
Ram Bahadur Limbu is the only living Nepalese Gurkha soldier holding the VC title to his prestigious British Army career from 1960 to 1985. True to the motto of the Gurkha regiments, which goes, ‘Better to Die than to be a Coward’, Limbu was awarded this coveted title for his bravery in a war of Indonesian Confrontation on 21 November 1965 in Sarawak, Borneo.
The then Lance-Corporal Limbu was awarded the honorary captain (504075) of the British military. Limbu has exclusively shared his interesting seven secrets as a veteran and brave fighter from Nepal. 1. The youngest VC recipient Ram Bahadur Limbu was a 26-year-old member of the 2nd Battalion, 10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles when he got the VC. He is still in the Guinness Book of World Records as the ‘youngest living VC recipient’.
Besides being the youngest VC recipient, he is the only member of Gurkha soldier to win VC after World War-2. Likewise, he is the only member to beg VC from 10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles so far. 2. The only surviving sibling of the family Limbu was born to an extended family of Chyangthapu of Panchthar district of Nepal.
His father Tekbir Limbu was a farmer and his mother Tunimaya Limbu was a homemaker of a lower middle-class family in the eastern hills of Nepal. He had four brothers and two sisters. Tragically, he is the only surviving sibling of his family. He has also lost many of his contemporary friends both in his villages and at his military service. 3. Two marriages After around seven years of service into the British military, Limbu was awarded VC from Queen on 12 July 1966 Buckingham Palace.
His tiny son of around five-year-old accompanied him. He lost his wife just around the announcement of his VC. His first fiancé Tika Maya Begha Limbu passed away on 6 February 1966 in Singapore. He had married with Tika Maya on 31 January 1961 at the hilly hamlet of Perunge, Chyangthapu of Panchthar district. Just a year after the tragic demise of his first wife, he tied his knot with Punimaya Narthung Chamling Rai on 8 April 1967. He has two sons each from his wives.
4. VC medal stolen at a railway journey of India Just a year after being awarded VC, Limbu made his journey to his motherland Nepal via Indian transit. Railway thieves stole his VC when he was in his catnap. Again, he got his replacement. 5. Time-strict personality One of his residencies is in Damak town of eastern Nepal. The town is also the constituency of the incumbent Prime Minister of Nepal, K.P. Sharma Oli. Limbu is highly unhappy at procrastination of different social and public functions in the town. He did not entertain five-minute delay to this interview. He angrily said, ”Not only journalists of Nepal, even the PM comes late in formal functions. I have waited him for hours in this town. This does not happen in United Kingdom” 6. Great philanthropist Octogenarian Limbu is a famed philanthropist.
He has donated millions of Nepalese rupees for the constructions of community buildings, temples and public properties in various places of Nepal. Limbu has supported funds to construct road linking his birthplace Chyangthapu. He has donated plots of land for the construction of ‘Kirat temple’. ”I see people turning philanthropists by using black money”, said Limbu who has difficulties to hear. He added, ”I am happy to utilize my hard-earned white money for philanthropy.” 7.
A leader of Gurkha struggle on discriminatory pay There is a big payment difference between Nepali Gurkhas and the British-born soldiers in the UK Army. Captain Ram Bahadur Limbu is not happy on this tragedy. He has led a struggle for petitioning the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair demanding same pay and pension. His initiation was actively supported by British actress Joanna Lumley. (photo available) —