The last Gurkha Victoria Cross winner passes away at 83
Gurkhas, Nepali soldiers who sometimes serve other nations including Great Britain, are some of the world's most feared warriors. In Afghanistan, one British Burkha used every weapon at his disposal, from his rifle to a machine-gun tripod, to kill 30 Taliban fighters. A major point of pride for British Gurkhas was having a living Victoria Cross, Britain's highest and most prestigious award, in the brigade: Captain Rambahadur Limbu VC, MVO.
Born in Chyangthapu in East Nepal on July 8, 1939, Limbu joined the British Army at the age of 17. He enlisted in the 2nd Battalion of the 10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles Regiment in November 1957. In December 1962, a rebellion in Brunei led to what became known as the Borneo Confrontation.
Beginning in 1963, Indonesian troops fought against Malay and British troops, including Gurkhas. In November 1965, Limbu's battalion was assigned to dominate a position five kilometers into Indonesian territory near Sarawak, Borneo. They postured to attack a strong contingent of Indonesian soldiers positioned on a steep hill. Accessible only by a narrow ridge, this was exactly the type of tough assignment often assigned to Gurkha Regiments.
On November 21, 1965, Limbu led a cautious approach up the hill, swiftly killing a sentry in the first trench. However, the enemy force became alerted to the Gurkhas and poured heavy machine gun fire down the hill. Despite this, Limbu broke from the trench to reposition himself and his fire team a few yards ahead. Communications broke down in the cacophony of battle and Limbu again exposed himself to run through enemy fire and report his team's status to his platoon commander in person.
The fighting was intense and the Gurkhas took casualties. Just two men remained in Limbu's fire team and both were seriously wounded. Determined to return to his team's position and rescue his men, Limbu crawled for three minutes through withering gunfire from at least two enemy machine gun positions. His crawl became a sprint as Limbu dashed across open ground and reached his men.
Again braving the enemy fire, Limbu carried the first wounded man back to safety. Without hesitating, he turned around to rescue the second wounded man. The enemy's fire was more intense and it took him 20 minutes to return to the position. Still, Limbu made it there and back again with his comrade. After two roundtrips through the heavy fire, Limbu returned to the position a third time to recover the fire team's machine gun. This gave the Gurkhas additional firepower later in the fight. Limbu himself killed another four enemy soldiers.
For his bravery, Lance Corporal Limbu was awarded the Victoria Cross. Queen Elizabeth II presented Limbu with his VC at Buckingham Palace in 1966. Limbu remained in the Army and rose to the rank of Captain, becoming the Queen's Gurkha Orderly officer in 1983. He retired two years later.
Limbu spent the rest of his life in Damak, East Nepal. He built roads, a school and a temple, and advocated for Gurkha pensions, compensation and medical care. On April 22, 2023, Limbu passed away at the age of 83. He is survived by his two sons, ten grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Limbu also left behind a trust to help social causes in Nepal.