Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, January 28, 2018

U No Go

On the 8th of March 1944 the Japanese forces in Burma launched operation U-Go. Their aim was to smash through the Allied lines and claim a stunning victory over the Allies, and hopefully to reverse their fortunes in the war. However, by now the Allied forces had worked out how to defeat the Japanese, and a bitter five month battle followed. The Japanese' initial thrust towards Imphal wound along the valley floor, by mid April the Japanese had fought their way to the town of Ningthoukhong. There a bitter grinding fight ensued, and the town gained the distinction of the most bombarded place in India. The presence of the road leading along the valley also allowed the Japanese to bring forward their tanks. From the Japanese arrival to the start of June the Allies tried repeatedly to shove the Japanese out of their half of the town. At the start of June, the Japanese began to build up for a major assault.
On the night of the 6th of June, the Japanese moved a fresh battalion forward. Their plan was to hook around the side of the Allied position and hit the defenders in the flank. The attack would link up with an armoured thrust from the main Japanese lines.
Well aware of the Japanese penchant for infiltrating a position the Allies had established a blocking force on the flank. This blocking party consisted of a platoon of the 1st Battalion, The West Yorkshire Regiment. The initial attack fell on them just after midnight, and almost destroyed the platoon in the opening salvo. A barrage of point blank small arms fire and hand grenades killed or destroyed all but one of the platoon's Bren guns. Stunned the survivors were about to break when a lone Sergeant stepped forward. His name was Hanson Victor Turner.
Sgt Turner
Sgt Turner had been born in April 1910 in Halifax, later they moved to Copley. There when old enough Sgt Turner had worked as a bus conductor. He had joined up in 1940 and had been sent to India in 1943. Rallying the platoon and realising that they were unable to hold their current position in the face of a battalion strong attack, Sgt Turner ordered his platoon to fall back about 40 yards, opening up a killing ground. The Japanese were unable to close up, and so began to try to infiltrate around the flank of the platoon. Sgt Turner upon seeing this grabbed a bag of hand grenades and advanced on the Japanese flanking force alone. After bombing the Japanese to a standstill Sgt Turner returned to his lines to collect more grenades, and once again advanced, alone, into the night time. In total he returned for more grenades six times. On his sixth counter attack he was hit and killed. Almost single-handed Sgt Turner’s repeated counter attacks halted the Japanese. For his actions he was awarded a Victoria Cross.

The Japanese tried again on the 12th of June. This time a frontal assault with infantry and armour, under the cover of a precise, well aimed and effective mortar bombardment. Six Japanese tanks roared down the road towards a paddy held by the 7th Gurkha Rifles. The tanks rolled up to the front line and then turned along it blasting the bunkers there at point blank range, along with the following infantry they forced the Ghurkha's back about 200 yards. The next line had a 2-pounder gun, when the Japanese tanks approached the gun opened fire. Its first shot disabled the gun on the leading tank. Its next shot destroyed the second tank. Two more tanks attempting to avoid the gun bogged in the paddy field and a fifth that had sneaked up the road rushed the gun ramming it and destroying it. Shortly afterwards this tank bogged down as well but was put out of action by a PIAT.
B Company was ordered to mount a counter attack and drive the Japanese back. They still had several tanks bogged down in their lines, whose armament still worked. When the Ghurkhas launched their counter attack they met a barrage of machine gun fire, which held them back. The tanks were acting as machine-gun bunkers and immune to the weapons that could be brought to bear on them. Then a soldier named Gyamtso Shangderpa stepped forward, he was armed with a PIAT.
Gyamtso Shangderpa
Gyamtso Shangderpa had been born in Sangmo, which is in Sikkim, not Nepal. However, during the war non-Nepalese were allowed to join the Gurkhas, and Gyamtso was just one of these recruits.

He crawled forwards, the Japanese saw him crawling through the rice and filthy muddy water, and so began to fire on him. He was hit and wounded three times, once in the leg, once in the arm. He also suffered a broken left wrist. Despite this he pressed forwards, leaving a trail of blood behind him. At a range of just 30 yards he opened fire with his PIAT, destroying the first tank. He then reloaded, while under concentrated point-blank fire, and destroyed a second tank. The third tank was knocked out by an anti-tank gun. Japanese standing orders required that crews stay with their vehicles, or if this was impossible to dismount their machine guns. Knowing this Gyamtso grabbed his grenades, and with just one arm working, went after the Japanese tank crews killing or wounding all of them. The removal of the Japanese machine guns allowed the rest of the company to push forward and retake their position. Only then did Gyamtso allow himself to be evacuated.
Two of the tanks knocked out by Gyamtso
Gyamtso was also awarded a Victoria Cross, although it was under another name. When he joined up the clerk who took his details wrote down his name as Ganju Lama. He died in July 2000.

Image credits:
www.nam.ac.uk and www.findagrave.com