Gurkha soldiers have a fearsome reputation on the battlefield – and it is a reputation that each Gurkha strives to live up to.
But few tales can top that of Sergeant Dipprasad Pun of the Royal Gurkha Rifles on a hot night in Afghanistan’s Helmland Province on a hot September night in 2010.
Sgt. Pun was on sentry duty at a two-story checkpoint when he thought he heard an animal nearby before spotting two insurgents in the process of laying an IED in the road. Watching and listening intently, he realized he was surrounded by Taliban fighters.
That’s when the quiet night was instantly filled with the sights and sound of bullets and RPG fire as the insurgents sprang a well-planned assault on the small checkpoint.
The Gurkha Sergeant reacted by pulling his L7A2 general purpose machine gun off the turret and using it as a rifle, firing continuously into oncoming enemy fighters.
After expending all of the ammunition for the machine gun, Sgt. Pun started grabbing grenades from his post, throwing a total of 17 at the attackers.
Out of grenades, he picked up his SA80 service rifle and began opened fire at the insurgents. At one point, Pun even threw a Claymore mine at the enemy.
While engaging the attackers, one Taliban fighter managed to climb the side of an adjacent sentry tower and hopped jumped across, attacking Pun. As the sergeant turned his rifle to shoot his nearby attacker, the weapon misfired.
Reacting to the malfunctioning weapon, Pun first grabbed a sandbag and swung at the insurgent, but the bag opened and emptied mid strike. Screaming “Marchu talai!”, the sergeant picked up the machine gun tripod and threw it at the Taliban’s face – knocking the insurgent off the roof to his death.
The pitched battle continued until reinforcements arrived. After the smoke cleared, there were 30 dead Taliban surrounding the area.
Pun had fired 250 machine gun rounds, 180 SA-80 rounds, 17 grenades (6 of which were white phosphorus), once Claymore mine, and one machine gun tripod.
“At that time I wasn’t worried, there wasn’t any choice but to fight. The Taliban were all around the checkpoint, I was alone,” he told the crowd gathered at the ceremony. “I had so many of them around me that I thought I was definitely going to die so I thought I’d kill as many of them as I could before they killed me.”
For his actions that day, Pun was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, the UK’s second highest military award, by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
Pun’s comes from a line of valiant Gurkhas, including his grandfather, a recipient of the Victoria Cross.
His citation for the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross reads:
On the evening of the day in question [17 September 2010], Sergeant Pun was one of four men left in the southern compound because the platoon had pushed out a patrol to dominate the road to the east in readiness for the next day’s parliamentary elections. All were taking turns to man a single sangar position on the roof in the centre of the compound.
Sergeant Pun was on duty when he heard a clinking noise to the south of the checkpoint:
“I thought at first maybe it was a cow,” he said, “but my suspicions soon built up, and I saw Taliban digging to lay down an IED in front of our gate.”
Sergeant Pun had the presence of mind to gather up two radios, which would enable him to both speak to his commander and to call in artillery support, his personal weapon, and a general purpose machine gun.
Realising that he was about to be attacked, he quickly informed his commander on one of the radios, and launched a grenade at the enemy. Sergeant Pun single-handedly fought off an enemy attack on his lightly manned position. In the dark he tackled the enemy head on as he moved around his position to fend off the attack from three sides, killing three assailants and causing the others to flee.
In doing so he saved the lives of his three comrades and prevented the position from being overrun. Sergeant Pun couldn’t know how many Taliban were attempting to overcome his position, but he sought them out from all angles despite the danger, consistently moving towards them to reach the best position of attack:
“At first I was a bit scared, and I thought definitely they are going to kill me. But as soon as I started firing, that feeling went away.”