b. 15/12/1889 Nigalpani, Nepal. d. 03/10/1956 Nigalpani, Nepal.
Kulbir Thapa (1889-1956) was born on 15th December 1889 at Nigalpani village, Palpa District, Nepal. His year of birth has also been seen as 1888. He was a Thapa of the Magar people. His father was Haria Gulte, but there are very few other details about his family. It is known that he was married and had at least one son.
Kulbir enlisted as a Rifleman on 15th December 1907 in 1st Battalion, 3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles. He transferred to 2nd Battalion at the outbreak of war and sailed for France, arriving in September 1914. He was in action at Givenchy later that year and at Neuve Chapelle and Festubert in 1915.
On 25th-26th September 1915, at Fauquissart, south of Mauquissart, France, Rifleman Kulbir Thapa, having been wounded himself, found a wounded soldier of The Leicestershire Regiment behind the first-line German trench. Although urged to save himself, the Gurkha stayed with the wounded man all day and night. Early next day, in misty weather, he took him through the German wire, within spitting distance from the Germans , and, leaving him in a place of comparative safety, returned and brought in two wounded Gurkhas, one after the other. He then went back, and, in broad daylight, fetched the British soldier, carrying him most of the way under enemy fire.
He was admitted to hospital with his wounds. He rejoined the Battalion in Egypt on 4th January 1916. He was promoted to naik (Corporal) next day and havildar (Sergeant) later. While serving in Palestine, Rifleman Karanbahadur Rana of the same Battalion was also awarded the VC and the two were photographed together at the Gurkha Memorial in Gorakhpur in 1937. He was discharged from the Army in 1929.
There does not appear to have been a formal investiture. This is probably because Kulbir’s unit departed for Egypt before the VC was gazetted. He died at Nigalpani on 3rd October 1956 and is buried in Nigalpani Cemetery, but the precise location is not known.
In addition to the VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George V Jubilee Medal 1935, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. His medals are held by the Gurkha Museum, Winchester, Hampshire.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: THE GURKHA MUSEUM, WINCHESTER, HAMPSHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: NIGALPANI CEMETERY, NIGALPANI, NEPAL.
Kulbir Thapa's medals including VC on display at the Gurkha Museum, Winchester, Hampshire. (August 2012).
A plaque to Kulbir Thapa VC at the Royal Leicestershire Regiment Museum in honour of his VC action saving the life of one of the Regiment's men.
War Illustrated, 4th December 1915