Service No : IC-10631
Date of Birth : Jun 18, 1908
Service : Army
Last Rank : Brigadier
Unit : 6 J&K INF
Arm/Regt : The J&K Infantry
Award : MVC
Date of Demise : Feb 25,1999
Brigadier Sher Jung Thapa was born in Abbottabad, Pakistan on 18 June 1908. While his grandfather, Subedar Balkrishna Khundrung Thapa Magar (2/5 GR), had moved and settled in India , the ancestral home was at Tapke Gaun, Gorkha District, Nepal. Sher Jung’s father Arjun Thapa (2/5 GR) was an Honorary Captain and was a World War II veteran.
Brigadier Sher Jung Thapa graduated from Government Post Graduate College, Dharamshala. He was known as an excellent hockey player in college and had played frequently with stalwarts of 1 Gorkha Rifles, Regimental Centre, Dharamsala. In the hockey field, he became a close friend of Captain Douglas Gracy, Adjutant of 1 GR RC, who encouraged Thapa to join the forces of Jammu & Kashmir state as an officer. Thapa took his advice and was commissioned on 01 September 1932. Brigadier Sher Jung Thapa was married to Dhan Shobha Thapa. The couple had eight children.
Brigadier Sher Jung Thapa held the rank of major in the Jammu and Kashmir State Forces at the time of the princely state’s accession to India in October 1947. As part of the 6th Infantry Battalion, Thapa was stationed in Leh in Ladakh area. His commanding officer, Col. Abdul Majid was based at Bunji in the Gilgit wazarat, which had been returned to the princely state by the departing British administration. On 30 October, Col. Majid went to Gilgit along with forces to support Governor Ghansara Singh, who was apprehensive of the loyalty of the British-officered Gilgit Scouts based there. Unfortunately, the officers of the regiment mutinied under the leadership of Captain Mirza Hassan Khan and joined the Gilgit Scouts. Governor Ghansara Singh was arrested and Col. Majid was also taken prisoner. Most of the loyal soldiers were massacred while few could manage to escape to Ladakh wazrat.
Skardu was the tehsil headquarters of Baltistan, which also doubled as the district headquarters of the Ladakh wazarat for six months in a year. It was a key post between Gilgit and Leh and the Indian Army considered it essential to hold the Skardu garrison for the defense of Leh.
Sher Jung Thapa was ordered to take charge of the remaining 6th Infantry at Skardu, and was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He left Leh on 23 November and reached Skardu by 2 December, walking through heavy snowfall. This gave him enough time to make preparations for the defence of Skardu before the impending attack. Meanwhile, the Pakistani commander at Gilgit reorganised the Gilgit Scouts and the 6th Infantry rebels into three forces of 400 men each. The “Ibex Force”, one among the three, commanded by Major Ehsan Ali, was tasked with capturing Skardu. Thapa deployed two forward posts near the Tsari pass thirty miles away. However, Captain Nek Alam, commanding one of the platoons, joined the rebels and the other platoon got massacred. On 11 February 1948, the attack commenced on Skardu. For over six months from February to August. Thapa withstood the attack, housed in the garrison with dwindling ammunition and food. Reinforcements by ground were ambushed en route and reinforcements by air were considered infeasible due to the high mountains and uncertain weather conditions. Attempts were made to air drop supplies, but the drops often landed outside the garrison. Eventually, on 14 August, Thapa succumbed to the invaders, having exhausted all supplies.
Then Lt Col Thapa was a Prisoner of War (PoW) in Pakistan and General Sir Douglas Gracy was the Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army. Lieutenant Colonel Thapa’s earlier association with General Gracy came to his rescue otherwise he would have met the fate of other prisoners of war who were killed by the Pakistani Army. He was lucku enough to be repatriated after the war ended. All the other men in the garrison were apparently killed.
Brigadier Sher Jung Thapa displayed inspiring leadership, indomitable courage, initiative and exceptional devotion to duty in the highest traditions of the Indian Army and was awarded Mahavir Chakra Bar.
Life After Retirement
Brigadier Sher Jung Thapa bought an English bunglow in Mcleodganj, and spent his last years there. Brigadier Thapa was a person of commitments and service. He was one of the first families in the hilly town of Dharamshala to own a car. His mighty blue Ambassador would always catch attention of the passers-by.
Brigadier Sher Jung Thapal, after leading a fulfilling 92 years of life, breathed his last on 25th Feb 1999 at Army Hospital, New Delhi due to old age.
Brigadier Thapa is survived by his children.
The Citation for the Maha Vir Chakra reads him to :
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