Remembrance Day: A look at Indian soldiers who received gallantry awards for contribution to WWI

Over 1.5 million soldiers from the Indian Subcontinent went to war during World War I.

Representational image. PTI

Every year, 11 November is marked as Remembrance day to commemorate the end of the First World War on 11 November, 1918. Over 1.5 million soldiers from the Indian Subcontinent went to war during World War I. They fought in all major theatres of war and continued on orders even beyond 1918 in Afghanistan & Persia (up to 1920).

The gallant Indian soldiers earned 11 Victoria Cross, 5 Military Cross, 973 Indian Order Of Merit and 3130 Indian Distinguished Service Medals during the WW 1. 12 Cavalry Regiments, 13 Infantry Regiments & several other units of other Arms / Services also participated in the 13 Campaigns of the WW 1.

The Victoria Cross (VC) was the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

As the world marks remembrance day, here’s a list of some of valiant Indian soldiers who received gallantry awards for their bravery:

RFN Kulbir Thapa, VC

On 25 September 1915 in Fauquissart, France, 26-year-old Rifleman Kulbir Thapa, having been wounded himself, found a wounded soldier of the 2nd Leicestershire Regiment behind the first-line German trench. Despite the urge to save himself, Thapa stayed with the wounded man all night. Early next day, he took him through the German wire, within distance from the Germans and leaving him in a place of comparative safety returned and brought in two wounded soldiers, 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. Such an act of courage attracted a good deal of attention. The German high command, wrote a citation offering to honour the anonymous Gurkha.

Gabar Singh Negi, VC

During the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle, the 2nd Battalion of the 39th Garhwal Rifles fought with unprecedented gallantry and valour and captured four successive lines of German trenches under intense enemy shelling and fire culminating in the capture of the objective.

During this assault, Rifleman Gabar Singh Negi of the 2nd Battalion displayed great bravery during the attack on German positions. He was one of the bayonet party accompanying the bombers, and was the first man to go around each traverse, in face of fierce resistance by the enemy, of whom he killed several. When the commander of his party was killed, he took command and carried on, driving back the enemy until they surrendered. He was killed during this engagement fighting to the end most gallantly. For his most conspicuous gallantry, he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

NK Darwan Singh Negi, VC

During the Battle of Festubert, NK Darwan Singh Negi of the 1st Battalion of 39th Garhwal Rifles who although wounded in two places in the head and also in the arm, was invariably the first to push around each successive traverse, facing a hail of bombs and grenades at close range.

For his bravery, he was awarded the Victoria Cross and was the first Indian to receive the award at the hands of HM, the King-Emperor at Locon (France) on 1 December 1914.

NK Lala, VC

On 21 January 1916, at El Orah, Mesopotamia, finding a British officer lying close to the enemy, L/NK Lala dragged him into a temporary shelter. After bandaging his wounds, he heard calls from his own Adjutant who was lying wounded in the open —only 100 yards away.

He stripped off his own clothing to keep the wounded officer warm and stayed with him until just before dark when he returned to the shelter. After dark, he carried the first wounded officer to safety and then, returning with a stretcher, carried back his Adjutant. For this conspicuous act of gallantry, he was awarded the VC.

Chatta Singh, VC

Singh was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 13 January 1916 during the Battle of the Wadi, in Mesopotatmia (present-day Iraq). He left cover to rescue his Commanding Officer who was wounded and lying in the open. He treated his wounds and stayed with him for five hours until it was safe to move, all the time under intense fire. His citation explains further:

“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in leaving cover to assist his Commanding Officer who was lying wounded and helpless in the open. Sepoy Chatta Singh bound up the Officer’s wound and then dug cover for him with his entrenching tool being exposed all the time to very heavy rifle fire. For five hours until nightfall he remained beside the wounded Officer, shielding him with his own body on the exposed side. He then, under cover of darkness, went back for assistance, and brought the Officer into safety.”

Karna Bahadur Rana, VC

On 10 April 1918 at El Kefr, Egypt, During an attack he, with a few other men, succeeded under intense fire in creeping forward with a Lewis gun in order to engage an enemy machine gun which had caused severe casualties to officers and other ranks who had attempted to put it out of action. No 1 of the Lewis gun opened fire, and was shot immediately. Without a moment’s hesitation Rifleman Karanbahadur Rana pushed the dead man off the gun, and in spite of bombs thrown at him and heavy fire from both flanks, he opened fire and knocked out the machine-gun crew; then, switching his fire on to the enemy bombers and riflemen in front of him, he silenced their fire. He kept his gun in action and showed the greatest coolness in removing defects which on two occasions prevented the gun from firing.

During the remainder of the day, he did magnificent work, and when a withdrawal was ordered he assisted with covering fire until the enemy were close on him. He displayed a very high standard of valour and devotion to duty. Rana received his Victoria Cross from King George V at Buckingham Palace in 1919.

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