It is worth remembering today that 3.5 million Indo-Pakistani soldiers fought for Western democracy, gaining 38 Victoria and George crosses.
That’s one warrior’s life paying the fare for approximately two South Asian immigrants enjoying democracy in the UK!
The Victoria Cross is the British Army’s highest decoration for conspicuous battlefield gallantry. Its first South Asian recipient was Sepoy Khudadad Khan – Belgium, World War I.
Subadar Khudadad Khan (1888–1971), VC, 10th Baluch Regiment
by Henry Charles Bevan-Petman
- Date painted: c.1935
- Oil on canvas, 76.2 x 69.8 cm
- Collection: National Army Museum
Khudadad Khan was the first Indian soldier to win the Victoria Cross after eligibility for the award was extended to Indian officers and men of the Indian Army in 1911. In common with half of the men in his regiment, the 129th Duke of Connaught’s Own Baluchis, Khudadad Khan was a Pathan from north-west India (now Pakistan).
As part of 7th Indian (Ferozepore) Brigade, the 129th Baluchis arrived in France from Egypt during September 1914. While serving in the regiment’s machine-gun detachment on 31 October 1914, ‘at Hollebecke, Belgium, the British officer in charge of the detachment having been wounded, and the other gun put out of action by a shell, Sepoy Khudadad, though himself wounded, remained working his gun until all the other five men of the gun detachment had been killed’ (‘The London Gazette’, 7 December 1914). Khudadad was decorated with the award by George V in January 1915.