LONDON: Alongside 144 others, a memorial paving stone has been laid in honour of Khudadad Khan, the first South Asian and Muslim recipient of the Victoria Cross (VC) during the First World War.
An unveiling ceremony, as part of the UK Government’s First World War Centenary commemorations, was held in the National Memorial Arboretum in the UK on Thursday where government ministers, relatives and servicemen were present.
Khudadad Khan from Dab village of the Chakwal district of modern day Pakistan was awarded a Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military award, for his actions on 31 October 1914 at Hollebeke, Belgium. He and his detachment were subjected to heavy gun fire as they attempted to defend their position. All were killed except Khudadad Khan, who despite being badly wounded continued firing. He was left for dead by the enemy but despite his wounds, he managed to crawl back to his regiment during the night to continue fighting.
Paving stones commemorating Jemader Mir Dast and Naik Shahamad Khan, the other two recipients of the Victoria Cross during First World War from modern day Pakistan, were also unveiled as part of the ceremony. Acting British High Commissioner, Mr Patrick Moody said:
“The First World War was a truly global war, and one which pulled in people from every corner of the earth. People from every background united in their shared values.
“Khudadad Khan displayed immense fortitude by continuing to fight when all around him were lost and despite terrible injuries, dragging himself back to his comrades, his friends, to continue to give his all in the fight for liberty.
“As part of the First World War Centenary commemorations, last November we unveiled a plaque in Islamabad to honour three soldiers from modern day Pakistan who were awarded Victoria Crosses during the First World War. This plaque will soon be moved to a public space in Islamabad where members of the public will be able to visit and pay their respects.
“I hope that for many years to come the plaque will remind us all of the gallantry of the brave men who fought alongside British and other Commonwealth soldiers in the First World War. The stones that have been laid in the UK’s National Memorial Arboretum for Sepoy Khan and others are small token of our continued gratitude and recognition of our shared history.”