First Indian to Win the Victoria Cross: Khudadad Khan


First Indian to Win the Victoria Cross: Khudadad Khan
During the First Battle of Ypres on the 31st October 1914, Khudadad Khan became both the first Indian and the first Muslim to win the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest decoration for gallantry.  Khan was a sepoy (private) of the 129th Duke of Connaught's Own Baluchis a regiment of the British Indian Army raised in the Punjab Province of British India, present-day Pakistan. 
A photograph of the still recovering Khudadad Khan in a January 1915 edition of the Daily Mirror (source)
Khan was part of the first Indian Force to reach Europe in autumn 1914, on the 31st October his battalion was in action near the Belgian village of Hollebeke, just south of Ypres.  His medal citation describes Khan’sact of bravery in the face of a dogged German attack:
“On 31 October 1914, at Hollebeke in Belgium, the British officer in charge of the detachment having been wounded and the other [Vickers] gun put out of action by a shell, Sepoy Khudadad, though himself wounded, remained at his gun until all the other men of the gun detachment had been killed”
Hal Bevan Petman’s painting of Subedar Khudadad Khan VC, c.1935 (source)
Each Indian battalion, like its British counterparts, had two Vickers Machine Guns, it was one of these which Khan manned throughout the battle.  With the other Vickers knocked out and the rest of his own gun’s crew killed as the German infantry approached Khan continued to work the gun although badly wounded until he too was incapacitated.  His actions and those of the other men manning the Vickers gunsbought time for reinforcements to be brought up to halt the German breakthrough.
Khudadad Khan was awarded his Victoria Cross by King George V on one of his visits to France.  The 129th Baluchis went on to fight a number of engagements in Belgium and Northern France in 1914 before joining the campaign in German East Africa.  Khan remained in the Indian Army after the war rising to the rank of Subedar by 1935.  He died in 1971.


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