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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

A tribute to the first South Asian man awarded Victoria Cross for efforts in WW1 is on show in Manningham

Sepoy Khudadad Khan was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallant efforts in France during the First World War fighting for Britain.

To mark the centenary of the Manningham War memorial, a tribute to the first soldier from the Indian Army to be awarded a Victoria Cross (VC) for his contribution to British war efforts in the First World War has gone on display.

The Little Community Gallery will mark the centenary of the nearby memorial and acknowledge Sepoy Khudadad Khan from the village of Dab in Chakwal District of the Punjab Province, British India (now Pakistan), the first South Asian to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

The Manningham War Memorial was unveiled in February 1921, at a ceremony attended by Colonel R Clough, of the 6th West Yorkshire Regiment, and Dr Perowne, Bishop of Bradford.

Khudadad Khan will be remembered in Manningham through an exhibition by the Little Community Gallery. Image: IWM.

The tribute has been created by Little Community Gallery, a group set up by local residents Sophie Powell and Saima Bi, as part of Lister Action Community Group that operates the outside exhibition space at the corner of Victor Road and Leamington Street, Manningham, BD8.

Since the beginning of  November, the display case of the gallery has held the names of 177 soldiers from Manningham who lost their lives during World War 1. The names were originally recorded on panels in the neighbouring St Lukes Church but were then moved to their present location, St Paul’s Church Manningham.

The Little Community Gallery display aims to renew the link between the soldiers and their memorial, as well as provide a reminder of Sepoy Khusal Khan’s sacrifice.

Mr Kahn was born in 1888 and was a Muslim Rajput (a member of a Hindu military caste claiming Kshatriya descent), who had fought for Britain for 170 years.  When both his parents died when he was a teenager, he became a sepoy (an Indian soldier serving under British or other European orders) to support his two sisters.

A Victoria Cross. Image: Arghya1999.

When the First World War started, Mr Khan and his regiment, the 129thy Baluchis, were sent to France, as part of a force of 20,000 men from an undivided India. They were sent there under instruction from the British government to help the forces stop the capturing of Boulogne and Nieuwpoort.

On October 30, German forces attacked, outnumbering the Baluchi troops five to one. Many of Khan’s comrades were killed or wounded, but Mr Khan and his machine gun crew carried on fighting until they were overrun, and everyone was killed.

Mr Khan then pretended to be dead, before crawling back to his regiment under the cover of darkness. Thanks to his and the regiment’s efforts, Indian and British reinforcements had time to arrive, preventing Germany from capturing the ports.

For this, Mr Khan became the first Indian to be awarded the VC which he received from George V at Buckingham Palace in January 1915.

Back home in Dab he was given 50 acres of land and built a reservoir for the village. In 1956 he travelled to London for VC centenary celebrations. In 1971, Mr Khan died at the age of 82 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan and his statue stands on the grounds of the city’s army museum.

On Remembrance Sunday, Sunday 14 November, there will be a short ceremony at the Manningham War Memorial at midday.

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