As we soon come together to remember all those whose lives have been lost in conflict, we wish today to highlight one man whose service exemplified the courage of many who served in the First World War.
One hundred years ago to this day, 31 October 1914, Sepoy Khudadad Khan of the 129th Baluchis became the first Indian soldier to receive this country’s highest award for valour, the Victoria Cross.
Khan’s regiment was supporting the British Expeditionary Force to prevent German troops taking vital ports in France and Belgium. As the line was pushed back the machine gunner, badly wounded and massively outnumbered, held off the German advance long enough for Indian and British reinforcements to arrive and prevent the enemy making the final breakthrough. He was the sole survivor of his team.
The First World War brought together soldiers from across the Empire and Commonwealth to fight for Britain. Born in what is now Pakistan, Khan was just one of the 1.2 million Indian soldiers, and the 400,000 Muslims, who fought alongside British troops in 1914.
It is important today that all of our children know this shared history, of contribution and sacrifice, if we are to fully understand the multi-ethnic Britain that we are today.
The gallant Sepoy Khan embodies that history. Just as King George V honoured his bravery 100 years ago with the Victoria Cross, let us all honour and remember him today.
General Richard Dannatt (Baron Dannatt), former Chief of the General Staff
General David Richards (Baron Richards of Herstmonceux), former Chief of the Defence Staff
Major-General Tim Cross (Ret’d)
Professor Sir Hew Strachan, military historian
Paddy Ashdown (Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon)
The Rt Hon. the Lord Ashcroft KCMG
Elizabeth Berridge (Baroness Berridge of the Vale of Catmose)
Major Dan Jarvis (Ret’d) MP
Damian Collins MP
Amjad Bashir MEP, UKIP communities spokesman
Dilwar Hussain, Chair, New Horizons in British Islam
Sughra Ahmed, President, Islamic Society of Britain
Sunder Katwala, Director, British Future
Mihir Bose, journalist and historian
Capt Afzal Amin (Ret’d), PPC (Conservative) for Dudley
Major Hugo Clarke (Ret’d), Curzon Institute
Keith Simpson MP
Jahan Mahmood, historian
Rt Hon. John Denham MP
Rt Hon. Sadiq Khan MP
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi