World news story
British government to present 1946 George Cross medal
The British High Commission will on Monday, return to the widow of an Indian soldier, a George Cross medal stolen from her in 2002.
Brigadier Brian McCall, Defence Advisor at the British High Commission New Delhi will present the George Cross medal to Brahmi Devi, widow of Indian soldier Naik Kirpa Ram, in a small public ceremony. The ceremony will be held on Monday 11 May 2015 at village Bhapral, district Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh.
The George Cross, the highest British military honour for gallantry in peace time, was awarded posthumously to the widow of Naik Kirpa Ram in 1946. However the medal was stolen from her almost 13 years ago before re-surfacing at an auction. The British government subsequently supported efforts to have the medal returned to her.
UK barrister Ian Mayes, who fought Brahmi Devi’s case ‘pro bono’ (without fee) will speak at the ceremony, at the conclusion of which Brigadier McCall will hand over the medal to Brahmi Devi.
British Deputy High Commissioner Chandigarh David Lelliott, Lok Sabha MP Anurag Thakur, village Sarpanch Anita Thakur and the residents of the local area will also attend the ceremony.
Naik Kirpa Ram was posthumously awarded the George Cross medal in 1946. Born in 1916 Kirpa Ram volunteered to join the Indian Army and during the World War II, he became a member of the 8th Battalion, 13th Frontier Force Rifles. He was deployed for the Burma campaign and on his return to India, during a field firing exercise, a rifle grenade misfired and fell only a few yards away from his unit. The 28 year old Kirpa Ram rushed forward shouting at his colleagues to take cover and attempted to throw it to a secure distance but it exploded in his hand leading to his death. However his self-sacrifice saved lives of his unit members. The posthumous award of the George Cross was announced on 15 March 1946.
The medal had apparently been stolen from the soldier’s Bhapral village residence in 2002 and an FIR was lodged in the area police station by Naik Kirpa Ram’s widow, Brahmi Devi, who is now in her 80s.
Although investigations were made at the time, no trace was found until the medal resurfaced for auction in London in late 2009. The medal was due to go under the hammer on 2 December 2009, but after the police intervention, steps were taken to suspend the sale.
The George Cross:
- instituted in 1940 by The Queen’s father King George VI, the George Cross ranks with the Victoria Cross as the nation’s highest award for gallantry.
- it recognises actions of supreme gallantry in circumstances for which the Victoria Cross was not appropriate. It may be awarded to civilians, as well as members of the Armed Forces for acts of gallantry not in the presence of the enemy, including, for example, military explosive ordnance disposal personnel.
- it is awarded for ‘for acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger.’
For more information please contact
Alam Bains, Media Adviser,
British Deputy High Commission, Chandigarh
Mail to: Alam Bains