Today, the British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Mr Philip Barton CMG OBE, unveiled a plaque in honour of three soldiers from modern day Pakistan who were awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War.
The ceremony formed part of the UK Government’s programme of events to commemorate the Centenary of the First World War, during which 175 men from 11 countries were awarded the Victoria Cross.
Following the unveiling of the plaque, the High Commissioner and his Chief Guest, Pakistan’s Defence Secretary Lt. General (Rtd) Alam Khattak, laid a wreath in remembrance of all those who had lost their lives in the First World War and those who have fallen in conflicts since.
The plaque honours the bravery of Sepoy Khudadad Khan - the first South Asian and Muslim recipient of the Victoria Cross - Jemadar Mir Dast and Naik Shahamad Khan, who were all awarded Britain’s highest award for gallantry during the First World War.
A descendant of Khudadad Khan was among those present at the ceremony. Other guests included serving and former members of armed forces from across the Commonwealth and other countries as well as representatives from the international community. Community members from Dulmial Village, Punjab, also attended the event. Over 450 soldiers from this village fought in the First World War, the largest number from any village in South Asia.
The plaque will eventually be placed in a prominent public area in Islamabad so that the stories of these heroes will become better known and enable younger generations to learn about our shared history and the extraordinary courage and heroism of those from their own country who fought during the First World War.
Speaking at the ceremony the British High Commissioner, Philip Barton said:
I am proud to host today’s event in remembrance of those who fought so bravely during the First World War. As we honour Pakistan’s three recipients of the Victoria Cross, United Kingdom’s highest award for gallantry, we should remember the sacrifices made a century ago that helped shape our present world. People from different nations came together to uphold our way of life.
Pakistan and the UK share deep and lasting ties of history and friendship; these ties are the bedrock of the strong relationship we have today.
Foreign Office Minister for Pakistan, Tobias Ellwood MP said:
At this time of remembrance, I am honoured to pay tribute to the enormous contribution made by Pakistani servicemen during the First World War.
Unveiling this plaque to mark Pakistan’s Victoria Cross heroes will ensure that there is a permanent memorial in Islamabad to remember all those who lost their lives in The Great War and all who have fallen in conflicts since.
A separate reception was also held in Karachi on 08 November 2014, hosted by the British Deputy High Commissioner Mr. John A. Tucknott MBE. The Chief Guest, Chief Minister of Sindh, Syed Qiam Ali Shah, was joined by more than 250 dignitaries from the Government, military, civil society, the diplomatic corps and the business community. The national anthems of both countries were played to mark this important occasion.
Tributes to Khudadad Khan were lead at a special event at the British Library on Friday 31 October 2014
More information about the First World War Centenary
Photos of the event will be made available on the British High Commission Flickr site later in the evening.
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