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Minister for Communities Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon will lead tributes to Khudadad Khan, the first South Asian and first Muslim recipient of the Victoria Cross (VC), at a special event at the British Library on Friday (31 October 2014).
The event is to mark the 100-year anniversary of Sepoy Khudadad Khan’s brave actions at the First Battle of Ypres which earned his VC award. Alongside the commemoration, the library’s curators will display photo albums from the war alongside previously censored letters from the front for viewing and discussion.
Khudadad Khan VC, will be formally honoured by the laying of a commemorative Victoria Cross paving stone at a ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum on Commonwealth Day, 9 March 2015, where his will be among 144 other overseas-born VC recipients being honoured.
Speaking ahead of his attendance at the event, Lord Ahmad said:
One hundred years ago today Khudadad Khan displayed exceptional loyalty, courage and determination in Britain’s fight for freedom.
Sepoy Khan fought for a country and a society which spanned many different continents and had subjects whose everyday lives could not have been more different.
And yet British soldiers were not separated by their differences but bound by their shared values. Not divided by their backgrounds but shared their common ground and objectives. They stood and fought together, shoulder-to-shoulder, for liberty – the legacy of which can still be seen in the fabric of our great nation today.
Over the next 4 years we will pause and reflect on the courage of individuals such as Khudadad Khan and by the laying of commemorative stones we will ensure that there are permanent memorials to all of these brave heroes.
In August 2013 Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced a nationwide campaign to honour those who received the VC, Britain’s highest military honour, during the First World War. As part of this, over the next 4 years on the date corresponding to when they were awarded the VC, commemorative paving stones will be laid in their place of birth or where they lived following the war.
469 stones will be laid in communities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 35 VC recipients will be commemorated in the Republic of Ireland. 145 stones will be laid in the National Memorial Arboretum to commemorate those born overseas.
The first stones were laid on 23 August 2014 to mark exactly 100 years to the day that the first Victoria Crosses were awarded during the First World War. The last stones will be laid in November 2018.
2014 marks 100 years since the start of the First World War. See details of commemorative events to mark 100 years since Britain entered the First World War.
A public competition was held to choose a design for the paving stones and this was judged by a panel of 7 experts. The competition was won by Charlie MacKeith from London whose winning design will feature on all the paving stones that will be laid in communities across the country. The circular design seeks to ‘make one pause and remember’ and uses the material, form and lettering of the family of memorials used by the War Graves Commission.
All Victoria Cross recipients that were born overseas will be commemorated with a paving stone in the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will also place commemorative plaques in countries around the world for men from overseas who received the Victoria Cross, for service in the First World War.
Khudadad Khan was a 36 year old Sepoy in the 129th Duke of Counaught’s Own Baluchis. He was born in the Chakwal district of present day Pakistan and belonged to the famous Rajput tribe of Punjab.
On the 31 October 1914, at Hollebeke Belgium, Sepoy Khudadad and his detachment were subjected to heavy gun fire as they attempted to defend their position. Facing overwhelming opposition Khudadad Khan’s team was overrun.
All the men were killed except Khudadad Khan, who despite being badly wounded, continued firing. He was left for dead by the enemy but despite his wounds, he managed to crawl back to his regiment during the night to continue fighting.