These were men who stood proudly behind the British Empire and won the highest award possible for bravery.

One man protected a fellow soldier with his body for five hours; another helped eight officers escape under intense fire. The third was in charge of a machine gun that the enemy rendered unusable.

Now, these men – Indian soldiers who won the Victoria Cross in the First World War – can be pictured together for the first time after their stories and images were unearthed in newspaper archives by ancestry website FindMyPast.

They include Chatta Singh, who was awarded for his ‘most conspicuous bravery’ in helping his wounded commanding officer during the Battle of the Wadi, in Mesopotamia – which is now Iraq – in January 1916.

Mir Dast was also named, who led his platoon with great gallantry’ at Ypres in Belgium on April 1915. Mir Dast showed’remarkable bravery’ in helping to transport wounded British and Indian officers to safety.

Shahamad Khan continued firing his machine guns in Mesopotamia despite the fact that all of his soldiers had been killed. According to his citation, without Shahamad Khan’s actions, the line would have been pierced by enemy. 

Six VCs total were claimed by Indian soldiers, three of what was now Pakistan and two from Nepal.

All eleven of those pictured are being reunited for the very first time. Nine of them survived to be presented with their medals in person. Two were also killed while performing their brave acts.

During the four-year conflict, a total of one and a half million men were recruited from the Indian subcontinent – which made up the British Raj – into the British Indian Army to fight against Germany.

Indian soldiers who won the Victoria Cross in the First World War can be pictured together for the first time after their stories and images were unearthed in newspaper archives. Shahamad Khan (above) kept firing his machine gun in Mesopotamia - which is now Iraq even after all his men had become casualties

Chatta Singh was awarded for his 'most conspicuous bravery' in helping his wounded commanding officer during the Battle of the Wadi, in Mesopotamia in January 1916

After their stories and photos were discovered in newspapers archives, images of Indian soldiers who received the Victoria Cross during the First World War are now available. Shahamad Khan (left) kept firing his machine gun in Mesopotamia – which is now Iraq – even after all his men had become casualties. He was cited for his bravery in helping to protect the line from being ‘intruded’ by the enemy. Chatta Sing (right) received the’most conspicuous gallantry’ award for helping his wounded commander during the Battle of the Wadi. This was in Mesopotamia on January 1916.

They were called Sepoys, after the Persian word meaning “infantry soldiers”, because they came from diverse religions. This group included Hindus as well as Sikhs and Punjabi Muslims.

They did not abandon the vast collection of poems, diaries and memoirs that informs so much about the First World War’s collective memory, unlike their Western counterparts.

The stories about their heroic acts of bravery and courage are becoming less popular. However, the British Indian Army’s men were awarded more than 9200 decorations including the VCs.

Khudadad, an Indian soldier who won a VC for the first time was Khudadad Khatib (now Pakistan).

His role was that of a sergeant in the 129th Duke and Connaught’s own Baluchis infantry regiment. The battalion he served was sent to France by the British to support their forces fighting on Western Front in October 1914.

At the Battle of Neuve Chapelle on October 31st, the Germans attacked the Baluchis near Gheluvelt with two Baluchis companies.

The first Indian soldier to win a VC was Khudadad Khan, who was from the village of Dab in the Chakwal District of the Punjab Province (now Pakistan

Mir Dast led his platoon 'with great gallantry' at Ypres in Belgium in April 1915 and showed 'remarkable courage' by helping to carry to safety British and Indian officers who had been wounded

Khudadad Khan, an Indian soldier who won a VC in April 1915 was the first to do so. He was originally from Dab District of Punjab Province (now Pakistan). Mir Dast (right) led his platoon ‘with great gallantry’ at Ypres in Belgium in April 1915 and showed ‘remarkable courage’ by helping to carry to safety British and Indian officers who had been wounded

Dast is seen (right) meeting British War Secretary Lord Kitchener (right_) and South African General Jan Smuts

Dast seen with British War Secretary Lord Kitchener (right_), as well as South African General Jan Smuts

After suffering many casualties, they fought bravely and were defeated. Khan’s machine-gun team, along with one additional gun, kept the Germans at bay throughout the day.

Khan was able to defeat the gun teams with a single shell, and Khan’s guns were destroyed. Khan’s men were eventually defeated.

All men were shot or killed except Khan, who, even though he was badly injured, kept firing.

The enemy left him for dead, but he was able to climb back to his regiment the next night.

His bravery and the courage of his Baluchis friends allowed reinforcements to reach the Germans just in time to stop them from reaching vital ports.

The London Gazette quotes his quote as saying: ‘On 31 October 1914, Hollebeke in Belgium. Although the British officer in charge of detachment suffered injuries and was unable to fire the second gun due to a shell, Sepoy Khudadad continued working the gun until five of the men from the detachment were killed.

Chatta Sing, who was 29 at the time of his VC award for bravery displayed in the Battle of the Wadi (January 13, 1916), died in 1961.

Gabar Singh, from the Indian district of Tehri in the Himalayas, was one of the men who was awarded the VC (his shown left) after being killed

His name is seen among the Indian soldiers killed at the Battle of Neueve Chapelle

Gabar Singh was from Tehri, an Indian district in the Himalayas. He was among the people who received the VC after he was killed. Right: You can see his name on the Nueve Chapelle Indian Memorial, France

In his citation, he stated that he was awarded the award for his’most conspicuous bravery in assisting his Commanding officer who was wounded and helpless openly’.

“Sepoy Chatta Singh treated the wound of the Officer and covered it with his entrenching instrument. He was then exposed to heavy rifle fire all day.

“He remained with the Officer wounded for five hours, protecting him with his body and shielding him from the sun.

“He went to seek help and brought him into safety under darkness.

Mir Dast (a Pashtun belonging to the Afridi tribe) was born into a Muslim family in Pakistan. 

Kulbir Thapa was born in Palpa, Nepal and was a 26 year old Rifleman in the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Gurkha Rifles of the Indian Army when he became the first Nepalese recipient of the Victoria Cross

His medals are seen on display

Kulbir Thapa, a 26-year-old Rifleman with the 2nd Battalion and 3rd Gurkha Rifles, Indian Army, was born in Palpa in Nepal. He was the first recipient of the Victoria Cross for Nepal. Right: You can see his medals on display

In December 1894, he enlisted in British Army and was stationed in areas including the North-West Frontier in western Pakistan.

He was elevated to the rank Jemadar, which is a troop leader in March 1909. He was serving with the 55th Coke’s Rifles at the Battle of Ypres, Belgium.

His unit participated in a British-French counterattack against German troops during an April 26th 1915 attack.

Even with heavy losses they managed to close the German trenches.

After the Germans had released chlorine gas, many soldiers fled in fear.

Dast was one of a few British and Indian soldiers who held on to their positions until the nightfall, when they were asked to leave. 

Karanbahadur Rana Magar, who died in 1973, was awarded the VC for his actions in El Kelfr, Egypt on April 10, 1918

He is seen above in later life with his medals

Karanbahadur Rana Magar (pictured right in later life), who died in 1973, was awarded the VC for his actions in El Kelfr, Egypt on April 10, 1918. The citation that he received reads, “For conspicuous bravery and resource in action under adverse circumstances, and for utter disregard for danger.” He and a handful of other men managed to escape intense fire with their Lewis guns to fight an enemy machine gun. The gun had been causing severe injuries to other officers who tried to stop it from firing. The Lewis gun No. 1 opened fire and was immediately shot. Without a moment’s hesitation Rifleman Karanbahadur Rana pushed the dead man off the gun, and in spite of bombs thrown at him and heavy fire from both flanks, he opened fire and knocked out the machine-gun crew; then, switching his fire on to the enemy bombers and riflemen in front of him, he silenced their fire. The gun continued to fire and he was cool in fixing the defects. He did outstanding work throughout the rest of the day, including helping to cover fire when the enemy approached him. He showed a high level of courage and dedication to his duty throughout the day.

How troops from all over the Empire contributed to the success of the war


Two infantry and two cavalry regiments were sent by India’s sub-continent, Pakistan and Bangladesh to the Western Front at the close of 1914.

Indian troops were present at Gallipoli in 1915 when they fought alongside Australian, British and New Zealand soldiers against the Ottoman Turks.


African troops were also involved in containing the Germans in East Africa and defeating them in West Africa – in an area where Europeans had struggled in the hot climate. The ‘British Army in East Africa’ consisted mainly of soldiers from Nigeria (Ghana), Sierra Leone (Sierra Leone), Kenya, Uganda, Nyasaland, Malawi) and Sierra Leone. Some 60,000 workers also came from South Africa.


Around 15,000 men from the Caribbean enlisted, with a few serving in regular British Army units – although most were in the West India Regiment and the British West Indies Regiment. They served in France and Italy as well as Africa and the Middle East.


Canada was also a major contributor to the war with its Canadian Expeditionary Force serving as a combatant in many of the Western Front’s most important battles since 1915. Their actions included the Somme and Passchendaele offensives, as well as the Hundred Days offensives in 1918. Nearly 10% of 620,000 Canadians who joined the army were killed during the conflict.


Newfoundland (which was first part of Canada in 1949) fought in Gallipoli in 1915. However, it almost lost at Beaumont Hamel on Somme in the next year.


There were more than 410,000 Australians who served in World War II.

New Zealand troops helped Australia to capture the colonies of Germany in the Pacific. They fought on Western Front with 5% of the country’s men between 15 and 49 being killed.

He saved the lives of Indian and British officers by doing so. His citation states: “For the most conspicuous bravery at Ypres (26 April 1915), when he led his battalion with great gallantry in the attack. He then collected many parties from the regiment and kept them under him until his retirement.

“Jemadar Mir Dast later on that day showed remarkable courage, helping to bring eight British and Indian officers into safety while being exposed to heavy fire.”

Dast, who was injured, was taken to the Royal Pavilion in Brighton for treatment. King George V awarded him his medal. 

Dast retired in 1917 from active duty and died in 1945 in Shagi Hindkyan village, Tehsil in Peshawar. He was buried in Warsak Road Cemetery in Shagi Hindkyan and Federally Administered tribal areas.

An honor of Mir Dast, a blue plaque has been erected at Royal Pavilion Gardens in Brighton in May 2016.

Shahamad Khan was born in Punjab and lived in Pakistan. In the 89th Punjabis Regiment, he was a Naik or corporal.

He continued to fire his machine guns despite heavy fire while serving in Mesopotamia, April 1916.

According to his citation, Shahamad Khan led a section of machine guns 150 meters from enemy positions. This covered a gap at Beit Ateesa in Mesopotamia’s New Line on the 12/13/04 1916.

Shamahad Khan was left to work the gun alone after all his men had been killed, and he repelled three counterattacks.

He continued holding the gap for over three hours, even though it was being closed with heavy fire.

The two men who were belt-filling the position with their rifles held it until the gunner was killed by enemy fire.

“He brought his guns, ammunition, and severely injured man back along with three other men sent by him to help.

He returned eventually to get all the equipment and arms that he had left, with two shovels. The enemy would have penetrated the line without his actions.

Gabar Singh from Tehri, India, in the Himalayas was among the men to receive the VC for his death.

On October 19, 1913, he joined The Garhwal Rifles 2nd Battalion. The battalion went to war after the First Battle of Ypres. It was stationed on the Western Front, later at the Pas-de-Calais.

He was one of the selected men to take part in the Battle of Neuve chapelle, which took place March 1915. Singh was sent to clear the path from German trenches using bombs.

His citation says: “For most conspicuous courage on the 10th of March 1915 at Neuve chapelle. His actions during the attack on Germany’s main trench included being part of a bayonet party equipped with bombs, which entered the German line and drove the enemy back until surrender.

Gobind Singh won his VC at the Battle of Cambrai, an all-important effort by the Allied forces to break the Hindenburg Line in France. It was the first time tanks were used successfully in the history of warfare

Gobind Singh received his VC during the Battle of Cambrai. This was an important effort of the Allies to end the Hindenburg Line in France. The first time that tanks had been successfully used in wartime history was this.

“He was shot during the engagement.”

Badlu Singh was the other victim. He was aged 41 and was a Risaldar – a commander of a mounted division – in the 14 Murray’s Jat Lancers.

Singh was killed in action on September 23rd 1918 at Khes Samariveh (Palestine). Singh died after his squadron charged an extremely well-fortified enemy post on the West Bank of the River Jordan.

He cited: “On the nearing of the position Ressaidar [sic]Badlu Singh saw that there was a small hill to the left of the machine guns and 200 infantry, which meant the squadron was experiencing casualties.

“Without hesitation, he collected six more ranks and charged the position with the most daring and complete disregard for danger. This saved a lot of casualties.

“He died after being mortally injured while capturing one machine gun single-handed from the top of the hill, but the rest of his machine guns and infantry surrendered before he could die.”