The Victoria Cross (VC) is a military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of armed forces of some Commonwealth countries and previous British Empire territories. It takes precedence over all other postnominals and medals.
It may be awarded to a person of any rank in any service and civilians under military command, and is presented to the recipient by the British monarch during an investiture held at Buckingham Palace. Many Sikhs have been recipients of this high honour. From 1912 until 1947, 40 VCs were awarded to Indian soldiers. Below is a list of the main recipients:
Sepoy Ishar Singh
On 10 April 1921 Ishar Singh was 25 years old, and a Sepoy in the 28th Punjab Regiment, Indian Army during the Waziristan Campaign near Haidari Kach, India when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC. For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the 10th April, 1921. When the convoy protection troops were attacked, this Sepoy was No. 1 of a Lewis Gun Section. Early in the action he received a very severe gunshot wound in the chest, and fell beside his gun. In hand-to-hand fighting, their British and Indian officer, and all the Havildars of his company were soon either killed or wounded, and his Lewis gun was seized by the enemy. It was then that Isher Singh called up two other men. Getting up, he charged the enemy, recovered the Lewis gun and, although bleeding profusely, again got the gun into action.
When his Jemadar arrived he took the gun from Sepoy Ishar Singh and ordered him to go back and have his wound dressed, he went instead to help the medical officer, carrying water to the wounded, taking a rifle and helping to keep down enemy fire he acted as a shield while the medical officer was dressing another's wound. It was nearly three hours before he submitted to being evacuated. He later achieved the rank of Captain.
Captain Ishar Singh was the first Sikh soldier to win a Victoria Cross, the highest award for valour in the British Empire. Instituted in 1856 and given until March, 1943, the Victoria Cross was made from guns captured by the British at Sebastopol during the Crimean War. The right to receive the VC was extended to Indian soldiers beginning in 1911.
Naik Gian Singh
On 2 March 1945 on the road between Kamye and Myingyan, Burma (now Myanmar), where the Japanese were strongly positioned, Naik Gian Singh who was in charge of the leading section of his platoon, went on alone firing his tommy gun, and rushed the enemy foxholes. In spite of being wounded in the arm he went on, hurling grenades. He attacked and killed the crew of a cleverly concealed anti-tank gun, and then led his men down a lane clearing all enemy positions. He went on leading his section until the action had been satisfactorily completed.
His Obituary from The Times of London, Wednesday October 16 1996. tells the story much better.
Gian Singh, VC, who won the decoration in Burma in March 1995, died in Jullundur, Punjab, on October 6 aged 76. He was born on October 5, 1920.
In a display of personal bravery - allied with tactical acumen - which stands out even in the extraordinary annals of the Victoria Cross, Gian Singh overwhelmed singlehanded a series of Japenese stringpoints during the hard fighting for the Irrawaddy port of Myingyan in the spring of 1945. Although it was a victory achieved only at platoon level, Singh's action had an inspiring effect on those around him which was of incalculable value at a time when General Messervy's 4 Corps was experiencing increasing difficulities as its columns pressed on towards Myingyan.
The approach to Myingyan was across a flat, sandy plain. Dust clouds revealed every movement of armour and infrantry to the enemy who was strongly dug in with his rearguards well protected by cleverly sited artillery. Dry gullies and deep ravines lay at right angles across the line of advance, denying passage to tanks. Many of these were screened by thick undergrowth and afforded ample opportunities to ambush the attacking forces.
On March 2, 1945, Singh's unit, the 4th Battalion 15th Punjab Regiment, was advancing down the road between Kamya and Myingyan when it was pinned down by accurate artillery and machinegun fire directed at it from a series of strongpoints and foxholes located in tree-screened positions. Naik (ie corporal, as he was then ) Gian Singh, who was in the leading platoon of his company, perceived that a nasty situation was developing in which the whole battalion might well find itself sustaining heavy casualties.
The Japanese defence of their rearward positions had by this time taken on the semi-suicidal huw which had come to characterise their operations as the heady victories of 1942-4 turned into the bitter defeats of 1944 and 1945. With grenades strapped to their bodies, some Japanese soldiers were hurling themselves into the midst of British/Indian units or throwing themselves under lorries and armoured fighting vehicles.
Summing up the situation with that tactical intelligence which is instinctive in the finest infantry leaders, Singh determined to take out the enemy foxholes before they could inflict the kind of damage that might seriously affect his battalion's attack. Armed with grenades and a submachine gun he assailed foxhole after foxhole, subduimg the defendants with grenades and mopping up with bursts of sub-machinegun fire.
During this breathtaking singlehanded assault, which astounded all who witnessed it, Singh was himself hit in the arm by small arms fire. But he realise that his task was not finished and refused to go to the rear. A cleverly concealed anti-tank gun was still giving trouble and he rushed it and killed its crew with more bursts of fire and further grenades. He then called to the rest of his section who, much heartened by this robust action, followed him down the lane along which the battalion had been trying to advance, clearing enemy positions along both sides of it.
The action, which was in the finest traditions of the Punjabi regiments of the Indian Army, helped to keep up the momentum of the assault on Myingyan, which fell later in the month after further hard fighting. The Myingyan battle was itself a vital component of the campaign against the railway junction at Meiktila, whose capture prised loose the grip of General Honda's Japanese 33rd Army on central Burma.
Singh's VC was gazetted on May 22, 1945. Although he had sustained quite serious injuries, he refused to be invalided out of the Army, and insisted on participating in the drive for Rangoon which concluded the Burma campaign later in the year. During this he was mentioned in dispatches.
With the partition of India and its Army in 1947, Singh was drafted to the 11th Sikh Regiment in the new Indian Army. He was to participate in further fighting, during the Chinese incursion into India of 1962, and later in operations in Kashmir. In retirement he farmed in Punjab.
A quiet man of great gentleness and charm - though one of unmistakable military bearing - Gian Singh was devoted to his family. He greatly enjoyed the reunions of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association and only ill-health last year prevented him from making the journey to London to be present on that occasion.
His wife Hardail Kaur died last year. He is survived by three sons and two daughters living in this country (UK) and a son who lives in India.
Naik Nand Singh
Sikh Regiment, Indian Army Campaign Second World War Age 29
On 11/12 March 1944 on the Maungdaw-Buthidaung Road, Burma (now Myanmar), Naik Nand Singh , commanding a leading section of the attack, was ordered to recapture a position gained by the enemy. He led his section up a very steep knife-edged ridge under very heavy machine-gun and rifle fire and although wounded in the thigh, captured the first trench. He then crawled forward alone and, wounded again in the face and shoulder, he nevertheless captured the second and third trenches.
Jemadar Prakash Singh
On 16/17 February 1945 at Kanlan Ywathit, Burma (now Myanmar), Jemadar Prakash Singh was commanding a platoon which took the main weight of fierce enemy attacks. He was wounded in both ankles and relieved of his command, but when his second-in-command was also wounded, he crawled back and took command again, directing operations and encouraging his men. Being again wounded in both legs, he continued to direct the defence, dragging himself from place to place by his hands. When wounded a third time and dying, he lay shouting the Sikh battle-cry, so inspiring his company that the enemy were finally driven off. He was killed in the above action.
Lieutenant Karamjeet Singh Judge
On 18 March 1945 near Meiktila, Burma (now Myanmar), Lieutenant Karamjeet Singh Judge, a platoon commander of a company ordered to capture a cotton mill, dominated the battlefield by his numerous acts of gallantry. After eliminating ten enemy bunkers he directed one tank to within 20 yards of another and asked the tank commander to cease fire while he went in to mop up. While doing so he was mortally wounded. He was awarded the medal postumously.
Subadar Ram Sarup Singh
Ram Sarup Singh VC (12 April 1912 - 25 October 1944) was an Indian Sikh recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Born 12 April 1919, Kheri village, Bhiwani tehsil, Haryana, son of Jorawar Singh, he was 25 years old, and an Acting Subedar in the 2nd Bt., 1st Punjab Regiment, Indian Army during the Second World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
"On 25 October 1944 at Kennedy Peak in the Tiddim area, Burma (now Myanmar), two platoons were ordered to attack a particularly strong enemy position. The platoon commanded by Subadar Ram Sarup Singh attained its objective, completely routing the enemy, and although the subadar was wounded in both legs he insisted on carrying on. Later, the enemy's fierce counter-attack was halted only by Subadar Ram Sarup Singh's dashing counter-charge in which he killed four of the enemy himself. He was again wounded, in the thigh, but continued to lead his men, killing two more of the enemy, until he was mortally wounded. Killed In the above action."
Lance Daffadar Gobind Singh
28th Light Cavalry
Date of Action: 1 February 1917
Place of Action: east of Peizieres, France
Date and Place of Birth:
Lance Dafadar Gobind Singh of Indian Cavalry was awarded the Victoria Cross "for most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the 1st February 1917, east of Pozieres, France, in thrice volunteering to carry messages between the regiment and Brigade Headquarters, a distance of 1-1/2 miles over open ground which was under the observation and heavy fire of the enemy. He succeeded each time in delivering the message, although on each occasion his horse was shot and he was compelled to finish his journey on foot." (London Gazette, 11 January 1918)
Invested with the cross by the King at Buckingham Palace, London.
Risaldar Badlu Singh VC
Born: Dhakla Village, Punjab, India, November 1876
Date of Death: 23/09/1918
Regiment/Service: 14th Murray's Jat Lancers
- attd. 29th Lancers (Deccan Horse)
Awards: V C
Memorial: HELIOPOLIS (PORT TEWFIK) MEMORIAL; Cremated where he fell; Name in the Heliopolis Memorial, Egypt
Additional Information: Son of Lal Singh, of Dhakla, Jhajjar, Rohtak, Punjab.
An extract from the Second Supplement to the "London Gazette," dated 26th Nov., 1918, records the following:- "For the most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice on the morning ofthe 23rd Sept., 1918, when his squadron charged a strong enemy position on the West bank of the Jordan between the river and Khes Samariveh Village. On nearing the position Ressaidar Badlu Singh realised that the squadron was suffering casualties from a small hill on the left front occupied by machine guns and 200 infantry. Without the slightest hesitation he collected six other ranks and with the greatest dash and an entire disregard of danger charged and captured the position, thereby saving very heavy casualties to the squadron. He was mortally wounded on the very top of the hill when capturing one of the machine guns single-handed, but the guns and infantry had surrendered before he died. His valour and initiative were of the highest order."
Captain Umrao Singh VC
Name: Captain Umrao Singh VC
Born: 21 November 1920,
Died: 21 November 2005
On the night of 15 to 16 December 1944 in the Kaladan valley, Burma, Umrao Singh was a field gun detachment commander in an advanced section of the 33 Mountain Battery, 30th Mountain Regiment, Indian Artillery, serving on detachment as part of the 81st West African Division in Viscount Slim's British 14th Army, supporting the advance of the XV Corps on the Arakan. Singh's gun was in an advanced position, supporting the 8th Gold Coast Regiment. After a 90 minute sustained bombardment from 75 mm guns and mortars from the Japanese 28th Army, Singh's gun position was attacked by at least two companies of Japanese infantry. He used a Bren light machine gun and directed the rifle fire of the gunners, holding off the assault. He was wounded by two grenades.
A second wave of attackers killed all but Singh and two other gunners, but was also beaten off. The three soldiers had only a few bullets remaining, and these were rapidly exhausted in the initial stages of the assault by a third wave of attackers. Undaunted, Singh picked up a "gun bearer" (a heavy iron rod, similar to a crow bar) and used that as a weapon in hand to hand fighting. He was seen to strike down three infantrymen, fatally wounded, before succumbing to a rain of blows.
Six hours later, after a counter-attack, he was found alive but unconscious near to his artillery piece, almost unrecognisable from a head injury, still clutching his gun bearer. Ten Japanese soldiers lay dead nearby. His field gun was back in action later that day.
The above article based on allaboutsikhs.com