A few random notes on gallantry awards (British Indian Army)

From an email from Dr Hamid Hussain. Also sheds some light on the cultural knowledge expected of British-Indian army officers..

Gallantry Awards:  Gallantry awards are always controversial depending on the perch from where you are looking at.  Many gallant deeds go unnoticed as there was no witness or Commanding Officer (CO) didn’t initiate his report in time.  Elite battalions and regiments have many godfathers in senior positions, hence these battalions have an edge when it comes to awards.  Those regiments known as ‘no body’s own’ usually fall behind in this race.  On the other hand, an enthusiastic CO can be too liberal in his recommendations for gallantry awards and military bureaucracy kicks in to downgrade or altogether reject his recommendations.  Bias against Indian officers may have been a factor in early stages of war but in later stages especially when Auk became C-in-C, he was instrumental in getting Indian officers battalion commands and liberal award of gallantry awards.

6/13 FFR (now 1 FF of Pakistan army):  6/13 FFR nick named ‘gaRbaR unnath’ for its naughtiness and old number of 59th Scind Rifles had one company each of Sikh, Dogra, Pathan & Punjabi Muslims.  VD Jayal was first Indian officer posted to this elite battalion.  It is to the credit of British Indian army that Indians came to know fellow Indians of different race and religion.  Officer assigned to a company had to pass language test and know about his men.  Jayal learned Pushtu and probably knew about Pathan culture and customs better than a Muslim from Hyderabad or Lucknow.  In the same paltan, a Muslim officer ‘ganga’ Hayauddin (later MG) was posted to Sikh company. He was a Pathan but a fluent speaker and writer of Gurmukhi and knew about Sikh religion more than many Sikhs.  6/13 FFR was commanded by Dudley Russell ‘Pasha’; a fine officer and gentleman.  Paltan won many gallantry awards in this theatre.  Jayal won DSO.  Battalion adjutant Sher Khan (later approved MG but died in air crash in 1949) was recommended for DSO but awarded MC.  Battalion intelligence officer Anant Singh Pathania (later 1/5 Gorkha Rifles and MG) also won MC.  The uncle of Pathania’s wife was the legendry Subedar Major of 6/13 FFR Prabhat Chand who won MC in First World War (the first Indian to win MC).  Lieutenant Sadiqullah Khan (later Brigadier, one of the first Indian officers posted to scouts, commanded South Waziristan Scouts and Tochi Scouts and retired as Inspector General of Frontier Corps) also won MC.  Later, in Italy, Sher Khan’s younger brother Bahadur Sher (later LG) who had joined battalion after emergency commission also won MC.  At the battle of Mont Cassino, Kashmir Singh Katoch (later LG) won his MC. In the battle of Gothic Line, Sepoy Ali Haider won his VC.

Distinguished Service Order (DSO):  Several Indian officers won DSO in Second world war. Rajendrasinhji ‘Reggie’ of 2nd Lancers (later General) was the first Indian officer to win DSO.  In addition to Jayal, another 6/13 FFR officer Akbar Khan (later Major General) won DSO in Burma while serving with 14/13 FFR.  The only Indian officer who won DSO and Bar was Lt. Colonel S. S. Kalha of 2/1 Punjab Regt.  He was killed in action during occupation duty in Dutch East Indies.  Family of Captain Taj Muhammad Khanzada (5/11 Sikh Regt) claims that he had won DSO in Burma but I could not confirm it.  He later joined INA and after the war, removed from the army.  The most famous case is of 51 Indian Infantry Brigade with unique distinction of Brigade commander Brigadier R. A. Hutton and three commanding officers of the battalions winning DSOs. Normally, infantry brigades had two Indian battalions and one either British or Gorkha battalion.  51 Brigade had all three Indian battalions and all three were commanded by Indian officers. Lt. Colonel S. P.P. Thorat (later LG) commanding 2/2 Punjab Regt, K. S. ‘Timmy’ Thimayya (later General) commanding 8/19 Hyderabad and Lt. Colonel L. P. ‘Bogey’ Sen (later LG) commanding 16/10 Baloch Regt. All these three Indian officers won DSO.

Additional award to a winner of DSO is addition of Bar.  There are many officers who won bar to DSO.  There are few officers who have the rare distinction of winning four DSOs (DSO with three bars).  The most decorated officer that comes to my mind is Brigadier Frederick Lumsden of the famous Lumsden clan that raised legendry Guides.  Frederick won VC and four DSOs before dying at the age of 45.  VC and three DSOs were won within six month time period during First World War.

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