In the first of our “Medals of Honour” short films, discover the amazing heroism of the winner of the first Victoria Cross, Ishar Singh of 28th Punjabis.
Music: Paul E. Francis, Epic Landscapes
Ishar Singh VC – Victoria Cross Winner (10th April 1921)
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 only in 1911.
On 10 April 1921 near Haidari Kach, North West Frontier, India, Sepoy Ishar Singh was No. 1 of a Lewis gun section. Early in the fighting he was severely wounded, all the officers and havildars of his company became casualties and his Lewis gun was seized. He recovered the gun and went into action again although his wound was bleeding profusely, but when ordered to have it dressed, he went instead to help the medical officer, carrying water to the wounded, taking a rifle and helping to keep down enemy fire and acting as a shield while the medical officer was dressing a wound. It was nearly three hours before he submitted to being evacuated. Later achieved rank of Captain.
London Gazette supplement
25 November 1921
Sepoy Ishar Singh gained his Victoria Cross “for most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the 10th April 1921, bear Haidar Kach (Waziristan). 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 his chest and fell beside his Lewis gun. Hand-to-hand fighting being comemnced, the British office, Indian officer, and all the Havildars of his company were either killed or wounded, and his Lewis gun was seized by the enemy.
“Calling up two other men, he got up, 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. Instead of doing this, the Sepoy went to the medical officer, and was of great assistance in pojnting out where the wounded were, and in carrying water to them. He made innumerable journeys to the river bank and back for this purpose. On one occasion, when the enemy fire was very heavy, he took the rifle of a wounded man and helped to keep down the fire. On another occasion he stood in front of the medical officer who was dressing a wounded man, thus shielding him with his own body. It was over three hours before he finally submitted to be evacuated, being then too weak from loss of blood to object.
“His gallantry and devotion to duty were beyond praise. His conduct inspired all who saw him.” (London Gazette supplement, 25 November 1921)