During World War I, the primary operations and battles ensued in the European theatre, although a considerable part of the conflict also happened outside of Europe. Moreover, the segregation and racism of that time, made it easier for history to overlook the First World War heroes from other nations. Today we cover the heroism of Khudadad Khan, the very first Indian awarded the Victoria Cross.

Envisioning Europe

Subedar Khudadad Khan was born in the small village of Dab, in Chakwal District, Punjab (now known as Pakistan), on October 20, 1888. His was a family of Pathans who was originally from the northwest Frontier on the border of Afghanistan. During World War I, he served as a Sepoy in the 129th Duke of Connaught’s Own Baluchis, British Indian Army. The Battalion, now called the 11th Battalion, The Baloch Regiment of Pakistan Army, was formed as part of the Indian Corps that was deployed to France to help the British forces on the Western Front in 1914.

Like many others, Khan wanted to serve not just for social pressure but because he also genuinely wanted to see what Europe was like. Little did he know that the Europe he envisioned was far less desirable in reality. As a result, many who arrived at the continent they thought was paradise soon wrote back home, urging their family and friends not to enlist.

The sepoys, just like Khan, were more than willing to give their lives for Britain, although they found it difficult to thrive and function in the cold weather. Some were also vegetarians, a diet foreign to Europeans then.