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Medals of Honour

Medals of Honour

Issue 62 November 2009

Considered the highest military decoration, the Victoria Cross is awarded for bravery and valour; with the George Cross as the subsequent civilian counterpart. The following individuals are the few Muslim servicemen and women who were awarded these military honours for their dedication and relentless commitment to their detachments.




Khudadad Khan was born on the 20th of October, 1888 in the village of Dab in the Chakwal district of the Punjab Province of present day Pakistan. Khan belonged to the famous Rajput tribe of Punjab who are hailed for their service in the British Indian Army. Most famously, the Rajputana Rifles were considered to be the most senior rifle regiment in the Indian army.

 Khan became the first Indian recipient of the Victoria Cross. He was a sepoy in the 129th Duke of Connaught’s Own Baluchis.
 On the 31st of October, 1914, at Hollebeke Belgium, Sepoy Khudadad and his detachment were subjected to heavy gun fire from the enemy. After the British Officer in charge of the detachment had been wounded, Sepoy Khudadad, though wounded himself, kept firing until all his comrades were killed. Left for dead by the enemy, he later crawled away and rejoined his unit to continue fighting.
Khan was pictured in the London Gazette, dated 7th December 1914 after having been awarded the VC. He died on the 8th of March, 1971 aged 82.




Mir Dast was born on the 3rd of December, 1874.  At 40 years of age, he held the rank of Jemadar in the 55th Coke’s Rifles (Frontier Force) during the First World War.

 On the 26th of April, 1915 at Wieltje Belgium, Dast was commanded to advance up to the front-firing line with his regiment. After coming under attack by German poison gas and having half his detachment retreat, Dast made the decision to remain firm in his position. Having recognised the fall of all his British officers, Dast assumed command of the remainder of his regiment despite being under the attack of poison gas and shellfire. He kept his men focussed and motivated, recognising that the relentless German attack was weakening the moral of his comrades.
During action, Dast managed to single-handedly retrieve eight of his injured men on the field, including a British officer despite being under consistent rifle-fire.

 Dast waited until dusk in the trenches with his men before retiring. On the way back to camp, he picked up as many fallen men as possible who belonged to his detachment.

 Dast not only suffered bullet wounds but also extensive damage to his health on account of inhaling large amounts of poison gas. Once Dast had recovered, he was sent to England to receive a Victoria Cross from the King himself on account of his bravery.




Ali Haider was born on the 21st of August 1913 in Kohat and was the only sepoy of Pashtun ethnicity to receive the Victoria Cross.

 Haider was a member of the 13th Frontier Force Rifles in the Indian army. On the 9th of April 1945 near Fusignano, Italy, during the crossing of the Senio River, Haider and only two of his men managed to get across to the other end of the river when they came under heavy machine-gun fire. Whilst the other two sepoys covered him, Haider attacked the nearest strong point of the enemy and despite being wounded in his attempt, he managed to successfully put the enemy zone out of action. In attacking a second strong-point, he was again severely wounded but managed to crawl in closer to the base, throw a grenade and charge the post; injuring two of the enemy and taking prisoner the other two who surrendered. The rest of his company were then able to cross the river and establish a bridgehead.

 Haider later received the rank of ‘Havildar’ for his bravery. He died on the 15th of July 1999. His Victoria Cross is now in the Lord Ashcroft VC collection.




Noor Inayat Khan was born on the 1st of January, 1954 in Moscow, Russia. Khan was the only Muslim woman to receive a George Cross.

 Khan joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force as an Aircraftswoman, 2nd class but later trained as a wireless operator.
In June 1943, Khan was posted to Paris as an undercover agent to join the Physician network, working to continue transmissions as the last essential link between London and Paris.

 Khan was captured by the Germans, after being betrayed by members of her own team. Khan was imprisoned at Dachau Concentration Camp and was interrogated and subjected to physical torture but she refused to reveal details of her assignment. Khan was placed in solitary confinement, bound by shackles and classified by the Nazis as ‘highly dangerous’.

 After countless unsuccessful attempts at extracting information from special agent Khan, in the morning of 13th September 1944, she was killed by one single bullet to the head. It is reported that her last words were ‘Liberté’. Khan was 30 years old.

 Khan’s bravery and the official announcement of her George Cross was printed in the London Gazette on the 5th of April, 1949. It stated that “Khan displayed the most conspicuous courage, both moral and physical.”


Lost Voices


These wartime letters from Muslims sepoys who battled through the First World War are incredibly moving. They document the world of the Western Front as seen through the eyes of the ordinary soldier, and poignantly reveal their hopes and beliefs as they fought in the war to end all wars.

 Crammed with detail, the letters conjure up the atmosphere of the frontline vividly. The letters were translated from Urdu and typed up by military censors at the time so as to ensure they did not reveal sensitive military information. Some were passed while others were withheld until nearly a century on; we can now access those files again and hear the voices of a lost generation.








< Return to Main Article



Burma - A Forgotten Battle

Burma - A Forgotten Battle


We hear from veteran brothers Mushtaq Ahmed and Abdul Salam about Britain’s forgotten battle– Burma – where 700,000 Indian soldiers were posted during the Second World War, out of a total Allied force of 1 million.


Acknowledging the Contribution


Political, Military and Religious leaders pay tribute to the sacrifices made by Muslims for Britain in the two world wars.





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