Ajaib Singh Sarkaria came from the city of Amritsar in the Punjab. He was a cavalryman serving with the 7th Hariana Lancers when the war broke out. He had enlisted in the Indian army on 23 March 1901. He was commissioned as a jamadar on 23 March 1901. He was serving in Mesopotamia and was part of the ill-fated garrison at Kut under the command of General Townshend. In April 1916, when Townshend surrendered, Ajaib Singh became an Ottoman prisoner of war and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp in Turkey. He endured considerable hardships both during the siege at Kut and later as a POW. This photograph of Ajaib Singh was sent by him as a postcard to a friend and comrade of his regiment – Bulaka Singh from Konia, Turkey whilst he was still a POW.
Risaldar Major and Honorary Captain Bichhattar Singh, IDSM, (13th Lancers) late 31st Lancers
Image courtesy: Col MS Ahluwalia (Retd), grandson of Bichhattar Singh
Bichhattar Singh enlisted in the army on 1 May 1906. He was commissioned as a Jemadar on 20 March 1917 and became Risaldar on 1 July 1922. He was qualified in Machine Gun and Vickers Gun, had passed the course of Transport Instruction and was qualified at equitation school.
During the Great War, he was with the 31st Lancers which later amalgamated with the 32nd Lancers in 1922 and became the 13th DCO Lancers.
He saw service in France from 29 October 1914 to 19 November 1916, in Iraq from 2 February 1917 to December 1920 and apart from being awarded the Indian Distinguished Service Medal (IDSM) in 1921 in Mesopotamia, he was also mentioned in Despatches on 3 June 1917.
Sepoy Chatta Singh, VC, 9th Bhopal Infantry
Chatta Singh standing second from left
The 9th Bhopal Infantry traces its origins to the Bhopal Battalion raised for local service in Central India during 1857. At the start of the war, the regiment was mobilized for service in France and served in Egypt in the latter half of 1915. The regiment arrived in Mesopotamia on 21 December 1915. It was during the Battle of Wadi on 13 January 1916 that a sepoy of the regiment – Chatta Singh, was awarded the Victoria Cross for conspicuous gallantry. During the battle, the regiment suffered heavy casualties. One of the regiment’s company commanders was shot down when advancing towards a forward position. On seeing this, Chatta Singh rushed forward amidst heavy fire to the wounded officer and bandaged his wound. Both men lay out in the open over land that had been described as flat as a billiard table. Chatta Singh placed himself in a position so as to act as a shield for the officer and slowly managed to dig a bullet-proof cover over several hours. He remained with the officer till the night when they were finally rescued. For his gallant and brave conduct he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Risaldar Major Muhammad Akbar Ali Khan, Sardar Bahadur, OBI, IOM, 7th Hariana Lancers
Image Courtesy: USI-CAFHR, Mr Ali Khan, Grandson of Risaldar Major Muhammad Akbar Ali Khan.
Akbar Ali Khan enlisted in the Indian army on 9 April 1886 and rose to the rank of Risaldar Major on 15 March 1910. He was ADC to the Viceroy and was appointed to the Order of British India, First Class with the title 'Sardar Bahadur'. In addition to this, he was awarded the Indian Order of Merit for gallantry in Mesopotamia.
His citation for the Indian Order of Merit reads - "For conspicuous gallantry on 22 November 1915 in carrying messages under heavy fire after the Woordie Major had been killed. He set an excellent example at all times by his coolness and on two former occasions his gallantry was brought to notice. He was wounded during the operations."
Jemadar Panjab Singh and Dafadar Piara Singh, both 7th Hariana Lancers were fighting alongside Risaldar Major Muhammad Akbar Ali Khan and were awarded posthumous IOMs as well. Both men are commemorated on the Basra Memorial roll of honour. Jemadar Panjab Singh endeavoured to do the same task which Akbar Ali Khan carried out with great personal risk to his life but was not as fortunate as him as Panjab Singh was killed in the second attempt he made to carry the messages.
Image credits: USI-CAFHR; Capt (Retd) Hambirrao Mohite, grandson of Ramchandrarao Mohite and Ms Anita Ghorpade (great granddaughter)
Son of Anandro Mohite, of Talbid, Karad, Satara, Bombay Memorial Reference – Panel 48 Date of death – 24/12/1915
Ramchander Rao Mohite enlisted in the army on 1 July 1887. He was commissioned as a jemadar on 30 November 1893 and promoted to the rank of subadar on 1 December 1896. He was awarded the Indian Order of Merit, 2nd Class, the Indian Distinguished Service Medal and was thrice mentioned in despatches.
The citation for his Indian Order of Merit reads:
"For conspicuous gallantry and ability at Kut-al-Amara on the 28 September 1915, while in command of a Double Company, when certain men fell back, in reorganising the line and bringing it up again to the assault. Also in leading his men to the final attack to the first line and going forward with the 1st Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry in the charge. He was mentioned for gallantry on a previous occasion."
He was killed in action on 24 December 1915 in Mesopotamia. His younger brother Colour Havildar Bajirao Mohite was also killed in action and another brother Amrutrao Mohite was a Kut survivor who later went on to become one of the first Indians to be granted King’s commission in 1922. Amrutrao Mohite died whilst in service in 1948.
Govind Rao Sawant, 31st Duke of Connaught’s Own Lancers attached 16th Cavalry
Image credits – USI-CAFHR; Col Amarsinh Sawant (retd), grandson of Risaldar Govindrao Sawant
Panel 44 and 65 Date of death – 22/11/1915
Risaldar Govindrao Narayan Rao Sawant enlisted in the Indian Army on 1 August, 1895. He was commissioned as Jemadar on 1 April 1905, promoted to Ressaidar on 11 November 1912 and became Risaldar on 29 November 1914. He was sent as a reinforcement to 16th Cavalry from his parent unit 31st DCO Lancers. He was most likely killed during the battle of Ctesiphon.
Subadar Pat Ram, 99th Deccan Infantry
Subadar Pat Ram (seated left) was captured by the Turks in Mesopotamia and died as a prisoner of war on 28th August 1917.
Subadar Pat Ram enlisted in the Indian Army on 14 April 1901. He was commissioned as a Jemadar on 5 April 1915 and became Subadar on 15 August 1915. Pat Ram was from a village called Humanyunpur in Delhi. He set sail with his regiment in 1914 and was part of the 6th (Poona) Division which fought its way up the Tigris River in Mesopotamia under the command of Major General Charles Townshend. The garrison was besieged at the town of Kut-al-Amara in December 1915 and after months of waiting for a relief force, it surrendered to the Ottomans. Pat Ram, being a part of the garrison, also became an Ottoman prisoner of war. Whilst in captivity he wrote many letters back home. He died in captivity on 28 August 1917 and is commemorated on the Basra Memorial.
Risaldars Sukhpal Singh and Autar Singh, 22nd Sam Browne’s Cavalry
Risaldars Sukhpal Singh (standing) and Autar Singh (seated) photographed in Baghdad were friends who served in the Great War together in the same cavalry regiment – 22nd Sam Browne’s Cavalry.
Autar Singh enlisted in the army on 18 April 1905. He was commissioned as a Jemadar on 18 April 1905. He was promoted to the rank of Ressaidar on 1 July 1914 and Risaldar on 4 January 1915. He was part of the first batch cadets who became Kings Commissioned Indian Officers after the Great War.
Autar Singh was awarded the Indian Order of Merit in Mesopotamia and his citation reads- "For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on 27 September 1917. He accompanied his British Officer on a reconnaissance round the right flank of the enemy position. When retiring, a squadron of enemy cavalry tried to cut them off. Risaldar Sirdar Autar Singh immediately took charge of a Hotchkiss gun and showed great coolness in the handling of it whereby, the hostile cavalry was held up long enough to enable the patrol to reach the cover of our picquet line. He had displayed gallantry on a previous occasion."
Sukhpal Singh enlisted in the army on 1 May 1905. He was commissioned as a Jemadar on 8 March 1908, promoted to Ressaidar on 29 October 1914 and to Risaldar on 29 September 1916.