Sepoy Khudadad Khan, VC, Hollebeke Sector, First Battle of Ypres, 30 October 1914, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Action_by_Sepoy_Khudadad_Khan_VC_Ypres.jpg.

During the 29 October action, the 57th Rifles suffered only a few casualties, but on the morning of 30th October the Germans plastered the trenches of the 4th and 5th Cavalry Brigades with shrapnel and high explosive and attacked with infantry. About 2 p.m. a portion of the troops north of the 5th Cavalry Brigade was compelled to fall back, Captain Forbes of the 57th, with No. 3 Company,did not receive the orders to retire in time and became isolated.

As the company retired, a half of it with its leader, Lieutenant I. H. Clarke, was mown down by machine-gun fire, only a few getting away. The bombardment of the trenches and Wytschaete continued during the 30th and 31st October, and on this latter night, between 3 and 4 a.m., the Germans made an infantry attack in overwhelming numbers. No. 4 Company of the 57th was bearing the weight of a strong attack at the same time, and Captain R. S. Gordon commanding No. 2 Company led them to its assistance.

As the Highlander leaped from his trench he was killed. Lieutenant Malony and his troops, notwithstanding that he was opposed by vastly superior numbers, kept up so heavy a fire that the enemy began to cry a halt and endeavour to dig themselves in. Meantime half of No. 4 Company was nearly surrounded, and the detachment was left without a single British officer; but the occasion generally discovers the man, in this case Subadar Arsla Khan. He had won an Order of Merit on the North-West Frontiers of India, and would go on to add the Military Cross to his numerous decorations. Leading a counter-attack with the bayonet he gained sufficient time to pull his men together, and then, although vastly outnumbered, skilfully withdrew both companies to Messines.

The 129 Baluchis had, like the 57th Rifles, been doing its share in another place. After its first experience in the trenches it had a rest in billets on 27th October, and was at work again on the 29th entrenching a position. Orders for relief had been issued for 7 a.m. on 30th October, but at 6.30 a.m. the enemy opened a heavy fire which continued throughout the morning. Lieutenant Colonel W. M. Southey was in command of the 129th. It had in its ranks Mahsuds and some Mohmands who were now being for the first time tested in the regular Army. The 129th experienced varying fortunes during the 30th October as after reinforcing the firing-line with all available men, they were pushed back.

Detaching a portion of them to hold a wood to the right, the remainder were rallied in the vicinity of a chateau which was held by Lieut. H. Lewis and Subadar Adam Khan. Evening saw them still holding the wood and some trenches north of the chateau, and later three companies moved to billets near the canal bank, leaving one company to hold the trenches north of the chateau. The last bit of work that fell to the Baluchis is best told in the brief official report of Colonel Southey: We formed up about 3 A.M. and advanced on the left of the farm. Major Potter taking the right, and marched up to the farm. We killed about three and wounded three, and the remainder who had not bolted surrendered, fourteen in number… Lieutenant Lewis during this advance was twice shot at a distance of not less than fifteen yards yet both shots hit his field-glasses in front of his left hip and smashed them to bits, the second one glancing off and hitting his hand. Each battalion had two Maxim machine-guns.

With one gun of the Baluchis were three men, Naik Sar Mir, Lance-Naik Hobab Gul, and Sepoy Redi Gul, who worked their gun until it was blown to bits by a shell and only retired under orders of their commander. They had lost one gun and the gunners (Colour-Havildar Ghulam Mahomed 2524 , Sepoy Lai Sher 2813, Sepoy Said Ahmad 4182, Sepoy Kassib 103, Sepoy Afsar Khan, 3600) on the other were equally under pressure. But as each man fell another took his place until finally only one remained, and although severely wounded worked the gun till strength failed him and he lay unconscious and hence untouched by the enemy.

This man was Sepoy Khudadad 4050, and he lived to wear the Victoria Cross, the first Indian soldier who ever won it. His home is in the village of Chakwal near Jhelum’s river.

Geoff Barker, Research and Collection Services Coordinator, Parramatta Council Heritage Centre, 2014