A keen look at the Indian Army and one can find hundreds of heroic stories that have taken place with the real heroes in Uniform. The history has witnessed a series of incidents where an Indian Soldier, Abdul Hafiz not only made significant use of his life but also pretty much gave his enemy back on their face while at the verge of losing his life.
The events took place during the world War II when the Japanese forces planned to make a massive strike on Imphal, the capital city of the Indian state of Manipur.
Having conspired to assault Bengal directly on April 6, 1944, the Japanese forces managed to cut off the city from the British Indian Army with a gigantic troop of about 90,000 infantry men who somehow sneak in. Indian reconnaissance unit observed a Japanese commando troop that had captured a crucial position overlooking the only road via Jungle that directs the north to Imphal.
Abdul Hafiz Khan- a Jemadar in the 9th Jat Regiment, British Indian Army, and native of Kalanaur in Punjab- reached the location with his platoon. A sure shot suicide mission as it was, neither did Hafiz nor his 40-strong platoon care much about their life and charged up the hill without cover, facing down the barrels of entrenched machine guns, with a bigger platoon reinforced right behind them.
The platoon commanded by Hafiz was being taken down by the continuous heavy machine gun fire with one bullet piercing Abdul Hafiz’s leg.
The soldiers soon realized the harsh fact of having dealt with a war not easy to win. Hafiz was still not bothered with the circumstances, like a maniac on his way up, unaffected of his leg shot continued tossing grenades and firing until he reached the trenches having a machine gun in his face.
As quickly as intensely, Hafiz parried the red hot barrel from front and pulled his knife out. With all the anger inside, he swooshed the whole machine gun nest with his bare hands.
Abdul Hafiz, chased the enemy in an open field with an automatic machine gun on his hip after taking on half a dozen entrenched soldiers and two Japanese officers. When the surviving enemy soldiers had enough, they used their backup machine gun nest to shoot Hafiz on his chest.
As if the leg or chest shots were never enough to take the man down. On realising the wounds to be the ones taking his life shortly, Hafiz lay on his stomach and with the help of the Bren machine gun started pressing fire in the direction of the machine gun nest with his last words to the survivors-
“Re-organize on the defensive positions! I will give covering fire!”
The Victoria Cross – the highest military honour to be bestowed to anyone in the British and Commonwealth forces was awarded to Jamedar Rao Abdul Hafiz Khan which is on display in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum, London.
The citation of Military Cross reads like–
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the VICTORIA CROSS to:–
Jemadar Rao Abdul Hafiz Khan (11460), 9th. Jat Regiment, Indian Army.
In Burma, in the early hours of the 6th April, 1944, in the hills 10 miles North of Imphal, the enemy had attacked a standing patrol of 4 men and occupied a prominent feature overlooking a Company position. At first light a patrol was sent out and contacted the enemy, reporting that they thought approximately 40 enemy were in position. It was not known if they had dug in during the hours of darkness.
The Company Commander ordered Jemadar Rao Abdul Hafiz Khan to attack the enemy, with two sections from his platoon, at 0930 hours. An artillery concentration was put down on the feature and Jemadar Rao Abdul Hafiz Khan led the attack. The attack was up a completely bare slope with no cover, and was very steep near the crest.
Prior to the attack, Jemadar Rao Abdul Hafiz Khan assembled his sections and told them that they were invincible, and all the enemy on the hill would be killed or put to flight. He so inspired his men that from the start the attack proceeded with great dash. When a few yards below the crest the enemy opened fire with machine-guns and threw grenades.
Jemadar Rao Abdul Hafiz Khan sustained several casualties, but immediatetly ordered an assault, which he personally led, at the same time shouting the Mohammedan battle-cry. The assault went in without hesitation and with great dash up the last few yards of the hill, which was very steep. On reaching the crest Jemadar Rao Abdul Hafiz Khan was wounded in the leg, but seeing a machine-gun firing from a flank, which had already caused several casualties, he immediately went towards it and seizing the barrel pushed it upwards, whilst another man killed the gunner.
Jemadar Rao Abdul Hafiz Khan then took a Bren gun from a wounded man and advanced against the enemy, firing as he advanced, and killing several of the enemy. So fierce was the attack, and all his men so inspired by the determination of Jemadar Rao Abdul Hafiz Khan to kill all enemy in sight at whatever cost, that the enemy, who were still in considerable numbers on the position, ran away down the opposite slope of the hill. Regardless of machine-gun fire which was now being fired at him from another feature a few hundred yards away, he pursued the enemy, firing at them as they retired.
Jemadar Rao Abdul Hafiz Khan was badly wounded in the chest from this machine-gun fire and collapsed holding the Bren gun and attempting to fire at the retreating enemy, and shouting at the same time “Re-organise on the position and I will give covering fire.” He died shortly afterwards.
The inspiring leadership and great bravery displayed by Jemadar Rao Abdul Hafiz Khan in spite of having been twice wounded, once mortally, so encouraged his men that the position was captured, casualties inflicted on the enemy to an extent several times the size of his own party, and enemy arms recovered on the position which included 3 Lewis Machine-guns, 2 grenade dischargers and 2 officers’ swords. The complete disregard for his own safety and his determination to capture and hold the position at all costs was an example to all ranks, which it would be difficult to equal.