LONDON: The valued contribution of over four million Muslims was recognised and rich tributes were paid to them at a special Memorial Day event organised under the leadership of Lord Zameer Choudrey, CBE SI Pk; the Conservative friends of Pakistan (CFoP) here on Novermber 11.
The historian Dr Robert Lyman provided the keynote address; with Ministers Lord Stephen Greenhalgh and Hon Jonny Mercer MP; Lord Sarfaz and former leader of the Conservative Party Sir Ian Duncan Smith MP attending this unique virtual event.
In his welcome address, Lord Choudrey, said every year on the 11th of November the nation pays its respect to those who laid down their lives in the Two World Wars but also the ones who died in the other wars. As a Nation we acknowledge the immense debt we owe to them and their families.
Lord Choudrey CBE SI Pk whose father was part of the British Army during the Burma campaign of the Second World War highlighted the contribution of soldiers from present day Pakistan. He said that the CFoP and the diaspora community will never forget them, and we will never forget their scarifies in ensuring the safety and security of the United Kingdom and the Nations of the Commonwealth.
He said according to various historians over 4 million Muslims from 19 different countries either served as soldiers or labourers in the British Army during the great wars; with the largest contribution being made by individuals from modern day Pakistan.
The evening’s keynote speaker Dr Robert Lyman, who is a world renowned World War expert; whilst emphasising the contributing of soldiers from present day Pakistan stated that battles Imphal and Kohima in northeast India from March until July 1944 were some of the greatest battles of the Second World War; where the Japanese armies attempted to destroy the Allied forces and invade India, however, due to the heroic efforts of the men of the 14th British Indian Army they were driven back into Burma with heavy losses. These battles were the turning point of the Burma campaign, part of the South-East Asian Theatre of the Second World War. The Japanese defeat at Kohima and Imphal was the largest at that time.
He shared with the audience the tale of bravery of Victoria Cross Recipient Naik Fazaldin, 10th Baluch Regiment; on the 2nd of March 1945, Naik Fazaldin was commanding a section during a Company attack on a Japanese bunkered position. During this attack, the section found itself in an area flanked by three bunkers on one side and a house and one bunker on the other side. This was the key to the enemy position and had held up a Company attack made earlier. Naik Fazaldin section was accompanied by a tank but, at the time of entering the area, it had gone on ahead. On reaching the area, the section was held up by Light Machine Gun fire and grenades from the bunkers. Unhesitatingly Naik Fazaldin personally attacked the nearest bunker with grenades and silenced it. He then led his section under heavy fire against the other bunkers. Suddenly six Japanese, led by two officers wielding swords, rushed from the house. The Bren gunner shot one officer and a Japanese other rank but by then had expended the magazine of the gun. He was almost simultaneously attacked by the second Japanese officer who killed him with his sword. Naik Fazaldin went to the Bren gunner’s assistance immediately but, in doing so, was run through the chest by the officer, the sword point appearing through his back. On the Japanese officer withdrawing his sword, Naik Fazaldin, despite his terrible wound, tore the sword from the officer and killed him with it. He then attacked a Japanese other rank and killed him. He then went to the assistance of a sepoy of his section who was struggling with another Japanese and killed the latter with the sword. Then, waving the sword, he continued to encourage his men. He staggered to Platoon Headquarters, about 25 yards away, to make a report and collapsed. He died soon after reaching the Regimental Aid Post.
Naik Fazaldin’s action was seen by almost the whole Platoon who, undoubtedly inspired by his gallantry and taking advantage of the bewilderment created amongst the enemy by the loss of its leaders, continued the attack and annihilated the garrison which numbered 55.
He emphasised on the audience the important contribution of soldiers from present day Pakistan during the second world war and how this contribution turned the tide in favour if British efforts to defend a new India and new Pakistan and to retake lost territory in South East Asia.
Lieutenant General Sir Barney White-Spunner, KCB, CBE a former Chief of Staff of the British Land Command; in his addressed emphasised the key contribution of soldiers from modern day Pakistan’s central Punjab and Pothohar regions.
The Dean of the Army Institute of Military History of Rawalpindi, Pakistan shared with the audience experiences of Pakistan origin world war veterans.
Minister for War Veterans Jonny Mercer MP in his brief remarks thanked the CFoP for organising the Remembrance Day as part of its ‘Forgotten Soldiers of the Empire’ a campaign which seeks to highlight the sacrifices made by the hundreds and thousands of Muslim soldiers that fought to protect the British Empire.
He said the contribution of British Indian Army; 40% of whom were from parts that make up present day Pakistan represented a huge donation of manpower, supplies, finances and ultimately their lives, and one that we should never forget.
In his opinion one would be hard pressed to find a British service man or woman whose experience of Armed Forces has not been improved by the contributions of our Commonwealth members. He went on to add that we should never take this for granted and should do more to show are gratitude.
Syed Qamar Raza, Vice Chairman of the CFoP said the acknowledgement and remembrance of soldiers from Pakistan and their sacrifice in the world wars was in his view, was a great way to trace our roots with pride and encourage our young British Pakistanis to join the Royal Army and Navy in the footsteps of their proud forefathers.
Other descendants of World War Veterans and historians from both UK and Pakistan richly shared the experiences for their forefather’s and the contributions of Pakistan origin soldiers to the great wars.