Monday, March 12, 2018

Mir Dast Afridi

Subedar Mir Dast Qambarkhel Afridi, a recipient of the Victoria Cross, on a Royal Pavilion balcony, 1915

Mir Dast was born in Maiden, Tirah, on 3 December 1874, son of Mada Mir, an Afridi. Enlisting in 1/55th Coke's Rifles, Frontier Force, in December 1894, he served at Tochi Valley on the north-west frontier of India during 1897-8, receiving the Indian General Service Medal and bar. Promoted Naik (sergeant) in 1901, Mir Dast again saw service on the north-west frontier during 1901-2, on this occasion receiving the Waziristan bar to add to his General Service Medal. Further promotion followed in 1904 when he was made Havilar (sergeant) and in 1908, when fighting in the Mohmand Campaign at Khan Khar Kueg, he was awarded the Indian Order of Merit 2nd Class for gallantry in action, in addition to the then new Indian General Service Medal and bar. No Indian troops qualified for the Victoria Cross until 1911, the IOM being the highest award for bravery attainable by them. Promoted to Jemadar (the equivalent of lieutenant) the following year, this experienced Indian officer first saw service in France on 19 January 1915, when attached to 57th Wilde's Rifles. This battalion was in reserve for the battle of Neuve Chapelle and though moving up to the front line trenches on 12 March 1915, played little part in the fighting. Following his gallantry near Ypres, Subadar Mir Dast continued to serve with his regiment until June, when he was again wounded; his injuries, combined with the effects of his earlier gas poisoning, resulted in him being sent for treatment at the Indian Hospital, Royal Pavilion, Brighton. His Victoria Cross was announced in the London Gazette of 29 June 1915. ["VCs of the First World War: the Western Front, 1915" - Page 78]

Note: Mir Dast was awarded Victoria Cross three months after defection of his brother Mir Mast to German/Turkey side. Mir Mast deserted in France, was awarded the Iron Cross ((the highest military award of Germany) and sent back with a Turkish mission to the Tirah to stir an uprising against the British . It appears the British awarded the Victoria Cross to Mir Dast in retaliation to his brother's actions.