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SubMajorUmraoSinghVictoriaCross1

Introduction

1. Captain Umrao Singh VC (21 November 1920 – 21 November 2005) was an Indian recipient of the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

2. He was the only non-commissioned officer in the Royal Artillery or the Royal Indian Artillery to be awarded the Victoria Cross during the Second World War.

3. He got this award because of his bravery shown against the Japanese army in Burma in second world war in 1944.

4. Umrao Singh, son of Mohar Singh, was born into a Hindu Yadav family in Palra, a small village in Jhajjar district in Haryana

5. He was promoted to Havildar (Sergeant) in the Royal Indian Artillery, Indian Army in 1942

Summary of his Bravery

1. On the night of 15 to 16 December 1944 in the Kaladan valley, Burma (now Myanmar), Umrao Singh was a field gun detachment commander in an advanced section of the 33 Mountain Battery, 30th Mountain Regiment, Indian Artillery, serving on detachment as part of the 81st West African Division in Viscount Slim's British 14th Army, supporting the advance of the XV Corps on the Arakan.

2. Singh's gun was in an advanced position, supporting the 8th Gold Coast Regiment.

3. After a 90 minute sustained bombardment from 75 mm guns and mortars from the Lt-Gen Sakurai Seizo's Japanese 28th Army, Singh's gun position was attacked by at least two companies of Japanese infantry.

4. He used a Bren light machine gun and directed the rifle fire of the gunners, holding off the assault.

5. He was wounded by two grenades.

6. A second wave of attackers killed all but Singh and two other gunners, but was also beaten off.

7. The three soldiers had only a few bullets remaining, and these were rapidly exhausted in the initial stages of the assault by a third wave of attackers.

8. Undaunted, Singh picked up a "gun bearer" (a heavy iron rod, similar to a crow bar) and used that as a weapon in hand to hand fighting.

9. He was seen to strike down three infantrymen, fatally wounded, before succumbing to a rain of blows.

10. Six hours later, after a counter-attack, he was found alive but unconscious near to his artillery piece, almost unrecognisable from a head injury, still clutching his gun bearer.

11. Ten Japanese soldiers lay dead nearby.

12. His field gun was back in action later that day.

Life after the War

1. Singh was presented with his VC by King George VI at Buckingham Palace on 15 October 1945. The citation reads "Havildar Umrao Singh set a supreme example of gallantry and devotion to duty."

2. He was promoted to Subedar Major after recovering from his wounds. He retired from the British Indian army in 1946, but rejoined the army in 1947 following independence, and served until 1965. After leaving the army a second time, he returned to farm his family's 2 acre (8,000 m²) smallholding.

3. He was made an honorary captain in 1970. At the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of VE Day in London in 1995, he was almost turned away from the VIP tent because his name was not on the correct list, but Brigadier Tom Longland, who had organised the event, recognised his medal and gave orders for him to be admitted. After the event, Singh complained to British Prime Minister John Major about the meagre pension of £168 per year paid to the then ten surviving Indian VC holders. The amount had remained fixed since 1960, but Major subsequently arranged for the pension to be raised to £1,300 per year. He attended the service of dedication of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Memorial in Westminster Abbey on 14 May 2003.

4. After being diagnosed with prostate cancer in July 2005, he died, aged 85, at the Army Research and Referral hospital in New Delhi 21 November 2005. He was cremated in his native village with full military honours, attended by Bhupinder Singh Hooda (Chief Minister of Haryana), General Joginder Jaswant Singh (Army Chief), and Lt Gen Charanjit Singh (Director General of Artillery). His wife, Vimla pre-deceased him, but he was survived by two sons and a daughter.

6. In spite of personal hardship and receiving substantial offers, Singh refused to sell his medal during his lifetime, saying that selling the medal would "stain the honour of those who fell in battle".

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