Shahamad Khan was born in Takhti, in Rawalpindi (now part of Pakistan) on 1st July 1879, when his country was under British control. He became a career soldier at 25, joining the 89th Punjab Regiment in 1904 as a naik (equivalent to a corporal).
When war broke out in Europe, Shahamad was 35 and had a decade of military experience behind him. He would go on to fight across the world during the First World War, including Gallipoli, Egypt, France and Mesopotamia.
An Act of Bravery
It was in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) that Shahamad won his Victoria Cross in April 1916, when he was in charge of covering a gap in New Line in Beit Ayeesa. He was only 150 yards from the enemy position and all his men, with the exception of two belt fillers, had been shot down.
Shahamad continued to work the gun single-handedly and repelled three counter attacks. Despite the heavy fire, he managed to continue to hold the gap for three hours.
Eventually, his gun was disabled by the enemy fire, but he and his belt-fillers held their ground with rifles until they were ordered to retire. Shahamad made it back to his lines with his gun, ammunition and a severely wounded man. He then returned to remove all the remaining arms and equipment so they would not fall into the hands of the enemy.
The Victoria Cross
Without Shahamd’s determination to hold the ground, the enemy would have penetrated the line. For his courage and determination under fire, he was presented with the Victoria Cross. On 13th November 1919, Shahamad went to Buckingham Palace to receive it from King George V.
He gained the rank of Subedar (equivalent to Captain), but eventually went home to his village of Takhti. He died on 28th July 1947, just weeks before Pakistan was formed and his country gained independence. He was buried in the local cemetery, where people still visit and honour his bravery today.