Ishar Singh VC
Ishar Singh served in the Indian Army throughout the Great War and in the British campaign of Waziristan in 1919-1921.
He was the first Sikh Officer to receive the Victoria Cross, and was decorated with the cross of valour for most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty for his actions during battle near Haidari Kach, Waziristan on 10 April 1921.
A sepoy with the 28th Battalion of the Punjab Regiment, he was severely wounded during the battle of Haidari Kach, but continued fighting and providing aid to injured soldiers, at one point shielding a medical officer who was dressing a wounded man, before being evacuated himself. Ishar Singh’s descendents emigrated to Canada and eventually to Calgary, the city they call home.
Ishar Singh story
Sepoy Ishar Singh gained his Victoria Cross "for most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty" on the 10th April 1921, near Haidari Kach, Waziristan, North West Frontier, India.
Ishar Singh was in charge of a Lewis Gun Section when their convoy of troops was attacked. Early in the action he received a very severe gunshot wound in his chest and fell beside his Lewis gun. Fierce hand-to-hand fighting ensued and the British officer, Indian officer, and many other soldiers of his company were either killed or wounded, and his Lewis gun was seized by the enemy.
Calling up two other men, he got up and charged the enemy, recovered the Lewis gun, and although bleeding profusely, again got the gun into action.
When another Officer arrived, he took the gun from Sepoy Ishar Singh and ordered him to go back and have his wound dressed. Instead of doing this, the Sepoy went to the medical officer, and was of great assistance in pointing out where the wounded were, and in carrying water to them. He made innumerable journeys to the river bank and back for this purpose. On one occasion, when the enemy fire was very heavy, he took the rifle of a wounded man and helped to keep down the fire.
On another occasion he stood in front of the medical officer who was dressing a wounded man, shielding him with his own body. It was over three hours before he finally submitted to be evacuated, being then too weak from loss of blood to object.
"His gallantry and devotion to duty were beyond praise. His conduct inspired all who saw him."
London Gazette supplement, 25 Nov 1921
Ishar Singh was the first Sikh Officer to receive the Victoria Cross, one of only five Victoria Crosses awarded between the two world wars. A few years later he was appointed Honorary Captain and later granted a Viceroy's Commission. He was also awarded the Order of British India (O.B.I.), First Class.
In 1929, Ishar Singh went to England as a VIP guest to the Prince of Wales (and future King Edward VIII) who hosted a dinner for VC holders at the Royal Gallery of the House of Lords.
In 1936, Ishar Singh spent five months in London as one of the Viceroy's Commissioned Officers selected to serve as Orderly Officers to the King of England.
In the early 1960's, during a period of financial hardship, Ishar Singh sold his Victoria Cross and his other medals at a pawn shop for around 400 pounds ($800). The Victoria Cross was later sold by Sotheby's in London for 2,000 pounds ($4,000) in June 1970. The British Sikh Union heard of the sale and attempted to purchase the medal but were outbid.
In January 1998, the same Victoria Cross again came up for sale. It was sold to an anonymous buyer for 55,000 pounds ($100,000), and remains in a private collection.