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HAIDAR Ali

HAIDAR Ali

Ali Haidar VC (21 August 1913 15 July 1999)
He was 31 years old, and a Sepoy in the 6th battalion 13th Frontier Force Rifles, in the British Indian Army during World War II when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 9 April 1945 near Fusignano, Italy, at the start of the Allied spring 1945 offensive Haidar's battalion was tasked with a difficult assault crossing of the Senio River. Only Sepoy Ali Haidar and the two other men of his section managed to get across under heavy machine-gun fire. Then, Without orders, and on his own initiative, Sepoy Ali Haidar, leaving the other two to cover him, charged the nearest post which was about 30 yards away. He threw a grenade and almost at the same time the enemy threw one at him, wounding him severely in the back. In spite of this he kept on and the enemy post was destroyed and four of the enemy surrendered. With utter disregard of his own wounds he continued and charged the next post in which the enemy had one Spandau and three automatics, which were still very active and preventing movement on both banks. He was again wounded, this time in the right leg and right arm. Although weakened by loss of blood, with great determination Sepoy Ali Haidar crawled closer and in a final effort raised himself from the ground, threw a grenade, and charged into the second enemy post. Two enemy were wounded and the remaining two surrendered. Taking advantage of the outstanding success of Sepoy Ali Haidar's dauntless attacks, the rest of the Company charged across the river and carried out their task of making a bridgehead. Sepoy Ali Haidar was picked up and brought back from the second position seriously wounded. The conspicuous gallantry, initiative, and determination combined with a complete disregard for his own life shown by this very brave Sepoy in the face of heavy odds were an example to the whole Company. His heroism had saved the rest of the company. With the rapid advance which it was possible to make the Battalion captured 3 officers and 217 other ranks and gained their objectives. The rest of the company were than able to cross the river and establish a bridgehead.

The official citation for Haidar's award, published in the London Gazette in July 1945 reads:

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the VICTORIA CROSS to: No. 26534 Sepoy ALl HAIDAR, 13th Frontier Force Rifles, British Indian Army.

In Italy, during the crossing of the River Senio, near Fusignano, in daylight on 9 April 1945, a Company of the I3th Frontier Force Rifles were ordered to assault the enemy positions strongly dug in on the far bank. These positions had been prepared and improved over many months and were mainly on the steep flood banks, some 25 feet high.

Sepoy Ali Haidar was a member of the lefthand Section of the left-hand Platoon. As soon as the Platoon started to cross, it came under heavy and accurate machine gun fire from two enemy posts strongly dug in about 60 yards away. Sepoy Ali Haidar's Section suffered casualties and only 3 men, including himself, managed to get across. The remainder of the Company was temporarily held up. Without orders, and on his own initiative, Sepoy Ali Haidar, leaving the other two to cover him, charged the nearest post which was about 30 yards away. He threw a grenade and almost at the same time the enemy threw one at him, wounding him severely in the back. In spite of this he kept on and the enemy post was destroyed and four of the enemy surrendered. With utter disregard of his own wounds he continued and charged the next post in which the enemy had one Spandau and three automatics, which were still very active and preventing movement on 'both banks. He was "again wounded, this time in the right leg and right arm. Although weakened by loss of blood, with great determination Sepoy Ali Haidar crawled closer and in a final effort raised himself from the ground, threw a grenade, and charged into the second enemy post. Two enemy were wounded and the remaining two surrendered.

Taking advantage of the outstanding success of Sepoy Ali Haidar's dauntless attacks, the rest of the Company charged across the river and carried out their task of making a bridgehead.

Sepoy Ali Haidar was picked up and brought back from the second position seriously wounded.

The conspicuous gallantry, initiative, and determination combined with a complete disregard for his own life shown by this very brave Sepoy in the face of heavy odds were an example to the whole Company. His heroism had saved an ugly situation which would but for his personal bravery have caused the Battalion a large number of casualties at a critical time and seriously delayed the crossing of the river and the building of a bridge. With the rapid advance which it was possible to make the Battalion captured 3 officers and 217 other ranks and gained their objectives.
Dan van der Vat
The Guardian, Tuesday 27 July 1999 01.13 BST
Ali Haidar, who has died aged 85, earned one of the last Victoria crosses of the second world war - in a spectacular initiative which showed that one humble individual can determine the outcome of campaigns involving hundreds of thousands of troops.
After a gruelling struggle by the allied armies up the Italian peninsula in the spring of 1944, the theatre commander, Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander, ordered the American General Mark Clark, leading the 15th Army Group (the 5th US and 8th British armies), to open an offensive in April 1945 on either side of Bologna, with a view to a final drive through the Po valley. The eastern thrust was to be made by the British, between Bologna and Ravenna, crossing the Senio river and pushing north towards the Po.

The banks of the Senio had been built up to three metres to counter flooding, and the northern bank was heavily defended by entrenched German troops. The offensive was opened on April 9 by Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Keightley's V Corps, consisting of the 2nd New Zealand and 8th Indian divisions; the latter included the 19th Indian brigade, which in turn incorporated the 6th/13th Frontier Force Rifles of Pathans, in which Ali Haidar was serving as a sepoy, or private.

Haidar was on the extreme left of his battalion, which was ordered to make the crossing in small boats. Withering machine-gun fire saw to it that only three men, including Haidar, reached the enemy bank. The rest of his company was pinned down by two machine-gun nests on the southern bank.

Leaving his two colleagues to cover him as best they could, Haidar rushed one of the nests and hurled a grenade into it. The occupants threw one of theirs at him, wounding him in the back with shrapnel. Nevertheless Haidar, just over five feet tall, got to his feet, rushed the position and winkled out four Germans, who were taken prisoner by his companions.

He then crawled towards the second position, only to be hit in leg and arm. Undeterred, he managed to reach the post, tossed a grenade and charged in; two Germans were wounded and the other two surrendered. The machine guns silenced, Haidar's company was able to cross the Senio in strength and establish a beachhead, as the wounded hero was carried to the rear for treatment, which was continued at a military hospital in Rome.
Ali Haidar did not recover until the war was over, but was fit enough to receive his medal from King George VI at Buckingham palace in October 1945. He returned to his regiment and eventually reached the rank of jemadar (lieutenant) in the Pakistan army before retiring to a small farm in his home area of the North-West Frontier province.

He and his wife Meena, whom he married in 1947, had no children, and they had great difficulty making a living from poor soil. None the less he managed to get to London in 1993 for a meeting of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association, where it was revealed that he was dependent on the 100 annual bounty paid to the holders of these highest of bravery awards, and a small army pension.

Two years later, the increase in the bounty to a less than lavish l,300 a year transformed his circumstances, enabling him to return to London for the 50th anniversary of VE Day. He died at home in Kohai, some time after his wife.

Ali Haidar, soldier, born August 21, 1913; died July 15, 1999

Signed card from the Booklet VC series


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