The Indian Order of Merit

The Indian Order of Merit was a significant decoration in British India, and hundreds of soldiers received the honour for their efforts in the war.

Profile: Abdul Rahman Khan

Rank: Lance Dafadar
Regiment: 32nd Lancers

Abdul Rahman Khan was part of the cavalry forces, and was a talented horse rider. After a mission in June 1917, his squadron was returning when they were attacked by heavy fire. Khan was right at the back of his group. As they rushed away from the fire, he noticed that his officer’s horse had been shot, and the officer was on the ground. In trying to get away, everyone had left the officer behind, but when he noticed, Khan made his way back to rescue him. The enemy was approaching from all sides, and Khan’s horse was shot. He continued on foot, but several enemy soldiers surrounded both him and the officer. He tried to fight them off, but they were outnumbered. The officer and Khan were both killed.

Profile: Adam Khan

Rank: Naik
Regiment: 28th Punjabis

Adam Khan was awarded the Indian Order of Merit in 1916 for his insistence on saving his commanding officer. The commanding officer was wounded and lying in an exposed position, and Khan led his comrades in carrying out a rescue. They ran out to save the officer, placed him on the stretcher, but as soon as they lifted him, became exposed. Heavy fire was opened on them, so they left him and ran back. They tried again, but the same thing happened. But they didn’t give up, and though the firing continued the third time they went back, the rescue was successful.

Profile: Ata Muhammad

Rank: Sepoy
Regiment: 91st Punjabis

When a patrol was being attacked and running out of ammunition, Ata Muhammad took supplies on his back and jumped into the canal! As he was swimming across the canal, he was being shot at from above, but he continued until he reached the other side. On his way back, he saw a boat tied to the side, so decided to bring it back with him. Not long later, he went back to the patrol using the boat to bring some of them back. Muhammad’s gallantry is noteworthy because of its unique nature: it involved swimming and quick thinking.

Profile: Afridi

Rank: Driver
Regiment: 30th Mule Corps

The Mule Corps played a significant role in adding numbers to the campaigns in Basra, Egypt, France and Gallipoli. They would travel in hundreds, particularly through difficult terrain. Many of the mules would carry ammunition.

Afridi was one of the drivers, known as muleteers. The Allies held Kut-al-Amara, east Iraq, before it was seiged by the Ottomans in 1916. In late 1915, Afridi was in charge of four mules carrying ammunition. As he was leading them, two of the mules were suddenly shot, and heavy fire ensued at him and the mules. Afridi and his comrade, Driver Abd-Allah, who had another set of mules, quickly moved the heavy ammunition that was on the dead mules onto the other mules, and sped up without stopping, being fired at the whole time. Both of them were awarded the Indian Order of Merit for these actions.

Profile: Farman Ali

Rank: Subadar Major
Regiment: 92nd Punjabis

In January 1916, Farman Ali was in charge of half of his company in action, but took a leading role in battle. He was shot once, but continued, and then a second time, but again didn’t give up. Once he realized that he could no longer move, he finally stopped. He was back in action a couple of months later, in charge of Company No. 4.  He found himself under heavy shelling, rifle fire, and machine gun fire, and the commander of Company No. 2 was heavily wounded. At once, Ali pushed his own company with this one, and took charge of both. He aligned them and continued to move forward until it was safe to dig a trench.

Profile: Sultan Mahomed

Rank: Sowar
Regiment: 21st Cavalry

As Sultan Mahomed was riding his horse, a shell hit him that killed the horse, and almost blew his right arm off. He suffered serious wounds, so was placed on a stretcher and carried by four men. Realising that these four men could be fighting, he told them to let him ride another horse. He got onto another horse, in extreme pain, and with heavy fire continuing. Soon after they arrived at their desired position, Mahomed died of his wounds.