Ali Haider

Victoria Cross as all of us know is the highest and most prestigious military award that is awarded to British as well as commonwealth soldiers. Ali Haider as known as Ali Haider (VC) or Bahadur Ali Haider is one of the recipients of this award for his bravery and gallant actions that were performed in the face of the enemy during World War II. Ali Haider was born in Kohat, which was under the British rule at that time on 21 August 1913. He was born to Pashtun parents who belong to Bangash Tribe. At the time of receiving the award he was 31 years of age and a part of 13th Frontier Force Rifles. The action took place in Italy during the war and the exceptional bravery of this soldier made his nation proud. 

In Fusignano, Italy during the war Ali Haider and his battalion was task to make sure that Senio River is crossed so that the front posts of the enemy could be attacked after proper reconnaissance.  It was only Ali Haider and the two of his  fellows that were able to cross it under heavy gun and mortar fires. Once the river was crossed Ali Haider advanced to the nearest check post and threw a grenade. He was severely hurt once the enemy hurled a grenade back. In this encounter a check post was destroyed and 4 enemy soldiers were captured. He then advanced to the second check post that was preventing the battalion soldiers to cross the river and was engaging them with heavy gun and artillery fire. During the assault he was badly wounded in his right leg and arm. This post was also destroyed and four enemies surrendered to the British forces. To this day his bravery is an example and at that time he was the one to save the company from heavy shelling and thus making it possible for them to cross the river to establish a bridgehead. It was in fact his dauntless acts that saved the lives of rest of the soldiers. Once the encounter was over it was only then that the company advanced forward and 3 enemy officers and 217 other ranks lay their weapons. 

The struggle that has been faced by the allies in the Italian Peninsula has urged the field marshal Sir Harold Alexander to open a large scale offense on all sides of Bologna so that the Po Valley can be crossed by the troops in their forward offense. It was Bologna and Ravenna that were to be bridged so that the north side of the Po valley is brought closer. It could only be done if the Senio River has been crossed. The American General Mark Clark was given the responsibility to get going with his 15th Army group.  

He died at the age of 85 in Hangu district which in the present day Khyber Pakhtoonkhawan province of Pakistan on July 15th 1999. The good thing is that Ali Haider is not a forgotten hero. He is not only remembered still but the VC granted to him in this regard is still at display at the Lord Ashcroft gallery Imperial War museum London. To this day he is remembered for his bravery for which he not only saved his company but also allowed them to capture the posts after crossing the Senio River. In this encounter the river is of utmost importance as it was the main hurdle in the way of British and American forces to open large scale offensive. 

The banks of River Senio were built 3 meters to ensure that the floodwater never spreads outside of it. Ali Haider was on the left of his battalion and was ordered by Sir Charles Keightley’s V corps to cross the river and pave a way for the rest of the company that was pinned down by the shooting points of the German Army on the other bank of the river. The crossing is to be made in small boats and therefore it was a daunting task as the firing was enough to distract Ali Haider from his task. He however managed to cross the river with only two of his colleagues. He immediately told his other fellows to cover him as much as they can. They also did this in exceptional manner. Ali Haider was severely wounded once a grenade from the first post was hurled at him hitting him in the back. He however did not stop and silenced the nest once and for all. He then advanced to the second post which was very active not only on the front lines but on the sidelines as well and could very well see him coming. He was again wounded and but silenced the second post as well. The VC was awarded due to causalities that were saved by him and also in time crossing that was not delayed at all.  

He was not fit until the war was over but still received the VC from King George VI in the Buckingham Palace in 1945. He joined the regiment again and was promoted to lieutenant rank. He joined the Pakistan Army at the same rank and was eventually retired. He lived his life peacefully with his wife Meena. The duo had no children at all. In 1993 he managed to participate in Victoria and George Cross annual meetings where it was revealed that he was eligible for 100GBP bounty per year along with small pension. In the year 1995 the bounty was increased to 1300GBP. This not only changed the life for him but also allowed him to visit the 50th Annual meeting of George and Victoria Cross meetings in London in 1995.  His exceptional bravery has set an example for modern day British as well as Pakistan Armed forces to ensure that despite all odds the operation that has been assigned is definitely to be completed even if life is at stake. Ali Haider also proved that the best is the one who save the lives of others.