For British Muslims the fact that 400,000 of them fought in World War I is a commemoration that would never fade away. Mir Dast is one of those heroes who has been forgotten but the world but certainly not by the British. Remembering him not only because he was serving in British Forces but it is also because his valor and bravery is still a synonym in the British Army. One should also not forget that the Muslims were a vital part of the British Forces for over 100 years.It is also a proven fact that most of these Muslims not only fought bravely but it was their valor that compelled the British Army to deploy them on the front line. Mir Dast was not only a Victoria Cross recipient but was also decorated with Indian Order of Merit for his state of the art professionalism that was depicted during the war.He was awarded the Victoria Cross in June 1915.
Dast was born on December 3rd 1874 in Maidan Valley, which is in Terah Valley and comes under the command and control of Pakistan. He was enlisted in British Army in December 1874. He was stationed in Waziristan and NWFP prior to his deployment in France. He was among those who were stationed in France during the First World War. During the war he was serving as a Jemadar in 55th Coke’s Rifles in the British Indian Army. When he was deployed for the front lines in World War I he was in 55th Wilde’s Rifles in Frontier Force. During service in this branch he was awarded with Victoria Cross or VC. He was deployed in Ypres Belgium when the combat took place. As a Jemadar he was leading a platoon and once the British officers were wounded or killed, took the command and made it possible for the rest to get through heavy firing. For this he collected the various parties that were scattered across the battlefield. He was severely wounded but still managed to save lives of 8 wounded British and Indian Army soldiers. He did so by carrying them to safety under heavy attack and fire. The work and bravery, which he performed during the encounter, earned him the VC and Indian order of Merit. To commemorate him a monument still stands at the Hyde Park Corner in London. It not only honors Dast but all the other VC recipients. He is still regarded as one of the best soldiers during the World War I when it comes to the British Army.
When he first enlisted in the British Army his rank was Sepoy and was later promoted to the rank of Jemadar in the year 1909. He was again promoted to the rank of Subedar and was eventually retired in 1917. It is a proven fact that for the British, the Western Front was a daunting task and therefore they deployed most of the Indians especially Muslims as they are known for their courage and valor. During the 1st World War, Belgium was under heavy attack. Mir Dast and his regiment were deployed to make sure that the channel ports are not occupied and at the same time the Germans are also kept out of the territory. On April 26th 1915 he was the one who lead his platoon over the top of highly steep trenches which great valor. However the tables were turned when he was caught by German gas attack.
It was not only Dast who suffered but also most of the high regiment officials were either killed or severely wounded because of Gas effect. The platoon started to retreat but Dast was not among them. He stayed at the front line to ensure that the best efforts are made to take all those with him who are not able to run or even stand. He himself was also severely wounded by the Gas effect but continued carrying his comrades to safety. It has been estimated that Dast carried around 8 officers to safety but the numbers are quite high. He neither lost hope nor did he leave his company behind and therefore it was this act of courage that earned him Victoria Cross. Despite of being under heavy and poisonous gas effects, he continued to fight at the western front but was eventually sent to England to recuperate. It has been also revealed that Phosgene was the gas, which was used in that attack and in this way the Germans also violated the international wartime rules.
His actions were considered to be full of courage and valor and for this he was awarded VC post retirement. During war times it has been noted on several occasions that every man is for himself. In such an environment where a Sepoy doesn’t know from which direction will he receive the bullet. It was Dast that showed bravery and ultimately he not only managed to save himself but also his comrades. On the other hand carrying 8 people to safety despite being under heavy influence of gas is another act that cannot be explained in words. Dast will always be remembered for the acts he committed and due to which he was able to protect that part of British Armed Forces that was considered to be vital at that point of time. The family of those whom he saved that day will always remember his valor and they will be praying for his soul.
In the last days of his life Dast kept a low profile and there is not much that can be searched for that part. However one thing is for sure that he never actually recovered from the Gas attack in full. He died on 19th January 1945 in Peshawar present day Pakistan. Dast has once again proven that it was soldiers like him that British Armed forces are still proud of and continue the legacy. He is still regarded to be one of the best fighters of that era.