Obituary from "The Times" dated Wednesday, 21 July 1999

Jemadar Ali Haidar VC, of the 13th Frontier Force Rifles, Indian Army, has died in Pakastan, aged 85, on the 15th July 1999.

Ali Haidar was the only Pathan to receive the Victoria Cross in the second World War. The action which brought him his award typifies the sense of duty to comrades of the men of the North-West frontier region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where warfare between tribes or against invaders is a way of life. He was serving as a sepoy ( private soldier ) in what would be regarded as his local regiment - the 13th Frontier Force Rifles.

By the early spring of 1945 the 8th Army's long slog up Italy appeared almost over, yet one final offensive was required to clear the German 10th Army out of the north-eastern corner of the peninsula.

Unusually dry weather in January had allowed the 8th Army to close up to the River Senio on the northern Adriatic coast. From there it was planned to break into the plain of the Po and trap the opposing German forces before they could escape across the river.

But first it was essential to cross and establish bridgeheads over the Senio. The offensive was opened on April 9 by General Sir Charles Keightley's 5th Corps with the 8th Indian and 2nd New Zealand Divisions leading on the right and left respectively. The 6 / 13th Frontier Force Rifles, to which Ali Haidar belonged, were with 19th Indian Brigade of the 8th Division.

For the award of the Victoria Cross

[ London Gazette, 3 July 1945 ]. Fusignano, Italy, 9 April 1945, Havildar Ali Haider, 13th Frontier Force Rifles, Indian Army.

In Italy, during the crossing of the River Senio, near Fusignano, in daylight on 9th April 1945, a Company of the 13th 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 left-hand 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.

Ali Haidar was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George VI at Buckingham Palace on the 30th October 1945.

Once over the Senio, the 6/13th Frontier Force Rifles made a rapid advance and gained all their objectives. In the process they took 220 prisoners.

Ali Haidar's wounds were indeed serious and he was unable to returnn to active duty with his regiment until after the war. He did eventually return and served until he had achieved the rank of Jemadar ( Platoon Officer ). He then retired to his home district in the North-West Frontier province of Pakistan to run a small scrub farm with his wife. ( His wife was invariably known simply as "Begum Ali Haidar VC" ).

From Signor Alessandro Cortese de Bosis
"The Times" dated Saturday, 14 August 1999

Sir, Your obituary to Jemadar Ali Haidar VC was a first rate account of the battle in which he was seriously wounded.

As an Italian Army liaison officer with 19 Indian Infantry Brigade I had the privilege of taking part in the action under Lieutenant-Colonel S.J.H. Green, commanding officer of the battalion where Ali Haidar served on the Senio River.

In 1995, for the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the battle, I suggested to the Pakastani Embassy in Rome that his presence with us for the occasion would be very welcome. And thanks to the three embassies, British, Italian and Pakastani, a few veterans from the multilingual Eighth Army were present, amongst them Ali Haidar. With him we walked up to the exact spot where he fell wounded in his heroic assault, which you so well described.

In the autumn we shall unveil a stone commemorating the battle and of course Ali Haidar's name. I thought it might be of interest to his comrades in arms in the Piffer and Clover associations ( 8th Indian Division veterans ) to know about this initiative.

Alessandro Cortese de Bosis,
Presidente, Sezione Ufficiali di Collegamento con L'8 Armata Britannica,
Associazione Nazionale Combattenti della Guerra di Liberazione

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pain tin Iain Stewart, 22 July 1999