Islamic warrior earns VC leading counter-attack

The Battle of Imphal-Kohima March - July 1944: Low aerial view of the Imphal area looking north.

The Battle of Imphal-Kohima March – July 1944: Low aerial view of the Imphal area looking north.

In Burma the infiltrating Japanese 31st Division were now closing in on the strategic British positions at Kohima and Imphal. A number of desperate battles had already broken out in outlying positions as the Japanese vanguard was encountered. Within the next 48 hours the main Japanese force would be upon the main British positions and battle would be joined.

The Indian Army was now drawn into the battle to defend the homeland. Amongst them was the 9th Jat Regiment, which had a long and distinguished history within the British regime and continues to this day as the Jat Regiment of the modern Indian Army. On the 6th April a young officer Jemadar, equivalent to Lieutenant, Abdul Hafiz was to add one more action to the martial reputation of the regiment:

Portrait of Abdul Hafiz, awarded the Victoria Cross: Burma, 6 April 1944.

Portrait of Abdul Hafiz, awarded the Victoria Cross: Burma, 6 April 1944.

In Burma, in the early hours of the 6th April 1944, in the hills 10 miles North of Imphal, the enemy had attacked a standing patrol of 4 men and occupied a prominent feature overlooking a Company position. At first light a patrol was sent out and contacted the enemy, reporting that they thought approximately 40 enemy were in position. It was not known if they had dug in during the hours of darkness.

The Company Commander ordered Jemadar Abdul Hafiz to attack the enemy, with two sections from his platoon, at 0930 hours. An artillery concentration was put down on the feature and Jemadar Abdul Hafiz led the attack. The attack was up a completely bare slope with no cover, and was very steep near the crest. Prior to the attack, Jemadar Abdul Hafiz assembled his sections and told them that they were invincible, and the entire enemy on the hill would be killed or put to flight. He so inspired his men that from the start the attack proceeded with great dash.

When a few yards below the crest the enemy opened fire with machine-guns and threw grenades. Jemadar Abdul Hafiz sustained several casualties, but immediately ordered an assault, which he personally led, at the same time shouting the Mohammedan battle cry.

The assault went in without hesitation and with great dash up the last few yards of the hill, which was very steep. On reaching the crest Jemadar Abdul Hafiz was wounded in the leg, but seeing a machine-gun firing from a flank, which had already caused several casualties, he immediately went towards it and seizing the barrel pushed it upwards, whilst another man killed the gunner.

Jemadar Abdul Hafiz then took a Bren gun from a wounded man and advanced against the enemy, firing as he advanced, and killing several of the enemy. So fierce was the attack, and all his men so inspired by the determination of Jemadar Abdul Hafiz to kill all enemy in sight at whatever cost, that the enemy, who were still in considerable numbers on the position, ran away down the opposite slope of the hill.

Regardless of machine-gun fire which was now being, fired at him from another feature a few hundred yards away, he pursued the enemy, firing at them as they retired. Jemadar Abdul Hafiz was badly wounded in the chest from this machine-gun fire and collapsed holding the Bren gun and attempting to fire at the retreating enemy, and shouting at the same time “Re-organise on the position and I will give covering fire.” He died shortly afterwards.

The inspiring leadership and great bravery displayed by Jemadar Abdul Hafiz in spite of having been twice wounded, once mortally, so encouraged his men that the position was captured, casualties inflicted on the enemy to an extent several times the size of his own party, and enemy arms recovered on the position which included 3 Lewis Machine-guns, 2 grenade dischargers and 2 officers’ swords. The complete disregard for his own safety and his determination to capture and hold the position at all costs was an example to all ranks, which it would be difficult to equal.

The Battle of Imphal-Kohima March - July 1944: An M3 Lee tank crosses a river north of Imphal to meet the Japanese advance.

The Battle of Imphal-Kohima March – July 1944: An M3 Lee tank crosses a river north of Imphal to meet the Japanese advance.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Chaz April 8, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Nope, it’s a Lee, notice smaller turrent than on a Grant.

Kahoolie April 6, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Actually that’s a Grant

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