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HindustanTimes Thu,31 Jul 2014

Victoria Cross winner's kin proud of Britain's gesture

Punkaj Bhaartiya , Hindustan Times  Hamirpur (Himachal), June 27, 2014
First Published: 18:00 IST(27/6/2014) | Last Updated: 18:17 IST(27/6/2014)

The grandchildren of Victoria Cross winner lance-naik (later promoted to jemadar) Lala Ram are happy at Britain's commemorating its Indian hero of World War-1.

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Unveiled in the UK on Thursday, a plaque bearing the names of the six Indians among 175 overseas winners of Britain's highest military honour during the conflict will be brought to India. Born on April 20, 1876, at Parol village of Hamirpur district (then part of Kangra), lance-naik Lala Ram was in 41 Dogras of the British Indian army during World War-1.

Hamirpur is 136km from state capital Shimla.

At 38, he received the Victoria Cross for "most conspicuous bravery" on January 21, 1916, during the first battle of Hanna in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) between the Ottoman army and the Anglo-Indian forces. He saved the life of a British officer of another regiment who lay close to the enemy. He dragged him into a temporary shelter he had made and in which he had bandaged four wounded men already.

After dark, he carried the first wounded officer back to the main trenches, and then, returning with a stretcher, carried back his adjutant. He, later, earned the rank of jemadar and died several years later of polio. His last words were: "We fought true."

Vijay Thakur, 70, granddaughter of the brother of lance-naik Lala Ram, lives with her family in Hamirpur.

Born much after he died, she has, nevertheless, heard the tales of his bravery from her mother and village elders. She wants a statue of the soldier in Bal Batika, which was Lal Batika (dedicated to the Victoria Cross winner) until renamed two decades ago. A children's park in the Hiranagar locality of Hamirpur, it is one of the most frequented places of the town near the official residence of the deputy commissioner.

"Former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Yashwant Singh Parmar had named the government senior secondary school of Parol as well after my grandfather," said Thakur.

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