Khudadad Khan and Ghulam Haider of the 129th (Duke of Connaught's Own) Baluchis

Gravestones and Flowers

This infantry regiment was raised on 6th May, 1846 at Karachi, now the largest city in Pakistan. Men were recruited from the Sindh area - Balochis, Sinhis and Pathans, ethnic groups predominantly influenced by Islamic culture. Later, Brahuis and Punjabi Muslims joined their number.

Even in 1914, the red trousers were still a distinctive feature of all five Baluch infantry regiments then serving in the Indian Army.

Baluch Regiment in 1885

Khudadad Khan was born in the village of Dab in the Chakwal district of the Punjab Province of present day Pakistan.

Khudadad Khan

Ghulam Haider came from Dhawan, Gujar Khan, Rawalpindi, in present day Pakistan

Ghulam Haider

They both served with the 129th Baluchis in the First World War.

In October 1914, almost immediately after arriving in France, their regiment was amongst 20,000 Indian soldiers sent from Marseilles to the front line to help the troops of the of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) who were exhausted and had lost many men.

They were needed to prevent the advancing Germans from capturing the vital ports of Boulogne in France and Nieuwpoort in Belgium, where the BEF'S supplies of food and ammunition arrived from England across the Channel.

Khudadad Khan served as a machine gunner. On October 30th, with other Allied troops he faced the Germans as they attacked the village of Hollebeke, near Ypres in Belgium.

The conditions were appalling. The Baluchis were outnumbered five to one. The ground was water-logged so trenches were too shallow to offer much protection. There was no barbed wire. There were many gaps in the lines because there were not enough soldiers.


The Germans had more effective weaponry and also had hand grenades. The Baluchis had none, so improvised with explosives in jam tins. They were pounded with endless artillery fire and many were killed or wounded.

Two of the Baluchi machine gun crews carried on fighting. One was destroyed with a direct hit. The other was overrun by Germans and everyone was bayoneted or shot, Khudadad Khan amongst them. He was the only one to survive. He pretended to be dead. When night came he crawled away and rejoined what was left of his regiment.

The actions of the Baluchis had held up the Germans long enough for other Indian and British troops to get to the area and halt the attack. The ports remained in Allied hands.


For his remarkable courage, Khudadad Khan was the first Indian soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

His wounds were treated in one of the Brighton hospitals, alongside Manta Singh

He returned to India and served in the army there. He died in Pakistan in 1971. Some of his descendants live in Leeds.

The 129th Baluchis went on to serve in a number of battles including Neuve Chapelle.

After that, they were sent to German East Africa, today comprising Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda. There, they, including Ghulam Haider, embarked on a long and difficult campaign.

German colonial forces in East Africa were led by a brilliant tactician, General Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck. His aim was to create havoc in the region so that Allied troops would have to be diverted from the Western Front to deal with him and his men. Historian E. P. Hoyt described his exploits as "as the greatest single guerrilla operation in history, and the most successful."

Despite continued efforts to capture or destroy Lettow-Vorbeck's army, Commonwealth troops failed to end German resistance. They were hampered not only by clever tactics, but disease and even attacks by wild animals. In 1917, Major General J.L. van Deventer took over command.

In July, once the rainy season had ended, he launched a major offensive. The German forces had been chivvied south into what is now Mozambique. It was during this series of raids that Ghulam Haider was killed, on July 29th.

He is commemorated on the Dar Es Salaam British and Indian Memorial

Dar Es Salaam British and Indian Memorial

Captain Robert Dolbey recorded in his journal 'Sketches of the East Africa Campaign' that "The Baluchis, in particular, have covered themselves with glory in many a fight."

The 129th (Duke of Connaught's Own) Baluchis suffered a staggering 3585 casualties out of the 4447 men who served with it in the First World War.

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