Gian Singh VC

b. 05/10/1915 Sahabpur, India. d. 06/10/1996 Jalandhar, India.

Gian Singh (1915-1996) was born into a Sikh family in Sahabpur, a village in the Nawanshahr district (now, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar district) of eastern Punjab, on 5th October 1915. Little is known about his early life prior to his service in the 15th Punjab Regiment of the Indian Army during World War II and in particular the Burma Campaign of 1944-1945.

Gian Singh VC

With the Japanese retreating, in February 1945, combined British and Indian forces made the widest river-crossing of the Second World War when they crossed the Irrawaddy and advanced on the port of Myingyan which was being defended by the Japanese. Niak (which is the equivalent of a Corporal) Gian Singh was leading his platoon on 2nd March, ahead of the rest of his battalion which was advancing down the road between Kamye and Myingyan when the enemy opened fire with both artillery and intense machine-gun fire from behind well- camouflaged positions and a number of foxholes.

Singh immediately recognised the severity of the situation as his casualties increased; somehow the attack had to be repulsed. Pulling on his tactical intelligence and a deep reservoir of courage, he decided to attack the enemy single- handed. Ordering his light machine gunner to cover him, he assaulted foxhole after foxhole, hurling grenades and mopping up with his sub-machine. Although badly wounded in the arm, he refused medical attention and gained permission to attack again, this time a cleverly concealed anti-tank gun which was inflicting heavy casualties among his men. He ran forward at an oblique angle to the gun and killed the enemy with both grenades and sub-machine gun. Both his actions, by any standards of gallantry in battle, were extraordinary. His men, previously held up, now inspired by his example, found again the quality of courage within and followed him down the road, destroying the ene- my along both sides as they advanced.

Gian Singh’s action was certainly in the finest traditions of the 15th Punjab Regiment and particularly the 4th Battalion. His hero (from the same battalion) was Ishar Singh VC, who in 1921, in fighting on the North West Frontier, with casualties all around him and severely wounded himself, had attacked the marauding hill tribes single-handedly with his Lewis gun, and later with his rifle, and kept down enemy fire while a medical officer was attending the wounded.

Myingyan was to fall later that month. The success of the battle proved to be a vital component in the campaign against the railway junction at Meiktila. Once this had been captured, the Japanese 33rd Army lost its hold on central Burma. Singh was presented with his Victoria Cross by King George VI, in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on 16th October 1945.

Singh refused to be invalided out of the Army and was prominent in the drive on Rangoon, for which he received a Mention in Despatches. When India was partitioned in 1947, the Indian Army was divided and individual regiments split up according to religious affiliation. Gian Singh was posted to the 11th Sikh Regiment, and saw action against the Chinese when they launched an offensive on the Indian border in 1962. He was decorated with the Indian MC and again after the fighting in Kashmir. After retirement, this proud and outstanding warrior worked on the family farm near Nawabshah.

Gian Singh VC had married Hardail Kaur, and they had three sons and two daughters. His wife pre-deceased him by a year, dying in 1995. Gian Singh VC, who was a regular attendee of the VCGCA Reunions, passed away in Jullundur on 6th October 1996, aged 85. He was cremated. His medal group is not publicly held. His medals appeared on an episode of Antiques Roadshow in Glasgow on 17th September 2023 where his son saw them valued by Mark Smith for £250,000. It is going to be on loan at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow for two years from September 2023.