Sher Shah VC

b. 14/02/1917 Chakrala, India. d. 20/01/1945 Kyeyebyin, Burma.

Sher Shah Awan (1917-1945) was born on 14th February 1917 in the village of Chakrala, about 30km east of Mianwali, in the Punjab region which is now part of Pakistan. He was the son of Syed Barkhurdar Shah and his wife Makda Bibi. Prior to the outbreak of World War II, he married Mehr Bhari, and settled into a farming life.

Victoria Cross

On the outbreak of World War II, he enlisted with the 7th Battalion of the 16th Punjab Regiment in the Indian Army, and rose to the rank of Lance Naik.

In Burma, on the night of 19th / 20th January 1945, Lance Naik Sher Shah commanded the left forward section of his platoon. At 19:30 hours a Japanese platoon attacked his post. Realizing that overwhelming numbers would probably destroy his section, he, by himself, stalked the enemy from their rear and broke up their attack by firing into their midst. He killed the platoon commander and six other Japanese and, after their withdrawal, crawled back to his section post.

At 00:15 hours the Japanese, who were now reinforced with a company, started to form up for another attack. Sher Shah heard their officers giving orders and bayonets being fixed prior to the assault. Again he left his section post and, in spite of Japanese covering from small arms and mortars, crawled forward and saw Japanese officers and men grouped together. He fired into this group and they again broke up and started to withdraw in disorder.

Whilst on his way back for the second time he was hit by a mortar bomb, which shattered his right leg. He regained his position and propping himself against the side of the trench, continued firing and encouraging his men. When asked whether he was hurt, he replied that it was only slight. Some time afterwards it was discovered his right leg was missing.

The Japanese again started forming up for another attack. In spite of his severe wounds and considerable loss of blood, and very heavy Japanese supporting fire, Lance Naik Sher Shah again left his section post and crawled forward, firing into their midst at point blank range. He continued firing until for the third time the Japanese attack was broken up and until he was shot through the head, from which he subsequently died. Twenty-three dead and four wounded Japanese, including an officer, were found in daylight immediately in front of his position.

Sher Shah’s body was not recovered after the end of the action, and he is commemorated on the Rangoon Memorial. Sher Shah’s medal group comprising of his VC, 1939-45 Star, Burma Star and War Medal 1939-45 were held in the family until 13th November 2002, when they were sold at Morton & Eden auctioneers in London for a hammer price of £85,000. The purchaser was unknown. Sher Shah’s Battalion 7/16 Punjab Regiment, affectionately known as “Saat Solah Punjab” is now a part of the Pakistan Army, proudly known as the “Sher Shah Battalion”.