Back in the colonial period India was much larger, it incorporated the countries of Bangladesh and Pakistan. So when I talk of today's soldier, he was born in Hoshiarpur District of Punjab, but he served in a regiment that is now in the Pakistani Army. Fazal Din was born on 1st of July 1921. At the outbreak of the Second World War having just finished his schooling he joined the Indian Army. I've been unable to find out about his career in the army, due entirely to his later exploits, which clog every page of Google. However by 1945 he'd risen to the rank of Acting Naik (Corporal in the West) in the 7th Battalion 10th Baluch Regiment.
In 1945 the Japanese Army was slowly being defeated on mainland Burma. However even then the Japanese were resisting with all their might. Often Japanese forces would use the terrain to slip around the Allies flank and cut them off. They'd been doing this since the war started, and it had led to the 14th Army developing the system of boxes. Whenever the Japanese cut off a unit, instead of retreating the forces still in contact with each other would dig in covering a 360 degree arc and hold their position. The total control of the air meant that the Allies could be resupplied. One of the first, and most famous battles of this type is the Battle of the Admin Box.
|Naik Fazal Din
Meiktila was a town that had a slightly cooler climate than the rest of Burma, due entirely to the rivers around the area. The settlement had been battled over in 1942 when the British fought a delaying action allowing a routed Chinese army to get clear of the pursuing Japanese. In 1945 the British were back and pushing on the town. The Japanese had dug in well, and the countryside was littered with bunkers and defensive positions. Using their superiority in armour they began to force the Japanese back, despite losing several tanks to Japanese anti-tank ambushes. On 26th of February 1945 the Allies captured one of the airfields around the town, allowing more troops and fuel to be airlifted in.
The Allies closed in from several sides, and had pushed up to the railway station by the 1st of March, yet the risk of Japanese tank hunters infiltrating in darkness meant the armoured spearhead had to pull back during the night meaning the fierce fighting had to be repeated the day after. Meanwhile the Japanese forces had cut off the lines of supply and had hence isolated the Allied spearhead.
|British Soldiers mopping up in Meiktila
During the 2nd of March the operation to clear the town continued. Naik Din was leading his section, they had been accompanied by a tank earlier in the day but had been separated from it. It was at this point they ran into a killing zone, with three Japanese bunkers on one flank, and a fourth on the other. It was the key enemy position in the area and had resisted an earlier attack.
The first hint of trouble was a burst of Japanese machine gun fire and a flurry of grenades. Naik Din immediately charged the nearest bunker and using several grenades he silenced the position. The rest of his section caught up with him and they moved to assault the next bunker, all the while under heavy continuous fire. Then from a near-by red bricked house a group of Japanese emerged. Unable to kill their attackers with fire two Japanese officers had gathered some six men and led them to wipe out Niak Din's section. The section Bren gunner opened fire at the charging Japanese, killing one of the officers and another soldier. Then his magazine ran dry and the gunner was killed by the second Japanese officer wielding his sword. Naik Din was in the process of charging to the rescue of the Bren gunner, when the Bren gunner was killed. The Japanese officer saw Naik Din rushing at him, spun and ran him clear through the chest with his sword. Several witnesses saw the sword point protruding from Niak Din's back. Staggering Naik Din dropped his weapon, and the Japanese officer ripped his sword out of the Indian's chest.
Naik Din wasn't dead though, He grappled with the Japanese, snatching the sword from the startled Japanese officer, then killing the Japanese officer with his own weapon. He then set about the Japanese infantry man, killing two. The second man he'd killed was about to kill one of his own men. Then standing in the middle of the bloody battlefield brandishing the captured sword he yelled encouragement to the men around him, he directed the squad’s sergeant to take over and continue the attack. He returned to the headquarters, insisting on completing his report before he allowed himself to take first aid.
However despite the best efforts of the medics, Naik Fazal Din died shortly after reaching the aid post. On 24th of May 1945, he was awarded the Victoria cross for his actions.
In the overall picture the Japanese had lost the town of Meiktila, however they were now besieging the Allies. Two weeks of fierce fighting carried on, with air supply keeping the Allied forces in the fight. However on the 15th of March the Japanese had begun to close on the landing strip, meaning that planes could no longer land. Casualties had to be evacuated by Auster's from a small makeshift air strip, but supplies had to be parachuted in. Allied forces eventually relieved the defenders of Meiktila around the 24th of March.
www.worcestershireregiment.com, ww2today.com, d.ibtimes.co.uk and www.nam.ac.uk