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Mahmood Khan DURRANI, GC

No. & Rank at the Time of Action: Captain

Unit/Occupation: 1st Bahawalpur Infantry, Indian State Forces

Date and Place of Birth: 1st July 1914, Multan City, Western Punjab

Family: Husband of Mrs Naheed Durrani

Early Life:

Date and Place of GC Action: 1944, PoW camp, Malaya

The London Gazette: 23rd May 1946

Citation: "The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the GEORGE CROSS, in recognition of most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner, to:-

Captain MAHMOOD KHAN DURRANI, 1st Bahawalpur Infantry, Indian States Forces."

Account of Deed: (GC Presentation booklet, 11th March 1947)

For outstanding courage, loyalty and fortitude whilst a prisoner-of-war.

With a small party he was cut off during the withdrawal in Malaya. They succeeded in remaining free in hiding for three months until betrayed, when they were arrested and confined.

Refusing to join the I.N.A. this officer devoted himself to rendering valuable service.

He then conceived and put into execution, a plan for thwarting the Japanese plans for infiltrating agents into India. After many delays and set backs due to falling under suspicion he ultimately achieved much of his object.

Presumably, as a result of the suspicion that he had been responsible for the failure of their plans, he was arrested by the Japanese. For ten days he was subjected to third degree methods, including starvation, deprivation of sleep and physical torture such as the application of burning cigarettes to his legs.

Subsequently he was given a mock trial and condemned to death but the execution was postponed in order that information should be extracted. He was then tortured by various particularly brutal methods continuously for several days. The exact time is uncertain as there were periods of unconsciousness, but it certainly lasted for some days. No information whatever was obtained from him. Thereafter he was kept in solitary confinement for several months, with occasional interrogations and was given little medical treatment and just enough food to sustain life.

When finally liberated he was found to be permanently affected in health and still bears the marks of physical torture. He will never be the same again. Throughout he was fully aware of the possible consequences of his actions and, when discovered, he preferred to undergo protracted and cruel torture rather than confess his plans and save himself, because he still hoped that he might achieve his purpose. To confess would have endangered others lives and might have influenced the enemy to change their plans.

His outstanding example of deliberate cold-blooded bravery is most fully deserving of the highest award.

Remarks:

Additional Information: During the withdrawal in Malaya in 1942, Captain Durrani was cut off with a small party and succeeded in remaining free in hiding for three months, when he was betrayed to the Indian Nationalist Army and was sent to a Japanese Prisoner of War camp. He refused to become a member of the Japanese-sponsored Indian Nationalist Army and took active steps to thwart Japanese efforts to infiltrate members of that organisation into India. In fact he conceived the idea of founding a school to send Muslim agents into India to oppose the ideas the Japanese were trying to put across.

To start with his efforts were successful, but in May 1944 the Japanese arrested him and he was subjected to every form of torture in an effort to find out his accomplices in the scheme. As this produced no result he was handed over to the Indian Nationalist Army where he was again tortured and even condemned to death, but he still refused to give any information. The end of the war brought his liberation, but his health was affected for many years.

Captain Durrani was presented with his GC by Field Marshal Lord Wavell. After World War Two Durrani resumed his military career in the Pakistan Army, retiring in 1971. Colonel Durrani became one of the first George Cross holders to join the Committee of the VC and GC Association.

A poet and noted writer, he died in 1995 aged 81 years' old. His autobiography was published in the UK during 1955

Final Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Other Decorations/Medals:

GC Location/Sale History: Captain Durrani's GC is on display in the Victoria Cross & George Cross Gallery, located in the Imperial War Museum, London (other medals?) The inscription on the reverse of the GC is:

CAPT. MAHMOOD KHAN DURRANI.

INDIAN STATE FORCES

23 MAY. 1946

Date and Place of Death: 20th August 1995, Pakistan. The only Japanese POW that lived to receive the GC.

Cause of Death:

Burial/Cremation:

Obituary: (The Daily Telegraph, Tuesday, 12th September 1995)

Lieutenant-Colonel Mahmood Khan DURRANI, who has died aged 81, was awarded the George Cross for his conduct during the Second World War, when he undermined Japanese efforts to infiltrate India with members of the so called "Indian National Army".

Mahmood Khan Durrani, of the old Royal family of Kabul, was born on July 1, 1914. He trained for the Indian Army and at the beginning of the Malayan Campaign in December 1941, was a captain in the 1st Bahawalpur Infantry, India State Forces, which had been assigned to airfield defence in Northern Malaya. When the airfields were bombed, and the few undamaged aircraft withdrawn, Durrani, with a small party, tried to make his way back through Japanese occupied territory to link up with other members of his regiment. Since a general retreat was under way, this proved impossible. Durrani managed to avoid the Japanese, keeping his party undetected and hiding in the jungle for three months - though they nearly starved to death in the process.

Eventually he was betrayed and sent to a Japanese prison camp in Singapore. Conditions were appalling but Durrani managed to persuade the Japanese that if he was allowed to attend to their welfare, the prisoners would be more likely to join the Indian National Army. The INA comprised 10,000 former Indian Army soldiers who had been captured by the Japanese and 20,000 civilian volunteers, and presented a considerable threat after the Japanese had occupied Burma. Although he himself declined to join the INA he expressed great interest in helping the Japanese to "liberate" India. In truth, his observations of Japanese behaviour in Malaya had left him in no doubt as to what "liberation" would mean.

He persuaded the Japanese that he could organise a school to train agents to land their submarines and engage in sabotage in India. Durrani chose his "saboteurs" carefully; they were in fact briefed to warn the British about Japanese plans, offer them help; and convey intelligence. Eventually the suspicions of Subhas Chandra Bose, the chief recruiter for the INA, were aroused, and Durrani was arrested by the Japanese, who demanded the name of his accomplices. When Durrani resisted he was subjected to systematic torture. He was made to kneel on a stone floor while an overhead electric heater, burning day and night, turned the cell into an oven. Through lengthy interrogations he was kept conscious by the application to hid legs of lit cigarettes. When he refused to talk, Durrani was handed over to the INA, who tortured him further, frequently beating him and allowing him only small and virtually inedible portions of burned food.

By the end of the war, Durrani health bad been permanently impaired, but at first he was regarded with suspicion by the British Army, on account of his INA link; When his full achievements were realised, he was awarded the GC. In the event, the INA's military record was one of dismal failure; it won no battles, and had 750 killed, with 5,000 desertions. The rest died of disease or were captured. Durrani was informed of the award of a GC at lunch with Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck in 1946, and had the medal pinned on his chest by Field Marshal Lord Wavell. Durrani attended the Royal Garden Party in 1962, and later frequently visited Britain.

Durrani was 6 ft 4 in tall, and a man of exceptional courage, stamina and loyalty. He bore no rancour for the treatment he had received. His book The Sixth Column, published in 1955, tells his story with modesty and tolerance, calmly describing the appalling horrors he witnessed and endured. Cultured and widely read, Durrani was a poet of merit who detested racism, stressing that ideas of national superiority were based on ignorance of the achievements of other peoples.

He was married, and had three sons and a daughter.

Obituary 2: (The Times, Tuesday, August 22nd 1995)

Memorials: Memorial Gates dome, Constitution Hill, London. These Gates were erected to honour the five million men and women from the Indian subcontinent, Africa and the Caribbean who served with the Armed Forces in both World Wars. It was inaugurated on the 6th November 2002 by HM The Queen.

Source: Terry Hissey

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