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His name was Sepoy Kamal Ram
On 12th May 1944, on the Gustav line the advance of Sepoy Kamal Ram's company was halted by fourenemy machine gun posts. The Company Commander requested a volunteer to silence one of them. Sepoy Kamal Ram volunteered and successfully captured the post after killing the crew. He succeeded in capturing another on his own and a third with the help of a Havildar. As a result of his outstanding bravery Sepoy Kamal Ram was awarded the Victoria Cross. King George VI presented him the medal in Italy in 1944.
He died in 1982.
His Victoria Cross is on display in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery at the interesting Imperial War Museum in London, and his name is immortalised on the 'Memorial Gates' at Constitution Hill, London
Si chiamava Sepoy Kamal Ram.
Il 12 Maggio 1944 sulla Linea Gustav l'avanzata della Compagnia del Soldato Kamal Ram era bloccata da 4 postazioni di cannoni nemici. Il Comandante di Compagnia chiese un volontario per fermarle. Sepoy Kamal Ram si offri' volontario e prese la postazione nemica dopo aver ucciso i namici. Ebbe inoltre successo a catturare un altra postazione da solo , mentre la terza riusci'a fermarla grazie all'aiuto di un Havildar. Grazie a questo atto straordinario di coraggio Sepoy Camal Ram fu insignito della Victoria Cross. Re Giorgio IV gli appunto' la medaglia sul petto in Italia nel 1944. Mori' nel 1982. La sua decorazione di guerra e' esposta alla Lord Ashcroft Gallery nel Imperial War Museum di Londraq, ed il suo nome e' ricordato per sempre sulla nel 'Memorial Gate' sulla Constitution Hill sempre di Londra
Whaen I work with Indians groups, who want to follow Indian footprints in Cassino, I usually tell then the story of the 8th Indian Division and that of private Sepoy Kamal Ram. Let's talk about it!
In mid-April the call came for the Eighth Indian Division. Before the end of the month the Division was concentrated along the River Gari, in a section known as the Rapido. Here they met the men of the first Canadian Armoured Brigade, which was to serve with them. The task assigned to the Division was to force the Rapido and so at 23.00 on May 11th, 600 guns crashed a great weight of shell upon the enemy's position in the triangle of valley between the Liri and the Rapido rivers. Forty-five minutes later, the infantry began to cross the river in assault boats. In a curtain of smoke and fog, with each man clinging to the bayonet scabbard of the man ahead, files of infantry groped forward. The enemy reacted vehemently. Morning broke on a death grapple upon the approaches to the main German positions. Along the river, working furiously, Indian sappers drove out bridges. One was thrown across under intense artillery and small arms fire ; another' was borne on the back of a Canadian tank, pushed by another tank ; thus Canadian and Indian sappers combined to invent a new type of crossing. Before nine o'clock, the first Canadian armour was over the Rapido, and just in time, for panzers had come thrusting up to deal with our infantry. The Canadians destroyed or held off the German tanks while the 1st Royal Fusiliers, the 1/12th Frontier Force Regt., the 3/8th Punjabis and the 1st Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, (who had -replaced the 1/5th Essex in 19th Brigade) made good the bridgehead. It was during this consolidation that Sepoy Kamal Ram of 3/8th Punjabis volunteered to mop up enemy machine gun nests. With superb gallantry and judgement he not only slew and captured the garrison of post after post, but lived to become the recipient of the Division's first Victoria Cross. From the bridgehead the i/5th Gurkhas swept through to storm San Angelo, a heavily fortified stronghold which wasthe key to the river defences. Then 21st Brigade took up the running, and 5 th Royal West Kent Regt., 1/5th Mahrattas, and 3/15th Punjabis burst into the main German positions. When Pignataro fell to a Pathan charge at twilight, the breach was complete. General Russell sent a message of congratulation to his tired men, bidding them " rest and lubricate." But rest was far away. The men who had punched the hole were called upon to exploit and to pursue. On an axis east of the main road to Rome, the brigades of the Division began to leapfrog on a drive into the north.
If you want to know something more about what happened during the Second World War, book one of my Montecassino and battlefields tour! A guided tour on the footsteps of 8th Indian Division
While the "C" and "B" Squadron where having slowly slowly success the 14th Canadian Armoured Regiment (The Calgary Regiment) had done much to relieve the pressure on their infantry brigade. On 12 May 1944 a Canadian Captain called Hugh Antony Gualt Kingsmill developed a new experimental bailey bridge.He was a captain of the 1st Light Aid Detachment attached to 14th Canadian Armoured Division, working in conjunction with a Royal Engineer officer from 8th Indian Division. Captain Kingsmill had the great idea of building very quickly the Plymouth Bridge in a very unusual way. He constructed a bailey bridge well back from the river bank and carried it forward on two specially fitted sherman tanks, the first tank having the turret removed and being fitted with rollers to alow the free forward and backward movementn of the bridge. The secondn one was fitted with a bracket which supported the hind end od the bridge. The two tanks moved forward together, the front tank driving into the water while the second tank continuing to move forward, would slide the bridge forward untill it came to rewst on the far bank. The second tank would then disengage and the bridge would be ready to be used. Many experiment had already been done on the Volturno river, and they were all successful, but in this case the operation was very unluky. First the mist and smoke delayed the bringing of the briedging supplies, and then when the bridge and the two tanks were finaly ready, the first tank with the first part of the bridge bogged down in the soft ground. Working under continual heavy fire in totaly adverse conditions it took a while to put the bridge in the right position. By 9.50 a.m., covered by smoke and high esplosive fire the bridge was put in the right position the enemy were holding position only 250 yards from the bridging site and under such circumstances no other type of tank-bearing bridge could have been launched over a gap of 57 feet. Because of he contributed directly in the smashing of the Gustav Line, he was awarded with the Military Cross, the third most important award after the Victoria Cross for British or Commonweath officers.
Book our Second World War tour on the footsteps of the Canadians, and i will show you all the places described in the war reports, and i will tell you what Veterans told me, about their experience in Cassino and on the Gustav Line.
Sometime I meet Canadians following the footsteps of their Granfathers, or fathers here in Cassino region. They are usually surprised to know that the Canadians with the help of the Indians were the first to force the Gustav Line on the Rapido River. They usually ask me to have a guided tour of the Canadian battlefields of Montecassino, to know everything happened here, and to see the place in which the attack took place. But do you know that to prepare this successfull attack it was very important to organise a training for Canadians and Indians together? let's talk about it.
At the end of March 1944 the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade had been relieved with 8th Indian Division in the Adriatic sector and moved fist of all into a training area south-east of Venafro to work in cloose cooperation with the 13rd Corps and to attend an intensive course of infantry-cum-tank training in preparationto a coming operationh against the Gustav and Hitler Line. The original intention had been for the Canadians to support the 4th British Brigade in the coming operations, but because of the great friendship and admiration which had been built up between Canadians and Indians, the plan was changed and the Brigade was informed that it would be sopporting the Indians. However because of the 8th Indians Division could arrive in this area not before the 20th April, the Canadians continued their training with the 78 Division and the 4th British Division, that had to be employed in a similar operation in an other sector on the Cassino front. It is very interesting to read on the Canadian reports why it was so important for infantry and tans to train together. First af all infantry had to familiarize with the characteristics of the tanks and the tactics, but it was also very important to practise the various methods of intercommunications between tanks and infantry, and naturally the first thing to do was to creat a friendship between the men of the armoured regiments and those of the infantry units. During this traning periode a considerable amount of time was used to improve communications, and so each tank was fitted with an outside telephone held in a clip welded to the skirting plate. This was a great solution but its disadvantages for target identification were that the infantryman had to expose himself to much to reach the phone, and usually he could not see the target while attending to describe it to the telephone. an other advice to be adopted was the installing of a No 38 set in 2 tanks of each troop to permit intercommunication between tank troop and infantry platoon. An No 18 set was fitted on one tank of each squadron to permit to the infantry battalion commander to keep in touch with its squadron dcommander. They also planed to use other methods to let the men know the target theu must fire, but the most satisfactory were tracer bullets fired from the rifle and pointing with the rifle in the direction of the target. But the biggest problem they had was that the Indian Battalion had not English speakers at platoon level and wireless communication had to be mainly on a company and troops level. The training with the 8th Division began on 23rd April and continued untill all units of 17 and 18 Infantry Division had completed the course on 8 May. All the accounts of this periode writen by veterans spoke with entusiasm of this period of training. It means that one of the goals of this project had been reached.
Book a guided tour of the Canadian Battlefields with us.... it will be an emotional experience!
'when you go home
tell them of us and say
for their tomorrow
we gave our today'
The first Indian troops landed at Taranto and in the south of Naples on 19 September 1943. From then untill 29 April 1945 they were engaged in a heroic mission. From their landing in Taranto till their arrival in Trieste, the soldiers from New Delhi played a great role in the difficult advance of the Allied forces. The Indian Contingent was the third largest after the American and the English Contingents. These soldiers came from some of the finest regiments of the Indian army, Maratha Li, Punjab, 5 Gorkha rifles, 9 Gorkha Rifles, " Gorkha Rifles, Rajputana Rifles, Sikh, Frontier Force Rifles, Garhwal Rifles and Central India Horse. The Fourth, Eighth and Tenth Indian Infantry Divisions were employed in the battle for the capturte of Monte Cassino and in the bitter campaign that followed for the breaching of the Gothic Line. These divisions were part of the legendary 8th British Army and fought along with British, New Zealand, Polish, American, Canadian and French Divisions. All these men, soldiers from distant lands, men with little or no cultural similarities, lived together and many of them even died together. Almost 50.000 soldiers, mostly between the ages of 19 and 22, fought for the sake of freedom in Italy. Close to 50 per cent of them were injured in the process. Of these, a total of 5782 indian soldiers died in Italy. It is to their credit that out of twenty Victoria Cross decorations given for bravery during the war in Italy, the Indian soldiers received as many as six.