Very few 23-year-olds can envisage themselves facing samurai swords head-on in combat. But this is the position Fazal Din found himself in, in Burma, 1945. He was commanding a group attack against Japanese bunkers when he was attacked by Japanese soldiers wielding swords. A Japanese Officer ran him through with his sword. As the officer was removing the sword, he grabbed hold of it and killed the officer and then two others.
His gallantry inspired his platoon who then attacked and defeated the entire Japanese garrison. Fazal Din collapsed and died near the Regimental Aid Post soon after. For his actions he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross later that year.
Remembrance is part of modern British life and our cultural heritage. It is a time of contemplation – not only for the Armed Forces, but the country as a whole. It is when we reflect on the sacrifice made on our behalf by the men and women of our Armed Forces, both throughout history and today. And Muslim servicemen and women have been an integral part of the British Armed Forces for over 100 years. This year, we’re sharing their stories.
Fazal Din was born in East Punjab in 1921 to an agricultural family. He volunteered to join the British Army on the outbreak of the Second World War, and was recruited as a rifleman and section gunner. While at the rank of acting Naik (Corporal), aged just 23, Din’s unit was sent to attack Japanese bunkers in Burma.
But they soon found themselves surrounded on three sides. Without heavy weaponry or protection, grenades and machine gun fire started to hail down on them. Naik Din swiftly took charge and advanced towards the bunkers, hurling grenades, while the heavy firing continued. Six Japanese soldiers emerged, two of who were armed with samurai swords poised for attack.
While Din tried to protect his gunner from a blade, a Japanese officer ran through him with his sword, the tip of which thrust out from his back.
Fatally wounded, he tore the sword from the officer and they engaged in single combat. After killing him, he ran through the Japanese ranks, killing enemy soldiers with his acquired samurai weapon. Raising the sword above his head, he continued to rally the troops into action with immense courage, before finally staggering to Platoon Headquarters, 25 yards away, where he collapsed. He died soon after.
Inspired by his actions, the men of his section charged on, and wiped out an entire Japanese section. For his bravery, Naik Fazal Din VC was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross in May 1945.