For over a century, Muslims have played a vital role in our nation’s military efforts. Their service has helped to write a long history of bravery, sacrifice and gallantry – from World War I to the present day – and the Our Heroes series profiles the individuals whose heroism is indicative of the wider contributions of Muslims to the British Armed Forces.
For the next instalment of Our Heroes, we’re looking at the life of Ghulam Hassan, a merchant seaman, who was recently honoured at a ceremony in Leeds due to his services to Britain in both WWI and WWII.
In 1899, 15-year-old Ghulam Hassan left his home in Mirpur, in present day Azad Kashmir, Pakistan, to join the British Merchant Navy. He would become one of the 400,000 Muslim servicemen to fight for Britain during WWI, many of whom served in the same fleet as Hassan, delivering crucial supplies to lead the Allies to victory.
By the time his career in the Merchant Navy was over, Hassan had completed 150 voyages and served in both World Wars.
Last month, Hassan was honoured at a ceremony in Leeds along with other Muslim heroes of the two World Wars, including Sepoy Khudadad Khan, the first Muslim soldier to receive the Victoria Cross, in 1914, and Noor Inayat Khan, a British Secret Service agent who was posthumously awarded the George Cross in 1949.
Hassan’s son Mohammed Saddique, 88, was in attendance. With his father’s medals pinned to his chest, he proudly said: ‘Everything I am today is because of the sacrifices made by my father.’
Hassan died in 1950. He left a fine legacy of military service, with many of his relatives joining the British Armed Forces, including one of his other sons. ‘Our family has been dedicated to serving Britain since 1899,’ Saddique told the Yorkshire Post.
The event, at Leeds Civic Hall, was attended by Councillor Mohammed Iqbal and veterans and serving members of the Services. Ashfaq Malik, an ex Warrant Officer who served 32 years in the RAF, said the day was an important way to encourage people of all faiths and ethnicities to consider a career in the Armed Forces.
‘I had a fantastic time in the RAF,’ he said. ‘I made friends for life, had some fantastic experiences, and travelled to over 30 different countries in my time.’
We’re sure Hassan held similar feelings about his time in the Forces. We hope they will be held by many more in the future.