Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bhavnagar War Fund Postcard - WWI India


Today's item is based on war fund postcard issued by Princely State of Bhavnagar during WWI. Bhavnagar was a princely state during British India, part of formerly western (Kathiawar) India states agency which later merged into Saurashtra and now part of Gujarat state of Modern India.

Bhavnagar was ruled by Colonel HH Maharaja Raol Shri Sir Bhavsinhji II Takhatsinhji Shaib 1896/1919, born 26th April 1875, during WWI. Initially, the Maharaja was entitled to a salute of 11 guns and was awarded a K.C.S.I (Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India) on 24th June 1904. During WWI, based on his generous contribution, he was upgraded to 13 gun salute.

The Maharaja was known to be a modern ruler and a great supporter of female emancipation. He promoted monogamy, advanced education and abolished "purdah". He also instituted "Bhavnagar War Hospital Medal" in 1916 to commemorate services on board and treatment in the War Hospital during the Great War 1916-1918. The medal was awarded in two classes (1. Silver Medal, and 2. Bronze Medal).

On his personal front, he married 1stly, 1893, HH Maharani Dev Kunverba Sahiba, daughter of HH Maharaja Shri Mansinhji Prithvirajji of Baria, and his wife, HH Maharani Chandra Kunverba Sahiba but he had no issue with his first wife. After he was awarded K.C.S.I., British Govt. granted him a sanad authorizing adoption, and the succession of his throne. Finally, he married 2ndly, 1905, HH Maharani Nand Kunverba Sahiba, daughter of Thakur Raisinhji Jijibhai of Khirasra, and had issue.

Like the Maharaja, H.H. Maharani Shri Nandkunverba Sahiba was also very active on war front. She was granted CI (the imperial order of the crown of India) on 12th December 1911 and awarded KIH (Kaiser-i-Hind) Medal 1st Class on 1st January 1917 due to her distinguished service in the advancement of the interests of the British Raj.

There are set of 5 postcards issued during WWI by order of Her Highness Nandkunverba, C.I., Maharani of Bhavnagar, for the benefit of the War Fund. Four of such postcards show soldiers awarded for their bravery while fifth one shows seal of different rulers of Bhavnagar.

Shown above is 1st of such postcard issued with photograph of Sepoy Khudadad. The photograph carries text below as Sepoy Khudadad, V.C., 129th Baluchis, Won the V.C. for great bravery in action at Hollebeke. The same text is also printed on right side of postcard in Hindi.

For those who don't know, Khudadad Khan was born in Dabb Village, Punjab State, of now Pakistan. When war broke out he joined the Army as a Sepoy or Private soldier and served with the 129th (Duke of Connaught’s Own) Baluchis as a machine gunner. In October 1914 his regiment was sent to the front line in France to help exhausted British troops. The Baluchi’s were pushed back by the Germans and all the gunners were killed apart from Khan who was badly wounded. For his bravery in France and his involvement in preventing the German Army reaching vital ports, Khan received the Victoria Cross on 31st October 1914. He was the first native-born Indian to receive this honour. He died in 1971.

The 2nd postcard depicts Sepoy Chhattar Singh. The text states: Sepoy Chhattar Singh, V.C., of the 9th Bhopal Infantry. Right side of same postcard reads in English and Hindi both:

A Rajput V.C.

"For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in leaving cover to assist his Commanding Officer who was lying wounded and helpless in the open. Sepoy Chhattar Singh bound up the officer's wound and dug cover for him with entrenching tool, being exposed all the time to heavy rifle fire. For five hours until nightfall he remained beside the wounded officer shielding him with his own body on the exposed side. He then under cover of darkness went back for assistance and brought the officer into safety."

Above looks like an official award statement. He was awarded on 13 January 1916. Here is more information on 9th Bhopal Infantry's war adventure.

9th Bhopal - usually referred to as the Bo-Peeps – were in Flanders in October 1914. In the late afternoon of a cold, wet, late autumn day, the Bhopals went to the aid of the remnants of a British battalion near Neuve Chapelle. Still in cotton-drill, they had their first encounter with trenches and barbed wire and stayed, locked in battle for three days without food. Their losses were eleven officers and 262 men. Three days later, at Festubert, they lost a further 200. Remaining in France until May 1915, they then went on to Mesopotamia where a sepoy, Chhattar Singh, earned a Victoria Cross. On return to India, there remained only fifteen of the original who had sailed for France in 1914.

Third postcard shows photograph of Risaldar Mohbat Sinhji. The text reads in English and Hindi as Risaldar Mohbat Sinhji, Bhavnagar Lancers, Imperial Service Troops. Awarded Indian Distinguished Service Medal.

I tried searching some background information via internet on Mohbat Sinhji but failed. If someone can share some more details on his war services then it will be great.

This is fourth such postcard showing photograph of Jemadar Mir Dast. The text reads in English and Hindi both as: Jemadar Mir Dast, V.C., I.O.M. (Indian Order of Merit (Military)), 57th Wilde's Rifles. Won the V.C. for great bravery in the fighting around Ypres.

Mir Dast was awarded Victoria Cross on 26th April 1915 for his bravery in battle of Ypres, Belgium.

The last postcard in this series show state seals of the Former Rulers of the State of Bhavnagar starting from 1703 to 1896.

Princely state of Bhavnagar finally acceded to the Union of India on Feb.15, 1948.

1 comment:

prashant said...

a nice blog, glad i stumbled on it.
the frequency of posting too is regular, and this attracts repeat visitors.

Keep it up

prashantn

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