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An Indian Officer lays down his life to eave the General - 5 May 1915

Updated: Jan 16, 2022

The 130th Baluchis in British East Africa (Kenya)

The 130th (King George's Own) Baluchis, (Jacob's Rifles), Indian Army, was a good unit but it experienced an unfortunate start to the First World War. In Bombay a Pathan soldier bayoneted an officer, resulting in the Battalion being posted to Rangoon, Burma. There the Battalion's two Pathan companies came under the influence of religious agitators & mutinied, refusing to fight against the Turks. The mutiny resulted in 200 Court Martials, with all the accused except two being sentenced to hard labour. The two, a Viceroy Comissioned Officer & a Non Commissioned Officer were executed.

Having settled down, the unit was sent to British East Africa (BEA) to fight the local adjacent German army named the Schutztruppe. The 130th Baluchis arrived at Mombasa in early February 1915 & were sent to Voi.

On 01 May 1915 Brigadier-General Wilfred Malleson CIE was appointed Commander of the Voi area (extending north from Mombasa to Simba & west to German East Africa), and tasked with protecting the Uganda Railway. Brigadier-General Malleson had been commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1886 but had transferred to the Indian Army in 1904. He was qualified in the Persian, Pushtu & Punjabi languages. Most of his service was spent on the Staff.

He does not appear to have had much command experience, arriving at Tanga in November 1914 with Indian Expeditionary Force 'B' as Inspector of Communications. The Tanga beaches, his responsibility, were never efficiently managed.

In Mombasa in December 1914 Major-General Wapshare, the local British commander, made a special request that Malleson be retained in East Africa to deal with Martial Law & Censorshiop requirements. In early 1915 Malleson was involved in negotiations in Uganda & the Congo with the Belgians, which led to their participation in the East African Campaign. Then he was given a field command appointment.

Sketch map showing the location of Mbuyuni

In early May 1915 the military railway from Voi had progressed 12 miles towards Maktau & it began to attract Schutztruppe attention. This took some pressure off the 2nd Rhodesian Regiment to the north in the Tsavo Valley as the Germans now realised that they had an easier target to demolish, and one that was actually being constructed towards their defended position at Mbuyuni, 12 miles west of Maktau.

Bush terrain near Mbuyuni on a dull day

On 5th May 1915 Brigadier-General Malleson decided to reconnoitre the enemy post at Mbuyuni and with the 130th Baluchis Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel C.U. Price, he drove towards the German position. A screen of 15 sepoys from the 130th Baluchis, commanded by Subadar Ghulam Haider, advanced on foot in front of the car.

The Schutztruppe commander, no doubt warned by his forward screen of watchers, sent out a patrol of 100 Askari & 3 machine guns to deal with the British reconnaissance. Ghulam Haider saw the predicament that Malleson was now in and so ordered his 15 sepoys to attack the Schutztruppe patrol saying :

"Never mind if we lose our lives, we must save the General & the Commanding Officer".

This allowed Malleson's driver to turn round & drive to safety.

Ghulam Haider was mortally wounded by machine gun fire but the remaining sepoys under Havildar Mohamed Ali, hearing the car's withdrawal, broke contact & carried their Subadar back for eight miles, initially whilst being pursued. One other sepoy was wounded.

Ghulam Haidar IOM is commemorated on this Memorial in Maktau Indian Cemetery. Kenya

The inscription tablet on the Indian Memorial at Maktau

Ghulam Haider died on 06 May. Brigadier-General Malleson recommended him for a posthumous Victoria Cross but this was not approved. But Subadar Ghulam Haider was awarded the prestigious Indian Order of Merit, 2nd Class, posthumously. His citation read:

For conspicuous gallantry on the 15th May at Mbuyuni, East Africa. Whilst in charge of a patrol of 15 men he boldly led them to attack a party of the enemy who were 100 strong with three machine guns. The conduct of this Subadar was most prompt and gallant. He was wounded and died from his wounds the next day.

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