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Photo submitted by Gerald Napier - (from the Royal Engineers Library with permission)

Lieutenant General Premindra Singh Bhagat VC, PVSM (14 October 1918 – 23 May 1975) was an officer in the Indian Army during World War II and a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces, and the PVSM, India's highest military service award. The Victoria Cross was conferred on him for his actions in the Sudan theatre during World War II. General Bhagat is an alumnus of the famous Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College, Dehradun.

Biographical information[edit | edit source]

Bhagat was born on 14 October 1918 in Gorakhpur, British India. He attended the Royal Indian Military College, a military school in Dehradun, and the Indian Military Academy. He was commissioned in the British Indian Army on 15 July 1939.[1] As a Brigadier, he served as Commandant of the Indian Military Academy when he co-authored the The Henderson Brooks-Bhagat report with Lt Gen Henderson Brooks, which carries an incisive analysis (Operations Review) of the Sino-Indian War of 1962.[2] He later achieved the rank of Lieutenant General in the Indian Army, serving as the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C) of the Central Command, and in June 1972 raised the Northern Command, which is headquartered in Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir as its first GOC-in-C.[3]:286 He was also awarded the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM), India's highest military service medal.

When he was not appointed as the Chief of Army Staff by Indira Gandhi despite his seniority, he chose to sidestep out of the Army on deputation to the Damodar Valley Corporation where he made a definite impact in improving the organisation's working climate, ethos and productivity.[citation needed]

The Victoria Cross[edit | edit source]

He was 22 years old, and a Second Lieutenant (King's Commissioned Indian Officer) in the Corps of Indian Engineers, Indian Army, attd. Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners during the Second World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

For most conspicuous gallantry on active service in the Middle East. During the pursuit of the enemy following the capture of Metemma on the night 31 January – 1 February 1941, Second-Lieutenant Bhagat was in command of a section of a Field Company, Sappers and Miners, detailed to accompany the leading mobile troops (Bren Carriers) to clear the road and adjacent areas of mines. For a period of four days and over a distance of 55 miles this officer in the leading carrier led the Column. During this period, he himself detected and personally supervised the clearing of no less than 15 minefields of varying dimensions. Speed being essential, he worked at high pressure from dawn to dusk each day. On two occasions when his carrier was blown up with casualties to others, and on a third occasion when ambushed and under close enemy fire he himself carried straight on with his task. He refused relief when worn out with strain and fatigue and with one eardrum punctured by an explosion, on the grounds that he was now better qualified to continue his task to the end.

His coolness, persistence over a period of 96 hours, and gallantry, not only in battle, but throughout the long period when the safety of the Column and the speed at which it could advance were dependent on his personal efforts, were of the highest order. — London Gazette: 10 June 1941[4]

See also[edit | edit source]

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Further reading[edit | edit source]

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