When the fog engulfs the sleepy village of Parol in the cold winters of Himachal Pradesh, when the mind wanders as many places as the cold winds, a not so young grandson sometimes feels all nostalgic, thinking of his grandfather. And just like all most grandchildren, Bhupinder Singh remembers his grandfather fondly. But what is special about him, is that not just him but many others sometimes think of his grandfather. And why not? For No.501 Lance Naik (later Jamedar) Lala won a rare honour-a Victoria Cross for India. Born on the 20th day of April 1876, in village Parol, District Hamirpur (Himachal Pradesh), Jamedar Lala brought the rare honour to India in Mesopotamia. The story goes back to The Battle of Hanna, Mesopotamia during the First World War (1914-1918). Lala was 38 years old, and a Lance-Naik then. The war was raging and the brave soldier was in the thick of action, like most others.
But some have the foresight even in the middle of devastation. He made a temporary shelter where he had already managed to bandage four Indian soldiers. And when his eyes fell on a British officer of another regiment lying close to the enemy, he dragged him as well into the temporary shelter. After bandaging the wounds, Lance Naik Lala heard calls from the Adjutant of his own regiment who was lying in the open, severely wounded. The enemy was not more than a 100 yards away and death seemed to be inching closer; the 38 year old was determined to defy the enemy and death, both. He went out to his Adjutant and the Indian wounded soldiers, and offered to crawl back with them on his back at once. When this was not permitted, he stripped off his own clothing to keep the wounded officer and four men warmer, and stayed with them till just before dark, when he returned to the shelter. After dark he carried the first wounded officer back to the main trenches, and then, returning with a stretcher, carried back his Adjutant and men.
That was a magnificent example of courage and devotion to his officers and men. For this act of bravery, he was awarded the Victoria Cross (the first in Himachal Pradesh) and conferred on him on 21 January 1916 during battle of Hanna (Mesopotamia). It was the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth soldiers. His citation read: ‘His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to confer the Victoria Cross on No. 501 Lance Naik Lala , 41st Dogras, Indian Army, for ‘most conspicuous bravery’.’ Lala later rose to the rank of Jamedar in the 41st Dogras, Bengal Infantry (now 3 DOGRA). Jamedar Lala died on 23rd March 1927 and his last words are said to be, “We fought true.”