Dulmial: The Village of World War Heroes

Jun 3, 2021 0 comments

A small Pakistani village located about 150 kilometers south of Islamabad is home to a proud monument—a 19th century cannon gifted by the British government in recognition of the village's contribution to the First World War.

Nestled in the stony hills of Punjab’s salt ranges, Dulmial is a village steeped in military history. Since its foundation some eight centuries ago, the village has provided the largest number of army men to the state. During the Great War, Dulmial sent 460 of its men out of a population of 879 to fight in the British Army, making it the single largest participation of any village in South Asia. Nine gave their lives. In the Second World War, the village sent 732 more. 36 laid down their lives.

The gun of Dulmial.

The gun of Dulmial. Photo: Malik1968/Wikimedia Commons

“This was a massive contribution and almost every male in the village who was able to, joined the army,” said Dr. Irfan Malik. “They wouldn’t have understood where or why they were going but they would have been loyal to their rulers.”

Dulmial’s military history goes back by several centuries. At the time of the outbreak of the First World War, there were already 21 pensioned Indian officers and 90 serving sergeants. After the partition of India, Dulmial had five Lt Generals (in both Army and Navy) and 23 brigadiers to the Pakistan Army, along with many other junior officers.

The military traditions of the village are “a great honour and privilege” for its residents, says historian Riaz Malik. “There is hardly any house in the village that did not produce an army officer,” claims Malik.

According to Riaz Malik, the reason behind the martial traditions of this village is due to the early education in the area. “Dulmial got its first primary school in 1857 and a missionary high school in 1900,” he said.

The gun of Dulmial.

A 1914 Christmas gift box for the Dulmial soldiers by British Army. Photo: Sana Jamal

Both Dr. Irfan Malik and Riaz Malik are the great-grandsons of Captain Ghulam Mohammad Malik, the highest ranking and most decorated soldier in the village, and the one responsible for choosing the cannon, rejecting a range of possible gifts from the British government, including three years pay, land and water facilities.

Captain Malik began his military life in the Derajet Mountain Battery and had taken part in Lord Roberts’ famous 300-mile march from Kabul to Kandahar in 1880. The 1.7-ton cannon chos­en by the British army was a twelve-pounder that had been made back in 1816 at the Carron ironworks, in Falkirk, Scotland. It was shipped to Jhelum, a city on the bank of the Jhelum River, in the north of Punjab province, from where the cannon was carried by train to Chakwal. The final leg of the journey, a distance of 28 kilometers, was made on a cart pulled by three pairs of oxen. The roads were mountainous and the passage was difficult. The ox cart two weeks to cover the distance. The last five kilometers were the hardest, and Dulmial had to dispatch five additional pairs of oxen to relieve the initial six and complete the gun’s journey.

The gun of Dulmial.

Officers of Dulmial pose with the gun

“The cannon acts as a strong symbol of their [the soldiers] courage and sacrifices. At the same time, I wish to raise awareness of the 1.2 million Indian Army soldiers of the First World War. I don’t wish them to be ‘forgotten’ soldiers any longer,” said Dr. Malik, now a resident of Nottingham, who brought to light the story of Dulmial and its Napoleonic-era gun.

Dulmial is well-known within Pakistan as the ‘village with the gun’, but not much beyond its borders.

“This is because very little has been written or published about the the village in English”, Dr. Malik said.

“Had the Captain not asked for this cannon, the proud history of the village may already have been forgotten,” said Riaz Malik.

# Michael Noble, The Dulmial Gun, The Centre for Hidden Histories
# Sana Jamal, Dulmial, Pakistan: The town of forgotten World War heroes, Gulf News
# Stephen Mcginty, Scots cannon gifted to village for role in WWI, The Scotsman


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