My grandfather, Lt Col Sir Nilkanth Shriram Jatar, the son of Shriram Jatar and known as Bhausaheb in the family, was the recipient of many awards, and several of them were gallantry awards for bravery. He was also knighted by the Queen of England in 1946. The medals can be seen below:
He got several awards for distinguished service like the Star in 1914-1915, the War Medal of 1914-18, the War Medal of Wazirstan 1919-21, Medal for the Great War of Civilization 1914-19, the Medal George V and Queen Mary 1910-1935 and the Queen Elizabeth Medal 1935 (Coronation Medal).
However the Serbian Order of the White Eagle with Swords (a gallantry award equivalent to the Military Cross of the British Empire and the Vir Chakra of India) is one of his special awards. He got this in Mesopotemia while serving with the 8th Army. When surrounded by the Turks, and after the death of the unit commander, Bhausaheb took over the leadership of the infanty company although he was the medical officer attached to the infantry battalion. He held on to the defensive position and did not surrender until the 8th Army Commander, General Townsend, himslef surrendered the entire Army. The Battalion, and in fact the whole of the 8th Army was captured by the Turks. But Bhausaheb’s bravery was rewarded by the Serbs and later by the British. For this same action he recieved the DSO (Distinguished Service Order equivalent to the Maha Vir Chakra) from the British.
He got his second DSO (called DSO and Bar) during the fighting in the North Western Frontier. Here too he showed his bravery. In those days battles were fought from dawn to dusk in a designated battlefied and Bhausaheb as the medical officer was to treat the wounded on the spot. He was not expected to go deep into action but that is what he did. He would go in the line of fire to help the wounded and that was how he took seven bullets, one in his left wrist, and several in his right leg as he knelt down to help the wounded soldiers. Inspite of that he continuted to treat the wounded and finally had to be evacuated.
During those days the British were trying very hard to capture the North Western Provinces of Afghanistan as it would open the route into Central Asia. Later it was the Russians who succeeded afer World War II. They again lost out when the Taliban with the help of the US had a regime change in Afghanistan. This is known as the ‘Great Game’ and it still continues.
As Bhausaheb lay in bed wounded, it was necessary to amputate his leg as those days there were no antibiotics or penicillin. His leg had become gangrenous. Later he told his children that when he lay in the hospital bed, his CO came to see him and in his presence asked the doctors whether Jatar would live. The doctors said that yes, he would, and the CO said, that if he had died, he would have recommended him for the Victoria Cross. Bhausaheb was just 32 years old. He had an artificial leg fitted in England.
Bhausaheb later was awarded his second DSO for this bravery. He was the first Indian officer to recieve the DSO and bar. The DSO is equalivalent to our gallantry award, the MVC (Maha Vir Chakra.) Later in 1938, Bhausaheb also got the CIE (Companion of the Indian Empire award) which is roughly equivalent to our Padmashree award. Our family has three CIEs. Grandfather Shriram, Bapurao and then Bhausaheb. This is some sort of a record.
Bhausaheb’s elder brother when Bhausaheb lay in hospital. These are the contents of the letter which was written on the 6th of January 1920:
Dear Mr. Jatar,
Further to the wire I sent you this morning, I write now to give you further particulars I can of your brothers wounds. The battalion was out yesterday as covering party for construction of a permanent piquet some distance from our present camp. The enemy had evidently been lying up in the nullah waiting for our retirement, and as soon as withdrawal commenced he opened fire. Several men of the advanced companies were wounded, and in endeavoring to recover their bodies a number of other men were also hit, there being a heavy fire on all those who exposed themselves.
Under these circumstances, Capt. Jatar himself went forward very gallantly, and was himself wounded. Whilst being carried away he was again hit twice. His brave conduct, however, did very much to help in a very much difficult situation, and we are very proud that he was attached to this regiment.
Your brother’s wounds are severe. He is, however, getting on well, and I hope will be fit for evacuation in a very few days.
Capt. Jatar had, during the few months he has been with us, made himself a great favorite with all ranks, and officers and men will all miss him greatly.
We sympathize heartily with you, and wish him very speedy recovery.
If I can give you any further information I shall be only glad to do so.
Col .V. A . Parrett. Capt. AdJt.
Bhausaheb was a much respected figure in the Jatar family and this post makes it clear as to why. He was devoted to his family. His physical description: Height: 5 feet 8 inches. Complexion: Fair. Imposing mustache.
(Contributed by Nita with inputs from Sudhir Jatar)