Def minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to Italy puts spotlight on WWII Indian hero | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Def minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to Italy puts spotlight on WWII Indian hero

ByRahul Singh
Oct 10, 2023 08:21 PM IST

Ghadge, a Victoria Cross awardee, was one of the two and a half million Indian men who fought alongside the British during World War II

New Delhi: The heroism of a 23-year-old Indian soldier, who single-handedly captured a well-defended German position during World War II, returned to spotlight on Tuesday when defence minister Rajnath Singh visited a sleepy hill town north of Rome to pay tributes at a war memorial named after him.

Naik Yeshwant Ghadge, 23, was posthumously awarded Victoria Cross for his heroism in the Italian campaign during World War II. (National Army Museum, UK)
Naik Yeshwant Ghadge, 23, was posthumously awarded Victoria Cross for his heroism in the Italian campaign during World War II. (National Army Museum, UK)

The memorial, built in July, commemorates the gallantry and sacrifice of Naik Yeshwant Ghadge and other Indian soldiers who fought in the Italian campaign during the war.

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Singh visited Montone in Perugia province to pay tributes at the memorial built for Ghadge and other Indian soldiers who fought in the Italian campaign during World War II, the defence ministry said in a statement. Ghadge served with the 3/5th Mahratta Light Infantry.

Ghadge was posthumously awarded Victoria Cross (VC), the UK’s highest military decoration, for his uncommon courage in one of the fiercest battles of the Italian campaign. More than 50,000 Indian soldiers took part in the Italian campaign, of whom around 5,700 were killed in action and are commemorated in various cemeteries across Italy, the statement added.

Ghadge was one of the two and a half million Indian men, who fought alongside the British during World War II. VC was awarded to 20 soldiers for their heroism in the Italian campaign. Eight of them, including Ghadge, are buried near battlefields where they fought.

On July 10, 1944, Ghadge’s unit attacked a position strongly defended by the Germans in the upper Tiber Valley. A rifle section led by him came under heavy fire, which killed or wounded all except him. He rushed to the machine gun post and killed three men before being shot by an enemy sniper. He died in the post that he single-handedly captured.

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His VC citation sheds light on his brave actions.

‘Without hesitation, and well knowing that none were left to accompany him, Naik Yeshwant Ghadge rushed the machine gun post. He first threw a grenade which knocked out the machine gun and firer, after which he shot one of the gun crew with his Tommy gun (Thompson submachine gun). Finally, having no time to change his magazine, he grasped his gun by the barrel and beat to death the remaining two men of the gun crew,” his citation reads.

“Unfortunately, Naik Yeshwant Ghadge was shot in the chest and back by enemy snipers and died in the post which he had captured single handed. The courage, determination, and devotion to duty of this Indian NCO (non-commissioned officer) in a situation where he knew the odds against him gave little hope of survival, were outstanding,” it adds.

Singh was welcomed by Montone’s mayor, local community, school children and members of the Indian community. He thanked them for keeping the memories of Indian soldiers alive. “The visit of Raksha Mantri to the Yeshwant Ghadge Memorial has deepened the unique historical connect India shares with Italy,” the defence ministry statement added.

Ghadge’s widow, Laxmibai, passed away at Raigad in Maharashtra on February 11, 2022. She was 97.

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