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This page contains an account of the events concerned in the award of the George Cross to Mahmood Khan Durrani; the only Jap POW awarded the George Cross and surviving his captivity to be presented with the medal.
Mahmood Khan Durrani
Mahmood Khan Durrani was born on 1 July 1914. He was a Captain, later a Lieutenant Colonel, in the 1st Bahawalpur Infantry, Indian State Forces.
During the retreat in Malaya in 1942 captain Durrani was cut off with a small party and succeeded in remaining free in hiding for 3 months, when he was betrayed to the Indian Nationalist Army and was sent to a Japanese Prisoner of War camp. He refused to become a member of the Japanese-sponsored Indian Nationalist Army and took active steps to thwart Japanese efforts to infiltrate members of that organisation into India. In fact he conceived the idea of founding a school to send Muslim agents into India to oppose the ideas the Japanese were trying to put across.
To start with his efforts were successful, but in May 1944 the Japanese arrested him and he was subjected to every form of torture in an effort to find out his accomplices in the scheme. As this produced no result he was handed over to the Indian Nationalist Army where he was again tortured and even condemned to death, but he still refused to give any information. The end of the war brought his liberation, but his health was affected for many years.
Captain's Durrani's award of the George Cross was published in the London Gazette on 23 May 1946. The citation is reproduced below:
For outstanding courage, loyalty and fortitude whilst a prisoner-ot-war.
With a small party he was cut off during the withdrawal in Malaya. They succeeded in remaining free in hiding for three months until betrayal, when they were arrested and confined. Refusing to join the I.N.A this officer devoted himself to rendering valuable service.
He then conceived and put into execution, a plan for thwarting the Japanese plans for infiltrating agents into India. After many delays and set backs due to falling under suspicion he ultimately achieved much of his objective.
Presumably as a result of the suspicion that he had been responsible for the failure of their plans, he was arrested by the Japanese. For ten days he was subjected to third degree methods including starvation, deprivation of sleep and physical torture such as the application of burning cigarettes to his legs.
Subsequently he was given a mock trial and condemned to death but the execution was postponed in order that information should be extracted. He was then tortured by various particularly brutal methods continuously for several days. The exact time is uncertain as there were periods of unconsciousness, but it was certainly lasted for some days. No information whatever was obtained from him. Thereafter he was kept in solitary confinement for several months, with occasional interrogations and was given little medical treatment and just enough food to sustain life.
When finally liberated he was found to be permanently affected in health and still bears the marks of physical torture. He will never be the same again. Throughout he was fully aware of the possible consequences of his actions and, when discovered, he preferred to undergo protracted and cruel torture rather than confess his plans and save himself, because he still hoped that he might achieve his purpose. To confess would have endangered others' lives and might have influenced the enemy to change their plans.
His outstanding example of deliberate cold-blooded bravery is most fully deserving of the highest award.
After World War Two Durrani resumed his military career in the Pakistan Army, retiring in 1971. Colonel Durrani became the one of the first George Cross Committee members of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association.
A poet and noted writer, he died in 1995 aged 81 years' old. His autobiography "The Sixth Column" was published in the UK during 1955.
Mahmood Durrani's George Cross
His George Cross is on display in the Imperial War Museum's Victoria & George Cross Gallery.