A CANNON made in Falkirk and dragged over mountains to a remote village in Pakistan is being used to highlight the contribution made by the countries of the Commonwealth to winning the First World War.
A descendent of one of the villagers who fought in the trenches of the Western Front, and who came from Dulmial in what is now Pakistan but what was then northern India, is promoting the story of the “Dulmial gun”.
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The cannon, made at the Carron ironworks in Falkirk, was presented to the village in 1925 as a “thank you” for the heroic service carried out by the men of Dulmial, 460 of whom fought in the British Army, the largest single contribution to the war effort of any village in Asia.
The village, 100 miles south of Islamabad, had been offered a range of possible gifts, including land, money or improved water facilities, by the UK government. However, Captain Ghulam Mohammad Malik, the highest-ranking and most decorated soldier in the village, asked for a cannon.
Captain Malik began his military life in the Derajet Mountain Battery and had taken part in Lord Roberts’ famous march from Kabul to Kandahar in 1880. The cannon chosen by the British army was a twelve-pounder that had been made back in 1816 at the Carron ironworks. The Carron Company, based in the nearby village of Carron, enjoyed huge success during the Napoleonic era, manufacturing cannons that become known as “carronades” for the Royal Navy.
In 1925 the cannon was collected from the First Punjab Regimental Centre in Jhelum, from where it was transported by train to Chakwall. The gun was then dismounted and loaded onto a cart pulled by three oxen for almost 20 miles, a journey which took more than two weeks on semi-mountainous roads.
Dr Irfan Malik, a doctor in Nottingham, has been researching the story of the “Dulmial gun” in collaboration with Michael Noble, of the Centre for Hidden Histories at the University of Nottingham. Dr Malik’s great grandfather, Mohammad Khan was a lieutenant who fought in the First World War and he would now like to see Dulmial twinned with Falkirk.
He said: “By telling the story I wish to emphasise the important role that Dulmial village played in the First World War by sending a record 460 soldiers to participate.
“The cannon acts as a strong symbol of their 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.”
He added: “The villagers, led by local historian Riaz Malik, would be most honoured if Falkirk could be twinned with Dulmial. The soldiers 100 years ago in the First World War would have fought side-by-side. It has been my aim to bring this ‘hidden history’ to a wider audience.”
Falkirk Provost Pat Reid said: “The cannon will always embody the courage of the soldiers from both Falkirk and Dulmial and the unique bond forged between both places since.”
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