The battle of Ypres in 1915 was one of the First World War’s bloodiest exchanges. The entire landscape was reduced to an eerie, barren world where lifeless trees stood sentry like the macabre sentinels of an alien world. Between the trees huge craters, formed by the constant shelling collected rainfall. The muddy, slippery-sided pools became nightmarish pits where many a man would drown, weighted down with the heavy accoutrements of soldiering. Above the water’s surface and beyond the craters’ lips, poison gas crept relentlessly across no man’s land, its ghostly extremities fingering their way silently through the barbed wire.
This was the landscape Mir Dast knew only too well. He knew the dangers from above, from below and from in front. German Spandau machine guns and poison gas had already beaten back an advance, resulting in high casualties when he headed out into the space between the lines.
Facing heavy fire, Mir Dast and the small group he led carried on regardless, ignoring the risk as time and again they ventured out to retrieve their wounded comrades. Even after his own wounding Dast continued, refusing to allow injury or gas to prevent his heroic actions.
Mir Dast was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest honour available in the British army for his trouble. He and his men saved the lives of many of their fellows at great personal cost. Their story shows how even in the worst situations, perhaps even because of the horror they faced, heroic men and women are capable of rising above their fears to do what needs to be done.
When you buy your poppy this year, wear it proudly in honour of Mir Dast.
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