WWI REMEMBERED: We will never forget

UK Military Campaign Medal and Award Rolls for Mohammad Hassan Khan.
UK Military Campaign Medal and Award Rolls for Mohammad Hassan Khan.

In the second of our two part story, Rachel Snowden and Ardeshir Durrani tell of their ancestors Harold Snowden, born in Drighlington in 1897 and Agha Mohammad Hassan Khan, born in Ludhiana, Punjab, India c1845. Both men served in World War One. They have both researched their ancestors’ stories for their young son, Danyal, so he can remember.

Ardeshir said: “These people from different walks of life and from opposite sides of the British Empire. Danyal is the link between these two families and bridges the gap between East and West of the British Empire. He has an amazing heritage and it’s important he knows this, where he comes from, his family roots.
“Maybe one day he will be successful in bridging the gap between East and West.”

Harold Snowden, pictured to the right of his wife Mary Elizabeth Snowden and to the left of his son Willie Snowden. The photo was taken around 1945.

Harold Snowden, pictured to the right of his wife Mary Elizabeth Snowden and to the left of his son Willie Snowden. The photo was taken around 1945.

Harold Snowden

According to Harold’s service record, he enlisted in Drighlington on December 12 1915 at the age of 18 years and five months.

He was assigned as an Army Reservist to the East Yorkshire regiment. His service record states he was called up on June 13 1917 and assigned to the 4th West Yorkshire regiment.

The 4th (Reserve) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales Own), was in York in August 1914 when war broke out. They soon moved to Falmouth, going on to Redcar in December 1915 and to West Hartlepool in August 1916 to defend the coast.

The 4th Battalion remained in Britain throughout the conflict, training troops to reinforce other units abroad.

Little is known about Harold and his time during the conflict apart from the deteriorated service record and the information about his regiment.

After the conflict, Harold lived at 5 Allen Croft and married 22-year-old Mary Elizabeth Newton on May 14 1921 at St Peter’s Church, Gildersome.

It is not known when they died, but they had a son, Willie Snowden in 1921. Willie went on to serve in World War Two for the Durham Light Infantry and served in Burma - having the displeasure of working on the Death Railway.

Mohammad Hassan Khan

In 1911, he was posted in Deoli (India) with some British Indian parliamentary force, and within a short period he was promoted to Quarter-Master Havildar in charge of the store of the officer’s mess.

From November 1911 to August 1914, he remained posted in Deoli. He was liked and respected equally by the superiors and fellow officers in the service.

In spite of having developed great friendship with many influential people of that period, he never acted in arrogance and remained always humble and considerate towards everyone.

The Maharajas of the states of Kota and Bondi were especially kind and gracious and looked after him with great care. Getting such a prominence at a young age was something he didn’t think he deserved. However, he said it was all due to kindness of the ‘creator of the Universe’ who gave him so much success and prominence in the early stages of his life and career.

In 1914, when World War One suddenly broke out, his regiment moved from Deoli to Lahore Cantonment. He stayed until 1917 when suddenly the Regiment was relocated to Chaman in Balochistan.

It was history in the making and a time from Qajar Dynasty in Iran was phasing out in stages and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia started exerting its influence in Iranian territories of Khurasan and Azerbaijan.

Sometime in early 1920, Bolshevic forces landed a strong force at Bandar Anzali, Iran’s port on the Caspian, and began the military occupation and political infiltration of Gilan province.

There was wide-spread turmoil in Iran and multiple separatist movements were claiming their independent states. Russia too attempted to establish subservient ‘satellite’ regimes in Iran’s Northern provinces. British military presence at the time in this area was too weak to risk military engagement with the Bolshevik forces, hence, they withdrew to Qazvin.

When the British government saw Iran slipping out of their hands they decided to reinforce their positions and bring in the British Indian military contingents. Sometime during 1918/1919, Mohammad Hassan Khan’s regiment that was stationed in Chaman (Balochistan) was sent to Iran where they arrived and established a camp in Bandar Anzali on the Caspian Sea.

Mohammad Hassan Khan served with the British Military as an MP during World War Two. During the 1947 partition, he established a home in Pakistan and went on to have four daughters and three sons. He died in a tragic railway accident in 1970. He served his people, the British Military and his family with great honour.