The tall and strapping young Sikh was posted at Aden during World War I, as a Junior Commissioned Officer in the Indian Army.
One day, he was ordered to deliver an urgent missive to a forward post. He was almost there, when the horse that he was riding suddenly stopped in its tracks, neighed and reared up. Simultaneously, a shot rang out and hit the middle of the animal's forehead. It died instantaneously and collapsed on to one of the soldier's legs, before he could get his feet out of the stirrups, thus causing a bone fracture. Despite the injury, he managed to extricate himself rather quickly and made his way to the post, while being under heavy enemy fire.
"Tum toh bach gayaa!" (You escaped!), exclaimed the British commander of the post, in broken Hindustani, when the Sikh reached there. The Englishman had been watching the action unfold, through a pair of binoculars.
Shortly thereafter, the reply was prepared and the JCO was provided with another horse, to carry it back to headquarters. Later, he received an award, which included the grant of a sizeable piece of agricultural land in the Rawalpindi district (Punjab, Pakistan), besides the decoration, for the gallantry which he displayed that day. He, along with other members of his family, cultivated the land up to 1947, when the partition of India forced him to return permanently to his native village in Ludhiana district (Punjab, India).
Until the very end of his days, however, he often recounted the story of the horse that sacrificed its own life to save that of its rider, to his children, one of whom was my maternal grandfather.