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Jan 28, 2014 at 08:53pm IST

Indian-origin UK soldier gets 1st 'field promotion' in 60 years

An Indian-origin soldier, helping in the fight against the al-Qaeda, has become the first in the British Army to get an on-the-spot "field promotion" in more than 60 years.

Rifleman Gigar Das, from 1st Battalion The Rifles (1 Rifles), was presented with his Lance Corporal's stripe in front of his colleagues for his service to Mali while serving as part of a European Union Training Team.

"I wasn't expecting anything like this to happen when I got out of bed this morning. It is extremely unexpected and I couldn't be more proud of this honour," Lance Corporal Das said.

Indian-origin UK soldier gets 1st 'field promotion' in 60 years

Indian-origin UK soldier gets 1st 'field promotion' in 60 years

The Chief of the General Staff General Peter Wall, accompanied head of the French Army General Bertrand Ract-Madoux to witness soldiers from 1 Rifles delivering infantry training to their Malian counterparts.

Both generals were hugely impressed with Rifleman Das as they observed him conducting a lesson in marksmanship principles.

Astounded to see that the soldier was a rifleman, Gen Wall decided to promote him there and then, after briefly consulting with Rifleman Das' company commander.

"I am extremely proud of Lance Corporal Das, this is absolutely no more than he deserves. He has been one of the most outstanding riflemen I have ever had the privilege to command," Major Sam Cates, the company commander, said.

"He sacrificed the opportunity to attend the last 1 Rifles (junior non-commissioned officer) cadre to take his place on this operational deployment, and to be recognised in this unique way is some reward for his dedication," he said.

Lance Corporal Das is normally based at Beachley Barracks in Chepstow and has served in the Army for eight years and deployed on three tours of Afghanistan and one of Iraq.

"That the Chief of the General Staff should recognise Lance Corporal Das' exceptional quality in the field shows that, as a thinking rifleman, he follows in the finest traditions of the Rifles, a regiment whose motto is 'Swift and Bold'," said his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Karl Hickman.

The move from Rifleman the lowest level in his regiment to Lance Corporal is the first sudden rise in rank on the frontline since the Korean War in 1953.

His promotion means he will finally get the chance to command a small group of soldiers.

"As far as anyone can tell, the last field promotion was in Korea in 1953 but there is no record of the name of the soldier and what rank the soldier was," a defence source was quoted as saying by the British media.