World Wars: Indians in the trenches: voices of forgotten army are finally to be heard

1.5 million fought with the British and 34,000 died. Now their sacrifice in the face of prejudice is being recognised

Indian soldiers serving with the British army make camp in 1916.
PHOTO:  Indian soldiers serving with the British army make camp in 1916. Photograph: Getty

They were the forgotten voices of the first world war: 1.5 million men, mostly illiterate villagers from northern India, fighting under the command of colonial masters who repaid their bravery and sacrifices with brutality and prejudice.

More Indians fought with the British from 1914 to 1918 than the combined total of Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and South African troops. Some 34,000 Indian soldiers were killed on battlefields in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. But the part they played in the war has been largely whitewashed from history.

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  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On November 20, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    Worth repeating:
    “More Indians fought with the British from 1914 to 1918 than the combined total of Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and South African troops.”

    “Sujan Singh, who was 80 when he was interviewed, said: “We were slaves.” Nand Singh spoke of a “curtain of fear” separating the Indian and white soldiers. They were subject to floggings and other inhumane physical punishment, paid less than their white counterparts, segregated in camps and on trains and ships, denied home leave, and barred from positions of command.”

    According to a BBC article, “more than 74,000” lost their lives not 34,000.

    On Nov 11, I wrote this in an email: “INDIA contributed via Taxation, Food, arms, etc , £50 Billion in today’s money (citing Tharoor) causing massive starvation with millions dying (Also for WWII, food was exported, by Churchill, to feed the British people and her soldiers/allies in different places while Indians starved to death).

    Six profiles are presented by BBC, including: Mr & Mrs Gandhi who volunteered in England. “In 1914-15, (Mrs) Kasturba Gandhi worked in Indian Army hospitals – on England’s southern coast – set up for some 16,000 Indian soldiers who had been wounded in France and Belgium. ”

    Pratap Singh – 73 yrs old
    Pratap Singh, an aristocratic officer of the Jodhpur Lancers, had an incomparable mix of energy, professionalism and charm.

    He was 73 years old when he went to war in 1914, becoming the oldest soldier in the British trenches on the western front. But he was still young at heart.

    An indefatigable socialite, Singh would take leave of his regiment in France to dine with the powerful and famous – the list included French President Raymond Poincaré, the French Army’s Commander-in-Chief Joseph Joffre, King Albert I of Belgium and the British Royal family.

    Singh’s two teenage sons, Hanut and Sagat, joined him in the trenches also as officers of the Jodhpur Lancers. He took them with him when the Lancers moved to the Middle East in 1918, and they served together in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine.
    Aged 74, he stayed in the saddle for 24 hours among charging horsemen on the offensive. Yet this feat proved too much even for him; he had to retire sick.

    But within weeks Singh was back on his feet pleading to represent India at the Paris Peace Conference. (He was denied).

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-46148207

    VNM.

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