1.3 million soldiers from undivided India served across the entire globe to bring peace. Their sacrifices go unremembered, but without their sacrifices peace would still be absent.
In a conversation with the Prime Minister, Suraj Samant told the Prime Minister that there needed to be greater recognition of the sacrifices of the 1.3 million Indian soldiers who served alongside British forces in the Great War. The Prime Minister-Teresa May acknowledged that the Government works closely with the Commonwealth to remember all who served and gave the greatest sacrifice.
Approximately 1.3 million Indian soldiers served in World War One, and over 74,000 of them lost their lives. But history has mostly forgotten these sacrifices.
Their stories, and their heroism, have long been omitted from popular histories of the war, or relegated to the footnotes. India contributed a number of divisions and brigades to the European, Mediterranean, North African and East African theatres of war. In Europe, Indian soldiers were among the first victims who suffered the horrors of the trenches. They were killed in droves before the war was into its second year and bore the brunt of many a German offensive.
But despite contributing the largest volunteer army from Britain’s imperial dominions at a cost of so many lives, there is concern that the sacrifice of the fighters from pre-partition India has been allowed to slip between the cracks of the post-colonial history of both countries.
These men were undoubtedly heroes – pitchforked into battle in unfamiliar lands, in harsh and cold climatic conditions they were neither used to nor prepared for, fighting an enemy of whom they had no knowledge, risking their lives every day for little more than pride. Yet they were destined to remain largely unknown once the war was over: neglected by those, for whom they fought.
Suraj D Samant
Representative for Youth Development
Hindu Council UK