Armistice Day centenary to highlight the role of Indian soldiers in World War I
New Delhi : India's involvement in the World War I will be highlighted by commemorative events to mark the centenary of the Armistice Day next month with new research bringing out the human and social angles of the participation of soldiers from the sub-continent in the conflict that shaped the history of the world.
Addressing a joint media briefing here, Lt Gen P. K. Singh (retd), Director, United Service Institute of India (USI), said the India's participation in the war also "contributed to the Indian story" and India was a signatory to the formation of the League of Nations though it had not gained Independence.
The media briefing was also addressed by Squadron Leader (Retired) Rana T.S. Chhina, secretary of the Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research (USI-CAFHR). Brigadier Mark Goldsack, Defence Attache at the British High Commission and British Deputy High Commissioner Jan Thompson.
Lt Gen Singh said India and Great War centenary commemoration project was launched in 2014 and will conclude on the centenary of the Armistice Day on November 11, the day the conflict ended.
"The project highlights the oft-forgotten role of India in the First World War and explores India's engagement from a variety of perspectives including strategy, tactics, race, gender and inter-cultural aspects," he said.
He said as part of commemoration, a joint Indo-UK international seminar "India and the Great War in Research, Memory and Commemoration" will be held on Nov 9. A WW I remembrance service will be held at the Delhi War Cemetery on November 11. A joint Indo-UK military band concert will also be held on November 10 at India Gate besides a joint Indo-UK reception.
Sqn. Leader Chhina said during the project they engaged with a wide spectrum of partners from government to individuals, including descendants of veterans of the war from both India and Pakistan.
"For many, it was the first time in living memory that the contribution of their forebears was being recognised or remembered," he said.
He said they discovered a number of invaluable hitherto unknown first-person accounts written by Indian veterans of war and preserved by their families.
Lt Gen Singh said that as part of the project, they wanted to have a shared experience.
"Of course there is strategy, tactics but there is more to war than just the tactics. The aim of our project was to look at human angle, social angle. People had experiences to share but not a platform. We were trying to give that platform. We got everybody to recount their experiences," he said.
He said though Indian soldiers were fighting for the British empire, it did contribute to the Indian story.
"When the League of Nations was formed, did India get a place on the table. Yes. We signed on as India. We were among the founding members of the League of Nations because of contribution of Indian forces. That also goes for creation of United Nations. The course of world history would have been different without the Indian Army's contribution," he said.
Lt Gen Singh said the seminar in November will focus on the new findings of the "Indian voice".
India made a huge contribution to Britain's war effort in World War I. Almost 1.5 million men were part of the Indian Expeditionary Force, which saw fighting on the Western Front, in East Africa, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Gallipoli.
British estimates say around 50,000 died, 65,000 were wounded, and 10,000 were reported missing, while 98 Indian army nurses were killed. India also supplied 170,000 animals, 3,7 million tonnes of supplies, jute for sandbags and a huge loan to the British government.
The "India and the Great War" project has been supported by the External Affairs Ministry and partnered by the British High Commission.