On April 25, 1915, soldiers from Australia and New Zealand landed on the beaches of the Dardanelles in Turkey, to fight in a campaign that would change our nations forever.
The World War I Gallipoli landings are an epochal moment in the history of Australia and New Zealand, where the soldiers from the Australian Imperial Force and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (known as ‘Anzacs’) are revered for their endurance and courage.
Every April 25, on Anzac Day, people on both sides of the Tasman Sea pause, and remember these men, who perished in the long and terrible battles which followed.
But what is less well-known is that the Anzacs fought alongside the brave men of the 7th Indian Mountain Artillery Brigade. The guns of this brigade were the first ashore on April 25, and gave crucial covering fire to our soldiers.
Indian troops played an important role in the battles which followed. Historian Peter Stanley places the number of serving Indian troops on the peninsula at over 16,000. India’s 29th Infantry Brigade performed brilliantly when called upon as did the Indian mule corps.
The Allied forces relied on 3,000 animals to maintain supply lines and “basically kept forces alive for eight months of the campaign.”
There are several stories of remarkable bravery displayed by the Indians. One soldier, Karam Singh, was responsible for shouting messages between guns and command posts. Singh was blinded by shrapnel, but continued to pass on instructions for more than an hour, despite his injuries.
In military terms, the Gallipoli campaign was a defeat. Our soldiers met fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. By the end of 1915, when Allied forces were evacuated, more than 8,000 Australian soldiers and almost 3,000 New Zealand soldiers had been killed. Around 5,600 Indian troops were also killed or wounded.
Like the Anzacs, the Indians at Gallipoli found themselves in foreign lands a long way from home. And just like the Anzacs they rose magnificently to the occasion, fighting bravely against a skilled foe.
Anzac Day commemorations this year will have particular resonance, because we will be marking the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings.
In New Delhi, the Australian and the New Zealand High Commissions have invited the descendants of Indian soldiers who fought in the Great War to join us for a special dawn service. Dignitaries from several countries —including India’s minister of state for external affairs VK Singh — will gather to commemorate all those who lost their lives.
Australia and New Zealand are proud to honour them for their service.
Patrick Suckling is Australia’s high commissioner to India. Grahame Morton is New Zealand’s high commissioner to India
The views expressed by the authors are personal