Leading politicians, diplomats and academics came together at the Indian high commission in London on Tuesday evening to commemorate the major contribution made by India and Indians during World War I.
India’s high commissioner Ranjan Mathai noted that the 1.5 million Indians who took part were all volunteers, making it the largest volunteer army ever. As many as 50,000 of them died, 65,000 were badly wounded and 10,000 were reported missing.
He said soldiers from all parts of India volunteered and served in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Palestine ‘with great distinction’. Noting that Indian soliders were decorated with 13,000 medals, including 12 Victoria Crosses, he said India was proud of their services.
Speakers including UK minister for defence equipment Philip Dunne, Field Marshal Sir John Chapple, academic Santanu Das, and military historian Tony Mclenaghan recalled many less known aspects of India’s contribution, including audio recordings of Indian soldiers, quotes from their diaries and the contribution from over 500 princely states that were not formally part of the British India, but continuted much to the war effort.
Dunne said it was a ‘great honour’ for Britain’s Ministry of Defence to pay tributes to the Indian soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice while fighting with the British forces, ‘to make this world a better place to live.’
Dunne also lauded the Indian armed forces that have retained its ‘non-political’ character.
Baroness Shreela Flather, who led the project to build the Memorial Gates on Constitution Hill in London in 2002 to commemorate Commonwealth soldiers, said it was ‘extremely important’ to make the youth in Britain and elsewhere aware of the sacrifices made by Indian soldiers during the war.