Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha and former Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh said in London that India's great contribution in World War 1 has remained "grossly understated", said a press release issued by his office here.
Addressing a gathering at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, last evening, in memory of Indian soldiers who participated in the war, he said that despite the fact that about 1 million Indians participated in the war of whom about 74,000 died and 67,000 got seriously injured, the country's contribution had not figured prominently anywhere.
Scion of the erstwhile Patiala royalty, Amarinder said that India contributed the most volunteers of any of the British colonies that fought in the war. "The Sikh contribution was particularly notable, making up 22% of the whole Indian army at the beginning of the war, despite making up less than 2% of the Indian population."
Amarinder, who has written a soon-to-be-released book on 'Indian Contribution to the Great War', added that many of the soldiers who left India's shores weren't aware of the reasons for the conflict. "Tragically, many sentries on duty in France in the coldest winter of the decade (1914-15) were found frozen to death at their posts at night," he said.
Giving further details, he said that the 20 Deccan Horse and 29 Lancers Deccan Horse, two regiments of Indian cavalry, served with distinction and were awarded several battle honours; awards included one Victoria Cross, 10 Distinguished Service Orders and 13 Military Crosses.
A poignant part of the event saw the presentation of a silver salver honouring this contribution being presented as a permanent gift to the director general of the National Army Museum, Janice Murray, by Lt Gen Tajindar Shergill. He was joined in this by Brigadier RJH Baddeley and Brigadier Charles Wright, both of whom have fathers who served with the Deccan Horse.
Guests at the event included Field Marshal Sir John Chapple, Lord Singh of Wimbledon, and Paul Uppal, MP, representing the British government. Event patrons Maj Gen Peter Davies, Maj Gen Peter Currie and Maj Gen MS Sandhu were also present, said the release.