Virtual memorial for Indian soldiers who fought in Iraq’s Basra | world-news | Hindustan Times
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Virtual memorial for Indian soldiers who fought in Iraq’s Basra

It will be launched by CWGC’s director-general Victoria Wallace at the United Service Institution (USI) of India in New Delhi, marking a new emphasis of the organisation on India, where it cares for graves or memorials of over 62,000 people who died in the two world wars.

world Updated: Apr 27, 2017 00:02 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
CWGC’s director-general Victoria Wallace said the Basra Memorial commemorates around 40,000 servicemen who died in Iraq during the First World War and have no known grave. Over 36,000 served with the Indian Army.
CWGC’s director-general Victoria Wallace said the Basra Memorial commemorates around 40,000 servicemen who died in Iraq during the First World War and have no known grave. Over 36,000 served with the Indian Army.(HT Photo/Prasun Sonwalkar)

One of the largest memorials to Indian soldiers who fought in the first and second world wars – set in Basra, Iraq – is set to go online on April 18 as part of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s plans to celebrate its centenary this year.

It will be launched by CWGC’s director-general Victoria Wallace at the United Service Institution (USI) of India in New Delhi, marking a new emphasis of the organisation on India, where it cares for graves or memorials of over 62,000 people who died in the two world wars.

The Basra memorial is particularly significant in India’s military history. During the First World War, Basra was occupied by the 6th (Poona) Division in November 1914, from which date the town became the base of the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force.

Wallace told Hindustan Times that the virtual memorial to Indian soldiers in Basra is part of a range of CWGC activities for its centenary year across India, the UK and elsewhere. USI is CWGC’s partner in India.

Indian casualties of First World War were buried in the Basra cemetery but their numbers and names were never recorded. The plots of graves there are marked by two memorials of a general nature, one to the Hindu and Sikh soldiers and the other to Muslims.

The Basra Indian Forces Cemetery contains 292 burials of the Second World War. The virtual memorial will include details of every Indian soldier who died there, including the places they came from in colonial India.

Wallace said: “The CWGC Basra Memorial commemorates around 40,000 servicemen who died in Iraq during the First World War and have no known grave. Over 36,000 served with the Indian Army”.

“That is half of the total number of Indian Army personnel we commemorate for the entire war. Our online resource lists all their names, and provides more information about who they were, where they came from, and what they did”, she added.

The CWGC’s India plans include ‘India Remembers’, which seeks to reconnect communities with the country’s military heritage with events in schools, institutions and others community areas. CWGC work in India includes cemeteries in Kohima and Imphal in the north-east.

In the UK, the CWGC cares for the graves or memorials of 422 Indian Army service personnel who died in the two world wars, mainly in the Brookwood cemetery in Surrey and in Brighton. India contributes to CWGC’s annual budget.

Overall, the CWGC seeks to ensure that 1.7 million people who died in the two world wars will never be forgotten, caring for cemeteries and memorials at 23,000 locations in 154 countries.