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UK: Contribution of Indian soldiers hailed in World War 2 event

The Mozzagrogna and Caldari battles were major theatres of conflict in the Italian campaign of World War 2, which took place in November and December 1943.

world Updated: Feb 01, 2018 22:58 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Royal Fusiliers,Indian soldiers,World War 2
Indian high commissioner YK Sinha places a wreath at the memorial to British and Indian soldiers in St Sepulchre’s Church in London on February 1, 2018. (HT Photo)

Current and former officers of the Royal Fusiliers joined an event on Thursday to remember British and Indian soldiers who died in the Battle of Mozzagrogna in Italy during World War 2.

The event at the St Sepulchre’s Church, Holborn was also attended by Indian high commissioner YK Sinha, ministry adviser in the high commission Brig VM Bhuvana Krishnan, and air adviser Air Commodore Anil Sabharwal.

Sinha’s father Lt Gen SK Sinha had commanded the successor regiment of the Royal Gurkha Rifles that saw action in the battle in November 1943.

David Ingall, rector of the church, welcomed the envoy and said the event honoured the bond of the two armies and regiments. The Kohima Epitaph, carved in a memorial in Nagaland was read out: “When you go home, tell them of us and say / for your tomorrow, we gave our today.”

“My father would have wanted me to be here today. He spent most of his years in the Gurkha Rifles. He was also staff officer to Lt Gen Dudley Russell, who commanded the 8th Infantry Division during the Italian campaign in late 1943 and was later posted to India,” Sinha said.

Indian high commissioner YK Sinha (centre) with rector David Ingall (extreme left) with British and Indian officers Brigadier VM Bhuvana Krishnan (extreme right) and air commodore Anil Sabharwal at the memorial on February 1, 2018. (HT Photo)

Mozzagrogna and Caldari were major theatres of conflict in November and December 1943. A short account of the two battles was read out and wreaths placed before the memorial to the two regiments in the church’s gardens.

According to the account, in November 1943, the 1st battalion Royal Fusiliers faced their first major engagement in Italy — the crossing of the River Sangro. Along with the 1st/12th Frontier Force Rifles and the 1st/5th Royal Gurkha Rifles, they formed the 17th Indian Brigade of the 8th Indian Division.

The plan was for the Gurkhas to capture the fortified village of Mozzagrogna on the far bank and for the Fusiliers to pass through them to take the village of Santa Maria. But the capture of Mozzagrogna proved a tough proposition.

In the early hours of November 28, the brigade commander ordered the Fusiliers’ B and C companies to go into Mozzagrogna to assist them. It was said to be a murderous battle. The Gurkhas were ordered to withdraw, covered by the Fusiliers.

The Fusiliers suffered around 95 casualties and 1st/5th Gurkhas even more. The close cooperation between the two regiments was later celebrated by the exchange of a silver kukri (now in the Museum at the Tower of London) and a silver salver.

First Published: Feb 01, 2018 22:50 IST