National War Memorial for Indian Soldiers - Seeker's Thoughts

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National War Memorial for Indian Soldiers

In France, the centenary celebrations of Armistice Day on November 11 unveiled the second overseas national war memorial for Indian soldiers, by Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu. This was to recognize the sacrifice of Indian Soldiers in World war1.

Remembering the World War -1

World War-1 not only changed the social and political fabric of Europe but perhaps changed the destinies of a number of countries across the world.

World War 1, also known as the First World War or the Great War and the War to End All Wars, was a world conflict lasting from 1914 to 1919, with the fighting lasting until 1918. The war was mainly waged between the Triple Entente (France, Russia, Britain) and the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy). It was one of the deadliest conflicts in history and precipitated major political changes, including the Revolutions of 1917–1923, in many of the nations involved. Unresolved rivalries at the end of the conflict contributed to the start of World War II about twenty years later.

Armistice Day

World War I ended on November 11, 1918, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  Troops from India was drawn in. Approximately 1.3 million Indian soldiers served in WW1. More than 74,000 Indian soldiers died 

The World War-1 – A brief history

The First World War (1914–18) was a momentous event in world history. The event also affected India as many Indian Soldiers participated in the war under British Rule. In fact, every sixth soldier fighting for the British Empire was from the Indian subcontinent. Nearly 800,000 combatants took part in the war.

Indian troops of the 15th Cavalry Brigade formed the largest component of allied forces that fought and liberated Palestine from four centuries of despotic Turkish rule.

It was Indian Jawans(junior soldiers) who stopped the German advance at Ypres in the autumn of 1914, soon after the war broke out, while the British were still recruiting and training their own forces. At the First Battle of Ypres, Khudadad Khan became the first Indian to be awarded a Victoria Cross.

While India remains wary of ‘treaty alliances’ and steers clear of combat involvement in third-party conflicts, it is the third-largest contributor of military and police personnel to UN peacekeeping missions. 

Over one million Indian troops served overseas, of whom 62,000 died and another 67,000 were wounded. In total at least 74,187 Indian soldiers died during the war. In World War I the Indian Army fought against the German Empire in German East Africa and on the Western Front. Indian divisions were also sent to Egypt, Gallipoli and nearly 700,000 served in Mesopotamia against the Ottoman Empire. While some divisions were sent overseas others had to remain in India guarding the North West Frontier and on internal security and training duties.

In addition to the regular Indian Army, the armies of the Princely States and regiments of the Auxiliary Force (European volunteers) could also be called upon to assist in an emergency.  The end of World War I did not see the end of fighting for the Indian Army as they were involved in the Third Afghan War in 1919, and then the Waziristan Campaign in 1919–1920 and again in 1920–1924. Operations against the Afridis in 1930–1931 and finally just before the outbreak of World War II operations in Waziristan again in 1936–1939. 53,486 Indian soldiers lost their lives, 64,350 were wounded and 3,762 went missing or were imprisoned. Not just combatants, there were 43,737 men who worked in the Indian Labour Corps.

Awards Won

Indian soldiers won 11 Victoria Cross honours, Britain’s highest military honour. Overall 13,000 medals were won by the Indian Corps.