A Guide to Indian Commemorations

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Over 161,000 Indian servicemen and women – including Gurkha regiments – died during the two world wars, with their graves and memorials maintained by the CWGC. The casualties from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are all recognised in this number, which represents the total losses for the armed forces of the former undivided India.

Transcript of A Guide to Indian Commemorations

  • Over 161,000 Indian servicemen and women including Gurkha regiments died during the two world wars, with their graves and memorials maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). The casualties from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are all recognised in this number, which represents the total losses for the armed forces of the former undivided India.

    Kohima War Cemetery, India

    New Indian Forces Cremation Memorial, Patcham Down, United Kingdom

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    India And The First World War

    The contribution and sacrifice made by India during the First World War was vital to eventual Allied success.

    By the time the war ended in November 1918, 1,105,000 Indian personnel had been sent overseas. They served with distinction in every theatre of war from Europes Western Front to modern-day Iraq; from Egypt to East Africa; and from Greece to Gallipoli in Turkey.

    The servicemen and women of India earned more than 9,200 decorations for bravery, including 11 Victoria Crosses the highest military award for bravery. India also provided over 170,000 animals and 3,700,000 tons of supplies and stores.

    In all, 74,000 Indians sacrificed their lives in the First World War.

    Neuve Chapelle Indian Memorial, France

  • The Western Front And The Battle Of Neuve Chapelle

    Within days of the British declaration of war on Germany on 4 August 1914, two infantry Divisions and a cavalry Brigade of the Indian Army were ordered to mobilise and prepare for overseas service.

    Units of the Indian Expeditionary Force began arriving in France in September and by late October they were involved in heavy fighting on the Messines Ridge in Belgium.

    In the autumn of 1914, one in every three soldiers under British command in France was from India.

    The Indian Corps, which was composed of the 3rd (Lahore) and 7th (Meerut) Divisions, went on to fight in some of the bloodiest battles of the first year of the war.

    At Neuve Chapelle, from 10 13 March 1915, the Indian Corps made up half of the attacking force of 20,000 men and despite suffering heavy casualties 4,200 Indians fell. It succeeded in capturing important sections of the German line.

    Right: Mazargues War Cemetery, Marseilles, France

  • First World War Memorials To Indian Forces

    The Neuve Chapelle Memorial, constructed by the CWGC on ground where Indians fought during the battle, marks the sacrifice of the Indian Army both there and throughout the Western Front.

    Iconic CWGC memorials to Indian forces who fell during the First World War can also be found in Basra, Iraq and Cape Helles on the Gallipoli peninsula.

    The India Gate Memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, stands at the eastern end of the Rajpath in Delhi. It commemorates 13,300 Commonwealth servicemen who died in fighting on or beyond the North West Frontier and during the Third Afghan War, and have no known grave. The memorial also acts as a national memorial

    Neuve Chapelle Indian Memorial, France

  • to all the soldiers of undivided India who died during the years 1914-1921, the majority of whom are commemorated by name outside the confines of India.

    Indians who served and died in the Ypres Salient in Belgium are commemorated on The Menin Gate. Each evening, the Last Post is sounded in memory of all those who died.

    On the south side of the Menin Gate is the Indian Forces Memorial which takes the form of Indias national emblem.

    Cemeteries built and maintained by the CWGC, containing the graves of Indian servicemen and women, will be found all over the world.

    Neuve Chapelle Indian Memorial, France

    Indian Forces Memorial, Ypres, Belgium

    Neuve Chapelle, France

  • India And The Second World War

    With 2.5 million men, the Indian Army of the Second World War was the largest volunteer army the world had ever seen. Nearly 90,000 died in India, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Middle East, North Africa, Greece and Italy. The Indian Army took part in early operations before participating in a see-saw struggle between Allied and Axis forces across the deserts of North Africa. This culminated in the Battle of El Alamein in October 1942 and the pursuit into Libya and Tunisia in the early months of 1943.

    During the most critical period of the campaign, when Axis forces threatened to break through into Asia, six of the fourteen divisions under Allied Command were Indian. The Axis surrender on 6 May was taken by an officer of the Indian Army. Campaigns in North and East Africa cost 2,500 Indian lives. Three Indian divisions, half of the Commonwealth force, also fought in Italy between 1943 and 1945. They led the assault on the German defensive Bernhardt Line, and took part in the battle for Monte Cassino and the pursuit of German forces northwards. More than 5,500 Indians died in this campaign.

    Kut War Cemetery, Iraq Gorre British and Indian Cemetery, Pas De Calais, France

  • On the Malay peninsula, Indian troops had already been sent to reinforce local defences when the Japanese invaded in December 1941. But the Japanese advance could not be contained and, by the time Singapore fell in February 1942, 65,000 Indian soldiers were prisoners of war. More than 16,000 Indians died in the campaign or later in captivity. The Japanese went on to take Burma (Myanmar) and to occupy a part of North East India. Indian forces again played a key role in their recovery in 1944/45, but with a loss of more than 25,000 lives.

    Reinstatement of Cantonment Sites

    After the Second World War, the Commission built several war cemeteries throughout India and moved the Commonwealth dead within them. The war dead of the First World War remained where they were, dispersed in plots or singly in cantonment and civil cemeteries throughout the country. Over time these cemeteries fell into disuse and became increasingly difficult to maintain; so the casualties were alternatively commemorated on memorials placed within war cemeteries, where care was assured.

    Gorre British and Indian Cemetery, Pas De Calais, France Monastir Road Indian Cemetery, Greece

  • In 2008 the Commission embarked upon a programme of reinstating the majority of the original graves, some 2,000 in number, located in over 100 separate locations. The war dead, over 51,000 who have no known graves, or whose graves elsewhere in India could not be permanently maintained, are commemorated on ten memorials. The Commission also cares for over 200 non-world war graves on behalf of the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence.

    Cremation Memorials and Headstones

    The majority of Hindus and Sikhs are commemorated on special cremation memorials erected in many of the war cemeteries, whilst the graves of those of the Muslim faith are marked by headstones. The memorials of the Second World War with the largest number of Indian names are at Yangon, Singapore, El Alamein and Cassino.

    Indias Membership Of The CWGC

    India is one of six Commonwealth member countries which constitute the Commission. The Indian High Commissioner in London is customarily appointed by the Indian Government to be its representative on the Commission and attends, or is represented at, quarterly Commission meetings. The CWGC has an office in India and employs over 50 Indian staff.

    Zehrensdorf Indian Cemetery, Brandenburg, Germany

  • France: World War One Burials 8,423, World War Two Burials 113 Egypt: World War One Burials 5,113, World War Two Burials 2,989Iraq: World War One Burials 41,583, World War Two Burials 1,688India: World War One Burials 14,794, World War Two Burials 36,130Myanmar: World War One Burials 7, World War Two Burials 22,919Singapore: World War One Burials 2, World War Two Burials 13,653



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    Commemorations to Indias fallen by country

    Imphal Indian Army War Cemetery, India

  • The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is responsible for the commemoration of almost 1,700,000 members of the Commonwealth forces who gave their lives in the two world wars. The graves and memorials of these men and women, who came from all par ts of the Commonwealth and who were of many faiths and of none, are found around the globe in 154 countries.

    Enquiries on the location of individual burials or commemorations can be directed to the offices below or to the Commissions website at www.cwgc.org where there is an online searchable database.

    Commonwealth War Graves CommissionThe Director, Africa & Asia Pacific AreaCommonwealth War Graves Commission 2 Marlow Road Maidenhead BerkshireSL6 7DXUnited Kingdom

    Tel: (01628) 634221Fax: (01628) 771643Email: [email protected] site: www.cwgc.org

    Front cover: Delhi Memorial, India Gate, India, commemorates 12,000 fallen by name.