Kim Garg, a volunteer at the Greater Manchester County Record Office, has been looking through our World War One photos to identify Indian troops. Unfortunately we have no images we can definitely identify as being of Indian soldiers. The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre is also researching this aspect of the Great War. There is a panel discussion, Whose Remembrance? Race , Belonging and Two World Wars scheduled to be held at the Imperial War Museum (North) on February 1st 2014. Hopefully this may identify other relevant sources within archives and collections.
The Great War of 1914-1918 consisted of the United Kingdom, which included the British Raj. The British Raj was British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858-1947. India, during World War 1 contributed 1 million troops to the war effort, 62,000 would die and 67,000 were wounded. Indian troops fought in East Africa and the Western Front.
Indian soldiers who fought in World War 1 thought that being away from home and in an environment not known to them was hard. There was overall a negative feeling towards the war. “Weather was bad, the food given to them was bad, leadership was no good, equipment was new and the war was butchery”. (Domain Maximus)
But Indian soldiers fought for a variety of reasons including money, honour for their clan or caste and also duty to King George V.
Letters from two injured Indian soldiers in British hospitals give two different accounts of their time during the war.
“Government has made excellent arrangements for the sick and wounded. We pass our days in joyful ease while government showers benefit upon us”. (British Library)
“Alas we are not free to go about at will in fact we Indians are treated like prisoners on all sides there is barbed-wire……. If I had known such a state of affairs would exist, I never would have come”. (British Library)
Europeana, letters from Indian soldiers in France, 1916
Domain Maximus, remembrance
BBC History-India and the Western Front
Indian Soldiers in World Wars – British Library
* Additional note: Brighton Pavilion was used as a hospital for Indian and Sikh troops.
One image of Indian soldiers in Manchester is held in the Manchester Local Image collection. Taken in 1915, it shows a visiting group taking a trip on a tram.