Centenary commemoration of the Second Battle of Nueve Chapelle observed

Monday 16th March 2015 14:56 EDT

In the First World War (1914-1918),  troops from the undivided India  immediately came to the colours. Their first major engagement was at the Second Battle of Nueve Chapelle, where they were involved in the Western Front on 10th March 1015. To mark the exact centenary of the Battle, a formal Commemoration Service took place at the National Memorial Arboretum on 10th March 2015, attended by Ministers, Diplomats and representatives of Interfaith community.

The service took place on the impressive and imposing platform within the circular walls engraved with the names of the fallen heroes. The wall had a small gap, so designed to allow a shaft of sunlight to fall across the sculpted wreath on the central stone at exactly 11AM on the 11th day of the 11th month. The inscription on the obelisk is "They died serving their country. We will remember them". Of course, in the case of Indians, 'they died for the country not theirs'.

A moving programme included a welcoming speech by the officials, tributes to the soldiers for their courage and sacrifices by the Diplomats, reading of extracts from the  letters written by the soldiers  to their families  back home, the recital  of a poem,  "The Gift Of India" by Sarojini  Naidu about the war,  a musical tribute followed by a Punjabi  song in praise of the soldiers.

A total of 1.5 million Indian soldiers  came to the colours at the beginning of the war.  Nearly 65 thousand lost their lives, including 4,200 at the Battle at Neuve  Chapelle.

Much has been written and broadcast about the centenary of the First World War. Much more needs to be put on record the honourable contributions of the Indian soldiers in Britain's war against Germany. Indian and The Commonwealth soldiers  deserve to be remembered for their heroic deeds, fighting shoulder to shoulder with their British comrades in  the war, all  fighting for the same cause. No event, commemorating the  Centenary of the First World War should be   without equal  recognition given to  the Indian soldiers as that given to the British soldiers. This is particularly so at the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal,Albert Hall in November. King George V was right when he said about the Indian soldiers that , " ....history will record the doing's of India's sons and your children will proudly tell of the deeds of their  fathers...."  

Photo credit: Vinookumar Sachania

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