Indian troops engagement in First World War to be immortalised

Tuesday 03rd March 2015 10:36 EST

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), as part of the Government’s programme to commemorate the Centenary of the First World War, will be hosting a multi-faith cultural evening at IWM North, part of Imperial War Museums, in Manchester on Tuesday 10 March, marking centenary of the second Battle of Neuve Chapelle – the first major engagement of Indian troops on the Western Front.

This aims to ensure that the contributions of people of all faiths and ethnicities during 1914-18 are properly honoured. The event will be attended by Culture Secretary Sajid Javid, and include reciting of a statement honouring the contribution of Indian troops and committing British Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs to work together for the good of the country.

It is expected to be attended by 400 people including military personnel, civic dignitaries, religious leaders from the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh faiths, representatives from the Undivided Indian Ex-Servicemen’s Association, the Royal British Legion, school children from the North West region and representatives of other projects around the country looking at the Indian contribution to the First World War.

On March 5th, in Staffordshire, as many as 17 Indian soldiers, who won the Victoria Cross (VC) during the First World War will be immortalised through a unique walkway of paving stones. It will be unveiled to the world at the National Memorial Arboretum to recognise the courage and sacrifice made by 145 soldiers who were born outside the UK - from 19 different countries who were awarded the VC, Britain's highest military honour, during the First World War. The laying of these paving stones will be a permanent memorial marking their bravery.

The first Victoria Cross Paving stones were laid on August 23, 2014 to mark exactly 100 years to the day that the first Victoria Crosses were awarded during WW1. The last stones will be laid in November 2018. As many as 469 stones will be laid in communities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland over 4 years period.

In August 2013, Communities secretary Eric Pickles announced a nationwide campaign to honour those who received the VC. Under the campaign, over the next four years on the date corresponding to when they were awarded the VC, commemorative paving stones will be laid in their place of birth or where they lived following the war.

Around 1.2 million soldiers from undivided India fought for the British Empire during the war, of whom 74,000 died.

One of the remarkable stories that will be unveiled on March 5 will be of Indian war hero Chatta Singh who was awarded the VC for his actions at the Battle of Wadi on January 13, 1916 in modern-day Iraq.

Singh showed extraordinary bravery in leaving cover under heavy fire to assist his commanding officer, who was lying wounded and helpless in the open. On reaching his officer, Captain Sinton (a fellow VC recipient), he tended to his wounds before digging out cover with his entrenching tool - all the while coming under heavy rifle fire.

Singh remained with Captain Sinton for a full five hours until nightfall - shielding the Captain's exposed side with his own body - before going to get help under the cover of darkness and bringing his wounded comrade to safety. Singh was born in Cawnpore, Uttar Pradesh India in 1886.

The paving stones are made of Scoutmoor Yorkstone a hard-wearing British stone that is quarried near Ramsbottom. Each stone will include the name of the individual, the rank and regiment of the individual (at the time the VC was awarded) and the date of the action for which the VC was awarded.

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