UK to honour Indian soldiers at World War I event
LONDON, FEBRUARY 23
The UK will honour the Indian soldiers who fought alongside their British officers during the World War I with special plaques to be unveiled at a war memorial next month.
The National Memorial Arboretum at Staffordshire in the West Midlands region of England will honour 11 soldiers from undivided India who were awarded the Victoria Cross for their service alongside a total of 145 overseas-born fighters from Commonwealth countries such as Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand and Canada at a commemorative event on March 5.
“The First World War was a truly global war, one which pulled in people from every corner of the earth. People from every background united in their shared values, fighting for liberty,” said UK communities minister Stephen Williams.Among some of the early stones already laid out in the lead up to the event is one for Sepoy Chatta Singh, born in Kanpur or Cawnpore as it was referred to under the British.
“Despite the differences of culture and faith between Chatta Singh and his officer, he recognised that what mattered was that his comrade was in danger. He displayed exceptional compassion and bravery in risking his life for that of his fellow man and we can all still learn from his example 100 years later,” Williams said.
“The stone that we will lay in the National Memorial Arboretum for Sepoy Singh is a small token of our gratitude and a recognition of all of our shared history. I hope that for many years to come it will remind us of the gallantry of the brave men who fought for Britain and their role in the history of the First World War.”
The 11 VC winners from undivided India include six from modern day India, three from Pakistan and two from Nepal.
Besides Singh, the other five Indian VCs were awarded to Ressaidar Badlu Singh, Naik Darwan Singh Negi, Rifleman Gabbar Singh Negi, Lance Daffadar Gobind Singh and Lance Naik Lala.
On the list of medal winners born on the Indian subcontinent during the Raj era also include 11 British soldiers born in India and one born in Pakistan.
A VC is the highest military honour awarded for bravery on the battlefield.
A total of 628 VCs were awarded during World War I, of which 145 were awarded to servicemen who fought for Britain but were born overseas.
The UK Department of Communities and Local Government has been laying commemorative paving stones in the birthplace of each such VC recipient to honour their bravery and to provide a lasting legacy within the communities of their local heroes.
The first Victoria Cross Paving stones were laid on August 23 last year to mark exactly 100 years to the day that the first VCs were awarded during World War I. The last stones will be laid in November 2018.
A public competition was held to choose a design for the paving stones and this was judged by a panel of seven experts.
The competition was won by Charlie MacKeith from London whose winning design will feature on all the paving stones that will be laid in communities across the country.