This short presentation is intended as a discussion point for students looking at the role of troops from the Indian sub continent during the First World War and how we remember their contribution and sacrifices.
The photograph shows an Indian soldier outside J W Martin’s shop in Brockenhurst, 1914. He may have been one of the Indian medical team caring for sick and wounded Indian troops, or a soldier resting before returning to the Front.
Students could undertake some research into the history of the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley and discuss the benefits for convalescing troops at the above towns.
Get students to assess the range of evidence to support events under discussion, such as newspaper reports – how many and how prominent? Use the internet to investigate the role of Indian troops in the First World War.
Students could discuss the impact of large numbers of Indian troops arriving in a small town such as Brockenhurst. Do surviving photographs suggest admiration or curiosity amongst locals?
Students could investigate how frequently if at all historians mention the occurrence of Indian troops in events surrounding battles during the First World War.
Ask students to empathise with Indian soldiers returning to the Front after experiencing the horrors of the early months of warfare in 1914. What emotions might they experience?
Students could investigate how many other memorials there are in England (or the South of England) commemorating the sacrifices made by colonial troops during the War. How many recognise the involvement of Indian soldiers?. Students could search Channel 4’s Lost Generations data-base for Indian soldiers, or the Imperial War Museum’s website.
Indian soldiers in Hampshire during WW1
During the First World War,over 140,000 volunteers fromthe Indian sub continent sawactive service in Europe. Inaddition almost 80,000volunteers from African coloniesand the West Indies took part inthe fighting.
Indian soldiers wounded in battle on the WesternFront were sent to England for treatment. The RoyalVictoria Military Hospital at Netley was unable tohandle the large numbers of wounded so alternativearrangements were made. Towns on the South Coastof England to offer assistance included Brighton,Bournemouth, Brockenhurst and New Milton in theNew Forest to name but a few.
It is believed that at the end of the war a total of 64,449 Indian soldiers had been reported dead or missing and over 65,000 wounded.Queen Mary visiting wounded Indian soldiers at Brockenhurst,Hampshire, November 1914.
Indian troops carrying out bayonet practice outside Forest Park Hotel, Brockenhurst, Hampshire, in preparation for returning to the Front, 1915.‘The troops were taken out of the line and rested in early 1915,but were soon back in the trenches. The Indian Corps providedhalf the attacking force at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle and theLahore Division were involved in the Second Battle of Ypres’Source: Dr David Omissi
Indian troops leaving for the Front at New Milton andBrockenhurst railway stations, 1915.
To see an archive film of Indian troops observing a troop march through Bournemouth click on the hyperlink below. You may have to download Quicktime Viewer. Follow instructions on the website page.http://www.hants.gov.uk/record-office/film/video/sample2.html
By 1918, some 827,000 Indians had enlisted, in addition tothose already serving in August 1914.Today two memorials exist in Brighton to commemorate theIndian soldiers who passed through the town’s hospitalsduring the First World War. The gateway to BrightonPavilion and a memorial known as the Chattri. Both wereerected after the war. The Chattri memorial, Brighton, Sussex