While we at Infiniti Communications were doing background research work,subject to World War One –Centenary Commemoration of the Faith, Sacrifice, Gallantry of the Indian Soldier for our client , the Indian Army , it was delight to see some excellent and ornamental language in flow in few remarkable archives we came across during the process. Sharing along with you few scattered excerpts from reputed print resources as follows:
The story of World War I from the Indian soldiers perspective hasn’t really been told. The country sent in the largest volunteer army.By the end of the war, 11,00,000 men had served abroad, of which 60,000 never made it back. They earned over 9,200 decorations for gallantry, including 11 Victoria Crosses – the highest award for bravery. However, there are stories other than that of just heroism-of friendship, discovery and hardship.The Indians joined the Labour Corps as dhobis, cooks and as suppliers of material in large numbers.The casualty figures of the Labour Corps are usually unaccounted for. In Flanders, they were there till the end. But their voices and stores have fallen off the map.“The common perception in India based on the popular elitist historiography, focuses almost entirely on certain aspects of the freedom struggle.”“It effectively writes out large chunks of subaltern history. It debunks almost in totality the major role of the Indian military in influencing both the nationalist political discourse and the colonial response to it. The events of the First World War were of great significance to India because they irrevocably altered the political relationship between Indian and Imperial Britain.”From India’s perspective, the story of the World War is really about the aam aadmi,of young men who went out to fight in trenches, sometimes armed with only, Vaseline to keep away the cold.They fought for Rs.15 a month. They changed the map of the world. They themselves were changed, returning home with new ideas.But the country that had sent them out as heroes wanted to forget them when they got back.A soldier wrote from the front to Sir Chotu Ram, the editor, in June 1918 that he hoped that India remained embroiled in the war forever. “Social restrictions have been broken down. Twenty five percent of soldiers now sit and eat together. We should go forth and spread this message of freedom,” he wrote. The medical officer of Hodson’s Horse, Captain S. Dutt, won a Military Cross for “attending wounded under fire”. A German officer pinned on him an Iron Cross. The World War has many such stories, like of Gagna, a gymnast, who defied death and fought bravely, and of Hardit Singh Malik, a flying ace, who signed up while he was studying in Oxford.This is what Captain Roly Grimshaw of the Poona Horse wrote in his diary about the Indian soldiers when he was at Flanders:“These simple-minded men had hearts of pure gold. Never a complaint that they were half-frozen to death, or that they were being called upon to fight as they had never in their wildest transports of imagination pictured, armed with a weapon they had never handled before.”The idea to commemorate a war, especially one that had been fought under the cloak of colonialism is not something that everyone wants to jump on immediately. There are many more immediate wars in which Indian soldiers fought for more patriotic reasons. But this war was also about nation building. “At the time when India wants to sit at the high table of nations, it is important that we claim this as our victory,too”.
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