The India Gate, New Delhi (Photo: Centenary News)

India honours its First World War soldiers

Posted on on 11 March 2015
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India's President and Prime Minister have led tributes to the 1.5 million Indian soldiers who fought on the Allied side in the First World War.

Opening a Centenary exhibition in Delhi, President Pranab Mukherjee said: "Indian soldiers etched their name in world history through their bravery and valour."

Their values made them 'a formidable fighting force,' he declared, calling for their sacrifices 'to be recognised and celebrated.'

President Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid wreaths at the India Gate in Delhi, focal point for the nation's remembrance, on March 9th and 10th 2015. Exactly 100 years ago, Indian troops played a major role in the launch of the first major British Western Front offensive at Neuve Chapelle in France.

The chiefs of the Indian armed services also took part in the ceremony at Amar Jawan Jyoti, the Flame of the Immortal Soldier, beneath the arches of the memorial.

The India Gate itself, designed by British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens during colonial rule, commemorates 70,000 soldiers from undivided India who died in conflicts from 1914-21.

Centenary exhibition

India's armed forces have also organised a four-day exhibition in Delhi to commemorate the 100th anniversary of India's role in the 1914-18 war.

Speaking at the opening of India and World War -I, President Mukherjee said Indian forces had seen action on virtually every front.

"They carved a niche for themselves by their outstanding loyalty, courage and selfless service and played a significant role in influencing the outcome of the War," he told an audience at Delhi's Manekshaw Centre.

"A hundred years ago, the world was different. Even though our country was under colonial rule, Indian soldiers etched their name in world history through their bravery and valour. 

"The gallantry of the Sikhs and Gurkhas in the battlefields of Gallipoli is well-known. So is the bravery of the Garhwali, Dogra, Punjabi and Maratha Soldiers, who fought in the battlefields of Flanders and Somme. 

"These soldiers not only won the pickets and trenches but also the hearts of the local population."

President Mukherjee pointed out that Indian soldiers had won 11 Victoria Crosses (the highest British gallantry award), five military crosses and numerous other decorations.

He added: "To my mind, these men made their sacrifices with a sense of pride and righteousness. This needs to be recognized and celebrated. Today, we pay our respects and honour these men."

'India and World War-I' runs at the Manekshaw Centre, Delhi, until March 14th 2015. 

The exhibition includes a 'Gallantry Hall,' highlighting how the war was won, and its impact on Indian soldiers' lives, both on the front line, and at home. The 'Sacrifice Hall' includes replicas of Indian memorials, together with busts and paintings of Victoria Cross winners. There's also a miniature replica of the hospital set up to treat Indian soldiers at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, on England's south coast.

Sources: Indian Government Press Information Bureau/President of India

Images: Centenary News

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News

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