• Monday, May 20, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Brighton to hold annual event honouring Indian world war soldiers

Brighton’s India Gate memorial was unveiled by the Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh, on October 26, 1921.

Vivek MishraBy: Vivek Mishra

Brighton council has approved plans for an annual multi-faith event to commemorate the role of Indian soldiers in the two world wars at the town’s India Gate memorial from this October.

The India Gate was presented to the people of Brighton by the “princes and people of India” as a gesture of thanks for the care provided by the town’s hospitals and is “dedicated to the use of the inhabitants of Brighton”.

It was unveiled by the Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh, on October 26, 1921, and stands at the southern entrance of the Royal Pavilion – one of three buildings in Brighton serving as a base hospital which treated these soldiers from undivided India wounded on the western front. These included soldiers from the modern-day countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Bhutan.

“By holding a day of remembrance, the city can preserve the memories of the undivided India soldiers who fought for Britain in the war and ensure that this vital history is more widely understood and recognised by and for contemporary generations,” said the Brighton and Hove Council’s report, which was approved at a council meeting last Friday (19).

“Given the important historical context of the India Gate and increased interest in the recent history of the pavilion estate, it is important that, as a testament to the international reputation of the city, this multi-faith event celebrates the undivided India story as well as embracing the India Gate and its story,” it said.

Designed by Thomas Tyrwhitt, the India Gate replaced a much lower gate erected by Brighton Corporation following its purchase of the pavilion in 1850 and is described as a dome resting on four pillars in a style derived from Gujarat.

According to historical records, in the first world war (1914-1918) more than 1.5 million soldiers from pre-Partition India served in the British Indian Army of the colonial era, participating in major battles such as the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, Battle of Gallipoli and the Battle of the Somme.

In the second world war (1939-1945), 2.5 million soldiers from undivided India volunteered to serve in the British Indian Army, the largest volunteer army in history.

The Royal Pavilion Indian hospital in Brighton that cared for the wounded from these battles is also marked by the Chattri memorial, which stands on the spot where Hindus and Sikhs were cremated. It is accompanied by a memorial maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and an annual remembrance ceremony is organised by the Chattri Memorial Group there every June.

Brighton council’s culture, heritage, sport, tourism and economic development committee feels an annual memorial event at the India Gate in October would be a suitable addition to the current remembrance services and would additionally recognise the commitment of Muslim and Buddhist soldiers of undivided India.

Details of the event will be determined and delivered by a committee of community leaders, in partnership with the Brighton & Hove Museums, and supported by Brighton & Hove City Council.

The committee will also engage with local Armed Forces personnel and veterans, the Undivided Indian Ex-Services Association, and leaders from the wider south Asian community before further plans for the memorial are finalised.

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