|Chattri Memorial 2010|
The Annual Chattri Memorial Service took place on Sunday 13th June 2010 on the Downs, Patcham, Brighton. It is the only service of its kind in England in Remembrance to the Brave Indian Soldiers who died so far from home, preparing to defend and die for our freedom and liberty, fighting side by side with British soldiers in World War One (1914 - 1918).
The service was attended by over 300 people. Many wreaths were formally laid by Indian High Commissioner , the Mayor of Brighton and Hove, the Undivided Indian Ex-services Association, the British Legion, members of the armed forces, the Metropolitan Police Sikh Association (Inspector Manpreet Bains) and others.
Picture of Inspector Manpreet Bains
In total, India provided 1.27 million men to the fighting in Europe during the Great War, over 12,000 wounded Indian soldiers returned to “Doctor Brighton” to be cared for. Many buildings in the City were converted and specially adapted for the wounded Indian soldiers, including the Royal Pavilion, The Dome, Corn Exchange, Brighton General Hospital, and York Place School. The last convalescent Indian soldiers left Brighton in February 1916.
While the Indian soldiers were in Brighton and Hove, every religious rites were respected as would be in India. 53 Hindus and Sikhs bodies were cremated at the Chattri. 21 Muslim bodies were taken from Brighton to a mosque in Woking for burial.
The Chattri unveiled by the Prince of Wales in 1921. This year marked its 89th anniversary.
The Chattri bears the following inscription, in Urdu, Hindi and English. The inscription, reads:
“To the memory of all Indian soldiers who gave their lives for their King-Emperor in the Great War, this monument, erected on the site of the funeral pyre where the Hindus and Sikhs who died in hospital at Brighton passed through the fire, is in grateful admiration and brotherly affection dedicated”.
The Chattri means umbrella in Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu.
A memorial tablet to record the names of the 53 Hindu and Sikh soldiers who were cremated there has recently been approved. It will be a tribute to the sepoys, riflemen, drummers, camp followers, saddlers, subaders and bearers to have their names now inscribed in Portland broadcroft whitbed stone to complement the white Sicilian marble of the Chattri itself.
The contribution of ethnic minorities to Britain’s efforts during the Second World War is often understated.
From a population of more than 380 million, two-and-a-half million soldiers came from India, with more than 200,000 from east Africa and around 150,000 from west Africa.
As well as a fighting a major campaign in Burma, Indians saw combat in north Africa, Eritrea, Abyssinia, the Middle East, the Far East and Italy.
Some joined the Royal Indian Air Force or the Royal Indian Navy while thousands of women signed up to the Women’s Royal Indian Naval Service or the Women’s Auxiliary Corps.
India suffered huge casualties from the war, with around 36,000 volunteers either killed or reported missing; more than 64,000 were wounded, and almost 80,000 were captured as prisoners of war.
Thirty Victorian Crosses, the highest military decoration, were awarded to members of the Indian Army in the Second World War.
Squadron Leader Mahinder Singh Pujji is one of the two-and-a-half million servicemen who came from the Indian subcontinent, the largest volunteer army in history. At 91 years of age, Pujji is the last remaining Indian fighter pilot from World War Two. He, like many veterans, believes the contribution of Indian soldiers has been largely ignored.
Picture: Diljit Bahra, Sqn Ldr Mahinder Pujji, Manpreet Bains and Gurpal Virdi
DS Virdi of the MPSA said: 'The contributions of the Indian soldiers is not fully recognised in history lessons or by the host population in the UK. However, there are still people who attend the ceremony every year to ensure their contribution and ultimate sacrifice is never forgotten. This year it was announced that a memorial tablet to record the names of the soldiers has been approved, a step in the right direction'.