Seema Sirohi looks at the Indian soldiers who died on the fields of Europe during the Great War, in Outlook India.
More Indians than Belgians died defending the then neutral country. The names weigh down on people who gather daily in great numbers at this most visited WW-I monument.
As I read the names—only 54,896 are recorded—names like Baijnath Singh, Naik Ranbir Singh and Jemadar.
Sidh Nath begin to take form. In November 2002, the Indian government installed a small memorial in the garden hugging the memorial for “those from the Indian Army who fought gallantly in Flanders”. More than 60 per cent of the Indian deaths in WW-I were in the vicious fields around Ypres, a key town which stood in the way of Germany’s planned sweep across Belgium and into France. The Germans attacked the town from three sides, resulting in what are today known as the first and second battles of Ypres. The Indian Expeditionary Force was crucial in stemming the German tide from the start. Its strength in Europe rose to over 1,40,000 during the war, with India providing the most number of troops from any single country after the British. Although Indian soldiers died for the British across the world—in Egypt, Turkey, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Sudan, East Africa and West Europe—in Ypres they died even more.