World War I: Unusual Stories of Indian Soldiers
In World War I, 1.3 million Indian soldiers took part, of which more than 74,000 were killed.
One hundred years ago, on November 11, 1918, the war ended in what was called the “war to end all wars.” But there are still untold stories of Indian soldiers who joined the war.
In it, the soldiers shared their personal experiences and how these Indian soldiers had extraordinary experiences.
Historian George Martin Jack collected some of these stories.
The number of Indian troops participating in World War I from 1914 to 1918 was greater than the number of troops participating from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and the Caribbean.
Arsala Khan belonged to the 57th Wild Rifles who went to fight first.
Arsala Khan led the Indian troops in the regiment in the war and entered the British trenches on the Belgian front on the night of 22 October 1914.
Arsala Khan served in France, Egypt, Germany, East Africa and India until 1918, and then in the summer of 1919 he represented his regiment at the Indian Victory Parade in London.
The march past or military parade from London’s largest war memorial, which included thousands of Indian soldiers besides Arsala, brought tears to the eyes of many.
Western writers about World War I are still popular, but there was also a writer in the Indian Army who wrote very modestly.
Captain Amar Singh wrote the world’s longest diary.
This 89-volume essay covers the period from 1980s to 1940s. In it, Amar Singh shared his observations on the Western Front from India, the Iraqi Front and Britain.
Amar Singh’s war ended in 1917 and in India his wife Russell gave birth to daughter Ratan in his native Rajasthan.
Ratan was their sixth child but the first child to survive the disease at an early age, which gave the couple a new hope of living happily as a family after the war.
Kasturba was in London with her husband, Mahatma Gandhi, when World War II broke out and the two took part in hospital relief work.
Kasturba Gandhi volunteered at the Indian Army Hospital on the southern coast of Britain from 1914 to 1915. The hospital was set up for about 16,000 wounded soldiers on the French and Belgian fronts.
Hospital volunteer Dia Ram Thapar says, “Kasturba Gandhi was particularly concerned that no Indian soldier should feel embarrassed about sensitive questions being asked about victims or caste.
Kasturba Gandhi used to take care of the food of the severely wounded hardline religious soldiers and if the Hindu soldiers objected that their dishes were being cleaned by non-religious people, she would clean them herself.
Aul Noor served in the most popular regiment of the Indian Army, the Corps of Guides, from 1914 to 1918.
He served in Belgium, France and East Africa from 1914 to 1917, during which time he was injured three times, but his greatest achievement was working for the Secret Service.
Noor was one of 16 Indian soldiers who went on a secret mission to Central Asia in 1918 with British troops.
The intelligence team received orders directly from London to block Soviet resources from Central Asia from reaching Germany by rail and the Caspian Sea.
Noor crossed the Himalayas on a yak as an undercover agent, and before that he worked tirelessly with other officers to thwart the enemy’s plans and avoid capture.
Mir Dast was the elder brother of Mir Mast who was a fugitive and a German secret agent. He left for France in 1914, four years after his brother’s departure, and at the time he did not know if the two brothers would see each other again, and it was unlikely that they would be able to see each other again. They were fighting in different places and on different western fronts.
In April 2015, Mir Dast was awarded the Victoria Cross in recognition of his performance during a chemical attack in the Ypres area of Belgium.
Mir Dast showed bravery during the chlorine gas attack in Germany and, according to him, “I breathed in the gas for approximately 8 to 10 seconds, which caused tears to flow from my eyes and nose, but they fought.” He continued and rescued his wounded British comrades at night and brought them back to the British trenches.
In August 1915, King George V awarded the Victoria Cross to Mir Dast in front of special guests at a hospital in England.
Dast returned to India in early 1916 to recover from a gas wound sustained during the war and for other reasons. When he returned to his regiment in 1917, he was a war hero and was hailed in the Indian media. Devotion was offered.
That same year, he decided to quit his job in the British Army and, like his brother, became a fugitive, a painful truth that Britain had hidden.
Mir Dast was thought to be extremely loyal, while his brother Mir Mast was a traitor because he had been awarded the Iron Cross for his services in the German military service, but this was only a presumption and he was given an Order of Diplomacy in exchange for diplomatic service. The Red Eagle was found.
Pratab Singh, an officer from an aristocratic background, was in the Jodhpur Lancer Regiment when he went to war in 1914. He was 73 years old and the oldest soldier in the British trenches on the Western Front but his heart was young.
Pratap was very active in the field of reconciliation and took leave from his regiment in France to dine with famous and influential people. The people they dined with included the then French president, the commander-in-chief of the French army, the king of Belgium and members of the British royal family.
Pratab Singh’s two sons, Sagat and Hant, also joined the war with their father as officers of the Jodhpur Lancer. Pratab took his two sons with him when the regiment moved to the Middle East in 1918 and the three served together in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine.
Partab Singh displayed extraordinary bravery in the Battle of Magido in Palestine in 1918. It was a great military victory of the Indian Army and one of the reasons for the downfall of the Ottoman Empire.
He wrote a letter to King George V of Great Britain for the highest honor, stating that “I think he is the only soldier from the Indian royal family to have remained on the front lines throughout the war.”
The UK did not consider his request. Pratap Singh had said on the Versailles Treaty that “politically this is a mistake and I am sure that the Germans will not rest until they take their revenge.”