1Why did IFSC decide to take up the cause of WW1?
The Great War inhabits an elusive space in India today. Not entirely forgotten nor actively remembered, it oscillates between memory and oblivion. However, the buzz surrounding the Centenary celebrations in India raised some important questions about how we remember our past and forget it at the same time. The First World War is a relatively unnoticed event in an otherwise historic timeline of Indian events.
2What was Indian Role in the first World War?
India's role in the First War has always been downplayed and under documented for a number of reasons. India didn't gain freedom till the Second great war making the First a distant memory. Since there was no Indian nation yet, any forces sent from the sub continent tended to be Empire soldiers or soldiers of princely states - both notions making them somewhat less than Indian for later commentators. The post-war period saw nationalists agitating against the British and the great non-cooperation movements were initiated, making the memory of collaboration with the British Empire a distasteful memory. Most of the focus of history textbooks in this period has been the appearance of Gandhiji and his agitational politics.
3Do we have any monument in India for the first world war?
Yet, its only now that a large number of people have realized that the India Gate was commissioned as a war memorial to honour the martyrs of the First World War and the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1921, just around the time the Cenotaph was unveiled in London. Thus the current regeneration of interest in India’s role in the Great War is a puzzle.
4As Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914, did they have the consent of the Indians?
Lord Hardinge, the Viceroy of India, announced that India too was at war, without consulting Indian political leaders. Yet, the responses to the war within India, both from the native princes and the political elite, were largely enthusiastic.
5How many Indians participated in the First World War?
British India (comprising present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma) contributed the highest number of men. Of them, over a million served overseas between August 1914 and December 1919.
6How well does Vedica Kant’s book “If I Die Here Who Will Remember Me” describe the efforts of Indian Soldiers in the First World War?
The name though dramatic, brings into stark relief the lack of interest and absence of memory for the soldiers of Indian origin who fought and died in the First World War. It's less a narrative history and more of a documentation of poignant letters and photographs from the First War which in itself makes for a pleasant reading.
7Is their any other worthwhile recent literary effort to bring out the Indian contribution to World War 1?
A book by Santanu Das, a teacher from English at King's College titled London1914-1918: Indian Troops In Europe has approached the subject in a realistic manner. His examination of the Great War veered from poetry and became increasingly historical as he delved further and further into the lives of the brave, sturdy Indian soldiers who left Indian shores for
8What was the contibution of India in World War 1?
What was the contibution of India in World War 1?From August 1914 until December 1919, India recruited for purposes of war 877,068 combatants and 563,369 non-combatants, making a total of 1,440,437; in addition, there were an estimated 239,561 men in the British Indian army in 1914, including both combatants and non-combatants, and around 20,000 in the Imperial Service Corps. India also made a substantial contribution in terms of cash, animals, transport and material. Alongside manpower, the “jewel in the British crown” contributed its vast resources even as it bled internally. These ranged from minerals (iron, mica and manganese), military hardware and transport equipment to grains, cotton, jute, wool and hide, to 185,000 animals, including horses, camels and mules. It also made a direct financial commitment. The statute governing India’s relationship to Great Britain was amended so that India could “share in the heavy financial burden”. There was a free lump sum gift of 100 million pounds to “His Majesty’s Government” as a “special contribution” by India towards expenses of war which was partly raised through war bonds; and in the five years ending with 1918-1919, its total net military expenditure, excluding the special contribution and costs of special services, amounted to 121.5 million pounds.
9Which state in India contributed to the cause?
Punjab which contributed more than half the number of combatants of the country’s role in the conflict.
10What is known about the Indian effort in the War?
Eurocentrism or elitism is, however, only part of the problem. Most of the soldiers came from non- or semi-literate backgrounds; the literacy rates in the Punjab at the time was only five percent. We do not have anything like the diaries or journals or poems by women and civilians which help to chart the responses on the European home front. But amnesia does not mean absence. There is often a powerful but subterranean vein of memory; one needs to go beyond conventional sources such as archival documents, diaries and letters, and delve into alternative sources such as war artifacts, oral narratives and songs which help us to recover this silent front. In the last couple of years, fresh material has been unearthed, including poems, qissas (stories) and folksongs which help us to capture some of these lost voices; moreover, archival records of recruitment at the district levels give us better insights into the social processes of mobilization in many of these places.
11What was the responses from the Native Princes?
In August 1914, when the King-Emperor sent a message to the “Princes and People of My Indian Empire”, the responses from the feudal princes were extremely enthusiastic. They still ruled around one-third of India with varying alliances and partnerships with the British Raj. They made vast offers of money, troops, labourers, hospital ships, ambulances, motorcars, flotillas, horses, food and clothes. The Imperial Service troops of all the twenty-seven states in India were placed at the disposal of the Viceroy. Sir Pertab Singh (1845-1922), Regent of Jodhpur and a favourite of Victoria, Queen of England (1819-1901), threatened to go on a hunger-strike if he were not allowed to go and fight. Kapurthala was one of the first states to pledge its resources while the Maharajah of Bikanir, offering 25,000 men, noted: “I and my troops are ready to go at once to any place either in Europe or in India or wherever”. Indeed, the native princes vied with each other to serve at the front, and on 9 September 1914, when the names of those selected by the Viceroy for service in Europe – the chiefs of Bikanir, Patiala, Coochbehar, Jodhpur, Rutlam and Kishengarh, among others – were announced, it caused a sensation in the House of Commons.

Vast sums of money flowed in from native princes according to their wealth, from a contribution of Rs 50 lakhs from the Maharajah of Mysore to Rs 5 lakhs from the Maharajah Gaekwar of Baroda (1863-1939) for the purchase of aeroplanes for the Royal Flying Corps. There were also interest-free loans such as the offer of Rs 50 lakhs from Gwalior. In addition to cash contributions, there were specific gift items, from clothes, food grains and objects of daily use such as lotas(brass drinking-vessels) to religious items: the Begum of Bhopal sent 500 copies of the Koran and 1,487 copies of religious tracts for the Muslim soldiers. The Maharajah of Patiala similarly sent Romals (covers spread on the Granth) and Chanani to the Sikh prisoners in Germany. He also offered a flotilla of motorcars for use in Mesopotamia. The munificence of the princes was duplicated by smaller landowners and chieftains: the Thakur of Bagli thus contributed Rs 4000 for the comforts of the Indian troops in East Africa, Mesopotamia and Egypt: “Socks, shirts, mufflers, waistcoats, cardigan jackets...tobacco, cigarettes, chocolates”.
12What was the Battle of Neuve Chapelle?
THE BATTLE OF NEUVE-CHAPELLE (10-13 MARCH 1915) The Battle of Neuve-Chapelle was the first major attack launched by the British Army, recently emerged from the rigours of winter in the trenches and reinforced with fresh troops, since the beginning of the war.

In the first months of 1915 General Joffre, commander-in-chief of the French Army, wanted to raise the number of troops massed on the Western Front in preparation for an offensive to break through the German line but also to relieve the pressure on Russia. Concerned that life in the trenches was having a disastrous effect on troop morale Joffre's British counterpart, General French, readily agreed. Joffre's plan was to reduce the great German salient, which had been in place since October 1914, by attacking it simultaneously in the north, in Artois, and in the south, in Champagne. In Artois the recapture of the railway network which crossed the Douai Plain would inflict a serious setback on the Germans.

However the reorganization of the British force, tied to the relief of troops at Ypres and the preparations for the Dardanelles operation, encouraged General French to launch an independent attack prior to that of the French in the sector of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette. His initial objective was limited: he intended to take the village of Neuve-Chapelle, which formed a German salient in the British line, and if possible to take Aubers Ridge, a modest but nevertheless important observation post overlooking the plain. French also thought it might well be possible to get behind the German front and threaten the defences of nearby Lille.

On 10 March four divisions, comprising 40,000 men, gathered on a sector of the front which was only three kilometres wide. The infantry attack, scheduled for 7.30 a.m., was preceded by heavy but concentrated shelling from 342 guns, guided by reconnaissance planes of the Royal Flying Corps.

For a duration of thirty-five minutes, the bombardment consumed more shells than the British Army used in the whole of the Boer War fifteen years earlier, a clear example of the growing industrialization of the Great War. A subsequent barrage lasting thirty minutes pounded the second lines. In comparative terms, this bombardment was the largest of its kind prior to the major offensives of 1917.

While the British and the Indian Corps advanced rapidly through the lightly-defended village, the Garhwal Rifles suffered heavy losses as they attacked a part of the German line left untouched by the bombardment. After an initial success, in a matter of hours, the British became paralysed by poor communications and a lack of munitions, and their advance ground to a halt. Bringing in reinforcements from Lille, Crown Prince Rupert of Bavaria launched a counter-attack on 12 March. British soldiers attempting to take Aubers Ridge came up against undamaged barbed wire entanglements and their losses were enormous. Fighting ceased on 13 March with British gains limited to an area two kilometres deep and three kilometres wide for a loss of 7,000 British and 4,200 Indian soldiers, either killed or wounded. The Germans suffered similar losses and 1,700 of their soldiers had been taken prisoner. A breakthrough had been made but could not be exploited. This tragic scenario was repeated throughout the front until the spring of 1918.

General French attributed his failed offensive to a lack of shells for the preliminary bombardments. From that moment on, considerable shelling over several days was carried out prior to any attack despite the fact that it removed the element of surprise. Thanks to such a clear broadcast of intent, the Germans were able to send reinforcements in good time to any sector of the front threatened by an Allied offensive.
13How lethal were the battles?
An example is the THE BATTLE OF CAMBRAI (20 NOVEMBER TO 4 DECEMBER 1917). By the time the fighting had come to a close, on 4 December, the initial and unexpected success of the British Army had deteriorated into a total failure. All the terrain which had been won in the initial stages of the offensive had to be abandoned and the losses, although similar for both sides, were high. The British casualties amounted to 44,000 killed, wounded and lost in action (including 6,000 prisoners) and the Germans 45,000 (including 10,000 prisoners).
1414. The First World War (1914-1918) or The Great War for Civilisation, why was it was known at the time, was a watershed in modern world history?
The events of the conflict changed the social and political map of the world forever. Its repercussions still reverberate through time and many contemporary conflicts trace their roots directly to the fallout of the World War I (WW1). Though a British colony at the time, India actively supported the war in its bid to obtain ‘home rule’. The mainstream political opinion was that if India desired greater responsibility and political autonomy, it must also be willing to share in the burden of Imperial defence. As a result, India contributed immensely to the war effort in terms of both men and material. Indian soldiers served in numerous battlefields around the globe: France, Flanders, Aden, East Africa, Gallipoli, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Persia, Salonica, Russia, and even China. By the end of the war, 1,100,000 Indians had served overseas at the cost of approximately 60,000 lives.

They won over 9,200 gallantry awards, including 11 Victoria Crosses. These figures include those of the Imperial Service troops from the armies of the semi-autonomous Indian Princely States.The Great War had a profound impact on India, both socially and politically. It was for the first time that Indian troops were deployed in Europe and many were greatly influenced by their experiences in western countries. Indian soldiers were warmly received by the people of France and Belgium and their interaction with rural Europeans helped break the carefully constructed barrier of racial supremacy advocated by the colonial authorities in India.

India’s role in the First War has always been downplayed and under-documented for a number of reasons. India did not gain freedom till the Second Great War making the First a distant memory. Since there was no Indian nation yet, any forces sent from the subcontinent tended to be Empire soldiers or soldiers of princely states – both notions making them somewhat less than Indian for later commentators.

The First World War is a relatively unnoticed event in an otherwise historic timeline of Indian events. This colossal effort in the most difficult circumstance is not entirely forgotten nor actively remembered and needs to be portrayed in the correct perspective globally and in India.

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