Multicultural memorial: Remembering Asians who fought in the Great Wars


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GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Indian troops at a gas mask drill

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Indian troops at a gas mask drill

As Remembrance Day has been and gone and people have put their bright red poppies away for another year, what our readers may not know is: more than 3.5million soldiers from the Asian subcontinent fought for Britain in the two conflicts, with tens of thousands killed in action.

The 2.5million men and women who came over to do their bit in World War II became the biggest volunteer force in history.

Secretary general Farooq Murad, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “We need to remind not only the Muslim community but also the general public that the Muslim contribution to the defence of this nation runs deep.”

During World War I, Muslim troops in the Indian Army fought on the Western Front. By the end of the Great War, India had sent more than 1million troops.

More than 47,000 died and 65,000 were wounded.

In World War II, some 2.5million men and women fought for Britain, with 36,092 killed, 64,354 wounded and almost 80,000 taken prisoner.

More than 400,000 Muslim soldiers fought in World War One , yet a recent survey by British Future -a think-tank dedicated to racial integration - has revealed that only 22 per cent of people know of their sacrifice.

CULTURES AND CONFLICT: Over 100,000 Sikhs came to do their bit in the Great Wars

CULTURES AND CONFLICT: Over 100,000 Sikhs came to do their bit in the Great Wars

British Future project co-ordinator Avaes Mohammed has overseen a scheme to educate Birmingham children about the part Muslims from India played in the Great War.

Avaes, assisted by Birmingham historian Jahan Mahmood, gave history lessons to a Muslim group from Lozells and a group of non-Muslims from Kingstanding .

The youngsters then interviewed descendants of soldiers who fought in the war.

The project was one of four across the country that made up “An Unknown And Untold Story – The Muslim Contribution To The First World War”.

At the outbreak of war, the Indian army was 1.3 million strong, with the ranks including 100,000 Sikhs and 800,000 Hindu troops.

Of that massive force, 62,060 were killed in action. They gave their lives at epic battles such as the Somme and Ypres. Hundreds were killed in a gallant, but futile, engagement at Neuve Chappelle.

More than 1,000 of them lost their lives at Gallipoli and nearly 700,000 sepoys fought in Mesopotamia.

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