‘For King And Another Country’ book launch
For King and Another Country. Indian Soldiers on the Western Front 1914-18 is a new book written by highly acclaimed author Shrabani Basu.
I was fortunate to be invited to attend the UK book launch in West London on Thursday evening 5th November. One of my interests is the contribution of the British Indian Army in World War 1, so I was excited about attending and reading the book.
Shrabani has researched and described some of the details of the 1.5 million Indian soldiers who took part in The Great War. 400,000 of these soldiers were Muslims.
Many are unaware of the massive scale of the British Indian Army.
Troops in WW1. (ICM Research/British Future)
Many were transported to the cold, wet, dark trenches of the Western Front in Europe to face the German opposition. Stories in the book focus on Muslim, Sikh and Hindu personalities and their journeys. We have to remember the followers of these religions fought together at the time under British rule.
Several British historians have told me the result of the World Wars would have been very different had it not been for the Indian Subcontinent soldiers. However the general silence on their brave assistance did not do them justice. I strongly feel they should be remembered for what they achieved and not remain ‘forgotten’.
Three soldiers from present day Pakistan were awarded the prestigious Victory Crosses for exceptional bravery in the face of enemy, Khudadad Khan, Mir Dast and Shahamad Khan. The histories of the first two are detailed in the book.
My ancestral village Dulmial, in The Salt Range is honoured in the book as providing a record 460 soldiers for WW1. This is the largest figure for any South Asian village. It was rewarded with a British 12 pounder cannon in 1925 and it remains in pristine condition. The cannon attracts many tourists from all around the world.
Numerous other villages in present day Pakistan played their part in WW1, many have memorial plaques placed in prominent places that are still visible today.
I congratulate Shrabani Basu for her thoroughly researched work presenting some interesting tales from a century ago. Her book has highlighted the significant role of the British Indian Army in WW1.
She tells the stories of the feelings of the soldiers taken over to a foreign land to fight, not knowing whether they would return home. How they adjusted to the environment with regards to diet, clothing and customs. The lives of a diverse variety of people are told ranging from cleaners, soldiers, airmen to Maharajas.
33rd Punjabis Regiment, Delhi Durbar 1911
Several examples of bonds building between the Asians and Europeans are given. Also scattered with some discrimination by the authorities.
The soldiers who were injured were transferred to segregated hospitals in England, for the deceased funerals and burial were arranged.
For those interested in the pre-partition Great War history of Indian soldiers this book is a highly recommended text.