THEATERS

  • France and Flanders

    With Britain entering the War on 4 August 1914, the Indian army was soon drafted to fight in the battlefields of France and Flanders on 26 September: this being the first time that Indian soldiers were deployed in Europe. Sir James Willcocks, who later wrote about his experiences in the famous account ‘With the Indians in France’, headed the Indian Corps comprising initially of the Lahore and Meerut Divisions. Indian troops fought in the First Battle of Ypres in Flanders where the bravery of Sepoy Khudadad Khan earned him the prestigious Victoria Cross, making him the first Indian to receive this honour.

    The Indian Corps also fought in the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Passchendaele, the Second Battle of Ypres and in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle where they provided half the attacking force for the British. Fighting in unfamiliar conditions, Indian troops suffered great casualties, particularly in the Battle of Loos. However, as evident from the number of Indian soldiers who went on to receive the Victoria Cross, the Order of British India, the Indian Order of Merit and the Indian Distinguished Service Medal, these men acquitted themselves with valour and honour. The last Indian troops remained in France until March 1918, when they were transferred to Palestine to fight the Turks.

  • Gallipoli

    The first Indian troops involved in the initial landings on the Gallipoli peninsula in April 1915 were the 21st Kohat Mountain Battery and the 26th Jacob’s Mountain Battery. Although the landing was met with heavy firing and fierce counter-attack from the Turks, many Indian soldiers were recognised for their gallantry and won medals and distinction. In May 1915, the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade arrived on the peninsula, comprising 14th King George’s Own Ferozepore Sikhs, 89th Punjabis, 1/5 Royal Gurkha Rifles (FF), and 1/6 and 2/10 Gurkha Rifles. On 4 June 1915, the 14th Sikhs comprising 15 British Officers, 14 Indian Officers, and 514 men, moved out to attack and capture Turkish trenches.

    They held on to the trenches, suffering heavy losses until they were relieved next morning. On the morning of 5 June 1915, only 3 British Officers, 3 Indian Officers, and 134 men were left. The 14th Sikhs won great glory in this advance and several soldiers won the Indian Distinguished Service Medal. In the attack on Sari Bair, the Indian Infantry and Artillery were entrusted with the task of storming Chunuk Bair. The Indian troops were the only ones to reach the crest of the Chunuk Bair.

    The performance of the 14th Sikhs in the assault of Koja Chaman Tepe, which they failed to reach, was described by General Birdwood as “a feat which is without parallel”. Though no decisive result was obtained and the Allies had no substantial gains from the Gallipoli campaign, the Indian troops, including the Medical Services, displayed great bravery and courage in the rest of the operations on the peninsula and several were granted the Indian Order of Merit.

  • Mesopotamia

    The Mesopotamian campaign was largely an Indian campaign and saw deployment of the largest Indian army force abroad. The 16th Infantry Brigade of the 6th (Poona) Division was sent from Bombay for the Mesopotamia campaign, under General Sir Arthur Barrett, when War was declared with Turkey in November 1914. A series of successes followed, including capture of the port of Fao; dislodging of the Turks at Sahil; capture of Basra, which was a major step in protecting oilfields and refineries; storming of Shaiba-Barjisiyah; and the submission of Khafajiyah, Amara, and Nasariyah.

    The campaign experienced a setback at the Battle of Ctesiphon and the Indian troops retreated to Kut-al-Amara, where General Townshend decided to hold the position instead of marching downriver towards Basra and thus, began the siege of Kut. Several unsuccessful attempts to lift the siege resulted in the Battle of Sheikh Sa’ad, Battle of Wadi, Battle of Hanna, and the relief attempt by General George Gorringe, usually referred to as the First Battle of Kut. After one of the worst defeats that the British Army had suffered till then, forces were built and logistics were reorganised and strengthened and Kut, Baghdad, and Mosul were subsequently secured.

  • Egypt and Palestine

    Indian soldiers of the Sirhind Brigade were part of the first troops providing the defence of the Suez Canal. Troops from the Imperial Service Troops, which comprised men from the armies of the Indian states, were part of the Indian effort in Egypt, alongside the 10th and 11th Indian Division, the Bikaner Camel Corps and three batteries of mountain artillery. By 1917, Indian troops were a significant part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. On 23 September 1918, the 15th Imperial Service Brigade comprising of the Mysore and Jodhpur Lancers undertook one of the most famous cavalry actions in the Great War and recaptured the city of Haifa in Palestine. This day is commemorated by the Indian Army each year as ‘Haifa day’ to honour this famous charge.

  • East Africa

    Initial attempts at attacking German East Africa were foiled, until the arrival of the 129th Baluchis and the 40th Pathans who were placed under the command of General Smuts of South Africa. The forces gradually occupied important points on the coast and pushed the Germans back from Dar-es-Salaam, with engineers including the Faridkot Field Company building roads and bridges behind the advance. The advance speeded up to secure the port of Kilwa, eventually forcing the Germans, commanded by General von Lettow-Vorbeck to retreat.

  • About Us

    The Joint USI-MEA Centenary Commemoration project highlights the oft-forgotten role of India in the First World War and commemorates those soldiers who served during the War. The project is aimed at exploring India’s engagement in the war from a variety of perspectives.
    Read More

  • Project Partners

  • CONTACT US

    The United Service Institution of India
    Rao Tula Ram Marg (Opposite Signals Enclave)
    Post Bag No 8, Vasant Vihar PO, New Delhi - 110 057

    Ph: +91-11-26147464
    E-Mail: cafhr@usiofindia.org