The UK Armed Forces, represented by aviators from the RAF and personnel from the Army and the Civil Service took part in a memorial service at the Chattri, Patcham Downs in Brighton on Sunday 12 June, to remember the fallen Hindu and Sikh soldiers of World War I from India.
During the First World War injured Indian soldiers were hospitalised in the Royal Pavilion, Dome and Corn Exchange. The Royal Pavilion was the first Indian hospital to open in Brighton. The fifty-three Hindu and Sikh soldiers who succumbed to their injuries were cremated on the Downs and, in 1921, the Chattri memorial was constructed on the cremation site. It was unveiled by the Prince of Wales on 21 February 1921.
This year saw the first organised memorial service at the Chattri since the relaxation of COVID lockdowns, a poignant reminder of those who sacrificed their lives during the First World War. The memorial service was attended by over five hundred people, and included local dignitaries, the Indian High Commissioner, Lord Singh, Mayors of Brighton and Hove. Also in attendance were members of the UK Armed Forces and the general public.
Taking a central part of the service, the UK Armed Forces, and Defence Sikh Network laid wreaths at the Chattri site.
"Being a first-generation Indian serving in the Royal Air Force, it was a great honour to be at the Chattri Memorial commemorating the fallen soldiers of British Indian Armed Forces. It reminded me of my great Ancestors sacrifices.
Attending the service made me emotional thinking about the hardships they faced during the First World War: separated from family, being in a foreign land and in the line of fire."
It was a humble reminder of Indian soldiers' sacrifice and Service for their King-Emperor during the Great War. It was a privilege to be joined by my wife and son this year and it was great to see so many other younger generations coming forward to pay their respects and demonstrate that our forefathers’ place in history has not been forgotten."
Flying Officer Saini
"It was an honour to lay a wreath alongside my Army and RAF colleagues, paying our respects to the Indian soldiers who lost their lives during the First World War. It was especially poignant that I was able to do so in the presence of some World War II veterans who attended the service. As a British Sikh, serving in UK Defence – it is critical that we continue to advocate for diversity and inclusion, and I feel so proud that our armed forces actively encourage us to do so.
It is important that we remember the service and sacrifice of all our veterans. They gave their todays for our tomorrow."