Representatives from the RAF, Royal Navy, Army and the Civil Service took part in a memorial service to remember the Sikh and Hindu soldiers who were cremated at the Chattri Memorial on the Sussex Downs.
During a period of the First World War, the Royal Pavilion Estate including the Palace and Brighton Dome were converted into military hospitals for the treatment of Indian soldiers injured during combat. From 1914 to 1916, over 2000 soldiers were treated there. For those who succumbed to their injuries and made the ultimate sacrifice, these soldiers were taken to a site one mile north-east of Patcham Village, 500 ft above sea level, where they were cremated in line with their religious traditions.
Now the site is memorialised with the Chattri (umbrella) Monument. Made of marble and standing nearly 9m high, it too celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. A once forgotten monument, the Chattri now stands as a permanent reminder for many who have little knowledge of just how many Indian soldiers had fought and lost their lives in the Great War.
Over 200 people attended the memorial before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, yet dignitaries from the local community, the UK and Indian Armed Forces, and Defence Sikh Network attending this year’s memorial had to be scaled back. Nevertheless, a socially distanced memorial service took place and wreaths were laid by all services.
Diversity is just as key in our Armed Forces now as it was back then and this year; RAF Hindu, Muslim and Christian colleagues laid wreaths, while supported by their families.
"I was honoured to lay a wreath alongside my RAF Hindu, Muslim and Christian colleagues. Many in attendance were supported by their families and this year my mother and my close relatives also supported the event, all of whom also had little idea of what had taken place here. By next summer I hope that we have returned to some sort of normality and all are welcome to join us in paying our respects and ensuring we never forget the sacrifices made by those brave Indian soldiers."
Wing Commander Ghataora