WW1 Indian Soldiers laid to rest

Over a year ago, an excavation in Richebourg village, 143 miles from Paris led to two human remains from WW1 being discovered. On subsequent analysis, the remains were identified as casualties of an Indian regiment of the 39th Royal Garhwal Rifles. It was an astonishing discovery and further thought-provoking reflection of the important contribution played by Indian soldiers in both World Wars.

The soldiers were buried in France with full military honours at the nearby French Military Cemetery in La Gorgue on 12 November 2017. The curator of the graves, The Office of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWWGC) in collaboration with the French and Indian Governments had decided to hold a ceremony at the Laventie Military Cemetery.

Present at the ceremony included a delegation of the Indian army and bagpipers from the Garhwal Rifles Regimental Pipe band. A Hindu priest chanted prayers in front of the two flag-draped coffins with military personnel standing in respect of the soldiers. The soil from the graves of the soldiers will be taken back to India.

The CWWGC stated that "During World War I, the Garhwal Brigade comprising of 1st/39th and 2nd/39th Royal Garhwal Rifles showed unparalleled bravery in those treacherous trenches of France and Flanders. The Garhwal Brigade earned six Battle Honours and two Victoria Cross in France and Flanders Theatre," the statement said.

Reported on the BBC, the remains were identified by badges found on the bodies of the soldiers. After a century buried in the French mud, the number "39" was still legible when the bodies were found. The number stands for the 39th Royal Garhwal Rifles - an infantry regiment raised during the time of the British Raj. Its history goes back to 1854. The regiment was one of few in the Indian army to have two battalions, and both were sent to Europe with the Garhwal Brigade - part of the 7th (Meerut) Division - in the early part of the World War One where they fought on the Western Front. Later they took part in the Mesopotamia campaign in the Middle East.

The Garhwal Rifles - as they are now called - were incorporated into the Indian army after independence and the regiment was contacted by the French authorities after the remains were found and their origins identified.

Around 1.5 million Indian recruits were involved in WW1 and around 70,000 gave their lives. Of these 4,500 dies in France and Belgium.

A few kilometres away from Laventie, in Neuve Chapelle, a memorial lists the names of many Indian soldiers who died fighting for the British Empire.

Also, check out BBC Story at Indian soldiers laid to rest after French mystery

Photo Credit: BBC.