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Never forgotten

The Centre’s decision to commemorate the contributions of the Indian Army during World War I, under the aegis of the British Empire, has been long overdue. The year 2014 marked the centenary of the commencement of WW1, fought from July 28 1914 till November 11 1918.  From March 10 to 14 this year, however, there will be a grand exhibition at the sprawling Manekshaw Centre in the national capital, set up to pay tribute to the 1.5 million Indian troops on the rolls of the Indian Army, who played a decisive part in the Allied effort against the Axis forces. Although there are memorials to the Indian Army in France, Belgium, United Kingdom and Egypt, it was the British made the All India War Memorial, now India Gate, located on Rajpath, which has names of 74,187 Indian soldiers, who died in World War I and elsewhere between 1914 and 1919 inscribed on the memorial arch. The Indian government, however, had made no effort to commemorate their sacrifice. This wrong has now been corrected. The significance of this commemoration, though, stands on certain facts. The Indian Corps, according to Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Commander of Allied forces in France in WW 1, were instrumental in taking the first steps towards final victory. For their efforts, 13,000 medals for gallantry, including 12 Victoria Crosses, were awarded to the Indian Corps that took part in the historic battle of Neuve Chapelle and the gruelling Axis offensive in Langemarck,  besides other key battles. The defining consequence of WW1, however, was that it paved the way for the organisational development of the Indian Army, with the ‘Indianisation’ of its officer corps, besides the formation of the Indian Air Force.
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