A quote from a fifth grade social book says, ‘ World War I broke out in 1914. Lakhs of Indians fought with British Army. Thousands were killed’ This seems to summarize India’s contribution to the war.
However a visit to the ‘Entrenched’ exhibition by Rereeti – an NGO that revitalizes museums gave a different perspective to the war situation of 1914. There were some interesting insights.
India’s contribution to WWI:
A report on BBC mentioned that there were 1.3 million soldiers fighting in the war. Indian fought alongside the British in countries such as Germany, Africa,Egypt.. More than 70000 Indian soldiers were killed, nearly 65000 were wounded. Not just soldiers, India also loaned two million cash to Britain, ammunition,food, cloth etc. The soldiers bore the cold, fought in the trenches of Europe, suffered the poisonous gas and were killed in thousands. At Ypres they were the first to stop Germans from advancing further. Letters retrieved then showcase the hardships faced by these unknown Indian soldiers in foreign soil. While some letters written by soldiers to their relatives describe the horrors of war and discourage their friends and family from enlisting in the army, some are painful -reminiscing of open skies and wind swept fields back home.
The exhibition portrays this information sensitively via maps/charts and in the form of insightful dialogues between a grandson and his grandfather. The Indian troops won around 13000 medals and 12 of the soldiers also won the Victoria cross. All these details are depicted here.
Mysore’s contribution to war:
The Mysore State too contributed its share. It loaned nearly one crore, contributed more than 90 lakhs and supplied materials,ammunition and transport. The Mysore Corps sent mules, ponies. The Mysore lancers fought the battle of Haifa at Israel and also at other places like Egypt,Gaza, Suez canal etc. Along with Jodhpur regiment they overthrew the long lasting Ottoman rule in Israel. The exhibition not only sheds light on some of these contributions but also throws light on war memorials in the city – Sapper Memorial, cenotaph, Tipperary at St John’s etc.
Apart from photos and boards there are also tunnels simulating a trench like experience of the battle field. The NGO has partnered with three schools across the city to make the event interactive.
On the whole the event at National Military memorial at Raj Bhavan is a very enriching experience and a must do this weekend.