Michael Bully writes:
The construction on the India Gate, the south entrance to the Royal Pavilion, was sponsored by the people of India to acknowledge the care that was shown to Indian soldiers nursed in Brighton during the Great War.
On 26 October 1921, his highness the Maharajah of Patiala, unveiled this new gateway: The inscription reads
"This gateway is the gift of India in commemoration of her sons who, stricken in the Great War, were tended in Pavilion in 1914 and 1915. Dedicated to the use of the inhabitants of Brighton, B.S. Southall, Mayor."
On the Sunday nearest to the seventieth anniversary, 23 October 2011, a short commemoration was held. Wreaths were laid by:
- Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Peter Field
- The High Sheriff of East Sussex, Kathy Gore
- The Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Council Anne Meadows
- Jamal Singh Dhatt, on behalf of his late grandfather, Manta Singh who died of wounds in the Kitchener Hospital, Brighton 1915
- Mrs Lennie Brookes on behalf of the Royal British Legion, Brighton and Hove branch
- Bert Williams of the Chattri Memorial Group.
Unfortunately a road accident on the A23 prevented representatives of the High Commissioner of India, Minister Rajasehar and Military Attaché Brigadier Handa, along with Major Havildar Major Raijnder Singh Dhatt, the Chairman of the Undivided India Ex-Services Association, from attending.
The event was also widely advertised as part of Brighton and Hove Back History month.
It was a very moving, short, commemoration to honour the fact that at least one and a half million Indian Army Soldiers saw active service whilst fighting for Britain during the Great War. And that some 12,000 Indian wounded were cared for in the Brighton district. 53 Hindu and Sikh soldiers who died here were cremated on the Sussex Downs above Patcham, now a suburb of Brighton. Their religious principles being respected, Muslim soldiers who died whilst having wounds treated in the Brighton area were buried near Shah Jehan Mosque in Woking.
The Chattri Memorial now stands on the cremation site on the Sussex Downs, with an annual memorial service being held there on the second Sunday of June, to remember the 53 Hindu and Sikh soldiers.
As a resident of Hove, it was a welcome opportunity for me to spare some time to pay my respects to the Indian Great War dead. The horrors of the Western Front seemed to be so far away from Brighton on a Sunday afternoon in mild October sunshine. The India Gate, the Chattri Memorial, and now the permanent gallery in the Royal Pavilion dedicated to the Indian wounded of 1914 and 1915, are all poignant reminders of the sacrifice the Indian soldiers made for Britain during the Great War.
May they always be remembered.
I wish to thank The Chattri Memorial group www.chattri.com for supplying photographs and background information for this article.
Article submitted by Michael Bully. Images submitted by Davinder Dhilon of the Chattri Memorial Group.