UK Government

Commonwealth War Graves Commission (National): War Graves Commission honours the fallen of India

Press Release   •   Sep 07, 2010 12:32 BST

At midday on Sunday 26 September, a new war memorial, built by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, will be unveiled in Sussex, paying tribute to some of the one and half million Indian soldiers who fought for the British Empire during the First World War.

Over the past few months, the Commission's stonemasons have built a new memorial, which bears the names of 53 Indian soldiers who died during the Great War.  This new memorial stands a few metres from the existing Patcham Down Indian Forces Cremation Memorial, often referred to as the Brighton Chattri.

The Chattri Memorial, which stands on the Sussex Downs overlooking Brighton, commemorates all those Indian soldiers who fought during the First World War and was built on the site where Hindu and Sikh soldiers, who died following hospitalisation in Brighton, were cremated. Unveiled in 1921, a memorial service has been held there every year since.

Among the guests attending the unveiling ceremony, which is open to the public, will be the Director-General of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Richard Kellaway;  His Excellency The High Commissioner of India to the UK, Nalin Surie; representatives of the British Indian community and veterans from the Undivided Indian Ex-services Association and the Royal British Legion.

The unveiling of the new memorial is being filmed as part of a new education resource being prepared by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which examines the often overlooked contribution of servicemen and women from India during the two world wars.  This education pack will be released in October 2010.

Ends.

For further information, please contact the Commission's PR & Media Manager Ranald Leask on 01628 507204 or 07887 860541 or ranald.leask@cwgc.org

Notes for Editors

1. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is responsible for marking and maintaining the graves of those members of the Commonwealth forces who died during the two world wars; for building and maintaining memorials to the dead whose graves are unknown and for providing records and registers of these 1.7 million burials and commemorations found in most countries throughout the world. For more information visit www.cwgc.org

2.  High quality photographs of workmen installing the new memorial can be downloaded here:www.flickr.com/photos/cwgc Broadcasters can request HD footage of the installation by e-mailing ranald.leask@cwgc.org Radio interviews with a Commission spokesman can be conducted via the Commission's in-house ISDN line.

3.  Media planning to attend the unveiling on 26 September should note the event begins at 12 noon.  Vehicles, which are not usually able to park near the Memorial, will be able to do so for this event.

If coming into Brighton via the M23/A23 from London you will find there is a roundabout at the end of this dual carriageway, on the outskirts of Brighton Junction of the A23 and A27). At this point keep in the left-hand lanes (signposted towards Lewes). Proceed up the curving slip road, getting into the middle lane - to the mini roundabout at the top: go straight over, crossing over the Brighton by-pass (A27) to another mini roundabout, again cross straight over into Braypool Lane (the Chattri is signposted here) - bear right up the minor road for 50 yards or so then left up the lane for 400 yards then into the field where indicated and follow the track to the Chattri.

If you are coming from Brighton you go to the same roundabout as mentioned above (Junction of A23 and A27), bear right here up slip road and straight over two mini roundabouts into Braypool Lane, then right up the hill for 50 yards, left turn up the lane then into the field where indicated and follow the track to the Chattri.

4.  History of the Patcham Down Indian Forces Cremation Memorial.

In 1914, the Mayor and Corporation of Brighton offered the use of Brighton Pavilion to the War Office, apparently believing that the flamboyant Indo-Saracenic building would provide familiar surroundings to recovering Indian soldiers. In December 1914, 345 injured soldiers were transported to Brighton by train. The King and Queen, Mayor of Brighton, Chief Constable of Brighton and other dignitaries visited frequently, and careful arrangements were made at the Royal Pavilion to provide for the different dietary and other cultural requirements of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims.

Although the great majority of soldiers recovered from their injuries, some died. The 21 Muslim men who died were taken to the Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking, Surrey, and buried in accordance with Islamic tradition in a new cemetery. The bodies of 53 Hindus and Sikhs were taken to a remote location high on the South Downs above Brighton, where a ghat (funeral pyre) was built so they could be cremated and their ashes scattered in the English Channel. This funeral rite was again carried out in line with religious custom. In total, 18 men who were treated at the Royal Pavilion died, ten of whom were cremated on the ghat. (The 56 other victims died at the Kitchener Hospital-now Brighton General Hospital-or a temporarily converted school at York Place.)

In August 1915, a lieutenant in the Indian Medical Service and the Mayor of Brighton, Sir John Otter, planned the establishment of a memorial to the soldiers who had died in Brighton. Lt Das Gupta made the proposal, but Otter took on the project almost single-handedly; after leaving his position as Mayor he chaired Brighton's Indian Memorials Committee. In December 1915 he made a proposal to the India Office for a memorial on the ghat site. In July of that year, the land on which the ghat stood, and the immediate area around it, was transferred from the Marquess of Abergavenny to the ownership of Brighton County Borough. At the same time, the India Office agreed to share the cost of building and erecting the memorial with Brighton Corporation (the forerunner of the present Brighton and Hove City Council).

Funds were raised during 1917. After delays caused by the need to dedicate all available resources to the war effort, in April 1918 a Manchester-based building firm was awarded the contract to build the Memorial. The main building material was marble; its arrival from Sicily was delayed by more than a year, but building work started in mid-1920.

A young Indian architect, E.C. Henriques, designed The Memorial, which is sometimes known as The Brighton Chattri; Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob, an English architect who was responsible for many buildings in India and who helped pioneer the Indo-Saracenic architectural style, provided guidance. Construction work started in August 1920 and continued until the end of that year. Brighton Corporation owned the memorial and took responsibility for its maintenance and a cottage was provided nearby for a caretaker. This added £1,117 (£33.3 thousand as of 2010) to the final cost of £4,964 (£148 thousand as of 2010).

The Memorial was unveiled on 1 February 1921 by Edward, Prince of Wales.

Contacts

NDS Enquiries 
Phone: For enquiries please contact the above department 
ndsenquiries@coi.gsi.gov.uk