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20 Little Known Facts about India’s Contribution to World War I

India’s military might is today well-known and highly respected throughout the world but this is only a recent development. However, Indian Army has existed for long before that. Most of us probably don’t even know that Indian Army served during World War I and was one of the most significant forces in terms of gallantry and numbers. But why are we Indians not much aware of this? That’s because Europeans (and even Americans) have a history of taking all credits and push the world into believing that they did all the fighting. So, if you are wondering about India’s contribution to World War I, here is a list of 20 little known facts about the same:

Little Known Facts about India’s Contribution to World War I: 1-10

1. India was the largest contributor of soldiers to the British Empire. According to Wikipedia, about 800,000 soldiers fought for the British Empire. Total contribution from India was more than combined contribution of South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

2. Indian troops were present in all major war theaters including Europe’s Western Front to Africa. They even fought in China.

3. At the end of the war, 62,000 Indian soldiers were killed in action and another 67,000 were wounded. However, the overall casualties were greater because many Indian soldiers died of illness and because of extreme cold conditions in some of the Western fronts. The total casualties on Indian side because of combined reasons stood to 74,187.

4. Nearly 4,000 Indian soldiers went missing after the war. Most probably they either died in action (and were not accounted for) or they were taken captive by the enemy.

5. Nearly 700,000 Indian soldiers were mobilized against the formidable Ottoman Empire in Mesopotamia. This turned out to be the bloodiest battle for Indian troops with over 30,000 casualties and more than 32,000 wounded in combat.

6. The bone chilling winters of France was a whole new challenge for Indian soldiers. Not accustomed to such extremely cold weather conditions, nearly 9,000 Indian soldiers succumbed to death because of the fierce winter.

7. While the common Indian soldiers were involved on several war theaters, even Indian royalty was involved in Britain’s war efforts. Bhupinder Singh – Maharaja of Patiala participated in Gallipoli Campaign. Maharaja Sir Ganga Singh (Maharaja of Bikaner) was the commander of Bikaner Camel Corps that fought in Palestine, Egypt and France.

8. India significantly contributed to war efforts by supplying 600,000 machine guns, motors and rifles. In addition, 70,000,000 small arms ammunition rounds were also supplied from India.

9. Not just armed soldiers, India also offered over 43,000 for Indian Labor Corps. These non-combatants were tasked with work like handling supplies, quarrying, carpentry, road development etc. To narrow it down, they were tasked with every other work other than fighting.

10. Not just men and material, India also supplied enormous amounts of wealth to aid British Empire. About 100 million pounds of wealth was contributed from Indian subcontinent.

Little Known Facts about India’s Contribution to World War I: 11-20

11. India’s Army Clothing Department, during the 4-year period of the war, churned out 41,920,223 garments that were used not just by Indian troops but also by troops from other countries that fought for British Empire.

12. In total, India contributed 1,302,394 personnel (including both combatants and non-combatants), 369.1 million tons of total war supplies and 172,815 animals for aiding the British Empire during the World War I.

13. In today’s context, the total value of India’s contribution towards WWI was ₹ 7,420,800,000.00. Back in those days the total contribution was worth 80,000,000 British Pounds.

14. During the war, Indian troops displayed unmatched gallantry because of which, many Indian soldiers were give Victoria Cross. Prior to 1911, no Indians were eligible for Victoria Cross. Rather, they were given Indian Order of Merit.

15. The first Indian soldier to earn Victoria Cross was sepoy Khudadad Khan. Darwan Singh Negi was the second soldier to receive the Victoria Cross.

16. In total Indian soldiers won 11 Victoria Cross awards. Victoria Cross is the highest military award in Great Britain. In total, Indians won 13,000 medals for their gallantry during WWI.

17. Even after the end of WWI, the Indian forces continued to stay engaged in military conflicts. The most notable ones were Third Afghan War and Waziristan Campaign. These engagements continued until the outbreak of World War II.

18. Not just men, even women were deployed in Imperial service during WWI. Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS) actually originated in Indian Army.

19. At the beginning of the war in 1914, a total of 300 Indian nurses served in QAIMNS and by the time the war ended, the numbers went up to 10,404 (including nurses from India and other countries). A total of 200 nurses died while being on active service. Many of these nurses who lost their lives were Indians.

20. The India Gate located in New Delhi was built in year 1931. It was built for commemorating those Indian soldiers who lost their lives in action during WWI.

Sources: 1, 2, 3

All Images: Credit (Public Domain)