Over thirteen million Indian men were transferred overseas to fight alongside the British Army at the beginning of World War I in 1914. Around 75,000 of them never came home, having been killed in the war on distant battlefields. The meticulously-researched one-hour documentary ‘India’s Forgotten Army analyses India's role in the first global conflict using rare archival videos, first-person accounts, and expert testimony.

Reviving the long-forgotten sacrifice

The documentary also acknowledges and records the sacrifices of tens of thousands of Indian families. It is restoring India's unsung heroes to their deserved and magnificent position in history. ‘India's Forgotten Army’ was aired on Independence Day on HistoryTV18, and was an attempt to find and document the valor and sacrifice of Indian troops who were transferred to other shores to live and fight under appalling conditions.

By the time the guns fell silent near the end of 1918, the First World War had been raging for nearly five years. It became known as The Great War, sometimes regarded as "the war to end all wars." It had wreaked such widespread destruction that most people believed humanity would never want to go to war again. On both sides, millions of soldiers of various nationalities fought and died. However, very little is known about the Indian soldiers stationed all around the world. 

At the time, the leaders of India's independence movement felt that sending our troops to support the British war effort would make it possible for India to achieve more autonomy. Those hopes, however, proved to be futile. Instead, imperial Britain refused India proper acknowledgment for her contribution to the victory. The men were forgotten and their tremendous sacrifices were lost to time and history. 

Indian Member of Parliament and former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Shashi Tharoor, says in the film, “No country lost as many people from any colony in the Empire, as we did and yet, I’m sorry to say, it was given very little attention. Indians sacrificed an enormous amount, and some of their letters, all of which were censored, are deeply moving.”

The film also incorporates first-person testimonies to tell the story of the battle and the conditions that Indian soldiers suffered, as recounted in letters that they wrote to their families more than a century ago. Viewers will also hear from descendants of individuals who participated in World War I, as well as prominent figures. The documentary transports viewers to battlegrounds, memorials, and war archives all over the world, bringing together military experts and historians to uncover hidden facts and retell lost stories. The contribution of Sikh soldiers in WWI is recognised globally The documentary is based on Rana T.S. Chhina's book, World War Sikh: Memoirs Of An Indian Cavalryman 1913-45.


*Based on an article in The Statesman, published on 12th August 2020

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