A PERMANENT memorial should be erected in Scotland to commemorate the ‘forgotten soldiers’ from the British Indian Army.
The call came as a multi-faith remembrance service was held today at Kingussie cemetery for Second World War soldiers from Force K6 who are buried there.
The event – the first of its type in Scotland – featured an Islamic prayer and an Armed Forces blessing, with a wreath laid to remember the contributions of all British Indian soldiers and a two-minute silence.
Senior representatives of the Armed Forces were in attendance, along with Legion Scotland, the Armed Forces Muslim Association, Pakistan Consul Muhammad Rumman Ahmad, members of the local Kingussie community and school, event organisers from Colourful Heritage, and Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and Christian groups.
Thirteen WW2 soldiers from the British Indian Army died in Scotland while training in harsh conditions with British troops, after being evacuated from Dunkirk. Nine are buried at Kingussie, which is the single largest graveyard in the UK where Force K6 soldiers are laid to rest. Others are buried in Aberdeenshire, Sutherland, and Banffshire.
But there is no permanent memorial in Scotland to commemorate their sacrifice, or the service of all Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus who fought for Britain in both world wars. Over 160,000 soldiers from the British Indian Army died in the wars.
The Glasgow-based Colourful Heritage initiative wants to erect a permanent memorial in Scotland.
Anas Sarwar MSP, chair of the Cross-Party Group on Tackling Islamophobia, said:
“As we mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, it is fitting to recognise the historic contribution of soldiers from the British Indian Army.
“They are Britain’s forgotten soldiers: thousands of young men from different faiths who travelled halfway around the world, with many making the ultimate sacrifice.
“Our country has a diverse history, and we must do more to recognise that and give people a sense of belonging. I support calls for a permanent memorial in Scotland to the soldiers from the British Indian Army.
“It would serve as a reminder for generations to come, and show children living here in Scotland whose ancestors are from India or Pakistan that they too have a stake in our country’s history and values.”
Claire Armstrong, Legion Scotland operations manager, said:
“To commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War, Legion Scotland, along with Poppyscotland and the Royal British Legion, has been leading a national movement to say ‘thank you’ to the generation who served, sacrificed and changed our world.
“The Commonwealth answered the call with volunteers from far and wide including pre-partition India, the Caribbean and Africa, all of whom make up a vibrant part of our culture today. Their immense contribution cannot be understated, and we welcome the calls for permanent memorial to the soldiers of the British Indian Army in Scotland.”
Omar Shaikh, founder of Colourful Heritage, said:
“It is critical for a community to preserve its heritage so future generations know of its contributions. For the South Asian community, the role of the British Indian Army is central to this. For too long the contributions of BME soldiers in both world wars have not been sufficiently remembered. I am glad that Colourful Heritage is leading this effort in Scotland and, working together with the Armed Forces and Glasgow Museums, this story can now be told which is so important in the current climate of ‘anti-migrant’ narratives.
“So if anyone ever asks ‘what did people from Pakistan, India and Bangladeshis ever do for Britain?’ you can tell them – 4million soldiers and over £78billion contributed to defending Britain in World War One and World War Two.”
Early during the Second World War, an urgent call was made to the Indian empire – then the joint Indian and Pakistan subcontinents – for troop companies to come to France to help the allies.
Force K6 Mule Transport Corps arrived in Marseilles in December 1939 to join the war effort, and the regiment was later evacuated out of Dunkirk. They spent the next three and a half years in the UK, and were moved to Scotland to train with British infantry brigades.
Some of the young soldiers died while training in harsh conditions in rural Scotland and are buried here. They were primarily from the Punjab region and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa in present-day Pakistan.
The British Indian Army contributed 1.5million servicemen in the First World War. A total of 74,000 died and up to 100,000 were injured. In the Second World War, there were 2.5million servicemen – 87,000 died and up to 150,000 were injured. The soldiers were Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Gurkhas, and Indian Christians. They provided supplies of £479million in WW1 (c£25billion in today’s money) and £1.3billion in WW2 (c.£53billion in today’s money).
The 13 soldiers buried in Scotland mainly died from accidents on exercise, Tuberculosis, or other illnesses.
ALI BAHADUR, age 38.
BARI SHER, age 37.
DADAN KHAN, age 22.
FAZL ALI, age 25.
KHAN MUHAMMAD, age 32.
KHUSHI MUHAMM, age 35.
MUHAMMAD, age 29.
MUHAMMAD SADIQ, age 29.
MUSHTAQ AHMAD, age 21.
Aberdeen (Allenvale) Cemetery:
MIR ZAMAN, age 22.
Dornoch (Proncynain) Cemetery:
ABDUL RAKHMAN, age 37.
GHULAM NABI, age 24.
Grange Cemetery, Banffshire:
KARAM DAD, age 29.