By Lt Col Jimmy Passan,
(South Australian Indian Defence Veterans Association) Incorporated
It is an irony that God and Soldiers are remembered when they are needed the most and often forgotten when the need disappears. This fact was reinstated and proved after the culmination of Gallipoli Campaign for India. While India under the British Colonial rule could not write its own history by stating facts and figures, the history has its own special and subtle way to rewrite and repeat itself in front of the new World.
On the Anzac Day, through acknowledgement of the valour and sacrifices of the Indian Soldiers by historians of all Nations and Countries we have established beyond any element of doubt that the contribution of India was truly huge albeit unacknowledged a few years back. This has been a giant step forward in making the wider Australian Community come face to face with our joint history.
Anzac Day 2015 was the first day of recognition and remembrance of the valour and sacrifices of Indian forces as part of Allied Forces in South Australia, the records of which could not be traced except around 15000 forgotten soldiers who took part in Gallipoli Campaign till now, due to Partition of India and lack of information at home keeping the war stories under the wrap.
The casualties at Gallipoli as per historical records available are almost 1,400 Indians died at Gallipoli and up to 3,500 were wounded. The new statistics has stated now that out of 16000 involved 4100 were wounded and/or died with 2500 wounded and 1600 died.
These were chosen soldiers from elite units catering the demands of the geographical, physical and mental robustness of the soldiers needed at the time. The Indian contribution through British Colonial rule was by 29 Indian Infantry Brigade along with 7 mountain artillery brigade and associated support forces such as field ambulance section, ordnance field park, supply section, post office and the mule transport, the only option of transport available to tow the mountain guns. While the accounts of Heroism and sacrifice of Sikhs in the Third Battle of Krithia and Gorkha soldiers in the climactic Battle of Sari Bair were unparalleled, the sacrifices of supporting units were second to none in face of innumerable challenges, sharing the travails and vicissitudes of Anzac Forces in equal measure.
Napoleon said “The Army Marches on its stomach” and it was very much proved beyond doubt that the logistics provided in those circumstances were beyond imagination in terms of not only proving as a sustainable lifeline resource to help and sustain the Anzac and Allied Forces but also for extricating Anzac forces by sticking till the last to project the false front and confuse the enemy.
It is an inspiring and moving sight to see the people of different nationalities come together during the Anzac day from Youth Vigils to Dawn service and Anzac March with great enthusiasm to pay homage to their fallen heroes. It is also truly mesmerising for us veterans and descendants brought up after the era of wars to understand how memories of wars, fought together by strange mates brought from diverse continents with different languages, cultures and nationalities coming together at a place of significance, who could fight as one with singular determination of common goals; fade so easily in a better set up of peaceful coexistence of countries where we have more to offer to each other.
While the memories of our Fallen Heroes faded over time, we have been able to reclaim the history and legacy which was truly ours through our Anzac Veterans, Descendants of our Martyrs, Historians like Sqn Ldr Rana TS Chhina (Retd) and Prof Peter Stanley and other innumerable personalities who persistently and patiently kept on bringing the truth of supreme sacrifices of our unsung heroes to light and retrace our footsteps from the annals of History.
We are also thankful to Veterans’ Affairs Minister Honourable Martin Hamilton-Smith, Former Chair RSL (Returned Services League) Australian Day Committee SA Col Bill Denny and existing Chair Ian Smith, RSL SA President Brigadier Tim Hanna, AM along with Maj Gen Vikram Madan, VSM** for this opportunity to rejoice and remember the contribution of Indian Forces during Gallipoli campaign
It’s a truly amazing living the centenary experience and being part of the commemorations. The Gallipoli Campaign is an indelible part of our history and recapitulation of role of forgotten soldiers and resurrection of their memory is a glowing and sterling tribute to their valour and sacrifice. The March was undertaken by Veterans Capt Pradeep Bhardwaj, Public Officer, and Commander Subroto Ghosh, Treasurer and his Daughter Vaishali, Descendant Job Samuel and his son, Descendant Davinder Singh in the city and Vice President Dr Col Shiva Shankar and Dr Col Anupama Shankar took part in Port Augusta with their Community. I extend my special heartfelt gratitude to all the Veterans and Descendents for their support.
We salute Anzac spirit of mate ship and courage of our soldiers who fought with distinction in spite of insurmountable odds and acknowledge the services of all their family members. We salute the collective efforts of Anzac Forces and the Allies who fought with valour and sacrificed their lives for the honour and dignity of their Nations in pursuit to achieve a common goal for Anzacs and Allied Forces.
Lest We Forget!