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Maharaja of Patiala at the frontline (April 1915)

As soon as the war broke out in early August 1914, the British and the French quickly mobilized their respective empires. Soldiers and labourers from all over the world soon found themselves on the Western Front.

More than 30 different nationalities were engaged in the Ypres Salient. There was a British Indian infantry division composed of three brigades with four battalions that quickly grew to five battalions after the battle of Neuve-Chapelle in April 1915.

Undoubtedly the British forces were composed of soldiers of the world’s greatest ever empire in 1914. Firstly, there were the Dominions; Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in addition to the crown colonies of Newfoundland and, of course, our main subject today - the Sikhs from British India.

It is now quite obvious that even though they were united in a common cause, a uniform sense of nation was, at the time and even up to the partition of India, blatantly absent.

The then troops of the British Indian army or the British Indian Labour Corps came from, what is today, the countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma and Nepal.

Even some smaller constituent parts of the British Empire sent their sons to Flanders’ fields, Egypt (Egyptian Labour Corps), BWI (the Caribbean and mainly Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados) and Bermuda, the Fiji Islands (Fijian Labour Corps). Then again, the British army counted white Rhodesians amongst its ranks. .....More