High Commission of India organised at The Arch of Remembrance, Victoria Park, Leicester, an event , marking the centenary of the Labour Corps this year. Titled ‘The Unremembered: The Indian Story’, the High Commission of India joined the project to mark, and to bring a special focus on, the courage and contribution of the Indian Labour Corps. This was a special focus on the Indian contribution to The Unremembered: World War One’s Army of Workers, a community engagement project funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government supporting communities in the UK to discover the history of the Labour Corps in World War One.
Thousands of workers supported the war effort from around the world. Many faced racism and discrimination. They served with courage but they have been almost completely forgotten. They are The Unremembered.
The Unremembered project involves a database of over 5,700 Labour Corps war graves in the UK serves as a map for participants’ remembrance activity. Archive readings, music and history resources are offered as the building blocks for community commemoration.
The High Commission has also funded the production of a new resource pack, The Unremembered: The Indian Story, a dedicated resource pack focusing exclusively on the story of the India’s army of workers. The pack has been created with support from the India Remembers team at CAFHR, USI of India. The High Commission team are also supporting through community engagement, and through other aspects of its organization in India and the UK.
The Indian Labour Corps served in France and Flanders, on the North West Frontier, in Salonika, East Africa, Persia, Egypt and Mesopotamia – more than 11,000 are listed in the Basra archive, for example.
High Commissioner Mr. Y.K. Sinha led the community event in Leicester today, to commemorate the 1,174 Labour Corps men whose names are written in the heart of New Delhi on the India Gate monument.
The architect of India Gate – India’s memorial to 13,281 dead of World War One – was designed by Edwin Lutyens.
It is little known beyond Leicester that Lutyens built an almost identical monument as a local war memorial to 12,000 Leicestershire men who died in World War One using an almost identical design. The memorial – which is called the Arch of Remembrance – is in Leicester’s Victoria Park and will be used to evoke the men commemorated on India Gate.
Following the commemoration, schools and community groups in Leicester will take part in a series of creative and learning activities including creative writing, planting marigolds and visits to the 18 British war graves at Welford Road Cemetery. Welford Road Cemetery served a World War One field hospital.
All present observed a minute of silence remembering those who lost their lives during the Manchester attack recently. High Commissioner Mr. Y. K. Sinha spoke of the need to remember the contributions of Indians in the labour corps that worked behind the scenes during World War I, and offered a wreath of marigolds at the Arch of Remembrance.
Hundreds of children were present to respect the names of the 1,174 Indians from the labour corps, whose names also find mention on the India Gate in New Delhi. All attending, left messages of commemoration on the railings tied with marigold ribbons around the Arch of Remembrance and tied with marigold ribbons. High Commissioner thanked the children for joining in this historic event and presented them with ‘Unremembered’ certificates.
USI of India held a ‘mirror’ event at the same time at India Gate in New Delhi, linking the sister memorials for the first time. During the ceremony, Defence Advisor, Brig. Rajesh Jha connected with the commemorative ceremony at the India Gate during which an exhortation was followed by the Last Post being played on Sarangi in Leicester. An identical marigold wreath was laid at India Gate by the British High Commissioner to India, Sir Dominic Asquith.