The year 2015 marks the centenary of Gallipoli- the war fought on the Gallipoli peninsula (in modern Turkey) between 25 April 1915 and 9 January 1916. Though, until recently, their contributions were not quite recognised, military historians now confirm that between 5000 to 15000 Indian army men fought in the battle of Gallipoli.
Interestingly, these brave men fought not only alongside their colonial cousins- the Australian forces, but as a part of, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC)s and died side-by-side as well (Chhina, 2010) (Wikipedia, 2015). Through this article, we take a brief account of the history during the period of the Great War and what happened at the call of the bugles.
The bugle calls and the Great War
The battle of Gallipoli was fought between the British forces and her allies and Ottoman Empire supported by forces including Germany, Austria-Hungary. The campaign of the Great War (World War I) that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula (now Turkey) in the Ottoman Empire (founded in 1299), continued for 8 months, 2 weeks and 1 day.
The campaign resulted in heavy casualties on both sides (Wikipedia, 2015). Though, India, then under the British dominion often protested ruthlessness of the British Raj at home, they joined hands when it came to helping for a greater cause they believed in (Krishnan, 2014).
The ‘HistoryLearningSite’ (2014) notes, “When war was declared on August 4, 1914, India rallied to the cause. Offers of financial and military help were made from all over the country…Indian troops were ready for battle before most other troops in the dominions… In all 47,746 were classed as killed or missing with 65,000 wounded. The Indian Corps won 13,000 medals for gallantry including 12 Victoria Crosses”
In the battle of Gallipoli, given the difficult hilly terrain of the region requiring suitably trained men, Gurkha and Sikh divisions of the Indian army were chosen for the operation. Indian troops, that were part of, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC)s, included the 7th Indian Mountain Artillery Brigade, 29th Indian Infantry Brigade, Indian Supply and Transport Corps, and the 108th Indian Field Ambulance.
The courage of the Indian troops in Gallipoli were immortalised by the bravery of these men. Scaling of the 300 ft. almost vertical slope by 1/6th Gurkha on their hands and knees (known as 'Gurkha Bluff' to this day) was one of the glowing instances (Chhina, 2010) (Krishnan, 2014).
Similarly, the valour of the Sikh division is outlined in a letter written by Sir Ian Hamilton (in-charge of the troops) to his Commander-in-Chief back in India, he wrote: “In spite of the tremendous losses there was not a sign of wavering all day. Not an inch of ground was given up and not a single straggler came back. The ends of the enemy’s trenches were found to be blocked with the bodies of Sikhs and of the enemy who died fighting at close quarters, and the glacis slope was thickly dotted with the bodies of these fine soldiers all lying on their faces as they fell in their steady advance on the enemy. The history of Sikhs affords many instances of their value as soldiers, but it may be safely asserted that nothing finer than the grim valour and steady discipline displayed by them on the 4th of June has ever been done by soldiers of the Khalsa. Their devotion to duty and their splendid loyalty to their orders and to their leaders make a record their nation should look upon with pride for many generations
”, (Gallipoli Diary, 1926).
In difficult terrain with no roads and transport facilities, the Mule Corps of the Indian army played a very significant role by transporting ammunition and supplies to the soldiers in the field while ignoring the enemy fire.
They had a very congenial relationship with their Australian and New Zealand fellow men- as is evident in the quote of Major HM Alexander, Indian Mule Transport, “The Anzacs called every Indian ‘Johnny’ and treated them like a brother, with the consequences that the Indians liked them even more … I often saw parties of Australians and New Zealanders sitting in the lines, eating chuppatties and talking to the men
.” (Chhina, 2010).
To sum up
Some 1,358 Indian soldiers died and another 3,421 wounded at Gallipoli. They fought shoulder-to-shoulder with other ANZAC soldiers. Though, hardly any of these Indian soldiers maintained their own diaries, anyone who came in contact with these fine men observed a few general characteristics.
They were highly skilled, devoted to duty, friendly, loyal to their orders and to their leaders. They kept moving ahead despite the odds. Can anything more be asked for? It might have taken about a century to recognise their contributions, but the legacy- it is now immortalised while the gene flows…
Chhina, R TS (2010), ‘The Indian Army at Gallipoli 1915’, Australian War Memorial.
HistoryLearningSite.co.uk (2014), India and World War One,
Viewed on 9 May 2015 Available online
Krishnan, R (2014), ‘Why Indians need their ANZAC moment’, Fairfax Media Digital, New Zealand
Viewed on 9 May 2015 Available online
Wikipedia (2015), Gallipoli Campaign, Wikipedia,
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