New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Tuesday, led the nation in paying tribute to thousands of Indian soldiers martyred during the World War I.
PM Modi placed a wreath at Amar Jawan Jyoti, India Gate and saluted the gallantry and sacrifice of Indian troops who fought alongside the British 100 years ago. At least 74,187 Indian soldiers were martyred in the war.
The Army is commemorating the centenary of the First World War (1914-1918) from March 10-14 in memory of the 1.5 million Indian soldiers who fought in the war.
March 10 coincides with the Battle of Neuve Chapelle marking the British offensive in Artois region of France in which the Garhwal Brigade and Meerut Division of the Indian Corps participated.
The period between 2014 and 2018 is being commemorated as the World War I's centenary.
Yesterday, President Pranab Mukherjee and diplomatic heads of nations part of World War I participated in a wreath-laying ceremony organised at India Gate.
The highlight of the commemoration is expected to be an exhibition at Manekshaw Centre, which will be inaugurated by the President today.
"This is an endeavour of the Indian Army to commemorate the supreme gallantry and sacrifice that Indian soldiers rendered in various theatres of the World War 1," Major General NP Singh, Chief of Staff of the 2 Corps said.
Maj Gen Singh, who is organising the event, said the Indian Corps won 13,000 medals for gallantry including 11 Victoria Cross, the highest gallantry award in England.
He added that the exhibition promises to take one back to the World War I era. The 'Corner of Remembrance' in the exhibition will have old letters, an old home in neglect with belongings of soldiers, giving a feeling of anxiousness of the families waiting for their sons to return home.
The 'Sacrifice Hall' will include replicas of Amar Jawan Jyoti, Indian memorials, busts and paintings of Victoria Cross Winners in India and abroad.
The outdoor props of the exhibition will give a glimpse of the dress, equipment, bunkers, guns and replica of Brighton Hospital.
The miniature Brighton Hospital will depict the treatment and the trauma that the Indian Soldiers went through.
A dynamic band display by the Indian Army brass and pipe bands will also be conducted as part of the mega event.
The Army has also created a replica of a World War I bunker with live props showcasing the living conditions that the Indian soldiers endured for years during the war. Water jugs, guns, knives, plates and flasks among others used by the soldiers then will also be on display.
The Army was able to trace some of the family members of the Victoria Cross winners including two who are now part of the force. "It is a proud moment for me. If a chance comes, I will live up to my grandfather's name by doing a gallantry act myself," Lance Naik Bahadur Rana of the Gorkha Rifles said.
His grandfather rifleman Karan Bahadur Rana was in 3rd Queen Alexandria's Own Gurkha Rifles and had won the Victoria Cross for working a Lewis gun under intense fire to engage an enemy machine gun, finally assisting with covering fire in the withdrawal until the enemy was close on him.
For Col Rajinder Singh, it is a rare honour to serve in the same unit as his grandfather rifleman Gobind Singh and father (Retd) Brigadier Ganga Singh.
His grandfather was in 2nd Lancers when he won the Victoria Cross for thrice volunteering to carry messages between Regiment and Brigade Headquarters (1.5 miles) which was under observation and heavy fire of the enemy.
"He succeeded each time in delivering message although in each occasion his horse was shot and he was compelled to finish his journey on foot," Col Singh, who is also was 2nd Lancers, said.
During the First World War, India contributed over 1.5 million men from 12 Cavalry Regiments, 13 Infantry Regiments and several other units of arms and services, out of which 74,000 were killed and over 67,000 were wounded in various battle fields of Europe, Africa and Asia.
Nearly every sixth soldier fighting on behalf of the British Empire came from the Indian subcontinent.