Indian soldiers and connection

Indian military leaders and soldiers participate every year in the ceremonial Last Post sounded at the Menin Gate at 11.11 hours in November.

Last Updated: Nov 13, 2011, 15:58 PM IST

New Delhi: Every year, at 11.11 hours Nov 11, an Indian Army team is in Ypres, Belgium, to observe the anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I.

This Friday too, a team joined the military pageantry and the ceremonies in memory of the Indian men who laid down their lives in the battlefields of Flanders.

"Indian military leaders and soldiers participate every year in the ceremonial Last Post sounded at the Menin Gate at 11.11 hours in November each year, at the invitation of a Belgian composer and conductor called Hans Vermeersch, who is married to an Indian and runs the unique Rajhans Orchestra of Flanders at the coastal Belgian town of Knokke," a source said.

The Indian Army delegation was led by Additional Director General (Ceremonials and Welfare) Maj Gen K Majumdar; Director (Ceremonials and Welfare), Col BS Pundhir; Indian defence attache in Paris Brigadier Pankaj Arora; and Superintendent in the Military Wing at Paris K.S. Dadwal, according to sources.

Since 2002, Vermeersch hosts a pair of Indian Bagpipers from an Indian Army regiment, which fought in Flanders Fields between 1914 and 1918, and conducts a public concert in Belgium or France dedicated to the Indian soldiers of Flanders Fields, they added.

The Indian Army bagpipers at the event Friday were Havildar Yogender Kumar and Lance Naik Ranbir Singh from the Rajputana Rifles.

Over a million Indian soldiers had fought for the British Army in Europe and other theatres of that war and more than 57,000 Indian soldiers perished in the battlefields of Flanders.

The number of Indian soldier casualties was more than even what the Belgian Army suffered.

To mark the sacrifice of the Indian soldiers, the Belgian government and the people have erected a memorial at the Menin Gate in Ypres, the central town of the Flanders battlefield, through which Indian soldiers marched into battle after the long train ride from Marseilles in France between 1914 and 1918.

The memorial for the Indian heroes came up through assistance from the Indian government, Ypres municipality and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 2001, and wreaths are laid by international and Indian officials there every year since.

United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi too had laid a wreath at the memorial during her visit to Belgium in 2006.