Records of 320,000 Punjab Soldiers from Great War Uncovered`Historians in the News
tags: British Empire, archives, World War 1, Indian history, Punjab
The records of 320,000 troops from the Punjab who fought in the first world war, left unread in a basement for 97 years, have been disclosed by UK-based historians to offer new insight into the contribution of Indian soldiers to the allied war effort.
Files found in the depths of the Lahore Museum in Pakistan have been digitised and uploaded on to a website in time for Armistice Day on Thursday.
Whereas historians and the descendants of British and Irish soldiers could search public databases of service records, until now no such facility existed for the families of Indian soldiers.
Some UK citizens of Punjabi origin have already been invited to search for their ancestors in the database. They have discovered that their family’s villages provided soldiers who served in France, the Middle East, Gallipoli, Aden and east Africa, as well as in other parts of British India during the first world war. Punjab was split between India and Pakistan in 1947.
The shadow minister Tanmanjeet Dhesi uncovered proof among the files that his great-grandfather had served in Iraq and had been wounded in action, losing a leg.
It is hoped that the records will help to dispel myths surrounding the contributions of soldiers from the Commonwealth. Last year, the actor turned activist Laurence Fox apologised after he had earlier criticised the historical accuracy of a Sikh character’s inclusion on the western front in the film 1917.
Amandeep Madra, the chair of the UK Punjab Heritage Association who worked with the University of Greenwich to digitise the files, said: “Punjab was the main recruiting ground for the Indian army during world war one. And yet the contribution of the individuals has largely been unrecognised. In most cases we didn’t even know their names.”
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