“There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.” ~ Tsung Su (Art of War)
June 28, 2014 marks the 100th death anniversary of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who was allegedly assassinated by Serbia. A series of unfortunate events lead to the Great War that lasted for four long years. It was a battle between Allies and Central Powers.
Countries sided with countries, trenches were dug deeper, and soldiers were drafted to fight for a foreign cause. Close to 1.2 million soldiers from an undivided India fought in World War I for the Allies. Out of which Six Indians were awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award in British Military, for bravery.
There were many motivations behind Indians enlisting themselves to fight for Great Britain in WWI. Though it was primarily for money — an infantry was paid 11 rupees a month — there were others who joined for other reasons. Some believed that fighting for GB would further the cause of independence, others thought it was better to be under British rule than the Germans.
A few thought they will reach paradise if they end their lives in battlefield fighting for the king. Whatever the reasons were, 161,000 men marched to engage the German forces. Losses were heavy, but stories of valour displayed by the Indian forces reached so far as Britain.
The six Indians honoured with the Victoria Cross were Risaldar Badlu Singh, Sepoy Chatta Singh, Naik Darwan Singh Negi, Rifleman Gabar Singh Negi, Lance-Daffadar Gobind Singh and Lance-Naik Lala.
Lance-Naik Lala, who served in the 41st Dogras was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery during the First Battle of Hanna in Mesopotamia (Iraq).
His citation reads: “Finding a British officer of another regiment lying close to the enemy, he dragged him into a temporary shelter, which he himself had made, and in which he had already bandaged four wounded men. After bandaging his wounds he heard calls from the Adjutant of his own regiment who was lying in the open severely wounded.
The enemy were not more than one hundred yards distant, and it seemed certain death to go out in that direction, but Lance Naik Lala insisted on going out to his adjutant, and offered to crawl back with him on his back at once. When this was not permitted, he stripped off his own clothing to keep the wounded officer warmer, and stayed with him till just before dark, when he returned to the shelter.
After dark he carried the first wounded officer back to the main trenches, and then, returning with a stretcher, carried back his Adjutant. He set a magnificent example of courage and devotion to his officers.”
Lala died in 1927, and his last words were said to be: “We fought true.”