The UK government on Thursday unveiled a hand-crafted bronze plaque in memory of Indian soldiers awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) for their bravery during the World War I.
The commemorative plaque will now be shipped to India to find a permanent home in the country as a symbol of Britain’s gratitude. As part of the UK’s ongoing First World War Centenary programme, the Indian plaque forms a set of 11 commissioned in honour of a total of 175 overseas war heroes who fought for the British during the Great War.
The VC is Britain’s highest award for gallantry in the battlefield and the six Indians honoured include Risaldar Badlu Singh, Sepoy Chatta Singh, Naik Darwan Singh Negi, Rifleman Gabar Singh Negi, Lance-Daffadar Gobind Singh and Lance-Naik Lala.
“These extraordinary men were awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for valour for their actions during the war. We shall honour them by engraving their names on bronze memorial plaques, to be presented to their home countries, sending out a powerful message that people of all backgrounds and faiths can unite in the name of a common cause,” said Sayeeda Warsi, senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) minister, at a special unveiling ceremony in London.
She singled out Gobind Singh, who is recorded to have saved hundreds of lives in 1917 by offering to deliver messages back and forth in the midst of battle fire. “All these men are true heroes and we must ensure that future generations never forget that without them we would not have the rights and freedom we enjoy today,” Warsi added.
Besides six VCs from India, the 11 countries covered by the special plaques include Pakistan (3); Nepal (2); Canada (70 VCs); Australia (66); New Zealand (16); South Africa (14); US (5); Denmark (2); Belgium (1) and Ukraine (1).
“There are a total of 11 VCs that were awarded to soldiers from undivided India and of them three trace their origins to present day Pakistan and two to Nepal,” explained Brigadier Sandeepan Handa, defence and military adviser of India in the UK. “This plaque honouring the six Indians will now be handed over to the British High Commission in Delhi and eventually to the Government of India for a permanent memorial,” Handa said.
The plaques mark an extension of the British government’s programme to honour UK-born VC recipients with a commemorative paving stone in their home town.
On August 4, 2014, it will be 100 years since Britain entered the First World War and Prime Minister David Cameron had launched an overall commemoration programme back in October 2012. Later in the year, the FCO will also be publishing an online digital archive of all the overseas Victoria Cross recipients.