Records of 300,000 Indian soldiers who fought in First World War digitised for first time

  • ITV News Meridian presenter Sangeeta Bhabra sits down with Tejpal Ralmill from the UK Punjab Heritage Association to talk about the project

Newly digitised records have shed a light on Indian soldiers from the First World War, some of whom ended up being treated for their wounds at makeshift hospitals in Brighton.

Records of more than 300,000 soldiers from the Punjab were gathered by British officials after 1918 and for decades lay forgotten in the basement of Lahore Museum in Pakistan.

A project spearheaded by the UK Punjab Heritage Association and the University of Greenwich has led to those records being painstakingly copied and uploaded onto a website.

Some of the names recorded in the records. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Much work has still to be done but for the first time many more people of Indian heritage can begin researching ancestors' military service in the Great War.

That has been hard to do up to now because very few records have survived.

This is in contrast to soldiers from the British Armed Forces because comprehensive records were kept and much work was also done by organisations such as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Many troops from undivided India fought on the Western Front and it was decided that those who had been wounded would be brought to Britain for treatment and convalescence. 

A website allows people to search for relatives' names by keying in their home village. Credit: UK Punjab Heritage Association

Between 1914 and 1916, 12,000 soldiers were treated in makeshift hospitals at the Royal Pavilion, the Corn Exchange and the Dome. 32 men died in the Royal Pavilion hospital.

The records point to at least two soldiers who died while receiving treatment.

Their ashes would have been scattered on the South Downs where the Chattri Memorial now stands.

The Chattri on the South Downs is a memorial built to honour the Indian dead of the First World War. Credit: ITV News Meridian

This was the spot where Hindus and Sikhs were cremated.

On Sunday 12 June, the annual service honouring those who fought and died in the Great War will take place at the memorial.

It is the first time the service has taken place since the pandemic.

  • Hear from Davinder Singh Dhillon whose Great Uncle and Grandfather are mentioned in the records