KM Column - Remembrance Day and India - 8 November 2018
On Sunday 11 November, we will mark 100 years since the end of the First World War. A century ago the news that the ‘war to end all wars’ was over came as one of great joy; a British victory, and an end to the fighting, bombing and grief that had left no home unaffected for half a decade.
When we think of all those who lost their lives defending the British Empire, we tend to think of those who lived on the British Isles, but more than 3 million came from what is now the Commonwealth. Half of those came from British India, the countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka today. Of the 1.3 million who fought, and over 70,000 lost their lives.
Too often, they are omitted from both our military history, and from our memories. Indian soldiers played key roles in some of our most decisive battles and were recognised at the time for having been essential to the victory that was won. They displayed huge courage too.
That is why I am delighted that I have been invited to visit India and lay a wreath on behalf our nation in Delhi, reflecting the gratitude we feel to those who came to stand with us in our hour of need both in the First, and the Second World Wars, and those who left our shores to fight abroad. I will be remembering Captain Beckley killed in 1945, who like my great-grandfather fought with the Royal Artillery, and is now buried in Delhi.
While I will be away, I will be united with all those who stop for one moment every year to remember and with the men of Kent and Kentish men who are lying in foreign fields alongside those who died fighting in the cause of freedom.