Today marks the centenary of WWl and celebrations are kicking in everywhere.

Amazingly enough, in the western world the war is regarded as mostly a Eurocentric affair with heads of state, prime ministers, kings and queens giving out formal and elaborated speeches.

Sadly this enables western nations to selectively forget the real dimension of WWl thus forgetting that it went global and involved more than just white faced soldiers.

In battlefields of Asia, Africa and the Middle East and from Gallipoli to the Western Front, over a million non-white men died in the conflict.

Anzac day background, vector

Many from Britain’s colonies were mobilised for service, while black Americans and men from the Caribbean, Africa, Vietnam, Thailand, China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other parts of the globe joined Western armies in both combat and non-combat roles.

As a notable example Undivided India provided Britain with a massive volunteer army in its hour of need, in spite of the internal fight for freedom from the Empire tyranny. Close to 1.5million Indians served, fighting in all the major theatres of war from Flanders fields to the Mesopotamian oil fields of what is now Iraq.

Surprisingly every sixth British soldier serving during the war would have been from the Indian subcontinent, making the British Indian Army as large as all the forces from the rest of the British Empire combined – including the forces of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.

British Colonial Troops

Although accounting for less than 2% of the population of British India at the time, Sikhs made up more than 20% of the British Indian Army at the outbreak of hostilities. They and their comrades in arms proved to be critical in the early months of the fighting on the Western Front, helping save the allies from an early and ignominious defeat.

From the blood-soaked trenches of the Somme and Gallipoli, to the deserts and heat of Africa and the Middle East, Sikhs fought and died alongside their British, Indian and Commonwealth counterparts to serve the greater good, gaining commendations and a reputation as fearsome and fearless soldiers.

A hundred years on, it is about time to make a change of attitude and of mindset; to make a pledge and finally pay respect; to acknowledge and value the sacrifice these valiant men made 100 years ago.

Tumbstones in thw war cemetery of Cassino

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