ANZAC Day is a solemn day of remembrance for Australians and New Zealanders, commemorating the sacrifices of those who fought and died in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. The day is named after the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), who fought in the Gallipoli campaign during World War I. However, what is often overlooked is the significant contribution of Indian troops to the ANZAC campaign, as well as to other conflicts in which Australia and New Zealand have been involved.
During World War I, the British Indian Army was one of the largest volunteer armies in the world, consisting of over 1.3 million men. Indian troops were recruited from across the country, including from present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. They fought in many campaigns across the world, including in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
One of the most significant contributions of Indian troops to the ANZAC campaign was during the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. Indian troops were part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, which was sent to Gallipoli to support the ANZACs in their fight against the Ottoman Empire. The Indian troops consisted of the 29th Indian Brigade, which included the 14th Ferozepore Sikhs and the 15th Ludhiana Sikhs. The 14th Sikhs were among the first Indian troops to arrive at Gallipoli, and they played a crucial role in the early stages of the campaign.
The Indian troops at Gallipoli faced many challenges, including harsh weather conditions, difficult terrain, and fierce opposition from the Ottoman forces. They fought bravely alongside their ANZAC counterparts, often under heavy fire and with limited supplies. Despite these challenges, the Indian troops made significant gains, capturing several key positions and holding them against fierce counter-attacks.
In addition to their contributions at Gallipoli, Indian troops also fought in many other campaigns during World War I, including in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) and Palestine. They played a significant role in the British victory at the Battle of Haifa in 1918, which was a turning point in the campaign in Palestine.
Indian troops also fought in World War II, including in campaigns in North Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. They played a crucial role in the Burma campaign, which was one of the most challenging and brutal campaigns of the war. Indian troops were instrumental in the capture of several key positions, including the city of Rangoon.
Despite their significant contributions, Indian troops have often been overlooked in the ANZAC story. This is partly due to the complex nature of India’s relationship with the British Empire, which is still a sensitive topic for many people today. However, it is important to acknowledge and remember the sacrifices of all those who fought and died in conflicts, regardless of their nationality or background.
ANZAC Day is a time to reflect on the sacrifices of those who fought for our freedom and to honor their memory. We must remember not only the ANZACs, but also the significant contributions of Indian troops and other soldiers from around the world. By doing so, we can ensure that their sacrifices are never forgotten and that we continue to strive for a more peaceful world.