Friday, Sep 17, 2021
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Pugrees In Flanders Fields

A new history does justice to Indian troops’ sacrifices on the Western Front

Pugrees In Flanders Fields
Pugrees In Flanders Fields
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

With 17 million dead and 20 million wounded, the First World War was arguably the first tragedy of modern hist­ory. A bloodier sequel followed two decades later. Among the Allied powers, soldiers from acr­oss the empire fought on behalf of their imperial governors. This is the tale of the 1.3 million Indian troops who fought on behalf of the British Empire.

India provided the largest force, of which 70,000 died. Great War historiography has been monopolised by Western pens; Sharabani Basu’s work, therefore, is a breath of fresh air and a contribution to post-colonial studies.

This book focuses on the 1,38,000 Indians who fought in Belgium and France. Ind­ian jawans were instrumental in stalling the German offensive at Ypres in late 1914 at a time when the British were still training their own forces. Basu liberally uses letters penned by troops in the trenches, describing their despair, desire, anxiety and their loyalty to king and empire. A Sikh soldier wrote: “The cannon roar like thunder, the bullets fall like rain.... And only the hurt,...

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