Indians in Ypres (& rest of Belgium) during World War I

MEMORIAL TOURISM IN BELGIUM FOR INDIANS
Visiting all the graves of Indian Soldiers of the First World War in Belgium

INDIAN INVOLVEMENT IN FIRST WORLD WAR
Let me give you a rough outline of how a million (almost 1.3 million) Indian soldiers ended up in World War I beginning in Ypres (Ieper) and how come it was truly a 'World' war.
  1. The heir to Austria's throne, Archduke Ferdinand, was killed by Serbians in 1914
  2. Austria wages war on Serbia.
  3. Germany supports Austria (because they were relatives and had several marriages between the families).
  4. Serbia befriends Russia and France (here on called Allies). Belgium stays neutral.
  5. Germany, now sandwiched between France and Russia, requests Belgium to allow its soldiers to be placed in it at French border. Belgium rejects and German occupation of Belgium begins bit by bit. 
  6. Almost 95% of Belgium is under German occupation and they advance towards Ypres.
  7. To deal with German advancement, Britain joins Allies.
  8. INDIA is a colony of Britain already. Indian soldiers are the first to be dropped in the war zone to fight on behalf of Britain. The location of war, of German advancement, at this point, is YPRES!!!
So..... because Serbian nationalists, killed a royal Austrian, Indian soldiers died in Belgium, thanks to British colonization....... Not 1 or 2 Indians but a whole 73,929 Indian soldiers died in WWI........ Can you wrap your mind around that?????!!!!!!!! 
At this point, when I say India, I refer to colonized British India which includes India, Pakistan, parts of Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Srilanka.
If only colonization hadn't happened, without the soldiers of Asia, Africa, Australia, NZ and Canada, the war may not have become a 'World' war and would have just stayed a European war! 

Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium


Graves of Indian Soldiers of First World War in Belgium - Ath Cemetery
Ath Communal Cemetery

Graves of Indian Soldiers of First World War in Belgium - Bedford House Cemetery
Bedford House Cemetery - Indian plot

Graves of Indian Soldiers of First World War in Belgium - Namur Belgrade Cemetery
Belgrade (Saint Servais) Cemetery

DARK TOURISM IN BELGIUM - YPRES (IEPER)
Today the town is still sombre aftermath of the war! Click here to r
ead more about Ypres Salient, the phases of war that happened here and the various countries that took part in it, and what Iron Harvest is. For now, to just give an idea, this entire region is filled with several graves and cemeteries and memorials for the millions of people who died fighting in the Great War.

IDENTIFICATION OF MARTYRED SOLDIERS OF FIRST WORLD WAR
Here is more to understand - of the soldiers who died, some were actually identified, some could only be identified as a soldier who belonged to so & so country & battalion with the help of their uniform and the place where the body was found, some bodies couldn't be identified at all! The number 73,929 was derived by negating the number of soldiers who returned back home. Of these, not everyone was identified.

WHY DID INDIAN SOLDIERS PARTICIPATE IN FIRST WORLD WAR?
These Indian soldiers were sent to the war, by the British, when India was under British Raj (colonial India) after a promise to the Indians that after the war, India would attain Swaraj (independence)! However, the promise was broken and it was after WWII, that we got our independence in 1947. Few letters from these soldiers to their homes exist and those were really painful indicating how cold it was (unlike Indian weather) and how shells dropped from the sky like monsoon rain!!!

LEST WE FORGET - FORGOTTEN INDIAN SOLDIERS OF FIRST WORLD WAR
Indians weren't in power to give something to the soldiers or their families and the British broke their promise and these soldiers have been forgotten. When I started to dig into it, there is so much to know! The worst part is, I did not even study about this in school. While history in our school books deals with the Indian Independence struggle, this part of forgotten history has been left forgotten. I don't know if the current syllabus includes this...
If you're an old reader of this blog, you may remember my post on Conolly's Plot which was almost razed of its teak trees to make guns for the war. The situation would have been similar in the other colonies in Africa, Australia, NZ etc as well. I wonder if British & European school history books deal with how much they've been helped by people the world over... 

Graves of Indian Soldiers of First World War in Belgium - Bedford House Cemetery
Bedford House Cemetery - Indian Plot

Graves of Indian Soldiers of First World War in Belgium - Grootebeek Cemetery
Grootebeek British Cemetery - Indian corner

Graves of Indian Soldiers of First World War in Belgium - Grootebeek Cemetery
View of the nursing station from Grootebeek cemetery. Currently a house & barn, a private property.

Graves of Indian Soldiers of First World War in Belgium - Halle Cemetery
Halle Communal Cemetery

BURIALS OF INDIAN SOLDIERS OF WORLD WARS AROUND THE WORLD
Indian soldiers were primarily Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. The funeral rites of Hindus & Sikhs is cremation while Muslims is burial. So most of the identified Hindu and Sikh soldiers were cremated according to their rites & customs (though some were buried). The identified Muslim soldiers have their dedicated graves and identified cremated soldiers have their dedicated headstones. Soldiers who were only identified as Indians (with the help of their uniform etc), also have graves that mention 'An Indian Soldier of the Great War'. Sometimes if their regiment was identifiable, then that was mentioned. If the religion of the soldier was known, that was mentioned. Soldiers were always buried in the cemetery closest to the place where they died or their body was found. 

HEADSTONES OF IDENTIFIED INDIAN GRAVES IN BELGIUM
There are 3 major types of Headstones - Hindu, Muslim and Sikh. From what I understand, this is the regiment's religion and not the personal religion followed by the soldier. While regiments don't have a 'religion' perse, their war cry is in local language and is associated with the religion mostly followed in the region. This may have been the war cry itself of those regiments then which I am not sure of. Here's the list of the warcry of various regiments of Indian army today for you to get an idea. Soldiers say the regiment's war cry, which may belong to a different religion than the one followed personally by one.

HINDU HEADSTONES in Hindi language Om Bhagavathe Namah (We bow to you God)
SIKH HEADSTONES in Punjabi language Atop: Waheguru ji ki Fateh (Victory to God); At the base: Sanskaare gaye (has been cremated)
MUSLIM HEADSTONES in Arabic language Atop: Huval Gaffoor (The ever-forgiving Allah); At the base: Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un (We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return)

If the religion followed by the soldier personally is known, then that is mentioned separately on the headstone - "The Following Hindu/Muslim/Sikh soldier of the Indian Army is Honoured Here". In some cases, the regiment's logo is engraved as well.

HOW TO SEARCH FOR GRAVES OF INDIAN SOLDIERS IN YOUR COUNTRY?
Since India was a part of British Empire during both the World Wars, martyred Indian soldiers have been buried in the Commonwealth War Graves along with soldiers from Britain, Canada, Australia, Africa etc who too fought in the World War representing the British Empire (Commonwealth countries). There is a dedicated website called Commonwealth War Graves that gives all information about all the war graves in all the countries with all the available information. It is possible to search for Indian soldiers who are buried across the world, on this site. If you're are NRI or Indian tourist in a foreign country and would like to pay your respects to the martyred Indian soldiers, it is possible to search the cemeteries where they're buried.
Go to 'Find War Dead' -> Fill 'Indian' in 'Served With' box -> click on 'Country (commemorated in)' in the 'Additional Fields' and fill the country that you're searching for. Then click 'Search'. You have the list. To make it easier to visit the cemeteries, choose 'Commemorated at' in the 'Sort by' box. Now it is sorted in the alphabetical order of the cemeteries (& memorials). Go visit the cemeteries one by one and pay your respect to the forgotten fallen Indian warriors of World Wars.

Graves of Indian Soldiers of First World War in Belgium - The Huts Cemetery
The Huts Cemetery

Graves of Indian Soldiers of First World War in Belgium - The Huts Cemetery
The Huts Cemetery

Graves of Indian Soldiers of First World War in Belgium - Nine Elms Cemetery
Nine Elms Cemetery

Graves of Indian Soldiers of First World War in Belgium - Railway Dugouts Burial Ground
Railway Dugouts Burial Ground

Here's the list of the graves of Indian Soldiers buried in Belgium from this site, that I used to map the cemeteries in the below map. Here is the PDF of the 37 dedicated graves of Indian soldiers in 17 cemeteries all over Belgium of which I have been to 15 and written about it below (the identified/cremated rest have been inscribed on Menin Gate (more details below)).

When you visit a cemetery, near the entrance, in a small box is the 'Cemetery Register' which gives all information about the soldiers buried in that particular cemetery as well as the map of that cemetery. Refer it to find the graves of Indian Soldiers. Place the register back in its box.
Here's a thing to keep in mind when using this list. The British commanders of Indian soldiers are also listed as Indians because this isn't nationality (the nation of India didn't exist then as well) but are the regiments under which they served. The British officers, lieutenants, captains, majors who served in the Indian regiments are also listed as Indians. So some soldiers in the list of Indian Soldiers would be actually British! Indians were mostly sepoys, subedars, naiks, gunners, drivers, cooks etc. Also, under British India, came not only modern India but also modern Pakistan, parts of Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Srilanka. So the list comprises of soldiers from India as well as all these countries. If you're an Indian or Pakistani reading this, I'm sure we can put aside our differences, for the sake of these forgotten soldiers... Even today, as humans, we are much alike, who feel that we are different because of our political situations. 

VIDEO TOUR OF ALL THE CEMETERIES WITH INDIAN GRAVES IN BELGIUM

INDIAN SOLDIERS OF FIRST WORLD WAR IN YPRES, BELGIUM

I visited the Bedford House Cemetery and it has a corner dedicated for the Indian soldiers and there were 20 burials of which 1 was Hindu, 6 were Muslims and 13 were unidentified. Update 2021: I have now visited all the graves except the cemeteries in La Louviere & Charleroi. 

WWI Soldiers Indian Graves in Belgium Bedford Ypres
Gif (9 images change every 3 secs) - Indian graves in Bedford cemetery

BEDFORD HOUSE CEMETERY, YPRES
Bedford House was the first ever cemetery with graves of Indian soldiers that I visited on my first visit to Ypres (Ieper). This was where I got super emotional looking at the graves and reading those headstones. This was where I felt the impact of World War and got super sad that these brave soldiers died fighting a war so far away from home!
There are 20 Indian graves in Bedford House cemetery in Ypres of which 7 are identified and 13 unidentified. There's a separate section for Indian graves and just beside it is a small 'Chatri'. There's a mix of Sikh & Muslim identified soldiers here - Fazl Dad, Kishn Singh, Abdullah Beg, Akka, Khan Muhammad, Mehr Khan, Hashmat Ali. They're all from Punjab region incl. Jind, Jalandhar, Rawalpindi etc.

Where is Bedford House Cemetery in Ypres (Ieper) - On Google Maps: Bedford House Cemetery
How to reach Bedford House Cemetery: 3.2km from Ypres/Ieper Railway Station. DeLijn Bus Route 79 till Voormezele Vaart and then walk 1km.

WWI Soldiers Indian Graves in Belgium Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery
Gif (2 images change every 3 secs) - Indian graves in Lijssenthoek Military cemetery

LIJSSENTHOEK MILITARY CEMETERY, POPERINGE
This is the first cemetery that I visited on my 2nd visit to the town on a Pilgrimage Tourism in Ypres (Ieper). There are 2 Indian graves here and one of it was very intriguing! One grave is of Hardit Singh from Patiala, Punjab and another is of Susai. The grave of Susai, a driver, is intriguing because the Headstone mentions, "This Hindu soldier of Indian Army" and says 'Om Bagavathe Namah'. But Susai is a Christian name and literally means Joseph, in Tamil, the language of Tamil Nadu the southern-most state of India as well as Sri Lanka! I guess Susai would have moved to northern India & joined the army, or joined Madras regiment & got transferred to another regiment (because a lot of drivers seem to be from Southern India). Also, he might not have changed his religion on records which is why he's mentioned as a Hindu. It was quite intriguing. 

Where is Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Poperinge - On Google Maps: Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery
How to reach Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery: 4.2km from Poperinge Railway Station. LeTEC bus route 60 till Kleine Dasdreef and then 2.5km walk. It is a better option to hire a bike at Ieper, bring it by train till Poperinge and then bike to Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery.

WWI Soldiers Indian Graves in Belgium Nine Elms Military Cemetery

NINE ELMS BRITISH CEMETERY, POPERINGE
There is only 1 grave here of Ragunandhan. Like Susai (mentioned above), Ragunandhan was also a driver and the name is definitely from one of the 5 southern states of India or Sri Lanka. My best guess is, maybe due to lack of drivers, drivers from other regiments may have been moved to Indian Royal Artillery regiment and then got posted to Ypres! 

Where is Nine Elms British Cemetery in Poperinge - On Google Maps: Nine Elms Military Cemetery
How to reach Nine Elms British Cemetery: 3km from Poperinge Railway Station. Like above, it is better to bike here too.

WWI Soldiers Indian Graves in Belgium Grootebeek British Cemetery
Gif (7 images change every 3 secs) - Indian graves in Grootebeek British cemetery

GROOTEBEEK BRITISH CEMETERY, POPERINGE
This is located in a very beautiful area surrounded by farm lands and cows grazing around. There's a waterbody with lilies inside the cemetery making the place very peaceful. In one dedicated corner are all the 7 Indian graves here - Sardar Khan, Sharif Khan, Ali Haidar, Muhammad Elahi, Faroz, Lalak, Munsafdar. Being in the British Raj era, most of the soldiers here are from current day Pakistan - Rawalpindi, Saragarhi, Jhelum etc. But World War I happened much before partition and even otherwise it doesn't matter! We are brothers & sisters and our own forefathers died in a faraway land! 
Just beside Grootebeek British Cemetery was the nursing station where these very soldiers must have been treated after being horribly wounded. Today it is a private property consisting of a house, barn etc. The view is serene though. 

Where is Grootebeek British Cemetery in Poperinge - On Google Maps: Grootebeek British Cemetery
How to reach Grootebeek British Cemetery: 5km from Poperinge Railway Station with absolutely no public transport. You have to walk/bike.

WWI Soldiers Indian Graves in Belgium Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery

VLAMERTINGHE MILITARY CEMETERY, YPRES
There is just 1 Indian grave here in Vlamertinghe Military cemetery in the midst of all other commonwealth graves. Here lies Fateh-Jung, a subedar from Rawalpindi. This cemetery is very close to the city and there's a view of the St.Vedast church from the cemetery.

Where is Vlamertinghe Military cemetery in Ypres (Ieper) - On Google Maps: Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery
How to reach Vlamertinghe Military cemetery: 5km from Ieper railway station. LeTEC bus route 60 stops just 150m from the cemetery.

WWI Soldiers Indian Graves in Belgium Belgian Battery Corner Cemetery
Gif (2 images change every 3 secs) - Indian graves in Belgian Battery Corner cemetery

BELGIAN BATTERY CORNER CEMETERY, YPRES
From Vlamertinghe, our next stop was Belgian Battery Corner Cemetery. There are 2 graves here of Dhani Ram (a Lance Naik) and Kirpa (driver). 

Where is Belgian Battery Corner cemetery in Ypres (Ieper) - On Google Maps: Belgian Battery Corner Cemetery
How to reach Belgian Battery Corner cemetery: 1.8km (20 mins walk) from Ieper railway station. 

WWI Soldiers Indian Graves in Belgium The Huts Cemetery

THE HUTS CEMETERY, YPRES
The Huts Cemetery is also located in the outskirts of Ypres city and there's just 1 grave of an Indian soldier - Jagan Lall. Though located in the outskirts of Ypres, it is surrounded by beautiful farm lands and a long winding path takes you from the nearest main road to the cemetery. After Huts cemetery I visited Bedford House cemetery again, on this 2nd visit to Ypres.

Where is Huts cemetery in Ypres (Ieper) - On Google Maps: The Huts Cemetery
How to reach Huts cemetery: 6km from Ieper railway station. DeLijn Bus route 71 stops at Dikkebus T Zweerd which is 1km away from Huts Cemetery.

WWI Soldiers Indian Graves in Zantvoorde British Cemetery

ZANTVOORDE BRITISH CEMETERY, ZONNEBEKE
My next stop was a bit father away on the opposite direction, away from Ypres towards Zonnebeke - Zantvoorde British Cemetery. There's only 1 grave here of an Indian soldier - Sher Sing. While his headstone mentions him as a 'cook' while the CWGC website mentions him as a 'follower'. I assume 'followers' are people who do odd jobs and labour. I'm not really sure!

Where is Zantvoorde British Cemetery near Ypres (Ieper) - On Google Maps: Zantvoorde British Cemetery
How to reach Zantvoorde British Cemetery: 6km from Comines / Komen railway station. DeLijn Bus route 89 stops at Zandvoorde Houthemstraat which is 400m away from the cemetery.

WWI Soldiers Indian Graves in Railway Dugouts Burial Ground
Gif (4 images change every 3 secs) - Indian graves in Railway Dugouts Burial Ground

RAILWAY DUGOUTS BURIAL GROUND, YPRES
Very close to the entrance of the Railway Dugouts Burial ground are the Indian graves. There are 4 graves together and this section is called the Indian Plot. Of the 4 only 1 is identified - Devi Singh. Though the rest 3 soldiers couldn't be identified, their regiments could be identified - one is from Malerkotla Imperial Service regiment in UP, one is from Ludhina Sikhs regiment, and one is of Gurkha Rifles (probably from today's Nepal).

Where is Railway Dugouts Burial Ground in Ypres (Ieper) - On Google Maps: Railway Dugouts Burial Ground
How to reach Railway Dugouts Burial Ground: 2.8km from Ieper (Ypres) railway station

WWI Soldiers Indian Graves in New Irish Farm Cemetery

NEW IRISH FARM CEMETERY, YPRES
Also located in the outskirts of Ypres town centre. There is only 1 Indian grave here - Tek Singh, a sepoy. 

Where is New Irish Farm Cemetery in Ypres (Ieper) - On Google Maps: New Irish Farm Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery
How to reach New Irish Farm Cemetery: 3.5km from Ieper (Ypres) railway station. DeLijn bus route 95 stops at Ieper Jan Ypermanziekenhuis which is about 1km from the cemetery.

WWI Soldiers Indian Graves in Ypres reservoir cemetery

YPRES RESERVOIR CEMETERY
Quite amusingly I had visited Ypres reservoir cemetery when I visited Ypres for the first time. That time I didn't know the intensity of Indian involvement in the First World War and neither did I have this list of the graves of Indian soldiers in Belgium and I had missed paying my respects to Puran, a driver with Indian Royal Artillery buried here. This cemetery is located within the town of Ypres (Ieper).

Where is Ypres reservoir Cemetery in Ypres (Ieper) - On Google Maps: Ypres Reservoir Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery
How to reach Ypres reservoir Cemetery: 700m (8 mins walk) from Ieper (Ypres) railway station. 

Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium

Memorial for Indian soldiers Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium

MENIN GATE MEMORIAL
Of course, many of the thousands of burials of the completely unidentified soldiers mentioned as 'A Soldier of the Great War Known unto God' could be Indians. The 412 missing Indian soldiers (meaning - their bodies couldn't be identified, but any of the unidentified Indian grave/any grave could bet them) have their name inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial within the city and one of the sides of two of the pillars are dedicated to Indians apart from a few other mentions too. There is also a separate Memorial for Indian Soldiers just beside Menin Gate complete with Indian flag and emblem. There is also a Nepalese Gurkha Monument in front of the Indian Memorial.

Where is Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres (Ieper) - On Google Maps: Menin Gate Memorial
How to reach Menin Gate Memorial: 1.2km (14 mins walk) from Ypres/Ieper Railway Station
More information about the Indian Soldiers inscribed on Menin Gate - via Commonwealth War Graves
Where is Indian Memorial in Ypres (Ieper) - On Google Maps: Memorial for Indian Soldiers
How to reach Indian Memorial in Ypres (Ieper): Just beside Menin Gate

VC Khudadad Khan Memorial Hollebeke Belgium

VC KHUDADAD KHAN MEMORIAL
Victoria Cross is the British equivalent of Param Vir Chakra, the highest gallantry award to be given to a soldier. Khudadad Khan was the first Indian to have been awarded it. The very site where in fought, where he did his heroic act, for which he was awarded is right here in Hollebeke, a small village about 10km away from Ypres.

Why was Khudadad Khan awarded the Victoria Cross? In Oct 1914, Sepoy Khudadad Khan was in the front line of the 129 Baluchis troop with their machine guns. They were outnumbered & overwhelmed by the German attacks. Everyone in his troop was killed except Khudadad Khan who singlehandedly fought to prevent German breakthrough till reinforcements arrived. At one point he was assumed dead but at night, he crawled back to his regiment! He died a natural death at his home in Pakistan in 1971. The point where he held fort is where the memorial is, now.

What's written on VC Khudadad Khan Memorial?
Punjabi language - Ek Onkaar Satguru Prasad. Sri Wahaguru ji ki Fateh (There's only one God and everything is His manifestation. Victory to God)
Hindi language - Om Bhagavathe Namah (We bow to you God)
Arabic language - Bismillahi Rahmani Raheem (In the name of Allah, the most gracious & the most merciful)

Where is VC Khudada Khan memorial - On Google Maps: VC Khudadad Khan Memorial
How to reach VC Khudada Khan memorial: 10km from Ypres/Ieper Railway Station. Can be reached by DeLijn bus route 89 till Hollebeke and walk 1.2km.
OTHER PLACES TO VISIT & THINGS TO DO IN YPRES

YPRES (IEPER) HOTELS
Hotels & B&Bs at all price points are available in Ypres City Centre. 
HOW TO REACH IEPER (YPRES) FROM BRUSSELS
To Ypres (Ieper) from Brussels: 130km 
There are no direct trains from Brussels to Ypres / Ieper. Take a train till Gent and then change to another train from Gent to Ypres/Ieper. The whole journey takes 2-2:30hrs including transit time.
To visit each & every cemetery, a private tour by car can be arranged with Salient Tours or Flanders Battlefield Tours mentioned above. Otherwise, rent a bike and visit all the cemeteries. Here's the list of all bike rentals in Ypres (Ieper).
The map below has layers of a 60km cycling route and 10km walking route to visit & pay respects to as many war graves of Indian Soldiers buried in the cemeteries in & around Ypres. Click on the side menu inside the embedded map and choose cycling or walking. 

INDIAN SOLDIERS OF FIRST WORLD WAR IN OTHER PARTS OF BELGIUM

Apart from Ypres (Ieper) and Poperinge there are also a few more Indian graves in other cemeteries in Belgium.

WWI Soldiers Indian Graves in Belgium Tournai Communal Cemetery
Gif (3 images change every 3 secs) - Indian graves in Tournai Communal cemetery

TOURNAI COMMUNAL CEMETERY
The first spot I visited after Bedford House cemetery is Tournai Communal Cemetery. This is the main cemetery of the town and it is huge. A short walk inside the cemetery crossing the graves of general public, leads to the World War area. There are 4 Indian graves here but 3 headstones. All 3 are together. Maharaj Din and Dhan Singh together on a shoulder-to-shoulder burial with the same headstone. Then there are the separate graves of Baldeo Singh and Jathane. I visited Tournai cemetery on a day trip to Tournai itself. If you're going on pilgrimage, it is a good idea to combine Tournai, Ath & Halle which is in the same railway line.

Where is Tournai Communal Cemetery? - On Google Maps: Tournai Communal Cemetery Allied Extension
How to reach Tournai Communal Cemetery: 4km from Tournai railway station. LeTEC bus route 7 takes you to Tournai Guingette. The cemetery is 500m (6 mins walk) from here.

WWI Soldiers Indian Graves in Belgium Belgrade Cemetery
Gif (2 images change every 3 secs) - Indian graves in Belgrade (Saint Servais) Communal cemetery

BELGRADE (SAINT SERVAIS) CEMETERY
There are 2 cemeteries near Namur - Belgrade Cemetery and Saint-Servais cemetery. Though the CWGC website mentions Belgrade, the World War graves are in the Saint-Servais cemetery. There are 2 graves here of Abdullah and Chand Nain. This is where I realized that the headline on the Headstone doesn't relate to the religion of the soldier - Abdullah, a Muslim, has 'Om Bhagavathe Namah' on the headstone! The 2 graves are in 2 separate spots mixed amongst headstones of soldiers of other nationalities.

Where is Belgrade (Saint-Servais) Cemetery? - On Google Maps: Cimetière de Namur
How to reach Belgrade (Saint-Servais) Cemetery: 3km from Namur railway station. LeTEC bus route 9 drops you in front of the cemetery.

WWI Soldiers Indian Graves in Belgium Ath Communal Cemetery
Gif (3 images change every 3 secs) - Indian graves in Ath Communal cemetery

ATH COMMUNAL CEMETERY
There are 3 Indian graves in Ath Communal Cemetery of Dhani Ram, Mahipat and Baldeo Singh. There are just 38 headstones in 2 straight lines here, of which 3 are Indian. They aren't next to each other. Dhani Ram and Mahipat were drivers from Agra & Bombay while Baldeo Singh was a gunner from Meerut, UP. 

Where is Ath Communal Cemetery? - On Google Maps: Ancien Cimetière de Ath
How to reach Ath Communal Cemetery: 1.2km (14 mins walk) from Ath railway station.

WWI Soldiers Indian Graves in Halle Communal Cemetery

HALLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY
Halle Communal Cemetery's layout is interesting when compared to the other cemeteries. Here, the headstones are in a circular layout around the central area. I visited Ath and Halle back to back. If you depend on public transport, it is also a good idea to visit Halle, Ath and Tournai together as all 3 are in the same railway line. There's only 1 grave of an Indian soldier - Natha, who was a driver.

Where is Halle Communal Cemetery? - On Google Maps: Begraafplaats van Halle
How to reach Halle Communal Cemetery: 6.5km from Halle railway station. DeLijn bus route 163 stops at Halle Don Bosco which is 450m from the cemetery

WWI Soldiers Indian Graves in Charleroi Communal Cemetery

CHARLEROI COMMUNAL CEMETERY
As soon as I entered Charleroi Communal Cemetery (Cimetière de Charleroi Nord) there was the section dedicated to War Graves on the right. But somehow I couldn't find R series there. Luckily there was a gardener there who told me there's another section of war graves a bit further ahead and there was R29, the grave of Sadu, a gunner with Indian Royal Artillery.

Where is Charleroi Communcal Cemetery: Cimetière Charleroi - Nord
How to reach Charleroi Communal Cemetery: 3km from Charleroi Sud railway station. It can either be reached by M4 metro line till Charleroi Samaritaine and then walk 850m (12 mins) or DeLijn bus route 18 till Charleroi Tourtette and then walk 700m (9 mins).

I'm yet to visit La Louviere Town Cemetery (1 Indian grave of Achattan, also a driver and from the name he's definitely from Kerala!) Will update this article when I visit there.

MAP OF ALL WORLD WAR CEMETERIES IN BELGIUM WITH GRAVES OF INDIAN SOLDIERS
Here's the direct link to the below map of Indian war graves in Belgium.


PITRU PAKSHA / PADAYAL FOR WORLD WAR HEROES 
Being an Indian in Belgium, I'm honestly ashamed that I didn't know already, that more than a million Indians came to Belgium during the First World War and in course of the war, 70000+ Indians lost their lives so far away from home!!!! I did not know about any of this when I first decided to visit Ypres... I knew it an important World War I site which, today is filled with several graves of soldiers. What I didn't know was its humongous Indian connection which made a regular trip, a very emotional one!
I was told sometimes some European/American soldiers are left with a bottle of wine. In our culture, we offer food to the departed souls. Its called Pitru paksha in Hindi and Padayal in Tamil. At Tournai, I was just compelled by my conscience to share my lunch with them! I'm not even really sure if that's allowed also. But you're allowed to leave an Indian flag, leave flowers, paintings, art etc (just make it eco-friendly). If you visit them, pay your respects after you read this blog, let me know, I'll be happy that this helped. If you're sharing something on social media, tag me, I'll be happy to reshare.

#PitruPakshaforWorldWarHeroes #PadayalforWorldWarHeroes

Pitru paksha padayal Forgotten Indian Soldiers

P.S: A special thanks to my guides in the city Mr.Lucas of Salient Tours and Mr.Rudi Dewitte for taking the extra efforts to inform & take me to Bedford House Cemetery on my first trip to Ypres (Ieper)! Also, a special thanks to Mr.Jacques of Flanders Battlefield Tours with whom I went on my pilgrimage to each and every Indian grave in & around Ypres on my 2nd trip there. A very special thanks to Kulveer Kaur, Sardar Ratinder Singh, Dr.Raghotham Rao Desai, and a few others who chose to remain unnamed for helping me with the Punjabi & Arabic scripts. 

PIN FOR LATER REFERENCE

Indian Soldier of WWI in Ypres, Belgium Indian Soldier of WWI in Ypres, Belgium

World War Graves of Indian Soldiers in Belgium Pinterest Pitru Paksha Padayal for World War Heroes

Indians who were awarded Victoria Cross Khudadad Khan World War Graves of Indian Soldiers in Belgium Pinterest

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 78 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of Sept 2020. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands

13 comments:

  1. Hi Bhusha,

    Thanks for info.Britan couldn't have survived if they hadn't had the Indian army at their aid in both world wars

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is such a poignant story. The contribution, sacrifice and valour of Indian soldiers in world wars has often been ignored because most writers are from west. I am glad you wrote about this. I am also sharing this on social media. This place again proves why war is so futile. It is so unfortunate that these soldiers perished in a country away from theirs.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I had no idea so many Indian soldiers lost their lives in Belgium...so sad. Thanks for sharing this tragic story.

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  4. I was not familiar with Ypres. I can’t imagine what the families of those not identified must have felt like. I didn’t realize that so many Indians fought in WWI in Belgium. A million is a big number.

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  5. What an insightful post. Frankly speaking, I had not read much about the Indian involvement in the war in Europe. This is truly an eye opener.

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  6. It is good that you live in Belgium, and have known the great historical chapter which not many people know. We should be proud of Indian soldiers and it is great to see their names in foreign soil. It is very sad to know that even our promise was broken though many Indian men sacrificed their life.

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  7. Not many people know how much Indians sacrificed their lives in the world wars. A fitting tribute in Belgium

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  8. Such a poignant story and one that would have brought up many emotions no doubt, when you discovered about this history. There is so much that our ancestors have gone through that we often have no idea about. And as a child, you don't really understand the importance of it all - as you get older, you wish you had learnt more when you were younger. Very informative post.

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  9. This is quite heart rending. I wasn't aware of this part of our history. So many Indian soldiers suffered in World War I in Ypres and many of them weren't even identified. It's a shame that these heroes are forgotten in Indian History. I can understand the emotional connection you must have felt while visiting these graves. I felt the same connection while reading the post.

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  10. OMG! That's awful. This is a piece of history that I had no idea about but I really feel sorry for all those 74,187 lives lost. War stories indeed make me really sad. I just pray that we won't have to deal with another war in our lifetime.

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  11. I have no words to say but full respect and prayers for all the fallen soldiers. They are true heroes.

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  12. It's sad that these soldiers have not had the respect they deserved. Just been watching a news item about it on BBC News. I hadn't realised that Ghandi had supported their involvement on condition that India would get independence.
    Dr Irfin Malik a GP in Nottingham has been researching this lack of awareness of Asian involvement in the war & how his family has been affected by it. He had felt that it had nothing to do with the immigrants living in the UK as his family never talked about it. He is now using his knowledge of the real story to cross the divide & show that they have a shared history with this war. A really great chap.

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    1. Hi Winifred, yes, this is the view I wanted to know. Neither, the present day British nor Indian people are aware of this! Its amazing what Dr.Irfan Malik is doing. Let me go read about him! Thanks for taking time to leave this insightful comment!

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