Indian War Graves in Somme (France) - Forgotten Indians of WWI

This article first appeared in My Travelogue by Bhushavali

Visiting the graves of the forgotten Indian Soldiers of the First World War in Somme, France

You may have already read my article on the Indian War Graves in Belgium. After visiting all the Indian War graves & memorials in Belgium, I decided to head to France... 
I already had a plan for a weekend trip to Amiens. Then I looked into the CWGC map to check the cemeteries with Indian War Graves in the region and there were so so so many! Finally, I ended up extending my trip by one more day and dedicated a day to visiting as many cemeteries and graves as possible within that 1 day. However, I reached Amiens by 12:30PM, and being winter, by 5:30PM it was dark! In the 5 hours (half-day), I managed to visit 7 cemeteries and 1 memorial.

Somme Battlefields Remembrance Tourism | Forgotten Indian Soldiers of WWI
Corbie Communal Cemetery

Somme Battlefields Remembrance Tourism | Forgotten Indian Soldiers of WWI
La Chapelette British and Indian Cemetery. Photo by Mr.Sylvestre Bresson

To give you a gist - Austria's crown prince Archduke Ferdinand was killed by Serbian nationalists. Austria wages war on Serbia. Serbia befriends Germany, here on called Axis. Austria befriends Russia & France, here on called Allies. Britain joins the Allies. India was a British Colony and they deputed Indian soldiers & laborers to Europe! 
Not a few but, more than 8,00,000 soldiers and more than 5,00,000 laborers participated in the First World War (which was then called the Great War) of whom more than 73,000 died! Read here to know more about the role of Indians in WWI.

In 2023, 139 World War I sites in France & Belgium, have been included together, as the Funerary and Memory Sites of the First World War under UNESCO. Many of these cemeteries have been included in the list of 139 sites.

Indian Soldiers majorly fought on the front line in the Battles of Ypres. After that, the Indian Infantry troops (foot soldiers) were sent to other regions, but the Indian Cavalry troops (horseback soldiers) were stationed in many places in France. After the Battles of Ypres, the Battle of Somme (France) happened, from the mid to the end of 1916.
During the Battle of Somme, Indian Cavalry troops were deployed in the Somme region. The frontline is usually Infantry soldiers which didn't have Indians. The Indian Cavalry soldiers were kept as a backup if the Germans managed to break through the front line which somehow never happened, but the front line did suffer severely making this one of the bloodiest battles of mankind. 
That said, there were certain specific attacks that happened time & again, on the Cavalry troops when Indian soldiers died. Also, Indians also served as drivers to the British Infantry troops on the front line, who also took the hit. 

Somme Battlefields Remembrance Tourism | Forgotten Indian Soldiers of WWI
Bronfay Farm Military Cemetery

Somme Battlefields Remembrance Tourism | Forgotten Indian Soldiers of WWI
Bray Military Cemetery

While the Indian Infantry troops were almost not involved and Indian Cavalry troops were involved to some extent during the Battle of Somme, the Indian Labour Corps was extensively involved here. Indian Labour Corps were not armed soldiers but were semi-skilled or unskilled men who had to do a variety of odd jobs.
Indian Labour Corps was formed in 1915 and a mass enrolment drive happened in India. It began first with the Gallopolli Campaign (today's Turkey). By 1917, a humongous, 48000 laborers were deputed to France! As the war kept going on, more people were needed. Soon, prisoners were deputed as laborers (not all prisoners were criminals & revolutionists at this point in time. Read about the Criminal Tribes Act to know the British atrocity of labeling people as criminals by birth!)! The tribal leaders of every tribe from the North Eastern Frontier Region were ordered to send a certain number of people! That's a reason, why several Naga tribes were a part of ILC.  Even the various Christian Missionaries were told to mobilize people to join the Labour Corps, which is why there are many many more Christian laborers and very few Christian soldiers. 
The job of the laborers of the Indian Labour Corps during WWI, varied from fixing the trenches, recycling timber, railroad works, building works, battlefield clearance, etc.

So, when you see the headstones of the Indian War Graves in Somme, it would either be a soldier of the Cavalry troops, a driver with the Infantry troops, or a laborer.

Somme Battlefields Remembrance Tourism | Forgotten Indian Soldiers of WWI
La Chapelette British and Indian Cemetery (above & below)

Somme Battlefields Remembrance Tourism | Forgotten Indian Soldiers of WWI

In my earlier article, I mentioned that the headstones of Indian War Graves are of 3 types (apart from the unknown soldiers) - one each for Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. 
However, it was here in France, that I came to know that it is in fact 6 types - 3 more - for Christians, Buddhists, and Tribes (who were mostly laborers & not combat soldiers)! These Christians are truly Indians as opposed to the Lieutenants & Captains of the British Indian Army who are also listed as Indians, though they were actually British. However, as I mentioned in my earlier article, I suspect that the common religion of the entire unit is mentioned on the headstones and not the personal religion followed by the individual. 
Check my earlier article on Indian War Graves in Belgium for the details on what is inscribed and what it means on the headstones of Hindus, Muslims & Sikhs. 

BUDDHIST HEADSTONES in Sinhalese (Srilankan) language: අනිච්චා වත සංඛාරා - Aniccā vata saṅkhārā - Impermanent, alas, are all formations! - There's also an image of a Burmese-styled Buddhist temple
CHRISTIAN HEADSTONES in the Latin language: Labor Omnia Vincit - Work Conquers All! - There's also a cross just like the Christian burials of other nationalities
TRIBAL HEADSTONES - Since there were many Indian laborers from tribal regions who followed tribal religions, their headstones merely stated the name of the tribe. 

Somme Battlefields Remembrance Tourism | Forgotten Indian Soldiers of WWI
La Chapelette British and Indian Cemetery

Somme Battlefields Remembrance Tourism | Forgotten Indian Soldiers of WWI
London Cemetery and Extension Longueval in heavy fog & zero visibility

If you're an Indian reading this, your emotions may be all over the place. (If you're a non-Indian reading this, here's your context - Britain was India's colonizer).
Should you or shouldn't you visit these graves of the Indian soldiers of WWI? Before deciding, let's talk about 2 facts and 2 opinions... 
  1. Both the World Wars happened (1914-18 & 1939-44) before Indian Independence & India-Pakistan Partition (1947). Since the soldiers & laborers from India were technically from the colonized British India (which includes today's India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Srilanka, etc), we don't know what each and every individual wanted - whether to join India or Pakistan post-partition. They hadn't even known that India-Pakistan Partition would happen when they died in this war so far away! 
  2. Helping the British during the World War was something that was supported by our own national leaders. Our colonizers, the British promised our leaders Purna Swaraj (total independence) if we helped them in the war. Gandhiji himself promoted and mobilized Indians to join the troops. Unfortunately, the promise was broken and this took a turn to the worst, after the war. Both Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (1919) & Rowlatt Act (1919) happened after the First World War (1914-18).
  3. While it is one way to look at these soldiers as people who fought 'with' the British instead of against them, here's another point of view: In this time period, pre-Independence unless a person was a krantikari, a revolutionist, there is every other chance that they were serving & paid by the British Empire because that was literally the functioning Indian government at that point in time! If our own (great) grandparents were in civil services like postal services or railways or school teachers, they were paid their salaries by the British Empire! These soldiers were no different. They were also civil servants who were paid by British Empire. Instead of looking at them as people who fought 'with' the British, I choose to look at it as yet another evil outcome of colonization. Without colonization, without the soldiers & laborers from India, Africa, Australia, etc, the war would have been a European war & not a World War! Without colonization, none of this would have happened!
  4. Why didn't these soldiers leave the job & become a krantikari? Just like how many among us may be in jobs that we don't really like because we need money to live and we have a family to take care of, they too had aging parents, wives, children, etc., and this was their only source of income! Many didn't want to be in this freezing weather, so far away from home, fighting a war, but they had to! Also, many did give it all up and joined Gandhiji or Bose to fight against the British, and with their ultimate sacrifice, they gave us our freedom from the British Empire. Again, without colonization, none of this would have happened!
I see these fallen Indian soldiers & laborers of World Wars as victims of colonization and they were killed by colonization. If you choose to disagree with me, let's just agree to disagree & move on...


The first stop was, of course, Saint Pierre Cemetery on the outskirts of Amiens city itself. The CWGC cemetery within St.Pierre Cemetery has 749 identified graves of which 1 is of an Indian - Baru, a driver with Royal Artillery Depot Jabalpur. It is easy to reach here by public transport from Amiens city center.

Where is Saint Pierre Cemetery, Amiens (On Google Maps)Cimetière Saint-Pierre
How to reach Saint Pierre Cemetery, Amiens: Ametis bus route L stops at Marivaux from where Saint Pierre cemetery is just a 3-min walk. 

St.Pierre Cemetery Amiens Somme Battlefields | Indian Soldiers of First World War

My next stop was Daours Communal Cemetery. At the end of the cemetery, in a dedicated section, there are the 8 graves of Indian soldiers - Jehangir Khan, Ram Sarup, Ghulam Mohi-u-din, Syed Mir, Ali Akbar Khan, Nand Singh, Arjan Singh, and Narain Singh. They were all in the Cavalry units and were either Daffadar or Lance Daffadar or Sowar in various regiments.

Cavalry Charge in Highwood, Somme: As I mentioned above, Indian soldiers were majorly in the Cavalry units after the Ypres Battles. On July 14, 1916, the Bois des Fourcaux area (translated to English as High Wood) was undefended for a considerable amount of time, after an earlier battle. This was literally a wooded area which means it was filled with trees and there were areas where the ground was muddy which made defense pretty difficult. The fight between the British (incl. Indians) & Germans to gain control over High Wood, went on from July 14 to Sept 15, 1916.
It was at this Cavalry Charge that the 2nd Indian Cavalry Division was a part of the British troops. The Indian soldiers buried in the Daours Communal Cemetery most probably died in this attack or were wounded in the attack & died later. The date of death of the soldiers here varies from July 18, 1916, to Sept 16, 1916. 

Where is Daours Communal Cemetery Extension (On Google Maps)Cimetière Communal de Daours Extension
How to reach Daours Communal Cemetery Extension: Daours Communal Cemetery Extension is located 1.5km (18 mins walk) from Daours Railway Station. It is possible to carry a bike on the train. This is a small town and there is no bus/tram here. So this 1.5km has to be walked/biked. 

Daours Communal Cemetery Somme Battlefields | Indian Soldiers of First World War
Photo by Mr.Sylvestre Bresson

Just like the Indian soldiers buried in Daours Communal Cemetery, Corbie communal cemetery too has the graves of 4 of the Indian soldiers who died in the Cavalry Charge in Highwood. They are Mehar Khan, Nand Singh, and Saidhan Shah who were Sowars, and Lall Khan, who was a Lance Daffadar in various Indian Cavalry regiments. All of them were from the Punjab region (both India & Pakistan) & all of them died between the 6th to 17th Sept 1915.

Where is Corbie Communal Cemetery (On Google Maps): Corbie Communal Cemetery
How to reach Corbie Communal Cemetery: Corbie Communal Cemetery is located 1.9km (25 mins walk) from Corbie Railway Station. It is possible to carry a bike on the train. This is a small town and there is no bus/tram here. So this 1.9km has to be walked/biked. 

Corbie Communal Cemetery Somme Battlefields | Indian Soldiers of First World War
Gif (4 images change every 3 secs) - Indian War graves in Corbie Communal Cemetery

Bray Military Cemetery has the graves of 12 Indians of whom 3 are Indian Soldiers (Cavalry troops) and the rest are laborers. The 3 soldiers are Buta Khan (Sowar), Muhammad Khan (Daffadar), and Lal Din (Driver). The rest are all laborers from U.P and Manipur. You can find the list of names & details below.

Where is Bray Military Cemetery (On Google Maps)Cimetière Militaire de Bray
How to reach Bray Military Cemetery: Bray Military Cemetery is located on the outskirts of the town Bray-sur-Somme. The CAP bus route 738 which connects Albert and Peronne goes via Bray-sur-Somme. The Bray-sur-Somme bus stop is about 1km (12 mins walk) from Bray Military Cemetary. 

Bray Military Cemetery Somme Battlefields | Indian Soldiers of First World War
Gif (12 images change every 3 secs) - Indian War graves in Bray Military Cemetery

Bronfay Farm Military Cemetery has 2 graves of Indian soldiers - Narinjan Singh and Sher Singh, both Sowar with different Indian Cavalry troops. Right opposite the Bronfay Farm Military cemetery is the Bronfay Farm which served as the make-shift hospital when the war was happening. The soldiers who died due to war wounds in this hospital were buried (or cremated & ashes buried) in the Bronfay Farm Military Cemetery. It is very possible that the 2 Indian soldiers here died due to war wounds at this hospital. The farm is still a functional farm and is a private property that cannot be visited.

Where is Bronfay Farm Military Cemetery (On Google Maps): Cimetière militaire de Bronfay Farm
How to reach Bronfay Farm Military Cemetery: Bronfay Farm Military Cemetery is located 3km from Bray Military Cemetery mentioned above.

Bronfay Farm Military Cemetery Somme Battlefields | Indian Soldiers of First World War
Gif (2 images change every 3 secs) - Indian War graves in Bronfay Farm Military Cemetery

Unlike the other cemeteries, the La Chapelette British & Indian Cemetery is almost entirely dedicated to the Indian Labour Corps. The whole Cemetery is in 2 sections - British & Indian. There are 315 Indian War Graves in La Chapelette British & Indian Cemetery of which 32 are Indian Soldiers (Cavalry troops) and the rest 283 are Indian laborers! You can find the list of names & details below.
As I mentioned earlier, it is possible to see the headstones of the laborers which are not only Hindus, Muslims & Sikhs but also Indian Christians, Buddhists, and Tribes. La Chapelette British & Indian Cemetery is the cemetery with the most number of Indian War Graves of WWI in the Somme Region in France. La Chapelette British & Indian Cemetery is the largest CWGC Cemetery for Indians.
As always, it should be remembered that British India means, this also includes people not only from present-day India but also Pakistan, Bangladesh, Srilanka, Burma, etc as well as the princely state of Manipur! I was quite confused with the Buddhist headstones. At first, I thought the script was Burmese because quite a few headstones were of the Burmese regiment and there was an image of a Burmese temple! However, further digging revealed that the script was actually Sinhalese (Srilankan)! 
There were many, many headstones of Tribal communities that mentioned Khasi (Assam, Meghalaya), Naga (Nagaland), Kumaon (Uttarakhand, UP), Bihari, Burman, Santhal (Jharkhand, Bengal), Garo (Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, etc), Oraon (Jharkhand, Bengal, Odisha), etc. I've tried to photograph at least one headstone of each tribe in the 2nd Gif image below.

Where is La Chapelette British & Indian Cemetery (On Google Maps): La Chapelette British & Indian Cemetery
How to reach La Chapelette British & Indian Cemetery: The nearest railway station is TGV Haute Picardie which is 11km away. The nearest major city railway station is Albert which is 28km away. If you don't have a car, take the bike on the train.

La Chapelette British and Indian Cemetery Somme Battlefields | Indian Soldiers of First World War
Gif (4 images change every 3 secs) - 4 of the 32 Indian War graves of Soldiers in La Chapelette British & Indian Cemetery

La Chapelette British and Indian Cemetery Somme Battlefields | Indian Soldiers of First World War
Gif (12 images change every 3 secs) - 12 of the 283 Indian graves of Labourers in La Chapelette British & Indian Cemetery

London Cemetery & Extension is along the border of High Wood (Bois des Fourcaux) which I mentioned in the Daours Communal Cemetery section earlier where the Cavalry Charge happened. 
It was about 5:00PM when I was at London Cemetery & Extension. Since it was December it was not only getting darker, but the day was incredibly foggy. The visibility was zero! When I entered the cemetery, the other end of the cemetery was not visible. London Cemetery and Extension is surrounded by cultivation lands and fields and I couldn't see anything at all! Even if I went to the edge of the cemetery, the cultivation lands were invisible. I could only see the hazy white and nothing else. I was a bit scared. I was worried that, if an animal (dog? fox?) might come through the fog and I wouldn't know what to do?!
That suddenly made me realize something - when the war was happening, during the winters, when it was so foggy, imagine being suddenly ambushed by 100 enemy soldiers, who suddenly appear in front of you through the thick fog!!!
London Cemetery and Extension has 914 graves of which 2 are of Indian Soldiers - Driver E.A.D.Kamal (who was with Royal Indian Artillery. Technically an Infantry troop, but Indian soldiers mostly didn't serve in the Somme region as Infantry except for drivers, as mentioned earlier) and Jemadar Ganesha Singh (of Cavalry troops).

Where is London Cemetery and Extension, Longueval (On Google Maps)cimetière de London et son extension
How to reach London Cemetery and Extension, LonguevalLondon Cemetery and Extension Longueval is about 13km from Albert (Gare d'Albert Railway Station). Though there is a bus that connects Albert and Longueval, it is meant for school students and the timings are impractical for others. It would be a good idea to hire a car or take a bike on the train.

London Cemetery & Extension Longueval Somme Battlefields | Indian Soldiers of First World War
Gif (2 images change every 3 secs) -  Indian War graves in London Cemetery and Extension Longueval

London Cemetery & Extension Longueval Somme Battlefields | Indian Soldiers of First World War

By 5:30PM it was too dark to have any visibility and our last stop for the day was Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension. There are 6 Indian war graves in Dernancourt of which 1 is of a soldier - Sirdar Lal Khan (Lance Daffadar), and the rest 5 are laborers - Lukas Mundo, Baldeo, Chauki, Santosh Salkar, and Patras Soy. We literally had to use torches to find these graves, it was already that dark.

Where is Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension (On Google Maps)Dernancourt Cemetery Extension
How to reach Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension: 4km from Albert (Gare d'Albert Railway Station)

Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Somme Battlefields | Indian Soldiers of First World War
Gif (6 images change every 3 secs) -  Indian War graves in Dernancourt Communal Cemetery


While I had the map of the graves of Indians, I didn't know of the Indian monument in Longueval. Thanks to Mr.Sylvestre of Terres de Memoires who knew this place and took me there. It is a small memorial that depicts 4 Indian soldiers - 3 Infantry and 1 Cavalry. This bronze sculpture was inaugurated in 2019. It is in the same plot which also has the memorial for New Zealand soldiers of WWI. 

Where is the Indian Memorial in Longueval (On Google Maps)Mémorial indien
How to reach Indian Memorial in Longueval: It is located just about 2km from London Cemetery and Extension Longueval

Indian Memorial Longueval | Somme battlefields First World War
Photo by Mr.Sylvestre Bresson

Here's the direct link to the below map of Indian war graves in France.

The best way to visit the Somme cemeteries would be by car. There are a couple of places which can be visited by public transport. For eg., if you're visiting Amiens, you could choose to also visit St.Pierre Cemetery by taking the bus or visit Daours & Corbie by taking the train; if you're visiting Albert, you could choose to hire a bike and visit all the cemeteries around Albert.  
However, for a more efficient trip, the best option would be by car. If you can drive, hire a car, and if you cannot or choose not to, hire a chauffeured car. On my day of Remembrance tourism in Somme, I was taken around by Mr.Sylvestre of Terres de Memoires.

Terre de Memoires official website: Terre de Memoires
Terre de Memoires e-mail:
Terre de Memoires phone number: +33(0)3 22 84 23 05

Ideally 2.5 to 3 days!
Day 1 - 12 Cemeteries in and around Amiens, Flixecourt, Abbeville and Doulens.
Day 2 - 11 Cemeteries in and around Albert
Day 3 - (might take only half a day) - 5 Cemeteries in and around Peronne. Maybe combine it with the Museum of the Great War in Peronne.

Dr. Domineek Dendooven, Author of Asia in Flanders Fields
Mr. Sylvestre Bresson, Terre des Memoires Battlefield Tours
Dr. Radhika Sinha, 1914-1918 Online Encyclopedia
and of course, Hauts-de-France Tourisme, Somme Tourisme & Amiens Tourisme

Somme Battlefields Remembrance Tourism | Forgotten Indian Soldiers of WWI | Pinterest First World War Somme Battlefields Remembrance Tourism | Forgotten Indian Soldiers of WWI | Pinterest First World War

Somme Battlefields Remembrance Tourism | Forgotten Indian Soldiers of WWI | Pinterest First World War Somme Battlefields Remembrance Tourism | Forgotten Indian Soldiers of WWI | Pinterest First World War


An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of June 2022. 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


  1. This sort of matter is new to me, and I find it pretty fascinating. Its past is very interesting. It was genuinely entertaining to read. When I eventually get the chance, I want to go see these war cemeteries. When in France, this place must be visited without a doubt!

  2. As Canadians, we have often been fascinated to find war graves all over Europe when we travelled. So I am sure you were interested to find the Indian War Graves when you visited Somme in France. You often hear about the role of soldiers but the contribution of the Labour Corps are much less celebrated. Good to provide some context to help other Indian travellers decide whether to visit.

  3. I didn't know that so many Indian soldiers have fought in both World Wars, and how they ended up supporting the British Army during this time. I also didn't know that there were so many cemeteries around France and Belgium, where the fallen soldiers and laborers have found their forever rest. We don't really learn that in history classes in school, which is a shame, as this is recent history that we should prevent from ever happening again. Information is so important in achieving this.

  4. We have visited many memorials and museums of war heroes but of Indian soldiers , only in India. Memorials outside India were always of a different army. Didn't know there are so many graves of Indian soldiers outside India too. They had fought in World Wars but this kind of memorable makes us proud and sad, both at the same time. They really make us proud. This one in France gives goosbumps, it's always good to know a bit of history attached to it.

    P.S.- Your daughter is adorable. Glad to see that you are inculcating these things in her in her childhood itself. :)

  5. I knew that Indian soldiers fought alongside the British in WWI. But I was not aware that there were so many - and that so many died. Visiting these endless rows of graves with your daughter must have been a very memorable and emotional experience. I recently visited the war memorial in El Alamein in Egypt and was literally moved to tears.

  6. This post is quite revealing and makes one sad as well for the lives lost for someone else's war. While had read the article on Belgium cemeteries this one was informative as well. Especially why Indian soldiers fought during the World War before partition and sacrificed lives. It would be calming to visit some of the cemeteries like Corbile Communal, Bronfay Farms and Bray and pray.

  7. These Indian war graves in Somme, France evokes a proud and sad feeling at the same time given the sacrifices made by the Indian soldiers who fought aside the British during WWI. And as you said most of these soldiers served the government and people doing various odd jobs were deployed by the British to join the Indian Labor corps. It's unfortunate that many of the Indian leaders like Gandhiji was in favor of Indian prisoners joining the British forces in world war. It's great to see the names of Indian soldiers engraved in their local languages in La Chapelette British and Indian cemetery.

  8. We have only ever visited memorials and museums dedicated to Indian warriors. Outside of India, memorials are always meant for a different army. I had no idea that there were so many Indian soldiers who served in both World Wars in British Army. Really feeling sad to see the cementries. You curated this article so well.

  9. This is not new to me, we also have cemeteries of WW armies that until to this days we visited and even have a commemoration of their fights and hardships. Recalling the past is very interesting and we should not forget about it for it is part of history.

  10. This is an amazing history. Never knew the scale of this until I saw your post. Thanks for the research and details 🙏


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