Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first Indian PM to visit the World War I Memorial in Neuve-Chapelle near Paris and pay homage to the martyred Indian soldiers, who laid down their lives while fighting for the British Army during the World War I between 1914 to 1918.
At least 4,742 Indian soldiers, mostly Sikhs, Dogras and Garhwalis, fought under the British Army and lost their lives at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. The memorial, designed by Sir Herbert Baker, with sculpture by Charles Wheeler, is a circular enclosure centred on a tall pillar that is topped by a lotus capital, and carved representations of the Star of India and the Imperial Crown.
At the foot of the pillar is a Stone of Remembrance inscribed with the words: “Their name liveth for evermore.” The main inscription is in both English and French, while the column also bears an inscription in English, Arabic, Hindi and Gurmukhi: “God is One, His is the Victory”.
The memorial was unveiled by the Earl of Birkenhead on 7 October 1927. None of the Indian Governments or heads of the country bothered to visit this war memorial in the past, which is nothing but a shocker. But, PM Modi gathered all details before his France visit and made sure to include this in his itinerary.
There are two recipients of the Victoria Cross commemorated on the Neuve-Chapelle Memorial: William Arthur McCrae Bruce, and Gabar Singh Negi. PM Modi paid floral tribute to the martyred soldiders and bowed his head before the memorial. He also inspired the Indians present there to chant ‘Shahidon, Amar Rahe’.