Chandigarh: Memories flowed and a bygone era was nostalgically revived as around two dozen retired Indian and foreign Army officials came together to enjoy the hospitality of Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh here on Friday evening to commemorate the Great War of 1914-1919.
This was the first time these officials, descendants of soldiers who had served in World War I as part of the Jalandhar Brigade, constituted by 2 Sikhs (earlier 15 Royal Ludhiana Sikhs) and 47 Sikhs (now 5 Sikhs), joined in venerating the historical event. It was an emotional reunion as the veterans shared reminiscences of the times spent together in peace and war. Welcoming them at his residence, the Chief Minister said he felt privileged and honoured to host them for dinner, and to share with them some special moments and memories.
Captain Amarinder, an ex-Army man and a keen military historian, recalled the sacrifices of their ancestors – the soldiers of the Jalandhar Brigade, who were the first set of troops to be inducted by the British Army as a Brigade. Many of the Jalandhar Brigade soldiers froze to death as they battled Europe’s worst winter to fight the Great War for the Allied Forces without sufficient warm clothes to protect them from the harsh weather, the Chief Minister observed, adding that the valour and courage of those soldiers, who did not leave their posts despite the extreme conditions, continues to inspire army personnel till this date.
Lamenting that the Indian Army’s contribution to the Great War had been largely ignored, the Chief Minister pointed out that 74000 Indian soldiers gave their lives and another 67000 were injured during the war to uphold the honour of their regiments and their country. Many of the injured also later succumbed, taking the toll even higher.
Speaking on behalf of the Jalandhar Brigade Association, its president, Maj Gen Peter Ronald Davies said that, without repeating history, he only wanted to say that the story which was created during World War I is a continuing one. While the veterans look back on why they have this common story, they, at the same time, also look forward to continuing the story they share with India, he said, joining the gathering in remembering the gallant soldiers who came out to fight the Great War.
The bonds created back then continue to be strong even now, said Davies, adding that the officers and soldiers back home are told about this precious piece of history, lest they forget. He thanked the Chief Minister for taking the unique initiative and enabling them to come together on the soil of Punjab, whose people are known the world over for their grit and bravery.