Call for permanent memorial to ‘forgotten’ British Indian Army soldiers

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A permanent memorial should be erected to commemorate the “forgotten soldiers” from the British Indian Army, according to a heritage group.

Having been evacuated from Dunkirk during the Second World War, 13 soldiers travelled to Scotland but died after training in harsh conditions with British troops.

Nine of the men are buried in Kingussie, whilst the others were laid to rest in Aberdeenshire, Sutherland, and Banffshire.

However, there is currently no permanent memorial in Scotland to commemorate their sacrifice or the service of Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus who fought for Britain in both world wars.

More than 160,000 soldiers from the British Indian Army died in the wars.

The Glasgow-based Colourful Heritage initiative wants to erect a permanent memorial in Scotland and the idea is backed by Scottish Labour MSP Anas Sarwar, who attended a multi-faith remembrance service on Thursday.

He said: “As we mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, it is fitting to recognise the historic contribution of soldiers from the British Indian Army in both world wars.

“They are our forgotten soldiers: thousands of young men from different faiths who travelled halfway around the world, with many making the ultimate sacrifice.

“Our country has a diverse history, and we must do more to recognise that and give people a sense of belonging. I support calls for a permanent memorial in Scotland to the soldiers from the British Indian Army.

“It would serve as a reminder for generations to come, and show children living here in Scotland whose ancestors are from India or Pakistan that they too have a stake in our country’s history and values.”

Responding to calls at First Minister’s Questions for a memorial, Nicola Sturgeon indicated she would be supportive of the proposals.

She said: “I welcome the multi-faith remembrance service, I think that is very fitting and it’s an opportunity to remember and to remember with gratitude the contribution of the British Indian Army to the war effort.

“Of course, we’ve just passed Armistice Day where we commemorated the centenary of the end of the first World War and also remember all of those who have lost their lives in conflict throughout the last century, and we must make sure that when we do that, we remember everybody.

“I certainly would be very happy to take forward discussions about the possibility of a permanent memorial and I will ask the relevant minister to contact Anas Sarwar to kick off those discussions as soon as possible”.

Omar Shaikh, founder of Colourful Heritage, said: “It is critical for a community to preserve its heritage so future generations know of its contributions.

“For the South Asian community, the role of the British Indian Army is central to this. For too long the contributions of BME soldiers in both world wars have not been sufficiently remembered.

“I am glad that Colourful Heritage is leading this effort in Scotland and, working together with the Armed Forces and Glasgow Museums, this story can now be told, which is so important in the current climate of ‘anti-migrant’ narratives.”

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