The New Forest remembers WWI Indian soldiersPUBLISHED ON: 18 AUGUST 2022
In celebration of #southasianheritagemonth we remember the 3,000 Indian soldiers who were patients at the Lady Hardinge Hospital in Brockenhurst between 1914-1915. These soldiers from the 7th (Meerut) and 3rd (Lahore) Divisions of the Indian Army Corps had fought in Flanders with the British Expeditionary Force. Today, three remain in Brockenhurst, buried at St Nicholas Church.
The village chemist, Mr Martin, photographed soldiers outside his shop in Brookley Road in December 1914. (Source New Forest Knowledge WAR1/B71)
Every effort was made to adhere to the patients’ Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu requirements. Two kitchens were set up to prepare and serve meals for their diets. Muslims drank from aluminum lotahs and the Hindus had brass. Muslims who succumbed to their injuries/illnesses were taken to Woking Mosque for burial. Hindus were cremated in the woods at Tile Barn.
The graves of two Christian Indians are easily identified in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission plot by their cross headstones: Arogyasami (29) of the 2nd Q.V.O Sappers and Miners and Sumeer (25) who served with the Indian Field Ambulance. The adjacent grave with the more rounded headstone belongs to Sukha, a low-caste Indian sweeper who died of pneumonia in January 1915. Sukha was Hindu, but his low status meant he could not be cremated or buried with the Muslims. Therefore, the Vicar of St Nicholas decided he should remain in Brockenhurst, and together the parishioners raised his headstone. Every year, Brockenhurst school children lay posies on each grave.
The Grade II* listed church of St Nicholas is open daily 10-5 throughout the summer and contains an excellent exhibition about the WW1 hospital in Brockenhurst, which treated not only the Indians, but also more than 21,000 Anzac patients during WWI.
Why not visit and take the Brockenhurst WWI trail.