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Lest we forget – Indian soldiers at ANZAC

Indian soldiers 1915 Source: Getty Images

Do you know that a large number of Indian soldiers fought and died alongside the ANZACs during the Gallipoli campaign in 1915?

In 1915, more than 11,400 soldiers, belonging to the Australian and New Zealand Armed Corps (ANZAC), died in the eight-month Gallipoli campaign in Turkey.

Military historians have either often underestimated or sidelined the contribution of Indians in the Gallipoli campaign.

According to a book, ‘Die in Battle, Do not Despair: The Indians on Gallipoli, 1915, published by UNSW based Professor Peter Stanley last year on the occasion of ANZAC centenary - three times as many South Asians fought in the campaign than official estimates suggest.

His book, based on the diaries of servicemen from Australia and New Zealand and the research conducted at the National Archives of India, notes that the actual death figures exceeded 5,000 and can be around 15,000 soldiers from the Indian subcontinent.

Force G or the South Asian contingent comprised mostly Hindus, Sikh, Muslims and Gurkhas.

These Indian soldiers served in an infantry brigade, a mountain artillery brigade, in medical units and in a large contingent of mule drive.

Mule Corps relied heavily on Indian soldiers, or followers as they were called, and 3000 animals to transport supplies to the front.

According to Len Kenna, there were also Indian-Australian soldiers who took part in WW1.

These soldiers had previously worked for the British Indian army in campaigns in Africa, Mediterranean and the Middle East.

While working as hawkers or on plantations here these Indians (Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and Christians) enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces but didn’t get the chance to fight in Gallipoli.

Crystal Jordan tells about the only Indian-Australian from South Australia who was at Gallipoli.

Charles Khan served as a chef for ANZACs and cooked all kinds of curries.

Len says that today ANZAC has lost its reverence and Australian politicians and community leaders should take note of it.

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