Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Prince Charles at the Indian Memorial at Neuve-Chapelle in France

Most Australian media reported from Fromelles, where the last of the 250 British and Australian soldiers were laid to rest with full military honours on 19th July. They could not avoid noticing that HRH Prince Charles and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall attended the commemorative ceremony at the new Military Cemetery, however, nobody had found it newsworthy that the heir to the throne and his wife also attended a ceremony to honour the fallen Indian soldiers the very same day.

The French newspaper La Voix du Nord published a very fine article on this event, that is in stark contrast to the abysmal journalism practiced by The Age, and the daily's photographs give an excellent insight into the ceremonies with the Indian soldiers and their relatives.

TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall paid tribute to the contribution of Muslim and Sikh and Hindu soldiers in the First World War during a visit to the Neuve-Chapelle Indian Memorial.

The Battle of Neuve-Chapelle saw a huge contribution by the British Indian Army, and the memorial represents the 4,742 Indian soldiers with no known grave who died in the First World War.

Their Royal Highnesses attended a memorial service, which was attended by children from a number of schools in Britain learning about the contributions of the many different ethnic communities that fought and died in the First World War for the Allied cause.

On entering the memorial, The Duchess was presented with flowers, before The Prince was invited to lay a wreath given to him by a pupil from Allerton Grange School in Leeds.

Pupils from the school talked to The Prince and told him what they have been learning about the link between shared national values and national cohesion, in relation to Neuve-Chappelle and the sacrifices made there by the many different ethnic communities.

Poems were recited by 10-year-old Rasnam Singh, who travelled with a Sikh delegation. Their Royal Highnesses listened as he read the poem which had been written by a Sikh soldier who served at Neuve-Chapelle.

Rasnam was followed by a specially written poem by a pupil from Allerton Grange School.

The Prince and The Duchess toured the memorial grounds meeting with veterans, Gurkhas, and representatives from Britain’s Hindu, Sikh and Muslim communities who had made the journey to Neuve-Chapelle especially for the service.

Prince Charles asks: Why are all our war heroes white?

In its edition of 21st July 2010 The Daily Express quoted “a senior royal aid” having said “the Prince was so concerned about the way that black and Asian troops had been marginalised from our history he had decided to try to highlight the issue”.

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall paid tribute to 4,742 Indians whose deaths in two battles in October 1914 and March 1915 are commemorated at the First World War memorial at Neuve Chapelle. They were among 140,000 Indians who saw active service on the Western Front in the First World War.

The Daily Express continues:

"At the memorial Charles and Camilla learned about the exploits of Rifleman Gobar Singh Negi, who won a posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery fighting in the trenches with the 2nd Battalion, 39th Garhwal Rifles at Neuve Chapelle on March 10, 1915.

Charles and Camilla also met Jaimal Singh Johal, 74, a retired sub-postmaster from Maidenhead, Berkshire, whose grandfather Manta Singh, a junior officer in the 2nd Sikh Royal Infantry, was fatally wounded at Neuve Chapelle, dying in hospital in Brighton aged only 27.

"It means a lot that they have come to see this memorial and that my grandfather is being recognised in a foreign country," said Mr Johal.

Sir Christopher Bayly, professor of imperial and naval history at Cambridge University, agreed that many people knew little about the role of non-whites who had fought for Britain, apart from the Gurkhas."

No comments: