More than 40 Indian families and their friends got together on May 1 to pay homage to their forefathers, relatives and friends who participated in World Wars I and II, fighting on behalf of New Zealand, which was then a part of the British entity.
National MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Former Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board Chairman John McCracken and members of the Papatoetoe Historical Society were among those present at the event held at Youthline, located at St George’s Street in Papatoetoe.
They shared their knowledge of the two World Wars and the experience of their grandparents and great grandparents. A display of medals and memorabilia helped many to understand and appreciate the bravery of our predecessors during one of the most critical and dangerous stages that the world went through in the 20th Century.
About 4000 Sikh soldiers of British India participated in the Gallipoli operations in 1915; about 800 of them were killed and many more were injured along with soldiers from other countries including New Zealand and Australia.
Rajinder Bedi is Community Educator at the Papatoetoe Historical Society, a Community Leader, a Marriage Celebrant and Secretary of the Sri Dasmesh Darbar Gurdwara located at Kolmar Road, near Hunters Corner in Papatoetoe. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Retired officials write
Indian Newslink carried a report on the commemorate service held on April 25, 2004 in its May 1, 2004 issue.
Writing in our May 1, 2012 issue, Carl Gomes and Col Ravee Sharawat had said that the Indian Army (then called the British Indian Army) contributed a number of divisions and independent brigades to the European Front in West, Mediterranean and the Middle East theatres of war.
Carl James served the Indian Navy from 1967 and following retirement in 1990, was employed in Merchant Navy. He lives in Auckland. Ravee Sahrawat served the Indian Army from 1964, served in the First Regiment of the Brigade of the Guards and retired as Colonel. He lives in Wellington.
“A million Indian troops served overseas, of whom 62,000 died and 67,000 were wounded. These included 1926 soldiers killed and 3863 wounded at Gallipoli, while fighting for the Australian-New Zealand Division, as a part of Australia New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). Tens of thousands of New Zealanders observe ANZAC Day on April 25 with reverence at home and far across the oceans at Gallipoli in Turkey.
“Despite being synonymous with Australia and New Zealand, ANZAC was a multinational body. In addition to the many British officers in the corps and division staffs, it contained elements of the Indian Expeditionary Force G, which was primarily 29 Infantry Brigade, comprising two Punjabi battalions, King George’s Own (KGO) Ferozepore Sikhs and I/5 GR with mountain batteries.
“The present incarnation of 69 Punjabis (The First Battalion of the Brigade of Guards) is the senior most infantry battalion of the Indian Army, proudly displaying Gallipoli as one of its 31 Battle Honours along with Heles and Krithia from the same sector. The other infantry battalions, still on Order of Battle (ORBAT) of the Indian Army also cherish their battle honours earned in the Gallipoli Sector of Dardanelles.
Keeping the sensitivity of 33% Muslim troops of two Punjabi battalions to fight Khalifa’s Company of religionist troops, these battalion were withdrawn and sent to France, to be replaced by ¼ GR, 1/6 GR and 2/10 GR.”
- Families and friends at the gathering on May 1, 2015
- National MP K S Bakshi speaking to Commander Dhindsa, watched by John McCracken (left) and Jenny Clark, Papatoetoe Historical Society Secretary (standing).