Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Monuments of World War 1 In Pakistan

After the Crimean War (1853 - 1856), Europe entered a long and unprecedented period of peace and stability, except the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. It all started to change in the first decade of the twentieth century when an arms race intensified between the two opposing alliances of Britain, France, and Russia on one side and German, Austro Hungarian Empire and Italy on the other side. By 1914 the long accumulated gun powder was ready to explode. The necessary spark was provided by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, in Sarajevo. Armed and backed by new technologies, Europeans soon found themselves involved in a kind of war, of which nobody has ever imagined. The destruction and carnage were on a scale, which the world had not seen till then. 

But all this mayhem did not stay confined to Europe only. Many European countries were big colonial powers and they sucked these colonies into this conflict. One of them was Britain and India was its biggest colony, Jewel in the Crown. Britain mobilized men and resources of India to bolster her war effort. Almost 1.27 million Indian participated in this war which lasted from 1914 to 1918, and over 74,000 of them lost their lives in defense of the British Empire. 

At the start of the war, the strength of Indian Army was 155,000 men, 100,000 of whom were from Punjab. But the army was greatly expanded during the war and 380,000 more were recruited from this region. 120,000 of them were recruited from the Rawalpindi division alone, that in those days comprised of Rawalpindi, Attock, Jhelum, Shahpur and Mianwali districts. 

The contribution of Indians in general or Punjabis, in particular, is not the subject of this post. It is a vast and complicated subject and well beyond my capacities. However, I want to contribute by writing about the small monuments and plaques which I saw in many places by myself or found on the internet. 

Gun at Dulmial. Given by the government to honour those men, who went to war from this village. (13.03.2009.)  Location:  32°44'19.46"N,  72°55'19.88"E.

Our Heritage
This gun was awarded to Dulmial in recognition of services rendered by all ranks from this village during and prior to First Great War 1914 - 1919. The gun was brought from Jhelum and placed here under the supervision of Honarary Captain Malik Ghulam Muhammad and other veterans in 1925. (Photo: 13.03.2009.)

Gun Foundry Cossipore. No. 12, 1847. (13.03.2009.)

As the inscription on the gun tells, it was manufactured at the Gun and Shell Factory at Cossipore, Kolkata, India. This factory was established in 1801 by the East India Company, it is the oldest ordnance factory in India. 

The writer in front of the gun. (13.03.2009.)

From this village 460 men went to the Great War 1914 - 1919. Of these 9 gave up their lives. 
Photo Source:


front row (left to right) Sub Sultan Ahmed, Risaldar Ghulam Rasul, SM Khuda Bakhsh, Capt Ghulam Muhammad, Lt Muhammad Khan, Sub Fateh Muhammad, Subedar Ghulam Muhammad
standing front row (left to right) Risaldar Muhammad Khan, Jemmadar Noor Muhammad, Sub Ismail Khan, Sub Fateh Muhammad, Sub Muhammad Khan, Sub Mulook Khan, Jemmadar Muhammad Khan, Sub Allah Ditta
standing back row (left to right) Jemmadar Abdullah Khan, Jemmadar Haider Khan, Jemmadar Muhammad Khan, Jemmadar Muhammad Hussain, Jemmadar Abdullah Khan, Sub Ramji Mal

Sources claim that this was the largest contribution of any village in the Indian Subcontinent. Similarly, during the WW II, 732 men from the same village went to war. Considering the size of this village, these figures are amazing. When I visited this Dulmial in 2009, I was not aware of the existence of this memorial, so missed it. This small village lies in Chakwal district, there is another village in the same district, which is very close to Chakwal city. It is called Dab, where a person was born whose name was Subedar Khudada Khan. This person won the first Victoria Cross in India in 1914.  

Subedar Khudad Khan, the first recipient of the Victoria Cross in India. 

Grave of Subedar Khudad Khan, VC, near Chak No. 25 ( 32°24'51.71"N,  73°14'31.94"E) in Mandi Bahauddin district. (24.03.2016.)

Another son of this land who earned an eternal respected place in history, is Subedar Shahamad Khan. Who while fighting in Iraq during the first world war, won Victoria Cross, the highest gallantry medal of the British Empire. 
Subedar Shahamad Khan, VC (1879 - 1947), of Takhti, district Rawalpindi. 
Grave of Subedar Shahamad Khan, VC. located at  33°21'32.04"N,  73° 4'12.48"E. (14.12.2016)
(In Google Earth search for Takti Rajgan.) 

Monument in honour of those who went to war from Takhti. Subedar Shahamad Khan was one of them. 

Plaque on the obelisk. Source of the above two pictures: 
Mohammad Imran Saeed

Soon Valley is a very beautiful valley in the Salt Range, district Khushab. It is inhabited by Awan tribe, a tribe known for its traditions of bravery and valour. I came to know through different sources of some plaques, commemorating the contribution of people of this valley to the WW I. I had visited this valley several times in the past and also had had an opportunity to visit Sakesar mountain, the highest point of the Salt Range, which also houses some installations of PAF. But the beauty of this valley never impressed me more in the past, as it did this time because due to a good Monsoon the scene was simply marvellous.

Two pillars, as a WWI monument, were erected in 1928, at the start of the mountainous road to the valley. Location:  32°26'26.95"N,  72°13'7.27"E. (24.07.2017.)

A plaque commemorating the contribution of three thousand men, who participated in the WW I, on the side of the British Empire. (24.07.2017.)

Details of the official who were involved in the construction of this monument. (24.07.2017.)

I found three plaques in three villages, which briefly tell the contribution of that village to the war efforts. The plaques 
From this village 110 men went to the Great War 1914 - 1919. Of these 8 gave up their lives. 
Location: 32°31'31.24"N,  72° 8'14.17"E. (24.07.2017.) 

Village "Dara", the community guest house, that holds this plaque. (24.07.2017.) 

Front view of the Dara. (24.07.2017.)
A beautiful view of the Soon Valley. (24.07.2017.)

Clouds on the hills.  (24.07.2017.)

Beauty of the Soon Valley.  (24.07.2017.)

Sabral (Sabhral)
From this village 127 men went to the Great War 1914 - 1919. Of these 5 gave up their lives. 
Location: 32°33'32.89"N,   72° 7'13.42"E. (24.07.2017.) 

Front view of the building, a private baithhak, guest room. (24.07.2017.)

From this village 169 men went to the Great War 1914 - 1919. Of these 10 gave up their lives. 
Location: 32°32'49.85"N,  72° 5'29.35"E. (24.07.2017.) 

Back of the school, where the plaque is fixed. (24.07.2017.)

A view of the Kufri. 

Monument at Pind Sawika:  32°46'3.64"N,  73°21'49.62"E. (District Jhelum)

Pind Sawikka (Pind Sawika), district Jhelum. 
From this village 130 men went to the Great War 1914 - 1919. Of these 4 gave up their lives.
Above 2 Photos By: Mr Talha Barkaat @ Google Earth

Monumnet At Lehri, district Jhelum.   33° 9'1.22"N,  73°33'31.29"E. 
Photo By: Mr Jawad Haider Kayani @ Google Earth

A website gives the contribution of all the three major communities of undivided Punjab as thus:
By the end of the war that began in 1915, undivided Punjab had provided some 3.7 lakh recruits, including 1.9 lakh Muslims, around 97,000 Sikhs and 83,000 Hindus, historian David Omissi writes in his book "Sepoy and the Raj".

A website "" gives the following information about the contribution of this region to the war efforts:

1. The first Asian Victoria Cross winner was Subedar Khan from what is now Pakistan on the Western Front, WW1.

2. The first Asian unit to arrive in France during WW1 was the Lahore Division, named after a large city in what is now Pakistan.

3. The first wave of the Lahore Division to see combat on the Western Front was made up of 75% men from Mirpur, Attock, Rawalpindi, Kotli and Jhelum districts from what is now Pakistan.

4. The first Asian casualty and medal awarded on the Western Front was to Sepoy Usman Khan in 1914, from what is now Pakistan.

5. The first district in Asia on the list of WW1 war dead was Rawalpindi with 1,336 men dead in what is now Pakistan.

6. The first village in number of men contributed to WW1 from Asia was Dulmial, in what is now Pakistan, with 460 men and 9 killed in action.

It is often claimed that the Indian army was the biggest volunteer force in history. But there are indications that all of those recruited did not come voluntarily. Although there were offered some incentives like, a regular salary, no matter how meagre; and allotment of agricultural land at the end of service, appeal to honour etc. But in addition to that, some coercion was also employed. For this purpose influential people like big landlords, religious leaders or land revenue officials were employed and given certain targets to achieve. 

WWI was a war brutal to an extreme and all the participants suffered immensely. I came across a website that sheds some light on the feelings of the general public about this war and the pain felt by the participants and also their families.

Don’t go don’t go
Stay back my friend.
Crazy people are packing up,
Flowers are withering and friendships are breaking.
Stay back my friend.
Allah gives bread and work
You wouldn’t find soothing shades anywhere else.
Don’t go my friend don’t go.

My husband, and his two brothers
All have gone to laam. [l’arme]
Hearing the news of the war
Leaves of trees got burnt.
War destroys towns and ports, it destroys huts
I shed tears, come and speak to me
All birds, all smiles have vanished
and the boats sunk
Graves devour our flesh and blood
He wears a tusser shirt
O train, move slowly
You have a passenger bound for Basra
The sand is hot in the cauldron
Germany stop the war
We do not need it
Trees by the roadside
Wicked Germany, stop the war
There are widows in every household
Potholes on the roads
Poor people’s sons were killed in Basra
In the morning I saddled the horse
For the Basra expedition
Alas, I couldn’t talk to him to my heart’s content
The string flew with the kite
May God forgive me
Germany is on the offensive
The English wouldn’t be able to do anything
May God forgive me
Mothers’ sons have gone to the laam in the foreign lands
May Allah end the laam, my children
May the Five Souls of the Prophet’s family guard you
May Allah bring you back home safe.
Indian soldiers served at many fronts in Europe, Africa and The Middle East. In the above song, Basra is mentioned thrice, because almost half of them served in the present day Iraq and the Basra was the sea port and the point of disembarkation. It also reminded me of my maternal grandmother, Feroz Bibi. Who though not educated, was a very intelligent woman with a sharp memory and good understanding of current affairs. She told me many stories of old warriors, especially of those who participated in the WW II. She was even aware of creation of Azad Hind Fauj after the debacle of Singapore in WWII. In her words some soldier became Baaghis, i.e rebels. Her father Wali Muhammad, himself was a soldier and went to Iraq during the WW I. Once she told me about his father that he was very anxious and worried about the fact that he had had to fight against a Muslims  in Iraq. He said "How would I fire in the direction of Baghdad"? (Baghdad is considered a holy city by many Muslims, because of many shrines, including that of Imam Abu Hanifa and Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani) Unfortunately, I don't have more information about his wartime experiences. She, however, told me that after the war he brought a dinner set of Chinaware,  a novelty at that time. He died in 1950. My maternal grandmother was born around 1927/28 and died in 2009. May her soul rest in eternal peace.
Photographer: Jean-Baptiste Tournassoud 
Year: 1917
Location: France
Description: A group of colonial soldiers from the Punjab region of India, pose for a photograph in France, 1917.
Source: Centenary News

A vast majority of those who went to war from present day Pakistan were Punjabis, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. But the participation of Pakhtuns living on the north west frontier of India was also significant. They fought on many fronts, with their characteristic bravery and many of them earned medals and praise for their outstanding performance. One of such heros was Subedar Mir Dast. He was born in Tirah in 1874 and died in Peshawar in 1945. He was awarded Vitoria Cross for displaying great brave on the western front in Belgium, in 1915.

Subedar Mir Dast, VC. (1874 - 1945)

 Mir Dast receiving the Victoria Cross from George V, August 1915

I am sure that there would be many more such plaques and monuments commemorating WW I and I request my readers to help to find them. But what about WW II? Actually, after the end of the First World War, the British Empire was at its zenith and they built monuments big and small all over the world, to celebrate their victory. However, after the WW II the sun was fast setting and an exhausted and receding empire was in no position and mood to construct memorials, at least in a country like India, which they themselves were in a hurry to leave.

Tariq Amir

August 23, 2017.Doha - Qatar. 


  1. My compliments for remembering the martyrs from undivided India who died in World War-I. I would invite you to take a look at my blog I am working on a book on this subject wherein I would also be including photos of memorials to such soldiers in India. I seek your permission to use some of the photos of such memorials in Pakistan put up by you here. Each such photo included in the book would be duly acknowledged to you/ to the photographer. Regards & best wishes....K J S Chatrath, Panchkula, India.

  2. Thank you very much for you liking and appreciation. I recently found an other monument and shall upload its picture soon. I tried to visit you blog but I am receiving the following message:

    Sorry, the blog you were looking for does not exist. However, the name indiansoldiersinfrance is available to register!

  3. Sorry ...there was a typographicqal mistake on my part and words 'ww1' had got left out....kindly try again: Apologies for the mistake...regards..

  4. There was a typographical error on my part. My apologies Sir. Here is the correct link: