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India as a British Colony

Indian Soldiers Fighting for Britain

In addition to material aid, India’s most valuable contribution was in terms of the men who fought in the war as part of the British Indian Army between 1914 and 1918. 

Illustration of an Indian soldier holding a gun fitted with a bayonet. Behind him is the outline of India, coloured red.
Indian Recruitment Poster for WW1

Some 1.3 million Indian soldiers served overseas with nearly 74,000 dying. Some of the battle fronts where Indian soldiers fought include the Western Front, East and West Africa, Gallipoli, Egypt, Mesopotamia and Palestine.

Despite harsh climatic conditions (including freezing temperatures causing frostbite), culture shock, food shortages and struggles in low muddy trenches, there are many stories of the bravery and dedication of Indian soldiers.  


Soldiers of undivided India won over 9200 decorations for gallantry, including 11 Victoria Crosses (VC). The Victoria Cross was the highest gallantry award to be given during the War to British and Commonwealth forces. It was awarded for valour in the presence of the enemy. Indians only became eligible for the Victoria Cross in 1911 with the first one being awarded just as the war began in 1914. It was awarded to Khudadad Khan for his valour in the First battle of Ypres.


Black and white photograph of two Indian solders. One is in a wheelchair, the other is sitting on a bench. The one sitting on a bench is writing a letter.
Convalescing Indian Soldier Writing a Letter Home

 Wounded Indian soldiers were treated in hospitals set up especially for them. One of these was the Dome theatre in Brighton, East Sussex.


Black and white photograph showing rows of hospital beds and patients. There is a huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling and the building is a theatre.
The Dome WW1 Hospital, Brighton