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What Motivated Indians to Join the British Army in WW1?

End of WW1 and Treaty of Versailles

The treaty of Versailles was signed on 28 June 1919 in the Palace of Versailles, France, ending the war between Germany and the Allied Powers.


Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner was an eminent representative of India. As it is clearly shown in the image above, ‘The Signing of Peace in the Hall of Mirrors’ the Maharaja stood out of the crowd with his attire. He is seen standing close to Woodrow Wilson the then President of the US who is one of the ‘Big four’ (France, Great Britain, Italy and US) that dominated the establishment of the treaty.

Oil painting showing a large group of White men and one Indian man in a richly decorated hall.
The Signing of Peace in the Hall of Mirrors

Maharaja’s role played in the treaty is as central as his position in the image. 66 people represented 32 nations that participated in signing the treaty among which Maharaja Ganga Singh became an ‘Advisor’ and the sole signatory representing India.


After the decision to include India in future conferences, including the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, was made Maharaja Ganga Singh was introduced onto the Imperial War Cabinet. Later India became the only colony to emerge as the founding member of the League of Nations. The League of Nations is a peacekeeping organisation whose main aim was to resolve international conflicts without the interference of military forces. 

The Treaty of Versailles imposed strict economic sanctions on Germany. These eventually led to economic collapse, creating bitterness and resentment within the country. In turn, this led to the rise of the Nazi party and ultimately to World War 2.


The Reneging of the Promise of Dominion 

In India, the signing of the treaty had little effect on the internal political matters that were ongoing at the time.

Despite all the support and sacrifices made by India and Indian people in support of Britain, the British government broke their promise of dominion status for India  after the war.

This resulted in intensifying revolutionary movements for complete independence in India, including the Civil Disobedience Movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi.

It took another war (WW2) and the division of the sub-continent for dominion status to be awarded to India, on 15th August 1947. The dominion status awarded, was for both India (a secular but Hindu majority country) and the newly created Pakistan (Muslim majority). This was accompanied by the largest mass migration in human history popularly known as the 1947 Partition of India. It was a forced migration that displaced nearly 14 million people. India and Pakistan broke away from the monarchy and became independent republics on 26th January, 1950 and 23rd March 1956 respectively.