The Chattri Memorial Service

The Chattri Memorial Service
Dedicated to the Indian soldiers who fought on the Western Front during the First World War.
On the Downs near Patcham, Brighton
Sunday 08 June 2008 at 2.30pm.

All are welcome to attend this half hour service, believed to be the only one of its kind in Britain.

  

During the First World War (1914-18) over one and a half million Indian army soldiers saw active service alongside British troops. Twelve thousand Indian soldiers who were wounded on the Western Front were hospitalised at sites around Brighton. These included York Place School, the Dome, the Corn Exchange and the Royal Pavilion.

The fifty-three Hindu and Sikh soldiers who died in Brighton were taken to a peaceful resting place on the Sussex Downs near Patcham for cremation, after which their ashes were scattered in the sea, in accordance with their religious rites.

The Muslim brothers in arms, totalling nineteen, were buried in a purpose built burial ground near to the Shah Jehan que in Woking. Built in 1889, the que is the oldest of its kind in north-west Europe.

After the end of the war, the contribution made by the Indian Army was seen as crucial in defeating the enemy, and two monuments were erected in recognition and appreciation.

The first of these, the Chattri Memorial, was built on the Downs near Patcham to honour the Indian soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The Chattri, which means umbrella in Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu, was designed by E.C.Henriques from Mumbai. The dome and its eight pillars are built from white Sicilian marble. Three large granite slabs lie over the original concrete cematory bases. The design symbolises the protection offered to the memory of the dead.

The Chattri bears the following inscription in Hindi and English:

To the memory of all the Indian soldiers who gave their lives for their King-Emperor in the Great War, this monument, erected on the site of the funeral pyre where the Hindus and Sikhs who died in hospital at Brighton, passed throught the fire, is in grateful admiration and brotherly affection dedicated.

After some years of neglect, the Patcham branch of the Royal British Legion resurrected the pilgrimage in 1950. They established and continued with this annual tradition until 1999. In 2000, responsibility for organising the memorial service passed on to a local Sikh teacher, together with the Undivided Indian Ex-Services Association.

The service is attended by the Mayor, the Chief Executive, the local MP, city councillors, representatives of the British armed forces, the Indian Army and veterans of the Undivided Indian Army, the Royal British Legion, the police, and local people.

For more information visit www.chattri.com

 

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