Julian Leeser MP commemorates the Indians who fought in the first AIF

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To mark the Centenary of the Armistice, Julian Leeser MP has honoured the Indian soldiers who served with Australia’s Anzacs on the weekend. 

Mr Leeser unveiled a new memorial to commemorate the service and sacrifice made by the Indians who served in the first Australian Imperial Force.

This memorial is the first of its kind in New South Wales.  It is the result of a unique partnership supported by Mr Leeser, between the Hindu Council of Australia and the Hornsby RSL Sub-Branch, with a grant from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

A little-known story of World War I is the contribution made by a small number of Indian soldiers who enlisted to fight with the AIF.  Several of these British citizens came from the powerful Indian military tradition, and were eager to serve alongside the original ANZACs.  Most of these men were forced to take extraordinary steps to enlist, overcoming bans on non-European enlistment, in order to serve Australia and the British Empire. 

Mr Bhagwat Chauhan, National Vice President of the Hindu Council Australia, said this is a welcomed acknowledgment of the bravery and contribution of the Indians who fought in the war.

“The stories of Indians who fought with the AIF, show their heroic attitudes, motivation and determination.”

“These as yet untold stories provide a new perspective on the Australian experience of World War I and evidence of the diversity of the AIF as a fighting force,” Mr Chauhan said.

Mr Leeser highlighted the importance and depth of the Australia-India relationship.

“These stories prove the enduring links between Australia and India and of the long standing contribution Indians have made to Australia.” 

“The legacy is a symbol of the commitment that the Indian community has to Australia and the strong alliance between Australia and India based on common values of democracy and the rule of law,” Mr Leeser said.

President of the Hornsby RSL Sub-branch, Mr Terry James said that uncovering untold stories is necessary as part of the remembrance process.

“It is incredibly important to uncover and acknowledge all the sacrifices made by combatants, from all backgrounds, to instil an ongoing sense of remembrance and respect in future generations of Australians.”

“Over the course of our history, almost two million men and women have served in the armed forces. I am pleased we now understand and have a place to honour the sacrifices made by those of Indian heritage as part of this history,” Mr James said.

There are at least 12 Indians who volunteered and fought with the AIF. In-depth research has uncovered their absolute determination to fight for their adopted home. Three men went over and above to enlist despite the fact they were too old to do so. Take, Gurbachan Singh, who was so determined to enlist that he did so twice, even after having been discharged for his age once before.

The memorial also remembers and recognises up to 15,000 Indian soldiers who fought with allied troops at Gallipoli, where almost 1,400 Indian soldiers died and up to 3,500 were wounded.

It commemorates Indian soldiers who have served alongside Australian armed forces in other military campaigns and peace missions.

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