India to Bring Back Remains Of WWI Soldiers From France

The bodies of two unidentified soldiers of Garhwal Rifles were found about 70 km from Dunkirk last year.


The Indian Army is sending a team of Garhwal Rifles to France this month to identify and bring back the remains of two soldiers enlisted in World War I by the British Army. The remains of the two unidentified Indian soldiers were found by the French government at a construction site near Laventie, about 70 km from Dunkirk, in September 2016.

The bodies were found along with those of British and German soldiers by local civic authorities. They are all believed to have died in the battle 100 years ago. “The French government has found remains of two soldiers along with their regimental insignia having 39 number engraved on it. This makes us believe that the two soldiers could be of the Garhwal Rifles regiment,” Lt. Colonel Ritesh Roy of Garhwal Rifles said, AFP reported.

“We have already informed the Indian government and top Army officers about the situation and a team from our regiment will be visiting France to identify the remains. If it is confirmed that the remains belong to the Garhwal Rifles regiment soldiers only, then we will bring it back with full army honor,” he said. “The bodies were buried for more than 100 years, so very little is left.”

Named after the Himalayan region of Garhwal, the Garhwal Rifles regiment was known as the “39 Garhwal Regiment” during the World War I. It was part of the Bengal Army in 1887 before the regiment was assimilated in the British Indian Army. To honor the regiment, the British government had renamed them as “39 Royal Garhwal Rifles”. The regiment took its original name in 1950 after India’s Independence and remains an infantry regiment in the Indian Army. Over 650 soldiers of Garhwal regiment died during the World War I and another 350 lost their lives in World War II.

The United Kingdom had awarded two of its regiment’s soldiers with Victoria Cross — the highest gallantry award in Commonwealth — for their brave actions during World War I. Among those awarded was Gabar Singh Negi, who was felicitated for his actions at Battle of Neuve Chapelle in France. There is a Neuve-Chapelle Indian Memorial to commemorate the dead in the battle.

More than one million soldiers from the Indian subcontinent helped the Allied Powers during World War I. Nearly 70,000 of them died in the war. Another 2.5 million Indian soldiers were part of World War II.

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