World War One’s Forgotten Muslim Heroes Remembered

Indian Cavalry on the Western front 1914 (Wikipedia)
Indian Cavalry on the Western front 1914 (Wikipedia)

Indian Cavalry on the Western front 1914 (Wikipedia)
Indian Cavalry on the Western front 1914 (Wikipedia)

Many have forgotten that during World War One alongside the British, American and Allied troops almost half a million Muslim soldiers fought shoulder to shoulder. An recent survey has revealed that not more than 22% of the British population are aware of this fact, and just two percent are aware of the scale that they supported the war effort.

The survey was conducted by a charity called British Future and it plans to lead a scheme in schools around the British city of Birmingham to educate children about the role of Muslims from India during World War One.

Historians from the charity are giving lessons to Muslim groups of children, and they are then allowed to interview the direct descendants of those Muslim soldiers who fought in the war.

There are four of these projects being implemented across the UK and the scheme has been called, ‘An Unknown And Untold Story – The Muslim Contribution To The First World War’.

The project organisers hope that the sessions will ensure that the contribution of British Muslims during World War Two isn’t forgotten and will help to foster understanding, acceptance as well as pride from Muslim children living in the UK.

At the time of World War One, the British recruited men from around the British Empire to fight for the Allies. Around a million and a half of those came from India, around a third of whom were Muslim, 100,000 Sikhs and 800,000 Hindus.

The Empire troops were sent to the Western Front and fought in the trenches to hold the front line against the German forces, the Birmingham Mail reports.

The charity behind the project believes that by commemorating the acts of the country’s Muslim predecessors it will be a force for good in communities across the UK. They hope it will instil a sense of belonging for Muslim youngsters and foster pride for their country of birth.

More than 60,000 troops were killed in action during the war, including at the Battle of the Somme and Ypres. Some fought at Gallipoli where around 1,000 men lost their lives, while around 700,000 fought in Mesopotamia.

Troops from outside Europe struggled with the cold, wet conditions and many came ill-equipped to survive the European winter.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE