A letter from a wounded Indian soldier at a hospital in Britain will be the highlight of a major exhibition commemorating the centenary of World War I across Europe this year.
“Do not worry about me, for I am in paradise. The King came down here last week and shook hands with all the Indians, and asked each one about his wounds and sufferings and gave consolation to each,” wrote a soldier from Brighton’s Royal Pavilion, which served as a hospital during the Great War.
“Today I saw a museum in which all the living fish of the world were kept in boxes of water, and a magnificent palace which cost millions of pounds,” he wrote.
Jody East, creative programme curator at the Royal Pavilion and Museums in the seaside town of Brighton, found copies of such letters written by Indian soldiers to their families.
She traced them to their original source at the Haryana Academy of History and Culture.
“We wanted to know if the original letters had survived in India. Some of the letters talk about the role of the Pavilion as well,” she said.
‘Diverse voices’War Stories: Voices from the First World War will open in July this year and run till March 2015 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI in 1914.
The major exhibition brings to life the wartime experiences of 12 individuals whose intensely personal memories and extraordinary stories reveal the impact of war.
“The diverse voices of individuals, including soldiers on the Western Front, women on the front line, conscientious objectors, families and children at home reveal both familiar and surprising stories of a war that profoundly changed British society,” said a museum statement.
Documenting memories The Royal Pavilion was one of three Indian hospitals in Brighton — the York Place schools were converted into a hospital for more heavily wounded troops, while Elm Grove workhouse was renamed Kitchener Hospital and treated lighter casualties.
“I would also like to follow up and share the memories of some of the descendants of Indian soldiers who were hospitalised in Brighton, discover more about the villages and lives from which the soldiers came and what their lives were like if they were fortunate enough to go home after the war,” said Ms East.
Around 1.2 million soldiers from undivided India fought for the British Empire during the war, of whom 74,000 died.