‘History is a living and evolving tapestry of human experiences and narratives’

On Armistice Day, Githa U. Badikillaya delivered a talk on Bangalore’s Lost Voice in World War I at the Bangalore International Centre

November 16, 2023 09:30 am | Updated 09:30 am IST - Bengaluru

Siddharth Raja in conversation with Githa U. Badikillaya and Major General Ravi Murugan.

Siddharth Raja in conversation with Githa U. Badikillaya and Major General Ravi Murugan. | Photo Credit:  Lekha Naidu

The beginning of the First World War in 1914 unleashed unprecedented havoc across the world. Often referred to as the “Great War” it had a profound impact on the economic, social and political landscapes of the countries involved.

At a time when countries around the world were busy fighting for what was rightfully theirs, countries like India were fighting a silent battle, not for themselves but for other countries and ironically for their oppressor. More than 1.3 million Indian soldiers participated in the British Indian Army and fought at different battle zones throughout World War 1. Unfortunately, India’s significant military contribution was greatly undermined by Britain, said Githa.

To commemorate the outstanding contributions of Indian soldiers on November 11 Armistice Day, Githa U. Badikillaya, the founder and trustee of Destination Heritage, delivered a talk titled Bangalore’s Lost Voice in World War I at the Bangalore International CentreShe delved into historical archives to shed light on the forgotten military presence in Bangalore during World War I.

Emphasizing the importance of remembering our military history Githa said, “History is not a stagnant entity, it is a living, and evolving tapestry of human experiences and narratives worth understanding.”

The Indian troops fought in countries like France, Egypt, Swizz Canal, East Africa, West Africa and Mesopotamia. She spoke of the contribution of notable figures like Mysore Maharaja Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, WWI’s commanding officer Col. Desaraja Urs, Risaldar A. Lingaraj Urs, Turab Ali, Bahadur Chamaraj Urs and others.

Battle of Haifa

Krishna Raja Wadiyar sent his brother-in-law Col J. Desaraj Urs, the chief commandant of the Mysore State Troops, as his representative to the Battle of Haifa (1918). The State also sent supplies of hides, timber, blankets and other materials. The Mahila Seva Samaj helped stitch sweaters, stockings, pillow covers.

Capt. Meer Turan Ali also played a decisive role in the Battle of Haifa. Sirdar Bahadur B. Chamaraj Urs served in Egypt in October 1914 as the Commandant of the Imperial Service Troop.

Col. Desraj Urs was appointed Attache in the Mysore Military Department in August 1884. He later resigned from the State Service in June 1885 and joined the British Military Department as Jamadar, 3rd Madras Light Cavalry. He was the chief Commander of the Mysore troops which were posted in and around Egypt, the Suez Canal Zone, and Gaza in Palestine during World War I.

Risaldar M.B. Subbaraja Urs was awarded the “Indian Distinguished Service Medal” for his service associated with the defence of Suez Canal.

Risaldar B.P. Krishne Urs joined the staff of General Archibald Murray and had the opportunity of meeting and accompanying the Prince of Whales, on his visit to various camps. He was awarded the ‘Military Cross’ by the British Government, and ‘Captain’ by the Maharaja.

Four memorials

Military units were stationed in the cantonment area, such as Munireddy Palya/ Gangenahalli, housing the Mysore Lancers, Mysore Infantry, and Mysore Transport Corps, while Ulsoor hosted the Madras Sappers, and Domlur accommodated the Army Service Corps and AGRAM. Githa pointed out that the city boasts four memorials, including the ASC Centre, Brigade Road/Residency Road intersection, Mysore Lancers memorial at J.C. Road, and St. Joseph’s School.

Githa was later in conversation with Siddharth Raja, moderator, and Major General Ravi Murugan AVSM, General Officer Commanding (GOC), Karnataka and Kerala, who presented his views as a Defence expert.

Remembering heroes

Major General Ravi Murugan emphasised the importance of remembering our martyrs. “Unless you remember a sacrifice consistently and periodically it does not get repeated. The need to be remembered is inherent in all of us,” he said. He also pointed how schools can incorporate curriculums of military history as a way of remembering our heroes.

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