Rendez-vous at Neuve-Chapelle Indian Memorial - Richebourg
At a crossroads on the Richebourg Road stands a high column of white stone between two majestic weeping willows. Flanked by two tigers, the column is surmounted by a Lotus flower, the Star of India and the Imperial Crown. Its base is carved with the words: INDIA 1914-1918. Neuve-Chapelle Memorial is the only place of remembrance on the Western Front to commemorate the sacrifice made by Indian soldiers during the Great War.
Inaugurated in 1927, the memorial was the work of Sir Herbert Baker, a famous British architect who also designed Tyne Cot War Cemetery in Ypres, Le Trou Aid Post Cemetery in Fleurbaix, and others.
The inner south wall of the monument bears the epitaph, "To the honour of the Army of India which fought in France and Belgium, 1914-1918, and in perpetual remembrance of those of their dead whose names are here recorded and who have no known grave". Beneath the inscription are listed by regiment the names of the 4,857 soldiers who were reported missing in action. Under the dome opposite the entrance to the memorial, a bronze plaque fixed to the wall in 1964 completes the list with the names of the 206 Indian prisoners of war who died in Germany.
Severely tested by the fighting in the summer of 1914, the British Army called upon military units already established in India. The first reinforcements landed in Marseilles in September 1914 and were soon transported to Flanders. The Sikhs, Gurkhas, Punjabis and other Indians fighting in the Battle of Givenchy in December 1914 were ill-prepared for the harsh conditions in the trenches and suffered from a lack of warm clothing and food. In March 1915, during the Battle of Aubers Ridge, they took part in the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle where more than 4,000 of their comrades perished. Six months later, on 25 September, they lost 3,017 soldiers in one day's fighting around Laventie. From the end of 1915 onwards the men of the Indian Corps were gradually relieved and transferred to other fronts in the Middle East.