Records of 320,000 Punjab soldiers from the first world war uncovered
History & Culture
16th Nov, 2021
The records of 320,000 troops from the Punjab who fought in the first world war, left unread in a basement for 97 years, have been disclosed by UK-based historians. These findings named ‘Punjab Records’, offer new insight into the contribution of Indian soldiers to the allied war effort.
Punjab was the main recruiting ground for the Indian army during world war I. And yet the contribution of the individuals has largely been unrecognized. In most cases, even names were not known.
- Un-researched for about a century, these registers were compiled by the Punjab government in 1919 after the war had concluded.
- They were lying unread in the basement of the Lahore Museum in Pakistan.
- Amandeep Madra, the chair of the UK Punjab Heritage Association, heard about these records from military historians and approached the museum.
- He was sent samples by a curator and found that they were organized by village and provided extensive details.
- Subsequently, Madra and the University of Greenwich were able to digitize the files.
- Approximately 1.3 million Indian soldiers served in World War One - and more than 74,000 of them lost their lives.
- It's more than 100 years since the armistice of 11 November 1918 ended what was once called "the war to end all wars".
- But there are still many untold stories about the Indian Army from the conflict - personal accounts that show how global the war was, and how extraordinary Indian experiences were.
What has been found in the project?
- The pilot projecthas been uploaded in time for Armistice Day, on November 11, which marks the end of the war.
- The pilot project contains 45,000 records from three districts –
- Jalandhar and Ludhiana in India
- Sialkot in Pakistan
- Comprising some 26,000 pages listing more than 300,000 individual names, the registers provide village-by-village data on the war service and pensions of recruits from undivided Punjab, as well as information on their family background, rank, and regiment.
- The successful completion of the pilot project is hoped to lead to the release of the registers for the remaining 25 districts of Punjab that were administered by the British government, comprising the records of an estimated 275,000 soldiers.
The long-ignored contribution
- Punjab sent more than 5 lakh soldiers to World War 1, comprising a third of all Indian troops and more than other commonwealth territories such as Australia.
- According to the records, records show that Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims – the three major faiths in the region – sent soldiers to fight the war in far-flung theatres like France, the Middle East, Gallipoli, Aden, and East Africa.
- It is yet unknown if similar records exist for men from princely states such as Patiala, Jind, Nabha, Kapurthala who had volunteered for World War I.
- The Punjab Registers show that in some villages, as many as 40% of the eligible men had volunteered.