First World War (1914-1918)

28 Jun 1914
End date: 
11 Nov 1918
Event location: 



Although the trigger for the First World War was seen as the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, Britain declared war on Germany in August 1914. As Britain and France waged war against Germany in Europe and in Africa, Britain called upon help from her Imperial troops. Indian soldiers in the Indian Army arrived in Europe from September 1914. The first of these Indian troops arrived in Marseilles on 26 September 1914. They came from the Lahore and Meerut Divisions and the Secunderbad Cavalry. In October, Indians were fed into some of the fiercest fighting at Ypres. In March 1915, Indian troops provided half the attacking force at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, which was the costliest in terms of lives.

By 1918, India had sent over 1 million soldiers to fight in the War, not including Imperial Service Troops from the Princely States, Sailors and Indian Labour Corps. 138, 608 Indian soldiers (two infantry divisions, two cavalry divisions and four field artillery brigades) saw action on the Western Front. Here, 7700 Indians died, 16,400 were wounded and 840 went missing or were taken prisoner. Of the twelve Victoria Crosses awarded to Indians after the War, six were for those who had fought on the Western Front. The main memorial to the Indian Army on the Western Front was that designed by Sir Herbert Baker, and opened in 1927 at Neuve Chapelle.

Wounded Indians who had fought in France were sent to Britain to recover. In Brighton, the Royal Pavilion was transformed into a military hospital for Indian soldiers. During their time spent recuperating, Indians were visited by the King and the Royal Family. Tours were also organized for them to visit London and see the sights. The religious needs of the soldiers was taken into account, with nine kitchens erected to cater for the various dietary regulations of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims and areas were cordoned off for worship. Various other buildings were also converted into nursing homes for these soldiers. Two memorials exist in Brighton to commemorate the Indian soldiers who came through during the War - the Chattri on the South Downs and the Pavilion Gateway (unveiled by Bhupinder Singh in 1921).

People involved: 

Sikh Soldiers including those who were awarded Victoria Crosses: Mir Dast, Gobind Singh, Khudadad Khan, Darwin Sing Negi, Gobar Sing Negi and Kulbir Thapa.

Fighter pilots including Indra Lal Roy and H. S. Malik.

Indian Princes including Bhupinder Singh, the Maharaja of Patiala.

Published works: 

Bibikova, Massia, Our Indians at Marseilles (London: 1915) 

India and the War, with an introduction by Lord Sydenham of Combe (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1915) 

Mereweather, Lt-Colonel J. W. B. and Smith, Sir Frederick, The Indian Corps in France (London: John Murray, 1917)


Journal of the National Indian Association

Asiatic Review, including articles by Abdullah Yusuf Ali and D. N. Singh, July 1914 - January 1915.

Secondary works: 

Collins, Joyce, Dr Brighton’s Indian Patients. December 1914 - January 1916 (Brighton: Brighton Books, 1997) 

Das, Santanu, Touch and Intimacy in First World War Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005)

Ellinwood, D. C. and Pradhan, S. D., India and World War One (New Delhi: Manohar, 1978)

Greenhut, Jeffrey, ‘The Imperial Reserve: The Indian Corps on the Western Front, 1914-15’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History XII. 1 (Oct. 1983)

Omissi, David, 'Europe Through Indian Eyes: Indian Soldiers Encounter England and France, 1914-1918', The English Historical Review 122.496 (2007)

Omissi, David, 'India and the Western Front' on the BBC website:

Omissi, David, Indian Voices of the Great War: Soldiers Letters 1914-1918 (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2007) 

Omissi, David, The Sepoy and the Raj: The Indian army, 1860-1940 (London: Macmillan, 1994)

Patiala & the Great War: A Brief History of the Services of the Premier Punjab State (London: Medici Society, 1923)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto Press, 2002)

Visram, Rozina, 'The First World War and Indian Soldiers', Indo-British Review XVI (June 1989), pp. 17-26.

Archive source: 

Archives, Imperial War Museum, London

India Office Records, L/MIL series, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras 

India Office Manuscripts, Mss Eur F143 series, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Lady Wasteneys collection, 'Indians in Kitchener's Hospital, Brighton', Mss Brit Emp s.22 (G370), Rhodes House Archives, Oxford


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Sayaji Rao


Sayaji Rao was the son of Kashi Rao, a village headman, who belonged to the Maratha family which had created the state of Baroda in Gujarat during the eighteenth century. He took the name Sayaji Rao III when he was installed on the gadi or throne of Baroda in May 1875. Sayaji Rao was invested with governing powers in December 1881, shortly before his nineteenth birthday.

In order to relieve health problems reputedly brought on by overwork and variously described as neurasthenia or nervous prostration, sleeplessness, and gout, he made his first trip to England in 1887. Various Indian figures worked for the Maharaja. Dadabhai Naoroji was his Minister in 1874, and Aravinda Ghose worked in the Baroda service after his return from England in 1893. He sponsored B. R. Ambedkar's education in Bombay and the USA.

Sayaji Rao' second wife, Chimnabai II, was the first president of the All-India Women's Conference in 1927. She co-wrote The Position of Women in Indian Life (1911) with S. M. Mitra. Sayaji Rao had three children from his first marriage and three children from his second. His daughter from his second marriage married the Prince of Cooch Behar and was well-known in 'society' circles in London in the 1920s and 1930s. Sayaji Rao was known to openly support the Indian National Congress, but was awarded a GCIE in 1919.

After 1919 Sayaji Rao travelled and lived in Europe and Britain for several months each year. After spending most of the 1930s travelling to seek relief for health problems at various European spas, Sayaji Rao III returned to India in November 1938. He died in Bombay on 6 February 1939.

Published works: 

Notes on the Famine Tour by His Highness the Maharaja Gaekwar (London: s.n., 1901)

Speeches and Addresses (Cambridge: Privately printed at the University Press, 1927)

(with Alban Gregory Widgery) Speeches & Addresses ... 1877-1927. With a Portrait, Etc. (London: Macmillan & Co., 1928)

(with Anthony Xavier Soares) Speeches and Addresses ... Selected and Edited by Anthony X. Soares (London: Oxford University Press, 1933)

(with Cyril Ernest Newham and Kenneth Saunders) Speeches & Addresses of His Highness Sayaji Rao III, Maharaja of Baroda, Etc., Vols. 3 & 4

Date of birth: 
11 Mar 1863

B. R. Ambedkar, Fanindranath Bose (sculptor), Sunity Devee (Maharani of Cooch Behar - mother-in-law of his daughter), Romesh Chunder Dutt, Aravinda Ackroyd Ghose, S. M. Mitra (wrote with his wife), Dadabhai Naoroji.

Secondary works: 

Bhagavan, M. B., 'Higher Education and the "Modern": Negotiating Colonialism and Nationalism in Princely Mysore and Baroda', (PhD Thesis, University of Texas, 1999)

Bottomore, S., '"Have You Seen the Gaekwar Bob?": Filming the 1911 Delhi Durbar', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 17 (1997), pp. 309-45

Copland, I., 'The Baroda Crisis of 1873–77', Modern Asian Studies 2 (1968), pp. 97-123

Copland, I., 'Sayaji Rao Gaekwar and "Sedition"', in Peter Robb and David Taylor (eds) Rule, Protest, Identity: Aspects of Modern South Asia (London: Curzon Press, 1978), pp. 28-48

Gaekwad, Fatesinhrao, Maharaja of Baroda, Sayajirao of Baroda: The Prince and the Man (London: Sangam, 1989)

Gense, James H., Banaji, D. R., and Maharaja of Baroda Sayaji Rao Gaekwar III, The Gaikwads of Baroda. English Documents. Edited by J. H. Gense ... D. R. Banaji. Vol. 2-10 (Bombay: D. B. Taraporevala Sons & Co., 1937)

Hardiman, D., 'Baroda: The Structure of a Progressive State', in Robin Jeffrey (ed.) People, Princes and Paramount Power: Society and Politics in the Indian Princely States (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978), pp. 107-35

Nuckolls, C. W., 'The Durbar Incident', Modern Asian Studies 24 (1990), pp. 529-59

Ramusack, Barbara N., 'Gaikwar [Gaekwar], Sayaji Rao [Sayaji Rao III], Maharaja of Baroda (1863–1939)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) []

Rice, Percival Stanley Pitcairn, and Maharaja of Baroda Sayaji Rao Gaekwar III, Life of Sayaji Rao III Maharaja of Baroda, 2 vol. (London: Oxford University Press, 1931)

Sergeant, Philip Walsingham, and Maharaja of Baroda Sayaji Rao Gaekwar III, The Ruler of Baroda. An Account of the Life and Work of the Maharaja Gaekwar (Sayajirao iii) (London: John Murray, 1928)

The Times (7 Feb 1939)

Weeden, Edward St Clair, and Maharaja of Baroda Sayaji Rao Gaekwar III, A Year with the Gaekwar of Baroda ... With 25 Illustrations from Photographs, Etc (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1912)

Widgery, Alban Gregory, and Maharaja of Baroda Sayaji Rao Gaekwar III, Goods and Bads. Outlines of a Philosophy of Life: Being the Substance of a Series of Talks and Discussions with H. H. The Maharajah Gaekwar of Baroda (Baroda, 1920)  

Archive source: 

MSS, Gujarat State Archives, Southern Circle, Vadodara, Gujarat, India

Wodehouse MSS, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Hardinge MSS, Cambridge University Library, Cambridge

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Current name city of birth: 
Other names: 

Sayaji Rao, Maharaja of Baroda III

Sayaji Rao Gaekwad

Date of death: 
06 Feb 1939
Location of death: 
Bombay, India
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1887
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1887, early 1930s.

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