On Tuesday evening, I attended a commemorative event at the Imperial War Museum North. It had been organised to reflect on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, which was the first major offensive to involve the British Indian Army.
Among the speakers at the event was Dr Santanu Das, of the English department at Kings College London. Dr Das, who is an expert in the culture and literature of the First World War, made the argument that while the First World War is often defined as the ‘clash of empires’, it could equally be defined as a watershed event in the history of cultural encounters in Europe.
Dr Das has been leading an international and interdisciplinary team of researchers and a number of cultural institutions across Europe to illuminate and examine this question during the centennial years of the war’s commemoration.
In this film we see how Dr Das has partnered with Imperial War Museum, London, In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres, and the Museum of European Culture, Berlin to scour their (and many other) vast archives for letters, photographs, literary texts, sketches, artefacts, newspapers, and audio recordings. We see how all these sources are being brought together to be examined side-by-side, in order to piece together a fuller picture of the experience of the Indian troops and labourers, and the Europeans who they came into contact with.
The Centre for Hidden Histories and Voices of the First World War present a free discussion event.
2014 saw the beginning of the commemoration of the Great War. At the start of the year the contribution of soldiers from Asian countries was arguably not well known. Many projects that took place in 2014 helped to change this and to raise awareness of the significant Asian impact on the outcome of the war.
India had sent over 1 million soldiers to fight in the War, of whom nearly 8000 died, 16,400 were wounded and 840 went missing or were taken prisoner.
Meanwhile a contingent of over 140,000 Chinese workers came to France to help the Allied war effort. They completed arduous and dangerous tasks, including digging trenches and recovering corpses for burial from no man’s land. More than 2,000 gave their lives.
A discussion event at the Library of Birmingham, as part of the Voices of War & Peace and the University of Nottingham’s Hidden Histories WW1 Engagement Centres activities, will explore and reflect upon the Asian contribution to the war and look at ways of fostering greater interest in the subject.
During the event there will be a series of presentations and participants will have the opportunity to share their own work, meet others working on projects, and discuss with staff from the WW1 Engagement Centres how to develop or expand projects or research.
The event will take place at Heritage Learning Space, Library of Birmingham, between 1:30pm and 4:45pm on Saturday 21st February. It is free of charge but booking is essential. Please book via Eventbrite