Indian soldiers who fought in the two World Wars alongside 5 million service men and women from across the Commonwealth were commemorated at an annual ceremony in London this week.
The Memorial Gates on Constitution Hill host defence personnel and diplomats on Commonwealth Day, marked annually on the second Monday of March, to honour the memory of all those who fought with the British armed forces in the 20th century. This year’s ceremony had a special focus on the 20th anniversary of the Memorial Gates, which were inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth II in November 2002, and also referenced the current Russia-Ukraine conflict.
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Baroness Shreela Flather in her message as the Lifetime President of the Memorial Gates Council, said: “It is 20 years since we opened these Memorial Gates, and I am gratified that, over that time, the awareness and appreciation of the huge contributions to our war efforts made by some 5 million Commonwealth soldiers is so much more widely shared.
“The war raging again on the continent of Europe makes it all the more poignant to recall such sacrifices in the past. We owe this to the memory of all Africans, West Indians, and Indians who fought for us in the two great wars.”
This year’s ceremony, held alongside the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in London, focussed on the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – the 75th year of the 95-year-old monarch's reign – and the Commonwealth Games, scheduled in Birmingham in July-August.
“As Field Marshal Auchinleck said, ‘the British couldn’t have come through both wars if they hadn’t had the Indian Army’,” said Lord Karan Bilimoria, Chairman of the Memorial Gates Council.
“The Memorial Gates Ceremony on Commonwealth Day commemorates the service and sacrifice of the 5 million volunteers from South Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. This year is particularly important for a number of reasons including the Commonwealth Games which is being held in Birmingham, the 40th Anniversary of the Falklands War and Her Majesty the Queen's Platinum Jubilee,” he said.
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This year’s wreath laying ceremony was attended by the Indian High Commissioner to the UK Gaitri Issar Kumar and the high commissioners of other Commonwealth nations, with the Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle as the Chief Guest.
The Memorial Gates Council is a not-for-profit organisation which plans, coordinates and hosts the annual commemoration. The council also works with the objective of educating the British public about the Commonwealth contribution to the war efforts.