The centennial of the 1914 – 1918 First World War (WW1) is an historic opportunity for Canadians to commemorate those that lost their lives, and to inform today’s youth and diverse communities about the significance of those sacrifices.
On declaration of war Britain despatched its standing army of 125,000 to France only to be quickly overwhelmed by a German army nearly 1 million strong. With the ports of the English Channel in peril, the situation was dire – Britain was in a fight for its very survival. In defence of the Empire and the Commonwealth, the Indian army was asked to mobilise to fight for the first time in Europe.
By war’s end India would send 1.1 million men overseas, a total greater than Canada and Australia combined – and would bear more casualties than either of the other British dominions.
– Duty, Honour and Izzat
“DUTY, Honour and Izzat”, an exhibit outlining the often overlooked contribution of South Asian soldiers on the battlefields of the First World War, was on display at the B.C.’s Parliament Buildings on Monday.
The exhibit tells the story of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who travelled around the globe, far from their homes, to fight against a common enemy. These brave soldiers fought, lived and died beside Canadians, British, French and other allied troops in battles such as Ypres and Neuve Chappelle.
Visitors enjoyed historical illustration, descriptions and photographs showing the diverse nature and geography of the South Asian soldiers of the era.
The display was made possible through Community and Employer Partnership funding from the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, and travelled around the Lower Mainland on display in the fall of 2014.
Many of the descendants of Canadian and South Asian veterans have found their way to B.C. since that war, and closing a circle, have come together again as part of this province’s rich multicultural community.
Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens Services Amrik Virk said: “The shared sacrifice of Canadian and South Asian soldiers is a story that needs to be told more often. These men fought and bled together, and I think they would be proud their descendants are still working together to build a prosperous future here in B.C.”
Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation Michelle Stilwell said: “This exhibit is a great tool to educate and inspire the public by highlighting the valour of these soldiers. I’m proud my ministry helped contribute to its creation, and its continuing mission to shine a light on an important part of history.”