UK remembers war hero from Jalandhar
Shyam Bhatia in London
A World War I hero from Jalandhar is among a number of Indian soldiers who will be remembered on Sunday at a special ceremony being held outside the British seaside town of Brighton.Subedar Manta Singh, who served with the 15th Ludhiana Sikhs and died in 1915, was the son of Khem Singh of Salempur, Masandan, near Jalandhar. He was wounded in Northern France and evacuated to a hospital in Brighton — south of London — where he died after both his legs were amputated and he contracted septicaemia.His is one of the 53 Indian names that have been inscribed on the domed memorial, known as the Brighton Chattri, designed by Sir John Otter and first erected in 1921.Manta Singh was a member of Royal Indian Expeditionary Force that was sent to France in 1914. He was injured saving the life of a wounded British officer, Captain Henderson, when allied forces broke through the German lines at Neuve-Chapelle in Northern France in 1915. Over 5,000 Indian soldiers were killed in the heavy fighting in that particular area, all part of the 70,000 Indian casualties of the World War-I.When Manta Singh arrived at the Kitchener Hospital in Brighton, he was told by doctors that he had contracted gangrene and both his legs would have to be amputated. Before he died he reportedly told doctors that he would be of no use to his family if he returned home without his legs.British military records show 12,000 Indian soldiers passed through Brighton and out of those some 74 Hindu, Sikh and Muslim soldiers succumbed to their wounds in local hospitals. The Muslims were buried in the nearby town of Woking and the Hindus and Sikhs were cremated outside Brighton, near the village of Patcham.As a mark of gratitude to the fallen soldiers, the British authorities agreed to build the Brighton Chattri over the site of the ghat that was later surrounded by specially planted sweet smelling flowers and aromatic herbs.The Maharaja of Patiala was among the early visitors to the Chattri that subsequently fell into disrepair. The restoration of the Chattri, which for the first time carries the engraved names of 53 cremated soldiers, is the reason for Sunday’s ceremony.Manta Singh’s grandson Jaimal Singh Johal will be present, as will be the grandson of Captain Henderson. The two families have been in touch with each other since 1915. Henderson was awarded the Sword of Honour at Sandhurst in 1911, before being sent out to India to join the 2nd 11th Sikhs, where Manta Singh was then serving.