LAHORE: Squirreled away in the depths of the Lahore Museum Reference and Research Library exist records of soldiers from the British Army who participated in World War I.
In 1914, approximately 1.3 million soldiers from the subcontinent participated in World War I. Out of these, 74,187 were killed during battle while 69,214 returned alive. Some of those that returned came back injured.
Penned by colonel commandments in the army, details, such as the number of soldiers, their respective districts, religion and culture have been preserved in handwritten records which are now more than 100 years old. The record of soldiers from more than 20 districts in east and west Punjab are housed in 34 volumes.
The details of soldiers from Amritsar are listed in two whole volumes. Similarly, three volumes for Attock, two for Ferozpur, one for Gujranwala, one for Gujrat, one for Gurdaspur, two for Hisar, two for Hoshiyarpur, one for Sialkot, two for Jhelum, two for Jalandhar, two for Kangra, one for Karnal, one for Multan, one for Rawalpindi, two for Shahpur, two for Lahore, two for Goorgin, one for Rohtak and three for Lodhiana are kept at the library.
“Majority of the soldiers that participated in the war, specifically 9,704, hailed from Lodhiana,” says senior Librarian Bashir Ahmed Bhatti. Around 5,627 were from Lahore while 4,716 were from Attock, he states.
“Thanks to these records, we were able to ascertain the number of soldiers that participated in the war and the districts from which they belonged to,” maintains Major (retd) Arshad Parvaiz.
Records from 1914 to 1918 show that three soldiers, who were awarded the prestigious Victoria Cross, all belonged to districts which fall within Pakistan, he reveals. Sobiadar Khudadad Khan and Mir Bakht Khan from the Baloch regiment and Shah Ahmed Khan from Gojar Khan all fought gallantly in the war between France and Belgium and were subsequently honoured for their bravery.
“Because of the existence of these records, soldiers were able to receive their pensions while the heirs of those killed during the war were able to receive monetary compensation,” says Pervaiz. Meanwhile, the recipients of Victoria Cross were given one marla of land each.
These records are a treasure trove for military science students. Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Christians as well as other religions can all be found in these records, says Bhatti.
In the past, India had claimed that all the soldiers that participated in World War I were from what is now their territory and asked that they be compensated accordingly. However, due to the existence of these records, Pakistan was able to prove that soldiers, from districts which are now in Pakistan, also participated in the war and should also be awarded and compensated accordingly.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2019.