Muslim Tommies is a BBC program that was aired on the 2nd of September. Now, like me you’re probably thinking ‘what are tommies?’ So before I go on I’ll explain the term ‘tommy’.
Tommy is a common term for a soldier in the British Army, usually associated with World War I.
What I learned from watching the program..
* The Indian army was mobilised Sep 1914 in Europe
* Soldiers were known as ‘sepoys’
* The hardships of these men have been lost in history
* Accounts written by the men were translated and are now available
* The soldiers usually came from poor rural communities
* On 30th Oct 1914, Sepoy Khudadad Khan was awarded the Victoria Cross (it was the first ever to be awarded to an Indian soldier)
* The first purpose built mosque in England is in Woking (Shah Jahan mosque)
* A graveyard was built near the mosque for the burial of Muslim soldiers
* In 1968 the remains of the soldiers were removed to Brookwood cemetry nearby where nineteen first world war and five 2nd world war soldiers now rest
* In May 1915, soldiers moved from France to present day Iraq to fight Germany’s Turkish allies
* They had to fight Muslim Turks
* They refused, and so 429 soldiers received long prison sentences
* 8,500 troops had died by the end, 1/3 wud have been Muslims
* A unique ceremony is held at Brighton to commemorate their bravery and remember the Indian troops who died
* It’s called the Chattri memorial
Soldiers mentioned were:
Amir Khan – 129th Baluchis, France 1915
Subedar Muhammed Agia – 57th Rifles, May 1915
Havildar Abdul Rahman – 59th Rifles, France 1915
Juma Khan – 40th Pathans, France 1915
Sepoy Abdul Ghani – 125th Napier’s Rifles, France 1915
Naubet Khan – 107th Pioneers, France 1915
Mohamed Ali Bey – 20th Deccan Horses, France 1915
Abdul Jabar Khan, Sep 1917
Mahomed Mazafar Khan – 19th Lancers, France, Oct 1917
Jemadar Shamsher Ali Khan – 34th Poona Horse, France, April 1917
Dafadar Fazi Khan – 19th Lancers, France Oct 1916
Havildar Ghufran Khan – 129th Baluchis, aug 1915
Abdul Ali Khan – 6th Cavalry, France Aug 1917
Rajwali Khan – Brighton, Sep 1915 (at hospital)
Raja Khan – 38th CIH, France oct 1917
Jemadar Hasan Shah – Hodson’s Horse, France 1916
Kesu Shah – Rouen, May 1916
Rahimdad Khan – 19th Lancers, France, May 1916
Fateh Ullah – June 1916
All in all, this program really opened my eyes to the life of the Indian soldiers that fought the war for Britain. It’s something that I was not taught in school which makes me think about other children who are studying about war at school and yet being unaware of the role played by these men who share their ancestry. Is it fair that their part in the war should be left out? Why shouldn’t we acknowledge the loss of these men?
Get in touch. Did one of your ancestors serve in the World War I or World War II? Do you have written accounts of the war from one of your great grandparents or grandparents?