The likelihood of dying in a camp during the First World War was higher than the likelihood of dying in battle, Lewis-Stempel said.
Context & Culture
Diseases such as typhus were rife, and food rations so meagre that at least 3, PoWs captured on the Western Front died of starvation. Many were forced to work down salt mines or coal mines. German school trips were organised in which children could gawp at the prisoners. Some commandants would charge for the privilege.
There were thousands of escape attempts, and many bids to get one over on their captors using ingenuity and humour. It took them absolutely ages to twig why Baedeker's Guide to Northern Germany was so popular. Terms and Conditions. Style Book.
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In the four years of this war, 9. It was the first case of so-called industrial warfare, with soldiers using machine guns, poison gas and submarines. In addition, 7. According to various Indian sources, 60—65, of the 1. The CWGC puts the number of Indian soldiers sent to the Western Front in Europe at , over the course of the war — 90, serving in the infantry and cavalry and 50, non-combatants in the so-called Indian Labour Corps. Of the combatants, over 8, were killed and as many as 50, more wounded. German agents who were trying to persuade the Iranian ruler, year old Ahmad Shah, to join the Central Powers against the occupying powers, instigated uprisings of local tribes to wage a guerrilla war against the Entente troops and supported activists of the Persian democratic-constitutional opposition to join in.
The Germans were supported by the Persian gendarmerie that was led by Swedish officers who sympathised with them. But when Turkish troops allied with the Central Powers occupied parts of northwestern Iran early in the war, also the German-Persian relationship suffered.
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In Russian Central Asia, Kazakhs and other peoples rose up against their mobilisations for the war; until then they had been exempted from military service. The area also became a venue for POW camps for millions Austrian — including Czechs, Hungarians and others — and German prisoners of war.
Afghanistan was not a party in this war, but was indirectly dragged into the conflict. However, as shown above, soldiers from Afghanistan individually participated in the war. Turkey — in practice ruled by the Young Turks, a group of constitutionalist military officers and civil servants that had taken power in a coup in — tried to woo Afghanistan by invoking the religious appeal of Ottoman Sultan Mehmet V. Reshad who — as the Caliph — also was the head of the worldwide Muslim ummah. On 11 November , he declared jihad on the Entente powers. Britain left three division s in India to protect the Afghan border.
Oppenheim pinned particular hope on Afghanistan, hoping that the country would participate in invading British-India, in an alliance with Turkey and Persia, not least to win back the Pashtun-populated areas in the northwest of India:. For oriental circumstances, Afghanistan is a firmly established statehood and, despite its small population, a power that should not be underestimated. The population is belligerent and proud.
A large, general Indian uprising will only occur when Afghan troops will victoriously enter the Indus valley, naturally only after India itself has been prepared for revolution. In this context, Oppenheim picked up a plan proposed by Turkish Minister of War Enver Pasha immediately after the start of the war to send a Turkish military mission joined by some Germans to Afghanistan. In the meantime, soldiers of the British-Indian army, including some from Afghanistan, showed up on European battlefields immediately after war broke out on 28 July The division was sent to Europe, and its first brigades landed in the French port of Marseille on 26 September After some rest days, they were deployed to northwestern France and southeastern Belgium, an area that later became notorious as the Killing Fields of Flanders.
The Lahore division joined the action at the First Battle of Ypres, a Belgian town not far from the Atlantic coast and just north of the French border, in October and November The battle was part of a British offensive operation that started on 14 October but run into stiff German resistance, soon leading to murderous static-trench warfare. On 31 October, two companies of the th Baluchis bore the brunt of the main German attack and were overwhelmed after suffering heavy casualties.
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By 3 November, the Indian Corps had suffered almost 2, losses. The British had 28, casualties altogether.
Of the 40, participating allied soldiers, 11, became casualties. Of the casualties, 4, belonged to the Indian corps; over 1, were from the Lahore division. One of its units was the 40th Pathans infantry regiment, originally, but only until , the only all-Pashtun regiment in the British-Indian Army.
The 40th Pathans regiment had been redeployed from Hong Kong to the European battlefield. At the end of their first day of combat, 26 April , with casualties, half of the regiment were either dead or missing in action. For photos of their memorial at Menin Gate near Ypres in Belgium see here ; a recent Indian reportage here.
One of the Afridi soldiers, Mir Dast, was later awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in this battle. According to the Western Front Association, however,. It was largely fostered by the enormous casualties that the officers and men had suffered in less than a year, exacerbated by the difficult climatic conditions of Flanders and Northern France.
As a result, the Lahore and another Indian division were sent to Mesopotamia where they arrived in April shortly after the famous six-month siege of the British garrison in Kut-al-Amara by an Ottoman force. The Indian Cavalry Corps remained on the Western Front until the spring of , and Indian labour companies, which had begun arriving in France in , performed logistical work behind the lines until after the end of the war.
The Indian Memorial at the French village of Neuve Chapelle commemorates over 4, Indian soldiers and labourers who lost their lives on the Western Front and have no known graves. Merewether and Smith made probably the most-detailed rendering of the various battles: The Indian Corps in France, Read here. Like the three Afghan sepoys of the th Balochis, some of the 40th Pathans missing in action in Ypres seem to either became prisoners-of-war or, as contemporary German sources indicate, or voluntarily surrendered to the Germans in order to grab the chance to fight against their British colonial masters.
They claimed that others were planning to follow.
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