The innovative trench warfare was going to establish the Infantry once again as the Queen of Battle and simultaneously relegate the royal horsed cavalry to pages of history. Their role was reduced from battlefield to tattoo grounds where they drew appreciation in the form of full throated battle cries the recording of which was of immense use for a later day regimental reunion.
It was in World War I that the last act of chivalry in a mounted attack on the infantry trenches was seen and heard of. Naib Risaldar Badlu Ram Saheb of the Deccan Horse led a cavalry charge at the gallop against the Turkish infantry in trenches and yet won laurels and success. He was decorated with a Victoria Cross and many more gallantry medals shone on the chests of cavalry officers and sowars. Thereafter those fine men and brave beasts faded away into the pages of military history to be read and recorded by junior officers preparing for promotion examinations. Of course, their names were recalled, remembered and narrated to the local audiences whose ancestors had dedicated themselves to preserve, protect and defend the honour of the cavalry regiment concerned with their life.
Indeed it was a lifelong bond written in blood and preserved as a part of regimental history that came alive on each regimental day.
World War II descended
World War I was fought by both sides to stop such wars in future. It was said that men and animals would not be slaughtered by the enemy sabres on the battle field in future. But that was not to be. When World War I was over, armistice was celebrated and the Treaty of Versailles was signed; it paved the way for the next war that came with a bang in 1939. It changed the global scenario in many respects. Thereafter the nations never sat in peace; they always prepared for war. Sometimes it was a cold war and sometimes a shooting war. Nevertheless, it was war and came to be known as World War II.
The friend of World War I became a foe in the World War II. They fought against each other with vehemence never witnessed before. War is war and not a joke. Once a nation declares a war, there is no going back on it. A belligerent nation stops just for the Remembrance Ceremony. The hell breaks loose again thereafter. Let us take a look at the names of nations of Europe who were on the side of the Central Powers and those who were with the Allied Powers.
- The German Empire – Germany located in Europe was the main country and its empire that extended to other continents besides Europe.
- The Austro-Hungarian Empire; The Ottoman or the Turkish Empire.
- The Kingdom of Bulgaria.
The Triple Entente – on ground that meant The British Empire and that extended to all the Continents known to the Mankind and the Sun never set on the British Empire.
The Republic of France
The Russian Empire spread over Europe and Asia. While the World War I was going on, there was a Bolshevik Revolution led by Lenin and the monarchy was abolished, the Royalty exiled and the Empire was renamed as the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) in 1917 and it withdrew as a belligerent power.
Italy, Imperial Japan, Belgium, Serbia, Monte-Negro, Greece, Romania and Czechoslovakia. The United States of America too entered the Great War as an Associate Power in 1917.
The array of nations on both sides was impressive and awe inspiring. However, it was the entry of America into the war that made a material difference to the capability of the Allied Powers to wage war. No wonder, within a year thereafter the Central Powers collapsed and prayed for peace. The Treaty of Versailles was signed and of all defeated belligerents, it was the German nation that was forced to eat the humble pie. No self-respecting nation would have accepted those funny conditions that Germany was subjected to. Thus the foundation of World War II was laid and it was just a matter of time before a World War began again in 1939.
The great Strategist of all times, Chanakya was of the opinion that enough escape route should be given to the enemy forces so that they do not counter-attack and take the easy exit route. However, at the end of World War I the Central Powers were humiliated and, therefore, they vowed for revenge to retrieve their lost self-respect. The self-respecting German nation kept its word. The rest is history.
Highlights of war
Waging war is not like cracking a joke. It is a serious business and must be treated as such. Many unfortunate soldiers lose their life and limbs. Psychologically speaking, a soldier sustaining a grievous battle injury where he could have lost his life, is not the same man as he was when he went into action. Even a walking-wounded has to be treated humanely and treated with concern. A nation that does not treat its wounded soldiers with heartfelt sympathy or does not Honour the War Dead appropriately will never see Light at the end of the tunnel. It is the sacred duty of the Nation to treat the battle casualties well and rehabilitate them in life and society lest they become rogue elephants and behave as such.
The Battle of Somme was the watershed of the four year world war I. It began on July 1, 1916 and officially ended in July 1919 when Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles.
The British nation has been celebrating the Armistice Day with reverence, pomp and show that it deserves. Those who laid down their lives for the defence of the free democratic world were as many as ten million men whose departure from the mundane world was termed as Military Deaths. As many as 20 million men were wounded.
It was on 11th November 1920 that the grand ceremony had taken place at the Cenotaph, the Whitehall on 11 November 1920. All nations all over the world observe two minutes silence at 11 AM on 11th November every year in Remembrance of the World War I Dead and Departed who made the supreme sacrifice for the cause of the country.
Indian spiritual touch
As many as 53 grievously war wounded Indian soldiers were evacuated from the battlefields in Europe to the Kitchener Hospital in the United Kingdom. They were cremated in Brighton, UK and a Chhatri was raised in their Remembrance and as a mark of respect to them. In 2010, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission raised a screen wall there near the traditional Chhatri in the Hindu Crematorium and all 53 names of the War Dead were engraved there. Great care was taken to cater to the religious requirements of the departed soldier and nothing was done to hurt the religious feelings of the living Hindus and Sikhs.
In New Delhi, India an edifice was erected within the municipal limits of the Imperial zone and the reputed architect of the new British capital in India, Lutyens was entrusted with the task of raising a suitable war memorial to the Indian soldiers who laid down their lives in World War I and the Third Anglo-Afghan War. A magnificent blueprint was drawn and approved by the Viceroy. The construction of the War Memorial began in 1921 and took ten years and six hundred thousand Indian rupees to complete in 1931. Lord Irwin, the then Viceroy of India had inaugurated this magnificent War Memorial with great fanfare. He eulogized the bravery of the Indian soldier and commended the fighting spirit. They fought like a tiger wherever they were posted in defence of the Realm, said the Viceroy.
As many as one million men in uniform, as soldiers and labour force, left the shores of India for France, Flanders and other parts of Europe and Middle-East. Of them 70,000 laid down their lives for the King and the country and never returned to see their home and hearth again. As many as 16,316 soldiers never found a permanent resting place in the lap of mother Earth nor were cremated as their mortal remains could not be traced or identified. May I take the liberty of striking a personal note here. My grand uncle, Shri R.L. Sawant was a part of this Force that went to Europe to defend democracy and freedom of thought and expression. We are grateful to God that he returned home alive and led a healthy and happy life thereafter in the midst of loved ones.