The UK government will honour the sacrifices made by more than three million Commonwealth soldiers who served in World War 1 with a series of statues that will go up at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Among them is a statue of Hardutt Singh Malik, the first Indian to fly with the British Flying Corps.
The campaign is part of an initiative by the armed forces charity ‘There But Not There’ and it involves the installation of three six-foot figures of World War I soldiers in the FCO to represent the contribution of Commonwealth servicemen from Asia, the Caribbean, Australasia and Canada.
“Nearly two million Indian servicemen served in the First World War. Malik initially failed to qualify for the Corps but went on to be the sole Indian aviator to emerge alive from the war,” the FCO said in a statement, reported Press Trust of India.
The other statue will be of Ghanaian soldier Alhaji Grunshi, the first soldier in British service to fire a shot in war, and Francis Pegahmagabow, a Canadian expert marksman and scout who was awarded the Military Medal three times.
‘There But Not There’ was launched in February to raise money for a range of military and mental health charities.
“It is fitting that in the centenary year of the First World War we honour the immense contribution of our Commonwealth soldiers. Their bravery was key to securing the Allied victory,” said UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt.
“These men fought thousands of miles from their homeland, for a country they had never been to, but for a purpose they believed in. This installation will honour their heroism, shine a light on their stories and remind us that in the darkest hour people of all backgrounds can come together for a common cause,” he said.
Lord Dannatt, patron of ‘There But Not There’ and former Chief of the General Staff, added, “The First World War had such an impact on towns and villages across the United Kingdom that the contribution of servicemen and women from across the Commonwealth is too often overlooked. Their sacrifice was immeasurable, as was the effect that it had on their own communities”.
“The Tommies (common term for soldiers in the First World War) in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office stand in recognition of this service as we approach 100 years since the guns fell silent,” he said.