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World War 1 The Chattri Memorial - War Graves Commission Honours The Fallen Of India


Jun 1, 2004
Over the past few months, the Commission's stonemasons have built a new memorial, which bears the names of 53 Indian soldiers who died during the Great War. This new memorial stands a few metres from the existing Patcham Down Indian Forces Cremation Memorial, often referred to as the Brighton Chattri.

The Chattri Memorial, which stands on the Sussex Downs overlooking Brighton, commemorates all those Indian soldiers who fought during the First World War and was built on the site where Hindu and Sikh soldiers, who died following hospitalisation in Brighton, were cremated. Unveiled in 1921, a memorial service has been held there every year since.

Among the guests attending the unveiling ceremony, which is open to the public, will be the Director-General of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Richard Kellaway; His Excellency The High Commissioner of India to the UK, Nalin Surie; representatives of the British Indian community and veterans from the Undivided Indian Ex-services Association and the Royal British Legion.

The unveiling of the new memorial is being filmed as part of a new education resource being prepared by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which examines the often overlooked contribution of servicemen and women from India during the two world wars. This education pack will be released in October 2010.

History of the Patcham Down Indian Forces Cremation Memorial.

In 1914, the Mayor and Corporation of Brighton offered the use of Brighton Pavilion to the War Office, apparently believing that the flamboyant Indo-Saracenic building would provide familiar surroundings to recovering Indian soldiers. In December 1914, 345 injured soldiers were transported to Brighton by train. The King and Queen, Mayor of Brighton, Chief Constable of Brighton and other dignitaries visited frequently, and careful arrangements were made at the Royal Pavilion to provide for the different dietary and other cultural requirements of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims.

Although the great majority of soldiers recovered from their injuries, some died. The 21 Muslim men who died were taken to the Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking, Surrey, and buried in accordance with Islamic tradition in a new cemetery. The bodies of 53 Hindus and Sikhs were taken to a remote location high on the South Downs above Brighton, where a ghat (funeral pyre) was built so they could be cremated and their ashes scattered in the English Channel. This funeral rite was again carried out in line with religious custom. In total, 18 men who were treated at the Royal Pavilion died, ten of whom were cremated on the ghat. (The 56 other victims died at the Kitchener Hospital-now Brighton General Hospital-or a temporarily converted school at York Place.)

In August 1915, a lieutenant in the Indian Medical Service and the Mayor of Brighton, Sir John Otter, planned the establishment of a memorial to the soldiers who had died in Brighton. Lt Das Gupta made the proposal, but Otter took on the project almost single-handedly; after leaving his position as Mayor he chaired Brighton's Indian Memorials Committee. In December 1915 he made a proposal to the India Office for a memorial on the ghat site. In July of that year, the land on which the ghat stood, and the immediate area around it, was transferred from the Marquess of Abergavenny to the ownership of Brighton County Borough. At the same time, the India Office agreed to share the cost of building and erecting the memorial with Brighton Corporation (the forerunner of the present Brighton and Hove City Council).

Funds were raised during 1917. After delays caused by the need to dedicate all available resources to the war effort, in April 1918 a Manchester-based building firm was awarded the contract to build the Memorial. The main building material was marble; its arrival from Sicily was delayed by more than a year, but building work started in mid-1920.

A young Indian architect, E.C. Henriques, designed The Memorial, which is sometimes known as The Brighton Chattri; Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob, an English architect who was responsible for many buildings in India and who helped pioneer the Indo-Saracenic architectural style, provided guidance. Construction work started in August 1920 and continued until the end of that year. Brighton Corporation owned the memorial and took responsibility for its maintenance and a cottage was provided nearby for a caretaker. This added £1,117 (£33.3 thousand as of 2010) to the final cost of £4,964 (£148 thousand as of 2010).

The Memorial was unveiled on 1 February 1921 by Edward, Prince of Wales. Contacts NDS Enquiries

Phone: For enquiries please contact the above department


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