In Rouen, India designated the anniversary of its independence in the largest Commonwealth cemetery in France
Still British, India paid a heavy price during the First World War. “India will deploy a total of 140,000 soldiers mainly in cavalry units – including the famous lancers – and in infantry troops, as well as 50,000 workers to serve alongside the British army,” says historian Paul Le Trevier in his book “The garden of 12,000 stones” (Éditions Bertrand Books). More than 9300 of these soldiers will die in Belgium and France. They will be buried in 168 different cemeteries. In Rouen (Seine-Maritime), is the most important British necropolis in France with 11,769 burials, 345 of which are Indian. On Friday July 1, while India celebrated the 75th anniversary of its independence, Jawed Ashraf, India’s ambassador to France, came to delete himself and pay tribute “to those fighters who made the supreme sacrifice” .
Buried where they died
This ceremony, designated by the Indian and French Sea Cadets, recalls that the tradition of the Commonwealth is that a soldier is buried where he takes his last breath. Thus, while Rouen was a city-hospital during the Great War, many wounded were repatriated there. Up to 50,000 have been counted. At Bruyères camp, a few tens of meters from the cemetery where they are buried facing east, a large number of Indians worked in the supply services to ensure handling operations and in hospitals for horses: “This Indian presence in Rouen marked the minds of the locals, who talked about it for many years”, specifies the historian.
Died following their wounds, due to accidents or even the flu which struck between 1918 and 1919, the soldiers were divided into three sectors in the Saint-Sever cemetery: “They took part in the fiercest battles. For Peace and to remember the price of Freedom, thirty nationalities are buried here. They opened the deepest connections with the world. It is an honor to be here in remembrance of the dedication, daring and bravery of our great Indian soldiers,” said Jawed Ashraf.
The diplomat added that since then, with the French state, “we have a partnership, because we believe in the same values. This partnership is much more important today than ever when we see the wars developing. This ceremony does not glorify war but highlights the bonds that have been woven in steel and fire. »