Joint USI-MEA Great War Centenary Commemoration Project.

CAFHR - Research Project : CAFHR16 (2013)




India and the Great War

The First World War (1914-1918) or the Great War for Civilisation, as it was known at the time, was a watershed event in modern world history. The events of that conflict changed the social and political map of the world forever. Its repercussions reverberate through time and many contemporary conflicts, particularly in the Middle East, trace their roots directly to the fallout of that war.

India, though a colony at the time, actively supported the war effort in its bid to gain Dominion status. The overwhelming majority of mainstream political opinion in 1914 was united in the view that if India desired greater responsibility and political autonomy, it must be willing to share in the burden of imperial defence.

As a result, India contributed immensely to the war effort in terms of both men and material. Her soldiers served with credit and honour in numerous battlefields around the globe: in France and Belgium, in Aden, Arabia, East Africa, Gallipoli, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Persia, Salonica, Russia, and even in China. By the end of the war 1,100,000 Indians had served overseas at the cost of 60,000 dead. The earned over 9,200 decorations for gallantry including 11 VCs. These figures include the contribution of over 26,000 Imperial Service troops who were a part of the Indian States Forces.

To mark the occasion and highlight the pivotal role of India in the conflict, the USI Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research (CAFHR) in cooperation with the MEA Policy, Planning and Research Division, has drawn up a plan to use the centenary commemoration of the Great War as a medium to emphasise the sterling contribution made by the Indian Army towards the establishment of world peace. Functioning under the guidance of a Steering Committee comprising SS (Pol) MEA, Dir USI, JS (CT and PP&R) and Secy USI CAFHR, a programme of planned activities has been agreed upon. These activities are listed in broad outline in this brochure for general information.

Theatre Histories

The Centre will produce a series of illustrated booklets on the role of the Indian Army in each major theatre; and one giving an overview of India and WW1. It will also produce detailed academic studies on each of the major theatres, and on derivatives thereof.

India and the Great War: USI Booklets and Theatre Histories


France and Flanders



Persia East


Minor Theatres

The Third Afghan War 1919


International Conferences


Selected scholars/experts will be encouraged to take part in international conferences that will be organised in various countries, to highlight India’s pivotal role in the conflict.

An international conference on the theme “India and the Great War” is being organised by the USI in 2014/2015.

A panel of writers/scholars on the same theme will be participating in the Jaipur Literature Festival 2014.

Coffee Table Books

Prepare one or more coffee table books giving an illustrated overview of India and the Great War.

Produce a coffee table book on Indian War Memorials of the Great War

Battlefield Tours

Sponsor battlefield tours of the Indian battlefields in Gallipoli and in France & Flanders, in collaboration with local partners. Produce a “Battlefield Guide” on each, preferably as a collaborative effort with Australia and Belgium/France. Official involvement with sponsorship/publicity to continue through from 2014 till 2018. Thereafter local partners will be encouraged to carry forward with the themed tours on their own steam.


Sponsor exhibitions on the theme of “India and the Great War”. Exhibitions can be generic and/or theatre specific. Exhibitions to be prepared by the USI CAFHR in collaboration with local museums/partners overseas.

Collaborative Activities

Specific activities that could be undertaken in collaboration with various Governments/Institutions to be identified for further action.

To liaise with the Ministries of External Affairs and Defence regarding participation by Indian military contingents in ceremonies being organized overseas.


The Centre for Armed Forces Hitorical Research was established in December 2000 under the aegis of the USI after due consultation with the three Service headquarters. The Centre aims at encouraging the objective study of all facets of Indian military history in general and the history of the Indian Armed Forces in particular.

The United Service Institution of India was founded in 1870 for the furtherance of interest and knowledge in the art, science and literature of the Defence Services.



Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research (CAFHR)

The United Service Institution of India

Rao Tula Ram Marg (Opposite Signals Enclave)

PO Bag No.8, Vasant Vihar PO

New Delhi 110057

Phone: +91-11-26147464 (direct) 91-11-2614 6755/56, 2614 8682 (Ext 119)




MacGregor Medal