Historic Image 1
Wounded Indian patients, including two Gurkha children, 1915.
Although fatalities on the Western Front were extremely heavy, the mortality rate among soldiers who’d reached Brighton alive was surprisingly low, perhaps because the most serious cases had either died en route, or were too badly injured to be transported in the first place.
In the case of the Indian Hospital, only 18 patients died at the Pavilion, from a total of over 2,300 who were treated here. Nevertheless, it was important that their funeral arrangements should be appropriate to their respective cultures. So special arrangements were made for Indian fatalities from all three Brighton hospitals. Kevin Bacon:
‘Hindus and Sikhs were taken to a very picturesque, if remote, spot on the Downs, the hills just outside Brighton, where they were given an open air cremation, which itself is fascinating because it was and remains illegal in Britain to actually give open air cremations. 53 Hindus and Sikhs were cremated on that spot on the Downs where the Chattri Memorial now stands. Muslim soldiers who died in the Indian hospitals in Brighton were taken with full ceremony to a specially laid out cemetery in Woking. Woking was chosen because it was the site of the Shah Jahan Mosque, at that time the only purpose-built mosque in England, and a cemetery was specially laid out for those Muslim soldiers by the Indian Office in Horsell Common.’
To commemorate the Indian soldiers who died in Brighton, a memorial was erected at Patcham in 1921, on the site of the funeral pyre where Sikhs and Hindus were cremated during the First World War. It is called a Chattri, which means “umbrella” or “canopy” in Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu. Chattris are found throughout India, at funerary sites or decorating forts and palaces, Here’s Davinder Dhillon, Chattri coordinator.
The Chattri’s a monument which is built from Sicilian marble with eight pillars and it’s on the outskirts of Brighton in a small village called Patcham, which is now part of Brighton. It’s on a small hillock and that’s where the bodies were cremated originally in 1914/15 onwards. In our culture, Sikhs and Hindus, when people die, they are cremated so there is no cemetery or a stone to remember them by. It particularly commemorates the 53 Hindus and Sikhs who died here in Brighton and the idea is to then commemorate their memory annually, because of their contribution to the war.
Historic Image 2
Unveiling of Chattri memorial, 1921