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British Defence Secretary visits India

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon will visit New Delhi on 30 October.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Michael Fallon

He will lead the United Kingdom’s commemorations recognising India’s sacrifice during World War One, as well as meeting members of the Indian Cabinet and security officials.

During the visit, Mr Fallon will undertake a number of engagements, including meeting his Indian counterpart, Arun Jaitley, Minister for Defence and Finance, reaffirming the UK’s defence and security partnership with India.

Mr Fallon said:

I’m delighted to be making my first visit to India as Secretary of State. The UK and India have a long tradition of close partnership to promote global stability. My visit confirms our determination to strengthen and deepen that relationship still further.

There is considerable scope for the UK and India to work together to tackle many of the biggest security challenges confronting the global community. My discussions with Minister Jaitley aim to identify how best to do so.

My visit also has a strong emotional theme. At this time of remembrance, I am honoured to have the opportunity to pay tribute to those from both nations who sacrificed their lives for their countries in the First World War.

Mr Fallon will lay a wreath at India Gate as a mark of respect for the Indian servicemen who gave their lives. He will deliver a keynote speech before attending a large-scale commemoration event hosted jointly by the British High Commissioner in New Delhi and the United Services Institute of India, marking the contribution of Indian forces to World War One.

During the reception, the Secretary of State will unveil Victoria Cross (VC) memorials for presentation to Government of India, commemorating the six VCs that were won by soldiers from the current territory of India. He will also present the Government of India Digitised War Diaries of the India Corps that fought in France and Flanders

The Royal Air Force (RAF) band will be joined on stage by their Indian Air Force (IAF) counterparts. The audience, comprising officials from India’s Defence Corps, senior bureaucrats and prominent Indian dignitaries, will have the opportunity to watch some rare original black and white WW1 footage, which includes soldiers from the Indian corps.

Further Information

The UK plans to mark the centenary of the First World War (WW1) both in the UK and abroad. In the UK, activity includes a programme of ceremonial events over 4 years; a programme organised by the Imperial War Museum and funding for students & teachers to visit battlefields of the Western front.

The UK recognises that it could not have prevailed in WW1 without the huge contribution and sacrifice made by many countries. It is important we do not forget that shared endeavour and that we continue to pass the lessons of that terrible war on to younger generations. Commemorations will follow the themes of Remembrance, Youth and Education.

The Indian contribution to the WW1 war effort was one of the largest from the Commonwealth. The UK is working closely with the USI (United Service Institution of India), who are leading for the Government of India.

  • WW1 started 28 July 1914 and finished on 11 Nov 1918.
  • involved all of world’s great powers, 70M combatants, with more that 9M killed.
  • British Empire entered the war on 4 Aug 1914.
  • over 1.1 M Indian servicemen fought in WW1 and there were around 70K fatalities.
  • The Indian Army dominated, but the Indian Navy also contributed and Indians served in the Army Flying Corps. There were also labour battalions recruited from Bengal.
  • The Indian Army has the distinction of having fought in almost all theatres of the war – France and Flanders, alongside the ANZACs at Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, Palestine and North Africa.
  • Mr Fallon’s grandfather, Captain Harold Spink formed part of Force D, the Indian Army’s expeditionary force deployed to Mesopotamia in 1915.

UK Commemoration

  • commenced on 4 Aug with a memorial service at Glasgow Cathedral for Commonwealth Leaders which coincided with the closing ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. An event at the Symphorien Military Cemetery in Mons, Belgium and a candle-lit Vigil at Westminster Abbey were held the same day.

  • thereafter a rolling 4 year programme with a significant WW1 milestone marking each year:

    • April 2015 – Gallipoli
    • 2016 – Battle of Jutland and first Battle of the Somme.
    • 2017 – Passchendaele
    • 2018 – Armistice Day.

India Commemoration

  • apart from the VC and war diaries, we have funded a battle field guide book which will be available through USI for those families wishing to visit the France and Flanders Battle Fields; funded, in conjunction with USI, a coffee table book giving a pictorial over view of India and the Great War.

Stuart Adam, Director,
Press and Communications
British High Commission,
Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110021
Tel: 44192100; Fax: 24192411

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Published 30 October 2014