Search Is On For South Asian Veterans Of World War Two In Kirklees

By David Prudames | 20 October 2004
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Shows a black and white photograph of a line of Sikh soldiers standing to attention in front of a wooded area. Being led down the line and shaking hands with one of the soldiers is Winston Churchill, dressed in military uniform.

Then Prime Minister Winston Churchill meets with Sikh soldiers during WWII. Courtesy Imperial War Museum.

A museum in Huddersfield is calling for South Asian veterans of the Second World War from the Kirklees area to come forward and tell their stories.

With celebrations for the religious festivals of Diwali and Eid coinciding this year with Remembrance Sunday, staff at Kirklees Community History Service intend to use the opportunity to explore the contribution of South Asians to the war effort.

A display is being developed to go on show at the Tolson Museum from November 14 that will commemorate the important role played in WWII by the soldiers and people of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

"We are preparing a display to acknowledge the contribution of South Asian servicemen and women in World War II," explained Neil West, Community History Project Officer.

"Their sacrifice remains unsung - despite the fact that soldiers from South Asia outnumbered their British comrades in receiving the Victoria and George Cross Medals, the highest awards for bravery."

Soldiers originating from South Asia fought alongside other allied troops, sailors and pilots in the dark days between 1939 and 1945.

In Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, many parts of Asia, as well as in the Battle of Britain, South Asians swelled the ranks of soldiers as well as support and medical staff.

Shows a photograph of rows of mini wooden crosses, each one bearing a remembrance poppy.

Remembrance Sunday provides an opportunity to commemorate the sacrifice of servicemen and women from all over the Commonwealth. © Jon Pratty.

The Tolson Museum’s Diwali celebrations are set to take place on Remembrance Sunday, November 14, when ceremonies all over the UK will commemorate the sacrifice made by servicemen and women in times of war.

Just a day or two later Eid will mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on November 15/16.

This offers staff at Kirklees Community History Service the perfect opportunity to explore the South Asian contribution to WWII.

But, while it the display will include more general information and photographs, organisers want to find local people who can tell the story as they remember it.

"We would really like to hear and use the accounts of local people from South Asian communities who were actually 'there' - either fighting or in another way supporting the war effort," added Neil.

"This would provide a real local dimension to the exhibition. We would also like to hear from any forces personnel who served alongside South Asian comrades during the war, or the relatives of South Asian veterans."

Anyone with a memory or story to tell can contact Neil West by telephone on (01484) 223802.

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