The Indian Army of 1914 marched into battle on the Western Front with a long history of service and representing a wide range of proud Indian regiments, and all the social and religious backgrounds in the India of that period.
This image from a French source shows “Hindoo troops” (a common phrase they use for all Indians) and was part of a series of postcards produced in 1914 as the French were equally as fascinated with the arrival of Indian Army Troops in France, as Britain was in her own homeland.
What it does show is that when the men of the Indian Corps began to assemble in France in 1914, they had come straight from India wearing their thin Khaki Drill uniforms. These were fit for purpose in the hot climates of India but would prove unsuitable for a European autumn and winter, resulting in large numbers of Indian casualties from sickness. Within a few weeks of this photograph being taken these men were in action during the First Battle of Ypres.
This week the site will feature a series of Great War portraits relating to different aspects of the war and different theatres.
This image of Private George Whiting of the 2nd Battalion Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry was taken in Salonika in 1918. Salonika, Macedonia as it was known – often ‘Muckydonia’ by the troops – is very much a forgotten front of the Great War. British troops served there from 1915 and fought Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian troops in support of their Serbian allies. The campaign was charactised by periods of intense fighting, static warfare just as on the Western Front, and huge casualties from disease; malaria from mosquitoes being the biggest problem. By 1918 the British Army had suffered 162,517 from disease along and over half a million men in Salonika were treated for non-battle injuries or sickness.
George Whiting wears a typical uniform of the warmer periods spent in Salonika; light-weight Khaki Drill (KD) uniform rather than the thicker woollen Service Dress, although that was worn here during the winter months, and shorts. In his hand is a Solar Topee or Pith Helmet, again part of the warm weather uniform worn by British troops here. On the band, or pugree, round the helmet is the badge of his regiment. Sewn on his lower right sleeve are two Overseas Chevrons indicating George had served in Salonika since 1916.