Friday, 11 November 2016

Brighton Pavilion- a rare moment of military genius


Ever been to Brighton pavilion?



This oriental fancy was built as an insane folly to house the antics of Regency fops in the 18th century. But in 1914, something amazing happened. It actually became useful.

 The British Army was highly dependent on manpower from across the Empire, so when hostilities broke out in the Great War, India provided over a million volunteers. Many served in the trenches of the Western Front- and by Christmas, hundreds had been killed or wounded. The survivors were swiftly brought back to England, where some bright spark actually suggested that these warriors from abroad should be housed in a place befitting their status....

And so Brighton Pavilion was converted into the Indian General Hospital. Those in charge tried to get things right. Chefs were brought in to provide exactly the right food in line with different Indian dietary laws and customs. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and others were all housed separately and cared for according to their traditions and beliefs- and the nursing staff treated all races as equals. Some of the wounded servicemen marvelled at the way white people in England treated them with more respect than white people in India did, and wrote about it in their diaries and letters. 

'Do not be anxious about me. We are very well looked after. White soldiers are always beside our beds – day and night. We get very good food four times a day. We also get milk. Our hospital is in the place where the King used to have his throne. Every man is washed once in hot water. The King has given a strict order that no trouble be given to any black man in hospital. Men in hospital are tended like flowers, and the king and Queen sometimes comes to visit them.’
Isar Singh (Sikh, 59th rifles) to a friend.


Another wrote:
'...Here the ladies tend us, who have been wounded, as a mother tends her child. They pour milk into our mouths, and our own parents, brothers and sisters, were we ill, would only give us water in a pot. There you see the brotherhood of religion, and here you see the brotherhood of the English, who are kind to us without further motive. The ladies even carry off our excreta, so kind are they; and whatsoever we have a liking for, they put it in our mouths. They wash our bed clothes every week and massage our backs when they ache from lying in bed.'

And later, 
'They put us in motor cars and take us through the city. When, at four o’clock, we go out from the hospital, the ladies of the city give us fruit. They say ‘We have never seen such men. Only have we heard of them that they are the Sikhs of India who once fought against England. Now do we see them with our own eyes as we see our sons.’ They cheer us for routing the Germans. Their kings say ‘brothers, what matter of men are the Indians?’ 

Strange, isn't it? People who bang on about migration to these islands, often forget the contribution so many of these 'foreigners' (of all faiths) actually made to keeping these islands free from tyranny in both the First and Second World Wars. So this Remembrance Day... let's remember them too, and for their sakes, treat their great-great-grandchildren with respect.

-------------

To read more about the Indian General Hospital go to:

www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-one/11026562/How-Brighton-Pavilion-became-a-temporary-hospital-for-Indian-soldiers-in-WW1.html


Quotations from 'Indian Voices of the Great War, Soldiers’ Letters, 1914-18' selected and introduced by David Omissi, Macmillan Press, 1999




















Ever been to Brighton pavilion?


This oriental fancy was built as an insane folly to house the antics of Regency fops in the 18th century. But in 1914, something amazing happened. It actually became useful.

The British Army was highly dependent on manpower from across the Empire, so when hostilities broke out in the Great War, India provided over a million volunteers. Many served in the trenches of the Western Front- and by Christmas, hundreds had been killed or wounded. The survivors were swiftly brought back to England, where some bright spark actually suggested that these warriors from abroad should be housed in a place befitting their status....

And so Brighton Pavilion was converted into the Indian General Hospital. Those in charge tried to get things right. Chefs were brought in to provide exactly the right food in line with different Indian dietary laws and customs. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and others were all housed separately and cared for according to their traditions and beliefs- and the nursing staff treated all races as equals. Some of the wounded servicemen marvelled at the way white people in England treated them with more respect than white people in India did, and wrote about it in their diaries and letters.


'Do not be anxious about me. We are very well looked after. White soldiers are always beside our beds – day and night. We get very good food four times a day. We also get milk. Our hospital is in the place where the King used to have his throne. Every man is washed once in hot water. The King has given a strict order that no trouble be given to any black man in hospital. Men in hospital are tended like flowers, and the king and Queen sometimes comes to visit them.’
Isar Singh (Sikh, 59th rifles) to a friend


Another wrote:
'...Here the ladies tend us, who have been wounded, as a mother tends her child. They pour milk into our mouths, and our own parents, brothers and sisters, were we ill, would only give us water in a pot. There you see the brotherhood of religion, and here you see the brotherhood of the English, who are kind to us without further motive. The ladies even carry off our excreta, so kind are they; and whatsoever we have a liking for, they put it in our mouths. They wash our bed clothes every week and massage our backs when they ache from lying in bed.'

And later, 
'They put us in motor cars and take us through the city. When, at four o’clock, we go out from the hospital, the ladies of the city give us fruit. They say ‘We have never seen such men. Only have we heard of them that they are the Sikhs of India who once fought against England. Now do we see them with our own eyes as we see our sons.’ They cheer us for routing the Germans. Their kings say ‘brothers, what matter of men are the Indians?’ 

Strange, isn't it? People who bang on about migration to these islands, often forget the contribution so many of these 'foreigners' (of all faiths) actually made to keeping these islands free from tyranny in both the First and Second World Wars. So this Remembrance Day... let's remember them too, and for their sakes, treat their great-great-grandchildren with respect.

-------------

To read more about the hospital go to:

www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-one/11026562/How-Brighton-Pavilion-became-a-temporary-hospital-for-Indian-soldiers-in-WW1.html

Quotations from 'Indian Voices of the Great War, Soldiers’ Letters, 1914-18' selected and introduced by David Omissi, Macmillan Press, 1999






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Any requests of subjects for future posts in 2016? No idea too stupid for consideration. And yes, I know I am a bad writer, so don't bother saying that unless you can write something better. But maybe there's a topic buzzing around in your head that you'd like to see covered... because I've got a keyboard here, it's loaded with letters, and I ain't afraid to use it.