Indian Memorial at Pieta Military Cemetery

This page is about the Indian Memorial at Pieta Military Cemetery and is one of a number I have created looking at First World War cemeteries in Malta. I have also created a page giving an overview of the Pieta Military Cemetery. To view more guides to Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries on Malta click on the link below:

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Indian Memorial at Pieta Military Cemetery

The Indian Memorial at Pieta Military Cemetery, Malta commemorates soldiers and labourers of the Indian Army who died on the island during the First World War and were cremated at Lazaretto Cemetery. The Lazaretto on Malta was located on Manoel Island, Gzira. All the men commemorated on the memorial were cremated either the day they died or the day after. This was the standard practice in an age without widespread refrigeration in a hot climate. The soldiers and labourers commemorated were either Hindus or Sikhs from what is now India, Pakistan and Nepal. Whenever it was possible, Hindus and Sikhs were cremated in custom with their faith, while Muslim and Christian soldiers were buried. This wasn’t always the case due to battlefield conditions and human error. Many of the soldiers commemorated on the memorial succumbed to wounds or disease contracted at Gallipoli.Indian Memorial Pieta Military CemeteryThe soldiers commemorated include Rifleman Dadrat Gurung 1st Battalion, 6th Gurkha Rifles, who died of wounds on 2 August 1915 and Havildar Jitbahadur Thapa 1st Battalion, 6th Gurkha Rifles, who died of wounds on 4 August 1915. A Havildar was the equivalent of a Sergeant in the British Army. Both these men were Gurkhas and were wounded at Gallipoli. The surnames Gurung and Thapa are very common amongst Gurkhas due to Gurkha regiments recruiting men from specific groups within Nepal. Also commemorated is Daffadar Bal Ram, B Squadron 20th Deccan Horse who died of tuberculosis on 14 August 1918. Respiratory diseases killed a large number of soldiers during the war, especially when Spanish flu began to appear in 1918. A Daffadar was a cavalry rank in the Indian Army equivalent of a Sergeant in the British Army.  Bal Ram’s regimental number was 1008 and therefore he enlisted prior to the outbreak of war. He almost certainly served on the Western Front, most likely from 1914, and subsequently in Egypt and Palestine.

On the left-hand side of the memorial, you can see the names of Drivers Moti Lal and Jai Ram who died serving with the Royal Garrison Artillery. Driver Moti Lal died of pneumonia on the 8 January 1918 and his entry on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website recorded that he was the “son of Durgai, of Ajabpura-ke-Marian, Thana Barapura, Odhi, Farrukabad, United Provinces”. Moti’s unit was recorded as the 68th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, however, this unit never left India. British artillery serving in India often used Indian drivers both for their batteries and ammunition columns. Moti Lal would have been sent to another British Artillery unit, probably serving on the Western Front. He was probably being invalided back to India when he was left at Malta and succumbed to illness.Indian Memorial Pieta Military CemeteryAs well as a cremation memorial, the Pieta Military Cemetery contains a number of graves to men who served in the Indian Labour Corps. The gravestone below is to Labourer Khew Marak, who served with the 69th Garo Labour Company and died on 15 June 1918. The Company was formed from Garos who live in North East India. Khew Marak would have served with the company in France, before being invalided to Malta where he died. You can read more about the Garo contribution to the war here: Homage to Garo brave hearts of WW1.If you would like to learn more about the Indian Army’s role in the Gallipoli Campaign, I highly recommend Die in Battle, Do not Despair, The Indians on Gallipoli, 1915 by Peter Stanley.

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