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Le mémorial indien et le cimetière portugais de Neuve-Chapelle.

Le mémorial indien et le cimetière portugais de Neuve-Chapelle.

413 Rue du Bois, 62136 Richebourg France

RELIGIONS Catholic, Hinduism


The Neuve-Chapelle Indian Memorial is a World War I memorial located on the outskirts of the commune of Neuve-Chapelle, in the département of Pas de Calais. The memorial commemorates some 4,742 Indian soldiers with no known grave, who fell in battle while fighting for the British Indian Army in the First World War. The location of the memorial was chosen because of the participation by Indian troops at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. At a hundred meters from the Indian memorial is the Portuguese military cemetery of Richebourg, surrounded by a white wall with an imposing wrought iron gate. The burial place of 1831 soldiers is the only place of memory recalling the intervention of the Portuguese nation during the 1st World War. In front of the cemetery was erected in 1976, a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima to honor their memories. Of the 56,500 Portuguese mobilized, 2100 on the killed, 5200 are wounded and 7000 were in prisonned.
The memorial, designed by Sir Herbert Baker, with sculpture by Charles Wheeler, is a circular enclosure centred on a tall pillar that is topped by a lotus capital, and carved representations of the Star of India and the Imperial Crown. One half of the circular enclosure consists of the panels of names of the dead, while the other half is open. Other architectural and sculptural features of the memorial include carved stone tigers, and two small domed chattris. At the foot of the pillar is a Stone of Remembrance inscribed with the words: "Their name liveth for evermore." The main inscription is in both English and French, while the column also bears an inscription in English, Arabic, Devanagari and Gurmukhi: "God is One, His is the Victory". Historically, the memorial of Neuve Chapelle honors the memory of the Indian soldiers. Its construction represents the participation of soldiers from the British colonies in northern India. Symbols such as the two tigers placed at the foot of a column are representations of the Hindu religion. Thus, the sacrifice of these troops from the colonies is coupled with the religious beliefs of the fighters who died for peace. The Portuguese Cemetery is the very representation of the Portuguese will to impose itself on the international scene. The intervention of Portugal during the First World War demonstrates a willingness on the part of the country to assert itself on the international diplomatic scene.
These two places are extremely close geographically. This demonstrates a willingness to pay tribute to peace fighters. These two juxtaposed places testify to a gathering of men to defend a cause, and a common goal. The memorial erected in honor of Indian fighters, of Hindu confession and the construction of the Portuguese Catholic cemetery only a few put to testify to a true fraternity between the allies going beyond the same religious beliefs.
This place has a strong influence especially for the Portuguese community. While nearly 1,500 graves are already listed there after le war, the Portuguese consul in Arras, Mr. Lantoine, had the site developed, from February 13, 1935, by erecting a wall to delimit and a monumental door with materials imported from Portugal. This cemetery has a strong importance for the Portuguese community, it is the representation of the country's participation with the allies, but also of Portugal's assertion on the international scene. The fact that the two places are linked geographically also symbolizes peace and inter-religious respect in the face of war, and the harshness of the fighting. The Indian memorial also represents interreligious participation under the same flag, facing a common enemy. This represents not only the global scale of the conflict but especially the participation and fraternity between each confession. The memorial was the site for commemorations during the First World War centenary years, including a visit in April 2015 by the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi. The Indian national anthem was played, a silence held, and a wreath laid. Modi wrote in the visitor's book: "I am honoured to pay homage to the Indian soldiers here at the Indian Memorial at Neuve Chappelle. Our soldiers who fought in foreign lands in the Great War, have won the admiration of the world for dedication, loyalty, courage and sacrifice. I salute them." Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 11 April 2015
The students could enjoy a direct visit. The two sites are juxtaposed, so it is very easy to visit them. In addition, the architectures from two very different cultures are remarkable, so it seems very interesting for students to be able to visit the two places in one day, it will allow them to question and understand the notions of brotherhood and mutual respect of each.


    • JPG

      Marble memorial plaque in Neuve-Chapelle Indian Memorial
      On the marbled memorial plaque it is written "in remembrance of the religious prayers held for the spiritual emancipation of the souls of the indian soldiers fallen in europe during the first world war in accordance with their faith and tradition. May their sacrifice be remembered for eternity" 30 august 2015. This marbled memorial plaque shows, explains, the respect of the faith of everyone.


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    This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.