Of the forgotten soldiers of Corbett's 70 Kumaon Company

Jim Corbett was 38 and was a railway contractor at Mokameh Ghat when the war broke out in 1914.

rajshekhar

Rajshekhar Pant | October 14, 2014




“Our boys were not Tommies- they were Tariques and Tajinders too.” Referring to this repeatedly quoted comment of junior British foreign office minister Sayeeda Warsi, Raju Suyal, the great grandson of Manorath Suyal, who fought in Flanders under the command of Captain James Edward Corbett (Jim Corbett) of 70 Kumaon Company says, “Not only Tariques and Tejender Singhs, Teekumsinghs and Tularams from kumaon hills also fought in foreign lands for their British masters. History may have forgotten them but it is unfortunate that while the whole of Europe commemorated the centenary of the beginning of the first great war Uttarakhand, despite its unique role in the war, preferred to give a miss to it like the rest of the country.”  Manorath Suyal lived in the remote village of Bhankar near Nainital in Kumaon hills.

Jim Corbett was 38 and was a railway contractor at Mokameh Ghat when the war broke out in 1914. His initial attempts to get the war time commission got turned down due to his age. But by 1917, when in European battlefields it became more of a war of attrition than a military action, Jim was ordered to raise a labour corps as Captain JE Corbett and command it at western fronts in France. Counting on the esteem, he was held in Kumaon, he recruited a personal unit of 500 Kumaonies “promising to the head of family of each that he would bring every single individual back home,” says Martin Booth the novelist, film maker and biographer of Jim.

Jim seldom spoke of what he used to call ‘The Kaiser’s War’, not even in his personal letters back home to Nainital. This correspondent however, remembers  Manorath Suyal and Madhavanand Bhagat of Bhimtal, recalling nostalgically that how ‘carpet sahib’ tried hard to ensure not only the physical well being of his men but also made it sure that they did not fall a victim to the European vices. Martin Booth writes, “His Kumaoni men looked up to him not as an officer but as a sadhu , a guru who would guard as much as lead them.” He did not take a leave in Europe because his men could not. His unit was variously posted to a number of scenes of action along the western front and faced many vicissitude- from bullets and bombs, the disease and biting cold and rats and trench foot. A report of Lord Ampthill, the overall in-charge of foreign labour corps troops fighting in France speaks laudably of his sincerity and concern for his 70 Kumaon Company. Of the 1.27 million Indians who left the Indian shores for fighting for British 47,756 could never come back. However, of Jim’s 500 only one did not live to return. He died not in action or of disease but of seasickness. These he resettled in their Kumaon villages. With his usual generosity he gave his war bonus to build a soldiers' canteen.

Comments

 

Other News

Is the government spending enough on dalits?

The Narendra Modi government has set aside Rs 52,393 crore in 2017-18 for the welfare of the dalits. On the face of it, the amount is substantial. However, an analysis of the past actual allocation shows that there has in fact been a dip in spending on schemes that are specifically meant only for dalits.

President’s post above politics: Kovind

“I will always try and it is also my belief that the president’s post should be above politics,” said NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind who filed the nomination papers on Friday.   “Since the time I became governor,  I am no longe

Unaffordable sacredness of our cattle

A lot of debate that we witness in the media on the cattle question these days suffer from the disease of speculative utopian imagination of a ‘cow-nation’ and relentless abuses for those beef-eating ‘others’.   Political debates over the question of o

“Gandhi and Tagore are the two Indian authors who redefine civilisation as a moral compass and a space of dialogue”

Ramin Jahanbegloo is a renowned philosopher who is now associated with the Jindal Global University. His latest work, The Decline of Civilization, calls for countering the ‘decivilising’ tendencies of our times by returning to Gandhi and Tagore. Jahanbegloo answered s

Should CBSE prepone the board exams?

Should CBSE prepone the board exams?

Cricket, not just a sport

In this nationalistic age, sports seem to play an important role, and in India, this can be seen during cricket matches. For most, a victory symbolises prestige and supremacy.   On Sunday, India lost to Pakistan in the final match of the ICC Champions Trophy. The defea



Video

अब पासपोर्ट हिंदी और अंग्रेजी दोनों भाषा में होगा

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter