Friends of Indian Soldiers Memorial launched to preserve the story of Barton's First World War troop hospital
A SPECIAL group has been launched to ensure memories are “never forgotten” of a hospital which treated thousands of Indian troops in Barton during the First World War.
Exhibitions and talks could be staged by the Friends of the Indian Soldiers Memorial to keep alive the meaning of the obelisk near the clifftop.
It is being led by Harmeet Singh Brar, of the Sikh Council Hampshire, who said: “We’ve been inundated with pictures, articles and artefacts relating to the Indian hospital.
“We thought it would be good to form a group not only for the Barton memorial, but for the entire history of Indian soldiers in the New Forest during the First World War.
“We have all this history that can help bring people together right on our doorstep. We can help ensure that for future generations the story is never forgotten again.”
Unveiled on 10th July 1917, the memorial honours the convalescence depot at the Barton Court and Grand Marine hotels that treated around 25,000 Indian soldiers from the frontline.
Local company Herbert H. Drew built it at the junction of Marine Drive and Barton Court Avenue, funded by donations from the hospital’s staff.
It was redesignated in 2018, when then New Milton town councillor Goff Beck reintroduced an annual Remembrance ceremony. It is one of only two in the country, the other being in Brighton.
Mr Singh Brar (31) told the A&T he had worked with the council since then on a scheme to further raise awareness of the monument’s history.
The new Friends group, chaired by Mr Beck, had its first meeting earlier this month and is hoping to stage a public launch at the monument in March.
Mr Singh Brar added: “I drove past it many times without knowing what it was all about.
“I only became aware of it when someone sent a magazine in the post, saying, ‘Do you know about this piece of New Forest history?’
“Over 100 years ago, this little community of rural England, which was only a fraction of what it is now, of people who had probably never seen a foreigner in their life, changed everything to suit their foreign visitors.”
The Friends intend to stage exhibitions in the New Forest throughout the year, and give talks to schools on the role Indian troops played.
The convalescence depot even has regal connections as one of its nurses was Princess Sophia Alexandrovna Duleep Singh, daughter of the last king of the Punjab. She was a prominent suffragette and Queen Victoria’s goddaughter.
Mr Singh Brar praised community groups that have supported the memorial, including Barton Bees WI, Barton Court Studios, army cadets, and local businesses.
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