Thursday, 18 July 2024
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Thursday, 18 July 2024

Youth led remembrance service held in Highland for South Asian soldiers

YOUNG people from across Scotland have led a multi-faith remembrance service for South Asian soldiers who fought alongside British troops in both world wars.

Tributes were paid to the soldiers of Force K6 of the British Indian Army from present-day Pakistan who died in Scotland after being evacuated from Dunkirk.

The service at Kingussie New Cemetery in the Highlands, where nine Force K6 soldiers are buried, brought 30 young people, aged 12 to 22, from Glasgow and the local community together.

They laid wreaths, gave talks about Force K6 members and their connection with Scotland and actively took part in the act of remembrance.

The service was organised by the charity Colourful Heritage with support from Ancre Somme Association Scotland (ASA Scotland), Boots & Beards and the Glasgow Gurdwara Guru Granth Sahib.

It was attended by their members as well as other members of Glasgow’s South Asian community including Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims, alongside representatives from across the Highlands.

Local resident Isobel Harling, who is in her late nineties, was thanked by the youngsters for tending to the Kingussie graves since the 1940s.

During the presentations at the Talla nan Ros Centre after lunch, speakers included Colin Hexley, son of Captain Thomas Hexley, who was in charge of Force K6, Corps 22 that were held as Prisoners of War by the Germans in the Second World War.

They also heard from Hamish Johnston, step-grandson of Major John Finlay who commanded Force K6’s supply section, Tommy Davidson from ASA Scotland and Highlands author Merryn Glover.

She grew up in Nepal, India and Pakistan and has helped organise arts events commemorating the soldiers’ stories.

Many of the 53 attendees later visited the recently installed Force K6 memorial in Kingussie’s Gynack Gardens.

The charity Colourful Heritage has organised annual remembrance events at Kingussie since 2018 and is also campaigning for a permanent memorial to all British Indian Army soldiers in Glasgow.

It has also developed a digital resource pack for primary and secondary school teachers featuring the story of K6.

During the Second World War, an urgent call was made to the Indian empire – then the joint Indian and Pakistan subcontinents – for animal troop companies to come out to France to help.

Force K6 – Mule Transport Corps of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps initially arrived in Marseilles in December 1939. The bulk of Force K6 was then evacuated out of Dunkirk in France to Britain, initially staying in Brecon Beacon in Wales before being moved to Scotland.

Scotland hosts the largest concentration of WW2 Muslim soldiers’ graves from Force K6 in the UK.

There are 13 graves spread out in four cemeteries, with nine graves at Kingussie cemetery.

Most of the young soldiers died while training in the cold mountainous regions of Scotland. These soldiers buried in Scotland are primarily from the Punjab region and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (previously known as NWFP) from present-day Pakistan.

Dr Saqib Razzaq, project officer and head of research at Colourful Heritage, said:

“Nearly 4 million Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Gurkhas from the British Indian Army fought alongside British troops in the world wars, and more than 160,000 soldiers sadly lost their lives. They travelled halfway around the world to fight alongside our forces.

“But the reality is that not enough people know this story – so it was wonderful to see young people from across Scotland come together for this special service.

“We want more people to learn about the sacrifices that were made and reflect on the commonality of our humanity.

“Scotland has a special connection through Force K6, and this was a moment to commemorate those who fought for us and lost their lives.”


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