Zehrensdorf Indian Cemetery, Germany - the largest Gurkha POW Cemetery WWI

Zehrensdorf Indian CemeteryWikipedia

About 40 km from Berlin, lies  Zehrensdorf Indian Cemetery which is  one of the largest ‘Indian’ (and Gurkha) cemeteries from the First World War in (Eastern) Europe. Far away from the homeland, this place in Germany became the final resting place for 206 Indian soldiers who died in captivity and were buried here. It contains the  graves  soldiers and sailors of the forces of undivided India and they died at  prisoner-of-war (POW)  camp three miles away at Zossen. During the period between the end of WWII until 1990, this place was part of East Germany (aligned with Communist Russia) and Russian Army used this place for training the soldiers. Because of poor upkeep of the Indian cemetery by the Commission after the end of WWII, casualties buried here were instead commemorated by name on special panels erected at the Indian memorial at Neuve-Chapelle in France where the casualties of many other Indian soldiers from undivided India are buried. After the  re-unification of Germany in 1990, the Cemetery became visible after the removal of the undergrowth  and  the Commonwealth War Graves Commission took up the  restoration  work on the  cemetery  and finally completed in 2005. The cemetery was in a state of neglect for 50 long years - until the fall of Berlin Wall. India played a major role in the Commonwealth War Graves commission and  Indians  are not aware that 11,000 Indian soldiers sacrificed their lives, fighting for the British in two world wars In Europe as India happened to be part of the British Empire.  India's contribution was Rs.30 crores for the restoration of the cemetery and the Commonwealth Countries  such as New Zealand, Australia, Britain, Canada took the collective responsibility. 

Zehrensdorf Indian CemeteryWikimedia Commons
Zehrensdorf Indian Cemetery is believed to be the largest Gurkha POW Cemetery during WW1 in Germany. 85 Gurkhas were commemorated here.  More than 200,000 Gurkhas were in the British Army during World War I. Collectively, there were 10 Gurkha regiments, each with two battalions. There were approximately 20,000 casualties and  almost 2,000 of them received  awards for gallantry. It is interesting to note that  Gurkhas  fought in all the main 'theatres' of war. Indian soldiers trained in colonial warfare in a tropical terrain faced a different situation in Europe, particularly, East Germany. Corpses  piled upon corpses, unbearable stench and mayhem - the savagery of conflict shocked the Indian soldiers. Not accustomed to Trench Warfare, the muddy trench infected their feet. The Indian soldiers were exposed to first freezing European Winter and had to manage with uniforms designed for Indian conditions. Despite the odds, they fought valiantly. At Neuve Chapelle, East Germany, from 10 – 13 March 1915, Indian soldiers advanced and captured many German lines.

In Delhi, 5 years ago the Commission made a digital record of commemorative name panels of soldiers whose names are engraved on India Gate.