Sepoys in WWI

Darwan Sing Negi

Darwan Sing Negi

Lance Naik Darwan Singh Negi of the 39th Garhwal Rifles won the Victoria Cross after he led an attack to capture a German trench at Festubert in November 1914.

But what do we know about the many forgotten Indian soldiers in his regiment who also fought that day? Or their wives, sisters, mothers and fathers back in India?

Or their British Officers, their lives mutually dependent on the courage of comrades whose language and culture were so different from their own? Or the cooks, grooms and non-combatants who served alongside them?

It’s December 1914. Look at this Picture.

1st WW Sepoy portrait

by John Daniel Revel (courtesy of IWM)

  • Who is he?
  • Where are his family?
  • Where is he stationed in France?
  • What does his trench look like?
  • What is his daily routine?
  • What are his duties?
  • What does he eat?
  • Where does he sleep? Where is his toilet?
  • How does he keep dry?
  • What sounds can he hear at night?
  • How did a sniper’s bullet sound?
  • Can he read and write?
  • How did he write to his mother?

You might have discovered where a particular soldier was born. Where he enlisted. How he travelled from Lahore to Marseille. What medal he won, or where he was wounded, or where he died.

But could you begin to see his world through his eyes? Or hear it through his ears? If you could, you might start to imagine how he might have felt. Could we then unearth his possible desires, expectations and opinions?

To begin to unlock these experiences, we examined the detail of their daily routine, their relationships with each-other and their officers, to their foreign and hostile environment, and their own faith and understanding of duty.