The First World War saw millions of people coming together, sharing experiences and surviving the horrors of the war. Indeed, many soldiers began lifelong friendships in the trenches and seized the opportunity to exchange ideas.
British, European, Indian, and French colonial forces from Africa all fought alongside one another in Europe. There were chances to learn more about the local culture whilst on leave including trips to London and Paris. The impact of European culture, for example the relative freedom of women and the availability of free education, was powerful for many Sikhs.
The Indian soldiers were welcomed to France by civilians bearing flowers and with relief from the allied troops. Some 140,000 Indian soldiers saw active service on the Western Front in France and Belgium during the war, including in battles at Ypres, Neuve Chapelle and the Somme.
The Indian Army did not just fight on the battles lines in Europe; almost 700,000 Indians served in the Middle East, fighting in the Mesopotamian campaign.
Over 100,000 Indian soldiers and labourers took part in the advance from Egypt. Soldiers and labourers worked to build a pipeline and railway across the Sinai desert into Palestine (modern-day Palestine and Israel). After years of fighting, the Allies finally captured Baghdad, Jerusalem and Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire.
But the campaign in Gallipoli ended in disaster for the Allies. Here the Indian Army fought alongside the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) and French forces. Casualties were heavy. In the 14th Sikh Regiment alone, 379 men out of 514 were lost - almost 75% of the regiment.
There was also little success in Africa. In the colonial territories in East Africa, Indian soldiers fought alongside African forces from the King’s African Rifles and from South Africa. Approximately one million (1,000,000) Allied forces, including Belgian forces and navy support, were occupied in guerrilla warfare with a small German force that ended in stalemate.
The European colonies in East Africa included modern Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.