The records of 320,000 Indian troops mostly belonging to Punjab have been found.
These soldiers fought in the first world war and their records were left unread in the basement of the Lahore Museum in Pakistan for 97 years.
These important files have been digitised and uploaded on to a website under a project completed by the United Kingdom Punjab Heritage Association (UKPHA) and the University of Greenwich.
Dr Gavin Rand, of the University of Greenwich, told the Guardian:
“The personal and family histories of Punjab’s first world war volunteers are largely unknown, even to many descendants. Few Indian veterans left written records of their service, and many Punjabi family histories are dominated by the upheavals and migrations which followed Punjab’s partition in 1947.”
While descendants of British soldiers could search databases of service records, the families of Indian soldiers who fought in the world wars were unable to use any such service.
Well-known historian Prof. Peter Stanley tweeted:
“This will potentially transform aspects of Great War history for India and Pakistan.”
Indian soldiers served in France, the Middle East, Gallipoli, Aden, East Africa, and many parts of British India during the first world war.
In fact, Punjabi soldiers comprised of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs and made up almost a third of the British Indian armed forces.
The rare registers were first compiled by the Punjab government in 1919 at the end of World War I.
These registers comprise 26,000 handwritten as well as typed pages.
These documents provide village-by-village data on the war service of Indian soldiers including information related to their family background and regiment.
About 45,000 records from Jalandhar and Ludhiana, in India, and Sialkot, in Pakistan, have so far been uploaded to this website.
Data from a further 25 districts comprising an estimated 275,000 soldiers’ records will be released soon.