Many war veterans, their families and students from the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER) attended an hour-long event to pay their tributes at the cemetery.
Retd. Brigadier Mohan Nikam is among the few Indian war veterans from families that have fought in both the World Wars. This third generation defence personnel was among at least 100 Pune residents who gathered at the Kirkee War Cemetery on November 11, 2018 to mark the 100 years of the Armistice Day of the First World War (WWI).
“The Marathas formed a strong core of officers who fought during the First World War. I have carried out extensive research and interacted with over 80 veterans whose forefathers had fought in both the world wars,” said Nikam, whose grandfather had fought in Mesopotamia (Iraq) in World War I while his father fought in the Second World War.
“Indian soldiers were ill prepared for the cold weather when they first landed in France. They were armed with vintage weapons and sent to face modern weapons. Despite all odds, Indian soldiers soon acclimatised and fought the war on the front,” recalled Nikam, who has fought in the Indo-Pak war of 1971.
The cemetery is looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) of which India is a member nation.
A students’ choir performed at the location, singing songs commemorating the sacrifices made by the heroic war heroes.
PushkarSohoni, a research scholar in Historic Preservation, Islamic Architecture and Indo-Persian Cultural History from IISER, told the audience about the numerous war memorials and other WW I markers in Pune, some of which were built in 1921.
He added, “The College of Agriculture, Pune, was once converted into a hospital where injured soldiers were admitted. The college remained shut for five years to cater to the prisoners of war (POWs) and the injured.”