The untold story of ANZAC-INDIA friendship

The untold story of the Anzac-India friendship forged amidst the trials of Gallipoli in 1915 was on display at the Australia India Institute’s Anzac Day event on April 22 in Melbourne.  

The event featured erstwhile little-known yet very significant details of the Australia-Indian military connection revealed by Australian military historian Professor Peter Stanley from UNSW.

Professor Stanley in his presentation focused on the friendship formed under fire and on the forgotten contributions of the Indian force to our national story.  

A slide in the presentation read:

An Anzac’s testimony

“A British-born South Australian school-teacher wrote from hospital in Britain to the Secretary of State for India, praising the Indian bearers he had worked alongside at Anzac. Indian gunners, drivers and bearers cooked ‘chupattee cakes’ for Australians, who then smeared jam on them. He praised ‘those grand & game soldiers of India’ and promised that despite the common prejudice Australians would ‘extend an open hand of binding friendship … wherever we meet’.”

“… the Indian troops’ efforts were valiant and played a critical role in some of the major offensives of the campaign,” said Lisa Singh, CEO of the Australia India Institute.

As part of the event, Mark Trayling, grandson of Indian Navy Commander JB “Dick” Simmons and commissioner of the ‘Bahadur’ painting, presented the painting to the Australia India Institute.

The painting was officially unveiled to commemorate the ANZA-INDIAN friendship.

It was painted by mouth by Leading Air Craftsman Mridul Ghosh, a resident of the Paraplegic Centre for Armed Forces in Pune, India.

The painting features a portrait of Australian Private John Kilpatrick Simpson, whose courageous efforts to rescue wounded soldiers for medical attention earned him the nickname ‘Bahadur – bravest of the brave’ from Indian troops.

This event was not just about commemorating the past; it’s about reclaiming untold stories.

Indians in Australia since 1796
Contrary to the common perception painting Indian Australians as recently arrived migrants, Indians have been in Australia almost since the same time as the British. In a series of articles published by the Bharat Times (“BT”) in the early 2000 under the heading “Indians are not an ethnic minority in Australia”, BT presented, with facts, stories of Indians arriving in Australia as early as 1796. The well-documented research was conducted by Len Kenna which was later published as a book.

This presentation by Professor Stanley further highlights the strong bond between the two communities and should serve as a source of inspiration to us all for any sort of battles (not necessarily warfare) that lie ahead of us.

“By shining a spotlight on the contributions of Indian troops at Gallipoli, we aim to commemorate the breadth of the Australia-India friendship that first formed on the battlefield,” she added. Among the dignitaries who attended the event were Tim Watts, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ted Baillieu , former Premier of Victoria, Steve McGhie MP Member for Melton and Cabinet Secretary in the Allan government, Colonel Rajesh Kaswan, Colonel Paramjit Singh Brar, Colonel Ashok Abhilashi, Wing Commander Satish Kumar Singh and the Indian Consul General in Melbourne, Dr Sushil Kumar.

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