The largely forgotten story of the wounded Indian troops who recuperated in the glorious surroundings of King George IV’s seaside pleasure palace is uncovered by Maev Kennedy
Amidst all the stories of scandal, decadent living and outrageous extravagance within the walls of the Brighton Pavilion, there is the touching tale of the time the onion-domed seaside palace was used as a hospital and a sanctuary for the thousands of wounded Indian soldiers.
Visitors to the Pavilion walk through some of the most spectacular interiors in the UK, created at staggering expense by George IV during his time as Prince Regent. The route leads up the stairs to a special gallery devoted to the four years from 1914, when the palace became an extraordinary hospital, described at the time by the Sussex Daily News as being “like a chapter out of a wonderful romance... it will appeal to the world as a thing almost incredible.”
The urgent need for a special hospital for Indian troops was recognised within months of the outbreak of war. Indian divisions included Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, along with Gurkhas from Nepal, who had arrived in late 1914 to form the Indian Corps of the British Army. By October 1915, 90,000 had served in those divisions, at appalling cost, at least 8,000 Indian soldiers killed and 14,000 injured. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission estimate 130,000 Indians served on the Western Front with 9,000 killed by November 1918.