World War I may have been fought in the trenches of Europe, but under the Raj, India did not escape the horror of the war. And in Bengaluru, monuments bear witness to the people who had laid down their lives in the battle.
A mule that had served faithfully was given its freedom in the then British Cantonment, and its hooves have been preserved in the Madras Engineer Group (MEG) campus. The Mysore State not only sent soldiers to war, but also helped by donating money. The Bangalore torpedo, a device created by Lt. Col. R.L. McClintock, who was attached to Madras Sapper and Miners of the India Army, was used during WW1 to explode barbed wire in trenches.
There are many such little known stories connecting Bengaluru and Mysuru to the WW1. ReReeti, a non-profit organisation that works towards revitalising museums and heritage sites, is trying to spread awareness beyond our textbooks. Under an initiative named ‘White Pepper Black Pepper’, the organisation is collating information on WWI, which will be presented during a six-month-long travelling exhibition in schools and public spaces. The exhibition will be rolled out in August.
In its attempt to collect stories, ReReeti is reaching out to people who either have memorabilia, photos or anecdotes related to the war that can be added to the exhibits.
“WW1 was unique for India in the sense that the largest volunteer army sent to WW1 was from India. ReReeti conceptualised the project to commemorate some of the lesser known parts of history – India’s contribution to the WW1 with a greater focus on Bengaluru. We are trying to collect stories and information, not just about what happened at the war front and what the soldiers went through, but also what happened to the families who were left behind in the city,” said Tejshvi Jain, founder of ReReeti .
During their research, the ReReeti team stumbled upon stories of how the entire city contributed to the WW1 and the memorabilia for the soldiers who lost their lives.
“A fund was created to support the soldiers and families of the martyred. We were able to map seven WWI memorials in the city, including Pioneer Corps Memorial on Brigade Road, Sapper Memorial inside MEG Centre, the Statue of the Unknown Soldier at the National Military Memorial, the cenotaph at St. John’s, the memorial at St. Joseph’s Boys High School, a plaque remembering students and teachers of Bishop Cotton School who fought in the war and the Imperial Service Troops Memorial at Munireddypalya. We also discovered a ‘tipperary’, or tea room, built for soldiers during the war years in the St. John’s premises,” said Ms. Jain.
Three partner schools
The organisation has been working with three partner schools in Bengaluru to curate the exhibition. “We have been conducting interactive sessions in the partner schools on India’s role in the war. The students researched and worked on sub-themes, visited memorials, and tried to experience and empathise the different perspectives of soldiers and their families who were involved in and were impacted by the war. Much of this will become part of the travelling exhibition,” she said.
The exhibition draws elements from WW1. Apart from visual content such as photos and information boards, it will offer a sensory experience to visitors.
“We will be setting up two tunnels connecting two rooms to recreate the atmosphere similar to the trenches dug during WW1. To provide realism to the setting, the sight, smell and sound of the trenches will be mimicked,” said Ms. Jain.
The project is being crowdfunded.
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