This exciting new mini-exhibition about the Indian Army and the First World War is due to open April 2nd until April 30th at SOFO. WWW.SOFO.ORG.UK
The exhibition is the product of a collaborative project led by Oxford University’s History Faculty and the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum. It reveals new insights into the role played by people from across the Indian subcontinent during the First World War; as well as exploring the historical connections between the British Indian Army and the local communities of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, since men from the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry served alongside Indian troops in Mesopotamia (Iraq) in 1914-18.
The project was led by Dr Priya Atwal (an Oxford historian) and Stephen Barker (heritage consultant), with the support of academic leads, Dr Jeanette Atkinson and Professor Adrian Gregory. It has been funded by a £12,000 grant from the Arts & Humanities Research Council ‘Voices of War & Peace’ WWI Engagement Centre, which was awarded in June.
A team of volunteers, working with Dr Atwal and Mr Barker, designed the exhibition. The volunteers are an intergenerational and multi-faith group from the local community – making this project among the first in the UK to bring together a diverse range of white and British Asian participants to study and interpret the history of the First World War from a wide range of cultural perspectives. Visitors to the mini-exhibition can take a “behind the scenes look” at the project and the experiences of the volunteers through a short documentary film made by award-winning independent film-maker, Sharon Woodward, which will be part of the display.
The content of the exhibition is based in part on the new research conducted by the team into the previously unstudied archives of the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum, which contain fascinating material relating to the activities of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in India and the Middle East from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A public appeal was also launched via the media for family/ancestral stories from the war to be shared with the researchers, to be featured in the exhibition. The stories and archival research together uncover new dimensions to the experiences of ordinary Indian and British people caught up in the global war, and the exhibition as a whole provides a fresh and illuminating perspective into the connections between local and imperial history, as well as paying tribute to the sacrifices made by previous generations during a devastating conflict.