As the world continues to celebrate the centennial of the end of World War I, one man is determined to share the story of how his father created England’s first memorial for Indian soldiers lost in the war.
Now 95, Anthony Henriques is still dedicated to raising awareness of his father Elias Cosmas Henriques’s work in England. EC Henriques was the designer and creator of The Chattri, a war memorial in Brighton and Howe. A new piece in Scroll details how the memorial came to be.
Born in 1889, EC Henriques would show his artistic potential at an early age. In 1915 (in the middle of the war), he headed to Europe to study architecture on a three-year State Technical Scholarship, Scroll reported. It was during his studies that he met Sir Swinton Jacob, a Briton who had served in India and was “a pioneer of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture.”
Jacob would soon play an instrumental part in Henriques’ career when he selected the young architect to design what would be known as the Chattri memorial.
“According to historical accounts, the monument was conceptualized by Lieutenant Das Gupta, a military doctor, who approached Brighton Mayor Sir John Otter with a proposal in 1915,” writes Soumya Das. “A project was commissioned to build a memorial in the Patcham suburb, at the spot where 53 Hindu and Sikh soldiers, who had succumbed to war wounds at nearby hospitals, were cremated (the Muslim soldiers were buried at a mosque in Surrey).”
Das adds that the monument got its name from its domed pavilion, the style of which is often found in Mughal-era monuments throughout India. The monument’s inscription is a powerful one.
“To the memory of all Indian soldiers who gave their lives for the King-Emperor in the Great War,” it begins. “This monument, erected on the site of the funeral pyre where Hindus and Sikhs who died in hospital at Brighton passed through the fire, is in grateful admiration and brotherly love dedicated.”
The completed monument was dedicated by the Prince of Wales (and future King Edward VIII) in 1921.
As the Chattri memorial’s official website notes, over one and a half million Indian soldiers served in World War I alongside their British counterparts. In recent years, historians and activists have worked to ensure the contributions of Indians to the war effort are being properly recognized. In July, it was announced that a bronze statue of a Sikh First World War soldier would soon be erected in England’s West Midlands.
Luke Perry, the sculptor responsible for creating the new West Midlands statue, was quick to connect the sacrifice of the South Asian soldiers to the colonial struggle that was simultaneously going on in the early 20th century.
“I am incredibly proud to be working on a sculpture that is, at its heart, a statement of gratitude for the actions of a people who gave their lives for our independence when they had not yet achieved their own,” he said last summer.