Not many people know that World War I was actually knows as the “Great War” prior to World War II. After the Second World War people started referring to the Great War as World War I. King George V in the year 1919 inaugurated the first commemoration of the end of the Great War which was also subsequently observed across all the Commonwealth Nations.
World War I which ended on 11th of November 1918 by the signing of the armistice between the two belligerents is generally considers as the Remembrance Day. Some places this is observed as Remembrance Sunday by observing it nearest to 11th of November.
Post World War II Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday also included the tradition of honouring fallen soldiers of both World War I and World War II.
Kolkata is also finds itself quite significant when it come to the two World Wars, this city has quite a few burial sites where World War I &II soldiers are buried. Amongst this the most significant is Bhowanipore Cemetery where there is a specially designated World War I and World War II memorial situated within the compound of this cemetery. Active since 1907, 95 burials from WW1 and 617 burials from WW2 are present here. This section is maintained by Commonwealth War Graves Commission and they have done a real fantastic work with restoration and maintenance. Some World War graves are also present in Lower Circular Cemetery and one can visit this place also.
You can spend hours here looking at the different headstones where the regiment of the fallen soldier is mentioned. Surprisingly you will also find Hindus and Muslims soldiers also buried and their headstones is clearly depicting this. Originally most of these soldiers were buried at Fort William but later transferred to this location.
Apart from the graves the city also has a Cenotaph at the Maidan’s which is dedicated to the “Glorious Dead”. This Cenotaph looks somewhat similar to the one in London. There were some brass plaques that were embedded in the walls of this Cenotaph but were removed in the year 1959 and reinstalled at St. Johns Church, Kolkata.
In Kolkata this year the Remembrance Sunday commemoration was observed at St. John’s Church. This church in itself is a history to the British in India and is a landmark in itself in this city. This was the first time I was attending a service at this church and that too for Remembrance Sunday made this a very special moment for me.
Download the full – Order of Service – Remembrance Sunday
The service was attended by the Bishop of Calcutta (CNI), representatives from the Governor of West Bengal, from Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force, West Bengal Police, Kolkata Police, British Deputy High Commissioner, La Martiniere for Boys, La Martiniere for Girls, St. Thomas Boys Kidderpore, St. Thomas Girls Kidderpore, St. Johns Diocesan, St. James, Pratt Memorial etc.
The service was divided into two parts with Hymns, Call to Worship, Lessons, special songs from the student the service then shifted from the altar to the World War Memorial Plaques which were once a part of the Glorious Dead Cenotaph at Maidan. The first wreath was laid by the Bishop of Calcutta (CNI) followed by the representatives from Army, Navy, Air Force, Police, students etc.
The buglers then sounded the “Last Post” which is a military tradition indicating the start of a period of silence to honour the dead. After this the buglers played the “The Rouse” sounding the end of the period of silence.
There were good choir performance from St. Johns Diocesan School & St. Thomas Girls Kidderpore School. There was another Bengali song performance from the St. Peters Church, Behala.
The service concluded with the singing of the national anthem of India. The newly renovated church pipe organ played this tune and the entire congregation stood up to face the altar. The resonating sound of the pipe organ gave me goose bumps as the lyrics and the accompanying made it a truly great evening to remember.