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The Soldier: The Man Who Dies That Others May Live

Updated on January 29, 2020
emge profile image

The author is an air warrior and a global traveler who loves to visit and explore new places

Kohima
Kohima
Madras
Madras
Delhi
Delhi

The Warrior

History is a record of the activities of the warriors. In modern parlance, the warrior is equated with a soldier. The soldier is one of the least remembered and unsung heroes in the world. Many think his death, which is, in reality, is a sacrifice is something that was the lot of the soldier.

I first realized the poignancy of all this when I was posted to the Indian Far East and went to Kohima. I remember driving in my jeep to the war graves, meticulously kept close to Kohima. As I saw the graveyards with beautiful gardens all around I was struck by the fact that these men had died, not knowing whether their deaths were in vain or they were successful.

Lord Tennyson's famous poem; the charge of the light brigade has one line that aptly sums up the lot of the soldier. Tennyson wrote on the charge of the British Cavalry against the Russian guns in the Crimea war, "it was not to reason why but to do and die".This has become an emotive phrase and aptly sums up the lot of the soldier.

I walked around the graveyard and looked at the tombstones there were the names of the soldiers who had died neatly engraved but one tombstone read "A soldier unknown but to God."This was the burial of a soldier who had not been identified and there may have been tens of such men whom nobody will remember.

A cynic may say that a soldier died because he was supposed to die and also because this is a profession that he chose. This would be a very fallacious way of looking at the death of a soldier. This man has died because others maybe thousands may live.

The saddest part is that the soldier who dies does not know whether his death was in vain or the objective was achieved. There was hand-to-hand fighting between the Japanese Imperial Army and the Indian Army at Kohima. No quarter was given and none expected. ˜Hundreds died but the Japanese soldiers who died there would never know whether the siege of Kohima was a success and the Indian soldiers who died will never know that the Japanese Imperial Army was pushed back at the gates of India in this momentous battle.

The lot of the soldier is laid down in history. He shoulder's alarms and the end is the graveyard or the crematorium. People who are lucky to live may spare a thought for the soldier who makes this possible.

Haifa
Haifa
France
France

Sacrifice and Remembrance

The bravery and sacrifices of Indian troops have been acknowledged by the armies and peoples of the Allied nations on whose soil they fought. 74,187 Indian soldiers were killed in World War I. The outstanding valor of Indian soldiers got acknowledged when the British, decided to bestow the highest gallantry award in war — the Victoria Cross — to sepoy Khudadad Khan. That set a precedent and 11 more Indian soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross.

Seven war memorials dedicated to Indian troops killed in various operations in various countries during World War I were built within a few years after the war by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).

Two of them were built in New Delhi, India. The famous majestic India Gate has the names of the 74,187 Indian soldiers killed in various battles of World War I etched on all of its walls. The second one in India was Teen Murti, recently re-named Teen Murti-Haifa Chowk, and is a memorial to the Indian Cavalry Brigade which liberated Haifa.

The other five are Chattri, at Brighton, UK; Zehrensdorf Indian Cemetery, Germany; Neuve-Chapelle Indian Memorial, France; Haifa War Memorial, Israel, and Pieta Military Cemetary, Malta.

In World War II the Indian soldier makes a bigger contribution and almost 2,500,000 men don the uniform to fight for the allies. Memorials to them are dotted all over the world.

A strange paralysis, however, came over the Congress government once it came to power in 1947. This government got independence on a platter and completely ignored the sacrifice of the soldier's in the battle for India.

It took 70 years and the arrival of Narendra Modi for the government of India to begin to acknowledge the contribution of the soldier. Modi is the first Indian prime minister in Indian history who visited the War Memorials in Israel and France. He has also been instrumental in commissioning the War Memorial in Delhi.

We must all remember that the Indian soldier or for that matter any soldier in the world fights for a cause and it is the cause that is important. A soldier dies and goes away but that does not mean that his death is meaningless. Every soldier who sacrificed his life for a cause must be honored.

There is a lot of respect for the soldier in the west but in India, the Congress government led by Nehru never acknowledged the role of the soldier and the Indian state failed to realize that the soldier is the biggest stakeholder in the unity of India.

The advent of Narendra Modi has changed all this to a degree but there is still a lot to be done so that the memory of the soldier in India is enshrined forever.

National War memorial Delhi
National War memorial Delhi

Last Word

Sometimes, I wonder why the soldier must die. I have really no explanation for it. All I can think is what Lord Krishna said. He said," not a leaf moves without my will".This is the essence of the song divine; the Gita, which the Lord imparted to Arjuna just before the famous battle of Kurukshetra.

Perhaps the end-all of a soldier's life in war is the cemetery or the cremation ground, but we who are alive can appreciate that soldiering is a profession that must be held in the highest esteem. I am convinced that all soldiers who died in action will end up with the Gods. Let us pray for them.

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    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh 

      8 weeks ago from Singapore

      Thank you, Dora, for sparing the time and commenting

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      8 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Not only have you endeared the soldier to our hearts; you have also demonstrated how respectful and compassionate you are toward them. Thanks for keeping these worthy heroes in our view. Known or unknown, they deserve our salute.

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh 

      2 months ago from Singapore

      Thank you Readmikenow, for your perspective. It's a pleasure to know about your connection with soldiers and soldering. I have a connection of 100 years with the uniform through my father and grandfather and grand uncle. Great to read your comment.

    • Readmikenow profile image

      Readmikenow 

      2 months ago

      This is a very well done article. I was a soldier as was my brother, father, cousins and uncles. Our family has had members of it in every major US conflict since WWII. I know everything that goes with it. My uncle had a saying in his house and it said "God and the soldier we adore in times of trouble but not before. When trouble has passed and wrongs have been righted, God is forgotten and the soldier is slighted." This is a version of a quote from Rudyard Kipling. I think its interesting how this quote is timeless. I enjoyed reading your article.

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh 

      2 months ago from Singapore

      Thank you Ruby for commenting

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh 

      2 months ago from Singapore

      Thank you Alan for a valued comment. I am so glad you appreciate the worth of a common soldier.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      2 months ago from Southern Illinois

      Yes, all soldiers need our prayers. They are so brave! Your info. on the wars of yesterday tells a story we should never forget. I visited the memorial in Washington and saw the names of the fallen from the Vietnamese war. Hopefully we will never have to build another wall. Thanks for sharing this hub.

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      2 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Come to think of it - as Liz mentioned it - there are a fair number of war dead in the City of London Cemetery a short walk from here. Even closer is the grave of John Travers ;Jack; Cornwell, the youngest rating to die at the Battle of Jutland (1916 I think), at the end of this road. There's an annual memorial service held there. Not strictly a soldier, but... While i'm on the subject of naval casualties, an uncle of mine, who'd survived his navy service, lived next door to one of the very few survivors from HMS 'Hood' (some say three, some two).

      As I mentioned Kohima earlier, and the war in the Far East, we've also got to remember those taken prisoner and died in captivity. General Percy in Singapore surrendered without thinking because he was advised to, sentencing many thousands to a slow, lingering death either building the Japs' railway through Burma or in Changi Jail. One of my wife's uncles was one of the latter. Another was killed in the withdrawal at Dunkirk. While they may not have died fighting, they demonstrated that Commonwealth servicemen would not be bowed.

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh 

      2 months ago from Singapore

      Thank you, Bushra Iqbal

    • Bushra Iqbal profile image

      Aishatu Ali 

      2 months ago from Rabwah, Pakistan

      Indeed every soldier who dies for his country is a martyr. Good article.

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh 

      2 months ago from Singapore

      Liz, so glad you visited the war graves in Belgium and France. Thank you for commenting

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh 

      2 months ago from Singapore

      Chitrangada, thank you for your comment and appreciation.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      2 months ago from UK

      Visiting war graves is a sobering and moving experience. We have visited several in Belgium and France as well as in the UK. It is shocking to realise that so many lost their lives in war.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      2 months ago from New Delhi, India

      What a touching, informative and wonderful tribute to the soldiers! We cannot thank them enough for their sacrifices for the country.

      Freedom is so expensive—It involves the lives of the soldiers.

      Thanks for sharing this heartfelt article. Gratitude and appreciations.

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh 

      2 months ago from Singapore

      Clive, thank you for your comment.

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 

      2 months ago from Jamaica

      it should be governments that die and soldiers dont exist.

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh 

      2 months ago from Singapore

      Thank you Alan for commenting and giving your perspective.

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      2 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Kohima was messy! Nobody knew where the front line was any more by the time the artillery turned up and bombarded the Japanese positions from a distance. That was the tennis courts, that was! The Royal West Kents and their Indian comrades came out of that one sorely in need of a drink, a good square meal, shave, a bath and new uniforms.

      My woodwork teacher-cum deputy headmaster, Tom Forster told me long ago - he'd retired to Goathland on the North York Moors - that he'd been in the Durham Light Infantry, posted to the Far East and transported in two escorted liners. One liner - with him on board - docked at Colombo on Sri Lanka - then Ceylon - and the other went on to Singapore with its crew and troops taken straight into captivity. He was an artillery spotter, driving round in a jeep and directing fire onto the Japanese positions so it may well have been him or his mates who got the West Kents and Indians out of trouble. The climate might have done him some physical damage but he was chipper to the end (in Scarborough Hospital). He used to have to cane the boys - I got it several times - when they stepped out of line, but he did it with humour. Very dry, very droll wit. Being a soldier probably changed him considerably, but at least he was a survivor. Many weren't.

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh 

      2 months ago from Singapore

      Thank you Manatita brother for sparing time and commenting

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      2 months ago from london

      A very thorough account and a necessary one for your countrymen, many who gave their lives as a sacrifice for Bharat Mata's freedom.

      India has produced giants of men among her, to include Nettar Ji and Bhagat Singh, to name a few.

      Yes, ultimately everything is a play of the Lord. It is rather complex as just as Christianity talk about Satan, so too, Guruji speaks of hostile forces playing their role. He does say, however, that whatever happens in Divine providence, is either sanctioned, approved or tolerated by God.

      Other Seers attest to the same thing: that God is the only Doer. On a lower plane things happen all the time due to man's limited freedom which is abused by man, but yes, Brahman is in fact in motion, juggling and changing according to Its own Will and Consciousness. Nice Hub!

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh 

      2 months ago from Singapore

      Thank you, Nikki, its a pleasure to have a comment from you

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh 

      2 months ago from Singapore

      John, thank you for a wonderful comment

    • nikkikhan10 profile image

      Nikki Khan 

      2 months ago from London

      A great hub on history, Emge.

      Thanks for adding up to our knowledge of this chapter.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      2 months ago from Queensland Australia

      MG this is a wonderful tribute to the brave soldiers of your country (and others) who bravely gave their lives in war. They deserve our respect and gratitude. Coincidentally, I just wrote about returned veterans suffering from PTSD and the disturbingly high incidence of suicide among them.

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