Poppies made from khadi distributed at Diwali on Trafalgar Square

With 2018 marking the centenary of the end of the First World War, Nitin Palan, the Diwali in London Chair, The Royal British Legion, and other prominent leaders, including the Mayor of London and Lord Gadhia, said Thank You on Sunday 28th October to all the Indian men and women from the First World War generation.

As part of the Thank You movement we have been leading this year to pay tribute to the First World War generation, we have thanked and recognised the British Indian Army for its service and contribution by handing out poppies made of khadi at Diwali on The Square. These limited-edition, hand-made poppies are identical to the Legion red poppy in all ways, except taht the petals are made of khadi, a hand spun cotton cloth popularised by Mahatma Gandhi on his spinning wheel.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, wearing the special poppy, led a minute’s silence on the stage at Trafalgar Square to remember those who lost their lives in the First World War. Khan, said: “I’m proud that we today pay tribute to the incredible bravery of the people of India who selflessly sacrificed their lives for our freedom. This year marks 100 years since the end of the First World War so it’s fitting that we remember and honour all those brave soldiers from South Asia with this very special Khadi Poppy. We must never forget or underestimate the incredible contribution they made, and today’s generation continue to make, in keeping our country safe.”

Catherine Davies, Head of Remembrance, said: “When the First World War broke out, pre-partition India answered the call for help with volunteers from far and wide. They made a huge sacrifice to give us the freedom and the world we live in today. Their descendant communities now make up a valued part of life in the UK. The Legion wants to honour India’s vital contribution to the First World War and wearing the poppy made of khadi is an important and symbolic way to do this. Together we can ensure that Remembrance is understood and available to all, and handed to the next generation.”

Lord Gadhia said: “Our identity is our destiny – and so the current generation of Asians should know that their fathers and grandfathers didn’t just come to Britain as immigrants. Our ancestors fought for this country and for freedom and democracy – even though they lived in a colony at the time. We therefore have as much at stake here in Britain as anyone else. British Asians should be proud of the role that their forbears played in shaping the destiny of the world.”

Almost 1.5m Muslim, Sikh and Hindu men volunteered with the Indian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. It was the largest British Empire Armed Force beside the British Army itself. Indian troops were awarded over 13,000 medals for gallantry during the war, including 11 Victoria Crosses.

British India supported the war effort by providing 3.7m tonnes of supplies, 40 field ambulances, 2,327 doctors and 720 nursing orderlies, 6 clearing hospitals, 35 stationary hospitals, and 18 general hospitals, and jute for sandbags.

The Legion will not accept donations in return for this poppy. There will be limited distribution to the Asian community across the country.