Highland RFCA had the honour of attending the unveiling of a permanent memorial in Kingussie for soldiers from the Royal Indian Army Service Corps (RIASC).
Head of Engagement Michelle McKearnon travelled to the Highland town’s Gynack Gardens on 20th September for the ceremony.
The memorial pays tribute to the men of Force K6 (later re-named the Indian Contingent) who served in the AT (Animal Transport) companies of the RIASC during the Second World War.
The black granite stone (imported from India), which is the UK’s first permanent memorial to all ranks of Force K6, has been engraved and adorned with gold leaf by Inverness monument makers, Andrew Stewart and Son Ltd. Marc Bruce from Aviemore carefully selected the Indian sandstone, mixing it with shades of locally sourced Cairngorm granite.
The Indian Contingent was a detachment of the Indian Army briefly stationed around the Cairngorms, Golspie, Corgarff and Aberdeenshire during the second World War. Kingussie New Cemetery represents the single largest graveyard in the United Kingdom where Force K6 soldiers are interred. There are also graves in England, Wales, France and Germany.
The Royal Indian Army Service Corps (RIASC) provided logistical support to the frontline in both world wars. They were tasked with transporting supplies over terrain that was inaccessible for the British Expeditionary Force’s (BEF) motorised transport companies.
Kingussie’s Am Fasgadh Regeneration Company (ARC) was awarded £20,706 through Highland Council’s Place Based Investment Programme (PBIP) to put towards the match funded Force K6 Memorial Project. The project was led by local facilitator, Mrs Heather Taylor (who is also a Major at HQ Army Scotland and HQ 51st Infantry Brigade).
Mrs Taylor said: “This has been the culmination of six years’ work, building on the previous relationships the Kingussie Community has developed with India. It has been an honour to play a part in bringing this Living Heritage to life in memory of not just these soldiers, but the wider Highland Community and their fond affection for the men of Force K6 during their posting here.”
She added: “The wider aims of the project are to promote and support inclusivity within our Scottish communities both cultural and local, creating enduring friendships and relationships with young people so that the legacy of the soldiers lives on through future generations.”
On the stone’s inscription tribute is paid to the 14 members (13 Muslim and 1 Hindu) of Force K6 who were stationed and all of whom died in Scotland. The stone also recognises Kingussie-native, 99-year-old Isobel Harling and recipient of the British Empire Medal (BEM), who served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service during the war, and who tended their graves for over 70 years. Her brother died after being shot down over Leuven, Belgium during the Second World War.
Speaking on behalf of her mother at the unveiling, Mrs Gaynoll Craig said: “Isobel’s care for these young soldiers’ graves, so far from their homeland, has continued steadfastly year in year out for 60 years. In my mum’s words, ‘It is the right thing to do’.”
The graves are now under the care of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and are immaculately kept.
Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Inverness Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Young said: “The memorial is a very fine tribute to these men who came to Scotland in the cause of freedom, and it has been wonderful to see the result of years of work across diverse communities and relationships.”
From June 1942 the soldiers had several camps in Badenoch and Strathspey from where they supported winter warfare training in the Cairngorm mountains. The soldiers were popular in the local communities.
After postings to other locations in the Highlands, they returned to India by early 1944. Fourteen of the Force K6 men died in Scotland, with nine of them buried in the New Cemetery at Kingussie. Some of the soldiers died while training in harsh conditions in the Highlands.
For outstanding duty in France, members of Force K6 received an MBE, an Indian Order of Merit, three Indian Distinguished Service Medals and one Mention in Despatch.
The men laid to rest at Kingussie New Cemetery were Ali Bahadur, 38, Bari Sher, 37, Dadan Khan, 22, Fazl Ali, 25, Khan Muhammad, 32, Khushi Muhamm, 35, Muhammad, 29, Muhammad Sadiq, 29, and Mushtaq Ahmad, 21.
Mir Zaman, 22, was buried at Aberdeen’s Allenvale Cemetery, and Abdul Rakhman, 37, and Ghulam Nabi, 24, at Proncynain Cemetery in Dornoch. Karam Dad, 29, was buried at Grange Cemetery in Aberdeenshire and Mangli was cremated in Aberdeen.
The 14 soldiers buried in Scotland mainly died from accidents on exercise, or illness.