Soldiers’ discontent

Correspondence from Sir Walter Lawrence, 1915 (catalogue reference WO 32/5110)

  1. This extract (left) is taken from a series of letters dated 1915 from Sir Walter Lawrence, the Commissioner for the Welfare of Indian Soldiers, addressed to Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War and a Cabinet Minister. This letter provides an insight into the response of Indian soldiers to trench warfare and how they saw the high casualty rate among Indian soldiers. It also shows Sir Walter Lawrence’s reaction to this expression of dissent.
  2. This extract (right) comes from a correspondence report by Sir Walter Lawrence, the Commissioner for the Welfare of Indian Soldiers, dated 15 February 1915. This gives us an example of Indian soldiers’ dissent and discontent and shows why they considered their pay of 11 Rupees a month to be insufficient. It also provides Sir Walter Lawrence’s views, in this instance of Sikh soldiers.



In the Sepoy’s letters there is a constant mention of the fact that the ‘black pepper’ is being used up and the ‘red pepper’ is being saved, in other words that the Indian troops are being deliberately sacrificed and the British troops preserved. When I was at headquarters I asked for a statement which would enable this fallacy to be refuted, and for some rough figures which I got regarding the affair at Neuve Chappell I am of opinion that it could be shown that the British have suffered more heavily than the Indians. I have not yet received the statement which I asked for, but it would be very valuable to obtain figures showing the proportion of casualties in the British army and in the Indian army…



I have in some of my reports to you commented on the morose appearance of the Sikhs. I have had long talks with many of them and I believe that the reason for this morose attitude, which has been noticed by so many of the officers who are connected with these hospitals arises from the Sikh peculiarity of always wanting more money. They have come to the conclusion that the pay of an Indian Sepoy is not sufficient remuneration for the work which they have been called upon to do in France. At the Military Depot, Milford on seas, they openly say that while they do not claim the same pay as the British soldier, still they think they ought to have at least 20 rupees a month.


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