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Project Updates



In Project Updates

By Nicola Gauld

Project: The Indian Army in the First World War: An Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Perspective

On 27, Jul 2017 | In Project Updates | By Nicola Gauld

The Soldiers of Oxfordshire (SOFO) Museum and Oxford University’s History Faculty are delighted to have jointly received a £12,000 funding grant from the Arts & Humanities Research Council ‘Voices of War & Peace’ WWI Engagement Centre.

SOFO and Oxford University will be working in partnership on the project, The Indian Army in the First World War: An Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Perspective, to shed new light on the British Indian army’s role in the war on the ‘Eastern Front’ in Iraq, through a unique outreach programme and a touring exhibition.

The project brings together people of all ages from the Sikh, Hindu and Muslim communities, to engage with specialist researchers from Oxford University: Dr. Adrian Gregory, Dr. Priya Atwal and Dr. Jeanette Atkinson. It is the first project in the UK to adopt such an intergenerational and multi-faith approach in working with the local community to learn collectively about the war, and explore its history from a diverse range of cultural perspectives. Volunteers have been recruited through partnerships with local community groups; including Oxford University Sikh Society, the Oxford Hindu Temple Project group and the Oxford Muslim Community Initiative.

The volunteers and researchers are together studying SOFO’s previously unseen military heritage collections relating to the Indian Army’s activities in Mesopotamia (Iraq) in 1914-18, and connecting this with wider questions about the local, global and imperial dimensions of the First World War. It is hoped that this research will reveal new insights into the wartime activities and experiences of British and Indian armed forces fighting in the Middle East; as well bringing to light a forgotten aspect of local history, about Indian military collaboration with soldiers and officers from the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

The findings of the project will be showcased in an engaging and exciting travelling exhibition, which will highlight the shared history of British and Indian involvement in the First World War. The exhibition will explore the experiences of Indian and British soldiers through a collection of photographs from SOFO’s archives that have not been publicly displayed before, together with other fascinating objects from the museum. The team has also launched an appeal for members of the public (particularly from the British Asian community) to come forward with family stories or memorabilia that can be featured in the exhibition too. In doing so, the project aims to a present a fascinating range of new and perhaps challenging narratives that will connect local history with wider issues of empire and war for the first time.

The travelling exhibition will be launching in early November at Wycombe Museum, where it will be hosted for a month, before staying at Banbury Museum for December. The exhibition will also incorporate a short documentary film created by award-winning independent filmmaker, Sharon Woodward, about the collaborative work of the team. SOFO will then launch a large WW1 exhibition at Woodstock in 2018.

This project is jointly coordinated by Priya Atwal and Stephen Barker, and any enquiries should be directed to them via email at