National War Memorial contains names of 25,942 war heroes martyred post-independence
“There are 29,000 tablets on which 25, 942 names have been etched. These soldiers have sacrificed their lives for the preservation of national honour after 1947.” - Lt Gen PJS Pannu, Chairman of National War Memorial project management team.
After a long wait of over 50 years, the country got its first tri-services post-independence National War Memorial on Monday, which bears the names of 25,942 martyrs from the Army, Air Force and Navy who laid down their lives for the nation in various operations. The Maratha Regiment, which celebrated 250 years of raising this year, has 884 Martyrs who are on the list of honoured soldiers whose names are inscribed in the memorial, which was dedicated to the nation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“The National War Memorial project was sanctioned by the Centre in 2015, which was to be built near the India Gate in an area called ‘C - Hexagaon’. We started the construction of the memorial in February 2018 and within one year, we have have been able to complete the construction,” Chairman of the National War Memorial project management team, Deputy Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (DCIDS) and Colonel of the Maratha Light Infantry (LI) Regiment, Lt Gen PJS Pannu told GT from New Delhi.
The memorial bears the names of martyrs from 1947 to end of 2017, after which the construction work for the memorial started. “But there are spare ‘tablets’. Each brick, which bears a name, is called a tablet. Name of each martyr is etched in golden letters. There are 29,000 tablets on which 25,942 names have been etched. These soldiers have sacrificed their lives for the preservation of national honour after 1947, including Kargil war and the ongoing proxy war,” Lt Gen Pannu said.
According to the DCIDS, each ‘tablet’ has a war history associated with it. Every tablet, which contains a name, has behind him the whole regiment, whole India Army, the families and next of kin who lost their loved ones whiles defending the honour of India.
“All the wreath-laying ceremonies in the future will be done at the National War Memorial, which till now has been happening at the India Gate. India Gate actually contains over 15,000 names of Indian soldiers who fought and got martyred during the World War-I while fighting for the British Army. Actually, 83,000 Indian soldiers were martyred during the WW-I. However, only 15,000 names could be inscribed on the India Gate,” the Colonel of Maratha LI Regiment said.
After the 1971 war, the Amar Jawan Jyoti was set up under the India Gate arch. The eternal flame was lit here to commemorate the sacrifice of soldiers who lost their lives in the 1971 war. “Ever since, the Amar Jawan Jyoti under India Gate arch has been considered as the sanctum santorum where a number of functions have been held to pay respects to our soldiers, which is represented by an inverted rifle and a helmet on it. Now that the new memorial has been built, this is the place where future ceremonies would be held,” Lt Gen Pannu said.
However, the importance of those soldiers whose names are etched on India Gate does not go down because they belong to the regiments of the Indian Army, which are still in existence. “For example, the Maratha LI celebrated last year 100 years of ‘Sharqat’. it is the battle honour given to the Maratha LI, where 114th Battalion of the Marathas captured the area Sharqat and a maximum number of gallantry awards were given to this Battalion in one action, which has not been surpassed till date,” he said.
The National War Memorial also expresses the sentiments of the unsung heroes who fought valiantly and some of them lost their limbs during the action.
“As Colonel of the Regiment, I pay deep respects to all those whose names have been inscribed there. Also, in particular, the valiant 884 war heroes of the Maratha LI regiment, whose names are etched at the National War Memorial. As the Chairman of the National War Memorial project management team, I am honoured to be associated with this historical structure,” Lt Gen Pannu said.