The Indian Army
The Main Ethnic Groups
Arrival and Trench Warfare
Endurance and Departure
The Rewards of Bravery
Indian Hospitals in Brighton
The Pavilion Hospital
The Indians & Brighton
Cremation and Burial
Brighton and The Chattri
Indian War Memorials
Roll of Honour

Brighton Remembers – The Chattri

To the memory of all the Indian soldiers who gave their lives for their King-Emperor in the Great War, this monument, erected on the site of the funeral pyre where the Hindus and Sikhs who died in hospital at Brighton, passed through the fire, is in grateful admiration and brotherly affection dedicated

Dedication, The Chattri, Patcham

The Origins of the Chattri

The Chattri memorial stands in memory of all Indian soldiers who died during the First World War, 1914-1918, but it is particularly associated with the 53 Hindu and Sikh soldiers who died in hospitals in Brighton

Architect’s Model of the Chattri
and whose remains were cremated at this spot on the South Downs near Patcham. The original idea for a memorial is attributed to Lieutenant Das Gupta of the Indian Medical Service, who approached the mayor of Brighton, Mr J. (later Sir John) Otter in August 1915 for permission to erect a memorial. The mayor embraced the idea with great enthusiasm and became the driving force behind it. In February 1916 the Secretary of State for India wrote that he agreed with the requirement for a memorial, but there the matter rested until Alderman Otter’s proposals came to the attention of the India Office in June 1916. The India Office gave it favourable consideration and initial progress was rapid.

Designing the Chattri

The Unveiling of the Chattri February 1921
Early in July Mr Otter instigated negotiations to convey the land upon which the cremations took place, and the area immediately around it, to the County Borough of Brighton. The land (property of the Marquess of Abergavenny) was conveyed to Brighton town by 31st July 1916.

It was quickly agreed that the India Office and Brighton Corporation would bear half each of the cost of erection, but that Brighton alone would be responsible for ongoing care and maintenance.

The mayor now consulted the military engineer and architect Colonel Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob about a suitable form for a memorial and he sketched out a chattri, a traditional Indian style of memorial with an umbrella shape symbolising protection, while recommending that “Mr. Henriques, a young native architect just completing his studies in England” should be requested to undertake the design. Henriques agreed and the design was complete and in Otter’s possession by December 1916. Otter had ceased to be mayor but he remained closely involved as chairman of the Indian Memorials Committee for Brighton.

The India Office allowed Brighton Council complete discretion as to design and choice of material. Considerable thought was given to implementation of the design, bearing in mind cost of materials, the position on the Downs “exposed to the action of the weather, and to the ill treatment of mischievous boys.” Granite, sandstone and Sicilian marble were considered, and the latter material adopted on the advice of the Curator of the Geological Survey and Museum.

The Construction of the Chattri

Messrs. William Kirkpatrick Ltd. of Trafford Park, Manchester won the tender to carry out the work but due to war conditions all building projects costing more than £500 required a licence from the Ministry of Munitions. The blow fell in a letter from the Ministry dated 4th August: “…I am directed to express much regret that at the present time, when labour of all kinds is immediately required for very urgent National work, and there are great difficulties in connection with the transport of materials it has been found impossible to grant the licence for which you have applied.”

In August 1920 Sir John Otter was finally able to report that the Chattri was under construction. By the end of the year it had been built and it only remained to install protective fencing and the layout of the surrounding garden. The latter incorporated four miniature avenues of red and white thorn trees pointing north, south, west and east and the whole area laid with “true down turf which is the finest in the world.” The Chattri was unveiled by the Prince of Wales on 1st February 1921.

The Prince of Wales Opens the Chattri February 1921

The Early Years

From the outset it was quite clear that the Chattri was a Brighton Corporation initiative and that, while the India Office agreed to contribute half the cost of construction, all ongoing responsibility lay with the town. Initially some careful consideration was given to maintenance and a caretaker employed, but to the shame of the town the 1920s and 1930s were characterised by a series of complaints to the India Office from visitors and passers-by, complaints which the Town Clerks of the day generally tried to refute.

In 1932 a walker reported on the sorry state in which he found the memorial: “It is now neglected. Overgrown with thistles and what I should call if I were on a tub in Hyde Park ‘a disgrace to the British nation.’” He stirred the India Office into activity. They wrote to the Town Clerk who refuted the allegations of neglect, but presumably he was pressed into taking some action and a minute on the India Office file, while doubting his veracity, states “the important thing is that he is doing something.”

On 18th September 1932 the first public service of commemoration since the 1921 opening ceremony took place. There was a large gathering of veterans and officials, chief among them being the High Commissioner for India, Sir Bupendra Math Mitra.

The Prince of Wales Opens the Chattri February 1921
Further complaints from walkers and visitors continued sporadically, however, and in 1939 the India Office suggested seeking the advice of the Imperial War Graves Commission who undertook a thorough survey and in December drew up a plan for maintenance that involved a reduction in the area of land covered. At the same time the Brighton Parks and Gardens Department came up with their own plans for repair and renovation. The best course of action was debated and the IWGC plan was favoured, but as ever Brighton Corporation appeared unwilling to meet its original commitment of 1920 and argued over responsibility for payment. They eventually agreed to undertake the work, but not until 1942.

The War Years

The Prince of Wales Opens the Chattri February 1921
Quite clearly, however, nothing was done in 1942 and further complaints were received at the India Office, but in any case the land was now requisitioned as part of the Downland Training Area, a “battle training ground” within which there was live firing and any renovation work would have been impracticable. A recently retired Indian Army officer who visited the memorial in armistice week 1945 wrote to Field Marshal Lord Birdwood that it was “in a thoroughly dilapidated condition and has apparently been used as a target by troops during training as the memorial is now cracked and pitted by rifle bullets.” When the land was derequisitioned in 1946 the War Office accepted the charge for repairs and agreed to restore the Chattri to its original condition.

The Post War Years

The British Legion Pilgrimage was resurrected in 1951, taking place in the last week of June annually until 1999 when they decided that they could no longer maintain the ceremony, citing old age, declining numbers and the difficulty of providing a post-ceremony tea.
The Prince of Wales Opens the Chattri February 1921
Hearing of the demise of the Chattri Pilgrimage, Davinder Dhillon, a local Sikh teacher, approached the British Legion with a view to resurrecting the event and under his stewardship it has continued to be held annually on the third Sunday in June since 2000.

With representatives of the Undivided Indian Ex-Service Association from various parts of the United Kingdom present, as well as the Brighton and Hove Hindu Elders Group, members of the armed forces and police, the mayor and local people, a unique and fittingly dignified memorial service is maintained.


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Indian War Memorials