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THE INDIAN TROOPS

SPLENDID WELCOME AT MARSEILLES. The London * Times ’ of October 2 publishes a description by a special cornsfondant of the disembarkation of an ndian Expeditionary Force at Marseilles. The correspondent writes : To-day it has been my groat good fortune to assist at the making o£ history. 1 have seen- the troops of one of the world’s most ancient civilisations set foot for the first time on the shores of Europe. I have seen proud Princes of India ride at the head of thousands of soldiers, Princes and men alike fired with all the ardor of the East, determined to help win their Efnpcror's battles or die. And of far greater significance to my fellow-countrymen than the mere making of history, I have seen welded before my eyes, as it were, what may well prove to be the strongest link in that singular and wonderful chain which we calf the British Empire. The haze that betokened a- hot September day had just begun to lift from the bav when suddenly an interminable . line of steamships crept along by the romantic Chateau d’lf and adjacent islands. The telescope showed that all were riding high in the water, and awakening Marseilles knew that.the longexpected ships with the Indian troops aboard had arrived. With a precision and expedition that made every observer marvel, the armada of transports swung into ■harbor and moored alongside the appointed _ quays. A French officer was lost in admiration. Afterwards he confided to me with delightful frankness that the British Army and Naval authorities were the finest organisers in the world, and that Great Britain alone of all the nations was capable of carrying out a project of the kind with such success. —The Landing.— Across the Indian Ocean, up the Red iNia, and through the Mediterranean the same propitious conditions prevailed, and the troops, Indian and English alike — for many of our sunburnt foreign service troops have also come over to join in the great fight for liberty and right—stepped ashore m magnificent condition. Military surveillance of the port was. of course, verv. strict, but the good people of Marseilles were bent oh having a glimpse, however distant, of what was passing, so that every road within a mile of the docks was *a mass of excited Latins, and every second-story window and every roof within a like area was a coveted vantage seat. Daily for a couple of months now Marseilles streets have echoed to the tread of a remarkable medley of soldiers —picturesque Zouaves and Turcos from Algiers, white-tur-banned, swarthy Moors from Morocco, coal-black negroes from Senegal, and a score of different units from Franee itself—and all have been received with heartiness. But the welcome the highspirited Marseillais extended to the Indians transcended all others in spontaneity and warmth. Hour after hour fully a score of steamers discharged their cargoes, and. I am certain happier fighting men never landed in a country where death or glory was to be their goal. Had not the Emperor of India paid them the highest tribute in his Imperial power by asking them to join his white soldiers in crushing the military despotism that was rendering impossible pence and progress in Europe, and therefore upsetting the political balance of the empires and kingdoms of the whole earth? Yes, the King-Emperor had done this, and the soul of every Indian of every race represented in that mighty throng was filled to overflowing with <1 joy. The Indians were made to feel at home almost as soon as they came ashore. The Flench soldier immediately set about shaking every brown hand that came within reach, and examining in a professional maimer, but not without curiosity, the rifle, the bayonet, and general accoutrement of his newly-made comrade-in-arms. The uniform he unhesitatingly E renounced more practical and superior to is own. But what impressed and interested him most was the curved kukri oi. the little Gurkha, - who with dramatic action described more graphically than by words its many uses. All the troops are in khaki, with only slight differences in design. —Complete in Every Detail.—

Not the'least extraordinary feature of this wonderful Expeditionary Force is that not only is it an army from another continent, out an army complete in every detail and ready to take its place in tho firing line at a moment’s notice. How it will immediately males its presence felt and prove of immense help to the Allies can best be realised by those who, like myself, have seen it on the march. I have been an observer of most of the European armies in peace and in war, but never have I seen troops with a finer entrain than those who swung past me on the roads in the environs of Marseilles this afternoon. It is no exaggeration of language to say that the regiments brought over from India are composed of noble and majestic specimens of manhood. Everything necessary for campaigning has been brought, even to the shovels and picks to dig the trenches, paraffin lamps to light the sleeping places, and praying mats.

Throughout the forenoon, while tho troops were landing, excitement had been steadily rising in the city, and the defiling of the British and Indian soldiers through the streets in the afternoon en route to their rest camps was tho signal for the whole of Jtarseilles to give vent to frantic enthusiasm. .Sikh, I’nnjabi, Baluchi, or Gurkha was no matter to the dense, struggling crowds; they cheered all to the echo. First came a detachment of stalwart Sikhs, for the greater part head and shoulders above the spectators. Immediately the police guarding the route were swept aside, the ranks were rushed, men and women shook the laughing soldiers by the hand, and young girls showered flowers upon them, pinning roses in their tunics and in their turbans. Tricolors were distributed with prodigality, and it seemed that within a minute or two every second soldier was proudly flying a flag from his rifle. Old ladies with hitter memories of ’7O pressed forward the better to admire these handsome bearded men with gleaming eves and flashing white teeth, and it would ho difficult to conjure up anything more deeply touching than the sight of those frail women patting tho bronzed giants on the back and calling down blessings on their heads. So it proceeded for hours, the only difference being that tho townspeople waxed in enthusiasm. When the- sturdy little Gurkhas, still smiling, of course, came marching along to the strains of ‘ The Marseillaise/ played marvellously well on a weird collection of reed instruments, the crowds considered that they could better show their regard by allowing the soldiers the right of the pavement instead of the cobbled streets.

Accordingly men. mountain battery mules, and officers’ horses marched along under the very awnings of the cafe terraases, men and women meanwhile standing on chairs and tables, waving hats, sticks, and handkerchiefs, and expending every ounce-of lung energy in shouting “ Vivent les Angais; Vivent les Indiens.” The quick-witted Indians voiced their gratitude by replying “ Veeve France,” and by making repeated use of a phrase in Hindustani, the intonation of which was suspiciously reminiscent of the British soldier's dearly-beloved ‘‘Are wo downhearted! Noi’V —Jumping for Joy.— I have often heard of a man jumping for joy. This afternoon I have watched hundred* of the younger Indian troops perform the operation, to the amazement and delight of thousands of onlookers. From sheer patriotic exuberance they would leap two or three feet in' the air and wave the Union Jack and the French flag, with as deep faith in the force and sense of the action aa children at home on Empire Day or Alsatian pilgrims to the Strasburg statue in the Place de lo Concorde. Several princes, distinguished by finely-chiselled features and by gold ornaments flashing in iVyr turbans, rode on magnificent ebargV"*rs. exhibiting every sign of pleasure at tfr* reception accorded them.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19141109.2.55

Bibliographic details

THE INDIAN TROOPS, Issue 15645, 9 November 1914

Word Count
1,323

THE INDIAN TROOPS Issue 15645, 9 November 1914

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