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Prayers

A newspaper report from 1915, in the Nottingham Evening Post, describes the Eid prayers for its readers. Entitled ‘Mohammedan Festival at Woking’, the article begins: ‘A scene truly oriental in character was enacted at Woking yesterday’.

Hospitals

In December 1914, with the war effort in full flow, and given the geographical location of Brighton on the south of the British Isles, the Royal Pavilion was one of a number of buildings transformed into military hospitals. The hospital at the Royal Pavilion, though, was one of three hospitals reserved for members of the Indian Army, many of whom were Muslim.

In Numbers

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VC Winners

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The Arab World

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mosse led the 120th Rajputana Rifles during numerous campaigns. A number of his journal entries and letters exist in manuscript, and help show many aspects of his time with the Indian Army.

Theatres Of War

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Women

Unlike the Second World War, Muslim women were not a direct part of the war effort on the western front in the First World War. Most women stayed at home and continued to raise their children alone.

Living On

Perhaps one of the most resonant reminders of the Muslim presence in the First World War is the Shah Jehan Mosque in Woking. Built on the long Oriental Road in the town centre, the mosque is still in operation and boasts beautiful architecture and a resounding natural garden around it.

Burials

The Woking Burial Ground, not too far from the Shah Jehan Mosque, was the first cemetery for Muslims who died in the war. It was built with a similar architecture to mosques, and preserved solely for Muslim soldiers.

The Indian Order of Merit

The Indian Order of Merit was a significant decoration in British India, and hundreds of soldiers received the honour for their efforts in the war.

Desertion

Desertion was often a result of homesickness or depression. But those who went to the German side were usually soldiers who felt strongly about fighting against the Ottomans due to their faith and what they represented as the world’s Muslim power.

The Sykes Picot Agreement

In 1916, the British and French made this secret agreement in order to decide on who would take control of the Arab territories of the Ottoman Empire once the First World War was over. The agreement was named after the negotiators Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges Picot.

The Arab Revolt

The King of Hejaz, Hussein bin Ali, was a supporter of the Ottomans, but in 1916, began negotiating in secret with the British and French in order to complete a revolt against the Ottoman Empire. Hussein wanted an Arab nation spanning from Syria to Yemen that he could proclaim as a caliphate, with himself as the caliph.

Sports

Many Muslim soldiers serving in the First World War did participate in football games, particularly in France. British and Indian armies fought together, which meant that socialising together was a possibility.

Propaganda

Some propaganda aimed at Muslim soldiers was orchestrated by the German authorities in an attempt to undermine the Muslims’ allegiance to Britain and the Allies. The propaganda tried to convince Muslims to change sides, or to demoralise them and shake their belief in what they were doing.

At Sea

The Indian Army’s significant quantity began to show in September 1914, when they were deployed to the Western Front. Many of the Muslim soldiers would eventually travel to Mesopotamia, but to do so, they completed a long journey with many stops.

Conversion Attempts

Some of the Muslim soldiers were subject to conversion attempts by the YMCA (The Young Men’s Christian Association). Some soldiers received small cards with Biblical verses on them, translated into their own language with culturally relevant pictures under them.

Newspapers

Newspapers were an important source of information for soldiers too. Many publications had interesting headlines and large pictures.

Letters

It was important for the war effort that soldiers could write letters, and that they would be delivered. This not only provided comfort for the soldiers, but their positive letters would also comfort those back home, helping the war propaganda.

Animals

Although a key aspect of the war was its new reliance on technology – from aircraft to poison gas – animals were still an essential part of the war effort. The British used more than a million horses and mules in total.

Recruitment

Since the late nineteenth century, the recruitment process in the Indian army was based on a ‘class system’. In the decades before the war, the British military had also recruited from the north and northwest of India, such as the Punjab, due to the belief that its people were more suited for battle.