Discover Your Hidden History with our FREE Open Morning

Posted on 4 May 2016

Did you know that four million men and women from Britain’s colonies volunteered for service during the first and second world war?

Did you know that over one million South Asian soldiers joined the allied forces in WW1 and that nearly 20,000 Caribbean soldiers served on the front line in the Somme, Passchendaele and, on the Middle Eastern front, Palestine and Egypt?

Did you know that 12 Victoria Crosses were awarded to Indian soldiers in WW1, one of the highest percentages received by any nationality during the conflict?

Did you know that British Indian forces fought and died in nineteen countries during World War One including France, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Romania, Kenya, Tanzania, Hong Kong, India, Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Syria and The Lebanon?

Audiences from across Coventry and Warwickshire are invited to delve deeper into the hidden history of the Great War this May at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre.

For one day only, the Belgrade Theatre will be opening its doors for an afternoon of free talks, presentations and interactive demonstrations exploring the incredible contribution made by Black and Asian soldiers to both world wars.

The event has been organised to coincide with the opening of Ishy Din’s new play, Wipers, which is set in October 1914 during the first battle of Ypres. Inspired by the real life story of Khudadad Khan, the first South Asian soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross for his extraordinary bravery in the trenches, Wipers honours the contribution the million South Asian soldiers who fought and died alongside their British brothers during the First World War.

Commemorating the lost voices of the Indian soldiers of WW1, historical society Salt of the Sakar will be on hand to share readings from the centenary edition of Mulk Raj Anand’s classic war novel ‘Across the Black Waters’ and to offer a series of dramatic extracts from the soldier’s original letters home.

‘Across the Black Waters’ by Mulk Raj Anand, is the only novel written from the perspective of the million Indian soldiers who fought in World War One, telling of their arrival in Marseilles in September 1914 to fight in the trenches of Flanders through the first winter of the war.

They will be joined by ex-soldier and Afro-Caribbean historian Gary Stewart who will lead a discussion on the West Indian contribution to the First World War.
Visitors to the event are also invited to discover more about their own family history with assistance from The University of Warwick Modern Records Centre who will be on hand to help visitors with using the archives and accessing resources from their extensive collection.

Matinee and evening performances of Ishy Din’s Wipers will run at 2.15pm and 8pm on Saturday 14th May with tickets priced from £10.25 – £17 with concessions available.

Wipers runs in B2 from Thurs 12 – Sat 21 May. Tickets are priced from £10.25 – £17. Tickets are available from the Belgrade Box Office on 024 7655 3055 or via the Belgrade Theatre website at

What’s YOUR Hidden History?

Are you a resident of Coventry and Warwickshire with family connections to the British Indian Army during WW1 and WW2? If so, the Belgrade Theatre wants to hear from YOU.

To mark the opening of Wipers in Coventry, the Belgrade Theatre is appealing for local residents to come forward to share their ‘hidden histories’ of WW1 and 2.

The Belgrade Theatre is particularly interested in hearing from local residents with family or community links to Indian soldiers (Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and others) who fought in The Great War between 1914-1918.

Commenting on the appeal, Wipers Director Suba Das said: ‘I think that one of the things we can be really proud of here in the UK is our long-tradition of respecting and celebrating diversity and it’s important that audiences understand that this tradition of collaboration goes back a long way. Yes, that history isn’t without its complexities. Yes, there are aspects of that history which should be celebrated and others that we would rather forget but ultimately, it’s what made Britain the country that it is today.’

‘Over a million South Asian men volunteered to join the British Army during the First World War. As a nationality, South Asians received one of the highest percentages of Victoria Crosses during the conflict. That’s an incredible contribution and something we should all be proud of. That’s what we want people to take away from the show and from this event. That extraordinary things happen when people come together.’

If you have a memory, photo or story that you would like to share, please contact Kate Evans (Communications Officer – Press and Digital Media) on Tel: 024 7684 6715 or email: by no later than Fri 15th May.

Any memories gathered as part of the Hidden Histories appeal will go towards the creation of a temporary exhibition which will be displayed at the Belgrade during the show’s run in Coventry.