After the end of the First World War, the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission (IWGC) marked graves and established cemeteries for those who had lost their lives while serving with British Empire Forces. Memorials to the Missing were constructed to commemorate those with no known grave. The Basra Memorial is inscribed with the words:
"To the Glory of God, and to the honoured memory of these officers and men of the Armies of the British Empire, who fell in the Iraq Campaign between the years 1914 and 1921 and whose graves are not known."
In the early 1920s, when the memorial was being planned and constructed by the IWGC, the decision was taken to include the names of British servicemen and Indian officers. Indian ‘other ranks’ were represented by a numerical summary for each unit.
The Unveiling >
27 march 1929
At the time of its construction, the casualty lists supplied by military units and the Indian Government were found to be incomplete and inconsistent in the spelling of names, ranks, and other details.
Compiling a consolidated casualty roll which met the IWGC’s requirements would have taken a considerable amount of time, but there was an urgent need to complete construction before the departure of British forces temporarily occupying Iraq.
Three options were suggested to the Indian government:
1. To build one memorial for the British missing and another memorial for the Indians when the lists were available.
2. To build a memorial with space for the names of the Indian soldiers, which would be added later.
3. To commemorate the Indian soldiers numerically.
Despite some objections, the third option was adopted. This was partly because it was assumed that the memorial would not be visited by relatives of the Indian rank-and-file, unlike the Neuve Chapelle memorial in France, where many visitors were anticipated:
Once the consolidated casualty lists were received by the IWGC, they were incorporated into bound memorial registers, but the names of some 30,000 Indian soldiers were never included on the constructed memorial itself. Registers including their names are on permanent display at the CWGC’s Head Office in Maidenhead, UK.
In 1996, the Basra Memorial was relocated by the Presidential decree of Saddam Hussein. Its original site on the banks of the Shatt-al-Arab had become part of a militarised zone. Without notifying the CWGC, the memorial was deconstructed and rebuilt, brick-by-brick, around 30km away on the road to Nasiriya.
Today, the names of all those commemorated by the Basra Memorial are included on the CWGC’s online database, as well as the printed Rolls of Honour.