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Italy pays tributes to Indian soldiers

October 05, 2007 16:59 IST

In a rare gesture, touching tributes were paid to 5,782 Indian soldiers who laid down their lives during the World War II, fighting for Italy against fascist forces.

The ceremony was held for the first time since 1945 at Cassino on Thursday to honour Indian soldiers.
In all, about 50,000 Indian troops mostly between the ages of 19 and 22, had fought for freedom in Italy. Close to 50 per cent of them were injured in the war.

Out of twenty Victoria Cross decorations given for bravery during the war in Italy, Indian soldiers won as many as six.
The story of their bravery and their sacrifice is still talked about in Italian cities and villages that they helped to liberate, the Indian Ambassador to Italy Rajiv Dogra said on the occasion. The Deputy Defence Minister of Italy Emidio Casula attended the ceremony. Ambassadors of a number of countries and Mayor of Cassino Dr Bruno Scittarelli and Senior Generals of Italian and Indian Army were present.

Monte Cassino was the scene of the most fierce battle of the Italian campaign on the Gothic Line of defence of the German army.

Recalling that battle, the Chief of Army Staff of Italy General Fabrizio Castagnetti said: "The fourth, eighth and tenth Indian Infantry Divisions were employed in the battle for the capture of Monte Cassino and in the bitter campaign that followed for the breaching of the Gothic Line."

Field Marshal Wavel wrote thus about the heroic effort of the Fourth division: "The fame of this Division as one of the greatest fighting formations, will be remembered in military history, just like the Tenth legion, the Light division who fought in the Peninsular War and the old Napoleonic Guard."

Speaking on the occasion, the Deputy Defence Minister Emidio Casula recalled the sacrifice of the Indian soldiers that led to the defeat of fascism and the victory of freedom and democracy. He said Indian soldiers were still remembered for the discipline, valour and friendship.

The winners of the Victoria Cross were Sepoy Kamal Ram, 3/8 Punjab, NK Yashwant Ghadge (posthumous), 3/5 Maratha Light Infantry, sepoy Namdeo Jadhav, 1/5 Maratha LI, Rifleman Sher Bhahadur Thapa, 1/9 Gorkha Rifles, rifleman Thaman Gurung (posthumous), 5 Gorkha Rifles and Sepoy Hyder Ali, 6/13 Frontier Force Rifles.

The Italian Army arranged a special Guard of Honour by a large number of soldiers signalling the importance attached to the role of the young Indian soldiers in liberation of Italy.

The main cemeteries where Indian soldiers were buried are Arezzo, Sangro, Cassino, Forli Indian Army War Cemetery and Rimini Gurkha War Cemetery. Among the cities that the Indian soldiers helped liberate are Perugia, Luca, Florence, San Marino, Cesena, Forli, Ferrara and Bologna.

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