Unveiling & Opening Ceremonies


Watch film footage of the Prince of Wales unveiling the Chattri Memorial

The symbolic importance of the Chattri Memorial is underscored by the fact that none other than His Royal Highness the Price of Wales (the future King of England, Edward VIII) unveiled the Chattri at a solemn ceremony on February 1st, 1921. Initially the city of Brighton had approached the Duke of Connaught, a soldier who had held a number of commands in India, but found that the Duke was unavailable due to his schedule. [1] Undeterred, Sir John Otter approached the Prince of Wales, Edward, who accepted the invitation. It is interesting to note that the Prince of Wales seems to have understood the importance of the Chattri, as he rejected a suggestion to delay the opening ceremonies until summer when the weather was be better. [2]

Prince Edward’s sensitivity can also be found in his dedication speech in which he recognized the great sacrifice the Indian soldiers had made in fighting in a war which was not of their making, yet they felt the urge to defend their King and his country.

Prince of Wales:
"We are here met to dedicate a memorial to brave men, our fellow subjects, who, after the fire and stress of Flanders, received the last sacred rites of their religion on this high eminence. It is benefiting that we should remember and that future generations should not forget, that our Indian comrades came when our need was highest, free men - voluntary soldiers - who were true to their salt - and gave their lives in a quarrel of which it was enough for them to know that the enemy were the foes of their Sahibs, their Empire, and their King. It was a great adventure to them to leave home and a congenial climate, to pass over the Black Water, and to give all in a conflict of which the issues were to most of them strange and impersonal.

This monument marks, too, another fact. When the wounded Indian soldiers were brought to England, there was no place ready for their reception. Your generous town came to the rescue, and with a hospitality which will ever be remembered in India, gave not only her finest buildings, but gave also her friendship and respect to those gallant men. Brighton has erected this memorial to the Hindus and Sikhs who died in her beautiful hospitals, and has testified to the affection and admiration she felt for men who fought so gallantly and bore themselves, so patiently and so nobly during the long months they lay by the sea, thinking of their village homes so far away.

I can assure you, Mr Mayor, that India never forgets kindness and sympathy; and from this Chattri a wave of goodwill will pass to India.

In conclusion - though this is purely a memorial to the Hindu and Sikh soldiers - I am thinking, too, of the Mohammedan soldiers who passed away in your care. These were buried with all military honour at Woking. I hear that before long a gate of Oriental character, the gift of Indians, will adorn the Pavilion. May these two Memorials, so historical and so instinct with compassion and mutual regard, strengthen the ties between India and our country." [3]

Although Sir John Otter was now no longer the Mayor of Brighton, his crucial role in making the Chattri Memorial a reality was recognized and he was invited to give the opening remarks. Among those in attendance included the then current Mayor, Councillor B.N. Southall and Major G.C. Tyron, M.P. for Brighton [4] as well as famous author Rudyard Kipling. [5]

Brighton Gazette 2 February 1921
Edward, Prince of Wales unveiled the monument. The procession of cars made its way to about half a mile from the monument and then the party proceeded on foot, the remainder of the route being lined with Boy Scouts. ‘The Chattri was hidden, except for the domes by a huge Union Jack on which background stood out the Star of India. At the four corners stood sentries with bowed heads and hands resting on the butts of reversed rifles. On the further side was posted the guard of honour of the Royal Fusiliers and at the back the firing party and trumpeters of the 24th Brigade R.F.A. as the procession was nearing the Chattri a salute of 21 guns was fired by the 34th Brigade R.F.A., stationed at Preston Barracks.’ Sir John Otter opened the proceedings, saying ‘We stand here…on the site of the burning ghat, removed from the reeks of the populous town before us. Below these three slabs of granite lie the blocks where the sacred flame released the faithful soldiers who died in Brighton from the last entanglements of the flesh, and transmuted their mortal bodies into incorruptible elements of earth. The ritual of the burning ghat was strictly observed so far as means would allow. Elaborate was the symbolic use of metals, grain, fruits, flowers, scents and other things, and we heard at intervals the low chanting of Vedic hymns’. Otter concluded by saying that the monument , ‘…was not a work of magnificence. The sign was less that the things signified’. The Prince then climbed the steps and unveiled the monument. After his speech, three volleys were fired by the firing party with a roll of drums between each, the guard of honour simultaneously presenting arms. The trumpeters sounded the Last Post followed by the Reveille and the ceremony came to a close. The National Anthem was played as the party left the Chattri. The ceremony was followed by an Address of Welcome at The Dome and a reception for 127 at the Royal Pavilion.

Footnotes

1. Tom Donovan, The Chattri, Durbar, Journal of the Indian Military Historical Society (Summer 2009, Volume 26, No. 2, UK) 53-65

2. Ibid.

3. Brighton Herald, February 5, 1921

4. James Gray Collection Regency Society, JG_35_140.tif

5. Brighton Herald, February 5, 1921