Brighton Warrior: Manta Singh

The history of a Sikh soldier that died at the Kitchener Indian Hospital in Brighton and was cremated on the grounds of the present day Chattri memorial exemplifies one of the stories of heroism and sacrifice that this sacred place memorializes.

Born near Jalandhar in Punjab in 1870 [1], Manta Singh joined the British Indian Army in 1906. [2] Because he was educated, he rose up to the rank of Subedar, above the ranks of most and just below that of the European officers in the army. Manta Singh’s regiment was part of the Indian Expeditionary Force that was sent to France in the Great War.

In March 1915 Manta Singh’s Sikh Regiment entered the field of battle in the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle. Half of the British fighting force of 20,000 men were Indian Army soldiers. On the 12th of March the British made an early advance in the battle, but the Germans counterattacked with 16,000 reinforcements, in three days of fierce fighting the allied forces suffered 13,000 casualties, including over 4,000 Indian soldiers. [3]  

During the fierce battle Manta Singh’s friend and comrade, Captain Henderson was seriously wounded and near death. Manta Singh heroically risked his own life to safely push the Henderson in a wheelbarrow that he found in no-mans land under gunfire to safety although he himself was severely injured while carrying out this selfless rescue. [4]

‘The ground in front was littered with German corpses and the whole place showed signs of heavy fighting that had been going on there. The stretcher bearers were at work all night picking up the wounded. We had Subedar Gattajan killed and Subedar Manta Singh wounded. About 60 other ranks were killed and wounded.’ - Regimental War Diary [5]

Manta Singh and his wounded comrades were sent to Brighton for hospitalization and treatment. A certificate signed by the Chief Resident Officer at the Kitchener Indian Hospital in Brighton lists Manta Singh’s wounds as ‘one, gunshot wound, left leg, two, gangrene of leg and toxaemia.’ [6]

Manta Singh had one and possibly both of his legs amputated, but unfortunately succumbed to his injuries and died a few weeks later on March 15, 1915. [7] His body was taken to the South Downs and cremated in the open air and his ashes were scattered in the sea.

Tradition, Friendship & Remembrance

Manta Singh and the injured man he rescued, Captain Henderson had become brothers-in-arms. Henderson survived the war and ensured that Manta Singh’s son, Assa Singh Johal was taken care of and he encouraged him to join the Sikh Regiment like his father before him. [8] Assa Singh Johal (1909-2003) developed a friendship with Robert Henderson, the son of Captain Henderson and both actually served together in WWII. Assa Singh fought in the Eight Army against the Nazis in North Africa, then in Italy. After the war he became a Lieutenant Colonel before retiring from the Indian Army in 1957. [9]

To this day the Johal and Henderson families have remained close friends. Although Assa Singh and Robert Henderson have passed away, their sons, Jaimal Singh and Ian Henderson are in regular contact. [10] Jaimal Singh Johal continues to attend the Chattri Memorial Service held where his grandfather, the war hero Manta Singh was cremated.

In September 2010 the Commonwealth War Graves Commission erected a new monument besides the Chattri Memorial which is inscribed with the names of the 53 solders who were cremated there including Manta Singh. [11] The opening ceremonies of the new monument were attended by Manta Singh’s grandson, Jaimal Singh.



1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Manta Singh and the Battle of Neuve Chapell,

2. An Indian Soldier in the Great War,

3. Ibid.

4. Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Manta Singh and the Battle of Neuve Chapell,

5. An Indian Soldier in the Great War,

6. Ibid.

7. Tom Donovan, email correspondence, March 6, 2010

8. Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Manta Singh and English Hospitals

9. Birmingham Grid for Learning, Memorial Gates, We Also Served

10. Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Manta Singh and English Hospitals

11. Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Patcham Down Indian Forces Cremation Memorial,