Brighton Royal Pavilion

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Brighton Royal Pavilion

Date of travel

October, 2021

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One of the rooms on the first floor has an exhibition with a lot of old photographs about the role of the Royal Pavilion in the First World War.

The Royal Pavilion was converted into a hospital for wounded soldiers, and particularly the Indian Army between 1914-1915. The Indian Army played an important but often forgotten role in the war.

At the outbreak of war, the British Army was small and the Allied British and French forces were heavily outnumbered by the Germans. Reinforcements were called up from the British Empire. Around 236,000 men were serving in the Indian Army and by the end of 1915, nearly 30,000 were involved in skirmishes along the Western Front. Many of the men were small scale farmers and agricultural labourers. Many were illiterate. It was the first time they have been involved in fighting outside Asia. The men were ill equipped to fight in the cold and damp climate of the Belgium trenches. As well as machine and artillery fire they faced poison gas attacks.

At least 3000 Indian soldiers were killed and 14,000 injured. New hospitals were urgently needed. Several hospitals were established in Brighton and the Royal Pavilion became the most famous. The first patients arrived in December 1914.

Huge efforts were made to cater to religious and caste and this dominated the work of the hospital. Notices were printed in Urdu, Hindi and Gurmukhi. The wounded were in separate wards cared for by orderlies of the same caste or religion. Doctors were Indian medical students studying in Britain, or British doctors who had worked in India and spoke Indian languages.

Muslims and Hindus had their own water supplies. There were segregated baths and latrines. They had their own kitchens with a high caste cook in charge of caste workers.

When the Indian Army moved from the western front in December 1915 to serve in Egypt and Mesopotamia, there were no more Indian casualties in the Brighton Hospitals. Of the 4,306 patients treated, there were just 32 deaths.

Hindus and Sikhs were cremated on specially constructed Ghats on the Downs and their ashes were scattered on the sea. They are commemorated by the “Chattri Memorial”:×509.jpeg on the cremation site.

The graves of Muslim soldiers who died were taken to the Shah Jehan Mosque in Woking which was the only purpose built Mosque in Britain at teat time. They were interred with Muslim rites and full military honours at a new cemetery near the mosque and also in the existing Muslim burial ground at Brookwood Military Cemetery, in Surrey. All the bodies from Woking were moved to Bockwood in 1969.

In 1916, the hospital reopened as the Military Hospital for Limbless Soldiers. Until 1919, over 6,000 patients were admitted , many receiving artificial limbs and learning new skills.

The splendid “India Gate”: was built in 1921 as a gift from the people of India in thanks for caring for wounded Indian soldiers during World War One.


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