Location of Lascar War Memorial

Rudyad Kipling's description of Calcutta.
Thus from the midday halt of
Charnock grew a city,
Chance directed, chance erected,
Laid and built, on the silt,
Palace, bier, hovel and pride
side by side.
And on this packed and
pestilential town
death looked down.

Perhaps one of the most visible symbols of its choked and moribund state is the lush green expanse of the Maidan the lungs of Calcutta. It was originally on purely strategic considerations that Robert Clive ordered the felling of dense jungles and attaching the grounds to the glacis of Fort William. Notification number 2457J of August 18, 1909, published in the Calcutta Gazette recorded that out of 1339.38 acres of the Fort William commonly known as the Calcutta Maidan, 410.51 acres were under occupation. The remaining 928.87 acres were entered as unoccupied area, meaning the green expanse of the Maidan. Subsequently, on June15, 1921, H. Tonkinson, ICS and Additional Deputy Secretary to the Government of India in Shimla, wrote to the Secretary to the Government of Bengal, Public Works Department, notifying that the total area of the Maidan would be divided into three clear zones Red, Blue and Yellow in order to facilitate the modified system of control.

The 928.87 acres, regarded as the Maidan, were placed under Blue Zone. The 1934 order specified that this zone was to be controlled by the local Government of Bengal in consultation with the Army. Out of 929 acres of Blue Zone, 51.4 acres are in use by the Army (Eastern Command) and 5.6 acres by the Navy.

The Indian Navy was functioning in Calcutta from within precinct of Fort William and the barracks in Napier Road, Hastings till the Independence 1947. In 1950 the permanent buildings of INS Hooghly later named Netaji Subash were built on 5.6 acres land transferred by the Army.

Lascar War Memorial co-located in the Naval area in Southern end of Maida on plot of 2.5 acres was under the Army since its inception but forgotten for reasons unknown. Its surprising that Marine House located near it too had not bothered about the memorial. When it was built in 1924, the area was green all around. One could access the place from the Hooghly river side being at a stones throw distance. Subsequently a fence was put on both sides which with passage of time had been destroyed.

Commodore B.K. Mohanti (known as Bibhu Mohanti) had assumed command of INS Netaji Subash and Naval Officer-In-Charge Calcutta in April 1993. He was curious to know why the memorial was in the state of neglect. It is also most surprising that such a monument does not figure in the assets of any organization. Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) had no knowledge of this monument which had been unveiled in 1924. CWGC (UK) has a list of men (Lascars) who died at sea in World War I and 896 Lascars in whose honour the memorial was built in Calcutta (names not known) must be in the role of honour of CWGC.

From : Commodore B K Mohanti
At Kolkata (CALCUTTA) India, there is a memorial called LASCAR WAR MEMORIAL which was unveiled by the Governor of Bengal Lord Lytton on 06 Feb 1924 dedicated to the memory of 896 Lascars from the Indian sub continent who died at sea fighting alongside the Royal Navy during WW1.This memorial is described in Wikipedia. I am keen to get the names of the Lascars .Can you please help. Thanks.

From : CWGC
Dear Commodore Mohanti
Thank you for your email about the Lascar War Memorial at Kolkata and request for the names of Lascars who died in the First World War.

The term lascar can be more broadly interpreted as meaning an East Indian sailor, army servant, or artillery trooper and this may be how it has been applied by those who were responsible for erecting the Lascar War Memorial, which is not a Commission memorial. We are only able to provide details for those commemorated with Lascar as their rank hence the difference between our records and the number of casualties recorded on the memorial at Calcutta.

Please find attached a report listing all Indian WWI casualties commemorated by the Commission with the rank of Lascar and derivatives or Lascar (Arabic version).Lascar Casuality List World War1

I hope this information is helpful to you.
With kind regards
Marion Gore
Operations Administrator

Marion Gore
Operations Administrator
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
2 Marlow Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 7DX, United Kingdom

When Vidya Sagar Setu (second Hooghly bridge) construction started, Hooghly river front area contiguous to the Naval area became a no mans land. Calcutta Police Authority allowed trucks to be parked along the river side next to Lascar War Memorial. Calcutta Police Commissioner paid no head to request of the Naval Authority till the Navy had the trucks removed in February 1994 by using its own force. Later this area was converted into a verdant space. However it was not clear on whose records 2.50 acres of land Lascar War Memorial stood. Naval Officer-In-Charge Calcutta Commodore B.K. Mohanti approached the Army (GOC-in-C Eastern Army Command) to transfer this land to the Navy which was done promptly. Thereafter Commodore Mohanti took a decision to adopt the memorial in February 1994 during 40th Anniversary of INS Netaji Subash.

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