Vaguely Interesting Snippets | 2 April 2014

Injured Indian soldiers fighting for Britain in the First World War were treated at the Brighton Pavilion

India produced one of the greatest volunteer armies in the First World War. Approximately 1.5 million men from across the subcontinent volunteered to serve in the British Army. They arrived as soon as September 1914, bolstering the Allied lines at a critical moment in the defence of France.

Terrible slaughter along the western front inevitably brought thousands of Indian casualties into British hospitals. These were initially located across the south coast and included the very grand and decidedly Indian influenced Brighton Pavilion. As the British Library’s page on the Indian volunteers notes:

“The most spectacular of these military hospitals was the converted Royal Pavilion in Brighton, built in the ‘oriental’ style for George IV in the early 1800s. The Brighton Pavilion housed over 600 Indian wounded from the Western Front. Indian Medical Service doctors cared for them with the assistance of Indian Students, recruited by Gandhi into the Indian Field Ambulance Training Corps. Several other buildings in Brighton were converted, including a secondary school, and the infirmary and workhouse, which accommodated some 1500 patients and was named the Kitchener hospital.”

Italy manufactured fewer aeroplanes in the Second World War than in the First World War

The Italian war machine never approached the ruthless size or efficiency of its northern neighbour. This was most keenly felt in aeronautics, with Italian factories producing far fewer planes than its rivals and of markedly inferior quality. David Gilmour’s The Pursuit of Italy notes that:

“At the height of the conflict Italy was manufacturing as many aeroplanes a year as the United States was producing in a week. One of the most revealing statistics about the inefficiency of fascism is that Italy managed to produce more aeroplanes in the First World War than it did in the Second.”