RESIDENTS from across Blackburn attended an exhibition highlighting the brave contribution people from the Indian subcontinent made fighting for our freedom during World War One and Two.

The Indian Army was an important part of the British Forces in both world wars; 140,000 saw active service on the western front in WW1. Shared Histories was a schools programme that included two free community events.

Community historian Jahan Mahmood gave a fascinating and moving interactive talk, with video and slides, and members of the audience were able to ask questions. One of the most emotional parts of the talk was about Indian Princess turned spy Noor Inayat Khan, who was murdered by the Nazis and whose final words were ‘Liberte’.

Faz Patel said: “It makes me proud to be a British Asian, knowing so much was sacrificed by the Indian Army for the British War effort. This sort of event helps to break down barriers and promote community cohesion.”

The aim of the programme was to raise awareness of the involvement of Indian people in the two world wars. It was organised by Blackburn with Darwen Council as part of a four-year programme of commemorations of the 100 years since the start of WW1.

Five secondary schools were involved – St Bedes Catholic High School, Blackburn Central High School, Darwen Aldridge Community Academy, Darwen Vale, and Witton Park – and Blackburn College, with more than 600 young people participating in all.

Coun Arshid Mahmood, executive member for neighbourhoods, housing and customer services, said: “This is a fantastic event which provides an opportunity for residents to learn about those who served in the Indian British Army during both World Wars, the part they played and the conditions they had to endure.

“Coming together as a community to take part in such an event is really important.

Coun Trevor Maxfield, armed forces and veterans champion, said: “In the year of the anniversary of WW1, this type of event, which gives the opportunity to really get an impression of what it was like to be involved in this conflict, gives us an opportunity to remember what was sacrificed by those who were there.”