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The Indian Army at the Palace

Start Date 15 September 2023
End Date 29 September 2024
Venue Kensington Palace
Location London,England
Curator Rav Singh and Dr Tej Pal Singh Ralmill
Exhibition Lead Zakira Begum
Red soldier's uniform displayed on a mannequin
Glass case and pictures behind glass in a gallery

Explore the forgotten story of Indian Army soldiers who camped at Hampton Court Palace in the early 20th century, through a new exhibition of previously unseen objects, photographs, film and personal stories.

Indian Soldiers at Hampton Court Palace
Soldiers from the Indian Army camped at Hampton Court Palace on a number of occasions in the early 20th century. They were invited to join the coronation celebrations of Edward VII (1902), George V (1911) and George VI (1937) as well as the First World War peace parades in 1919. For some, this would have been their first visit to England.

This remarkable new collection brings to life the experiences of those within the camps as well as the press and public reactions to their presence.

Discover Life within the camps
Learn about the daily experiences of the soldiers camped in the palace grounds, from food and rationing to entertainment, travel and religious accommodation. This unique project brings together items on loan from the descendants of those within the camps, our community partners and the Historic Royal Palaces collection for the first time.

Until now, many of the family stories shared in the exhibition existed only as oral histories passed down through generations. Here, overlooking the grounds where the events took place, these personal stories are recorded and shared, allowing for reflection on themes of memory, identity and belonging. Press and public reactions to the events surrounding the coronation celebrations and First World War parades explore wider themes of the South Asian presence in Britain and its impact on modern life today.

Rare charity pin badge like those sold by Sophia Duleep Singh
A rare charity pin badge like those sold by Indian princess and suffragette Sophia Duleep Singh to raise funds for the Indian Army will go on show as part of the new exhibition.

The ‘India Day’ badge is the same as those sold by Princess Sophia, former resident of the Palace and daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh, in 1918 in order to raise funds for the Indian Army in World War I. During the war Sophia was particularly keen to emulate and help the hundreds of thousands of Indians who were fighting, becoming the Honourable Secretary of the YMCA War Emergency Committee, with one event raising funds for 50,000 huts for the comfort of Indian soldiers. She also visited and even nursed troops at Brighton Pavilion and other hospitals for Indian soldiers.

The rare pin badge, which is only 2.5cm high, depicts an Indian elephant and is part of a new acquisition of Indian Army material for Historic Royal Palaces – the charity that cares for Hampton Court Palace – going on display for the first time.

Images courtesy of Kensington Palace, London, UK,© Historic Royal Palaces.