During the First World War, over 160,000 Indian soldiers served in France. 

The Lahore and Meerut infantry divisions of Indian Army were selected for service in Europe. In October, shortly after they arrived, they were fed into some of the fiercest fighting around Ypres. The Indians took heavy losses at the battle. The average Indian battalion had 764 men when it landed in France. By early November the 47th Sikhs had only 385 men fit for duty. One soldier wrote home ‘this is not war; it is the ending of the world’.
Indian soldiers made a major military contribution on the Western Front but at the end of 1915 the majority of infantry brigades were withdrawn and sent to the Middle East. A small number of the cavalry brigades (who fought as infantry) remained in France for the duration of the war.

The Indians wounded in the trenches at the Western Front were sent back to hospitals in Marseilles and England where Indian civilians (medical personnel, clerks, store keepers, cooks etc) were also working.
At the beginning of the War, under Captain E.B. Howell’s command, a censor office was set up in response to an Indian ‘revolutionary’ distributing ‘subversive’ literature for all out-going as well as in-coming letters, both from the front and from the hospitals in England.
The two Indian infantry divisions were withdrawn from France in December 1915, and sent to Mesopotamia. Two Indian cavalry divisions remained on the Western Front until March 1918, when they were transferred to Palestine to take part in the offensive against the Turks.
 
By the end of the war in 1918, a total of 47,746 Indians had been reported dead or missing and 65,126 were wounded. Participants from the Indian subcontinent won 13,000 medals, including 12 Victoria Crosses.  
In 1914, Khudadad Khan  of 129th Duke of Connaught’s Own Baluchis  became the first Indian to win a Victoria Cross. Other Indian Victoria Cross recipient soldiers are listed below:
Name
Unit
Place of Action
Date of Action
Khudadad Khan
129th Duke of Connaught’s Own Baluchis
Hollebeke, Belgium
1914
Darwan Negi
39th Garhwal Rifles
Neuve Chapelle, France
1914
Gabar Negi
39th Garhwal Rifles

Neuve Chapelle, France
1915
Mir Dast
55th Coke’s Rifles
Wieltje, Belgium
1915
Chatta Singh
Garhwal Rifles
Battle of the Wadi, Mesopotamia
1916
Lala
41st Dogras
El Orah, Mesopotamia
1916
Shahamad Khan
89th Punjab Regiment
Beit Ayeesa, Mesopotamia
1916
Gobind Singh
Garhwal Rifles
Peizieres, France
1916
Badlu Singh
14th Murray’s Jat Lancers
River Jordan, Palestine
1918

Neera Sahni, Research Services Leader, Parramatta City Council Heritage Centre, 2016