Warrington Archives Podcast 1: The 4th Indian Division in Lymm
Philip Jeffs presents the first episode in a new series of podcasts, looking at interesting finds from Warrington’s Archives.
Listen using the player below, or scroll down to read a full transcript.
Hello and welcome to this the first podcast from Warrington Archives.
In these podcasts I wanted to share with the listeners at home some of the fun of looking through old documents especially now when I know its difficult to get in to see the originals.
I thought about all sorts of documents in our collections, some of them ancient, some of them modern, some of them filling massive volumes and some on tiny scraps of paper. But in the end I thought what do I most often hear people say that they can’t tear themselves away from? or that they’ve lost hours of time distracted by? or even that I most often people chuckling in the Searchroom about? And the answer was newspapers
The Warrington Guardian goes back to 1853 and the Warrington Examiner to 1875. Both give a fascinating insight into daily life in Warrington. They record the local take on massive international events, and the tiny day to day stories that have been long forgotten.
Right, so where do we start, well the articles are going to be more or less randomly selected, just things that catch my eye whilst I’m researching people’s enquiries, the sort of thing that normally I would see and think “oh I’d love to read through that, but I’ve not got the time right now” and I’d keep moving on looking for whatever it is I’m researching.
Today I’m going to tell you about an article from the Warrington Guardian in 1943,
The article dates from 9th October and the Headline is “Indian Troops are Coming”. It tells us that the “soldiers of the 4th Indian Division, heroes of the North African Campaign”, will be making a tour from Altrincham to Rostherne, passing through Lymm. We are told that the people of Lymm will be given “every chance” to see the hero soldiers including Subadar Lalbahdur Thapa, the first Indian to receive the Victoria Cross. At Lymm we are told that the local Home Guard will form a Guard of Honour at the Cross to welcome the visiting tour.
It must have been an impressive sight for the people of Lymm, the 4th Indian Division in full dress uniform, along with officials and dignitaries from all of the parishes passed through between Altrincham and Rostherne.
Now of course, once you hear mention of the first Indian Victoria Cross winner, you have to look him up. It turns out that Subedar was his rank at the time, a sort of Captain, so he was Captain Lalbahdur Thapa. The description of his actions are frankly breathtaking bravery, which I can’t really do justice to in a few moments here, but in simple terms Thapa and his men stormed an enemy outpost in Tunisia at the top of a heavily armed hill which could only be scaled along a narrow gulley with enemy defences firing down on them from every side. They took the outpost using kukri knives and bayonets fighting against machine guns and even a mounted anti-tank gun at the top of the hill.
So we definitely have a war hero and VC visiting Lymm. However, as with many newspaper articles, not all of the content is quite right. What is not so true is that he was the first Indian VC. Firstly there’s the fact that Thapa was actually Gurka and not Indian, which the papers had overlooked, but even so the first Gurkha to receive a VC was a man named Kulbir Thapa, who had received his medal during the trench warfare of 1915 for repeatedly risking his own life to rescue injured soldiers from close by the enemy lines. The first Indian soldier to receive the VC was Khudadad Khan from Punjab, now in Pakistan, and he also fought in the First World War, holding off a brutal German onslaught at the Battle of Ypres allowing British and Indian reinforcements time to arrive and hold the line.
So whilst not all the facts are quite right, what is true is that the people of Lymm certainly got a spectacle, and reading it today we get a reminder of just how involved soldiers from the British Empire were in the two World Wars, which it has to be admitted has been neglected in the past. We’ve also learnt about a little moment in Lymm’s World War Two history which otherwise we wouldn’t have known about.
So, that’s the end of our first podcast looking at old Warrington newspapers . If you want to read a transcription of the podcast, or read the original article, you can find both on the Museum’s website.
Our next podcast will stick with the year 1943 and look at a page of District News from the Warrington Guardian, telling us what was going on in some of Warrington’s villages that week.