Remembrance 2021: Special poppy wreaths laid at Brighton Railway Station to mark remarkable tale of two WWI comrades

Poppy wreaths have been touring the country's railway network to honour the fallen.

A poppy wreath made a special journey to Brighton Railway Station as Southern Rail joined forces with The Veterans Charity on the nationwide Routes of Remembrance campaign.

Poppy wreaths have been touring the country’s railway network to honour the fallen and one laid at Brighton Railway Station this week remembered the remarkable tale of Sudebar (Lieutenant) Manta Singh and Captain George Henderson.

Southern Rail said it was proud to be honouring the story of two friends.

Ian Henderson (right) and Nick Parker, Southern head of stations lay wreaths on Brighton Station concourse Photo: Ciaran McCrickard/PA Wire

A spokesman said: “Subedar Singh was an Indian soldier who joined the British Army in 1906. During the First World War, his regiment entered the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle, which is said to be one of the bloodiest battles of WWI. During the fierce fighting, Subedar Singh saw that his friend and comrade, Captain Henderson, had been injured and he carried him to safety using a wheelbarrow.

“Subedar Singh bravely risked his own life to save his Captain – and in doing so, was shot in the leg himself. He was taken to the Kitchener Indian Hospital (which later became Brighton General Hospital) for treatment, but sadly didn’t survive his injuries and tragically passed away. Without this act of heroism, Captain George Henderson would not have survived the war. To show his thanks to the Singh family, Captain Henderson travelled to Punjab to meet Manta Singh’s son, Assa.

"He helped Assa Singh secure a job in the same British Indian Army regiment as his father and over the years, the sons of Manta Singh and Captain Henderson became the best of friends. Even to this day, the third generation of both families – Jaimal Singh (grandson of Manta Singh) and Ian Henderson (grandson of Captain George Henderson) remain friends.”

Ian Henderson, grandson of Captain George Henderson, said: “Subedar Singh risked his life to save my grandfather and without him, I wouldn’t be here. I travel to Brighton to pay my respects to Indian soldiers that died fighting for Britain. It’s incredibly important to remember our veterans and I’m proud to re-tell my story with Southern for the Routes of Remembrance campaign.”

Ian Henderson (second right), Georgie Handford, Southern CIS Operator (first right), Nick Parker, Southern Head of Stations (second left), and Jim Cumming (first left) at Brighton station. Photo: Ciaran McCrickard/PA Wire

Railway colleagues joined Mr Henderson as he laid a wreath beside the ‘Silent Soldier’ silhouette at Brighton station on Tuesday.

Nick Parker, head of stations at Southern, said: “The railway played a crucial part in WWI and WWII, not only moving equipment and rations around the country, but transporting healthy and wounded troops too. In fact, it’s very likely that Manta Singh would have been taken on the train from Southampton to Brighton to be treated, so we’re proud to be honouring his story with a wreath laid at Brighton station.

“It was a privilege to travel with Ian as he embarked on his very own route of remembrance on behalf of his grandfather. We have a large community of ex-military in the railway and it has been fantastic to work with The Veterans Charity in the lead up to Remembrance Day."

Danny Greeno, CEO of The Veterans Charity, said: “Routes of Remembrance is our way of keeping Remembrance moving and honouring those who have fallen as a result of serving in the Armed Forces. There are strong links between the railway and the military and it’s great that Southern has been able to bring this fantastic wartime story to light by travelling with Ian to Brighton so that he can pay his respects.”

Ian Henderson (right) and Nick Parker, Southern Head of Stations, at Brighton station. Photo: Ciaran McCrickard/PA Wire

Davinder Dhillon, chairman of the Chattri Memorial Group, commented: “Twelve thousand Indian soldiers like Manta Singh who were wounded on the Western Front were taken to buildings especially converted into hospitals, like the Royal Pavilion, across Brighton. It’s important that we continue to raise awareness about this history because for decades, Indian soldiers were largely written out of the story. Manta Singh’s name is recorded at the Chattri Memorial and it is poignant to be remembering the sacrifice he made in the lead up to this year’s Remembrance Day.”