The Guardian

The forgotten Muslim heroes who fought for Britain in the trenches

The stories of the 2.5 million Muslims who travelled to Europe to fight for the allies during the first world war are finally being told
Algerian soldiers on the way to the western front arrive in Paris in 1914. Photograph: Photo 12/UIG via Getty Images

A biting wind whips across the rolling countryside, cutting through the crowd gathered on a hillside overlooking Notre Dame de Lorette, France’s national war cemetery. Huddled amid what remains of the 440 miles of trenches that made up the western front, they shudder out of shock and surprise rather than cold while listening about life for the men who endured the horrors of the first world war.

More than 1.5 billion artillery shells fell in this part of northern France, close to the town of Arras, prompting soldiers to nickname the farmland in which they fought “the hell of the north”, or poignantly, “the cemetery”. It is the experiences of some of their Muslim comrades, however, that particularly capture the crowd’s imagination, drawing looks of disbelief at a history that has never been fully told.

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