Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Part 3 - The British Legion Pilgrimage

On 18th September 1932 the first public service of commemoration since the 1921 opening ceremony took place. There was a large gathering of veterans and officials, chief among them being the High Commissioner for India, Sir Bupendra Math Mitra. The event made the front page of the Sussex Daily News the following day.

Further complaints from walkers and visitors continued sporadically, however, and in 1939 the India Office suggested seeking the advice of the Imperial War Graves Commission who undertook a thorough survey and in December drew up a plan for maintenance that involved a reduction in the area of land covered (originally two acres) and other measures. At the same time, possibly picqued into activity by the IO initiative, the Brighton Parks and Gardens Department came up with their own plans for repair and renovation. The best course of action was debated and the IWGC plan was favoured, but as ever Brighton Corporation appeared unwilling to meet its original commitment of 1920 and argued over reponsibility for payment. They eventually agreed to undertake the work, but not until 1942.

The Second World War

Quite clearly, however, nothing was done in 1942 and further complaints were received at the India Office, but in any case the land was now requisitioned as part of the Downland Training Area, a “battle training ground” within which there was live firing and any renovation work would have been impracticable. A recently retired Indian Army officer who visited the memorial in armistice week 1945 wrote to Field Marshal Lord Birdwood that it was “in a throughly dilapidated condition and has apparently been used as a target by troops during training as the memorial is now cracked and pitted by rifle bullets.” Birdwood passed this on to the India Office and when the land was derequisitioned in 1946 the War Office accepted the charge for repairs and agreed to restore the Chattri to its original condition.


The British Legion Pilgrimage was resurrected in 1951, taking place in the last week of June annually until 1999 when amid some fairly wild accusations of racism they decided that they could no longer maintain the ceremony, citing old age, declining numbers and the difficulty of providing a post-ceremony tea.

An Order of Service for the 1970 Chattri Pilgrimage survives: there was an Address by the Chaplain of the Patcham Branch of the British Legion (who was also the vicar of Patcham) followed by prayers, the wreath laying ceremony, the Last Post (sounded by the Patcham Church Band), the Legion Exhortation and the Reveille. Then an Address by the branch president, Reply by His Excellency the High Commissioner for India and the Blessing.

After the ceremony there was a parade around the memorial.

Refreshments were served by the Ladies of the Patcham Women’s Section, followed by a welcome to all the Indian Party from London in the Patcham Memorial Hall, Old London Road.

Chattri memorial service - June 2005

Hearing of the demise of the Chattri Pilgrimage, Davinder Dhillon, a local Sikh teacher, approached the British Legion with a view to resurrecting the event and under his stewardship it has continued to be held annually on the third Sunday in June since 2000.

With representatives of the Undivided Indian Ex-Service Association from various parts of the United Kingdom present, as well as the Brighton and Hove Hindu Elders Group, members of the armed forces and police, the mayor and local people, a unique and fittingly dignified memorial service is maintained.

All are welcome to attend the remembrance service and to attend the exhibition and tea held afterwards at the Gardner Arts Centre on the nearby Sussex University campus. Details can be confirmed via this website before the 2006 service.

Note on sources Almost all the above information is extracted from files in the India Office Library, with additional information gleaned from several works (see Website bibliography page for further details).

© Tom Donovan 2005