A spectacular event was staged in the grounds as part of the Brighton Festival to commemorate this little known episode in the life of this remarkable building. It involved dramatic reconstruction, musical performance and an extraordinary projection light show on the building itself.
When World War One broke out there was no shortage of recruits to the British Army, but while these men were being trained the government turned to the Empire for support. Divisions from the Indian Army were shipped to France, landing at Marseille and travelling north to the front lines.
This was the first time the Army had been deployed outside India; by the end of the year Indian soldiers made up a third of the forces in the British trenches and they formed half of the attacking force in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle on 10-12 March, 1915.
Equally pressing was the need for hospitals to treat the inevitable casualties from France; Brighton was chosen to receive wounded men from the Indian Army. The British, having ruled India for over 100 years, were aware of the need to accommodate the various religious and cultural needs of the wounded men.
The ‘Hindu’ architecture of the Pavilion was seen as a serendipitous bonus but they made every effort to provide space for worship and to respect the needs of the men’s various religious faiths. This required complex plumbing arrangements with separate water supplies and the setting up of nine kitchens.
This new use for the Pavilion was seen as a terrific propaganda opportunity. In the Indian press it was suggested that the King-Emperor, George V, had given up his own palace to house the Indian wounded. The War Office organised a local photographer to take staged pictures of the men being cared for in palatial surroundings. The intended message for consumption back in India was that the British greatly valued the Indian contribution to the war effort. These pictures also became something of a sensation in the UK.