In December 1914, the Islamic Review reported the first burial in Britain of a Muslim soldier. The body of Ahmad Khan, of the 3rd Sappers and Miners, was conveyed to the Shah Jahan Mosque, Woking, in a coffin draped with the Union Jack. Khan died on 4 November 1914, of wounds received in France, whilst serving with the Indian Expeditionary Force. He was buried in the Muslim section of Brookwood Cemetery following negotiations between the Mosque and the Necropolis Railway Company. The increasing number of deaths of Muslim troops led to the foundation of the Muslim Burial Ground, Horsell, in 1915. The site was chosen because it was close to the only purpose-built mosque in England. It was created in response to German war propaganda, which sought to alienate Muslim troops on the British side by claiming that the British did not respect Muslim burial customs.
More about the burial of Indian troops at Woking can be found on The Open University’s ‘Making Britain’ project website http://www.open.ac.uk/researchprojects/makingbritain/content/shah-jahan-mosque-woking and on the Woking Muslim Mission website, which includes extracts from the Islamic Review for the First World War http://www.wokingmuslim.org/work/ww1/muslim-burials.htm
Papers relating to the burial of Muslim troops at Woking, including correspondence from Moulvi Sadruddin, Imam of the Shah Jahan Mosque, 1915, and the Necropolis Railway, 1914-1929, can be found in the India Office papers at the British Library (Ref: Mss Eur F143/80 and IOR/L/MIL/7/17232).
Guide to tracing sources for the Indian Army – click here to download a pdf ()copy.
Part of the Great War: From India to Woking display.
- Further sources for researching the Indian Army during the First World War and the Muslim Burial Ground