This image shows an Indian cavalry horse hospital in a French factory in 1915. Cavalry divisions still played a crucial role in warfare at the outbreak of the First World War, and the British Army saw cavalry charges and mounted infantry as tactically crucial throughout the war. The Indian Army supplied the 1st and 2nd cavalry divisions, which saw action on the Western Front. They stayed in France until the end of the war, fighting in the battles of the Somme and Passchendale.
The Girdwood Collection
This series of several hundred photographs recording the contribution of Indian soldiers to the Allied war effort was produced in 1915 by the Canadian-born photographer Charles Hilton DeWitt Girdwood (1878-1964). As a professional photographer Girdwood had an early connection with India, photographing the Delhi Durbar of 1903, the royal tour of 1905-06 and the Delhi Durbar of 1911. In 1908 he set up a photo agency called Realistic Travels, specialising in stereoscopic photography.
With the outbreak of war in 1914, Girdwood returned from India and in April 1915 was given permission by the India Office to photograph the work of the Indian military hospitals in Bournemouth and Brighton. From July to September 1915 he worked in France as an official photographer to record Indian and later British troops in the field. In the later part of his time in France he also made ciné film of the campaign (which later appeared under the title With the Empire’s Fighters).