THE global nature of the First World War, long before the entry of the United States in April 1917, is illustrated in this story about two Allied soldiers.

Bradford Territorial Alfred Barrett and British Indian Army sepoy Tek Singh did not know each other, nor did they fight together in the same unit. Yet their graves at New Irish Farm, Belgium, are next to one another.

It is likely they were brought together in death by Chinese labourers – as about 187,000 of them were brought to the Western Front by the British for duties such as clearing the dead and debris from battlefields.

Tricia Platts, secretary of Bradford World War I Group, who uncovered this story, writes: “Tek Singh, a Hindu soldier, servive number 3229, died fighting during the second battle of Ypres in April 1915. His regiment the 57th Wildes Rifles (Frontier Force) had embarked as part of the Lahore Division from Karachi on August 24, 1914, and arrived in Marseilles on September 26. “They were the first regiment of the British Indian army to see service in the trenches in October, 1914, near Wytschaete. On April 26, 1915, the day Tek Singh died, 57th Wilde’s Rifles were involved in a counter-attack to retake St Julien which had fallen following German advances. “During the first part of their advance only a few men were hit by shrapnel and rifle fire but then they came into an absolute inferno. In that day’s fighting the 57th lost three British officers, three Indian officers and 36 from other ranks. The names of other men who died on that day from the 57th Wilde’s are remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

“Private Alfred Cecil Barrett, service number 3398, was just 18 years old when, on July 4, 1915, as a Bradford Territorial, he arrived in tented billets a mile north of Ypres. “His battalion was to be stationed near Essex Farm from July to December 1915, a period in which, in the words of one of the battalion sergeants, ‘physical wretchedness reached its stark bottom’. “On a few summer days the men could bathe in the Yser Canal where there were fishes and water lilies but the autumn rains began to fall in August and conditions under foot quickly deteriorated. Trenches which were supposed to provide shelter from the enemy quickly filled with water and movement was severely hampered.

“Two days after arriving, Bridge No 4 came under heavy German shelling and 15 men in Alfred’s battalion were wounded. Although Alfred was billeted near No 4 Bridge, his front-line position was at Turco Farm, a distance of about 2,000 yards through a maze of communication trenches across flat land, well in view of the enemy lines on the higher ground of the Pilkem Ridge. “On August 24, Alfred Cecil Barrett died on the battlefield. His body was recovered some years later along with the remains of two other unknown British soldiers. Next to Alfred is the grave of Hindu soldier Tek Singh who died four months earlier. His body was recovered with two British soldiers, one of whom was in the Connaught Rangers but neither man’s name is known.”