Armistice 100: East Ham grandson of First World War seaman says not enough known about India’s contribution

PUBLISHED: 11:00 08 November 2018

Asif Shakoor holding a photograph of his Grandfather Mahomed Gama.

Asif Shakoor holding a photograph of his Grandfather Mahomed Gama.


Asif Shakoor’s grandfather, Mahomed Gama, left his native Mirpur in what is now Pakistan administered Kashmir in 1914 to work as a fireman on merchant ships that had been tasked to support the war effort.

Secretary of State for War, David Lloyd George, talking with Indian soldiers at the front. Pic: PA ARCHIVE IMAGESSecretary of State for War, David Lloyd George, talking with Indian soldiers at the front. Pic: PA ARCHIVE IMAGES

Mr Shakoor, 38, from Gladstone Avenue, Newham works as an independent researcher, specialising in the history of South Asian seafarers and is one of 10,000 members of the public to have been selected by ballot to participate in the Nation’s Thank You Procession in Westminster on Remembrance Sunday.

He said his grandfather first served on the SS Medina during the war, transporting cargo and passengers.

According to Mr Shakoor, Mr Gama then served on the SS Khiva after the Medina was sunk in British waters by a German submarine on April 28 1917.

Mr Gama was awarded the British War Medal and Mercantile Marine War Medal in recognition of his services to the SS Khiva.

Mr Shakoor with his grandfather's medal. Picture: Asif ShakoorMr Shakoor with his grandfather's medal. Picture: Asif Shakoor

Mr Shakoor said: “His role was to act as a fireman on the SS Khiva which was used to transport American troops American troops to Liverpool, Plymouth and London for the onward cross channel journey to France.

“He used to work on farmland, he like many others, found cheap work aboard the merchant ships, he was very strong and healthy.”

Mr Shakoor’s research has led him to believe that the SS Khiva transported an estimated 10,000 troops, and tonnes of military supplies from New York to the frontline in France between April 1917 and November 1918.

After the war Mr Gama was discharged and returned to Bombay.

Mr Shakoor said that not enough is known about the many Indian soldiers from Sikh, Hindu and Muslim backgrounds who served during the war, many of whom come from modern day Pakistan and Bangladesh.

He said: “If you go to the Imperial War Museum, there’s nothing really there on the role of Indian seamen.

“The role of seamen is especially not known.”

He said it was important in the present climate with the rise of the far-right to understand how communities from different backgrounds came together to fight in the war and encouraged others from Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds to look into the history of their families.

Latest Newham Stories


Rookie players from Newham have visited the World Chess Championship to see the globe’s best players in action.

A church in Forest Gate is doing its bit to help Newham’s homeless.

Forest Gate

A 20-year-old from Silvertown appears in court today on conspiracy charges of kidnap and blackmail and a charge of false imprisonment.

Scotland Yard

A property company has stepped in after a treehouse at a children’s charity was burned to the ground.

Yesterday, 19:00

The University of East London will be among the first to host a filmed broadcast of the BBC Radio 4 show Any Questions.

University of East London
Yesterday, 17:00

Bromley manager Neil Smith feels his side were unlucky to lose 3-1 to league leaders Leyton Orient.

Josh Koroma
Yesterday, 16:11

A thug threatened to shoot a 14-year-old boy in an attempted robbery on a tube station platform.

British Transport Police
Yesterday, 15:00

London Tang Soo Do members had plenty of success at the Regional Championships in Ebbw Vale, Wales at the weekend.

Canning Town


Have you spent time as an unpaid carer? If you are over the age of 25 and living in Newham, the Working for Carers scheme can help you take the first steps back to employment.

Hanson Fernandes’ journey began in 2015 when he arrived in London from Goa, India.

Newsletter Sign Up

Newham Recorder twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists

Education Promo

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Newham Recorder
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now