A GROUND-BREAKING project exploring the British Indian Army's role in the First World War has been launched at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum.

'The Indian Army in the First World War: An Oxfordshire Perspective' will shed new light on the force's role in the conflict on the Eastern Front in Mesopotamia – modern-day Iraq.

At a launch event at the Woodstock museum on Tuesday visitors listened to talks from local historians, met volunteers dressed as Sikh soldiers and handled memorabilia.

Co-ordinator Dr Priya Atwal, a postdoctorate researcher from Oxford University, read a series of poems composed by Indian writers during the war.

She said: "Speakers brought in objects like uniforms and weapons, and typewriters, to give a feel of what people would have had in the camp. It was fantastic."

The project has received a £12,000 grant from the Arts & Humanities Research Council's 'Voices of War and Peace' Engagement Centre.

Over the coming months people of all ages from local Sikh, Hindu and Muslim communities will be invited to engage with specialist researchers from Oxford University.

A group of 20 volunteers will study the museum's previously-unseen military heritage collections on the British Indian Army's activities from 1914 to 1918.

The findings of the project will be displayed in a travelling exhibition, beginning in Wycombe on November 9.

Dr Atwal, 27, added: "It is the first project in the UK to adopt such an intergenerational and multi-faith approach in working with the local community to learn collectively about the war, and explore its history from a diverse range of cultural perspectives.

"It is hoped that this research will bring to light a forgotten aspect of local history about Indian military collaboration with soldiers and officers."

The project is also launching an appeal for the public, particularly those from Oxfordshire's Asian community, with family stories or memorabilia that can be featured.

By November 1918 the British Indian Army rose in size to 573,000 men, having been 155,000 strong in 1918.

During the conflict 140,000 soldiers saw active service on the Western Front in France and Belgium while 700,000 served in the Middle East, including in Mesopotamia.

By the end of the war 47,746 Indians were dead or missing and 65,126 were wounded.

Anyone interested in getting involved is asked to email sofoindianarmy@gmail.com