When the First World War broke out on July 28, 1914 the British Army was poorly prepared and less than a quarter of the size of of the German forces.

King George V called out to men across the British Empire, in the Caribbean, parts of Africa, India and even parts of the Far East, for assistance and millions answered his plea.

Among them were

Many joined the Middlesex Regiment, but did not find a warm welcome and suffered discrimination from their peers and the public. Nevertheless, they continued to fight proudly for the empire and sacrifice their lives for the cause.

During the war 16,000 men from the Caribbean died, one million Africans died, and over one million Indian soldiers served.

Now, to mark Black History Month, a new exhibition has been opened in Haringey to celebrate the determination and courageousness of nine ethnic minority soldiers from the regiment and not only battled mistreatment from within their own regiment, but went over the top to fight for their country,

Hidden Heroes: Soldiers from the Empire brings together the stories of Kamal Chunchie, Sam Manning, Harry O’Hara, Agit Anil 'Jick' Rudra, Karesat Ardeshir Dadebhai 'Kish' Naoroji, Donald Brown, Jowshir Harnam Singh, Francis Owen Gittens and Drummer Roberts.

It has been created by a team of Middlesex University students who gathered information and images from the Imperial War Museum, National Archive in Kew and the National Army Museum in Stevenage and spent the past year working closely with Newham-based oral history organisation Eastside Heritage Community to trace the soldier's families and record their memories.

BA Creative Writing and Media graduate Alex Man, 22, from Redbridge, says: “It was a fascinating experience and a privilege to be a part of the project, delving into newspaper and photograph archives as well as speaking to family members who feel nothing but admiration and pride for their ancestors.

“I hope others will learn from our research."

The resulting exhibition includes rare photographs and sound clips revealing the men's lives, before, during and after the conflict.

Born in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Kamal Chunchie previously worked as a police inspector in Singapore and travelled to London to join the regiment after seeing action in the trenches. He met his English wife while on leave in London and after the war became a Methodist preacher and the only ‘coloured’ member of the Essex Gentlemen’s Cricket Club. He established the Coloured Seamen’s Institute in Canning Town in 1928 and died not long after it closed in 1958.

Six-foot tall Jick Rudra was born in Delhi and originally travelled to England to study at Cambridge. His writing recalls his regiment arriving at the battle in a red bus and describes officers being mown down by machine guns still brandishing their swords. He survived both World Wars and became a general of the independent Indian Army.

When the war broke out Indian Kish Naoroji enlisted into the Universities and Public Schools Brigade, expecting to become an officer.

His autobiography reveals: “A tough Cockney Sergeant asked what my religion was. When I said Parsi, he asked me what the hell that was and said there was no such blinking religion. When I insisted, he produced a Bible and asked me if I was prepared to swear on that book. I replied that I would swear on any book he liked. He promptly put me down as Roman Catholic.”

Donald Brown, who was born in British Guiana joined up at the recruitment office in Holloway, aged 20. He trained under the 21st and 28th Battalions of the Middlesex Regiment and after more than six months wrote a petition of complaint along with six other ‘coloured’ soldiers concerning their ‘intolerable lives’ as black soldiers.

The petition caused some debate at the Colonial Office, with one memo from a civil servants reading: "The War Office would really assist us by laying down a hard and fast rule that coloured men are not acceptable for British regiments."

Middlesex University Professor of Journalism Kurt Barling who led the students says: "The stories of these previously unsung heroes live on mostly in family folklore. These are people who risked their lives to join British Imperial Forces fighting a war that claimed millions of lives.

The Middlesex Regiment was sent to the Western Front in January 1915 and during the conflict saw losses of more than 12,700.

Professor Barling says: "This project uncovers alternative narratives of the Great War, to remind us there is not just one version of history but many histories."

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the free exhibition will include a number of events throughout October, including talks by Kurt Barling and members of Eastside Community Heritage which also created the East London Peoples Archive.

Bruce Castle Museum, Lordship Lane, Haringey, N17 8NU, October 7 to March 27. Details: soldiersfromtheempire.co.uk