India was under the captivity of the British during the second world war. British held the territories in India including over six hundred autonomous Princely States. British India officially declared war on Nazi Germany in September 1939. As part of the Allied Nations, the British Raj sent over two and a half a million soldiers to fight under British command against the Axis powers. India also provided the base for American operations in support of China in the China Burma India Theatre.
Over 87,00 Indian soldiers fought under the flagship of the British Army, during World War I and II.
Soldiers included citizens of India, modern-day Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The British army general stated that the British wouldn’t have survived had it not been for the Indian army fighting for them. There was a major internal conflict within the Indian subcontinent, with Viceroy Linlithgow declaring that India was in a state of war with Germany without consulting the politicians.
The Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha were in favor of the British, whereas the national congress wanted complete independence before it would help the British. London declined the offer. With the launch of the Quit India movement by the national congress, millions of leaders were imprisoned. Meanwhile, under the leadership of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose, Japan raised the national army under India’s POW to fight against the British.
Indian participation in the Allied campaign remained strong. The financial, industrial, and military assistance of India was a turning point of the British campaign against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. India’s strategic location at the tip of the Indian Ocean, its large production of armaments, and its huge armed forces played a decisive role in halting the progress of Imperial Japan in the South-East Asian theatre. The Indian Army during World War II was one of the largest Allied forces contingents which took part in the North and East African Campaign, Western Desert Campaign.
Throughout world war 2 India remained an eminent factor, but there some untold stories that are hidden behind the veil, stories of courage and tragedy, tales of sacrifice and joy that encircle the chapters of World War II.
The contribution of soldiers from across the Empire-Commonwealth has been coming to light. But what about all the common people who were caught up in the war?
Numerous other South Asian people toiled behind the scenes to secure supply lines and to support the Allies. There were non-combatants like cooks, tailors, mechanics, and washermen, such as a boot-maker to the Indian army named simply as Ghafoor who died at the battle of Keren in present-day Eritrea and whose grave can still be seen there today. These people were a part of this horrific incident but were never highlighted.
The imperial war not only shed the blood of the soldiers but also common men who served for odd jobs like ‘coolies’, miners, and plantation laborers from southern India who traveled up into the mountains of the northeast to hack out roads towards Myanmar and China.
The Harbour incident in 1945, in which a ship loaded with explosives and cotton caught alight and turned to the plight of thousands of workers being homeless and others suffering from serious injuries. These people did not write memoirs or didn’t win any recognition for their work, these were just unknown chapters of the war to the world. This could not be regarded as acts of patriotism or sacrifice, a lot of them just did this to feed their families in this unprecedented time.
There were many south Asians who earned a lot of money and made their fortunes, but the caste and labor class did not even have sufficient to feed their families
A lot of emphasis is laid on the military troops of India by the British and the Americans, but there is no mention of the common man who suffered the most during The War. The second World War left the world devastated, leaving the masses homeless, injured, and disabled. Perhaps now we acknowledge the efforts of the INDIAN ARMY AND THEIR SUPPORTERS i.e., the pre-independent India, and appreciate their sacrifices
Let’s pledge today to make our India proud just like our ancestors did.
Taking an oath on this date to strive hard to make INDIA shine! JAI HIND!!
Rtr. Hridya Sharma
Rotaract Club of Bombay Kandivli (3141)