Greatest volunteer army

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August
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Greatest volunteer army

Post by August » 09 Nov 2003 12:25

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main ... xhome.html

The todays they gave have been forgottenBy Kevin Myers
(Filed: 09/11/2003)


In all the acts of remembrance today, who will remember the greatest volunteer army for freedom the world has ever seen? Even in their own countries, their memory is barely honoured, never mind in Britain, where almost all sense of their achievements has vanished. But what has not vanished is the freedom their service and their sacrifice made possible.

More than two and half million men from what are now India, Pakistan and Nepal served in the Second World War. The Burma campaign was fought and won in large part by Indian troops; and even where they were not predominant, as in the Chindit long range force, they were none the less essential. Wingate's men could not have moved a foot without their Indian muleteers or survived without their Indian pack artillery. Otherwise, the great battles in the region were largely fought and won by Indian troops.

It is not so surprising that Indian troops were so prominent in the Far East, nor that their contribution has been forgotten: the events were long ago and far away, and neither ultimate victory nor defeat would have made much difference to the people of Europe. But what is more surprising, and even more unforgivable, is the vital role of the Indians in defeating the Nazis has almost vanished entirely from the public imagination.

Tens of thousands of Indian troops served in the war against Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy. The 4th Indians - one of the very finest divisions of any allied army - restored independence to Abyssinia, and from first to last participated in the battles against and the victory over Rommel's Afrika Korps and Italy's 10th and 15th Armies. After victory in Africa, the next stage was the mainland of Europe: and three full Indian divisions served in the brutal, bloody liberation of Italy.

For some, this was a return to Europe; Indian troops had served in France in 1940, and now they took part in some of the most savage, bloody fighting of the entire war. For nearly 18 months, they battled the length of the Apennines, over and across the myriad cataracts and gorges there - in Churchill's fatuous phrase, "the soft underbelly" of Europe. And though this campaign was soon forgotten as the attention of the world switched to Normandy after the landings there in June 1944, the outcome in France could have been very different without the bloody sacrifices that were occurring in Italy.

Some 18 German divisions were tied up in Army Group C in Italy; divisions that were not there to repel the invading forces coming ashore on the coasts of Northern France. This is not to justify the allied strategy of pursuing the largely futile Italian campaign, but merely to acknowledge that the cause of freedom was also advanced there, and at great cost in allied lives, very many of them Indian.

Nor were the Germans the only enemy in Italy. Through the winters of 1943 and 1944, the icy slime of the Apennine valleys and arctic cold of the shale escarpments above, were inhabited by tens of thousands of floundering, freezing soldiers. Indians from the almost seasonless meridians of Madras or Bombay could never before have experienced such cold, such climatic filth, and though many perished there, their units never broke.

Death came in other, unexpected ways: many Indian PoWs who had refused the offer of freedom in return for service with the Nazis were housed at Epinal camp in France. In May 1944, Epinal was mistakenly bombed by the Allies, killing 64 loyal Indians. Other loyal Indians, as is well known, were used for bayonet practice by the Japanese.

Why did they serve? For economic reasons, mostly - but having taken a soldier's oath, they clung to it, unto death if necessary: and not just the fabled Gurkhas and Sikhs, but also the Rajputs, Pathans, Punjabis, Garwhalis, Jats, Ranghars and Dogras. Had British military historians not so disgracefully neglected the achievements of these men, usually in order to focus on the more accessible accounts of British units, their story might be better known. For who now remembers that the mighty battle of Kohima, which gave rise to the most unforgettable memorial dedication of the war ("When you go home, tell them of us . . ."), was essentially won by the 33rd Indian Corps?

The British were not alone in this neglect. Post-independence India preferred to laud the risibly unproductive efforts of the collaborationist Indian National Army under Subhas Chandra Bose, whose men had surrendered - usually to their fellow countrymen - at every opportunity. Yet the new armies of India and Pakistan were based on the very regiments of the Indian Army, and inherited their traditions and their strengths.

More than 100,000 Indians were killed, wounded or vanished in the Burmese jungles, the African deserts or the Italian Alps between 1940 and 1945. World freedom was not the only result of such sacrifices. Those known, real lives meant that thousands of unknown, unknowable Allied soldiers did not die. Quite literally, for so many Indians, their today was someone else's tomorrow. We should remember that, with gratitude.

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Marcus
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Post by Marcus » 09 Nov 2003 12:51

When quoting, please use the quote feature to make it eaiser to see which text it your own and which is a quote, thanks.

/Marcus

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August
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Post by August » 10 Nov 2003 19:19

Hi

It's a Telegraph edit verbatim. I have not added anything. Personally I do not agree with some parts. For example to say that...

Post-independence India preferred to laud the risibly unproductive efforts of the collaborationist Indian National Army under Subhas Chandra Bose, whose men had surrendered - usually to their fellow countrymen - at every opportunity.


.... is not accurate. Indians who killed INA men and women rose to be generals in free India. And INA people were treated like stray dogs. This is not my theroy. Everyone knows it here.

Regards

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Marcus
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Post by Marcus » 10 Nov 2003 20:09

August wrote:It's a Telegraph edit verbatim. I have not added anything.


My point is that there is no way to see that if you don't use the quote feature.

/Marcus

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