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Skip to comments.Hitler's secret Indian army
Posted on 05/09/2005 9:08:05 AM PDT by minus_273
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However one shouldn't have the impression that they all signed up out of burning patriotism for the British Empire and a desire to crush fascism; the Indian economy was very bad during WWII, one of the worst problems was inflation in food prices such that the average Indian couldn't afford food; most joined up out of financial desperation.
the birtish had already promised to grant independence after the war, why would they need to repress independence movements?
well keep in mind that was the great depression. we were all pretty bad off (except the soviets.. but thats a case of slave labor)
Yes, the Army was a great career move for many Indians. I didn't mean to suggest that the British pointed guns at people's heads and said "fight for us or else".
My point was that these men (tiny fraction that they were) cannot be called traitors because they were fighting in Britain's wars, and decided to fight against Britain because they believed that was best for their country. A good analogy would be the Free French Resistance in WWII which decided to fight against their country's (Vichy) govt and Germany instead of for them.
The only difference is that the Free French wound up on the winning side, while these suckers wound up on the losing side. Don't get me wrong - I'm no supporter of Subhas Chandra Bose - the man was a fascist nutcase, and if he'd come to power, instead of Nehru, India would have turned out like Saddam Hussein's Iraq or something.
I do agree that the British Indian Army was no longer pro-British by that time, but I'm not so sure that that was a major factor in Britain giving Independence. (The lack of a white settler class was certainly a factor). But I don't think the British ever seriously considered ruling India by force, using the Indian Army, even if it had been reliable. Simply too many people, and too big a country, and too hard to handle.
The British came to power by playing Indian rulers against each other and stayed in power by co-opting the Indian elite. The Independence movement became serious when the Indian educated elite turned against the British when they realized that they might be allowed education at Oxford and Cambridge, but they were never going to be treated as equals like the Australians. It is to be noted that the racism against Indians *increased* in the last 70 years of the Empire - the early British assimilated a lot more.(Nehru once called himself "the last Englishman to rule India"). Gandhi's genius was in taking the movement of an educated elite and making it a mass, all-India movement, but the British lost their trump card when they lost the support of the elite.
Anyway, I've wandered wildly off topic so I'll stop now..
You are correct. However, the effective loss of a tool they had used for controlling India for most of a century was an obvious factor in them making the decision to "grant" independence.
They really didn't have a choice.
An excerpt from the Wikipedia entry on Subhas Chandra Bose:
At the start o World War II, Bose traveled to Germany where he joined the Special Bureau for India under Adam von Trott zu Solz, broadcasting on the German-sponsored Azad Hind Radio. He founded the Free India Centre in Berlin and established the Indian Legion, (consisting of some 4500 soldiers) from Indian prisoners of war who had previously fought for the British in North Africa. The Azad Hind legion was attached to the Waffen SS, and they swore their allegiance to Hitler and Bose for the independence of India.
Recent research has shown that after the Normandy landings, the French resistance and military openly shot unarmed and surrendered Indian legionaries who had tried to escape to neutral Switzerland, in defiance of the norms of the Geneva Convention in 1944. Though there were a few incidents of the rape which its German liaison officers claimed that they were unable to control, on the whole it was a disciplined unit.
Bose had openly criticised Hitler's treatment of Jews, annulment of democratic institutions in Germany and Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union.
4500 soldiers out 2.5 million in the Indian Army? And that too, prisoners of war, who were told "either fight for India against Britain, or rot in prison"?
The more I read about these guys the more sympathy I have for them. They just wound up on the wrong side.
Interesting. The Waffen SS was a very multicultural force by the end of the war. Saw a documentary on them on the history channel over the weekend. Pretty much anybody they conquered they created a division out of the prisoners- ukranian, polish, even british. I guess you can add Indian to that list now, too.
IIRC, the British had promised the Indians dominion status(like that granted to Australia, Canada, etc), if they fought on their side way back in WW-I. They never did so back then, and the only reason why they quit India in 1947 was because they were too weak to hold on to India after the severe damages they had incurred in WW-II, notwithstanding American and Soviet pressures against colonialism.
Here's an excerpt. Please reply if you find anything odd or falsified herein (whitewash included):
In May 1929 the Labor Party won the most number of seats at the General Elections in Britain. They did not have an overall majority but formed a minority Government. Ramsay Macdonald became Prime Minister and Wedgewood Benn the Secretary of State for India.
Lord Irwin visited London to consult the new Government. It was known that the Labor Party was more sympathetic to Indian aspirations.
Soon after his return, the Viceroy Lord Irwin with the consent of the Secretary of State for India, Wedgewood Benn made a momentous announcement. He stated that a Round Table Conference would be held in which the British Government would sit with delegates from British India, and the native states to discuss India's constitutional progress. He envisaged that the natural issue of the conference to be Dominion Status for India.
Gandhi and the elder statesman of the Congress Party welcomed the statement.
However, Lord Irwin was soon to retract the statement. His promise of Dominion Status raised a howl of protest in London. Led by his predecessor Lord Reading, the Conservatives and Liberals combined to condemn the Viceroy. Although Wedgewood Benn defended the Viceroy the minority Government had to defer to the majority pressure exerted by the Conservatives and Liberals in combination.
As a consequence the Viceroy Lord Irwin was non-committal when Gandhi met him to seek clarification. Lord Irwin merely said that he could not prejudge the final outcome of the Round Table Conference. In other words there was not going to be any Dominion Status for India.
The change in the attitude of the British Government did not leave the Congress Party with much choice. At the annual party convention held in December 1929 under the presidency of Jawaharlal Nehru it was decided to launch a campaign of civil disobedience in the pursuit of complete independence.
I consider this the proudest moment of Indian history regardless of what people here at FR may think. Subhash Chandra Bose fought for India and he did nothing wrong.
keep in mind that wikipedia is hardly a reliable source. anyone can go and write anything they want.
Fascinating post. I'm a WWII and history buff, and I was glad to get to read this.
aside from occupy other countries in the name of indian independence,
What loyalty does a private or NCO owe to an army in which he knows for a fact that his son will never have any chance to become an officer ?
An interesting fact in the employment of the Indian Army was that they were not used among "white" people (they were used in Italy but to the British "wogs" weren't white). They did not want a situation where a brown man was having sex with a white woman. That is why they were only used on the Western Front in WW1 only at the very beginning when the British manpower situation was dire.
4500 out of the garrisons of Tobruk and Crete.
where did you get that info from? part of the process of the destruction of the colonization myth of whites being superior was seeing them kill themselves while serving on the western front. Before that colonists seemed almost invincible to less technologically advanced people.
I know quite a bit about the Great War.
In 1915 they put Indian divisions on the Western Front but denied them leave because they didn't want brown men sleeping with white French prostitutes. They were quickly removed from the Western Front and sent to the Middle East and Africa.
they were sent to the mid east because they could not fight in the weather in europe especially in the winter. The british thought that the mid east and africa would be better becasue they thought it was similiar to their home climate.
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