Saturday, August 8, 2015




            The British arrived in India as traders in the middle of the Seventeenth Century and it was only a hundred years later that they began to recruit Indians as soldiers, leading to the birth of the Indian Army. In fact, the French had begun recruiting Indians to supplement their forces in southern India even earlier. Due to prolonged hostilities between Britain and France, neither nation could spare adequate troops from the homeland and had perforce to depend on local levies to protect their possessions in India from predatory attacks from each other. With time, Indian soldiers began to be used in conflicts with Indian rulers, and the consequent expansion of the territory under the control of the East India Company. In 1757 Robert Clive defeated Siraj-ud-Daula at Plassey with the help of Indian soldiers who had been trained and equipped in the European fashion. Shortly afterwards, the Mughal Emperor conferred on the East India Company the diwani (authority to collect revenue) of Bengal Bihar and Orissa. With this, the Company’s main occupation changed from trading to governance. This also conferred on the Company’s rule over the provinces a measure of legality.1

            For almost 200 years after Plassey, Indian soldiers helped the British in establishing their dominion over India and fighting their wars across the borders and high seas. The majority of the men who volunteered to serve under British officers did so for pay, perquisites and status. Most of these men came from families with a tradition of soldiering, whose forefathers had served in the armies of their native chieftains even before the arrival of the British. Almost the whole of the Bengal Army before 1857 comprised of Brahmins and Rajputs from Oudh, known colloquially as Purbias (men from the East). Many Purbias also served in the Scindia’s army that fought British forces under Arthur Wellesley in 1803 at Assaye and at Laswari, after the battle of Delhi. In these engagements, the Purbias fought with distinction from both sides, just as they would have under the flags of local chieftans. At that time and even later, Indian soldiers readily joined any army where the pay was good and their religion and caste were respected. Soldiers from foreign lands also found military service in India attractive, and often proved more trustworthy than natives. The Afghan bodyguard of Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi remained with her till the end in 1858, displaying commendable courage and gallantry.

            Though large parts of the sub-continent had been unified under the Mughals, the concept of nationalism as understood today did not exist. The army of Aurnagzeb, the last of the Great Mughals, comprised 300,000 cavalry and 600,000 foot soldiers. However, very of these were imperial troops. Each of the 15 or 16 rajas (chieftains) who fought under his flag brought along 25,000 horsemen or foot soldiers or a combination of the two. These soldiers owed allegiance not to the Mughal Emperor but to their own raja, who paid their salaries. Soldiers from princely states such as Jodhpur or Jaipur, though fighting under the Mughal flag, had no feeling of nationalism or patriotism, such as what they displayed when their own lands or kingdoms were threatened. The stories of the gallantry displayed by Rajput soldiers during the three attacks on Chittor are the stuff of legend. Knowing that they would not survive, the men rode out to die at the hands of the enemy after their women had committed jauhar (collective self immolation). The readiness of these soldiers to die for their land and their king was a manifestation of their loyalty and devotion, akin to what is known today as nationalism. 

After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the next unification occurred almost a hundred years later, when British control extended to almost the whole of India. With the gradual reduction or disappearance of the armies of native princes, it was only under the British that Indians had the opportunity for military service. The soldier in the Company’s Army was not fired by patriotism of the kind felt when fought for his liege lord. Nevertheless, he served loyally because he had to be true to his salt. In return for providing him with a means of livelihood, the Company was entitled to his allegiance. By and large, the Indian soldier did not betray the trust of his British masters. But when his religion or caste was under threat, he had no compunction in turning against his officers. On their part, the British took pains to permit the native soldier the greatest latitude in observing his customs and prejudices. On the rare occasions when they failed to do so, the result was catastrophic, as happened in 1857.
            The status of the Indian soldier during the British Raj has been the subject of debate among historians and political leaders. There are many who feel that Indians who served in the army under British rule were mercenaries. This was the reason cited by many soldiers for joining the Indian National Army after their capture by the Japanese during World War II. As already mentioned, during the period of British rule the Indian soldier readily joined any army where the pay was good and his religions and caste not under threat. This applied to soldiers serving under the British as well as Indian princes. The example of Purbias in the Scindia’s army has already been cited. It is interesting to recall that the primary reason that impelled most British soldiers to serve in India was the attraction of prize money, which was shared among all ranks after a victory. The British system of prize money was an euphemism for institutionalized robbery and plunder of the wealth of the vanquished by the victor. As mentioned in an earlier chapter, after the re-capture of Delhi by British forces in 1858, the booty collected by the prize agents was worth a million and a quarter sterling. If anything, the British soldier serving in India was more of a mercenary that his native colleague.

            After the grant of the diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa  in 1765, the status of the East India Company became that of a vassal of the Mughal Emperor. The right to collect revenue automatically conferred the responsibility for administration, including maintenance of law and order, for which the requirement of an army was indisputable.  Legally, the British were no longer foreign intruders but local chieftains, acting on behalf of the Mughal Court. Viewed from this angle, the Company’s Army was similar to those maintained by other native rulers. Naturally, soldiers who opted to serve in such an army could not be termed as mercenaries. In fact, in 1922 a British historian, F.W. Buckler, presented a paper on the Mutiny of 1857 at the Royal Historical Society, in which he expressed the legal view that it was the Company, as the ‘dewan’ of the Mughal Emperor, that had mutinied against the Emperor Bahadur Shah. 2

            After 1857, the responsibility for governing India was taken over by the British Government. With this, the status of the British in India also changed. India was now a colony, a part of the mighty British Empire and the ‘brightest jewel in the Crown’ of the British monarch. Even in during this period, it is doubtful if Indian soldiers serving under the British can be called mercenaries. By definition, a mercenary soldier fights for money or reward for a country other than his own. Though Indian soldiers served under British officers, it is a debatable point if they were fighting for a country other than their own. While  the Indian mutiny in 1857 was to a considerable extent inspired by the desire to free of British rule, the concept of nationalism among the general public took root only after the birth of the Congress at the turn of the century and flowered only after the Civil Disobedience movement in 1930 and the Quit India movement in 1942.

            Britain depended on the Indian Army to maintain her control over India. As a result, Indian troops were frequently employed to control disturbances inspired by the freedom struggle. This sometimes brought them into conflict with their compatriots, who questioned their lack of patriotism and branded them as mercenaries. However, it is pertinent to record that from the time the British government assumed the responsibility for governing India, the primary role of the Indian Army was the defence of India against invasion from the north-west, with Russia or Afghanistan being the most likely adversaries. After World War I the size of the Indian Army had to be drastically reduced due to financial constraints and a reduction in the external threat. In 1921 the Central Legislative Assembly discussed the role of the Indian Army and determined that it should not be used for imperial campaigns outside India. But it was naïve to expect that if the need arose, Britain would hesitate to call upon the resources of the largest and richest colony of the Empire. In 1933 the War Office spelt out the role of the Indian Army in the following words:

 The duties of the army in India include the preservation of internal security in India, the covering of the lines of internal communication, and the protection of India against external attack. Though the scale of forces is not calculated to meet external attack by a great Power, their duties might well comprise the initial resistance to such an attack pending the arrival of imperial reinforcements. 3

The role of the Indian Army was thus enhanced from being purely for the defence of India to include a supplementary role of acting as an Imperial Reserve. The British Government agreed to grant an annual subsidy of 1.5 million pounds to the Government of India for this purpose. By 1938 the threat of war had become clear and the Government of India requested London to reconsider both the military and financial aspects of her defence problems, and conclude a fresh contract between Britain and India in which the latter’s financial limitations were recognized. The Imperial Defence Committee constituted a sub committee under Major General Henry Pownall to report on the defence problems of India. The Pownall committee reported that the changed strategic situation and development of modern armaments, particularly air forces, warranted a more important role for India in defence of vital areas on the Imperial lines of communication in the Middle and Far East. It recommended the unconditional allocation of one Indian division as a strategic reserve for use of the Imperial Government wherever required. Based on this, the Imperial defence Council issued the 1938 Plan (Document No B-43746) which envisaged six tasks for the defence forces of India viz. defence of the Western Frontier against external aggression; defence of land frontiers other than the Western Frontier; maintenance of law and order and the suppression of  disorder and rebellion; safeguarding strategic lines of  communication within India; provision of a general reserve with mobile components; and provision of  forces for possible employment overseas at the request of the Government in  UK.

            It is pertinent to note that the primary responsibility of the Indian Army – defence of India – never changed. The employment of Indian troops overseas was covered by a formal contract between the governments of UK and India. Troops are often sent overseas in accordance with treaties, contracts or agreements between two countries. Sometimes, such help is extended even without the existence of formal treaties. Troops from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India fought for Britain in World War II in accordance with agreements and contracts between these nations. To counter the threat of the Axis powers, nations such as UK, France, Russia, China and USA made temporary alliances and fought as allies. Even after Independence, India has continued to assist other nations who have asked for military assistance in controlling internal problems. Examples are the dispatch of Indian troops to Maldives and Sri Lanka in the eighties. In recent years, troops from several nations have participated in the operations in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq. These troops cannot be termed mercenaries, since they fought in foreign lands not of their own volition but at the behest of their respective countries. The Indian soldiers who were sent abroad during the British Raj  did not volunteer for foreign service in an individual capacity; they were sent for assignments abroad by their by their employers viz. the Government of India. 

Apart from the Indian soldiers in the regular army, troops from the forces maintained by Indian princely states also formed part of the contingents sent for Imperial service during both World Wars. According to the Imperial Service Troops Scheme of 1888, specific units were earmarked for Imperial purposes and organized to Indian Army establishments. In 1914 the strength of the Imperial Service troops was 22,613. Ultimately, 20 mounted regiments and 13 battalions were offered for service during World War I. During World War II, the assistance provided by Indian princely states was significantly higher. In 1945, there were 41,463 soldiers from Indian State Forces in Indian Government service out of a total of 99,367, which was more than 40 percent of their strength. 4

The assistance provided by India to Britain during World War II was not gratis. The Modernisation Committee under Major General Claude Auchinleck set up in 1938 was followed by the Expert Committee on Defence of India under Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Alfred Chatfield in 1939. When the Second World War started, various measures recommended by these committees had just been taken in hand. To meet the cost of modernisation and increase India’s output of explosives and ammunition, the British Government made a grant of 25 million pounds and a loan of 9 million pounds. Shortly after the outbreak of the war, an agreement was signed between London and New Delhi on the sharing of cost of Indian forces utilized for imperial defence. According to the Defence Expenditure Agreement of November 1939 India was committed to contributing to the total expenditure a sum equivalent to her normal peacetime expenditure on defence plus the cost of operations undertaken in defence of purely Indian interests and a share of the measures undertaken jointly in the interests of Indian and Imperial Defence.  Everything over and above this would be met by Britain. By the time the war ended, Britain’s debt to India was more than 1,000 million pounds. 5

            Indian soldiers played an important role in Britain’s victory over her adversaries in World War I and II, during which they fought valiantly in theatres around the globe, suffering substantial casualties and earning many gallantry awards. At the same time, the struggle for independence from British rule continued unabated, spearheaded by the Indian National Congress. It is interesting to note the attitude of the political leaders to military service under the British.  During World War I, when the Viceroy appealed to Indians to come forward and enlist, his call was supported by the political leaders of the day, including Gandhi and Tilak. Following the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930 and the Quit India movement in 1942, many Indian officers with nationalistic feelings had misgivings about military service under British rule.  Nonetheless, they continued to serve for many reasons. The primary role of the Indian Army was to defend India, and service in the Army could not be termed as anti-national. Secondly, the political leaders who were then heading the freedom struggle had decided to support Britain during the War, after being assured that India would be given dominion status once it was over. Many soldiers were affected by the freedom struggle, and contemplated leaving the service to join it. However, they were invariably dissuaded by the far-sighted political leaders of the day.

            In a speech at Poona in 1916, Bal Gangadhar Tilak said:  ‘If you want Home Rule be prepared to defend your home. Had it not been for my age I would have been the first to volunteer. You cannot reasonably say that the ruling will be done by you and the fighting for you – by Europeans or Japanese, in the matter of Home Defence. Show … that you are willing to take advantage of the opportunity offered to you by the Viceroy to enlist in an Indian Citizen’s Army. When you do that, your claim for having the commissioned ranks opened to you will acquire double weight’. 6

               Second Lieutenant (later Major General) A.A. Rudra passed out from the Temporary School for Indian Cadets, also known as the Daly Cadet College, Indore on 1 December 1919, along with 38 others officers, including K.M. Cariappa, who was to become the first Indian Commander-in-Chief. Before joining the Daly Cadet College in 1918, Rudra had fought at Ypres and Somme in World War I as a member of the Universities and Public Schools Brigade. En route to join his battalion - the 28th Punjabis, then stationed near Jerusalem in Palestine – Rudra spent a month’s leave with his father, Prof. S.K. Rudra, who was then Principal of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi. At that time Mahatma Gandhi was staying as a house guest.  In fact, after returning from South Africa, Gandhi stayed in Prof. Rudra’s house for nine years, from 1915 to 1923, before moving to the Bhangi Colony. During his leave, while bicycling through Chandni Chowk, the young Rudra was horrified when he saw British troops using force to suppress the violent protests after the Jallianwala Bagh incident. He decided to resign his commission and sought Gandhi’s advice.

                That evening Rudra sought out the Mahatma, who shared his father’s study. Unburdening his doubts and dismays, Rudra asked Gandhi for his advice – whether he should or should not hold a commission in the British-Indian Army. Without giving a direct answer, Gandhi told Rudra that he was a grown up, mature man, not a child; he had fought for three years in the Great War and faced dangers and difficulties. It was for him to make up his own mind and act accordingly. Rudra replied that he had been away from India for six years and was unaware of the political changes that had taken place during his absence.  He wanted to know what would happen if there was a fight for independence, and he found himself on the wrong side.  Gandhi said: ‘How can we ever hope to rid ourselves of the British by force of arms? We are a poor, uneducated, unarmed people – we can never fight the British. But do not despair. I know my Englishman. He will deal with us honourably. When the time is ripe and if our cause is a righteous one and if our country is ready for it, he will give us pour freedom on a platter. And then, when we are a free country, we shall have to have an army.’ Indirect as it was, Rudra took it as a green light to remain in the Army. 7

               In September 1926, after passing out from Sandhurst, Second Lieutenant (later Lieutenant General) S.P.P. Thorat and a few of his colleagues were  returning from UK on the P & O liner ' Kaiser-i-Hind'.   On the same ship were two well known Indians - Lala Lajpat Rai and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. As Thorat recalls in his memoirs, both of them took a paternal interest in the newly commissioned Indian officers.  Lajpat Rai asked Thorat to correct the proofs of his latest book ' Unhappy India'.  One day Thorat asked him, ‘Sir, do you think that we have done wrong in joining the Indian Army on the strength of which the British are ruling us?’  Lalaji thought for a while and then replied, ‘No, I don't think so at all.  How long will the British continue to rule us?  One day, India shall become a free country, and them we will need trained men like you. So work hard and qualify yourself for that moment.’ 8

               In 1928, Captain (later General) K.S Thimayya's battalion, 4/19 Hyderabad, moved from Baghdad to Allahabad. Thimayya spent a few days in Bombay, enroute, where he met Sarojini Naidu, who introduced him to Jinnah. This was Thimayya's first contact with nationalist leaders, and he found the experience confusing. As an Indian, he sympathised with their cause. But as a soldier, he had sworn an oath of allegiance to the British sovereign. He was not sure if he could reconcile his position, with respect to his country, and his profession. At Allahabad, he came into close contact with the Nehrus, and was a frequent guest at Anand Bhawan, where he came to know Nehru's sisters, Vijay Lakshmi Pandit and Krishna (Betty) Hutheesingh. He also met Dr. Kailash Nath Katju and Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru. After the Civil Disobedience movement in 1930, there was a general upsurge of nationalist feeling among the people. Thimayya was deeply impressed by the winds of nationalism then blowing through the country, and the sacrifices being made by the people. On one occasion, he almost got into trouble, for throwing his peak cap in a bonfire of British goods, at the behest of Krishna Hutheesingh. One day, he and some other Indian officers, met Moti Lal Nehru and told him that they wanted to resign their commissions. The elder Nehru told them not to do so. ‘There are enough of us in the Congress, and we need more people in the Army’, he said, advising them to stick it out. He felt that the Indianisation of the Army had been achieved after lot of effort and should not be stopped. He added: ‘We’re going to win independence. Perhaps not this year or the next, but sooner or later the British will be driven out. When that happens, India will stand alone. We will have no one to protect us but ourselves. It is then that our survival will depend on men like you.’ 9

               During the Quit India movement in 1942, Mahatma Gandhi was interned at the Aga Khan Palace at Poona, under the direct care of Colonel M.G. Bhandari, of the Army Medical Corps, the father-in-law of Captain (later Lieutenant General) P.S. Bhagat, who had recently won the Victoria Cross. Accompanied by his colleague Arjan Singh, Prem Bhagat went to meet the great man, and asked him how they could help in the freedom movement. Gandhiji gave them almost the same answer that he had given Second Lieutenant Rudra more than 20 years earlier. He advised Bhagat and his friends to continue in their chosen profession. He said that once the country became free, it would require the services of dedicated professional soldiers. 10
            Along with Mahatma Gandhi, almost all prominent Congress leaders were imprisoned during the Quit India movement in 1942. This caused resentment in the great majority of Indian soldiers and officers, many of them being imbued with nationalistic feelings for the first time. One such officer was Second Lieutenant Dadachanji, who was posted in the training battalion of the 15th Punjabis, located in Ambala. He was a Parsee, who had been studying in England when war broke out, and volunteered for enlistment. After the political disturbances in the wake of the Cripps Mission, the battalion was put on alert and ordered to have one company on permanent standby for internal security duties.  When Dadachanji was detailed to command a flying column, he refused. He was promptly put under arrest by his company commander for treason, and subsequently marched up before the commanding officer, Major A.A. Rudra. When asked the reasons for his refusal to do duty, Dadachanji stated firmly and indignantly that he had joined the Army voluntarily to fight Germans, not to shoot down his own countrymen; he was not going to take part in any internal security duty that might involve shooting Indians. Rudra was impressed by his moral courage; he ruled out the charge of treason and released Dadchanji from arrest. The case was forwarded to the brigade commander, who also took a liberal view of the case. By the time the matter reached District Headquarters at Lahore, large scale violence had erupted in the wake of the Quit India movement. The authorities decided to hush up the matter and advised him to resign. Dadachanji agreed, albeit reluctantly. 11
            Among the political leaders of that period, the only one who advocated violence as a means of achieving freedom was Subhas Chandra Bose. However, according to Commodore B.K. Dang, his views were similar to those of others as far as military service under the British was concerned. Dang had done his training as a marine engineer on the training ship Dufferin before the outbreak of World War II.  When the war started he volunteered and was accepted in the Royal Indian Navy. He was sent to Calcutta for an engineering course and was staying with a friend who was a socialist. When they came to know that Subhas Bose was living nearby under house arrest, Dang and his colleagues expressed a desire to meet him. Bose came to the house just behind the one where they were staying to meet Dang and his friends. One of them was C.G.K. Reddy, who later joined the Deccan Herald, becoming a close associate of George Fernandes and subsequently a member of the Rajya Sabha.  When Dang and his friends told Bose that they wanted to join the freedom movement, he advised them to stick on in the Navy and get trained so that when the British left they could take over from the British.

Although the struggle for freedom had been going on for almost half a century, the Indian armed forces remained virtually untouched until the out break of World War II, when a large number of Indians were granted emergency commissions. Though Indians had been given commissions earlier, their number was small. Moreover, most of them came from feudal or military families, which were largely unaffected by political events.  On the other hand, the majority of Emergency Commissioned Officers came from rural or urban middle class backgrounds, which were the most active constituents of the freedom movement. Due to their upbringing, lack of training and political leanings, the Emergency Commissioned Officers were not treated as equals by British officers. This discriminatory attitude was largely responsible for the growth of disaffection and nationalistic fervour among Indian officers during World War II. Another reason that caused frustration among Indian officers was the perceived delay in the process of Indianisation, which seemed to progressing at a very slow pace, mainly due to opposition by British officers.
It may appear strange, but many people connected with the freedom movement did not hesitate to send their sons to serve in the Army. One such person was Dr Christopher Barretto, a leading dental surgeon of Nagpur, who was frequently summoned to Wardha to treat Mahatma Gandhi. His son, Terence Barretto, joined the Army and was commissioned in the Indian Signal Corps in 1940, retiring as a brigadier in 1965. Terence recalls that Mahatma Gandhi often referred patients to his father, requesting him not to charge them for his services, as  they were are ‘members of his growing family of national beggars’. Among the ‘national beggars’ treated by Dr Barretto were Mahadev Desai, the Mahatma’s secretary, and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi. Terence Barretto was himself a die-hard nationalist, who was constantly in trouble for his anti-British views, being once put on ‘adverse report’ by his commanding officer in Burma. He had frequent tiffs with British officers on minor issues such as playing Indian music or eating Indian food in the mess. He recalls that Indian officers keenly followed the activities of leaders of the freedom movement and discussed among themselves the future of the country. He still has in his possession the copy of the Amrita Bazar Patrika of 26 January 1947, which he purchased in Chittagong, containing a full page (in colour) of the Congress flag, with the Indian Independence Pledge in bold print. On the reverse of the page is ‘Sixty Years of Congress’ by Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya. Barretto and his colleagues hung the flag in their room behind a curtain.
               The most well known nationalist soldier was Lieutenant General Thakur Nathu Singh, a Sandhurst trained King’s Commissioned Indian Officer who had been christened ‘Fauji Gandhi’ by his colleagues. Even as as a young officer, Nathu Singh openly expressed his anti- British feelings, for which he was often in trouble. When he was a major he was asked to suppress an agitation during the Quit India movement in 1942. Nathu Singh objected, saying that it was not fair to ask him to shoot at his own countrymen, who were only asking for their freedom. He requested the Commanding Officer to give the job to some other officer, but this was refused, and he was told that if he disobeyed orders he would be court martialled. Nathu Singh refused to carry out the orders, and the matter was reported to the District Commander, Major General Bruce Scott. When he was marched up to General Scott, Nathu Singh defended his action, as a 'conscientious objector', quoting the example of similar cases in Ireland. To his good luck, Scott turned out to be an Irishman. He appreciated the stand taken by Nathu Singh, and let him off.

            Nathu Singh was of the view that the slow process of Indianisation and the discriminatory treatment of Indian officers were largely responsible for the birth of the Indian National Army (INA). He had grave doubts whether the British were serious about Indianisation, or it was merely 'window dressing,' to impress the public and the outside World. Despite the fact that two and a half million Indians had fought in two wars, they had not been able to produce a single General. Important appointments dealing with operations were denied to them, and just a handful were given command of units. Drawing a parallel with the Soviet Union, which took shape at about the same time as Indianisation began in India, the disparities were obvious. However, his most scathing comments were reserved for the unfair treatment meted out to Indians, which he covered at length in a strongly worded letter to the Commander-in-Chief, General Auchinleck, on 17 December 1945, soon after the commencement of the INA trials in the Red Fort in Delhi. Nathu Singh, who was then a lieutenant colonel, wrote:

The formation of the INA was not alone the work of its leaders like Bose, or of the Jap Opportunist. The creation and growth of the INA was a direct result of the continuous unjust treatment of Indian officers in the Army. It is the natural heritage of years of dissatisfaction, disappointment and disgust of various elements in the Indian Army. The present members of the INA are to be blamed for their conduct, but equally to blame is the Imperialist Anti-Indian British element in the army who by their talk and action daily estranged the otherwise loyal mind of the Indian, and last but not the least to blame are the British reverses in the Far East, which left the Indian soldier to their fate. 12

            The growth of nationalism in the armed forces was inevitable, given the sentiments of the general public. To their credit, senior British officers recognized it as a natural consequence of the mood sweeping the country, which touched all sections of society. Writing to Army Commanders after the first INA trials, General Auchinleck wrote: ‘In this connection, it should be remembered, I think, that every Indian worthy of the name is today a “Nationalist”, though this does not mean that he is necessarily “anti British”. All the same, where India and her independence is concerned there are no pro-British Indians. Every Indian commissioned officer is a Nationalist and rightfully so, provided he hopes to attain independence for India by constitutional means.’ 13 

            The discontent among Indian officers was noticeable not only in the combat arms, but also in the supporting arms and services.  In April 1946, Major General C.H.H. Vulliamy, the Signal Officer-in-Chief addressed a letter to all commanding officers. He wrote: ‘Very few ICOs have applied for regular commission. I believe that the main reason for this poor response is that a large majority of the ICOs in the Corps are discontented because they feel that they have been given a raw deal during the war and that this feeling has been engendered mainly due to two causes: discrimination shown by certain COs against ICOs and unsympathetic attitude towards ICOs.’ In another letter addressed to the Chief Signal Officers of Commands, General Vulliamy wrote: ‘It appears to me that there is a certain amount of hesitation lower down the chain of command in implementing freely and fully the policy of Indianisation. This lack of trust in ICOs must stop. Either an ICO is fit to be an officer or he is not.’14

The military hierarchy was aware of the discontent and alienation of Indian officers. These issues, coupled with the growing aspirations for independence, became a source of concern. They tried to take remedial measures, but it was too late. By the time World War II ended, Indian officers had become true nationalists. This was one of the most important factors in the British decision to grant complete independence to India, and also to advance the date from June 1948 to August 1947.


This chapter is largely based on Sir Penderel Moon’s The British Conquest and Dominion of India, (London, Duckworth, 1989); F.W Perry’s The Commonwealth Armies – Manpower and Reorganization in Two World Wars, (Manchester, 1988); and Bisheshwar Prasad’s Official History of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War 1939-45 – India and the War, (New Delhi, 1966). Specific references are given below:-

1.         Lt. Gen S.L. Menezes, Fidelity & Honour, (New Delhi, 1993), p. 10, quoting M. Moir, A General Guide to the India Office Records,(London, 1988), p. 3

2.         Menezes, p. 187

3.         Bisheshwar Prasad, (ed.), Official History of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second           World War 1939-45 – India and the War, (New Delhi, 1966), p.35

4.                  F.W Perry, The Commonwealth Armies – Manpower and Reorganization in Two    World Wars, (Manchester, 1988), p. 87, 117.

5.         Sir Penderel Moon, The British Conquest and Dominion of India, (London, Duckworth,    1989), pp. 1093-4

6.         Stephen C. Cohen, The Indian Army, (Delhi, 1990), p. 92, quoting Bal Gangadhar Tilak   – His Writings and Speeches,  p.365

7.         Maj Gen D.K. Palit, Major General A.A Rudra – His Service in Three Armies and Two      World wars, (New Delhi, 1997), p. 71-2

8.         Lt Gen S.P.P. Thorat, From Reveille to Retreat, (New Delhi, 1986), p. 8.

9.         Humphrey Evans, Thimayya of India, (Dehradun, 1988), p.123.

10.       Lt Gen. Mathew Thomas and Jasjit Mansingh, Lt. Gen. P.S. Bhagat, VC, (New     Delhi, 1994), p.102.

11.       Palit, pp. 252-4

12.       Maj. Gen. V.K.  Singh, Leadership in the Indian Army – Biographies of Twelve      Soldiers, (New Delhi, 2005), p.64.

13.       Maj. Gen. Ian Cardozo (ed.), The Indian Army - A Brief History, (New Delhi, 2005)          p. 54

14.       Maj. Gen. V.K. Singh, History of the Corps of Signals, Volume II, (New Delhi,       2006),  p.296

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