Sepoy Letters (India)

Indian soldiers were sent to Europe in 1914, and some of them were to serve there until 1918. Throughout their stay in Europe, Indian soldiers wrote and received letters. Translated excerpts from their correspondence – mainly to and from their families – have copiously survived in transcripts preserved in British censors’ reports. These letters offer evidence for the morale and concerns of India’s warrior-peasantry, and reveal much about their reactions to wartime life in Britain and France. The letters demonstrate that their encounter with Europe encouraged them to reflect, sometimes critically, on life in India.

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Soldiers of Empire Dissertation

A dissertation presented
by
Andrew Tait Jarboe

In late 1914, the British Empire deployed Indian soldiers (called sepoys) to
Europe in a desperate bid to halt the advancing German army and thereby save the
Empire. Although a variety of studies have explored the subject of Indian soldiers in
Europe, few venture beyond their military contributions to the situation on the Western
Front. In contrast, I devote considerable attention to the more ―intimate frontiers‖ of the
British and German Empires, especially British hospitals for wounded sepoys and
German prison camps where captured sepoys were detained. Comparison of the policy
and practice of British and German military authorities, vis-à-vis Indian soldiers, is
therefore one contribution of this work. I argue that tactical, military considerations and
imperial concerns – namely, protecting racial hierarchies and the loyalty of Indian troops
– shaped the experiences of sepoys in Europe.

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Britain Didn’t Fight The Second World War

The British Empire Did

In 1929, when Edwin Lutyens handed over the newly completed building site of New Delhi to the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, many believed he had created a capital for a British empire in India that would last if not 1,000, then at least 100 years. It was, as Lord Stamfordham wrote, ‘a symbol of the might and permanence of the British empire’ that had been commissioned specifically so that ‘the Indian will see for the first time the power of western civilisation’.

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Why The Indian Soldiers of WW1 Were Forgotten

Approximately 1.3 million Indian soldiers served in World War One, and over 74,000 of them lost their lives. But history has mostly forgotten these sacrifices, which were rewarded with broken promises of Indian independence from the British government, writes Shashi Tharoor.

Exactly 100 years after the “guns of August” boomed across the European continent, the world has been extensively commemorating that seminal event. The Great War, as it was called then, was described at the time as “the war to end all wars”. Ironically, the eruption of an even more destructive conflict 20 years after the end of this one meant that it is now known as the First World War. Those who fought and died in the First World War would have had little idea that there would so soon be a Second.

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The Army History Forgot

When Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945, Philip Malins, an officer in the Indian army, was still fighting the Japanese. “We were still getting killed and prisoners of war were still dying,” he told me in a voice choking with anger. “So when people, including the Government, want more or less to suggest the war was finished before 15 August, we will not have that. We will not have that.”

When Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945, Philip Malins, an officer in the Indian army, was still fighting the Japanese. “We were still getting killed and prisoners of war were still dying,” he told me in a voice choking with anger. “So when people, including the Government, want more or less to suggest the war was finished before 15 August, we will not have that. We will not have that.”

But then Field Marshal Viscount Slim’s 14th Army, which turned the tide against the Japanese army in Burma, called themselves the Forgotten Army, so perhaps it’s not surprising that most of us appear to have forgotten them and the war in the East they fought.

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