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Indian Army during World War II - Indian Army during World War II

For Indians fighting Nazi Germany, see Indian Legion.

The British Indian Army began during World War II the war in 1939 with almost 200,000 men. By the end of the war it was the largest volunteer army in history and rose to over 2.5 million men in August 1945. They served in divisions of infantry, armaments and a young air force and fought on three continents in Africa, Europe and Europe Asia.

The British-Indian army fought against the Italian army in Ethiopia, against both the Italian and German armies in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria and, after the Italian surrender, against the German army in Italy. Most of the British-Indian army, however, was committed to fighting the Japanese army, initially during the British defeats in Malaya and the retreat from Burma to the Indian border. later, having rested and equipped for the victorious advance into Burma, as part of the largest British Empire army ever formed. These campaigns killed over 87,000 Indian soldiers, an additional 34,354 were wounded and 67,340 became prisoners of war. Their bravery has been recognized with around 4,000 awards, and 18 members of the British-Indian Army have been awarded the Victoria Cross or the George Cross. Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief of the British-Indian Army in 1942, claimed that the British "would not have survived both wars (World War I and World War II) if they hadn't had an Anglo-Indian Army". British Prime Minister Winston Churchill also paid tribute to "the unsurpassed bravery of Indian soldiers and officers".

background

In 1939, the British-Indian Army was an experienced force that had fought in the Third Afghan War, two major campaigns in Waziristan in 1919–1920 and 1936–1939, and in several smaller disputes on the northwestern border since World War I. There was no shortage of manpower, but the army suffered from a shortage of qualified technical personnel. The conversion of the cavalry force into a mechanized armored force had only just begun and was hampered by the inability to supply sufficient numbers of tanks and armored vehicles.

In 1939, British officials had no plan for the expansion and training of the Indian armed forces, which numbered about 130,000 (an additional 44,000 men were in British units in India in 1939). Their mission was internal security and defense against a possible Russian threat from Afghanistan. As the war progressed, the size and role of the Indian army increased dramatically, and troops were sent to the fronts as quickly as possible. The most serious problem was the lack of equipment.

organization

The British-Indian Army of 1939 was different from the British-Indian Army during World War I. It had been reformed in 1922 and changed from single battalion regiments to multi-battalion regiments. In total, the army was reduced to 21 cavalry regiments and 107 infantry battalions. The Army field now consisted of four infantry divisions and five cavalry brigades. There was a cover force of 12 infantry brigades to protect the north-western border from raids, and a third of the infantry, 43 battalions, was used for internal security and in support of the civil power. In the 1930s the British Indian Army began a modernization program - they now had their own artillery - the Indian Artillery Regiment - and the cavalry had started to mechanize. By 1936, the Indian army had committed itself to deliver one brigade each for Singapore, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, Burma and two for Egypt in times of war. By 1939, further reductions had reduced the British-Indian Army to 18 cavalry regiments and 96 infantry battalions, a total of 194,373 men, including 34,155 non-combatants. You could also call 15,000 men from the Frontier Irregular Force, 22,000 men from the Auxiliary Force (India) consisting of European and Anglo-Indian volunteers, 19,000 from the Indian Territorial Force, and 53,000 from the Indian State Forces.

There were twenty-two regular cavalry regiments supplying armored and armored wagon units. (Seven more were set up during the war.) There were twenty regular Indian regiments of infantry (including Burma rifles) and ten Gurkha regiments. Before the war, all Indian regiments had at least two battalions and most had more. The Gurkha regiments each had two battalions. During the war, the Gurkha regiments each raised two more battalions, while the Indian regiments each raised up to fifteen. Two more regiments (the Assam Regiment and the Burma Regiment) were created during the war.

The British-Indian Army began World War II under-prepared and without modern weapons and equipment. It did not expect to be involved in hostilities and, after the outbreak of war in Europe, had been advised by the British government that it was unlikely that it would be necessary at all. So it was with some surprise when the 4th Infantry and 5th Infantry Divisions were asked to take part in the North African and East African campaigns and four mule companies to join the British Expeditionary Force in France.

1940

In May 1940, an agreement was reached between the British and Indian governments to form another five infantry and one armored divisions, which became the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th Infantry and the 31st Indian Armored Division . These new divisions were to be used mainly to defend Malaya (9th Division) and Iraq (6th, 8th and 10th Infantry Divisions). The 3rd Indian Motor Brigade of the Armored Division was to go to Egypt; The formation of the rest of the armored division was put on hold due to the lack of armored vehicles.

1941

In March 1941, the Indian government revised the defense plan for India. Given the plans of the Japanese and the demand to replace the divisions sent overseas, seven new tank regiments and 50 new infantry battalions were required for five new infantry divisions: the 14th, 17th, 19th, 20th, 34th and the two tank formations 32nd Indian Armored Division and 50th Indian Armored Brigade.

1942

With the fall of Singapore in 1942, approximately 40,000 Indian soldiers were captured. The choice was yours; 30,000 joined the Indian national army. Those who refused became prisoners of war and were mostly shipped to New Guinea.

With the previously formed divisions, most of which were deployed overseas in 1942, the army formed another four infantry divisions (23rd, 25th, 28th, 36th) and the 43rd Indian armored division. However, the events of 1942 and the Japanese conquests meant that the 28th Division was not formed and the units intended for it were deployed elsewhere. The 36th Division was uniquely established as a formation of the British-Indian Army, but was formed from British brigades that had reached India from the Madagascar campaign and from Great Britain. The last division formed in 1942 was the 26th Indian Infantry Division, hastily made up of the various units in training or stationed near Calcutta.

After the supposedly poor performance in battles in Malaya and Burma in 1942, it was decided that the existing infantry divisions were over-mechanized. To counter this, the 17th and 39th Divisions were selected as light divisions of only two brigades, which would rely more on animal transport and all-wheel drive.

By December 1942, an agreement was reached that India should become the base for offensive operations. 34 divisions were to be supported, including two British, one West African, one East African and eleven Indian divisions, as well as the remnants of the Burmese army.

1943

Plans for 1943 included the formation of another infantry division, an airborne division, and a heavy tank brigade. Only the 44th Indian Armored Division was formed by amalgamating the 32nd and 43rd Armored Divisions. There was a change in the establishment of infantry divisions, which received two additional infantry battalions as division troops.

In 1943 a committee was set up to report on the army's readiness and suggest improvements. His recommendations were:

  1. The infantry should have initial claims against cadet officers and trained recruits, the quality of the officers and non-commissioned officers should be improved and the pay increased.
  2. The basic training should be increased to nine months, followed by a two-month special jungle training.
  3. The reinforcement system should be improved and the designs should include experienced non-commissioned officers
  4. Infantry brigades should include a British, an Indian and a Gurkha battalion.

In order to support the jungle training of the infantry from July 1943, the 14th and 39th divisions were converted into training divisions. The 116th Indian Infantry Brigade, part of the 39th Division, offered the special jungle conversion training. An infantry battalion spent four to six months with the brigade before being sent to the front lines to replace a tired battalion in one of the fighting divisions. The brigades and units of the 14th Division offered jungle training for reinforcement designs for the Indian battalions already serving on the Burmese front.

1944

The planned 44th Indian Airborne Division was eventually formed from the 44th Armored Division, so that the 31st Armored Division was the only armored division in the army. The formation of the infantry division was changed again; It was now standardized as three infantry brigades plus three infantry battalions that were used as division troops.

The 116th Brigade's success in training for jungle warfare was recognized. From May 1944 the 116th Brigade formed units for the 14th Army and the 150th Brigade, which was converted by the Risalpur Training Brigade, units for the Southern Army. The 155th Indian Infantry Brigade was established to train units for the western theaters of war.

Infantry divisions

Infantry divisions consisted of three infantry brigades and three infantry battalions. Usually one battalion in each brigade consisted of British and two of Indians or Gurkha. Four brigades were set up, consisting entirely of Gurkha battalions. Later in the war, as British infantry reinforcements, particularly in the Southeast Asian theater, became scarcer, British battalions in brigades fighting in Burma were replaced by Indian units.

In a division with a standard Mechanical Transport (MT) facility, the division units were a reconnaissance unit provided by a mechanized cavalry regiment and a heavy machine gun battalion armed with thirty-six Vickers machine guns. (Each Indian infantry regiment set up a machine gun battalion in addition to its infantry battalions.) The divisional artillery consisted of three field artillery regiments, each with twenty-four 25-pounder cannons, one anti-tank regiment with forty-eight anti-tank cannons, and one light anti-aircraft regiment with up to fifty-four light anti-aircraft guns. There were three engineering field companies and one engineering field park company, as well as signaling, medical and transportation units.

Depending on the role, there were differences in the infantry formation. The light divisions formed in 1942 (14th, 17th and 39th) had only two brigades and there was a lack of heavy equipment. The transport was provided by six mule and four jeep companies. This type of division was later dropped. The animal and mechanized transport departments (A & MT) (7th, 20th and 23rd and later 5th) had, as the name suggests, a mixture of animal and vehicle transport. In particular, one of the vehicle-drawn field artillery regiments was replaced by a mountain artillery regiment with twelve 3.7-inch howitzers carried on mules. The anti-tank and light anti-aircraft regiments were replaced by a single regiment, each with two batteries of anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns. The division's reconnaissance unit was replaced by a lightly equipped infantry battalion. Another standard infantry battalion was provided by the HQ defense unit.

On May 27, 1944, General George Giffard (the commander of the 11th Army Group) ordered that all Indian divisions fighting in Burma should take over the A&MT establishment. At the end of the year, however, Lieutenant General William Slim (commander of the 14th Army) converted two divisions (the 5th and 17th) into a mixed facility of two motorized brigades and one airport-ready brigade, in anticipation of mechanized operations in the comparatively open terrain of central Burma. In April 1945, the 20th Division was also converted into a partially motorized facility by acquiring the vehicles from a British division whose personnel were withdrawn from Burma.

Armored divisions

In the plans for 1940, 1941 and 1942 a tank division was to be formed. However, the Indian tank formations suffered from a lack of equipment. The tank shortage in 1940 was reflected in the organization of the 31st Panzer Division, which initially had one tank and two engine brigades. At the end of 1940 this was changed into two tank and one engine brigade. When the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade was sent to Egypt, the British armored division organization consisting of two armored brigades and one support group was dismissed.

In June 1942 the division was established as a tank and an infantry brigade. The surplus tank brigades (50th, 254th, 255th and 267th) became independent brigades and served in the Burma campaign. In March 1943, the shortage of technical personnel forced a further check of the armored power and the 32nd and 43rd Armored Divisions were merged to form the 44th Indian Armored Division. In March 1944, another review reduced the armored force to one division (the 31st Armored Division in the Middle East) and three armored brigades (the 50th, 254th, and 255th) serving in Burma.

Airborne troops

The 50th Independent Indian Parachute Brigade was formed on October 29, 1941 with the British 151st Parachute Battalion, the 152nd Indian Parachute Battalion and the 153rd Gurkha Parachute Battalion, a medium-sized machine gun company and a medium-sized mortar division. The 151st Battalion was later renamed the 156th Battalion and returned to Britain. Another Gurkha Battalion (154th) was formed but had not joined the brigade when it was heavily involved in the Battle of Sangshak in March 1944.

The headquarters of the 44th Indian Armored Division was converted into the 9th Indian Airborne Division in April 1944, which was renamed the 44th Airborne Division a few weeks later. After a delay caused by the Japanese invasion of India, the division resumed its formation in July. It absorbed the 50th Parachute Brigade and later two brigades of the disbanding Chindit Force. The division now consisted of the 50th, 77th Parachute Brigade and the 14th Airborne Brigade, two field artillery regiments, two anti-aircraft regiments and a joint anti-aircraft and anti-aircraft regiment tank regiment.

artillery

The royal artillery still provided some of the artillery required for formations of the Indian Army, but the Indian Artillery Regiment had been established in 1935 and originally consisted of four horse-drawn batteries. The regiment was expanded during the war and by 1945 had formed 10 field artillery regiments, 13 mountain artillery regiments and 10 anti-tank artillery regiments. Three anti-aircraft brigades were formed from the four heavy anti-aircraft artillery regiments and five light anti-aircraft artillery regiments. In 1945 he was given the title for regimental service during the war Royal Indian Artillery awarded.

Engineers

The Indian engineers were part of every division of the army. The engineering corps began the war with two army troops, 11 field companies and a field park company. Expansion during the war added the total number of engineers; five army troop companies, 67 field companies, six independent field squadrons, 20 field park companies and two independent field park squadrons.

Women's Relief Corps (India)

WAC (I) naval wing officers

The Women's Auxiliary Corps (India) was founded in May 1942. The recruits had to be at least 18 years old and their duties were office workers or domestic workers. In December 1942 the minimum age was lowered to 17 years and by the end of the war 11,500 women had registered. Volunteers can enroll on local or general terms of service. Those in general service could be deployed anywhere in India. Compared to over two million men, the corps of 11,500 women was small, but caste and communal inhibitions always hindered recruitment. At the time, Indian women did not mingle with men, either socially or professionally, and a large portion of the corps was comprised of the Anglo-Indian mixed race community. The WAC (I) had an autonomous air wing, which served as the Indian counterpart to the WAAF: The women operated control panels and similar tasks on airfields and in the headquarters (AHQ). There was also a naval wing at the beginning of the war, but with the very localized environment of the naval base and the very strong ethos of British and Indian military service, this department was officially spun off in 1944: the Royal Indian Naval Service (WRINS) for women, with its own Uniform, similar to WRNS.

Indian Armed Forces (ISF)

The armies of the Indian states or princely states made another 250,000 men available during the war. They contributed five cavalry regiments and 36 infantry battalions, and between them were 16 infantry battalions, as well as signaling, transportation, and pioneering companies in active service. One of her men, Captain Mahmood Khan Durrani, was awarded the George Cross while in Japanese captivity.

Chindits

The chindits (named after a mythical animal whose statues guarded Burmese temples) were the brainchild of Brigadier Orde Wingate, who intended that far-reaching penetration attacks from behind enemy lines would become the main effort against the Japanese in Burma. In 1943 he boarded the operation Longcloth of the 77th Indian Infantry Brigade. In 1944 they conducted a much larger operation that disbanded the British 70th Infantry Division. The three brigades were called along with three other brigades Special unit summarized and designated as the 3rd Indian Infantry Division for cover purposes. In practice, the Indian Army's Special Force battalions all came from the discreet regiments of Gurkha rifles. Chindits were, in fact, ordinary infantry units that were randomly selected for the mission based on their availability. There was no command, air or other selection process, although less fit personnel were "singled out" during training.

The Chindits were disbanded in February 1945. Several of the brigade headquarters and many of the veterans of the chindit operations were reformed and merged into the 44th Airborne Division, while the headquarters of the armed forces and signaling units formed the core of the XXXIV. Indian corps formed.

Armies

The Indian Army provided formations for the following armies of the British Empire and the Commonwealth:

Eighth

The 8th Army was formed in September 1941 under the command of Lieutenant General Sir Alan Cunningham of the Western Desert Force. In time, the 8th Army would be commanded by Generals Neil Ritchie, Claude Auchinleck, and Bernard Montgomery. In the early years of the war, the 8th Army suffered poor leadership and repeated reversals of fortune until the Second Battle of El Alamein as it advanced into Tunisia via Libya.

Ninth

The 9th Army was formed on November 1, 1941 with the renaming of the headquarters of British forces in the Palestine and Transjordan mandate. It controlled British and Commonwealth land forces stationed in the eastern Mediterranean. Their commanders were General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson and Lieutenant General Sir William George Holmes.

tenth

The 10th Army was formed in Iraq and from most of Paiforce after the Anglo-Iraqi War. It was active in 1942-1943 under the command of Lieutenant General Sir Edward Quinan and consisted of the III. Corps and the XXI. Indian Corps. Their main role was to maintain the lines of communication with the Soviet Union from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea and to protect the South Persian and Iraqi oil fields, which supplied Britain with all of its non-American oil.

twelfth

The Twelfth Army was reformed in May 1945 to take control of operations in Burma from the Fourteenth Army. The headquarters of the army was created by the headquarters of XXXIII. Indian Corps has been renamed under Lieutenant General Sir Montagu Stopford.

Fourteenth

The Fourteenth Army was a multinational force made up of units from Commonwealth countries. Many of their units came from the Indian Army as well as British units, and there were also significant contributions from the 81st, 82nd and 11th African Divisions. It has often been referred to as the "forgotten army" because its ongoing operations in the Burma campaign were largely overlooked by the contemporary press as the war in Europe ended and even after the victory in Europe (VE) when the people did took the view that the war was over everywhere. It remained darker than that of the corresponding formations in Europe long after the war. The Fourteenth Army was formed in 1943 under the command of Lieutenant General William Slim and was the largest Commonwealth Army during the war, with nearly one million men by the end of 1944. At various times the army was assigned four corps: IV Corps, XV. Indian Corps, XXXIII. Indian Corps and XXXIV. Indian corps.

east

The Eastern Army was formed in 1942 from the Eastern Command. It served as the rear area command for the Twelfth and Fourteenth Armies: units that were rested or reformed were posted to this command, as were newly formed or newly deployed units prepared for active service. It provided the training bases and depots, the equipment stores and the communication lines (LOC) to the headquarters. In addition, it offered the armed forces on the front lines protection from violence and dampened them from domestic unrest and enemy attacks from behind. The commanders in chief included Broad, Irwin, and Giffard.

south

The Southern Army was formed from the Southern Command in 1942 and disbanded in August 1945. Mostly a British formation that was used for internal security and for units outside the front. The 19th Indian Infantry Division was one of its units from 1942 to 1944.

Northwest

The Northwest Army was formed from the Northwest Command in April 1942 to guard the northwest border that controlled the districts of Kohat, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Balochistan, and Waziristan.

Middle East and Africa

North africa

Shortly before the declaration of war, an Indian infantry brigade was dispatched to reinforce the British garrison in Egypt. A second brigade was deployed in October 1939; They were grouped together as the 4th Indian Infantry Division. By March 1940, two more brigades and a divisional headquarters had been sent to Egypt; These became the 5th Indian Infantry Division.

Operation Compass (4th Indian and 7th Armored Divisions) was the first major Allied military operation of the West Desert Campaign during World War II. This resulted in British and Commonwealth forces crossing much of Libya, capturing almost all of Cyrenaica, 115,000 Italian soldiers, hundreds of tanks and artillery pieces, and more than 1,100 aircraft with very few casualties of their own.

The Allied success against the Italians forced the Germans to strengthen North Africa. The Africa Corps commanded by Erwin Rommel attacked in March 1941. The 3rd Indian Motor Brigade waged a delayed battle in Meikili on April 6, which enabled the 9th Australian Division to withdraw safely to Tobruk.

Operation Battleaxe (4th Indian and 7th armored) in June 1941 had the goal of liberating eastern Cyrenaica from German and Italian forces. One of the main benefits would be the lifting of the siege of Tobruk. The operation failed to lose more than half of its tanks on the first day and only won one in three thrusts. On the second day, they achieved mixed results, were pushed back on their western flank, but held off a significant German counterattack in their midst. On the third day, the British were only just able to avoid a catastrophe by successfully withdrawing just before a German perimeter movement that would have cut them off.

Operation Crusader (4th Indian, 7th Armored, 1st South African, 2nd New Zealand and 70th British Divisions) between November 18 and December 30, 1941. The original plan was to destroy the Axis armored force before their infantry was advanced. 7th tanks were badly defeated by the Africa Corps in Sidi Rezegh. Rommel's later advance of his armored divisions to the Axis fortress positions on the Egyptian border could not find the main body of the Allied infantry that had bypassed the fortresses and directed them to Tobruk, so Rommel had to withdraw his armored units to support the fighting in Tobruk. Despite some tactical successes in Tobruk, the need to preserve his remaining forces caused Rommel to withdraw his army into the Gazala Defense Line west of Tobruk and then as far as El Agheila.

The 4th Division left the desert in April 1942 for Cyprus and Syria. By May 1942, their 11th Brigade had returned south of Tobruk in connection with the 5th Indian fighting. Her 5th Brigade returned in June 1942 and fought in Mersa Matruh. The Indian 10th Infantry Division arrived from Syria in time to take part in the Battle of Gazala from May to June 1942 and then held the Axis Powers in the first Battle of El Alamein for 72 hours to allow the 8th Army to withdraw safely. Headquarters 4th Division returned for the Second Battle of El Alamein, keeping Ruweisat Ridge in the middle of the 8th Army's line. They made a mock attack and two small raids to draw attention to the center of the front.

Operation Pugilist (4th Indian, 2nd New Zealand and 50th North Umbrian Divisions) was an operation in the Tunisian campaign. The aim was to destroy the Axis powers in the Mareth line and to conquer Sfax. The pugilist himself was undecided and failed to make a decisive breakthrough. However, an alternative route of attack was determined and thus the foundation stone was laid for Supercharge II, a flanking maneuver over the Tebaga Gap.

East Africa

The Italian conquest of British Somaliland began on August 3, 1940, the 3rd and 15th centuries. Punjab Regiment belonged to the existing armed forces and was on August 7th from Aden by the 1./2. Punjab regiment quickly reinforced. After the Battle of Tug Argan, the British troops had to withdraw. Punjab was part of the rearguard. By August 19, the British and Indian battalions had been evacuated to Aden. British land losses were 38 dead, 102 wounded and 120 missing, compared with Italian casualties of 465 dead, 1,530 wounded and 34 missing.

In December 1940, the 4th Indian Infantry Division was transferred from Egypt to the 5th Indian Infantry Division in Sudan. From February to April 1941, India's 4th and 5th Infantry Divisions took part in the Battle of Keren. By the end of the campaign, the Italian forces had been evacuated from Eritrea and Abyssinia, of which 220,000 were prisoners of war.

Iraq and Persia

In 1941 the armed forces had to take part in the Anglo-Iraqi war to secure the overland supply route to the Soviet Union. In April the 8th Indian Infantry Division landed in Basra and marched on Baghdad to secure Iraq for the Allied cause from the pro-German Rashid Ali. Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, endangered the Persian oil fields by the advancing German army. In August 1941, the 8th and 10th Indian Infantry Divisions invaded southern Persia to secure the oil facilities.

The 8th and 10th Indian Infantry Divisions, the 2nd Indian Tank Brigade and the British 4th Cavalry Brigade were all involved in the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran (August - September 1941), which was carried out quickly and with ease. From the south, two battalions of the 24th Indian Division of the 8th Division, which made an amphibious crossing of the Shatt al-Arab, captured the oil plants in Abadan. The 8th Division then advanced from Basra to Qasr Shiekh and had reached Ahvaz on August 28 when the Shah ordered the hostilities to cease. Further north, eight battalions of British and Indian troops under Major General William Slim advanced from Khanaqin into the Naft-i-Shah oil field and on towards Pai Tak Pass, which led towards Kermanshah and Hamadan. Pai Tak's position was taken on August 27 after defenders withdrew that night. The planned attack on Kermanshah on August 29 was abandoned after defenders called for a ceasefire to negotiate terms of surrender.

After the end of the hostilities, the 2nd Indian Infantry Division, the 6th Indian Infantry Division and the 12th Indian Infantry Division remained in the region due to internal security tasks.