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Global War, Global Catastrophe presents a history of the First World War as an all-consuming industrial war that forcibl
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This book is a catalogue of most of the uniforms worn by the countries participating in the First World War, between 191
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INDIAN SOLDIERS IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR
This book explores the lives and social histories of Indian soldiers who fought in the First World War. It focuses on their motivations, experiences, and lives after returning from service in Europe, Mesopotamia, East Africa, and Palestine to present a more complete picture of Indian participation in the war. The book looks at the Indian support to the war for political concessions from the British government and its repercussions through the perspective of the role played by more than 1 million Indian soldiers and labourers. It examines the social and cultural aspects of the experience of fighting on foreign soil in a deadly battle and their contributions which remain largely unrecognized. From micro-histories of fighting soldiers, aspects of recruitment and deployment, to macro-histories connecting different aspects of the war, the volume explores a variety of themes including the material incentives, coercion, and training which converted peasants into combatants; encounters of travelling Indian soldiers with other societies; and the contributions of returned soldiers in Indian society. The book will be useful to researchers and students of history, postcolonial studies, sociology, literature, and cultural studies, as well as for those interested in military history, World War I, and colonial history. Ashutosh Kumar is a historian of ‘Global South’ and Director of Centre for Alternative Studies in Social Sciences (CASSS), New Delhi. He has been a fellow at various prestigious institutions of the world, including Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi; the University of Leeds, United Kingdom; the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), New Delhi; the Centre for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale University; and Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla. He has authored many books and has published articles in international peer-reviewed journals, including Coolies of the Empire: Indentured Indians in the Sugar Colonies, 1830–1920, 2017. Claude Markovits is Senior Research Fellow Emeritus at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris. A historian of modern India, with particular interest in the economic and social history of the colonial era, he has authored many books and articles in English and in French. Amongst his English publications are Indian Business and Nationalist Politics 1931–39: The Indigenous Capitalist Class and the Rise of the Congress Party (1985), The Global World of Indian Merchants, 1750– 1947: Traders of Sind from Bukhara to Panama (2000), The Un-Gandhian Gandhi: The Life and Afterlife of the Mahatma (2003), Merchants, Traders, Entrepreneurs: Indian Business in the Colonial Era (2008), and India and the World: A History of Connections c. 1750–c. 2000 (forthcoming). His French publications include a history of the Indian Expeditionary Force in France during the First World War entitled De l’Indus à la Somme: les Indiens en France pendant la Grande Guerre (2018).
WAR AND SOCIETY IN SOUTH ASIA Series Editors: Douglas M. Peers, Professor of History and Dean of Arts, University of Waterloo, Canada; Kaushik Roy, Guru Nanak Chair Professor, Department of History, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, West Bengal, India and Global Fellow, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), Norway; and Gavin Rand, Principal Lecturer in History, University of Greenwich, London, UK
The War and Society in South Asia series integrates and interrogates social, cultural and military histories of South Asia. The series explores social and cultural histories of South Asia’s military institutions as well as the impacts of conflict and the military on South Asian societies, polities and economies. The series reflects the varied and rich histories that connect warfare and society in South Asia from the early modern period through the colonial era to the present. By situating the histories of war and society in wider contexts, the series seeks to encourage greater understanding of the multidimensional roles played by warfare, soldiers and military institutions in South Asia’s history. Books in this series Bureaucratic Culture in Early Colonial India District Officials, Armed Forces, and Personal Interest under the East India Company, 1760-1830 James Lees Culture, Conflict and the Military in Colonial South Asia Edited by Kaushik Roy and Gavin Rand Indian Soldiers in the First World War Re-visiting a Global Conflict Edited by Ashutosh Kumar and Claude Markovits For a full list of titles in this series, please visit https://www.routledge.com/ War-and-Society-in-South-Asia/book-series/WSSA
INDIAN SOLDIERS IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR Re-visiting a Global Conflict
Edited by Ashutosh Kumar and Claude Markovits
First published 2021 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2021 selection and editorial matter, Ashutosh Kumar and Claude Markovits; individual chapters, the contributors The right of Ashutosh Kumar and Claude Markovits to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record has been requested for this book ISBN: 978-0-367-68810-3 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-003-14236-2 (ebk) Typeset in Sabon by Deanta Global Publishing Services, Chennai, India
TO ALL THOSE INDIANS WHO FOUGHT IN WWI
List of figures List of contributors
ASHUTOSH KUMAR AND CLAUDE MARKOVITS
Turbans in the trenches: Indian sepoys and sowars on the Western Front during the Great War
Combat motivation of the sepoys and sowars during the First World War
The Maharajas’ contribution to the First World War: An Overview
Indian soldiers’ experience in France: Perceptions and outcomes
From victory to defeat: The Indian Army in Mesopotamia, 1914–1916
SIDDHARTHA DAS GUPTA
The Indian Army in the East African campaign, 1914–1918 MANAS DUTTA
Modernization, social change and Indian soldiers: A case study of Haryana
Response of Northeast India to the First World War
1.1 Garhwali ‘raw stock’ recruited as soldiers waiting for haircuts and uniforms. One of them in the centre has been kitted out. Courtesy of Garhwal Rifles Regiment. 16 1.2 Gabar Singh Negi. Courtesy of Garhwal Rifles Regiment. 17 1.3 Darwan Singh Negi. Courtesy of Garhwal Rifles Regiment. 18 1.4 Satoori Devi. Courtesy of Garhwal Rifles Regiment. 23 1.5 Injured soldiers at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. © The Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton & Hove. 25 1.6 Pim, the 16-year-old Gurkha boy holding a rose given by the Queen at Brighton Hospital. Author’s collection. 29 1.7 Wounded Indian soldier dictating a letter home, Brighton. © The Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton & Hove. 31 1.8 Indian soldiers in Paris being given a rose by a lady. Peter Bance Collection. 32 1.9 Indian soldiers on the Fricourt-Mametz Road, the Battle of the Somme 1916 © Imperial War Museum. 33 1.10 Indian Memorial at Neuve Chapelle, France. Author’s collection. 36 3.1 Teen Murti Memorial, New Delhi. Picture Credit: Author 72 7.1 Map of Punjab showing Haryana region. Source: J.M. Douie, The Punjab, NWFP and Kashmir, 1916, Fig. 83. 159 7.2 Soldiers’ contribution from battlefields, WWI, to
Shrabani Basu graduated in History from St Stephen’s College, Delhi, and completed her Masters from Delhi University. In 1983, she began her career as a trainee journalist in the bustling offices of The Times of India in Bombay. She moved to London in 1987 and has since then been the correspondent of the Calcutta-based newspaper Anand Bazar Patrika and The Telegraph. She has always combined her journalism with her love for history, and all her books have evolved from her observations about the shared histories of India and Britain. She is the author of many books, including For King and Another Country: Indian Soldiers on the Western Front, 1914–18. Siddhartha Das Gupta teaches history at Bangabasi Evening College, University of Kolkata. He has published many articles and book chapters on the military history of India. Manas Dutta is Assistant Professor, Department of History, Aliah University, West Bengal, India. The primary focus of his current postdoctoral research covers issues related to War and Conflict in South Asia, with a special focus on civil-military relations in the Global South. Along with this, he is investigating, as part of his recent research on War and Genocide Studies, on the involvement of native Indian soldiers in the First World War, with a special emphasis on their performance in the Western Front. He is at present the principal investigator of the Indian Council of Historical Research–funded project on the First World War and India and the project co-investigator in the Indian Council for Social Science Research–funded major research project on New Social Movements, Media and Civil Society in Contemporary India. He has received Charles Wallace India Trust Fellowship in 2016 and Summer Research Fellowship from the Institute for Critical Social Inquiry (ICSI), New School for Social Research, New York, USA, in 2018. He is one of the members of the Postcolonial Studies Association of the Global South (PSAGS). He has contributed in journals such as Contemporary
South Asia, History and Sociology of South Asia, Economic and Political Weekly, Indian Historical Review, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, International Bibliography of Military History and Historiography, Journal of Defence Studies, Journal of Military History, and the Itinerario. Jangkhomang Guite is Associate Professor of modern Indian history in the Department of History, Manipur University, Imphal. His publications include Against State, Against History: Freedom, Resistance and Statelessness in Upland Northeast India, 2018, and The Anglo-Kuki War 1917–1919: A Frontier Uprising Against Imperialism during the First World War (edited with Thongkholal Haokip), Routledge, 2018. Ashutosh Kumar is a historian of ‘Global South’ and Director of Centre for Alternative Studies in Social Sciences (CASSS), New Delhi. He has been a fellow at various prestigious institutions of the world, including Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi; the University of Leeds, United Kingdom; the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), New Delhi; the Centre for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale University; and Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla. He has authored many books; he has published articles in international peer-reviewed journals, including Coolies of the Empire: Indentured Indians in the Sugar Colonies, 1830–1920, 2017. Claude Markovits is Senior Research Fellow Emeritus at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris. A historian of modern India, with a particular interest in the economic and social history of the colonial era, he has authored many books and articles in English and in French. Amongst his English publications are Indian Business and Nationalist Politics 1931–39: The indigenous capitalist class and the rise of the Congress Party (1985); The Global World of Indian Merchants, 1750–1947: Traders of Sind from Bukhara to Panama (2000); The Un-Gandhian Gandhi: The Life and Afterlife of the Mahatma (2003); Merchants, Traders, Entrepreneurs: Indian Business in the Colonial Era (2008); and India and the World: A History of Connections c. 1750–c. 2000 (forthcoming). His French publications include a history of the Indian Expeditionary Force in France during the First World War entitled De l’Indus à la Somme: les Indiens en France pendant la Grande Guerre (2018). Tony McClenaghan’s interest in Indian military history spans some 50 years and for 30 years of that time saw him as Secretary, Editor, and Treasurer of the Indian Military Historical Society. Some of his publications include Indian Princely Medals (1996), The Maharajas’ Paltans: A History of the Indian State Forces 1888–1948 (2013, co-authored with the late Richard Head), and For the Honour of My House: The contribution of the Indian xi
Princely States to the First World War (2019). He is now working on a similar volume documenting their contribution to the Second World War. He has contributed chapters to a number of other books and has published articles in the Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, the Bulletin of the Military Historical Society, the Journal of the Orders and Medals Research Society and Durbar, and the Journal of the Indian Military Historical Society. Kaushik Roy is Guru Nanak Chair Professor in the Department of History, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India. He is also a Global Fellow at Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), Norway. He has been attached with PRIO in different capacities for about a decade. Previously, he has taught at Visva Bharati University at Santiniketan, West Bengal, India, and also at Presidency College, Kolkata, India. He has done his PhD from Centre for Historical Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was also a Junior Fellow at the Centre for Contemporary Studies at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi. He has received Charles Wallace Fellowship and research grants from Indian National Science Academy, UGC, etc. He is a member of the Indian National Science Academy’s Research Council. Roy specializes in Eurasian military history. He has worked extensively on both conventional and unconventional wars of pre-modern, early modern, and present eras. He has published many books and chapters in edited volumes. He has also published articles in various peer-reviewed journals like the Journal of Global History, Journal of Military Ethics, Journal of Military History, War in History, First World War Studies, Modern Asian Studies, Economic and Political Weekly, Studies in History, Indian Economic and Social History Review, among others. Roy is also one of the editors of War and Society in South Asia Series and Wars and Battles of the World Series of Routledge. K.C. Yadav is former Professor of History and Dean Academic Affairs, Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra, Haryana; he has been studying, teaching, and researching history for the last six decades. He has authored and edited over a dozen research books published from India and abroad and has contributed about 40 research papers to standard research journals and books. He was Visiting Research Professor at the Institute for the Study of the Languages and Cultures of the People of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Tokyo, Japan, Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, London, 1974, and Distinguished Fellow of the Centre for Military History and Conflict Studies, United Service Institution (USI), India, Delhi, 2019. Presently, he is working on projects relating to the Indian Uprising of 1857 and Recruitment to the Indian Army in Colonial Punjab. He is based in Gurgaon, India. xii
INTRODUCTION Ashutosh Kumar and Claude Markovits
For almost a century, India’s participation in the First World War evoked little interest from either historians of the war or historians of India. It was left to a few military historians, working largely in isolation from their colleagues in the major research institutions, to appraise in different ways the contribution made by India’s armies to military operations, but few sought to dig deeper into a story that appeared a distraction from the overwhelming preoccupation of India’s historians with the struggle for independence. Things started to change with the approach of the centenary of the conflict, which tended to focus attention on the need for a re-evaluation of that episode from an Indian angle. The last decade thus saw a surge of publications1 that testified to a growing interest for the subject on the part of scholars as well as from a section of the public, although the fact that they were mostly in English tends to suggest that it remained limited to an Anglophone middle-class audience. This book is not merely a supplementary contribution to the ongoing Indian conversation on the First World War; rather it seeks to provide fresh perspectives to the military history while exploring some ignored topics. Hence, it proposes to a social history approach to write the history of India and the First World War. It gathers some contributions that were presented at a conference held in January 2020 at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, under the RUSA programme to commemorate Indians’ role in the war. It is part of a new trend in the First World War studies away from the Eurocentric point of view that prevailed for many years towards a greater awareness of the global dimension of the conflict. Some have talked in terms of an ‘imperial turn’ in First World War studies, but it goes even further, as growing attention is paid not only to the colonies of the European warring powers but also to other areas such as Latin America or China, that were affected more indirectly but nevertheless significantly by the multiple repercussions of the conflict. As far as India is concerned, however, the imperial dimension is no doubt very much in evidence: India’s human and material resources were mobilized in the service of the British empire on a scale unheard of previously. But, at the same time, it can be argued, within certain 1
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unheard of previously. But, at the same time, it can be argued, within certain limits, that the war resulted in a weakening of the British hold on India. This is the basic paradox at the heart of the story of India in the First World War. In a way that runs clearly contrary to the view held by one prominent Indian historian,2 Britain’s ability to commandeer India’s considerable human and material resources in the service of its war aims was an indication of its hegemony over the subcontinent. While there had been growing opposition to colonial rule on the part of segments of Indian society, as epitomized by the bold attempt made in December 1912 on the life of the Viceroy Lord Hardinge at the time of his solemn entry into the new capital of Delhi, when the war started, most critics of British rule chose to support Britain against Germany. Gandhi’s attitude is particularly significant: while in principle opposed to the war because of his adherence to a creed of nonviolence, the future Mahatma did not hesitate to proclaim his unconditional support to Britain in its hour of need. When criticized by his friend Henry Polak, who pointed to its inconsistency, he justified his attitude by invoking both moral and pragmatic reasons. He thought supporting the British in their fight would strengthen the case for getting political concessions from Britain.3 This calculation seems to have been shared by most members of India’s political class, with the exception of some revolutionaries in exile who tried to use the opportunity of the conflict to instigate anti-British risings, with little success. While the British rulers were no doubt relieved to see that most of their opponents had declared a truce, they relied on different relays to organize the mobilization of India’s resources for the war. These were mainly the zamindars and other members of the landholding classes, as well as the Indian princes, all strong Raj loyalists, who outdid each other in their display of support to the British cause, including in the form of donations and subscriptions to war loans. Given the hold these traditional elites were supposed to have over the minds of the rural masses, the recruitment of manpower for the war would, or so the British hoped, be considerably facilitated. India’s small peacetime army of 152,000 saw its effectives multiplied by ten in four years, and of the 1.5 million men mobilized, some 1.1 million were sent abroad to fight or assist in military operations in different theatres of the war. It became clear fairly soon that it would not be possible to limit the recruitment to the so-called martial races of Northwest India, given the size of the manpower needed. Outside the traditional areas of recruitment, where kin, caste and biradari networks could be used up to a point to bring in new recruits, the recruiters had to improvise and they often had no choice but to use coercion, especially as the conflict lingered on without apparent resolution in view. This, added to the increasing economic hardship caused by mass requisitions of agricultural products and the emergence of a black market in certain commodities, led to growing war fatigue in large sections of society, including in the reportedly loyal countryside, and to the 2
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re-emergence of forms of political opposition. It manifested itself through the formation of Home Rule Leagues on the Irish model under the dual leadership of ‘extremist’ Congress leader Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Irish Theosophist and moderate nationalist Annie Besant. This trend of growing opposition was more an irritant than a real danger, as there were neither significant popular manifestations of opposition to the war nor military mutinies on a big scale, but it led the liberal Secretary of State for India Samuel Montagu to issue in August 1917 a vaguely worded declaration promising India a degree of self-government after the war. The declaration did not really disarm opposition, but it was seized upon by some nationalists to justify their continued support to the war, none more so than Gandhi who, in October 1918, was still haranguing people in Gujarat to join the army. While these developments on the home front testified to growing disenchantment with the war on the part of the population, India’s armies contributed in a significant way to military operations on several fronts. On the Western Front of Northern France and Belgium, the arrival of the 45,000-strong Indian Corps of two infantry and two cavalry divisions with 28,500 Indian and 16,500 British troops in October 1914 was crucial in helping bridge a gap in the 50-km sector of the front held by Britain’s First Army. Under the command of General Willcocks, an old-style soldier, the Indian Corps held for one whole year a 17-km sector of the front against repeated German attacks, at the cost of 8,000 Indians dead. This was a shattering experience for Indian soldiers used to fight Pashtun tribal snipers on the North-West Frontier, who found themselves exposed, unprepared and ill-equipped to the fire of the huge German Krupp guns. Debates continue among military historians as to the performance of the Indians. Some, echoing the strictures of British war commanders, pointed to the deficiencies in the Indians’ response, as shown by the high incidence of self-inflicted wounds, signs of poor morale, and concluded that India’s peasant warriors were not suited to the kind of industrial warfare represented by the First World War.4 Others adopt a more nuanced view5 and stress the adaptability of the Indians, who were starting to understand the basics of trench warfare when they were withdrawn from the front at the end of 1915 to be sent to Mesopotamia to fight the Turks. Only some 7,000 cavalry troops, as well as various auxiliaries, were left in France, and they were only occasionally engaged in combat, being finally withdrawn from Europe in March 1918 to be dispatched to Palestine. A total of 90,000 combatants and 48,000 followers were engaged in Europe. From early 1916, the Middle East emerged as the main theatre of operations of India’s armies. In Mesopotamia, a total of 675,000 combatants and followers were mobilized in a long campaign that was characterized by many vicissitudes, starting with the disaster at Kut-el-Amara in April 1916 which saw 10,000 Indians captured by the Turks subjected to a forced march from which few emerged alive. Eventually, after the direction of the military operations had been 3
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transferred from the India Office to the War Office, the Indian Army played a key role in the British victory that allowed the conquest of a rich oil-bearing region over which the admiralty had been setting covetous eyes. This was India’s major contribution that did not get much recognition, despite that most of India’s 74,000 war dead fell on the fields of Mesopotamia, victims of the deadly climate as much as of the Turkish bullets. India’s contribution to Allenby’s victory in Palestine that dealt the coup de grâce to the Ottomans in October 1918 was also significant: it was the only battleground in which the cavalry still proved decisive. Indian troops in Egypt also played a major role in defending the Suez Canal against Ottoman attempts at disrupting this major way of communication. Outside the Middle East, another theatre of war was East Africa: a 48,000-strong Indian Expeditionary Force took part, with South African and East African troops, in the interminable campaign against the forces of Deutsche OstAfrika (Tanganyika) commanded by General Von-Lettow-Vorbeck, who eluded pursuit till the end of the war. Their losses, due more to sickness than combat, were in the thousands, and they also earned little recognition as that theatre was considered secondary. Smaller Indian contingents participated in the short campaign against German Tsingtao in China in 1914 with Japanese troops, in the Dardanelles expedition of 1915 in which they fought alongside the ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Corps) and in the Salonica expedition of 1916, in which they fought the Bulgarians. The British authorities, at the beginning of the conflict, harboured strong doubts as to the loyalty of the Indian soldiery. Apart from the enduring memories of the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, which always haunted the British, these fears were actuated by the proclamation of jihad in November 1914 by the sheikh-ul-islam, the highest religious functionary of the Ottoman empire in the name of the Ottoman Sultan, whom most Sunni Muslims recognized as the Khalifa, the Commander of the Faithful.6 Since Muslims accounted for approximately 40 per cent of the effectives of the Indian Army in 1914, there was some apprehension that Muslim soldiers could be incited to desertion, especially Pathans (Pashtun), who were considered ‘fanatical’. As a matter of fact, the two most significant episodes of mutiny during the First World War concerned Muslim regiments. The first one occurred in February 1915 in Singapore amongst soldiers of the 5th Native Infantry Light Regiment,7 a Muslim unit, when there were rumours (unfounded) that it would be sent to fight the Turks. It was dramatic: as there were no other British troops in Singapore at the time, the mutineers easily took control of the town and the harbour and were eventually overpowered, only thanks to the intervention of Japanese and Russian marines, whose ships happened to be in port. The severity of the repression, with dozens of mutineers shot, reflected how scared the British authorities had been. The second episode was less dramatic: in February 1916, in Mesopotamia, the soldiers of the 5th Lancers, a cavalry regiment, rose in revolt under the pretext that they 4
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refused to fight near the Holy Shi’a cities of Najaf and Kerbela. The regiment was dissolved before the mutiny could spread to other units. On the Western Front, the few desertions (a total of 90) occurred amongst Pathan soldiers: the most famous was that of a 12-man platoon of Afridis belonging to Vaughan’s 58th Rifles, who followed jemadar Mir Mast in going over to the Germans in February 1915. Amongst the 1,000 Indian prisoners of war taken by the Germans on the Western Front and interned in the camp of Wünsdorf, only 50, mostly Pathans, accepted to defect to the Ottomans, despite being subjected to relentless propaganda by Indian revolutionaries working for the German secret service. If the call to jihad remained largely unheeded by Muslim soldiers, there were also fears that Sikh soldiers would be sensitive to the anti-British propaganda emanating from the U.S.-based Ghadr (Revolution) Party,8 but all Ghadrite attempts at organizing mutinies in Punjab were foiled before they could develop into significant challenges. How to account for the continuing loyalty displayed by Indian troops who fought in often difficult conditions for a cause that did not concern them directly, since the territory of India, barring the solitary raid of the German cruiser Emden on Madras on 22 September 1914, was never threatened by the enemy? Different explanations have been adduced to account for it: some stress the low degree of political awareness of an army of peasants who also hoped to get material benefits in the form of pensions and land grants from their participation in the conflict; others invoke izzat, the strong sense of honour that characterized members of India’s so-called martial races, amongst whom death in combat was the most desirable outcome for a soldier. None of these explanations is in itself totally convincing, and historians have to admit that the deep motivations of these men often elude them one century after the events. Appraising the effects of the war on India’s society and polity is no easy task, as many different and often contradictory aspects command attention. Looking at the economy, the impact of the war was mostly negative, as the disruption of trading circuits led to shortages and inflation, with dire consequences on the standard of living of the masses, agricultural labourers being probably the worst sufferers as they were entirely dependent on the market for their daily food needs. Those who benefited were mostly traders and speculators, some of whom made fortunes through the black market. Two industrial sectors also profited: the cotton textile industry took advantage of the fall in imports of British textiles to increase its share of the domestic market for piece-goods, its production increasing by 50 per cent during the war years; and the Tata steel mills, which started production in 1913 and faced difficulties due to the narrowness of the market, were saved from their predicament by huge orders from the army for the supply of rails to Mesopotamia destined for the building of a railway between Basra and Baghdad.9 Although the return to peace was accompanied by a boom, it proved short-lived and was followed by a recession. The long-term 5
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consequences of the war were a relative disengagement of the Indian economy from the global economy, with the adoption of some measures of customs protection in the wake of the concession to India of fiscal autonomy in the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms of 1919. There was also a trend by British capital to decrease its exposure to India, which benefited Indian capitalists: thus, Marwari businessmen made significant forays into the jute industry, which previously had been a British preserve. As to the way the participation of more than 1 million Indians, mostly soldiers, but also labourers, such as members of the 48,000 strong Indian Labour Corps sent to Northern France in 1917 to help with logistical operations at the rear of the front, impacted their regions of origin after their return, it remains an under-researched topic. In Punjab, only a few thousands amongst the 500,000 veterans got land grants, and they were mostly officers. Many were discharged from the army without pension and had to return to their pre-war life without much to show for the wasted years of their youth. It is not clear whether the wave of political agitation that swept through Punjab in 1919 and culminated with the Amritsar massacre owed much to the agency of veterans, although some were inevitably involved in it. More generally, British prestige, despite Britain’s victory in the war, took a blow, as British pretensions to moral superiority were shattered by the spectacle of the horrors of war which many Indians had been direct witnesses to. The forfeiting of the promises made during the war of greater autonomy for India fed disenchantment and anger amongst many members of India’s middle classes who had supported the British during the conflict and felt betrayed. Gandhi’s case is significant: while the spectacle of the war only reinforced his condemnation of the horrors of so-called Western civilization, the breach of trust represented in his eyes by the refusal of real political reforms set him on a course of determined opposition to the British Raj. At a more mundane level, some soldier’s exposure to Europe led to a change in consumption patterns, with the growth of the tea habit and the adoption of some economic innovations, like greater use of fertilizers in agriculture, but its impact remained altogether limited. On the occasion of the centennial commemoration of the Indian’s role in First World War, this volume is not merely another attempt to supplement the previous researches but brings to the forefront some of the ignored aspects by proposing a social history approach to the topic in an attempt to fill this historiographical gap. An attempt has been made to not bring the focus only to sepoys but people from the margins, i.e. the non-combatants of Northeast India. Most of the chapters of this volume aim to study the social and cultural aspects of the Indian fighting men and support personnel and hence, an attempt has been made to follow the ‘history from below’ approach, which goes beyond the archives to study other historical artefacts. The other distinctive feature of this volume is that it throws insight on 6
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a microhistory of Kukis and Nagas, the relationship between recruitment and environment, among other things. In structure, the chapters of this volume go with a more general overview to a more specific theme. Hence, Chapter 1 brings some of the human stories of the war, the feelings of the soldiers while crossing the seas and engaging in the deadliest war they had ever fought. Through the stories of some Indian soldiers such as Gabar Singh Negi, Shrabani Basu turns attention to those women who were left behind in the villages of India whose husbands died in the battle. The story of Manta Singh and Captain Henderson, who fought against the German at Neuve Chapelle, gives us a sense of understanding of how a sacrifice of a comrade in the battle led to the friendship between two families for generations. The horror of the war was revealed in the letters written by soldiers from the war theatres, but the British government carefully censored such information to ensure any discontent among the Indian masses. On the soldiers’ side, the British well looked after the soldiers either wounded or fit, and for this they also setup a comfort committee to fulfil their needs and provisions. Hence, Basu argues that it was a carefully managed plan that matched propaganda and comforts, on the one hand, and strict censorship and restriction, on the other. While historians have forcefully argued that the culture of combat in India motivated Indian soldiers to join the British Indian Army during the war, Kaushik Roy questions such an argument, and hence in Chapter 2, he explores motivations which compelled the sepoys and sowars to join the First World War. Roy argues that it was not the cultural uniqueness of the South Asians which motivated them to fight and die for an alien power, rather the behaviour of the sepoys, sowars and golundazs during the Great War was shaped by the organizational infrastructure of the British-India Army. Incentives (tangible and non-tangible), coercion and training were the principal factors which converted a peasant into a combatant. Based on archival data collected from the various archives of the United Kingdom and India, Roy asserts that the internal military organization, rather than wider social and cultural values, was the principal causative factor shaping the colonial soldiers’ behaviour during the firefight. While exploring the participation and contribution of the princely states in India, Chapter 3 focuses on the moot question of why none of the treaty obligations between the states and the Government of India required them to support the British outside of India; the princely states deployed their troops at the turn of the century in China, South Africa and Somaliland. According to Tony McClenaghan, there were many reasons for that. The ruling princes did not represent a homogenous single grouping, and there were religious and ethnic divisions among them. They had a perception of relative rank and importance, as well as a sense of honour and duty which inspired them to participate in the war in favour of the British. Apart from that, according to McClenaghan, many princely states regarded themselves 7
Ashutosh Kumar and Claude Markovits
as fighting men and as leaders of fighting men; hence, they wished to play their part in the battle. Some who had received the honours and awards from the British crown felt a requirement to give something in return. For McClenaghan, Some rulers, who had embarked on social, representational and economic improvements within their states, saw in their response to the war an obligation on the part of the British to pay something in return, namely a loosening of the interference in the running of their states, and more generally a more open approach on the part of the British to placing India on a more equal footing with the Dominions of the Empire – and in that they were not dissimilar in their approach to Gandhi, Jinah and Tilak. Chapter 4 looks at the encounter between the Indian soldiery and the French population, where Claude Markovits argues that the encounter was premised on mutual ignorance and knowledge. Using the letters written by soldiers to their family members in India, as well as other sources such as newspapers and individual writings on the French side, Markovits explores the curiosity of Indian soldiers about French society and the French side notion of the resilience of orientalist stereotypes that the actual contact with the Indians appears to have done little to dispel. In Chapter 5, Siddhartha Das Gupta takes up the issue of the reputation of the Indian Army, which was lost during the campaign in Mesopotamia. Exploring the Indian Expeditionary Force ‘D’, which was deputed in Mesopotamia during the first phase of the expedition, Gupta analyses and contextualizes the combat performance of the Indian Army by asking the following questions: was the Indian Army committed to the theatre without being given a clear objective? To what extent could the reverses suffered be attributed to lack of logistical support? Were the tactical shortcomings of senior officers simply mistakes made by individuals or the result of flawed training in the higher conduct of the war? Gupta believes that it was a flawed training and bad knowledge of environment imparted to senior commanders in the pre-war colonial army which led to the bad performance of the Indian Army at the Mesopotamian theatre. East Africa was one of the important theatres of the war where Indian soldiers were deployed, but surprisingly very few studies have been done. Manas Dutta has taken up this theatre of war in Chapter 6, which, according to him, was completely different from the Western Front. Dutta examines the ‘micro-nationalities’ to explain the role played by the Black, Indian and coloured South African and Rifles like Faridkot, Sikh, and Jammu and Kashmir Muslims of colonial India who rendered their utmost services for the another king (British) and country in the East African warfront during the Great War. 8
Introduction Routledge volume
Very few studies have been undertaken on the contribution of returned soldiers in Indian society. In an attempt to fill this gap, K.C. Yadav in Chapter 7 has looked at the contribution of Indian soldiers in the modernization of the Indian society, such as the opening of schools in the villages using donations. Citing examples of various educational institutions, Yadav identifies Indian return soldiers as harbingers of modernization, as well as disseminators of education, in regions of Haryana and Punjab. Apart from schools, returns soldiers also contributed significantly to health care and cleanliness in the villages; they also introduced utensils such forks and spoon for having meals, which marked an agent of social change in the area. In Chapter 8, Jangkhomang Guite focuses on the responses of Northeast Indians to the Great War, where he engages with the anxieties, aspirations and sensibilities of the tribal labourers from the region in the common project of the war, and with the armed resistance against the labour conscription in the region. Guite argues that besides threat, ‘liberal’ pay and other material inducements, the hillmen of Northeast India also joined the Indian Labour Corps in France, which promised them the coveted ‘ornaments’ of the hill warriors. Although this volume has tried to incorporate the new researches on the Indian soldiers in First World War, there are still some areas which are yet unexplored by the scholars, such as gender, the cultural memory of the war, the commemoration of the conflict, trauma among the participants, changing family values and economic impact plus political discourse. These issues are left for a probable future volume.
Notes 1 Rana T.S. Chhina, India and the First World War 1914–1918, New Delhi, Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research, United Services Institution of India, 2014; George Morton-Jack, The Indian Army on the Western Front: India’s Expeditionary Force to France and Belgium in the First World War, Cambridge, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2014; Shrabani Basu, For King and Another Country: Indian Soldiers on the Western Front 1914–1918, London, Bloomsbury; Roger D. Long and Ian Talbot (eds.), India and World War I: A Centennial Assessment, London, Routledge, 2018; Kaushik Roy, Indian Army and the First World War, 1914–1918, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2018. 2 Ranajit Guha, Dominance without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1997. 3 Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, ‘XXXIX: A Spiritual Dilemma’, in An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, London, Jonathan Cape, 1972, pp. 291–293. 4 Jeffrey Greenhut, ‘The Imperial Reserve: The Indian Corps on the Western Front 1914–15’, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 12(1), 1983, pp. 54–73. 5 Morton-Jack, op. cit. 6 Geoffrey Lewis, ‘The Ottoman Proclamation of Jihad in 1914’, Islamic Quarterly, 19, 1975, pp. 157–163.
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7 Ian F.W. Beckett, ‘The Singapore Mutiny of February 1915’, Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 62, 1984, pp. 132–153. 8 Maia Ramnath, Haj to Utopia: How the Ghadar Movement Chartered Global Radicalism and Attempted to Overthrow the British Empire, Los Angeles, London, University of California Press, 2011. 9 R.M. Lala, The Romance of Tata Steel, New Delhi, Penguin India, 2007, pp. 28–29.
1 TURBANS IN THE TRENCHES Indian sepoys and sowars on the Western Front during the Great War Shrabani Basu
On the night of 4 August 1914, as Big Ben struck 11.00 p.m., Britain’s Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, knew that the world was about to change. The deadline for Germany to withdraw from Belgium had passed. Britain would now enter the Great War. Thousands of miles away, the Indian Empire was sleeping. Night would soon turn to day and India would wake up to the news that, they too, were at war. This chapter is based largely on the research I did for the book on the subject published in 2015. The narrative follows the timeline and seeks to bring out some of the human stories of the war, the feelings of the soldiers as they crossed the seas and engaged in the deadliest war they had ever fought, along with accounts of how they were treated in the hospitals, billets and the front line. It looks at how the enthusiasm quickly disappeared within weeks of landing, and the aftermath of the war that the soldiers and their families had to face. In 1914, the minister of war, Lord Kitchener, had called for 100,000 volunteers in Britain, but he knew that they would not be enough. He needed many more boots on the ground and Britain looked for this to troops from the colonies – from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and India. Of all Britain’s colonial armies, the Indian Army was the largest. The Viceroy of India, Lord Hardinge, immediately declared that the people of India were backing the war. He had received messages of support from the Maharajas who offered money and troops. The Times of India dramatically reported in August 1914: ‘The swords of the martial Princes leapt from their scabbards …’. The first to volunteer was Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner, who wrote directly to King George V.
Having just heard of the outbreak of hostilities between Russia, France and Germany, I beg leave most dutifully, should Great Britain also have resort to arms, to place my own sword and services at Your Imperial Majesty’s command, either as member of Your Imperial Majesty’s staff or at the head of my troops and Rajputs, all of whom are equally eager to fight for Your Imperial Majesty in Europe, India, or elsewhere for the safety, honour and welfare of your Imperial Majesty and your dominions.1 The flamboyant six-foot-tall Maharaja, known for his sartorial elegance and carefully chosen turbans, had been an aide-de-camp to King George V longer than any other Indian chief. Being perfectly fluent in French and English, he was on first-name terms with the great and good in Paris and London. The 33-year-old Maharaja declared that the personal military service was the ‘highest ambition of a Rathore Rajput chief’ and that he was prepared to go anywhere and in any capacity to serve the King. He even informed the King that he had made all the necessary arrangements for the administration of his state in his absence and was ‘ready to sail immediately’. It was signed simply ‘Gangasingh’.2 The Maharaja also wrote to the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge. Soon the Viceroy received a flood of telegrams – from several native princes – all offering their services and financial help. The Viceroy had to choose which Maharajas would go to the front line as there was quite a scramble. He shortlisted a few and had to personally write to the disappointed ones. The Viceroy’s list included Sir Pertab Singh, regent of Jodhpur, who was well acquainted with Queen Victoria, had attended both her jubilees and her funeral and was eager to fight despite being in his 70s. Travelling with him would be the 16-year-old Maharaja of Jodhpur, Summair Singh. Also included were the Maharajas of Patiala, Ratlam, Kishengarh, the Nawabs of Jaora, Sachin and Bhopal. The Maharaja of Nepal placed his formidable Gurkha troops at the disposal of the British. The Maharaja of Mysore was one of the first to offer financial help. He put ₹50 lakhs at the disposal of the Viceroy, who immediately said he would use it to pay for the transport of troops. The Maharaja of Gwalior sent a fleet of 40 motor ambulances, which was photographed making its way to Buckingham Palace. The Maharaja also gave 4,000 horses, thousands of pounds in donations and a contribution along with the Begum of Bhopal for a hospital ship. Among the Maharajas in the front line was the famous Test cricketer Ranjit Singhji, who scored 154 not out against Australia in his debut test for England in 1896. Widely regarded as one of the greatest batsmen of all time, the legendary Ranjit Singhji, the Jam Sahib of Nawanagar, immediately
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offered his support when the war broke out. He let his house in Staines to be used as a hospital and left for the front line in November 1914. Top leaders from the Congress Party in India also backed the war effort. The mood in India was euphoric. Many felt it was an honour to be invited to fight along with the British Expeditionary Force. Hindus, Muslims and Parsees offered prayers for the success of British arms, and there were demonstrations of loyalty throughout India. Newspapers of the country carried wildly patriotic articles. The Bengalee newspaper edited by Congress leader Surendranath Banerjee, declared: Behind the series ranks of one of the finest armies in the world, there stand the multitudinous people of India, ready to co-operate with the government in the defence of Empire, which for them means, in its ultimate evolution, the complete recognition of their rights as citizens of the freest state in the world. We may have our differences with the Government – and what people have not? But in the presence of the common enemy, be it Germany or any other power, we sink our differences.3 Indian leaders addressed meetings all over the country, expressing their support for the King Emperor. Bhupendra Nath Bose, president of the Indian National Congress, said: ‘Whatever intrigues Germany may stir up in Turkey, Moslem and Hindu in India are alike united in their unswerving devotion and loyalty to the Empire in this crisis’. In a large public rally held in Bombay, attended by the city’s wealthy merchants, a unanimous resolution was passed expressing unswerving devotion and loyalty to the British Crown. In the town hall at Calcutta, the mood was equally upbeat. Prominent Bengali Hindus, Bengali Muslims and Parsees addressed a public meeting and called for the show of loyalty ‘to the Empire and the Motherland’. Most Indian nationalist leaders at this stage were satisfied with British rule but wanted greater autonomy or dominion status as enjoyed by Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Consequently, the rhetoric was always about ‘putting aside the differences’ at this time of crisis and giving their full loyalty to the King Emperor. The most resounding voice of support came from Dadabhai Naoroji, the first Indian to win a seat in the House of Commons. The 89-year old, a strong critic of the British government’s impact on the Indian economy, who had only the previous year described India’s unequal export ratio with Britain as ‘all loss, loss, loss’, rallied to Britain’s cause. In an open letter to the Indian public on 10 August 1914, Naoroji said that Britain had declared war on Germany not out of the desire to extend its dominions but to keep her word of honour and discharge her obligation to peace: The War in Europe. What is our – India’s – place in it. … We are above all British citizens of the Great British Empire. … Fighting as the British people are, at present, in a righteous cause, to the good and glory of human dignity and civilisation, and moreover, being 13
the beneficent instrument of our own progress and civilisation, our duty is clear – to do everyone our best to support the British fight with our life and property.4 The letter published in The Times of India drew an immediate response. The Governor of Bombay, Lord Willingdon, wrote to the elder statesman: ‘Truly, India by her loyalty and devotion to the King Emperor, which shall be proved during the war, will gain her rightful place in the future in the “sun” of the British Empire’.5 Indians in Britain too added their voice to the display of support for the King. At a meeting of prominent Indians in London, a resolution was passed for submission to the King Emperor. The signatories included among others Sir Mancherjee Bhownagree, who had served as a Member of Parliament between 1895 and1906, industrialist and philanthropist Sir Ratan Tata, Congress politicians like Lala Lajpat Rai and Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Pledging their loyalty to the British Empire against an ‘aggressive foreign power’, they declared: we, the subjects of His Majesty’s Indian Empire, who are now residing in the metropolis, feel it our duty and privilege to express what we believe is the prevailing feeling throughout India – namely, a sincere desire for the success of British arms in the struggle.6 Writing in The Times newspaper from the Hotel Majestic in Harrogate, Abdur Rahim, Member of the Royal Commission on the Public Services in India, explained why educated Indians backed the British in the war. This, he said, was because the British government in India had a ‘higher purpose’ to serve than merely the maintenance of peace and order. That purpose is to enlist by means of western education the sympathy and cooperation of the people in the ideals of Western civilisation, so that they may ultimately be fitted to administer the affairs of their own country as an integral part of the British Empire, wrote Rahim, and added: ‘From the Germans we can have no similar guarantees’.7 Rahim believed like many other Indian intellectuals that the ultimate goal of a sovereign India would be gained by showing loyalty to the British at their time of need. Even Gandhi, who arrived in London by ship from South Africa on 4 August – the day Britain declared war on Germany – was quick not just to lend his voice of support but to organise signatures from Indian residents in London as well. Gandhi’s ship had been held up in the English Channel as mines were being laid there to prevent the incursion of German warships. However, within days of landing, the 44-year-old, who had already become
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famous in South Africa, wrote to the undersecretary at the India Office on 14 August 1914 from his residence at Talbot Road, Bayswater: It was thought desirable by many of us that during the crisis that has overtaken the empire and whilst many Englishmen, leaving the ordinary vocation of life are responding to the Imperial call, those Indians who are residing in the United Kingdom and who can at all do so, should place themselves unconditionally at the disposal of the Authorities, wrote Gandhi. This, he said, was out of a desire ‘to share the responsibilities of membership of this great Empire, if we could share its privileges’.8 There were a total of 53 signatures, including that of his wife Kasturba Gandhi, the poet and nationalist Sarojini Naidu, physician and surgeon Jivraj N Mehta and law student Sorabji Shapurji. However, Holderness replied on behalf of Lord Crewe that the government did not think it advisable for Indian students to volunteer for military duties as they would probably not be able to leave it for three years. Lord Crewe advised instead that the Indians help in rendering aid to the sick and wounded. He suggested that Gandhi set up a Voluntary Aid Contingent committee. Meanwhile, in India, mobilisation orders were sent out to all military cantonments and all soldiers on leave were asked to return to base. After the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the Indian Army had been restructured. Lord Roberts, the commander of the Indian Army, had always shown a preference for recruiting the so-called martial races of India – the Sikhs, the Gurkhas and the men from Rajasthan and the North West Frontier. He had also seen the potential of the Garhwalis and started the Garhwal Regiment in 1886. The cantonment was built in the hill station of Lansdowne. The Garhwalis were men from the hills who tended their goats and owned small farms. Years of walking on the hills had made them strong. The potential recruits were typical Garhwali highlanders from the deepest interiors. They would be dressed in a home-spun woollen blanket, draped over their shoulders like a kilt and fastened over the chest with two large pins (usually fashioned from large thorns or brass skewers). With bare limbs and long curly locks, the ‘raw stock’ as they were called, was usually illiterate but intelligent and quick learners. A Garhwali could walk for 10–15 days carrying 20 kg on his back. It was these men with ‘strong arms and strong legs’ that the British were looking for. Once recruited, their transformation was complete. Haircuts and uniforms later, they were soldiers of the British Indian Army. The Garhwal Regiment would be acclaimed for its bravery in the First World War. Two of their soldiers were awarded the coveted Victoria Cross.
Figure 1.1 Garhwali ‘raw stock’ recruited as soldiers waiting for haircuts and uniforms. One of them in the centre has been kitted out. Courtesy of Garhwal Rifles Regiment.
One of the soldiers who won glory was Gabar Singh Negi. Born in the village of Manjood in the district of Chamba, Gabar Singh had been a soldier with Garhwal Rifles for nearly a year and wore the dark green uniform of his regiment with pride. The army had not been a natural choice for him. His family owned a small plot of land and a few goats. Their house, nestling on the hillside provided a sweeping view of the valley below. Gabar Singh had spent his youth here, tending the goats and dreaming below the open skies. His idyllic world would soon collapse. In 1911, the village was struck by a plague of cholera. Gabar Singh’s father, Badri Singh, died. Gabar Singh was only 18 at the time, the youngest of three brothers. He left home to search for work and took up a job with the Maharaja of Tehri. In 1913, he enlisted in the Garhwal Rifles Regiment.9 There were ten others from Manjood village who also joined the regiment. All of them were sent on furlough during the monsoon as it was impossible to carry on any work in the rains when the roads caved in and the drill field was flooded. It would take Gabar Singh four days to walk from Manjood to the cantonment in Landsdowne. Also following orders to return to the cantonment in August 1914 was Lance Naik Darwan Singh Negi, who would also be awarded the Victoria Cross. His village of Kefarteer in Chamoli in the Garhwal hills was even 16
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Figure 1.2 Gabar Singh Negi. Courtesy of Garhwal Rifles Regiment.
more remote. It would take him nearly a week to get back. Thirty-two-yearold Darwan Singh was a strong man and had walked this route many times since joining the regiment. With his possessions in a roll, he negotiated the slippery slopes and the narrow paths as he had done for years. The men from the mountains were preferred to those from the hot, lowlying valleys and plains, where fever was prevalent. The latter were never enlisted. Nor did the British recruit anyone who had previously done any menial jobs, as the caste hierarchy among Hindus would not favour a soldier from these ranks. The Garhwalis were intensely religious by nature. The Garhwal hills – famous for the temples of Kedarnath and Badrinath – were regarded as ‘Dev Bhumi’, the ‘abode of the gods’. The regimental battle cry of the Garhwal Regiment – ‘Jai Badri Vishal’ – was with reference to the temple of Badrinath. 17
The Garhwal Regiment was given a special place in the main parade at the Imperial Durbar of George V in the new capital of Delhi in 1911. Darwan Singh Negi had been part of the battalion and had seen the King and Queen – wearing their crowns and ermine furs – stand on the grand Royal podium in the Delhi winter. The King wore the famously heavy Imperial Crown of India, specially made for the Coronation Durbar, set with 6,170 diamonds. It was at this Durbar that the King announced that Indian soldiers would now be eligible for the Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery. Three years later, the King personally presented the Victoria Cross to Darwan Singh Negi. Apart from the Garhwalis, there were the Pathans. The Pathans crossed the mighty River Indus in full monsoon flow to reach the port. In their ranks was Sepoy Khudadad Khan of the 129th Baluchis and Mir Dast of 57th Wilde’s. Both were destined for future glory.
Figure 1.3 Darwan Singh Negi. Courtesy of Garhwal Rifles Regiment.
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Then there were the Sikhs. From his cantonment in Jullundur, Subedar Manta Singh of the 15th Sikhs set out with his friend Captain Henderson. And there were the Gurkhas. Famous for their bravery and loyalty, the Gurkhas came down from the hills of Nepal, and India made their way to Bombay. They had never seen the sea. They bathed in the salty water and went on route marches through the city. The people of Bombay mistook them for the Japanese. Never before had the Indian troops sailed to the West. For Hindus, the sea was the ‘Kala Pani’ – the Black Waters – which they were forbidden to cross. Yet, the large number of Hindu soldiers, including the Gurkhas and the Garhwalis, braced themselves for the task. Apart from the soldiers, there were the Maharajas and the General. From his desert palace in Bikaner, the Maharaja of Bikaner was one of the first to set out for the front line. The flamboyant Maharaja had offered his services to the British and also offered them his prized Camel Corps – the Ganga Risala. Commanding the troops was General James Willcocks. Born months before the Indian Mutiny, trained in Sandhurst, the General was an oldIndia hand. He later wrote poetry about his Indian soldiers. As the call for mobilisation reached the remote areas, the troops began gathering in their cantonments. Two divisions of the Indian Army – the Lahore Division and the Meerut Division – started making their way by train to the port cities of Bombay and Karachi ready to join the British Expeditionary Force. For the British, the logistics of taking the Indians to the battlefields of Europe was no mean task. The Indian Army regiments were largely organised along lines of caste and region. The Hindus could not eat food prepared by either the Europeans or the Muslims; some could not even drink water offered by a non-Hindu. The Muslims had their own dietary restrictions; they needed to eat halal meat. The Hindus would not eat beef and the Muslims would not eat pork. The animals had to be slaughtered separately. There was even a regiment of Brahmins, who needed to have a bath before they sat down for their meals, not at all practical in the trenches. To cater to all these requirements, an army of followers had to be taken along with the troops. Cooks were brought in to cater to the different dietary needs. Bhistis or water carriers provided water separately to Hindus and Muslims. So along with the princes and soldiers marched the followers – the cooks, the cleaners, the water carriers, the syces and grooms, the bellow blowers and the kneaders of dough – a ‘Band of Brothers’ fighting their first Western war. At the Indian Memorial in Neuve Chapelle, the names of the followers are carved on a separate section on the wall. Most have only a single name: Bhika, Chakara and Chhotu, the last a name frequently used in India to refer to young boys. Children, some as young as 10, managed to lie about their ages and boarded the ships to Europe as kitchen hands and syces.
In a quiet corner of the Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey, England, are the graves of two cooks, Hansa and Babu. Hansa was from the Army Hospital Corps, and Babu was from the Central Depot, who died in September 1919. By then the war was over and the hospitals with the Indian soldiers had all been shut down. Babu was all alone as his fellow Indians had left. There is also the moving story of a cleaner, Sukha, a low-caste ‘untouchable’ who died in a hospital in Brockenhurst in England and whose final resting place is a quiet church in New Forest, far from his home in India. This paper will look at some of the personal stories of the soldiers and the followers. At this time, the Indians were not sure where they were going. No one had told them of their destination. Soon they were streaming across the Indian Ocean on a moderate sea. Sikhs on board carried their holy book and sang their religious songs, while Muslims went up on the promenade deck and prayed in the direction of Mecca. On 30 August, they heard their destination on the wireless. Lord Kitchener had announced in parliament that two divisions of the Indian Army were on their way to Europe. The cheers rang out on the deck. For the first time, the Indian soldiers would fight shoulder to shoulder with their British counterparts. On 26 September, the Indian ships arrived in Marseilles. As the Indians disembarked, they were greeted with cheers of ‘Les Hindoues’ by the French. It was the first time the French had seen these exotic soldiers of the east. French ladies reached out to give them flowers and – to the embarrassment of the Indians – wanted to kiss them. As they marched to their camps, the cheering continued. The Indians replied with the only words they had learnt from their English officers: ‘Hip Hip Hurrah!’ Even the followers got a loud cheer. The cold autumn months were setting in, but the Indians had not been supplied with warm clothes. They were still wearing their thin cotton khakis. Desperate, they wrapped themselves in anything they could find – from tablecloths to eiderdowns. The French watched in wonder as the Indians cooked chapatti and dal over the campsite stove. Separate slaughter facilities were set up for Hindus and Muslims. Suddenly the French countryside was transformed with the arrival of the Indians. People gathered at train stations to see them and gave them bread and sweets. They watched fascinated as the Indians went about their ways, the Sikhs combing their long hair, the cooks preparing the food and the men wearing their different turbans. At the camps and billets, the Indians prayed, mixed with the locals, played with the children, helped with the farm and even tasted some wine. Soon it was time to travel to the front line. Red London buses transported some of the troops. Before long they arrived in Belgium, and took up position in the trenches, still in their cotton drill. 20
Turbans in the trenches
They were thrown in at the deep end. With no time to get accustomed to the trenches, they found themselves in the First Battle of Ypres defending the British line. There was not enough barbed wire, not enough ammunition and not enough troops. Even the trenches were shallow and soon filled up with water and mud. All the while the German bombs rained down on them. The Indians had never seen warfare like this. They were not used to artillery warfare and shelling. Even their training fell short of the mark. They had been trained to use the Lee Enfield Mark II Rifles but were handed the Mark III used by the British troops. There was no time to train in the use of the new rifles. They would learn to use them in the front line. Moreover, their companies were split up and they were under commanders they did not know and whose language they did not follow. Yet they held on. On a cold damp day in October, when all the men from his regiment were killed, Sepoy Khudadad Khan kept firing till his last bullet was over, and he held his trench till reinforcements arrived. He became the first Indian to win the Victoria Cross. The actions of the Indians allowed the British to hold the line and the Germans could not reach the ports of Belgium. Meanwhile, in France, the Garhwalis and Sikhs were in action in Neuve Chapelle and Festubert; and Darwan Singh Negi of the Garhwal Regiment won the second Victoria Cross for the Indians in Festubert. In December of 1914, the man from the hills of Garhwal was personally presented the medal by King George V in Locon in France. When asked if he had any wish, the Garhwali asked only for a school to be built in the hills near his village, so the children could be educated. His wish was granted and the school is still standing today. By November, the Indians had their first sight of snow. Still without greatcoats, they braved their first winter in the cold muddy trenches. ‘In the trench the snow rises from the feet to the neck, and the feet and hands are frost-bitten. It rains and snows day and night’,10 wrote a soldier. Another lamented: ‘The whole world is being sacrificed and there is no cession. It is not a war but a Mahabharat’.11 The soldiers could barely distinguish between the different European languages. Most thought it was a war between three emperors. All they knew was that they had to defend the King Emperor at all costs. They fought with honour for their regiment and the ‘jangi laat’, their commandant. Over 8,000 lost their lives on the Western Front, blown apart by shell fire, buried alive in soggy collapsing trenches or choked by gas. Nearly 5,000 were never found. The Indians arrived in the nick of time, when the British troops were exhausted in the first weeks of warfare. The armies from Canada, Australia and New Zealand were still on their way. It fell on the Indian Corps to hold the position. 21
After a brief respite over Christmas, a fresh offensive was planned in the new year. The Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March would be the first battle where the Indian Corps worked as a complete unit. It was also the first time that the Indians broke through the German defences. But the casualties were enormous. In just three days of fighting, 4,233 Indians lay dead. Gabar Singh Negi of the Garhwal Regiment fought to the last and died on the battlefield. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. In his village in the hills of Garhwal, his 14-year-old bride, Satoori, spent the rest of her life alone, wearing the Victoria Cross pinned on her sari. It was all she had to remind her of her husband. She would go out to collect the firewood, carrying the branches on her head, and wearing the Victoria Cross. She wore it when she crouched over a stove cooking the family meals. The villagers would stand up and salute her as she passed, as they were saluting the Victoria Cross.12 Till her death in 1981, Satoori Devi took the salute at the Memorial built for Gabar Singh Negi in Chamba. Queen Mary sent a personal letter with a photograph of herself to the Garhwal regiment after Gabar Singh’s death. In sorrow and in sympathy my thoughts fly across the seas to my sisters in India, that beautiful land which I have twice visited and love so much. I send you this to do honour to a very brave Indian of the Empire who died for you and for us in the glorious fight for truth and freedom against tyranny and broken faith. It was signed ‘Mary R.I’. The framed letter hangs in the museum at Lansdowne.13 Every year in April, the annual Chamba Mela is held in honour of Gabar Singh Negi. Loudspeakers in the small village relay the story of the bravery of Gabar Singh in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. The sound of conch shells mixes with the sound of bagpipes in the religious and military ceremony, which is also used as a focus day by the Garhwal Regiment to enrol new recruits. There is another poignant story of sacrifice at Neuve Chapelle. This is the story of Manta Singh of the 15th Ludhiana Sikhs, who risked his life to save Captain George Henderson. On the afternoon of 12 March, he and Captain Henderson were part of the assault party that was advancing towards Neuve Chapelle. The night before in the trenches they had had a brief chat. Henderson had encouraged the young Sikh and told him that they would get through this together. They began moving through the woods towards Neuve Chapelle in the morning. However, the 1st Army could not provide enough cover and a German bullet hit Captain Henderson. Manta Singh saw him lying on the ground writhing in pain. Without a thought for his own safety, he took a wheelbarrow and went to rescue him. Placing 22
Turbans in the trenches
Figure 1.4 Satoori Devi. Courtesy of Garhwal Rifles Regiment.
Henderson in it, Manta Singh pushed him through the open ground. But a German bullet hit Manta Singh on his left leg. His leg bleeding heavily, Manta Singh kept going, eventually bringing Henderson to safety in the trenches. Gasping and struggling, the two friends waited in agony to be rescued. It was an act of sacrifice for his comrade that became one of the most enduring stories of the First World War. The badly wounded Manta Singh was sent to England to Kitchener’s Hospital to be treated. But his leg had developed gangrene by then, and the brave Sikh soldier succumbed to his injuries. He was cremated on the South Downs. Years later, his name was carved on a commemorative plaque at the spot. But the story didn’t end there. Henderson survived, never forgetting 23
Manta Singh’s sacrifice. When Henderson returned to India after the war, he ensured that Manta Singh’s son, Assa Singh, joined the regiment. Assa Singh fought in the Second World War with Captain Henderson’s son, Robert. Their descendants, Ian Henderson and Jaimal Johal now live in Britain and remain firm friends. It was this sacrifice in the battle that led to three generations of friendship between the two families.14 As the war drew on without end, the soldiers wrote letters home about the horrors of the war: ‘No one who has ever seen the war will forget it to their last day’, wrote a Pathan soldier. ‘Just like a turnip is cut into pieces, so a man is blown to bits by the explosion of a shell. All those who came with me have ceased to exist’. The large collection of letters from the censor’s office reveals the strong emotions the soldiers felt as they faced the endless shelling and mortar fire. A wounded Garhwali soldier wrote to his friend in India: As when the leaves fall off a tree and not a space is left bare on the ground, so the earth is covered with dead men and there is no place to put one’s foot. … [T]he whole world is being finished. We have been constantly fighting for six months, but we have not even seen the sun; day and night the rain has fallen; and the country is so cold that I cannot describe it.15 In April 1915, they faced the German gas attack in Ypres, tying their turbans over their faces to protect themselves. The soldiers were told to urinate on their turbans and cover their faces. For his bravery in the face of the gas attack at the Second Battle of Ypres, Mir Dast was awarded the Victoria Cross. He was presented the medal in the grounds of the Brighton Pavilion by King George V. Asked to make a request, Mir Dast said that wounded soldiers should not be asked to return to the front line. He was voicing a request that most Indian soldiers felt at the time. The British wanted to ensure that the Indian soldiers, who had travelled thousands of miles, were well looked after. They also wanted to ensure that there was no mutiny in the ranks. A Comfort Committee was set up to look after the interest of Indian soldiers and manage their needs and provisions. At the same time, their letters were censored to ensure that early signs of rebellion or discontent could be tackled quickly. They also ensured that negative letters from the front line or hospitals did not get back to India as they needed to carry on the recruitment process. It was a carefully managed plan that matched propaganda and comforts on the one hand and strict censorship and restrictions on the other. The Comfort Committee was headed by Sir John Hewett, an old India hand. An Indian Soldiers’ Fund was set up to ensure that the Indians could have the provisions from home that they missed. Spices, chutneys, pickles, 24
Turbans in the trenches
Figure 1.5 Injured soldiers at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. © The Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton & Hove.
papar, gur, semolina, tea, coffee were sent to the soldiers. Board games like chess, halma, pachisi were packed for the front line and hospitals, as were gramophone records. To the soldiers on the front line, the Confort Kameti was a sign that people back home and the British cared for them. The farmers from Punjab developed a taste for condensed milk and 50,067 tins of condensed milk were supplied in the first six months alone. The Sikhs needed coconut oil for their hair and efforts were made to source the oil from India. The Chesebrough Manufacturing Company in London, manufacturers of Vaseline, sent 50,000 tins of petroleum jelly for soldiers to cope with chapped hands and lips in the frosty weather. Every detail was thought of. Waterproof turban covers were ordered for the Sikhs as well as the small combs (kangas). A large amount of kadas were ordered as the Sikh soldiers often lost their kadas or gave them away as souvenirs. Cigarettes were popular and efforts were made to send Indian tobacco, bidis, hookahs and chillums. London Clubs donated playing cards and copies of The Times History of the War. Religious books were of prime importance at times of war. Two hundred copies of the Quran were purchased in London and sent to the front. The Begum of Bhopal sent a ‘very large, almost embarrassing supply of copies’.16 A further 1,000 copies were distributed by the Woking Mosque in Surrey. 25
Miniature Qurans enclosed in a small metal case and worn as a locket were very popular with Muslim soldiers. The pendants were procured in large quantities in England and sent to the front line. Sikhs were supplied with copies of the Guru Granth Sahib, and Hindus were sent copies of the Bhagavad Gita. The Maharani of Bhownagar gifted 1,500 janeos (Brahmanical threads). Efforts were made to see that the Indians could practise their religions. A marquee erected in a field in Flanders was used as a mosque. Another served as a temple, and a third as a gurdwara. Sounds of the Gurbani could be heard from tents and farmhouses. The only request by General Willcocks was that the Granth and the Quran were not sent to the trenches as there were elaborate procedures for moving them.17 Sir Walter Lawrence, an old India-hand who was known in India for his organisation skills and nicknamed ‘Bandobast Sahib’ set up and supervised the hospitals for the injured Indian soldiers in France and England. It was under his supervision that hospitals for Indian soldiers were set up in Boulogne, Hardelot, Montreuil, Rouen and Abbeville in France. At Boulogne, the Hindus were buried as there were no facilities for cremation. Some Dogra soldiers told Lawrence that they understood that it was difficult to cremate them, but their only request was that when they were buried their boots should be left outside the grave.18 At Lawrence’s request, arrangements were made later for a burning ghat in Hardelot, where bodies from Boulogne and Montreuil could be taken. Those who were taken to England after their injuries were transported by ferry to Southampton and then transported to specially made hospitals in Brighton, New Milton, Brockenhurst and the area around Hampshire and East Sussex. As the number of wounded Indians arriving in England increased, the Brighton Pavilion was converted into a hospital for Indian soldiers. The Pavilion, with its Oriental Domes and Chinese interiors, was an exotic place for the Indians who were fed on the myth that the King had personally invited them to his Palace. In reality, the Pavilion was owned by Brighton Council, who had long before purchased it from Queen Victoria. The soldiers lay under the grand chandeliers of the former palace and relaxed in the grounds. One soldier remarked that he was in heaven. A Sikh soldier from 59th Rifles wrote to his friend in India: Our hospital is in the place where the King used to have his throne. Every man is washed once in hot water. The King has given a strict order that no trouble be given to any black man in hospital. Men in hospital are tended like flowers and the King and Queen sometimes come to visit them.19
Turbans in the trenches
A letter written in January 1915 from a Subedar Major of the 6th Jats to a friend in India echoed the sentiment: Everything is such as one would not see even in a dream. One should regard it as fairyland. … [T]here is no other place like this in the world. … A motor car comes to take us out. The King and Queen talked with us for a long time. I have never been so happy in my life as I am here. The censor board realised the publicity potential of such letters and took full advantage. Nearly 120,000 postcards of the Indians in Brighton were sold locally during the war. Carefully constructed photographs were taken of Indian soldiers sitting in the grounds of the hospital or playing cards and writing letters, the domes of the Pavilion providing the exotic backdrop. Others showed them going for walks to the seaside. Photographs of the soldiers lying below the grand chandeliers in the Music Room were sold as postcards to tourists as propaganda for the war. Later, a souvenir – Royal Pavilion Brighton: A Description of It as a Hospital for Indian Soldiers – was published in English, Gurmukhi and Urdu. About 20,000 copies of the brochure were sent to India and used to recruit more soldiers. The booklet was given to every Indian patient as they left the hospital. The photographs of the wards and hospitals were to establish without a doubt that those recovering were being given the best treatment. To be treated by ‘Dr Brighton’ was common parlance among the Indian soldiers returning from the Pavilion Hospital. The King and Queen came to visit the soldiers at the Pavilion, and soon it became a useful publicity tool. Images of King George V talking to soldiers and presenting the Victoria Cross to Mir Dast were turned into postcards and sold in thousands. The Dome was also converted into a hospital, as was a former institution for the homeless, which was turned into the Kitchener Hospital for Indian soldiers. The British wanted to ensure that the Indians were happy and cared for in the hospitals. They did not want a mutiny on their hands. Also, it served a useful propaganda purpose. Consequently, great care was taken to see that the religious practices of the soldiers were carried out. Muslim soldiers who kept the month-long fast for Ramadan were given an iftar with fruits and dates every evening to break their fast. A canny butcher started the first halal butcher shop in Brighton. The Indian soldiers were also taken on outings in open top cars so the British could see the men in turbans and cheer for them. However, behind the image of injured soldiers lying in grand palaces, of rows of hospital beds, crisp white sheets, red blankets and pristine medical treatment, all was not well. There were different rules for the Indian soldiers and an underlying atmosphere of discrimination. English nurses were not 27
allowed to nurse wounded Indian soldiers. Nor could English ladies visit them. The English did not want any liaisons between lonely English ladies and the Indian soldiers. The Kitchener Hospital, the largest hospital in Brighton, was surrounded by high walls and barbed wire fences. The Indians were taken for walks under close supervision, leading to protests and even a shoot-out at the hospital. One soldier referred to it as the ‘Kitchener Jail’. Children as young as 10 years were taken to the front line. They went as bellow blowers and kneaders of dough and some of them got injured and ended up in the hospitals. A young Gurkha boy, Pim, just 16, had his arm and leg blown off by German shellfire. He was given a rose by the Queen when she visited Brighton. His brother was also in the same hospital and had his leg blown off. Despite all the arrangements, the bright lights of Brighton and the hospital care, the soldiers were depressed. A Gurkha soldier committed suicide at the Kitchener Hospital. In letter after letter, the soldiers spoke of their longing to go home and their despair that they would be sent back to the trenches. ‘For god’s sake Don’t come, Don’t come to this war in Europe. Tell my brother, for God’s sake not to enlist’.20 There was despair that only those who had lost an arm and a leg had any hope of returning back home. Many of the soldiers resented the heavy restrictions placed on them. Walter Lawrence had imposed a strict regime ensuring that no one was allowed to visit the Indians without a pass. Nor were the soldiers allowed to go out on their own. The British feared that Indian nationalists may infiltrate the wards and ask the soldiers not to fight. There had been an incident of an Indian student who had been inciting soldiers telling them that their pay was too low. The War Office had a list of ‘undesirables’ who they did not want employed as orderlies, or be given permits to visit the soldiers. The authorities were also apprehensive of the Indian soldiers starting liaisons with English women, who showed a great deal of curiosity towards the Indians, often approaching them on streets and giving them gifts. Some even invited the officers to their home. Contact with English women was frowned upon and every effort made to ensure a safe distance between the lonely women whose husbands and fiancés had gone to war and the wounded Indians who were equally lonely and more than happy to befriend them. Efforts were also made to ensure that the Indians did not write back home giving the impression that white women were ‘readily available’. When the Indian storekeeper of the Kitchener Hospital wrote to his friend about the women of Brighton, the last line of his letter was deleted: This place is very picturesque and the Indians are liked very much here. The girls of this place are notorious and are very fond of accosting Indians and fooling with them, they are ever ready for 28
Turbans in the trenches
Figure 1.6 Pim, the 16-year-old Gurkha boy holding a rose given by the Queen at Brighton Hospital. Author’s collection.
any purpose and in truth they are no better than the girls of Adda Bazar of Indore.21 An angry letter written in Marathi by an Indian sub-assistant surgeon from Kitchener Hospital survives in the files. He described it as the ‘Kitchener Hospital Jail’: Being ourselves warrant officers, we are allowed to stay out at night until 8.30 p.m. but it is only on condition that we sign our names in 29
the book at the door when we go out and when we return. The book is watched over by a European Havaldar, and there is a European guard at the door. The walls are protected by barbed wire, and we are kept as prisoners inside. We are altogether 20 sub-assistant surgeons, the remaining 150 residents are not allowed to go out at all. Under special orders, accompanied by one sub-assistant surgeon and one European, batches of six men are allowed to go out for one hour. …[T]he condition of the remaining residents may well be imagined. They have not left the buildings for months together. Even assuming that six are allowed out daily, it will take 71 days and the individual gets out once in 2 and a half months, and then only for one hour during which time he is not allowed to speak to anyone in the streets. A complaint was made which led to enquiries but it was pointed out that the hospital was provided with everything the men could possibly desire, including hockey, football, phonographs and free cinema games of all kinds etc. This satisfied the higher officers, but this is besides the point and does not provide for the liberty of the individual to go about as he likes. Has not God given the individual a right to go about and talk to others as he likes?22 English nurses were not allowed to care for the Indian soldiers; their role was to remain supervisory, leading to protests from the Indians who said they were good enough to fight but not good enough to be treated by English nurses. Strict rules for the Indians even led to a mini-revolt and a shoot-out at the Kitchener Hospital. As the war dragged on, the soldiers grew weary. They yearned for news from home and became anxious when they heard reports of plague and famine. They feared they would never return. However, despite the harsh conditions and the loss of their comrades, most remained firmly loyal to the King Emperor and were not afraid of death. ‘It is the duty of young men to fight as lions in the field of battle’, wrote a young Pathan to his friend. ‘It is of no consequence – to die is one’s duty’. Another letter written by a wounded Dogra soldier from the hospital in Brighton echoed the sentiment: ‘We must be true to our salt and he who is faithful will win Paradise for his parents as well as for himself’. By the end of 1915, most of the infantry were sent to Mesopotamia, Palestine and North Africa. They would have to suffer the harsh desert conditions. The cavalry, sappers and miners remained behind in Europe. They watched their British counterparts go home on leave, but they could not be spared as the sea journey was far too long. The Indians played their part in the infamous Battle of the Somme, which began on 1 July 1916. On the first day of the battle they were photographed doffing their hats. In the first few hours alone, the British lost 20,000 men 30
Turbans in the trenches
Figure 1.7 Wounded Indian soldier dictating a letter home, Brighton. © The Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton & Hove.
and 40,000 were seriously injured. Never had such a beautiful summer day seen so many dead. By mid-November, the Battle of Somme was over. The British suffered around 420,000 casualties. The total number of dead on both sides was 1.3 million. While the Indian infantry was fighting in the trenches, Indian pilots were taking on the Germans in the air. Hardit Singh Malik became the first Indian pilot to join the Royal Flying Corps. The dapper Sikh who had graduated from Oxford had to fight against British prejudice to be enrolled as an officer in the Air Force. Born in Rawalpindi and brought up in a wealthy and privileged family, Malik was sent to Eastbourne College, a private school in England, and joined Balliol College Oxford in 1912. The talented Sikh was an all-rounder in cricket. On 3 August 1914, he was batting for Sussex against Kent on the opening day of the county cricket match in Canterbury. By evening next day, Britain had declared war on Germany and the match was abandoned. Malik returned to Oxford after the summer holidays to find that most of his fellow students had volunteered and left for the war. As an Indian overseas student, he could not become an officer. He was told he could be an orderly. However, Malik wanted to be a pilot, and only officers could enrol in the Air Force. 31
Figure 1.8 Indian soldiers in Paris being given a rose by a lady. Peter Bance Collection.
The young Sikh was not one to give up easily. He was determined to cross the barrier. After graduating from Oxford in 1915, Malik took his chance. He travelled to France and drove ambulances. He was determined to become a pilot and wanted to know if the French Air Force would take him. So impressive was the young Sikh that the French were ready to offer him a place. He wrote to his tutor at Oxford, Sligger Urquhart, who was outraged. Urquhart wrote to the Commander of the Royal Air Force saying it was ‘scandalous’ that the British Armed Forces had no time for Malik, while the French were ready to enlist him.23 In 1917, after an interview with General Henderson, Malik joined the RFC as a cadet at Aldershot in Hampshire, becoming the first Indian pilot in the forces. He appeared on parade duty on the first day wearing his turban, to be met with a roar from the Sergeant Major who demanded to know: ‘Why aren’t you in uniform? Where’s your hat?’24 Malik explained that as a Sikh he had to wear a turban. As the first Sikh in the RFC, Malik later designed a special helmet that would fit over his turban, earning himself the nickname of ‘flying hobgoblin’.25
Turbans in the trenches
Figure 1.9 Indian soldiers on the Fricourt-Mametz Road, the Battle of the Somme 1916 © Imperial War Museum.
Proudly flying his plane, which he painted with the words ‘India’ on the side, Malik shot down his first German Fokker and had a remarkable eight aerial victories. He even went into action against the legendary German flying ace, Manfred von Richthofen, known as the ‘Red Baron’, who was credited with over 80 air combat victories. At the Battle of Passchendaele in November 1917, when many pilots lost their lives, Malik survived and managed to bring down some German planes. In a dogfight with German planes, his plane was hit by 400 bullets, one of them going through his leg, but he managed to land his plane and survived. He remained on duty till the end of the war, returning to France with No 11 Squadron. Malik had opened the doors for Indians to enter the Air Force. Following him into service was 18-year-old Indra Lal Roy, also known as ‘Laddie’ Roy, a bright young Bengali who was barely out of school. Laddie, like Malik, came from a wealthy background. His father, Piera Lal Roy, was an eminent barrister and director of public prosecutions in Calcutta. He had sent his six children with their mother Lolita Roy to London in 1901 so that they could have an English upbringing and go to the best English schools. 33
Laddie and his brother Poresh enrolled at St Paul’s School in Kensington, and Laddie joined the school cadet force. While Poresh was the school’s boxing champion, Laddie was playing rugby and captained the swimming team. Both brothers were sporty, as their father intended then to be, and both wanted to shatter the myth that Bengali men were effeminate and not good in sports. Their mother, Lolita, kept an eye on her robust family. As war broke out, Laddie waited impatiently to finish school. He had a scholarship to study at Oxford, but the bright teenager, who had a passion for speed and loved sports cars, had only one dream: to become a fighter pilot. Poresh had joined the Honorary Artillery Company and left the house in Kensington for service in France. Laddie was waiting for his break. Even while he was in school, Laddie wrote to the War Office, sending a drawing of a trench mortar that he had designed complete with notes about its advantages, which included ‘rapidity of firing’.26 Laddie applied to the Royal Flying Corps but was rejected by the military optician on the grounds of ‘defective’ eyesight. So determined was he to become a pilot that he sold his motorbike and paid for an alternative opinion from one of the country’s leading eye specialists. Laddie cleared the eye test, the decision was overturned, and on 4 April 1917, he joined the Royal Flying Corps.27 Lolita said goodbye to her second son. She was proud to be sending two sons to the front, doing her bit like all the other mothers in England, but she could not help her tears as the young boy left. In less than two weeks Laddie joined as a cadet and began training at Farnborough and then Oxford and Winchester.28 By July 1917, the 18-yearold was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and posted to Vendome with No. 56 Squadron. Laddie’s ready smile, his youthful cockiness and verve had already made him popular. His only ambition was to knock the German fighter planes out of the skies. He was soon proudly flying the Curtiss, the B.E.2.B, the Sopwith Camel, the Avro and the S.E.5a, whirling in the skies doing daring loops and manoeuvres far beyond his age and experience. On 6 December 1917, while on a flight over France on his S.E.5a, Laddie’s plane was shot down by a German fighter and crashed in no-man’s land. He was taken to the local hospital, where he was left for dead. But the young Bengali regained consciousness, banged on the door of the morgue and woke up the terrified hospital staff calling out in his schoolboy French. He was immediately sent back to Britain for treatment. While recovering, Laddie made numerous sketches, replacing his passion for sketching sports cars with that of drawing aircraft. Carefully titled and dated, his sketches included the De Havilland V and Sopwith Camel, planes he flew himself.29 Following his accident, Laddie was told he could not fly. But the youngster was determined to return to the air. He persuaded his officers to reconsider their decision, and in June 1918, he cleared his medical test. An elated Laddie joined No 40 Squadron and returned to France. There was no looking back after that as Laddie was determined to make his mark. Training under 34
Turbans in the trenches
Captain George McElroy, Laddie took to the skies again. Between 9 July and 19 July, he took down nine German aircraft becoming India’s first flying ace. It was to end all too soon for Laddie. While flying a dangerous mission in France on 22 July, his plane was attacked by four German planes and a dogfight followed. His plane was shot. Not to be cornered, the teenager fought back, taking down two enemy planes with him. Laddie was only 19. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and became the first Indian to receive the award. Less than three months after Laddie died on the skies over France, the war was over. Over 73,000 Indians died in the war. Hundreds of thousands were seriously wounded and returned to India, their lives damaged for ever. To acknowledge the contribution of the Indians in the war, they were allowed to attend the Imperial War Cabinet in London and the peace talks in Paris in 1919. The Maharajah of Bikaner, who had himself travelled to the front line, represented the princely states of India and Lord Sinha represented the Constituent assemblies. India had secured its place at the high table and the Maharaja of Bikaner signed on the Treaty of Versailles. The signing in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles was immortalised in the painting by William Orpen. It shows the Maharajah standing proudly wearing his turban. India had backed the British in the war effort hoping to get dominion status as a reward. However, they received no such prize. Barely five months after the war, General Reginald Dyer fired on an unarmed crowd made up largely of Sikh men, women and children who had gathered at a park near the Golden Temple in Amritsar on 13 April 1919. Despite the loyalty of the Sikh troops and their contribution to the war, Dyer ordered his men to continue firing till the last bullet was over. It was an act that alienated the nation. The poet Rabindranath Tagore returned his knighthood in protest and the Indian struggle for Independence moved up a gear. Back in India, Hardit Singh Malik was to get married on the holiest day of the Sikhs on 13 April. The festivities on his wedding day turned into mourning as news of the massacre came in. ‘Little did we know then that this day would go down in history as one of the most tragic, bloodiest days’, Malik recalled in his autobiography.30 Meanwhile, as political unrest and economic crisis overtook India, the soldiers of the First World War were gradually forgotten. The new Indian heroes were the ones who were fighting and dying for Independence. Over the years, the soldiers were forgotten – both by the masters they fought for – and by their own countrymen. Only a few villages in India and Pakistan still remember their heroes.
Figure 1.10 Indian Memorial at Neuve Chapelle, France. Author’s collection.
In the small hill station of Lansdowne, the images of Darwan Singh Negi and Gabar Singh Negi can be seen on the road. The station is proud of its Victoria Cross recipients. In the remote village in Pakistan, that was the home of Khudadad Khan, there are road signs pointing to his house. The names of the Indians dead and missing are recorded in memorials in France and Flanders. Their names are remembered along with other Commonwealth soldiers in the Bedford House Cemetery in Belgium and carved on the pillars of the Menin Gate in Ypres. Those who died in England are remembered there: the Muslims lie in the Brookwood Military cemetery. The Hindus were cremated on the South Downs in Patcham near Brighton. An Indian style chattri was built there after the war and an annual memorial service is held there every summer. The followers too had their gravestones. 36
Turbans in the trenches
In a church in Brockenhurst in the Hampshire in England is the grave of Sukha, an ‘untouchable’ cleaner. Born in Gangapur in the region of Bareilly in the United Provinces, Sukha had volunteered for the war seeking adventure. He had been recruited as a sweeper, Service No 16, in the Supply and Transport Corp.31 He was registered as Sukha Kaloo, though ‘Kaloo’ was not really his last name. It was just a nickname as he was called ‘Kaloo’ (Blackie) on account of his dark skin. Sukha was given a metal badge number that rattled on his chest as he cleaned the decks of the ship as they left India. He marched with the other followers after landing at Marseille, watching in wonderment as the French crowds cheered for him. No one had cheered for him in India. Later, he cleaned the trenches and saw the horror of the killing fields. When the hospitals in England for Indian soldiers needed cleaners, he was sent to work at the Lady Hardinge Hospital Brockenhurst in the New Forest. Within a few months, Sukha’s adventure had ended. The cold got to Sukha and he lay as a patient in the same hospital that he had cleaned. On 12 January 1915, Sukha died. However, even in death, there was no relief for Sukha. When it was suggested that Sukha be cremated in the ‘burning ghats’ at Patcham in Brighton, the Hindus objected saying he was from a low caste and could not be cremated at their site. An appeal was then made to Maulvi Sadr-ud-Din in Woking Mosque. However, the response from the mosque was negative as well. Sukha was clearly not a Muslim, said the Maulvi, and he could not be buried there. Sukha the sweeper was in no-man’s land, this time because of the caste and religious prejudices of his own countrymen. It was then that the vicar of St Nicholas Church in Brockenhurst stepped forward saying that Sukha had died for England and that he would be buried in the church graveyard. The parishioners collected the money for his funeral. And so it happened that Sukha Kaloo, 30, found his final resting place in the quiet graveyard of a church in the heart of the scenic New Forest. His grave is marked by the biggest gravestone and carries his whole life story on it. Few Indians visit these graves, which are dotted around France and Flanders and in England, as they are far away from their homes. At the Indian memorial at Neuve Chapelle, where the names of over 4,000 Indians are carved, there was no one the day I visited. Only the songbirds bore witness to the dead. A single wreath lay there with the words ‘Our shared future is built on our shared past’. As the 100th anniversary commemorations of the Great War take place, I hope I have been able to revive the story of the forgotten soldiers of history who crossed the kala pani in 1914 to serve the King and another country. ***
Notes 1 BL/IOR/MSS Eur F170/8. Papers related to the Indian involvement in the First World War. Quoted in For King and Another Country by Shrabani Basu, Bloomsbury, UK, 1915. 2 Ibid. 3 BL/IOR/ MSS Eur F170/8. 4 Quoted in Dadabhai Naoroji, The Grand Old Man of India by R.P. Masani, Allen and Unwin, London, 1939. pp. 527–528. 5 Ibid. 6 BL/IOR/MSS Eur F170/8. Quoted in For King and Another Country by Shrabani Basu. 7 The Times, 13 September, 1914. 8 BL/IOR/ MSS Eur F170/8. 9 Author interview with Kamal Singh Negi, grand-nephew of Dabar Singh Negi, Chamba, India, April 2013. Quoted in For King and Another Country by Shrabani Basu. 10 BL/IOR/MSS Eur 143/92. Further extracts from reports made by censor for Indian mails in France. 11 Ibid. 12 Author interview with Gabar Singh’s family in April 2013. Published in For King and Another Country. 13 Quoted in For King and Another Country, by Shrabani Basu. 14 Author interview with Jaimal Johal in UK. May 2013. Published in For King and Another Country. 15 BL/IOR/ MSS Eur 143/92. Further extracts from reports made by the Censor for Indian Mails in France. 16 BL/IOR/MSS Eur F1 20/6. 17 For King and Another Country by Shrabani Basu. 18 BL/IOR/ Mss Eur F 143. Walter Lawrence papers. 19 BL/IOR/Eur MSS F143 Excerpts from reports made by the Censor for Indian Mails in France. 20 BL/IOR/MSS Eur F143/92. 21 Ibid. 22 Ibid. 23 For King and Another Country, Shrabani Basu, Bloomsbury, UK, 2015. 24 A Little Work, A little Play by Hardit Singh Malik, Bookwise, India, 2011 p. 67. 25 Ibid p. 91. 26 Letter written by Indra Lal Roy dated June 1916 displayed in the Indian Air Force Museum, Delhi. 27 St Paul’s School and the First World War, Carter Cortazzi, Nico Hedegaard, Oliver Hirsch, Joe Millard and Archie Foster. Quoted in For King and Another Country by Shrabani Basu. 28 TNA/AIR/76/438. Service record of Indra Lal Roy. 29 Sketches displayed at Indian Air Force Museum, Delhi. 30 A Little Work a Little Play by Hardit Singh Malik, p. 101. 31 Commonwealth War Graves Commission records.
Turbans in the trenches
Bibliography Publications The Amritsar Massacre: General Dyer in the Punjab 1919, The Stationery Office, London, Reprint 2000. India’s Imperial Partnership, Speeches of the Maharaja of Bikaner, The Times, London, 1917. Garhwal Rifles Regimental History, Garhwal Rifles H.Q. Archives, Lansdowne, India.
Books Basu, Shrabani, For King and Another Country, Indian Soldiers on the Western Front 1914–18, Bloomsbury, United Kingdom, 1915. Corrigan, Gordon, Sepoys in the Trenches, The Indian Corps on the Western Front 1914–15, Spellmount, Gloucestershire, 2006. Ellinwood, De Witt C. and Pradhan, E.D. (Ed), India and World War I, Manohar, New Delhi, 1978. Evatt, J., Historical Record of the 39th Royal Garhwal Rifles Vol I 1887–1922, Gale and Polden, Aldershot, 1922. Fowler, Will, Battle Story: Ypres 1914–15, Spellmount, Gloucestershire, 2011. Ganga, Singh, A Voice from India, Empire Parliamentary Association, United Kingdom, 1917. Gliddon, Gerald, VC′s of the First World War 1914, The History Press, Stroud, 2011. Gilbert, Martin, First World War, Harper Collins, London, 1994. Giles, John, The Western Front: Then and Now – From Mons to the Marne and Back, After the Battle, Plaistow Press, London, 1992. Hastings, Max, Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914, William Collins, London, 2014. Heathcote, T.A., Indian Army: The Garrison of British Imperial India, 1822–1922, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1974. Lewis, Jon E. (Ed), A Brief History of the First World War, Constable & Robinson, London, Reprint edition 2014. Lucas, Charles Prestwood, The Empire at War, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1926. Macmillan, Margaret, Paris 1919, Six Months That Changed the World, Random House, New York, 2003. Macmillan, Margaret, The War That Ended Peace, Profile Books, London, 2014. MacMunn, George, The Underworld of India, Hutchinson & Co, London, 1930. MacMunn, George, The Armies of India, A. & C. Black, London, 1911. MacMunn, George, The Martial Races of India, Sampson Low, Marston & Co, London, 1932. Malik, Hardit Singh, A Little Work, A Little Play, The Autobiography of H.S Malik, Bookwise, India, 2010.
Mason, Philip. A Matter of Honour: An Account of the Indian Army, Its Officers and Men, Jonathan Cape, London, 1974. Merewether, J.W.B. and Smith, Frederick, The Indian Corps in France, John Murray, London, 1918. Olusoga, David, The World’s War, Head of Zeus, London, 2014. Omissi, David, The Sepoy and the Raj: The Indian Army, 1860–1940, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 1998. Omissi, David, Indian Voices of the Great War, Soldier’s Letters, 1914–18, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 1999. O’Prey, Paul (Ed), First World War, Poems from the Front, Imperial War Museum, London, 2014. Purcell, Hugh, Maharajah of Bikaner, Makers of the Modern World Series, Haus Publishing, London, 2010. Roberts, Frederick and Sleigh, Lord, Forty-one Years in India, From Subaltern to Commander-in-Chief, Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1898. Robertshaw, Andrew, Battle Story: Somme 1916, Spellmount, Gloucestershire, 2014. Stone, Norman, World War I, A Short History, Penguin, London, 2008. Taylor, A.J.P., The First World War, An Illustrated History, Penguin Books, 1966. Trench, Charles Chevenix, The Indian Army and the King’s Enemies 1900–1947, Thames & Hudson, London, 1988. Whittaker, James, The General’s Footprint, Progression, London, 2006. Willcocks, James, With The Indians in France, Constable and Company, London, 1920.
Newspapers and Magazines: The Times. The Daily Mirror. The Manchester Guardian. The Graphic. Illustrated London News. The Hindu, Madras. Frontline Magazine. The Telegraph, Calcutta. Jugantar, Calcutta. Patrika, Calcutta. Ananda Bazar Patrika, Calcutta. The Dawn, Lahore.
Archives: IOR (India Office Records, British Library, London, UK). TNA (The National Archives, Kew, London, UK). Indian Air Force Museum, New Delhi, India.
2 COMBAT MOTIVATION OF THE SEPOYS AND SOWARS DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR
Introduction There are unknown heroes who are modest, with none of the historical glamour of a Napoleon. If you analysed their character you would find that it eclipsed even the glory of Alexander the great. … He goes modestly on his way without bothering anyone. … If you asked him his name he would answer you simply and unassumingly: ‘I am Svejk’. Jaroslav Hasek, Preface in The Good Soldier Svejk (1923) Jaroslav Hasek, a Bohemian who fought in the Austro-Hungarian Army during the First World War, authored The Good Soldier Svejk. Probably, the fictional hero named Svejk reflects the author’s own experience. This chapter tries to unravel the motivations behind ordinary Indians, who fought in the same war in which Svejk also participated. The chapter attempts to answer two questions: why did the ordinary Indians join the sepoy army, and why did they fight for their British masters? Though some scholars like Omar Bartov and others make a differentiation between pre-combat and in-combat motivations, I think that these two issues are interrelated. The British-officered Indian Army was the largest volunteer force during the two world wars. During the First World War, about 1.2 million Indians joined the colonial Indian Army. Among them, more than 0.8 million were combatants and several thousands died for the Raj in the various battlefields of several continents. The Indian Army had certain peculiar characteristics. For instance, the colonial Indian Army, whose ranks and files were Indians, was mostly officered by the British. However, in certain areas, the colonial army had also several similarities with the metropolitan forces. For example, both 41
the British and Indian Armies had to confront the hostile forces in bloody battles like Ypres and in messy sieges like Kut. However, unlike the Britons and the French, the homes and hearths of the sepoys and sowars were not threatened by the Central Powers. Moreover, they were surely not fighting for nationalism. But still the sepoys and the sowars remained in the line of fire. How can we explain this problematic area? In fact, why do men fight at all? We have some general theories as regards combat motivation. Konrad Lorenz (b. 1903–d. 1989), the German scientific expert on animal behaviour, equated human beings with animals as far as aggression is concerned. Aggression for him means the instinct in beast and man, which is directed against members of the same species. Lorenz writes that the genes responsible for aggression are passed through generations through sexual reproduction (Lorenz 2002: 10). The Martial Race ideologues that shaped the recruitment policy of the Indian Army from the 1880s onwards assumed that warrior instincts were inherited hereditarily. However, liberals and culturalists heavily critique the assumption regarding genes passing through bloodstream. In the present day, practitioners of ‘deep history’ give due importance to genetics (Harari 2014). Lorenz makes an important observation that intra-species struggle is usually more intense compared to inter-species struggle. Generally, members of a particular species attack members of another species for food, but never out of anger (Lorenz 2002: ix, 8, 13, 22–23). Lorenz’s most insightful observation follows: ‘Almost every animal capable of selfdefence, from the smallest rodent upwards, fights furiously when it is cornered and has no means of escape’ (Quoted from Lorenz 2002: 21). Tarak Barkawi builds up on Lorenz’s ‘flight-fight’ behaviour by making a case study of the Indian Army during the Second World War. Barkawi asserts that the barbaric structure of the combat shaped the Indians’ willingness to fight and die for the Raj. Barkawi claims that the brutal nature of combat in Burma, where no quarters were given, forced both the Japanese and the Indian soldiers to fight for victory or death. Since surrender invited death, soldiers from both the parties had no option but to go on killing till death (Barkawi 2017). Barkawi writes: ‘battle as a force that grabs and transforms participants on both sides, encouraging them to behave in comparable even similar ways, whatever their national conceits’ (Quoted in Barkawi 2017: 4). Actually, Barkawi’s model is a bit simplistic. There is historical evidence that even in the same battle, participants behaved differently. Take, for instance, the case of Eastern Front during the Second World War. The nature of combat in this theatre was barbaric at best. Neither the Germans nor the Russians gave any quarter to the opponents. For the Germans, surrender meant captivity in Siberia at best, and for the Soviet soldiers, surrender meant slow death in the prisoner of the war death camp. But, in the Eastern Front, Mussolini’s legions wilted quickly and easily against the 42
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Soviet steamroller. But numerically inferior German units held out resolutely against the ‘Red heat’. How can we explain German military effectiveness during the Second World War? In his monograph, Bartov shows that due to intense attrition in the Eastern Front between 1941 and 1945, primary solidarity bonds disintegrated in the Wehrmacht’s units. Quick turnover of personnel, due to high levels of casualty, prevented the men from getting to know each other. In such a scenario, the Wehrmacht should have disintegrated. However, the Wehrmacht, even when it was in its death throes, was attacking against heavy odds. The secret, asserts Bartov, lies in the Nazi anti-Semitic ideology. Frontsoldatens’ combat motivation mainly depended on systematic hatred towards the Slavs, a feeling generated by the Nazi propaganda machine (Bartov 2001). This brings us back to Lieutenant-General Carl von Clausewitz (b 1780–d. 1831), who noted hatred was one of the prime causative factors in encouraging the soldiers to carry on the killing match. Clausewitz in his magnum opus titled On War, published in 1831, asserts that passion (hatred, anger, etc.) is of prime importance in driving men to slaughter each other in the battlefields (Waldman 2013: 2). While Lorenz asserts that men hate each other more than they can hate females, the feminist scholar Joanna Bourke claims that men like killing each other more than having sex (Bourke 2000). Yuval Noah Harrari notes that though childbirth is extremely painful, women still go for it because certain hormones are released at the end of the process, which generate an exhilarating feeling. He continues that genetically males are more aggressive than females; hence the former make better soldiers (Harari 2014: 174; Harari 2017: 345). Bourke writes: ‘For men, combat was the male equivalent of childbirth; it was the “initiation in the power of life and death”’ (Quoted from Bourke 2000: 14). However, in recorded history, men had been engaged more in having sex with females than in killing each other. Even before the linguistic turn in history writing, the Raj’s scholar-officials argued that cultural uniqueness of the South Asians explain the motive of the Indians in fighting and dying for an alien power. They referred to the Indians’ sense of pride and dharma (O’Dwyer 2004: 223). Santanu Das, in attempting to reconstruct ‘intimate cultural history from below’ for Indians during the First World War, asserts that the sepoys in the trenches of France primarily thought about sex and food (Das 2018: 8–9, 34). But what propelled them to go out of the trenches to meet the German mines, shells and bullets? After all, the battles and the battlefields are grisly affairs. Long before the culturalist approach became fashionable in history writing in general and military history in particular, novelists were interested in the actualities of the war. Leo Tolstoy was fascinated not by the strategic and operational manoeuvres but by the reality of the war, which for him constituted the actual killing matches. Tolstoy noted that he was more interested in knowing the feelings of the soldiers when they were butchering each 43
other at the great Napoleonic battles of Austerlitz and Borodino (Holmes 1989: 7). Field Marshal Archibald Wavell, a soldier-scholar who had commanded Allied armies against the Germans, Italians and the Japanese during the Second World War, opined that the actualities of wars were most important. He claimed that the effects of tiredness, hunger, fear, lack of sleep, the influence of weather, etc. on the soldiers in the battlefields were more important than strategies, tactics or logistical calculations (Holmes 1989: 7). Despite the popularity of the ‘history from below’ approach, one could argue that the soldiers who participated in the battles were themselves unable to explain why they fought. Direct experience is always limited. The experiences of the soldiers were patchy and selective. The soldiers could only recall sporadic and random fragments of the events in the battlefields in which they themselves participated (Holmes 1989: 9). Hence, for acquiring a holistic perspective, we have to integrate factors beyond the experiences of the soldiers by analysing archival data besides oral history. The subalterns can only speak with difficulty. In the case of the soldiers of the Indian Army, it is doubly difficult because most of them being illiterate and semi-literate have left us with very little written records. This chapter asserts that the experiences of the soldiers and operational-tactical history need to be meshed together in order to understand their ‘will to war’ (combat motivation), which is an essential part of combat/military effectiveness of the soldiers of all ages. Combat motivation is the capacity and willingness of the soldiers to engage the enemy. Combat motivation has four components. The first component is readiness. Readiness refers to the level of technical proficiency of the unit and the operational state of the tools (weapons) and other support it requires to perform its mission. We will study the aspects of hardware and other support issues under the section titled ‘Logistics’ later in the chapter. The next element of combat motivation is cohesion. Cohesion refers to the attitudes and commitment of the individual soldiers to the integrity of the military formation. Unit cohesion is esprit de corps and generates the ‘will to war’. We will study this aspect under the section titled ‘Training and tactics’ later in the chapter. The third component of combat motivation is military leadership. And the final element of combat effectiveness is credibility. Credibility is the function of national will. Credibility could be explained as the perception that the state has the military posture and political resolve to undertake the necessary actions in order to achieve a particular goal even under adverse conditions (Sarkesian 1980: 10–11). In this chapter, we study this aspect under the section titled ‘Home front’. This article argues that the combat motivation of the sepoys, sowars and golundazs during the Great War was shaped by the organizational infrastructure of the British-Indian Army. Based on data collected from the various archives of the United Kingdom and India, this chapter asserts that the military organization rather than the wider social and cultural values was 44
Combat motivation of the sepoys and sowars
the principal causative factor shaping the colonial soldiers’ behaviour during the firefight. However, there is a caveat. The military organization needs to take into account the cultural peculiarities of the soldiers and the social fabric that spawned them while formulating policies for the effective functioning of the army during the war. Let us have a brief look at the colonial Indian Army. The Indian Army did not recruit low castes and tribes. The British believed that if the low castes were recruited in the army, then their nature and long historical tradition would make them submissive to the diktats of the high castes. And this would be detrimental to military discipline. After all, the British-led Indian Army was not an incubator for social change. The recruitment policy of the colonial Indian Army was not shaped by ‘political correctness’, and hence there was no quota system for the reserved categories. The aim of the British strategic managers was to construct a combat effective instrument and not to use military recruitment for redressing the inequalities in society. Even during the First World War, the percentage of low castes in the army remained negligible. Most of them were included in the non-combatant branches. As a reaction to the 1857 Mutiny, the British distrusted the Hindu high castes. The Indian Army mainly recruited the middle caste Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Gurkhas from Punjab, North India and Nepal. A combination of tangible and intangible incentives bonded the sepoys and sowars to the army. For many Indian communities like the Tiwanas (the Rajput landlords from Shahpur district of Punjab) and the Garewal Jats of Ludhiana district, military service was considered to be honourable. In contrast, none of the British privates considered service in the army as an honourable calling (Omissi 1994: 77–78). For the Indian communities who considered military service honourable, izzat (personal fame) was an important component of their battle/combat motivation (Omissi 1994: 79). And the British tapped them under the guise of the Martial Race theory. Neither the British nor any pre-British polities resorted to military conscription. This was due to limited demands for military manpower before 1914, vast demographic resources of India and willingness of various groups to join military service due to their hereditary tradition. Further, regular pay, pension and gratuities in cash were incentives for the comparatively poorer sections of the agrarian community to join the army. For the marginal peasants, it was a better option to join the army rather than to depend on the uncertain vagaries of Indian monsoon. The landless peasants were not enlisted because of their poor physique. The latter condition was the result of their utter poverty. Further, the British believed that small landholders had a stake in the continuation of the Raj. The British took the younger sons of small peasants. The British could exercise this option because during both the world wars, military participation ratio in India remained very low. Just before the beginning of the First World War, the Indian Army had 152,000 45
soldiers, 35,000 reservists and 2,640 British officers and 45,500 Indian noncombatants (Morton-Jack 2014: 2, 4). Even 1.5 million men in the Indian Army (including combatants and non-combatants) during the First World War was a small affair compared to 320 million people in the Indian subcontinent (Roy 2008: 80–189). The record of the Indian Army was certainly better than many other armies. The traditional view was that the morale of the Indian Corps cracked in France during the winter of 1914. However, modern research claims that the assertion about the breakdown of morale among the sepoys and sowars in the muddy Flanders field during the winter of 1914 has been overstressed. Even with inferior weaponry, the Indian Corps remained intact and fought tolerably well against the Germans in 1915 in France. Unlike the French and the Russian armies, no large-scale mutiny occurred in the Indian Army. However, certain cases of limited desertions and indiscipline occurred. For instance, on 23 May 1915, a Pathan sepoy of the 20th Punjabis shot a Sikh havildar and escaped. The 20th Punjabis had a significant number of Pathans and they were not eager to fight the Sunni Ottomans (Sarbadhikary: 27). In June 1915, 26 Muslim personnel of the 23rd Frontier Force Cavalry refused to fight the Sunni Ottoman troops (Roy 2019: 148). Mesopotamia was the principal theatre of the Indian Army during the First World War. In late 1918, about 120,000 Indian combatants were in Mesopotamia (Statistical Abstract: 103). And by 1918, the Indian formations in Egypt and Mesopotamia had the Ottomans on the run. I argue that the organizational flexibility of the military organization was able to contain indiscipline to a tolerable degree and also generated the will to war among the sepoys and sowars. Now, we will look at four issues – one extraneous and three intrinsic to the military organization – in order to understand the interrelationship between the army and society. This will help us to evaluate the combat motivation of the Indian troops during the Great War. We will follow a comparative angle with other armies in order to flesh out the uniqueness (if any) of the Indian Army.
Home front In this chapter, home front means the society from which the soldiers were drawn and also the society in which the army was deployed during combat. Lack of support from the home front had a detrimental effect on the American Army’s will to war in Vietnam during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Neither the American society nor the South Vietnamese society actively supported the American Government Issue (GI) in combat against the North Vietnamese. At times, instead of being merely passive, the American people and the South Vietnamese took an active stance against the American personnel fighting the North Vietnamese ‘commies’. In contrast to the American 46
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society during the Vietnam War, the Indian society during the First World War provided wholehearted support to the Indian soldiery who participated in the imperial war. Moreover, when the sepoys went to France to fight the ‘Boches’, the former were given a hero’s welcome by the French people. Let us look at the Indian home front a bit more closely. The indigenous newspapers gave the clarion call for supporting the British war effort. From the beginning, the Central Powers (especially Germany and Ottoman Turkey) through various propaganda techniques tried to wean away from the Muslims of India from the British war effort. By giving the call for jihad and spreading news of Muslim uprisings against their British masters in various parts of the British Empire, the Central Powers tried to sabotage the Muslim support for the Allies. The vernacular newspapers aggressively countered this psychological warfare technique of the Central Powers. Parkesh published from Lahore, noted on 8 November 1914: ‘The present war is not a religious one; it is not a war between Muhammadans and Christians; hence it is the duty of all Muhammadans in this country to refuse help to Turkey’ (Quoted from Jarboe 2016: 47). The Shamsul-Akhbar of Madras in 1915 emphasized that the Turkish officers were spreading the rumour that the Egyptians had rebelled against the British and an anti-British uprising was in the offing, in Cairo. The readers were warned not to give any credence to such disinformation spread by the enemy party (Jarboe 2016: 55). Even Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who led the Indian national movement against the British from the 1920s, supported the Indian contribution to the First World War. Like many others, Gandhi believed that if India supported Britain during her time of need, the latter out of gratitude would give the subcontinent self-rule. Muslims dominated the Indian Army. On 14 November 1914, Sheikh ul-Islam gave the call for holy war at Constantinople. And despite the call for jihad by Ottoman Turkey, many Indian Muslim elites urged their coreligionists to support the British. The Begum of Bhopal, Nizam of Hyderabad, Nawab of Palanpur and Aga Khan, etc. all reiterated that it was obligatory for the Muslims of India to remain loyal to the Raj. About one-third of British India was under the princes. There were 693 princely states in British India. Both the Hindu and Muslim princes supported the call of aiding the British Empire in the war against the Axis powers. The princes believed that if they supported the British Empire during war, in the post-war era, the British would strengthen the position of the princely states (Das 2018: 22–23, 44, 46–48). Besides the princes and politicians, the middle-class Bengalis were also eager to participate in the imperial war effort. Sisir Kumar Sarbadhikary, who served in Mesopotamia as a private in the Bengal Ambulance Corps, notes in his autobiography that he joined the army for several reasons – both private and public. After passing the undergraduate examination, he was thinking of joining law college and looking 47
earnestly for a job, but prospects were dim indeed. He believed that if he joined the army, he would get regular pay and ration. Sarbadhikary was aware of the dangers and hardships of military service. Still, the spirit of adventure propelled him towards the army. Further, Sarbadhikary assumed that if he served well, then it would raise the reputation of the Bengalis in the eyes of the British. And in future, the Indian Army might recruit the Bengalis in the combatant branches. In fact, the political leaders of Bengal also assumed that the Bengali community should take advantage of the Great War to join the army in order to ensure future military recruitment (Sarbadhikary: Lekhaker Nibedan). Actually, the motivation of the Bengali Hindu elite in joining the Indian Army was a bit more complicated. Kalyan Kumar Mukhopadhyay was from a rich zamindar family and had a medical degree. Mukhopadhyay’s grandmother, Mokhuda Devi, encouraged him to join the army for a communal reason. The senior lady declared that in the near future India would become independent. This is indeed an intelligent evaluation of the scenario when several British elites, including Edwin Montague believed that British rule would continue in the subcontinent for another 500 years. Mukhopadhyay’s grandmother continued that when the British would leave India in the near future, then fighting between the Hindu and Muslim communities would surely follow. In fact, the lady was anticipating the communal carnage of 1947. The grandmother continued that post-colonial Hindu India would require a new independent army. And to set up such an army, Hindus require military training. For this reason, Hindus like Kalyan should join the military service under the British (Devi 1928). It is to be noted that the British, in accordance with their Martial Race ideology, assumed that the Bengalis were effeminate. So they were not recruited in the Indian Army. Before accusing the Raj, we must note that the military records of the Bengalis in the pre-British era were nil. No preBritish polities recruited either Bengali Muslims or Bengali Hindus in their armies. However, during the Great War, the Raj agreed to induct the enthusiastic Bengalis into an ambulance corps. The Maharaja of Burdwan (a big zamindar) wholeheartedly supported the scheme of forming the Bengal Ambulance Corps (Sarbadhikary: 11). The Bengali notables, including leaders of the Indian National Congress like Surendranath Banerjee, requested the Raj to set up a Bengali combatant unit. The 49th Bengali Regiment was finally set up, and it included both Hindu and Muslim Bengalis. Many of the personnel were quite educated. The 49th Bengalis were sent to Baghdad at the end of September 1917. Absence of veteran Viceroys Commissioned Officers (VCOs were Indians) debilitated the combat effectiveness of this unit. In military terms, this unit was a failure (Nath 2014: 65–76). But, what is important is that all the provinces of India, including even the ‘seditious’ ones like Bengal, wholeheartedly supported the British war effort. 48
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More important than Bengal was Punjab, which provided the largest number of combatants (360,000) during the four years of the war. By 1918, Punjabi Sikhs, who constituted less than 1 per cent of British India’s population, contributed 90,000 combatants. In contrast, Bengal, with a population of 123 million, provided only one combat regiment (Jarboe 2016: 2, 5). So the Raj took special care of Punjab. And these measures prevented the Ghadr Party members from fanning an anti-British rebellion in Central Punjab during 1914–1915. The Ghadr Party was organized by a small group of revolutionaries from Delhi and Punjab in exile in North America. The Ghadr agents were returned Sikh emigres. About 50 per cent of the Ghadarites were ex-soldiers (Yong 2005: 112). Due to British munificence, Punjab became the most ‘overdeveloped’ province in the colonial context. The Raj made a massive investment for the construction of road and rail networks and canals in Punjab. The road and rail net was constructed with an eye to send troops through Punjab to the North-West Frontier, which was the principal front of the Indian Army before 1914. However, all these schemes aided the growth of commercial agriculture in this province. The main beneficiaries were the small Sikh farmers whose younger sons joined the Indian Army (Mazumder 2003). When the war broke out, Michael Francis O’Dwyer, the lieutenant governor of Punjab, put at the disposal of the army 180,000 acres of fertile canal irrigated land for allotment to the soldiers who had served with distinction. Further, 15,000 acres were also left aside as rewards for the successful recruiters (O’Dwyer 2004: 216). In colonial Indian society, the acquisition of land was considered socially prestigious and economically fruitful.
Training and tactics Training is the life blood of an army. Every Indian recruit on enlistment during the First World War was given six to eight months of training before they became combat-ready (O’Dwyer 2004: 226). In the case of the Indian Army, race/ethnicity, language and culture amalgamated with the training regimen while generating the will to war. Some of the units of the Indian Army were class regiments like the 14th Sikhs and the Gurkha battalions. A class regiment comprised of one particular community. Ethnic ties in such units bolstered by training strengthened the primordial solidarity, which in turn was a component of combat morale. The bulk of the Indian units were class-company regiments. For instance, the 69th Punjabis comprised of two Punjabi Muslim companies, one Sikh company and one Punjabi Hindu company. And the 89th Punjabis had one and a half companies of Sikhs, one and a half companies of Punjabi Muslims, half a company of Rajputs and half a company of Brahmins (Corrigan 2014: 82–83). Indian units were a complicated network of caste ties, religion and kinship structure. Men speaking the same language and of the same religion and often hailing from 49
the same villages developed ethnic group solidarity, which strengthened their combat morale. Such units could not be expanded wholesale during the war. If men from different caste and clan backgrounds were mixed indiscriminately in such units, then the ethnic primordial solidarity of such units withered away, which in turn weakened the primary group solidarity of such formations. Different units which had trained together if they were deployed together, then such formations fought well. Shared risks and achievements resulted in the growth of primary group cohesion, which was the backbone of combat effectiveness (Beaumont and Snyder 1980: 26). Men fighting and dying together in closely confined space also resulted in the growth of homoerotic bonds, which further strengthened primary group solidarity. In the American Army deployed in Vietnam between 1968 and 1972, officers, noncommissioned officers (NCOs) and enlisted men did not stay long enough to create a feeling of pride and belonging necessary to establish a relationship of trust. Twelve months tour of military duty weakened primary group cohesion in the units. The net result was a decline in combat effectiveness, and the American units refused to engage the North Vietnamese in battle (Lewy 1980: 96–103). In the Indian Army, most of the men who joined were long-term volunteers. Most of the recruits joined at the age of 17–18 and remained in the army for 15–20 years for getting pension (Omissi 1994: 78). Hence, primary group solidarity developed in the sepoy battalions. Men who knew each other well developed a bonding, and it was essential to face the grisly and dangerous battlefield. But when formations not known to each other were deployed due to exigencies of battle, then the combat effectiveness of such formations declined. Take for instance the case of 2nd Battalion of the 8th Gurkha Rifles (GR). It had trained with the Garhwal Brigade before the First World War. But when war broke out, then this battalion became part of the Bareilly Brigade, which was a part of the Meerut (7th) Division. This division was deployed in France in 1914 (Huxford 1952: 67). And its performance suffered due to random intermixing of the formations. Inefficient tactics and insufficient training dogged the Indian formations during the first half of the war. Due to lack of space, only a few actions from the various theatres will be discussed to illustrate the above-mentioned point. During the fighting at Tanga (4–5 November 1914) in East Africa against the German Schutztruppen, cooperation between artillery and infantry was non-existent. The infantry failed to communicate its need to the artillery, and the 28th Mountain Battery carried out ineffective intermittent shelling (Hordern 1941: 88–90). As a result, the Indian troops had to retreat against the attack launched by the German-officered askaris. Inadequate training and unsophisticated tactics resulted in the failure of the relief force to reach Kut, where Major General Charles Townshend’s 6th Division was surrounded. On 21 January 1916, the Black Watch, 6th Jats 50
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and the 41st Dogras attacked the Turkish trenches. However, the battalions soon lost direction and hovered aimlessly. And at that critical juncture, the Ottoman counter-attack developed with heavy fire support. The Ottoman fire was effective. It was raining heavily and telephone communications among the relief column’s formations had broken down. Communication by sending orderlies proved to be slow and uncertain. Heavy rainfall had converted the ground into a ‘sea of mud’. After 1 p.m., the British and Indian troops fell back to their original position. On the morning of 8 March 1916, when Major General Henry Keary’s troops attacked the Dujaila Redoubt from the east, the troops came under heavy fire from the Ottoman troops positioned in the concealed trenches. The right flank of the Ottoman defensive position at Es Sinn rested on the Dujaila Redoubt. In the late afternoon of that day, the 9th and 28th Infantry Brigades attacked from the south. And the 8th Infantry Brigade supported by the 37th Infantry Brigade assaulted from the east. The British and Indian infantries were subjected to rapid and accurate shrapnel fire from the Turkish guns concealed near Sinn Aftar. Completely exhausted, the dispirited British and Indian troops fell back to their original position. The relief column’s command deserves stringent criticism for lack of proper reconnaissance before starting the attack. The British commanders followed the tactics of bombarding the Ottoman defensive positions and then sending assault infantry. When the artillery fire lifted, the Ottoman defenders equipped with rifles and machine guns from their deep trenches caused a lot of casualties to the attacking Allied infantry caught on the open ground. The frontal tactics of the relief force proved to be manpower costly. For instance, on 6 April 1916, the 38th and 39th Infantry Brigades suffered 1,300 casualties while attacking Falahiyah held by the Ottoman troops (Lake 1916: 3–6). However, the wind of change was already in the offing. In the Western Front, from late 1915, the Indian formations experienced a tactical renaissance. Faced with German sniping in the trench lines, the Indian units responded with increased artillery and machine-gun fire. Whenever German parties engaged in repair work was sighted, they were subjected to heavy rifle and machine-gun fire (Indian Army Corps 1915). By 1917, the Indian Army was supplied well with all the paraphernalia of the war and the formations were also well trained. The ghost of ‘surrender at Kut’ had been exorcized. The morale of the troops was also high due to better training, tactics and supply situation. And the Indian Army was advancing in Mesopotamia. Some examples of small unit actions could be given to illustrate our case. On 25 January 1917, the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force (MEF) attacked Hai Salient. Innovative sophisticated tactics enabled the MEF to push back the Ottoman forces. The artillery first registered the targets, and then an intense bombardment of the Ottoman defensive position started. Under the creeping barrage, four waves of assault infantry moved forward supported by enfilade machine-gun fire (Ulrichsen 2014b: 141). Infantry 51
advancing under creeping barrage required a lot of precision in timing and thorough training for timely advance under fire for both the attacking infantry and the supporting artillery. This technique of attack was first developed in the Western Front and later spread among the units deployed in Mesopotamia. It was a classic case of inter-theatre transfer of battle skills. The Allied infantry used this technique even during the Second World War against German defensive positions. In early April 1917, the Ottomans held the right bank of Tigris River with 4,000 riflemen and 200 cavalry supported by 16 guns. They held Harbe and their advanced defensive point was the Beled Station. On 8 April, the MEF under Lieutenant-General F.S. Maude attacked Beled Station. The Ottoman troops responded with machine-gun fire. Since the Ottoman troops had set their machine guns on the high ground, they held the advantage of the terrain. The 51st Sikhs rose to the challenge and took advantage of the broken ground. While advancing, they were well supported by British artillery fire. Moving in the broken ground and infantry-artillery cooperation while advancing for attacking were the techniques well drilled among the infantry and the gunners. The Ottomans then retreated. The British and Indian troops were able to capture 200 prisoners and three machine guns. On 9 April, Harbe was captured (Maude 1917: 1–2). After the collapse of the Ottoman position on the left bank of Tigris, their next defensive position was Istabulat. The left of their line rested on the river and then extended along the Dujail Canal to the Baghdad-Samarrah railway. The Dujail Canal some 20 feet deep and with a 4 feet high bank was a serious obstacle to further Allied advance. The MEF decided to attack the left and left centre of the Ottoman defensive line. At 5 in the morning of 21 April 1917, the Ottoman defensive position on the north side of the Dujail Canal was attacked by the Black Watch and the 8th Gurkhas. The Ottoman troops responded with a rifle and machine-gun fire. The advance of the Black Watch and the 8th Gurkhas was supported by the creeping barrage. Early on 22 April, the Ottoman troops started retreating (Maude 1917: 3). The army of Maude was a different creature compared to the force under Townshend. By early 1918, in Mesopotamia, the signature tactics of the Indian Army involved making a frontal attack with infantry supported by artillery and machine-gun fire. The frontal assault was geared to fix the enemy’s attention, and then Indian cavalry supported by machine guns and armoured cars carried out wide outflanking manoeuvres in order to encircle and eliminate the dispirited Ottoman defenders (Roy 2009: 144–45).
Leadership Officers are the brain of the army. The Athenian General Xenophon in his Anabasis (Journey Upcountry) pointed out the importance of officers in 52
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instilling confidence among the troops when they were advancing or retreating. Xenophon always took the position of greatest danger in the battlefield (Xenophon 1972: 19). The noted British historian John Keegan asserts that heroic leadership is a sine qua non for maintaining military effectiveness of the troops in the forward edge of the battle area. The spectacle of heroic acts by the officers fired the blood of the soldiers (Keegan 1988). John Snow of the Game of Thrones HBO Series is a typical military commander who displayed heroic leadership in the front line of the battle. As a result, he became the darling of the troops. All successful armies in history depended on heroic leadership. In the Wehrmacht, even senior commanders led from the front, and officers of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) with swords in their hands led death-defying Banzai charges. Erwin Rommel and Heinz Guderian led their panzer columns from command wagons. In contrast, the Italian officers were not willing to risk their lives while leading the attacks. So Mussolini’s army wilted quickly in the sandy deserts of North Africa (Millett, Murray and Watman 2010: 24). The failure of several American officers to display courage and heroism while leading their troops in Vietnam resulted in the GIs becoming combat shy in the battlefield. Worse, the American privates and the NCOs lost all respect for their young commissioned officers, and this partly resulted in fragging (Gabriel and Savage 1986). Nationalist and post-colonial writings have pooh-poohed the British officers as nauseating creatures of imperialism. The focus of post-structuralist research is on the mentality of the sepoys by analysing folk songs, drawings and what not. In contrast, retired military officers while chronicling the actions of their regiments have emphasized the ‘blood and guts’ of the British officers in the danger-filled battlefield. It cannot be denied that heroic risk-taking leadership enabled the British officers to retain hold over the Indian soldiery even during the dark days of the war. For instance, on 16 December 1914, the 129th Baluchis attacked the German trenches near Givenchy. The Germans enjoyed manpower and material superiority over the Indians. Nevertheless, the cool courage and bravery of the British officers who led from the front enabled the Baluchis to give the Germans a bloody nose. For example, Major Potter himself led one company under fire and Lieutenant C.S. Browning led another company against the Germanheld trenches (Willcocks 1920: 144). The commissioned officer corps of the post-colonial Indian Army has inherited the British tradition of leading the troops from the front. The culture of command, as exercised by the British officers over the Indian troops, was paternalistic and personal in nature (Mason 1988). It was not unique. Many other armies functioned on the basis of paternalistic officer corps. In the IJA, the NCOs functioned as elder brothers and fathers for the greenhorns. Xenophon, while discussing the necessity of instilling discipline among the troops that were retreating under enemy pressure in 53
hostile territory, writes: ‘If I have punished anyone for his own good, then I think I should answer for it in just the same way as parents in the case of their children and schoolmasters in the case of their pupils’ (Quoted from Xenophon 1972: 258–59). Each Indian infantry battalion had 750 sepoys and 16 VCOs. The junior-most British officer was generally aged 19. The highest rank which the VCO could attain was that of subedar-major. The subedar-majors were in their late 40s or early 50s. Each battalion had eight companies, and each company was filled with men hailing from the same village. The senior-most VCO was subordinate to the most junior British officer. The VCOs were not commissioned officers but somewhat above the NCOs. This colonial peculiarity caused a lot of resentments among the Indian soldiery. Further, due to age and lack of training, the VCOs were incapable of commanding any formation larger than a company. So, when British officers became casualties, the Indian battalions became rudderless. This shortcoming remained with the Indian Army even during the Second World War. Casualties of British officers proved more detrimental to the Indian battalion due to another reason. Each Indian battalion had only 12 British officers, while a British battalion had 27 commissioned officers (MortonJack 2014: 29–30, 33). The Raj could have easily overcome this problem by commissioning Indian officers from the urban university-educated Indian middle class. However, the Raj did not Indianize its officer corps for several reasons. The British wanted to exercise a monopoly of control over the ‘brain of the army’. The commissioned officer corps of the Indian Army offered job opportunities to the middle-class and lower-middle-class Britons. Again, the Indian Army was an army of occupation. Under British control, this army had destroyed the indigenous powers and then conducted pacification campaigns against Indian communities who challenged the writ of the Raj. The British did not trust the university-educated urban middle-class Indians, who were considered anti-British Indian nationalists. So, the Indians were not allowed entry in the officer corps until the dying days of the Raj. Again, personal bonding between the officers and the men played an important role in the formation of cohesive bonds in the Indian units. When the 2nd Battalion of the 8th GR embarked at Karachi, it had 11 British officers, 17 Gurkha officers (VCOs) and 735 riflemen. After two months of combat in the Western Front in 1914, nine of the original British officers of this battalion became casualties. The Indian Army lacked a reserve of a large number of officers with knowledge of the men and their languages and culture, who could replace the battle casualties (Huxford 1952: 67–68). And the new British officers assigned to this formation lacked any detailed knowledge of the men they commanded and had no command over the vernaculars which the Indian Army personnel spoke. The scenario was a sure recipe for command breakdown. The heavy casualties of the British 54
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regular officers of the Indian formations in the Battle of Ctesiphon (22–25 November 1915) had an adverse effect on these formations’ combat effectiveness during the Siege of Kut. The British officers of the Indian Army reserve, who replaced them, were originally civilians, and they lacked the training to lead and control the men under fire (Townshend 1920: 221). Charles Monro, Commander-in-Chief India, from the late 1916 somewhat redressed the situation about shortages of trained officers by enlisting men from the white community in India. Tea planters, civil servants, lawyers and engineers were inducted in the officer corps. Monro further widened his net by inducting British males from Canada. New officer training colleges for them were set up in Baluchistan and in the Nilgiri Hills (Morton-Jack 2018: 376).
Logistics [W]ithout supplies neither a general nor a private is good for anything. (Xenophon 1972: 67) Supply of food, ammunition and weapons enables the soldiers to encounter the grisly ‘face of battle’ effectively. The qualitative and quantitative nature of hardware present in the hands of the troops also affects their fighting capabilities. At the beginning of 1914, the rifles of the Imperial Service Troops (IST) (contingents maintained by the princes but trained and officered by the British personnel deputed by the Raj) were obsolete and worn out. Moreover, the IST units had no machine guns (McClenaghan 2014: 98). So IST units when deployed in East Africa in late 1914 against the Germans fought badly. During 23–24 November 1914, the Germans attacked the trenches held by the Indian Corps at Festubert in France. Since the Germans had a superiority as regard grenades and trench mortars, the Indian Corps was at the receiving end (Willcocks 1920: 137). General James Willcocks, commander of the Indian Corps in France, notes in his memoirs that in 1914, ‘One jawan … even declared that if the Germans would exchange weapons the war would be over in a week’ (Quoted from Willcocks 1920: 138). Due to absence of forage, the cavalry of Force D could not pursue the retreating Ottoman troops after Townshend’s successful battle of Kut alAmara on 25 September 1915. This allowed the Ottoman high command to reorganize their troops, bring reinforcements and concentrate them again at Ctesiphon. On 22 September of that year, when Townshend opened the Battle of Ctesiphon, the Ottoman commander Nur-ud-din Pasha had 18,000 men ready to meet the onslaught of the British and Indian troops. Heavy casualties in the Battle of Ctesiphon forced Townshend to retreat to Kut (Ulrichsen 2014b: 133–34). 55
Qualitative inferiority of weaponry continued to dog the Indian units even two years after the beginning of the First World War. For instance, during the Siege of Kut (7 December 1915–29 April 1916), the British and Indian defenders’ morale plummeted partly due to the superior hardware available to the besieging Ottoman force. The Ottoman ground force had an edge as regards heavy guns. Their 10.5-cm guns were superior in range and rapidity of fire compared to the 5-inch guns in the hands of Townshend’s force (Townshend 1920: 224). When the Siege of Kut started, Townshend’s force had adequate munitions. However, if the siege went on for a long period, then resupply of the materials of war by the relieving force was essential. But when the relieving force (Tigris Corps) would reach the British-Indian garrison at Kut remained uncertain. Townshend was aware of this danger. So, Townshend ordered: We must husband our ammunition carefully; we have 800 rounds per rifle, and roughly 600 rounds per gun, but with night attacks ammunition runs away like water. Therefore I ask Commanding Officers to be careful, and to impress the men with thrift in this direction (Quoted from Townshend 1920: 216). Such an order did not raise the will to the war of the garrison. And with the failure of the relieving force to reach Kut, the ammunition supply situation deteriorated further. And this caused a drop in the morale of the British and Indian troops. The advance of the relief force to Kut was hobbled by lack of machine guns and river transport. Mesopotamia was a country with almost no roads. So river transport was the principal means of conveyance of the troops and supplies (Moberly 1923: 7–9, 342–43). Mesopotamia was infamous for diseases like plague, smallpox, cholera, malaria, dysentery and typhus (Moberly 1923: 8). In 1916, in Mesopotamia, there were 207,000 casualties from sickness compared to 23,300 from enemy action (Ulrichsen 2014b: 132). Lack of food and medical supplies were the principal culprits. One author asserts that during 1916–1917, a revolution of logistics occurred in Mesopotamia. Besides intense extraction of local resources, the British authorities also initiated schemes for agricultural development in order to make the MEF partly self-sufficient. Further, supplies from India also increased with time (Ulrichsen2014a: 51–64). Whether one could use the term revolution remains debatable. But, one thing is clear. A massive expansion of the Allied logistical infrastructure occurred not only in Mesopotamia but also in all the theatres in which the Indian units were stationed. By the end of 1915, not only the combatants but also the followers of Indian Expeditionary Force A in France received free winter clothing like drawers, vest, flannel shirts and khaki greatcoats, caps, socks, etc. (IEFA 10 Dec. 1915: Appendix 10). 56
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Better quality weaponry became available in larger numbers to the British and Indian soldiers from 1916 onwards. In 1916, Indian Army accepted the .303-inch Vickers gun, which was 30 pound lighter than the .303-inch Maxim gun. The Vickers gun made of steel comprised of interchangeable components (India List of Changes 1916: 121–22). So a lighter gun with the same firepower aided the mobility of the Indian troops. By 1918, the Indian soldiery in comparison with their opponents was flushed with military hardware. And the Indian units in terms of the military hardware enjoyed a quantitative and qualitative superiority over their Ottoman opponents. For instance, in Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Indian units had 5-inch howitzers, 6-inch howitzers, 8-inch howitzers, 4.5-inch quick-firing guns, 13-pounder quick-firing guns, 15-pounder quick-firing guns, 60-pounder breech loaders, 2.75-inch guns, 6-inch guns and 3.7-inch mountain howitzers. And these guns were able to lob shrapnel as well as high explosive rounds upon the enemy formations (Statistical Abstract: 419, 424). One must note that the First World War was an artillerist’s war. And the Italian Army, like the Indian Army during 1914–1915, was hobbled by inadequate artillery support (Gooch 2010: 171). For providing close fire support to the infantry against the hostile infantry in the trenches, the Indian formations had access to 3.7-inch trench howitzers, 3-inch Stokes trench mortars, 2-inch and 6-inch trench mortars in addition to Maxim, Vickers, Lewis and Hotchkiss machine guns (Statistical Abstract: 423). Recruits from Punjab joined the army enthusiastically because they believed that they were enlisted for one short overseas campaign. The prices of wheat and sugar increased in late 1914. It provided the economic push to recruitment in larger numbers (Yong 2005: 102). Mulk Raj Anand (b. 1905–d. 2004), a leading figure of English fiction writing in India, was the son of Subedar (a VCO) Lal Chand Anand, who served in the 2/17 Dogra. In his fiction titled Across the Black Waters (1939), Mulk Raj describes the travails of a soldier from Punjab to Flanders. This book is written somewhat in the style of The Good Soldier Svejk. About the motivation of the sepoys in joining the Indian Army, Mulk Raj writes: ‘He was going to Vilayat … the glamorous land of his dreams, where the Sahibs came from, where people wore coats and pantaloons and led active fashionable lives’ (Quoted from Anand 2016: 9). However, when the war became attritional, letters from the soldiers serving in France described the horror and their disenchantment with the bloody struggle going on in the front. Several soldiers also warned the people in homes not to allow recruitment of their relatives (Yong 2005: 107). Anti-war feeling was not unique to the colonial Indian subjects of the British Empire. Antiwar feelings also existed in other national armies. For instance, just before the Battle of Caporetto (October 1917), many Italian soldiers expressed their disenchantment with further fighting (Wilcox 2009: 32–33). The British responded to the discontent of the Indian soldiers by expanding their welfare net. Between 1911 and 1918, the pay of a sepoy rose 57
from Rs 11 per month to Rs 20 per month (Omissi 1994: 54). In 1916, Indian troops in France, Dardanelles and Salonika became eligible to special field allowances (IEFE and G 12 March 1916: Appendix 20). From 1917 onwards, free rations were given to the Indian troops. Further, to encourage recruitment, every recruit was given Rs 50 as an enlistment bonus (O’Dwyer 2004: 222). News from their homes kept the soldiers happy. The British bureaucracy took steps in setting up postal connections between India and the Indian troops deployed in Egypt. In 1918, there were 357 Indians in the postal service in Egypt. On average, the Indian personnel of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force received 20 letters and 20 parcels from India per week. On a weekly average, some 15,000 letters by the Indian soldiers and 8,400 letters by the New Zealand troops were sent from Egypt to India and New Zealand, respectively (Egyptian Expeditionary Force: 93). Alas, only the figures of letters sent by the Indian troops to their homes exist. We Indians are not good record keepers. Had such letters remained extant, they would have given scholars lot of materials to unravel the texture of mentality of the Indian soldiers.
Conclusion Our analysis has shown that in order to understand the combat motivation of the troops, battlefield history needs to be fused with the organizational history. And the army organization had to take into account the culture of the troops and the peculiarities of the social fabric in order to transform them into efficient and effective ‘killers’. We have seen that a welfare package comprising of a host of tangible and intangible incentives, coupled with material superiority plus heroic leadership by the regimental officers, enabled the Indian Army to weather the storm. But the question remains, how resilient was the combat motivation of the sepoys? Total casualties of the Indian Army during the four years of war were about 120,000 (Roy 2018: 56, 58). In one single day, at Somme (1 July 1916), the British Army suffered about 50,000 casualties. Overall, at Somme (1 July–18 November 1916), the British Army suffered over 400,000 casualties and at Passchendaele (31 July–10 November 1917) another 250,000 casualties (Kennedy 2010: 37). Even after suffering such horrendous casualties, the British Army was able to make a comeback during the Hundred Days Campaign in 1918. Had the Indian Army suffered such casualties, it would have been in limbo. Britain maintained a larger army from a small manpower pool compared to British India. The Raj being a colonial regime could not implement conscription, which the London Government was able to do in 1916. And if the British had imposed conscription, then Indian society would have revolted against the Raj. The three factors which we mentioned earlier that glued the Indian Army in the battlefield were also 58
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present in the British Army. What then explains the superior combat effectiveness of the British Army vis-à-vis the Indian Army? And here comes the role of ideology. If the British Army’s combat effectiveness to a great extent was dependent on nationalist ideology (nationalism), what about the Austro-Hungarian Army? The Habsburg Army like the Indian Army was drawn from a multiethnic society. And the Habsburg Army like the British Army but unlike the Indian Army suffered staggering losses. During the Brusilov Offensive of 1916, the Habsburg Army suffered more than 700,000 casualties (Sondhaus 2009: 6–7). In the absence of nationalism, what factor generated combat motivation among the personnel of the Habsburg military machine? Dynastic ideology played an important role in strengthening the combat motivation of the different ethnic groups in the Habsburg Army. After all, unlike the colonial Indians, the Habsburg subjects were members of an independent monarchy. Further, the Central Powers were more than 1,000 miles away from India’s frontier. But the Hungarians, Slovaks and German ethnic groups in the Habsburg Empire were directly threatened by the Slavic Russian steamroller. Though Hasek in his novel titled The Good Soldier Svejk engages in double entendre, still the following words have enormous relevance as regard combat motivation. The final lines dictated by Hasek before his death are as follows: ‘I always used to say: “Patriotism, fidelity to duty, victory over oneself, these are the weapons that matter in warfare”’ (Quoted from Hasek 2000: 752). Ideologies like nationalism, or a secular non-national ideology like Nazism, enabled the soldiers to go on fighting even when the odds were stacked against them. Absence of this factor made the combat motivation of the sepoys and sowars somewhat fragile and limited. This made the Indian Army unique, hence colonial in the context of the Great War.
Note 1 I am grateful to my research scholar Ms Moumita Choudhury for supplying me with some of the sources.
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Beaumont, Roger A. and Snyder, William P., ‘Combat Effectiveness: Paradigms and Paradoxes’, in Sam C. Sarkesian (ed.), Combat Effectiveness: Cohesion, Stress, and the Volunteer Military (Beverly Hills/London: SAGE, 1980), pp. 20–56. Bourke, Joanna, An Intimate History of Killing: Face to Face Killing in Twentieth Century Warfare (1999, reprint, London: Granta, 2000). Corrigan, Gordon, ‘The Gurkhas at Gallipoli’, in Rob Johnson (ed.), The British Indian Army: Virtue and Necessity (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014), pp. 77–91. Das, Santanu, India, Empire, and First World War Culture: Writings, Images, and Songs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018). Despatch by Lieutenant-General P.H.N. Lake on the Operations of IEFD from 19 Jan.–30 April 1916, L/MIL/17/15/108, IOR, BL, London. Despatch by Lieutenant-General F.S. Maude on the Operations of the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force, 1 April–30 Sept. 1917 (Delhi: Superintendent of Government Printing, 1917), L/MIL/17/15/111, IOR, BL, London. Devi, Mokhuda, Kalyan Pradip (Kolkata: Privately Published, 1928). In Bengali. Gabriel, Richard A. and Savage, Paul L., Crisis in Command: Mismanagement in the Army (1981, reprint, New Delhi: Himalayan books, 1986). Gooch, John, ‘Italy during the First World War’, in Allan R. Millett and Williamson Murray (eds.), Military Effectiveness, The First World War, vol. 1 (1988, reprint, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 157–89. Harari, Yuval Noah, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2011, reprint, London: Vintage, 2014). Harari, Yuval Noah, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2015, reprint, London: Vintage, 2017). Hasek, Jaroslav, The Good Soldier Svejk and his Fortunes in the World War, A new and unabridged translation from the Czech by Cecil Parrott with the original illustrations by Josef Lada (1973, reprint, London: Penguin, 2000). Holmes, Richard, Acts of War: The Behavior of Men in Battle (1985, reprint, New York: Free Press, 1989). Hordern, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles, Military Operations East Africa, vol. 1, Aug. 1914–Sept. 1916, History of the Great War based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence (London: HMSO, 1941), L/MIL/17/17/11, IOR, BL, London. Huxford, Lieutenant-Colonel H.J., History of the 8th Gurkha Rifles: 1824–1949 (Aldershot: Gale and Polden, 1952). India List of Changes in War Materials, L/MIL/17/5/2103, IOR, BL, London. Jarboe, Andrew Tait, War News in India: The Punjabi Press during World War I (London: I.B. Tauris, 2016). Keegan, John, The Mask of Command (1987, reprint, London: Penguin, 1988). Kennedy, Paul, ‘Britain in the First World War’, in Allan R. Millett and Williamson Murray (eds.), Military Effectiveness, The First World War, vol. 1 (1988, reprint, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 31–79. Lewy, Guenter, ‘The American Experience in Vietnam’, in Sam C. Sarkesian (ed.), Combat Effectiveness: Cohesion, Stress, and the Volunteer Military (Beverly Hills: SAGE, 1980), pp. 94–106. Lorenz, Konrad, On Aggression, tr. by Marjorie Kerr Wilson with a foreword by Julian Huxley (1966, reprint, London/New York: Routledge, 2002).
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Mason, Philip, A Matter of Honour: An Account of the Indian Army, Its Officers and Men (1974, reprint, Dehradun: EBD Educational Private Limited, 1988). Mazumder, Rajit K., The Indian Army and the Making of Punjab (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2003). McClenaghan, Tony, ‘The Imperial Service Troops Scheme in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries’, in Rob Johnson (ed.), The British Indian Army: Virtue and Necessity (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014), pp. 93–105. Millett, Allan R., Murray, Willamson and Watman, Kenneth H., ‘The Effectiveness of Military Organizations’, in Allan R. Millett and Williamson Murray (eds.), Military Effectiveness, The First World War, vol. 1 (1988, reprint, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 1–30. Moberly, Brigadier-General F.J., The Campaign in Mesopotamia, 1914–1918, History of the Great War Based on Official Documents, vol. 1 (London: HMSO, 1923). Morton-Jack, George, The Indian Army on the Western Front: India’s Expeditionary Force to France and Belgium in the First World War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014). Morton-Jack, George, The Indian Empire at War: From Jihad to Victory, The Untold Story of the Indian Army in the First World War (London: Little, Brown, 2018). Nath, Ashok, ‘The 49th: A Bengali Infantry Regiment in the Great War’, in Rob Johnson (ed.), The British Indian Army: Virtue and Necessity (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014), pp. 65–76. O’Dwyer, Michael, India as I Knew It (1926, reprint, New Delhi: Mittal Publications, 2004). Omissi, David, The Sepoy and the Raj: The Indian Army, 1860–1940 (London: Macmillan, 1994). Roy, Kaushik, Brown Warriors of the Raj: Recruitment and the Mechanics of Command in the Sepoy Army, 1859–1913 (New Delhi: Manohar, 2008). Roy, Kaushik, ‘The Army in India in Mesopotamia from 1961 to 1918: Tactics, Technology and Logistics Reconsidered’, in Ian F.W. Beckett (ed.), 1917: Beyond the Western Front (Leiden: Brill, 2009), pp. 131–58. Roy, Kaushik, Indian Army and the First World War: 1914–1918 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2018). Roy, Kaushik, ‘From Kut to Mosul: Lessons Learnt by the Indian Army in Mesopotamia, 1914–18’, in Robert Johnson and James E. Kitchen (eds.), The Great War in the Middle East: A Clash of Empires (London: Routledge, 2019), pp. 143–62. Sarbadhikary, Sisir Kumar, Abhi Le Baghdad: Protham Mahajuddher Khanikta (Kolkata: Kalpana Press, nd). In Bengali, the account was probably written in 1957. Sarkesian, Sam C., ‘Combat Effectiveness’, in Sam C. Sarkesian (ed.), Combat Effectiveness: Cohesion, Stress, and the Volunteer Military (Beverly Hills: SAGE, 1980), pp. 8–18. Sondhaus, Lawrence, ‘Planning for the Endgame: The Central Powers, September 1916–April 1917’, in Ian F.W. Beckett (ed.), 1917: Beyond the Western Front (Leiden: Brill, 2009), pp. 1–23.
Statistical Abstract of Information regarding the Armies at Home and Abroad 1914– 1920, L/MIL/17/5/2382, IOR, BL, London. Townshend, Major-General Charles F., My Campaign in Mesopotamia (London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1920). Ulrichsen, Kristian Coates, ‘Learning the Hard Way: The Indian Army in Mesopotamia, 1914–1918’, in Rob Johnson (ed.), The British Indian Army: Virtue and Necessity (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014a), pp. 51–64. Ulrichsen, Kristian Coates, The First World War in the Middle East (London: C. Hurst & Co., 2014b). Waldman, Thomas, War, Clausewitz and the Trinity (Surrey: Ashgate, 2013). War Diary of General Staff Indian Army Corps July 1915, WO 95/1090, Public Record Office, Kew, London. War Diary of Indian Expeditionary Force A, 1915, Administrative Services, WWI/182/H, Military Department (MD), National Archives of India (NAI), New Delhi. War Diary of Indian Expeditionary Force E and G, vols. 13-8, 1915–16, WWI/333/ H-338/H, MD, NAI, New Delhi. Wilcox, Vanda, ‘Generalship and Mass Surrender during the Italian Defeat at Caporetto’, in Ian F.W. Beckett (ed.), 1917: Beyond the Western Front (Leiden: Brill, 2009), pp. 25–46. Willcocks, General James, With the Indians in France (London: Constable and Company, 1920). Xenophon, The Persian Expedition, tr. by Rex Warner, With an Introduction and Notes by George Cawkwell (1949, reprint, London: Penguin, 1972). Yong, Tan Tai, The Garrison State: The Military, Government and Society in Colonial Punjab, 1849–1947 (New Delhi: SAGE, 2005).
3 THE MAHARAJAS’ CONTRIBUTION TO THE FIRST WORLD WAR An Overview1 Tony McClenaghan
Until recent years, the role of India’s armed forces in the First World War had been largely forgotten or ignored. Much has been done in the last five years to redress that position, but that original omission is dwarfed by the almost total ignorance of the involvement of the semi-autonomous Indian Princely States, which have barely been given a footnote reference, even in the official histories. There were, at the time of Independence, some 560 Princely States of varying size, importance and degree of autonomy. None could have direct diplomatic relations with a foreign power, and none could declare war on anyone else. However, they had been allowed to retain private armies, in some cases of quite a substantial size, but until the late 19th century, they played no part in defence of India. The Panjdeh Incident of March 1885 proved to be the catalyst for change. Following the end of the Second Afghan War in 1880, and having established what it considered to be a buffer zone between the Indian Empire and the expanding Tsarist Empire through the establishment of a pro-British Amir in Afghanistan, Britain became increasingly alarmed at the steady Russian advance towards Merv, close to the Afghan border. This the Russians occupied in February 1884, much to the consternation of London. A joint Anglo-Russian Boundary Commission was scheduled to meet in order to attempt a resolution of the dispute, but the Russians delayed this as further moves took place towards the Panjdeh oasis, south of the Oxus River and just inside Afghan territory, which they seized on 31 March 1885. Whereas the Afghan Amir had been minded to brush the incident off as a minor frontier scuffle, the British saw the incident as a greater threat to its Indian Empire. As the retreating Afghan troops moved to Herat, the Government of India was instructed to mobilize an army to move to the Afghan’s assistance should the Russians attack the Herat fortress and make war inevitable. War was averted through diplomacy, and the Anglo-Russian Boundary Commission was able to conclude its business in determining the
northern frontier of Afghanistan, which included the Russians keeping hold of Panjdeh.2 With half the army in India on the move in 1885, and with the immense sums of money being spent on preparing for a war that seemed inevitable, the Nizam of Hyderabad, then probably the richest man in the world, offered a large sum from his revenues to the government in aid of the war chest, an example which was promptly followed by other State rulers. The government, however, felt that rather than a financial contribution, it would be better if the Princely States entered into some share of the maintenance of the empire by contributing a portion of the troops required for its defence. This, of course, was not a new idea. In 1798, Richard, Marquess Wellesley, had adopted the earlier Indian idea of Subsidiary alliances with certain State rulers, a process that saw the stationing of Subsidiary Forces, as they were called, in or near States. These were composed of troops of the Indian Army drawn from Madras, Bengal and Oudh but officered by the British, and paid for by the States, usually by the cession of lands but occasionally by monetary payment. Although ostensibly raised for the purpose of protecting the governments of the States concerned against both external and internal enemies, they became, in effect, instruments for the coercion of the State itself if necessary. Contingent forces, on the other hand, which started to be formed a few years after the introduction of Subsidiary Forces, represented the reformed troops of the States themselves, kept ready to preserve internal order and to act with British troops if the need arose. At least that was the intention in the original definition, and in that regard they mirror the much later introduction of Imperial Service Troops and, later still, Indian State Forces. The formation of Subsidiary and Contingent forces had not led to the disbandment of the remainder of the State Ruler’s private armies, the large size of which in some cases was a cause of some anxiety, partly because of a drain on State resources, and partly because of a British fear that they might prove a danger in the event of a disturbance. Once the Contingent forces had been disbanded following the events of 1857, the States no longer actively contributed to the defence of the empire, although discussion had often taken place as to what a fair contribution might be, if any, of the States towards the expense of the protection under which they, or at least their rulers, flourished. Some argued that the States owed some assistance to the government; others were not so certain. In 1873, Major Owen Burne, who later became the Vice President of the Council of India, prepared a report on the State armies.3 He came out against the use of them, and his views of 1873 were echoed five years later when the Governor General in Council considered the matter but admitted the impracticability, under present conditions, of working out a scheme for associating the troops of the Native States with the 64
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Imperial Army. Since, therefore, the armies of Native States cannot be utilized along with the Imperial forces for the defence of the Empire, it follows that, if they are in excess of internal requirements, they ought to be reduced.4 The Panjdeh events of 1885 resurrected the subject, and gradually the idea began to gain ground that some scheme for utilizing the military resources of the rulers ought to be worked out. The principal proponent of this idea was Colonel George Chesney, the Secretary to the Government of India in the military department (later became Lieutenant General Sir George Chesney, Military Member of the Supreme Council of the Government of India 1886– 1891) who, having witnessed the Punjab Contingent at the Rawalpindi Camp, proposed that they be trained and brought up to first-line standards so that if called upon for assistance, they need not remain in the lines of communication where they would soon tire of playing a secondary role. A couple of years later, Major Melliss5 of the Bombay Staff Corps was selected to visit the States and study the actual condition and probable future capabilities of their armies. He concluded that a portion of the troops belonging to the States could be equipped and trained for active service, and by January 1888, a variety of offers had been received from the rulers. Details were forwarded to London while, in India, a committee consisting of Sir Frederick Roberts, Commander-in-Chief; George Chesney, principal architect of the scheme; Sir Mortimer Durand, the Foreign Secretary; and Sir James Lyall, Lieutenant Governor of Punjab met to consider the proposals, reporting on 26 September. Without waiting for clearance from London, the Viceroy, Lord Dufferin, set out his proposals at a durbar held on 17 November 1888 to celebrate the marriage of the Maharaja of Patiala. He emphasized that no State would be asked to maintain a larger force than it could well support: promised the appointment of a few British officers as advisers and inspectors, and Drill Instructors to be lent from the Indian Army. The selected troops would be armed with breech-loading weapons presented to the several States by the British Government – carbines for the cavalry and Snider rifles for the infantry. He concluded by expressing the hope that each force would remain a purely State force recruited in the territories of its Chief. The scheme was eagerly accepted by the rulers, and the detailed units became known as Imperial Service Troops (1ST). By 1889, the movement had made a start with regiments of cavalry, battalions of infantry, companies of sappers, the Camel Corps of Bikaner and units of mule and pony draught transport being formed. Since the primary objective was to organize units trained and equipped to Indian Army standards and capable of taking part in campaigns alongside the Indian and British armies, it was essential that the levels of training and equipment were monitored on a regular basis and that experienced officers of the Indian Army should be made available 65
for this role. The officers were seconded for fixed tours and were usually experts in their arm of service. None of the treaty obligations between the States and the Government of India required them to support the British outside of India and yet events at the turn of the century in China, South Africa and Somaliland saw the deployment in one form or another of Imperial Service Troops. Thus, at the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, the scheme had been in operation for just over 25 years and the States had demonstrated their support on a number of occasions. But a lack of investment during that 25 years led to a number of weaknesses and deficiencies in armament, establishments and training, and it meant there was some serious catching up to do. Within hours and days of war being declared, virtually every ruling Prince had offered the services of his State to the King Emperor. For those States that supported Imperial Service Troops – about 40 States at the time – these offers included the mobilization of their troops, personal deployment by the ruler, either at the front or in any other capacity deemed suitable, as well as financial and other material support from within the State. Similar personal and State resource offers were made by those rulers not supporting Imperial Service Troops. Given that their treaty obligations with the British did not require them to provide any support outside of India, it might be pertinent to ask why they were so keen to step forward. It is not an easy question to answer, and space does not permit a detailed examination of it. It has to be remembered that the ruling princes did not represent a homogeneous single grouping. There were religious and ethnic divisions among them, as well as perceptions of relative rank and importance. Nevertheless, from the many records consulted, it seems clear that for many it was a sense of honour and duty that inspired them. They regarded themselves, with good cause, as fighting men and as leaders of fighting men, and they wished to play their part in the battle. Some were mindful of the honours and awards they received from the British Crown and felt that their acceptance of such honours meant there was a requirement to give something in return. Some rulers, who had embarked on social, representational and economic improvements within their states, saw in their response to the war an obligation on the part of the British to pay something in return, namely a loosening of the interference in the running of their states, and more generally a more open approach on the part of the British to placing India on a more equal footing with the Dominions of the Empire – and in that they were not dissimilar in their approach to Gandhi, Jinah and Tilak. Whatever their views, it may seem strange to some that Indians were fighting to preserve the freedom of one country, while battling in a variety of ways with that same country for their own freedom. A number of rulers were selected for service in the field and were granted honorary commissions in the Indian Army, with ranks ranging from 66
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Lieutenant to Lieutenant General. Such moves were not universally popular among senior officers, possibly reflecting a professional opinion about military efficiency, but equally possibly reflecting an element of bias against the personalities involved or even the whole Indian Princely structure. In considering a possible replacement for one previously nominated ruler, the discussion turned to who else might be available: He [the Raja of Raghogarh] is a small Chief who does not carry weight in Central India, but I do not see why he should not do so with Indian soldiers in Europe. I imagine that their ideas are vague as to the relative importance of Chiefs, except the biggest or those from their own part of the world, and that inside that circle Rajas are just Rajas to them and all much alike.6 Even from the Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Beauchamp Duff: These Chiefs are, of course, of no real use to us at the front. With few exceptions they are a mere nuisance which has to be borne, from the military point of view, in order to meet the political opinion as to prospective advantages.7 Also, from J.B. Wood, Political Secretary to the Government of India in the Foreign and Political Department, on finding a replacement for the invalided Maharaja of Patiala: ‘With so many Sikhs at war it is a pity we haven’t a good one [Sikh Ruler] to send’.8 In addition to their own State officers, each unit had attached to it two or three, later increased to six or even twelve, British Special Service Officers (SSOs) to advise and help the Indian commandants. With the best will in the world, most of the State officers lacked the necessary military education, training or experience to lead effectively in a war such as this and so needed the support of experienced British officers to assist them. This occasionally caused friction between the states, State officers and the British officers. For example, material in the National Archive in Delhi identifies a State Commandant from Patiala losing his command because he dared to question an order from his SSO – an order that, it was subsequently admitted by the Inspector General Imperial Service Troops, the SSO had no right to make. The impact on that officer when he returned home, with the loss of face and Izzat among his family and village, doesn’t bear thinking about. Fortunately, that sort of event was something of a rarity and on the whole, by dint of tact and diplomacy on the part of all concerned, problems were largely overcome. While the rulers may have had their own several and varied reasons for volunteering their services, for the soldiers of the Princely States it was a different story. A soldier enlisting into the Indian Army volunteered to serve 67
beyond India’s borders if required, and he might have had some realistic expectation of being sent to serve overseas during his career, either as part of one of the many expeditions mounted from India or in one of the many garrisons established in China and the Far East. A soldier enlisting into the Imperial Service Troops would have had no such expectations – he expected to serve within that State, or at the most extreme, perhaps, towards the borders of India. While the rulers themselves may have freely offered their own services as well as those of their troops, the soldiers, like those of the Indian Army, had no choice in the matter and did as they were told.9 Within days of the start of the war, troops from Alwar, Bharatpur, Bikaner, Faridkot, Gwalior, Jind, Jodhpur, Kashmir, Kapurthala, Patiala and Rampur had been nominated for service overseas, and war mobilization was taken in hand. Those not selected for the initial deployment were advised that reserves would be required in the future. And so it proved to be as the war stretched on into four years. In total, the military contribution of the States numbered almost 22,000 all ranks of which close on 18,500 eventually served overseas. Throughout the four years of the war, these troops were maintained in the field at the expense of their rulers and State durbars, with casualties replaced from within State resources. For a number of States, the size of their units was too small to be used as a single entity and so they readily agreed to deploy detachments as reinforcements for other State or Indian Army units. Others did not serve outside India, but they nevertheless contributed to the war effort by sending their troops into British India to provide remount training or garrison units, thereby relieving Indian Army units for overseas deployments. A study of published sources at the beginning of my research suggested that, in all, the Imperial Service Troops lost just short of 600 killed in action, 150 died of wounds and just over 1,000 wounded. New material emerging through the study, and particularly the unit war diaries and Army Headquarters war diaries, now suggests that the total number of those who died was 1,634, either killed in action, missing in action, died of wounds, died as prisoners of war or died of the disease. In addition to their own military forces, States provided recruits for the Indian Armed Forces, as combatants, non-combatants and labourers for Labour Corps. Again, accurate statistics are difficult to come by. One source gives a figure of 115,891 from those states directly associated with the Foreign and Political Department of the Government of India but makes the point that figures for other states were ‘unfortunately included in Provincial tables’, so a final total for such recruits is likely to be considerably more than the quoted figure.10 Some units were formed into larger brigades, while others were deployed on an individual basis. Perhaps one of the most recognizable examples of such a unit was the Jodhpur Lancers, with a squadron from Alwar attached, which served initially in France and Flanders. The Jodhpur Lancers, whose 68
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service included the battles of Givenchy and Cambrai, were led by their charismatic Regent, Maharaja Sir Pratap Singh, and their 16-year-old Maharaja, Sumer Singh, though both actually served in staff appointments rather than in the field.11 Another example of an individual unit was the Bikaner Camel Corps, the Ganga Risala, which sailed for Egypt just ten weeks after the war was declared. Throughout its 4½ years of continual active service, it was supported by the Bikaner Sadul Light Infantry, acting both as the Training Battalion and as a source of reserves to replace casualties. In November 1914, the regiment had the distinction of being the first to exchange shots with the Turkish enemy in the Egyptian theatre at Bir-el-Nuss, where the evidence suggests they were led into an ambush by a renegade party of the Egyptian Coast Guard Camel Corps. In the fight that ensued, heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy for very few own casualties. One of the Bikaner’s involved, Sepoy Ali Khan, was subsequently awarded the Indian Order of Merit, the first to be awarded to Imperial Service Troops in the war.12 Although initially the only camel unit of any value in Egypt, the Egyptian Coast Guard Camel Corps, having cast doubt on their loyalty in the Bir-el-Nuss conflict and seldom used operationally thereafter, later in the war the Bikaners found themselves relegated to the backwaters of the western desert once the Imperial Camel Corps, formed primarily of British, Australian and New Zealand soldiers, had been established. Some States contributed to the war effort in Europe with the provision of remounts. Others, such as Bharatpur and Indore, the latter including a small embedded detachment from Gwalior, provided essential pack transport or animal transport carts and men in support of front-line troops. Detachments from both transport units were subsequently included as part of the Indian Army mule cart train detailed for service in Gallipoli under the overall command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Beville. Both State detachments formed a part of 4th Cart Corps under the command of Captain Gerald Aylmer. Two states, Malerkotla and Tehri-Garhwal, provided support to the Indian Army in France in the shape of their sappers and miners; Malerkotla providing reinforcements for 20th and 21st Companies, 3rd Bengal Sappers and Miners; Tehri-Garhwal providing reinforcements to serve in an infantry role with the 1st Battalion, 39th Garhwal Rifles. Both host units had taken part in the battle of Festubert in 1914, prior to the arrival of their State reinforcements, and again in 1915 with their State reinforcements in place. Both host units were subsequently awarded the battle honour ‘Festubert 1914–1915’, while the Malerkotla Sappers and the Tehri Garhwal Sappers were awarded ‘Festubert 1915’. In itself this seems odd, especially when a detachment of Burma Military Police also embedded with the Garhwal Rifles received nothing. Rules laid down after the war by the War Office Advisory Committee on honours and distinctions stipulated, among other criteria, that in awarding an honour ‘the Headquarters and at least 50 per 69
cent of the effective strength of a unit must have been present at the engagement for which the honour was claimed’.13 It is doubtful that this criterion was met by either the state unit. Another criterion was that units had to claim their honours and, given that none of this came into effect until 1925 and later, it is possible that the Burma Military Police simply failed to make a claim. In the Middle East, two composite formations were created for Imperial Service Troops: the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade – later renamed as 15th Brigade, under Brigadier General Arthur Watson, CB, CIE14 – the 32nd Imperial Service Infantry Brigade under his brother Brigadier General Harry Watson CIE MVO.15 The principal units of the cavalry brigade were 1st Hyderabad Lancers, Mysore Lancers supported by a detachment from Bhavnagar and the Patiala Lancers. Their main duties initially were defending the Suez Canal against Turkish raids, reconnaissance operations and protection duties on the railway and the Sweet Water Canal. One of the more significant encounters of this early period of the war involving Imperial Service Troops began with a patrol of the Bikaner Camel Corps operating out of Ismailia. On 28 April 1915, a combined party consisting of 67 fighting ranks of the Corps, a Maxim Gun detachment, a section of Mounted Sappers, a Wireless Section and a party of Arab guides left Ferry Post, Ismailia, for Egeidet Um Nasr with the intention of recovering some enemy gun ammunition said to be buried there. Aerial reconnaissance reported the area to be clear, but the patrol ran into an enemy body estimated at 200 men. There was a heavy exchange of fire lasting some time as the Bikaner patrol executed an orderly retirement until the enemy gave up the attack, but not without the loss of one Bikaner sepoy and one Egyptian sapper killed, one havildar dying of his wounds the following day, one sepoy severely wounded, one Egyptian sapper missing in action and two Bikaner personnel and one Egyptian sapper slightly wounded. It was estimated that up to 20 of the enemy camp had been killed in the action. That evening HQ Canal Defences ordered a brigade-level operation to move and attack the enemy. Nine squadrons of Imperial Service Cavalry (three from Mysore, the Hyderabad Lancers and the Patiala Lancers less two troops), a half battalion of 27th Punjabis under Lieutenant Colonel Carey, two guns of the Egyptian artillery, a field ambulance and a 250-strong camel convoy for water supplies moved out that evening. By early morning on the 29th, a patrol found the position at which the Bikaner patrol had encountered the enemy the previous day. Several wounded camels were found and were destroyed. Shortly afterwards an aeroplane dropped a message that the enemy had evacuated Hawawish and was now 100–150 strong with 100 camels and much baggage at Mahadat to the north east. The GOC therefore decided to clear Hawawish before proceeding to Mahadat, though he endured an enforced delay while waiting for the guns to catch up. An 70
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advance guard found by B Squadron Patiala Lancers sent an officer’s patrol towards Mahadat to give the GOC immediate news if the enemy was leaving his position. At 1345 hours, firing could be heard in the direction of the left flank of the advance guard and some small bodies of the enemy were sighted on the sand dunes above the wells but it was another half an hour before the GOC and his advance guard reached the dune overlooking Mahadat and saw the enemy retiring in the column of the route to the north east in three parties, with guns in position to the east. He ordered the Mysore and Patiala Lancers to pursue the enemy as rapidly as possible but the heavy sand and steeply undulating nature of the country, combined with the long period without water which the horses had been forced to endure, and the fact that they had been under saddle for over 17 hours, slowed their pace considerably. Nevertheless, the leaders acted with great vigour and the Patiala Lancers overtook and charged a small body of the enemy, taking two prisoners. The regiment then swept on in a broken line over the crest of a ridge into a valley, at the eastern end of which a party of 15 or so of the enemy was in ambush. This party opened fire, and simultaneously the regiment came under machine-gun fire and shrapnel from a ridge about 600 yards to the east. The enemy was again charged but resisted with rifles and hand grenades, and, though all were eventually cut down, they succeeded in severely wounding two British officers attached to the regiment, in killing Major Mahomed Yusuf Ali Khan, the commanding officer, and 1458 Sowar Abdul Karim and in wounding six other men. The accuracy of the machine-gun and artillery fire, and the loss of their leaders, caused some confusion in the ranks of the Patiala regiment and a sizeable number made an unauthorized tactical withdrawal from the field. The Mysore and Hyderabad Lancers continued with their part of the action, though owing to the extreme exhaustion of the horses, they were unable to gain on the enemy, who were running very fast and, according to a report received from an aeroplane, in considerable disorder. At this point the action was broken off. The majority of enemy casualties were found to be of lance or sword thrusts. The horses had been under saddle for about 40 hours, had covered between 55 and 60 miles through exceedingly heavy going and, with few exceptions, had not been watered since 1800 hours on the evening of the 28th April. The men had had only two short opportunities for sleep. It was to be expected, therefore, that there would be casualties among the horses and the final figure of 11 killed, 13 wounded and 8 died of exhaustion was, perhaps, in line with these expectations, though much credit was due to Captain Simpson, the veterinary officer, who with the help of strychnine was able to keep the stragglers going, though many of the horses were unfit for further work for a week following the action. Of the manpower, the brigade suffered two British officers wounded, one of whom subsequently died of his wounds, one Indian officer killed, one 71
sowar killed and six rank and file wounded. The enemies were estimated to have lost 20 killed, 1 officer and 8 men wounded and prisoners and 2 unwounded prisoners. There were, sadly, some repercussions for the Patiala Lancers. While the Adjutant and three other officers were congratulated on their good work at the time of the attack,16 the regiment as a whole found itself largely removed from active operations for much of the rest of the year, though it continued with routine patrols, reliefs of posts and with training. In April 1916, London ordered that the Patiala Lancers were to proceed eastwards and call at Aden for definite instructions.17 One sad outcome of this event is that the Teen Murti Memorial in Delhi (Figure 3.1), which supposedly commemorates the services of the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade, makes no mention of
Figure 3.1 Teen Murti Memorial, New Delhi. Picture Credit: Author
The Maharajas’ contribution
the Patiala Lancers and, although commemorated on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Heliopolis memorial, neither Lieutenant Goldie, the British officer who died of his wounds, nor Mahomed Yusuf Ali Khan, the commanding officer, nor Sowar Abdul Karim is mentioned on the Delhi memorial. From April 1916 to February 1918, the brigade operated as a two-regiment formation until joined by the Jodhpur Lancers fresh out of France. They were just in time to see the brigade move into the Palestine area of operations where it was engaged in much fighting, including, unusually for the First World War cavalry, a number of mounted charges. The first significant event occurred on 14 July 1918, East of the River Jordan, during which the Jodhpur and Mysore Imperial Service Lancers routed a strong enemy force in the areas of Wadi Rameh and Wadi Jorfe – the Hyderabad Lancers had suffered a stampede of horses the previous evening and so were held in reserve. The commanding officer, the four squadron commanders and the Adjutant of the Ottoman 11th Cavalry regiment were captured, as well as one German officer. It is estimated that at least 100 of the enemy were killed while 54 wounded and 20 unwounded prisoners were taken. Every Jodhpur officer and man who came back out of the fight had blood on his sword or lance. The Jodhpur Lancers lost two Indian Officers and 13 other ranks killed; 1 Indian Officer and 13 other ranks wounded; 5 other ranks missing. The Mysore Lancers lost 2 Indian Officers and 23 other ranks killed, 1 Indian Officer and 7 other ranks wounded, 1 British Officer attached as SSO, and 5 other ranks missing; in the case of the British Officer taken prisoner of war by the Turks, General Allenby, Commander-in-Chief, said to Maharaja Sir Pratap Singh and the Jodhpurs, ‘The day’s operations on the 14th would live on as one of the feats of the war’.18 The more significant operations, or at least those best remembered today, occurred in September 1918 at Haifa and in October 1918 at Aleppo, again both involving the Jodhpur and Mysore Lancers – by a quirk of fate, the Hyderabad Lancers were escorting Turkish prisoners of war when both actions took place. On 23 September, the brigade (minus the Hyderabad Lancers but plus ‘B’ Battery Honourable Artillery Company), with the Mysore Lancers as an advanced guard and the Jodhpur Lancers in reserve, marched from El Afuleh to take Haifa and Acre. ‘D’ Squadron of the Mysore Lancers, later supported by the Sherwood Foresters Yeomanry, was detailed to capture some enemy guns on Mount Carmel. They took two field guns on the first hill and then made for the top of Mount Carmel, losing many horses in the gorge on the way up and thus leaving just 15 men for the final charge. Nevertheless, it was successful and broke through the enemy lines, the Sherwood Foresters Yeomanry coming up behind to ensure the enemy could not escape. The remaining two squadrons of the Mysore Lancers supported the Jodhpur Lancers in their charge through Haifa. The total haul for the action amounted to two 6-inch naval guns, four 4.2-inch howitzers, 73
six 77-mm field guns, four camel guns, 10 machine guns, a large quantity of ammunition and several hundred prisoners. It is estimated that at least 80 of the enemy were killed during the action. The Jodhpurs lost 2 ORs killed in action, 6 officers and 28 ORs wounded. Major Thakur Dalpat Singh MC died of wounds the same night, a great personal loss to Maharaja Sir Pratap Singh who regarded him as a son. The attack on Aleppo was scheduled for 26 October, the cavalry brigade’s objective being to get astride the Aleppo-Alexandretta road and prevent the enemy escaping by that route. ‘A’ and ‘B’ Squadrons of the Jodhpur Lancers were detailed to act as an advanced guard to the brigade. ‘A’ and ‘B’ Squadrons Mysore Lancers came into action North West of Aleppo on the ridge between El Husseinee and Haritan when a few enemy shells landed near their position. Orders were given for the Mysore Lancers to make a mounted attack on the enemy’s left flank, with the Jodhpur Lancers (less two squadrons) in support and the charge was carried out by ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘D’ Squadrons, ‘C’ Squadron being in support. Each squadron opened out into extended order and galloped the position in waves. Fire from artillery, machine guns and rifles was very heavy. The knoll was galloped down and about 120 of the enemy threw down their arms, many being killed with the lance. Owing to the lack of weight, the squadrons being so weak, the attack could not be pushed further. The Jodhpur Lancers now came up, and an arrangement was made whereby in case of a further advance by the Jodhpurs, the Mysore Lancers, after rallying, would act as support on their right flank. An advance reconnaissance by senior officers of the Jodhpur Lancers, including their senior SSO Lieutenant Colonel Hyla Napier Holden, 5th Cavalry, came under machine-gun fire and Colonel Holden was killed. The Jodhpur Lancers lost 1 British Officer and 1 OR killed, 2 Indian Officers and 17 ORs wounded. The Mysore Lancers lost 3 British Officers killed, 1 Indian Officer and 14 ORs killed, 2 British Officers, 4 Indian Officers and 20 ORs wounded, one of whom later died, and 3 ORs missing; 50 horses killed, 16 wounded, and 7 missing. Following his official entry into Aleppo on 11 December, General Allenby told officers of the Jodhpur Lancers: I wish you to tell your regiment how much I appreciate their splendid work during the summer and during the advance to Aleppo. I consider their record both in the Jordan Valley and in the capture of Haifa as second to none. This I believe is the first time in history that a fortified town has ever been captured by cavalry at the gallop. I was very sorry to hear of the valuable lives that you have lost but this must be expected in war.19 In addition to the principal Lancer units, the brigade also included a field ambulance, a Veterinary Section, and the Kathiawar Signal Troop numbering 74
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just 38 signallers drawn from five of the smaller States of the Gujarat region, demonstrating once again, as with the sappers in France, that size wasn’t everything when it came to making a contribution. The 32nd (Imperial Service) Infantry Brigade also served on Canal Defences until being disbanded in January 1916. It drew its troops from Alwar, Bahawalpur, Khairpur, Gwalior and Patiala. Elsewhere one of the more unusual deployments involved a small detachment from the Bahawalpur Mounted Rifles being sent to join the Indian Expeditionary Force in the Persian Gulf. Arriving too late to take part in operations, Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Afzal Khan and 12 soldiers were employed with the Intelligence Department. The Colonel passed in disguise through Persia to Baghdad where he enlisted as a servant in the entourage of the GOC Turkish Forces, with whom he remained a short time, before returning to his own lines with valuable information. For this, he received the CIE. Brigadier General W. H. Beach, on being asked for his comments on the likely award, wrote, ‘In my opinion the results produced were not so outstanding as to call for any special recommendation’, but the file was annotated that Commander-in-Chief India felt that ‘this is not a case which should be judged on the “results produced” and considered that … Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Afzal Khan has well earned a CIE by his devotion to duty on a most dangerous mission’.20 The award was announced in the London Gazette on 1 January 1919. Gallipoli saw a small deployment of Imperial Service Troops with a company of 1st Patiala Rajindra Sikhs Infantry sent to reinforce a much depleted 14th Sikhs after the Third Battle of Krithia. The thought behind the request from General Hamilton for the Patialas was that 14th Sikhs, as a class regiment, was comprised entirely of Jat Sikhs, many of whom were recruited from the Patiala district, and it would therefore be easier to assimilate the State unit into the regiment. Although agreeing to the attachment, Maharaja Bhupendra Singh of Patiala did express some concern that the identity of his regiment would be lost among the 14th Sikhs and this led to a telegram from Commander-in-Chief India to General Maxwell in Egypt, Please arrange … that the double company Patiala Infantry … be kept as a complete double company and not split up amongst other double companies. In reporting casualties amongst this double company please ensure that they are reported as Patiala Infantry and not as 14th Sikhs.21 They did take casualties and, including 2 British officers serving with them, these amounted to 28 either killed in action or died of wounds. Despite this service, however, the Patiala Infantry did not earn any battle honours for Gallipoli. 75
On the other hand, the transport units from Bharatpur and Indore, both of which supported 10th British Division in carrying rations and water to the trenches, did earn battle honours. Both transport units were continually under fire, and both were later transferred to Salonika. While eight Indian Army units earned the battle honour ‘Suvla’, including both the Bharatpur and Indore Transport Corps, it is worth pointing out that those two units were the only Indian units to be awarded the subsequent battle honours of ‘Landing At Suvla’ and ‘Scimitar Hill’, both now carried by 15th Kumaon Regiment as, indeed, is the Honour ‘Macedonia 1916– 18’, also earned by the two Transport Corps and also carried uniquely by 15th Kumaon Regiment.22 Given the deployment of other Indian Army transport units to Gallipoli, the reason why the two State units were the only ones to be recognized with these battle honours has not been determined, but as with the ‘Festubert’ honours, the answer probably lies in the timing of the Battle Honours committee deliberations, the fact that units then had to claim their Honours, and the Indian Army units had probably been disbanded by this time, so there was no-one to make a claim on their behalf, whereas both Bharatpur and Indore continued to exist and were therefore able to put in a claim. As for the Patiala Infantry, the battle honour rules concerning the presence of the Headquarters and at least 50 per cent of the unit strength probably kicked in, thus denying them the opportunity to apply. Mesopotamia, although a huge and costly deployment for the Indian Army as a whole, saw a relatively small deployment of Imperial Service Troops. Men of the Sirmur Sappers were among those taken prisoner at Kut, some of whom later died of ill-treatment during the march from Baghdad to Turkey. They were replaced by a second company of sappers from the same State. Additionally, both the Malerkotla and Tehri-Garhwal Sappers, having left France, were diverted to Mesopotamia rather than, as originally intended, being returned to their respective State for refit. They were kept constantly on the go, laying out camps and approach roads, making bridges (and frequently having to repair them as they were washed away by heavy floods), and mine clearance on the waterways. The Jaipur Transport Corps was present at most of the famous actions in Mesopotamia, and this story, probably apocryphal since it doesn’t actually appear in any of the official accounts consulted, concerns the battle of Shaiba where, on 12 April 1915, it was ordered forward to remove wounded from the battle field. Approaching a sandy ridge in line abreast the decision was taken to gallop up the hill and down the other side, where the speed and therefore the accompanying dust cloud increased. As the Jaipurs would have us believe, the Turks mistook this for advancing artillery and so quit the battle field, rigorously pursued by the British who captured many prisoners and war supplies. On the whole, the IST units were highly regarded within the Mesopotamia theatre for their efficiency, spirit, zeal and keenness. 76
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Another composite formation was the Imperial Service Brigade (East Africa), formed of 13th Rajputs, a regular Indian Army regiment, 2nd Kashmir Rifles, half a battalion of 3rd Kashmir Rifles, half a battalion of 3rd Gwalior Infantry and the Faridkot Sappers and Miners. These formed part of IEF B, earmarked for an invasion of German East Africa. Other Imperial Service units from Bharatpur, Jind, Kapurthala, Rampur and Bahawalpur formed a part of IEF C, which initially deployed into British East Africa, the IST units leaving Bombay on 22 September and arriving at Mombasa on 3 October from where they were immediately deployed. Jind and Kapurthala troops were in action quite soon after their arrival, with mixed fortunes. In German East Africa, the IEF B campaign started with flawed battle plans based on inadequate intelligence. The intention was to invade and hold the port of Tanga, but it was, frankly, a disaster, though a British infantry battalion, the 2nd North Lancashires, a regular Indian Army battalion, the 13th Rajputs, and two Imperial Service infantry units, the 2nd and 3rd Kashmir Rifles, acquitted themselves honourably and did manage to cross the German defensive line and enter the town. In addition to casualties from enemy rifle fire, others occurred when rifle and machine-gun fire smashed some African beehives, letting loose a swarm of very angry bees. The Kashmiris used their turbans to wrap around their heads, but others were not so fortunate. Lieutenant Colonel Durga Singh of 3rd Kashmirs was wounded in advance on the town and was awarded an Indian Order of Merit 1st Class for this action.23 Subedar Randhir Singh of 2nd Kashmirs also won an Indian Order of Merit for his leadership in charging and securing an enemy trench and capturing a machine gun, an action in which he was wounded. The following day the force boarded the Royal Navy vessel and retreated to British East Africa by the sea where it was amalgamated with IEF C, which had gone directly there from India. General Aitken, who had led at Tanga, was relieved of his command. Although regarded by many away from Africa as a sideshow, it was an incredibly hostile environment in which to work and fight, and so getting around this vast area was more often than not on foot. In addition to the heat, which sapped the strength of even the strongest, the area was plagued with malarial mosquitoes, tsetse fly to kill the animals and, being Africa, unique wildlife threats such as lion and rhinoceros on land, crocodile and hippopotamus in the rivers.24 The campaign was fought against a cunning and versatile German leader, the legendary Colonel von Lettow-Vorbeck, who knew how to move his troops around. By comparison, British leadership was mixed and some of it bordered on disastrous. Nevertheless, the Indian troops, and in particular the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles and the Jind Infantry among the Imperial Service Troops, fought well and earned a high reputation. In January 1916, two soldiers of 2nd Kashmir Rifles, Sepoys Bal Bahadur Chetti and Dal Bahadur Thapa, volunteered to carry a message to the 77
besieged garrison of Jasin where other troops of their regiment had put up a stout defence against a much stronger enemy. Though they failed to get through, both soldiers were also admitted to the IOM 2nd Class. Similar gallantry was displayed by relieving soldiers from the Jind Infantry, Subadar Harnam Singh winning an IOM 2nd Class. Later, as the war progressed into German East Africa, sappers of the Faridkot Field Company did sterling work to construct bridges and bunds across rivers, though as with the sappers in Mesopotamia, the floods frequently washed them away and they had to start all over again. Leaving aside Mentions in Despatches, the Imperial Service Troops won in excess of 180 awards for gallantry or meritorious service in East Africa. But the cost in human life was high, more from the disease than enemy action. The Bharatpur Infantry, for example, operating as a half battalion, lost 52 killed, 17 died of wounds, 35 died of disease and 151 wounded, a total of 255 which was a large proportion for a half battalion unit. In total, the Imperial Service Troops lost in excess of 500 men in that theatre. In addition to the deployment of Imperial Service Troops, there were three other broad areas in which the States made an active and valuable contribution. As the war progressed, both the British and Indian Armies entered into a period of massive expansion. By 1918, it became apparent that the traditional recruiting areas had become overdrawn, war-weariness was setting in and the British were compelled to look for alternative ways and means of improving manpower. One approach was to encourage the princes to raise Indian Army units from within their States, which would bear their name. By the time the war ended, five battalions had been raised, and it can be assumed that the contribution would have been greater had the war not ended when it did. All units were disbanded soon after the conclusion of the war. The second area was the generous financial and material support of the States for the war effort. As one semi-official publication was to note in 1923, ‘The bare list of those donations would fill a closely printed book of large dimensions and their total value, in money alone, can hardly be less than £5 million sterling or seven and a half crore of rupees (out of a total net Indian contribution by 1919–1920 of £160 million)’.25 The nature of this support covered a range of headings: ·· ·· ··
State expenditure for the maintenance of Imperial Service units in the field. General expenditure in connection with the prosecution of the war, including regular monthly donations to the war chest. Specific donations towards the maintenance of Indian Army units in the field – the Nizam of Hyderabad, for example, undertook to defray the cost of 20th Deccan Horse, of which he was honorary Colonel, for 78
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the duration of the war, some 60 lakhs of rupees (about £400,000 at the time). Fund-raising events. The gift of horses and motor vehicles and direct grants from the State funds towards other essentials such as aircraft. Punjab alone (including that part falling within British India) subscribed to a total of 51 aircraft, of which Bahawalpur, Jind, Nabha and Faridkot provided two each while Kashmir provided four.26 Rajputana Chiefs subscribed to a fund which supplied 15 aircraft. These contributions were not insignificant. The British Government set aside an initial expenditure of £40,000 and £25,000 recurring annually to organize a flight of aircraft for Mesopotamia but was able to note ‘We estimate that the initial expenditure will be reduced by approx. £6,400 as HH Maharaja Scindia has generously offered to defray the cost of four aeroplanes’.27 Rewa provided five planes – of which one operating in Egypt was described as ‘the best we have’.28 It crashed during bad weather, but the ruler picked up the total bill for its repair.
At the very beginning of the war, Maharaja Scindia of Gwalior and the Begum of Bhopal were instrumental in getting the backing of another 31 rulers towards the cost of equipping and operating the Hospital Ship Loyalty, a former passenger and mail vessel. The cost of buying and fitting out the ship as a 300-bed hospital amounted to some £120,000 and the cost of maintaining her for the four years of the war was £360,000, so almost half a million pounds sterling at the First World War rates. Some members of the medical staff were lent by the Government of India, but the majority were supplied by Gwalior, Indore, Dhar and Bharatpur. A similar example was provided by the Madras War Fund which commissioned a second hospital ship called the Madras. A number of rulers of southern Indian states made significant contributions to this fund – principally the Rajas of Vizianagram, Venkatagiri, Pudukottai, Cochin and the Maharaja of Travancore. The Maharaja of Nabha provided a shallow draught hospital boat to operate on the Tigris in Mesopotamia, while the Maharaja of Kapurthala provided a further two. The other States provided convalescent facilities and medical staff to man them, fleets of ambulances or tents and medical instruments. The third and final area was the role of some of the rulers away from front-line deployments. For example, Maharaja Bhupendra Singh of Patiala, after his service in France, undertook inspection tours, both of his own State troops and of troops from other States and, indeed, the Indian Army – great morale boosters. He also represented India at the Imperial War Conference and Imperial War Cabinet in London in June 1918, after which he undertook a further inspection tour of the front. Similarly, Sir Ganga Singh of Bikaner, who served briefly in France on the staff of HQ 7th Indian Division and then on the staff of the 79
Commander-in-Chief, Sir John French, attended those same meetings, but in 1917. He used the opportunity to press for political reform in the relationship between India and the UK, especially with regard to Dominion status, and did much to influence British public opinion. In November 1918, he was asked to attend the Peace Conference in Paris as one of three representatives of India where he was appointed by King George V to be one of the Indian signatories to the Treaty of Peace. In summary, 22,000 ranks were mobilized, of which nearly 18,500 eventually served overseas, maintained entirely at the expense of their rulers and State durbars. They provided a total of 2 Mountain Batteries, 4 Companies of Sappers and Miners, 15 Cavalry and 3 Camel units, 13 Infantry Battalions and 7 Transport Corps. The Imperial Service Troops lost a total of 1,634 died, either killed in action, missing in action, died of wounds, died as prisoners of war or died of disease, a considerable increase on previously published sources. The States also provided somewhere in excess of 115,000 men for the Indian Armed Forces and Labour Corps, so a total manpower contribution from the Princely States was of about 140,000, in addition to considerable material and financial assistance. The States between them won a total of 689 decorations for gallantry or meritorious service and a total of 132 Battle Honours. A number of meetings held between the Viceroy and the rulers during the war led, in December 1919, to a Royal Proclamation by King George V allowing for the establishment of a permanent forum, or chamber, for the ruling princes. One subject meriting an early focus by representatives of this chamber was an examination of the perceived shortcomings in the Imperial Service Troops that had become apparent during the war, though the rulers were quick to point out that similar deficiencies had also been found in the Indian Army, the British Army and those of other Allies. A committee, chaired by Maharaja Scindia of Gwalior, met in January 1920 and looked at five broad subject areas: 1. System of Command. During the war, it was found that General Officers Commanding had no formal authority from the Durbars to remove from their posts any IST officers of any grade who proved for whatever reason to be unfit for command, nor to select others to succeed them. British officers serving with Imperial Service Troops in the field were, in the opinion of those who drafted the memorandum, placed in the anomalous position of being merely advisers without executive control. At the same time, these British officers were held responsible in the field for ensuring that the orders of superior commanders were carried out. Though nominally advisers, in practice they often assumed executive powers in the field owing to the lack of military knowledge and higher military training of the authorized commanders. Several recommendations were tabled to address these issues. 80
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2. Organization. The necessity for a homogeneous organization in the field, both as establishment and equipment made itself specially felt. The war had highlighted the lack of uniformity between the IST units, as existing in the different States, and between IST units as a whole and units of the Indian Army. Differences were noted in the establishments of units, in the military titles held by the officers and in other matters. The discussion paper urged States to consider as far as possible that units had the same peace establishments (including depot establishments) and the same organization as corresponding units of the Indian Army. Although the future organization of the Indian Army was still under discussion at the time of the meeting, it was anticipated that cavalry units would have a strength of 550 and an infantry battalion of about 1,000 men. Those States unable to meet these targets might consider either merging two weak units into one or, in the case of those with only one weak unit, amalgamating with a neighbouring State or effecting a combination with an Indian Army unit that recruited from the same territory. Officer rank titles should also be brought into line with corresponding units in the Indian Army. 3. Training. In many cases, the training of units and the military efficiency of officers was markedly defective. There was much discussion about the level of education of State officers and whether places should be opened for them at Sandhurst and Woolwich. A number of difficulties were recognized, including the cost of each course and the fact that only a small proportion of candidates could be sent from any State. The Maharaja of Bikaner made the point that the educational level of State candidates at the start of the course would be way behind their fellow candidates from Britain and that they would consequently be disadvantaged. ‘You may give them the same training, but they have not had the same education and they cannot take advantage of it’.29 There was also a recognition that training establishments would have to be made available to State candidates in India. 4. Discipline. Difficulties were encountered owing to the anomalous arrangements in force for the exercise of discipline when units were outside their States. Scindia of Gwalior noted that he had amended his ‘Scindia’s Articles of War’ so that both the Indian Articles of War and King’s Regulations were embodied in his local legislation, and this approach was subsequently adopted by other rulers. 5. Maintenance. The absence of machinery similar to that employed in the regular army rendered maintenance in the field difficult and precarious. This item referred in particular to the fact that many of the States did not maintain adequate depot arrangements so they were unable to provide reinforcements to units in the field to replace casualties. As the war had demonstrated, it was not unusual for such reinforcements to come from an entirely different State. 81
The deliberations of the committee were forwarded to London by which the Government of India sought the Secretary of State’s approval for a number of changes to be made to the Imperial Service Troops scheme. The principal recommendation was that the term Imperial Service Troops be dropped and in future all State troops be called State Forces, and the units be designated by the name of the State, e.g. 1st Gwalior Infantry. Other recommendations concerned establishment levels, equipment provision by the government, and the re-designation of British Inspecting Officers as Military Advisers. The new scheme was approved by the Secretary of State on 18 November 1920, but it was not until 7 January 1922 that the Foreign and Political Department issued a notice announcing the changeover from Imperial Service Troops to Indian State Forces. Thus was born the Indian State Forces scheme which, after some initial difficulties, was to provide sterling support in the Second World War. There are several memorials to the Imperial Service Troops in India; India Gate in Delhi includes the names of 176 Imperial Service Troops. A memorial to the Hyderabad Lancers exists but is located within Mohammedia Lines, near Golconda Fort, a working military cantonment, and as such is not accessible to the public. The Captain Jhaggar Singh War Memorial, Kapurthala, a memorial to the State subjects of Sachin and a memorial in Patiala virtually complete the picture, although the most famous memorial to these troops is undoubtedly the Teen Murti (or three statues) Memorial to the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade in Delhi, now used by the Indian Cavalry as their memorial. The design is based on the Haritan memorial, erected about 8 km north of Aleppo, Syria, commemorating those who fell in the capture of that city. It was unveiled by Brigadier General C.H. Gregory CB CMG, commanding 5th Cavalry Division, on 5 November 1919. The inscription on the Teen Murti Memorial, which in English spreads over two sides of the monument, reads: In memory of the officers, non commissioned officers and men of the 15th imperial service cavalry brigade composed of cavalry regiments from the indian states of hyderabad, mysore and jodhpur and with detachments from bhavnagar, kashmir and kathiawar who gave their lives in the great war of 1914–19 in sinai, palestine and syria. Suez canal, gaza, jerusalem, jordan valley, haifa, damascus, aleppo The wording on the monument is slightly misleading in that it makes no mention of the Patiala Lancers. By the time the original monument at Haritan, Aleppo, had been built, the Patiala Lancers had gone from the brigade for four years, and so it is, perhaps, understandable that their 82
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contribution had been forgotten. This erasure from the record does mean, however, that neither their CO, Major Mahomed Yusuf Ali Khan, nor Sowar Abdul Karim, both killed in the action at Mahadat in April 1915, is mentioned here, though they are commemorated on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Heliopolis monument outside of Cairo as well as on the memorial in Patiala.30 It is tempting to ask what might have happened had that portion of the Patiala Lancers not withdrawn from the Mahadat battlefield. There is no reason to suppose that they would have left the Egyptian Theatre or the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade, in which case the honour of Haifa and Aleppo could have been theirs. Alternatively, and knowing the reputation of Sir Pratap Singh to press the cause of his Jodhpur Lancers to be in action, it is possible that an exception might have been made to the brigade formation structure by still allowing them to join the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade after leaving France, thus making a four- rather than three-regiment formation, in which case we could now be looking at the Chaar Murti Memorial in Delhi, rather than the Teen Murti Memorial.
Notes 1 This chapter is based on my book For the Honour of My House: The Contribution of the Indian Princely States to the First World War (Warwick: Helion & Company Limited, 2019). 2 J. M. Brereton, ‘The Panjdeh Crisis, 1885’, History Today, 29:1 (1979), pp. 46–52. 3 Owen Tudor Burne, later Major General GCIE, KCSI. 4 BL/IOLR/R/2 (1/17): Letter from the Secretary to the Government of India to the Chief Commissioner of Mysore, Fort William, 15 January 1878. 5 Howard Melliss, later Colonel Sir, KCSI 1847–1921, Inspector General, Imperial Service Troops 1889–1900. 6 National Archives of India (NAI): F&P Proceedings Internal 1915: Intl-Apr-818822-Pt B, Agent to the Governor General Central India, Indore, to J. B. Wood dated 14 November 1914. 7 NAI: F&P Proceedings Internal 1915: Intl-Apr-818-822-Pt B, Minute signed by Commander-in-Chief, T. E. Scott and B. Holloway to F & P Department dated 24 December 1914. 8 NAI: F&P Proceedings Internal 1915: Intl-818-822-Pt B, DO letter, J. B. Wood to Lieutenant Colonel F. A. Maxwell VC CIE DSO, Military Secretary to the Viceroy. 9 When the war was over, and the weaknesses and deficiencies exposed by the war were being examined, rulers such as Scindia of Gwalior amended their State Articles of War to include a requirement to serve anywhere as ordered, including overseas. 10 Anon., India’s Contribution to the Great War (Calcutta: Superintendent Government Printing, India, 1923), p. 200. 11 Sumer Singh returned to his State in May 1915 and was replaced on General Rimington’s staff by Raja Sir Sajjan Singh of Ratlam who, along with Sir Pratap Singh, remained in France until early 1918.
12 Durbar, Journal of the Indian Military Historical Society, Vol. 32, No. 3, Autumn 2015, pp. 25–33, for an account of this action. 13 The National Archive (TNA): WO 33 3147, Report of the Battle Honours Committee. 14 William Arthur Watson, born 1860, the son of General Sir John Watson VC of Indian Mutiny fame. First commissioned August 1880 into the Worcestershire Regiment, transferred to Indian Army June 1882 (Central India Horse). Major General Watson CB, CMG, CIE died 25 June 1944. 15 Harry Davis Watson, born 1866, the son of General Sir John Watson VC, commissioned 1885 into the Dorset Regiment, appointed to Indian Army June 1886 (1/1 and later 2 Gurkha Rifles), Equerry to the King 1910, he was serving as Inspector General IST on the outbreak of the war prior to his command of a brigade, and did so again from 1920. He was the author of A Short History of the Services Rendered by Imperial Service Troops during the Great War 1914–1918, much used in my research. Major General Sir Harry Watson KBE, CB, CMG, CIE, MVO died on 7 May 1945. 16 TNA: WO 95 4423, War Diary Patiala Lancers. 17 BL/IOLR/L/MIL/17/5/3911: War Diary Army Headquarters India, IEF ‘E’ & ‘G’, Volume 19, April 1916, Tel. No 15524-Cypher-MO from CIGS to C in C India. A separate reference, TNA: WO 95 5246, War Diary Patiala Lancers, shows that they remained in Egypt until May 1916 when they departed for Mesopotamia, landing in Basra on 24th. It had been decided that they would form a part of IEF D. NAI: F&P Proceedings Internal 1916: F&P-Intl-May-52-Deposit records the decision that they would not be employed in South Persia in connection with Sir Percy Sykes’ mission. 18 TNA: WO 95 4519: War Diary Jodhpur Lancers, 27 July 1918. 19 TNA: WO 95 4519: War Diary Jodhpur Lancers, 11 December 1918. 20 National Archives of India (NAI): F&P Proceedings Internal 1919: F&P-IntlJan-211-Part B. 21 BL/IOLR/L/MIL/17/5/3902: War Diary Army Headquarters India, Indian Expeditionary Force ‘E’ and ‘G’, Vol. 10, Appx. 101 (Diary 15614), Tel. S-15614 dated 20 July 1915, Commander-in-Chief India to GOC Egypt. In due course, Patialas were to be mixed with 14th Sikhs ‘which technically breached the understanding’, Peter Stanley, Die in Battle, Do Not Despair (Solihull, Helion & Co, 2015), p. 252. 22 There is something of an anomaly in 15th Kumaons carrying these Honours. The Bharatpur honour faded on Independence when the unit was disbanded. The Indore Transport Corps was absorbed into the civil police on Independence, whereas elements of 1st Indore Infantry were absorbed into 15th Kumaons. The honours were obviously, though some might say wrongly, carried over by 1st Indore Infantry, who were never at Gallipoli. 23 He had gained the IOM 3rd Class as a Havildar Major at Chitral. On the introduction of the Victoria Cross to Indian military personnel, the previous threelevel award of IOM was reduced to two classes. He was the first of two officers, under the new two-class regulations, to be advanced in the Order and thereby promoted directly from 3rd Class to 1st Class. 24 One example has been found in unit war diaries of an Indian State soldier being killed by a lion and one by a rhinoceros, while another was tossed by a rhinoceros but apparently lived to tell the tale. 25 Anon. India’s Contribution to the Great War – Published by Authority of the Government of India (Calcutta: Superintendent Government Printing, 1923), pp. 167 and 228.
The Maharajas’ contribution
26 M. S. Leigh. The Punjab and the War (Lahore: Superintendent of Government Printing, Punjab, 1922), pp. 63–64. 27 BL/IOLR/ L/MIL/17/5/3231: War Diary Army Headquarters [AHQ] India, Indian Expeditionary Force ‘D’ (Mesopotamia), Vol. 9, 1–30 April 1915 (Appx. 463, Diary 8844), Tel P No H-4554 29 Apr 1915 Viceroy (Army Department) to Secretary of State for India. 28 BL/IOLR/L/MIL/17/5/3898: War Diary AHQ India, Indian Expeditionary Force ‘E’/’E’ & ‘G’/Egypt, Vol. 6, March 1915 (Appx. 57, Diary 6329), General Maxwell to Commander-in-Chief India dated 26.3.15. 29 BL/IOLR/L/P&S/10/894, Indian States – Imperial Service Troops reorganisation, Part 2: Informal meeting. 30 See Durbar, Vol. 16, No. 2, Summer 1999, pp. 82–84, for a letter from the late Major General D. K. Palit as to how the Teen Murti Memorial came to be placed in its present position.
Bibliography Archival Australia AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA
AWM 6 189–190, War Diaries, Indian Mule Cart Train
India NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF INDIA (NAI)
Foreign & Political Department, Internal A Proceedings and Deposits 1914–1919 Foreign & Political Department, Internal B Proceedings and Deposits 1914–1919
United Kingdom BRITISH LIBRARY, INDIA OFFICE LIBRARY & RECORDS (IOLR), LONDON
Foreign & Political Department, Internal A Proceedings and Deposits 1914–1919 L/MIL series including: L/MIL/3/- Correspondence with India, including: 1116 – Secret Military Despatches from India 1914–1917 2168 – Secret Military Despatches to India 1914–1930 L/MIL/7/- Military Collections, 17154–18939 (Collection 425) – Great War 1914/18, 1914–1920 (though many of the files in this series were destroyed in a weeding exercise pre-1960) L/MIL/17/5/2380-2420 – First World War general, including:
2385 – East India (Military). Papers relating to the support offered by the Princes and Peoples of India to His Majesty in connection with the War. Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of His Majesty. (HMSO, 1914). 2394 – Imperial War Council. Memorandum on the military assistance given by the Ruling Chiefs of India in the prosecution of the war. (22 March 1917). L/MIL/17/5/2421-4246 – War Diaries, Indian Army Headquarters L/MIL/17/6/1-80 – Indian States Forces L/P&S series including: L/P&S/10/894, Indian States – Imperial Service Troops reorganisation, Part 2. Informal meeting for the discussion of the question of the future organization of Imperial Service Troops, held on 29th October 1919. R1 and R2 papers THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES (TNA)
WO/33 3147 – Report of the Battle Honours Committee War Diaries (Imperial Service Troops): WO/95/4423, 4717, 4727, 4519, 4426 – 15 Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade WO/95/4426, 4433, 4731, 4478 – 20 Indian Infantry Brigade WO/95/4423 – 32 Imperial Service Infantry Brigade WO/95/4423, 4426, 4433, 4731, 4478 – Alwar Infantry WO/95/4404, 4423 – Bikaner Camel Corps WO/95/4813 – Bharatpur Transport Corps WO/95/5370, 5323 – Bharatpur Infantry WO/95/5334, 5338, 5390 – Faridkot Sappers and Miners WO/95/5369 – 3rd Gwalior Infantry WO/95/4423, 4426, 4433, 4731, 4478 – 4th Gwalior Infantry WO/95/4813 – Indore Transport Corps WO/95/4423, 4717, 4727, 4519 – Hyderabad Lancers WO/95/5276 – Jaipur and Bharatpur Transport Corps WO/95/5333, 5334, 5370, 5395 – Jind Infantry WO/95/587, 1158, 4727, 4519 – Jodhpur Lancers WO/95/5370, 5418, 5288 – Kapurthala Infantry WO/95/5332, 5324, 5325 – 1 Kashmir Mountain Battery WO/95/5332 – 2 Kashmir Rifles WO/95/4689, 5332, 5334, 5339, 5369 – 3 Kashmir Rifles WO/95/4999, 5189, 5205, 5246 – Maler Kotla Sappers and Miners WO/95/4423, 4519, 4717, 4727 – Mysore Lancers WO/95/4423, 4432, 4433, 4436, 4478, 4731 – 1 Patiala Infantry WO/95/4423, 4494, 4717, 5028, 5087, 5246 – Patiala Lancers WO/95/5370 – Rampur Infantry WO/95/5118, 5205 – Sirmoor Sappers and Miners WO/95/4999, 5206, 5246 – Tehri-Garhwal Sappers and Miners
The Maharajas’ contribution LONDON GAZETTE (LG)
The War Gazettes 1914–1919. (Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, DVD-ROM Version 1.0, 2016) SECONDARY SOURCES
Anderson, Ross, The Forgotten Front – The East African Campaign 1914–1918 (Stroud: Tempus Publishing, 2004). Anon., History of the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade during the Great War, 1914–1918 (London: HMSO, 1919). Anon., India’s Contribution to the Great War (Calcutta: Superintendent Government Printing, 1923). Anon., Patiala & The Great War – A Brief History of the Services of the Premier Punjab State (London: Medici Society for Private Circulation, 1923). Anon., A Brief Statement of Bikaner’s Services in the Great War 1914–18 (Bikaner: Government Press, undated). Anon., Indian States Forces Annuals, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940 (Simla) (private collection). Anon. (possibly Assistant Military Adviser, Rajputana State Forces), ‘The Jaipur State Transport Corps at the Battle of Shaiba (Mesopotamia)’, The Indian States Forces Annual (1937). Various authors, The Official History of the Great War 1914–1923 – Military Operations Other Theatres (Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, DVD-ROM Version 1.0, 2011). Beatson, Brigadier General Stuart, A History of the Imperial Service Troops of Native States (Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, India, 1903). Brereton, J M, ‘The Panjdeh Crisis, 1885’, History Today, 29:1 (January 1979), pp. 46–52. Bruce, Anthony, The Last Crusade: The Palestine Campaign in the First World War (London: John Murray, 2002). Chhina, Rana, Last Post: Indian War Memorials Around the World (New Delhi: United Service Institution of India, 2014). Corrigan, Gordon, Sepoys in the Trenches: The Indian Corps on the Western Front 1914–15 (Staplehurst: Spellmount, 1999). R.C.D. [believed to be Duncan, Major General R C]), ‘The Jodhpur Sardar Rissala in the Great War’, The Indian State Forces Annual (1938), pp. 84–90. Edmonds, Brigadier General J E, Military Operations, France and Belgium, 1914. Vol. 1 (London: MacMillan & Co Ltd., 1925). Edmonds, Brigadier General J E, A Short History of World War I (London: Oxford University Press, 1951). Evans, Lieutenant Colonel R, A Brief Outline of the Campaign in Mesopotamia 1914–1918 (London: Sifton Praed, 1930). Evatt, Brigadier General A, Historical Record of the 39th Royal Garhwal Rifles, 1887–1922. Vol. 1 (Aldershot: Gale & Polden, 1922). Falls, Captain Cyril, History of the Great War – Military Operations Egypt & Palestine from June 1917 to the end of the War, Parts 1 and 2 (London: HMSO, 1930).
Farwell, Byron, The Great War in East Africa 1914–1918 (New York: W W Norton, 1986). Head, Richard and McClenaghan, Tony, The Maharajas’ Paltans: A History of the Indian State Forces 1888–1948 (New Delhi: Manohar and the United Service Institution of India, 2013). Hordern, Lieutenant Colonel Charles, Official History of the Great War – Military Operations – East Africa, Vol 1 August 1914–September 1916 (London: HMSO, 1941). Hordern, Lieutenant Colonel Charles, History of the East African Campaign, 1914– 1918. Vol. 2. Unpublished (TNA – CAB 44 CH 17). Hughes, Matthew, Allenby in Palestine: The Middle East Correspondence of Field Marshal Viscount Allenby (Stroud: Sutton Publishing for the Army Records Society, 2004). Johnson, Rob, The Great War & The Middle East (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016). Kerr, Andrew, I Can Never Say Enough About the Men – A History of the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles Throughout Their World War One East African Campaign (PMC Management Consultants, 2010). Leigh, M.S. The Punjab and the War (Lahore: Superintendent of Government Printing, Punjab, 1922). MacMunn, Lieutenant General Sir George and Falls, Captain Cyril, History of the Great War – Military Operations Egypt & Palestine from the Outbreak of the War with Germany to June 1917 (London: HMSO, 1928). McClenaghan, Tony, For the Honour of My House: The Contribution of the Indian Princely States to the First World War (Warwick: Helion & Company Limited, 2019). Moberly, Brigadier General F J, Official History of the Great War, Military Operations. The Campaign in Mesopotamia. Vol. I (London: HMSO, 1925). Paice, Edward, Tip & Run: The Untold Tragedy of The Great War in Africa (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2007). Palit, Major General D K, ‘Letter Regarding Teen Murti Memorial, Delhi’, Durbar, Journal of the Indian Military Historical Society, 16:2 (Summer 1999), pp. 82–84. Panikkar, K M, His Highness The Maharaja of Bikaner – A Biography (London: Oxford University Press, 1937). Powell-Price, Lieutenant Colonel J C, ‘The Imperial Service Infantry in Sinai and Palestine 1914–1919’, The Indian States Forces Annual (1938), pp. 101–111. Purcell, Hugh, The Maharaja of Bikaner (New Delhi: Rupa Publications, 2013). Rafiullah, Mohammad, Gwalior’s Part in the War (Gwalior: Published by Authority, privately published, 1920). Singh, Major K Brahma, History of the Jammu & Kashmir Rifles (1820–1956) (Delhi: Lancer, 1990). Stanley, Peter, Die in Battle, Do Not Despair – The Indians on Gallipoli, 1915 (Solihull: Helion & Company, 2015). Van Wart, R B, Sir Pratap Singh (London: Oxford University Press, 1926). Watson, Major General Sir Harry, A Short History of the Services Rendered by Imperial Service Troops during the Great War 1914–1918 (Calcutta: Government of India Central Publication Branch, 1930).
4 INDIAN SOLDIERS’ EXPERIENCE IN FRANCE Perceptions and outcomes Claude Markovits
The encounter between the soldiers of the Indian Expeditionary Force (IEF) and the French has not attracted a lot of attention from scholars of the IEF, whether Indian or British and until recently only one French author had written about it, although not from an academic perspective.1 Understandably, scholars tended to focus on the combat experience of the Indians and on the political context of their participation in the war. There is however a rich trove of material in the censored mail of the Indian soldiers that concerns the way they perceived France and encountered the French population. There is also a certain amount of source material on the French side regarding the way the Indian soldiers were perceived, although unfortunately it emanates mostly from representatives of the elite, and rarely from the ordinary people who actually met the Indian soldiers, as those left few written traces. In spite of this asymmetry at the level of sources, it has been possible for me to form a fairly credible picture, albeit with some remaining gaps, of the encounter that took place during 1914–1918 between an Indian soldiery that barely knew of the existence of France at the time of their arrival and a French population that had only very vague notions about India and Indians.2
A picture of mutual ignorance It is clear from multiple sources that the soldiers of the IEF had no precise idea of the place they were going to when the first contingents landed in Marseilles at the end of September 1914. In his novel Across the Black Waters, which tells the story of one member of the IEF, Mulk Raj Anand describes the soldiers on board their ship asking their officers: ‘Where is France. Is that England?’3 Even the educated soldier Lalu, the novel’s central character, thinks that he is going to ‘Vilayet’,4 which means for him Britain. And, in a narrative recorded by German anthropologists in the
Wünsdorf prisoner camp, one of the Indian prisoners-of-war claims that in 1914 the soldiers knew of no other king than the king emperor.5 It was thus a surprise to most of the soldiers to discover that there were white people who spoke another language than English and that there existed countries not ruled by kings like the French Republic. The soldiers were also surprised, albeit pleasantly, by the enthusiastic welcome they received from a white population made up mostly of women and children, given that in India they had few contacts with white civilians, and the latter tended not to be friendly. But the French were as a rule as ignorant about their guests as the latter were about them. Although there had been some interest in France in the revolted sepoys of 1857, partly actuated by a kind of schadenfreude at the difficulties of the English hereditary enemy,6 the more recent developments in India’s military history had attracted little notice, in spite of the massive presence of Indian troops at the side of the French forces during the Eight Power expedition to China in 1900. The ‘Entente Cordiale’ concluded in 1904 between France and the United Kingdom had led to a more favourable French view of Britain, and thus to greater acceptance of British domination in India, but the arrival of Indian troops in France appears to have come as a complete surprise to both the French authorities and the public. In an issue dated 16 September, ten days before the arrival of the first contingent of the IEF, the local Marseilles newspaper Le Petit Marseillais published an article with the following headline ‘The Hindu (sic) troops are expected in Marseilles’ and added ‘Marseilles will enthusiastically welcome the valiant Hindu troops and will acclaim in them noble England’.7 This was rather cryptic, and the newspaper did not give its readers any clues to help them understand the meaning of the news. One notices a semantic confusion which marked the totality of the encounter on the French side, and persists to this day in France, the tendency to conflate ‘Hindus’ and ‘Indians’. As we know, half of the IEF was made up of Muslims and Sikhs, but to the French they were and remained ‘Les Hindous’, a term which had no specific religious connotation, since the French (with the exception of a few scholars and other cognoscenti, a tiny group altogether) knew next to nothing about Hinduism as a religion, but which encompassed all the inhabitants of what was to most French people that mysterious land, India. It is also clear that the newspaper editor calculated that the wave of Anglophilia that was then sweeping France would facilitate the acceptance by the population of these wholly unexpected guests if they were seen as part of the British army. It should be noted that there was no attempt on the part of French officialdom to explain to the population the reasons for the arrival of these troops; nor did the British make any effort at public relations. But the response of the people of Marseilles was overwhelming, in a way that nobody had apparently anticipated: it seems the entire population descended on the port to watch the arrival of the IEF (which also included 90
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British contingents). I quote from an article dated 7 October in another local newspaper, Le Petit Provençal: People threw flowers at them, offered them fruits and tobacco. Women pinned flowers on the uniforms and the turbans of the Sikh soldiers, who are impressively tall … and of the small gurkha soldiers, as well as of the Punjabis and the Baluchis to whom they distributed small French flags which they affixed to their guns. The soldiers responded with resounding ‘Vive la France’ to the cries of ‘Vivent les Anglais ! Vivent les Hindous’ coming from the crowd, and alternating with a Marseillaise which was very well executed by the Hindu military bands made up of strange musical instruments.8 So we notice that the ‘Hindu’ army was now disaggregated into a series of ethnic groups, such as Sikhs, Gurkhas, Punjabis, Baluchis, without any explanation however as to what these groups were. The author of the article added that the welcome given to the Hindus ‘surpassed, if possible, that given to the Zouaves, the Turcos, the Senegalese and the Moroccans (all French colonial troops that had arrived a few days earlier)’. It is clear that the total ignorance of the public regarding the Indians helped in ensuring them such a rousing welcome: they offered a colourful spectacle, which was a diversion from the grim news coming from the front at the time. It must be added that Marseilles was a cosmopolitan port city, rather unique in France in that respect, where the inhabitants were used to seeing people arrive from all over the world: it might have helped. With the constant arrival of new Indian contingents over the following weeks, there was an attempt on the part of the local newspapers to provide more precise information to their readers, but it only led to further exoticization with an increased use of the language of ‘martial races’ to describe the Indians. Thus, in an article dated 11 November, the same Petit Provençal claimed to be able to pierce what it called the ‘mystery’ of the Indian troops by calling on the advice of an ‘expert’, an Englishman who had long lived in India: he delivered for the readers a small treatise of colonial military ethnography focused around the notion of martial races.9 This was significant of the difficulty for French opinion-makers of forming a picture of the Indian soldiers without recourse to the filter of British so-called colonial science. The attention of the public remained however focused around the visual spectacle offered by the troops. Many photographers, both amateurs and professionals, took pictures of the soldiers, who seem to have let themselves willingly be captured on camera. Postcards representing the soldiers in different postures and engaged in various activities circulated widely, and the news of their arrival spread quickly beyond Marseilles: it was mentioned in an entry for late September in the diary of a soldier posted in Narbonne more than 200 km away.10 We do not have many testimonies of the way the soldiers reacted to the popular 91
enthusiasm directed at them: we can surmise they were somewhat surprised at first, but appear to have quickly taken it in their stride, which was to be expected. Some nevertheless felt some unease at the way women ostensibly displayed affection towards them, as they were not used to seeing women roaming the streets freely. This was a harbinger of problems to come, as we shall see.
The unfolding of the encounter After a few weeks of stay in Marseilles, the first elements of the Lahore division started their voyage towards the front line, which followed a complicated route through the Southwest of France to Orléans in Central France, where the troops were assembled before their despatch to the front to take part in the first battle of Ypres in Belgium in October–November 1914. On the way they attracted the curiosity of the population, which was not however allowed to come too close to them. The same Narbonne diarist observed them when they passed through the town by train and put down some interesting observations about their food habits, but does not appear to have been able to communicate with them, for lack of a common language.11 Generally, the Indian soldiers did not have many opportunities to meet the French soldiers, as the British forces, of which the Indian Corps was part, operated in their own sector of the front, separated from the sector held by the French. Nor did they at the beginning have much contact with French civilians: it was only later that a regular pattern of encounter emerged when, in the intervals between combats, the soldiers were billeted in farms situated at the rear of the front in the north of France. It was mostly in these billets that they encountered French civilians, a population made up primarily of women, children and old men, most of the adult males of military age being at the front or already dead. From numerous testimonies, it appears that they got on well with their peasant hosts, probably because they were themselves of rural background and not reticent to give a helping hand to the farm wives and female servants (‘filles de ferme’) who had to manage their farms without men and happily welcomed the help. The contrast in their attitude towards the French peasantry with that of the British soldiery is striking. In his candid memoir, Goodbye to all that, English writer Robert Graves testifies to the hostility British soldiers felt and displayed towards French peasants. When he joined the Royal Welsh fusiliers, a regiment of the old army, he was told that ‘the battalion thinks it’s still in India. The men treat the French civilians just like ‘niggers’, kick them about, talk army Hindustani at them’.12 Of course, there was no chance of Indian soldiers mistaking France for India. Elsewhere Graves mentions that the men in his unit ‘loathed’ the French peasants of the Pasde-Calais,13 although he personally found those of Picardy less odious. The British soldiers, being mostly of urban background, saw the French peasants 92
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as retarded country bumpkins, whom they also found greedy. The French peasants, for their part, resented the British soldiers as sly urbanites bent on pilfering, and there was generally no love lost between these two groups. Indians seem to have largely escaped these strictures, as they appear to have been on the whole rather well-behaved towards the civilian population, and in particular pilfered much less. The fact that they were less frequently drunk helped. It is also true that respect for whites, especially white women, had been drilled into them in their quality of colonial subjects. One case of rape is however mentioned in the archives,14 and it is possible there were a few others, but the military police and French gendarmes had less problems policing the Indians than they had policing the British and the Australians, the latter being notorious for their prodigious drinking habits and their disorderly behaviour. Of course, cohabitation in the farms where the soldiers often spent long intervals in between combats was not without occasional hiccups. Muslim soldiers in particular objected to the presence of pigs and dogs in their living quarters which led sometimes to quarrels. Food could be a problem also with Muslims as well as with Hindus. For Muslims, there was the problem of halal meat, which was not always available, although it seems compromises were found. For all soldiers, who were from northern India, the difficulty of procuring aata to bake the chapattis was a cause for distress, although one soldier optimistically noted that ‘where there are inhabitants, aata is bound to be available’,15 and seems to have found at least an acceptable substitute. Language was of course an obstacle to communication, but Indian soldiers, much better at languages than their hopeless British colleagues, seem to have picked up quite quickly rudiments of French, beyond the ‘British army French’,16 the kind of Sabir used by British soldiers to communicate with the French when they had realized that army Hindustani was of little use. Knowledge of some basic French helped the Indian soldiers in their day-to-day contacts with traders, from whom they purchased some food items to complement the army rations, and with their peasant hosts. When they sojourned for long periods in the same farm, which happened mostly with men of the cavalry who stayed in France after the infantry had been sent to Mesopotamia at the end of 1915, they tended to forge close intimate relationships with members of the peasant households they were billeted with. As these were mostly women and children, intimacies of different kinds developed. Children are often fascinated by soldiers, and the Indians, being generally family men, had no difficulty bonding with them: they even taught them some Hindustani and learnt from them some basic French. With older women, some of whom had already lost sons in the war, a kind of filial relationship sometimes established itself as these French women transferred on the younger Indian soldiers some frustrated maternal affection. In one instance, a Muslim cavalry soldier from Sargodha was literally ‘adopted’ by his French peasant hosts and an unusual exchange of 93
letters took place between the soldier’s so-called adoptive French mother and his Indian mother, letters which circulated in the town of Sargodha.17 Relations with younger women were of course another matter, and a certain amount of mystery surrounds these. There is no doubt that flirts and liaisons occurred between Indian soldiers and French women, but it is difficult to know how widespread the phenomenon was, given that neither side was too keen to publicize these trysts. The British military authorities were totally hostile to such relationships, fearing their potential impact on the attitudes of soldiers to white women once they would return to India. But they could not prevent encounters from taking place in farms or in towns where the Indian army had bases, such as Marseilles or Rouen. There were a few marriages in 1916 between soldiers, mostly Muslim cavalrymen, and local girls, as revealed by the soldiers’ censored mail,18 but most relationships remained informal and transitory, as is generally the case in wartime. Given that most letters exchanged between French women and Indian soldiers, some of which, coming from French women were, according to the Chief Censor, ‘of a violently amatory nature’,19 were held up by the censors and not reproduced in the extracts, one is left with few remaining written traces of these romances. Worth noting is a poem written in Punjabi by one Sirdar Bishan Singh that circulated amongst the troops at the Rouen base at the end of 1916, when there were rumours that the cavalry would soon leave France (it left only in March 1918). It evoked in a nostalgic mode the soldiers’ fugitive loves. The English translation by the censor retains some of the pathos: ‘When Lahore and Meerut left Rumour fell upon Rouen Rumour will be rife again when the Cavalry Corps depart Weep weep ye lovers One has dubbed himself ‘Prince’ Another has covered himself with medals And another has felt the slipper applied Weep weep ye lovers’.20 Sexual relationships led inevitably to the birth of children. One author has estimated that there were several hundreds of such births,21 although it is impossible to arrive at any precise estimate. In one small and fairly isolated area of Picardy, known as the Vimeu, which was at the rear of the front during the battle of the Somme in 1916, and saw many cavalry soldiers sojourn for long periods, there were apparently in each village one or two children with definite Indian traits.22 When the local men came back from the front at the end of the war and discovered these living proofs of their wives’ unfaithfulness or their daughters’ waywardness, the poor women 94
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were stigmatized and, to protect their children, they tended to hide from them the truth about their origins, although this did not prevent them from being taunted for their colour of skin. It is only recently that some of them, belonging to a younger generation, discovered the truth about their grandfathers. It should be mentioned in passing that Indians were not the only, nor the major contributors to the diversification of the genetic pool of the French population, given that between 3 and 4 million foreign soldiers and workers passed through France between 1914 and 1918 and many forged relationships with French women. This created tensions, especially between Frenchmen and French colonial soldiers, leading to episodes of rioting,23 but Indians, whose overall numbers were small after 1915, appear not to have been involved in them.
Taking stock of France and the French The censored mail of the Indian soldiers, of which extracts were collected by the censors and are preserved in the Military Collections in the India Office Records, is a rich source regarding the way the men looked at France and the French. The censorship was instituted at the end of 1914, mostly because of fears regarding the loyalty of the Indian troops. These fears were actuated by the presence of Indian revolutionary exiles in France, such as the famous Madame Cama,24 who tried to make contact with the troops in Marseilles but was eventually put under house arrest in Vichy by the French at the demand of the British, and also by the proclamation of jihad in Istanbul by the Sheikh-ul-Islam on 14 November 1914,25 the effect of which was feared on Muslim soldiers who accounted for almost 40 per cent of the troops. But, as the fears of the British gradually proved to be largely unfounded, and very few soldiers responded to the calls to desertion coming from Berlin or Istanbul,26 the collection took another dimension largely due to the personality of the Chief Censor, Second Lieutenant Evelyn Berkeley Howell, an ICS officer with a literary disposition who viewed the letters as of more than political interest. The extracts selected by the censors offer fascinating insights into many aspects of the soldiers’ life and that of their families, but here I want to focus more specifically on what they reveal of their perception of France and the French. Given that, at the outset of the war, some 90 per cent of the soldiers of the Indian Army were illiterate, they had to use the services of scribes to write their letters. These scribes, one can infer, were fellow soldiers or officers, and they were called on to write a considerable number of letters. The writing tended therefore to be formulaic and stereotyped, and, since it was rapidly known that the letters could be read by censors, as bland as possible, although codes were used to talk of certain subjects, codes that the censors had no difficulty piercing, such as ‘red pepper’ for British troops, ‘black pepper’ for Indian troops, or ‘fruits’ for women.27 A lot of letters attempted to draw a systematic comparison 95
between France and India in simple terms for the benefit of the soldiers’ families. They tended all to emphasize how profoundly the two countries differed but diverged in the way they presented that difference. Three basic variants can be identified that are repeated almost word for word in hundreds of letters, revealing the imprint of the scribes and of their formulas. In the first variant, France is presented as a paradisiac country, because of its natural beauty, the fertility of the land, the high degree of education and comeliness of its population, and is contrasted with an India characterized by economic and cultural backwardness, epitomized by its primitive agricultural practices, its high rate of illiteracy and the sorry condition of its womanhood. In the second variant, the contrast is drawn in broadly similar terms, but an affective dimension is added as a corrective. It goes more or less like this: ‘India is no match for France in many ways, but it is my country, and I love it’: as one soldier wrote, ‘its small alleys are more dear to me than the wide roads of France’,28 a trope which probably had its origins in popular poetry. In the third variant, the terms of the comparison are inverted: France is excoriated mostly for the irreligion of its inhabitants,29 while India is praised for being a sacred land by Hindus and Sikhs, or for being a country where the true faith flourishes by Muslims. Statistically, the last view appears in a minority, but, since the selection of the extracts was done by the British censors, it is quite possible that it does not reflect accurately the views of the soldiers. Beyond these stereotyped formulations, some soldiers, often belonging to the cavalry, amongst whom the proportion of literates was higher than in the infantry, developed more elaborated views. Two aspects of French society that attracted particular attention from the soldiers were gender and education, the two being somewhat linked. In many letters, there were expressions of amazement at the place occupied by women in French society. Not aware of how exceptional were the wartime circumstances, with most men mobilized in the army, in explaining the prominence gained by women in public spaces, in a society that was still patriarchal in many ways, Indian soldiers could only wonder at the way French peasant women managed the farms without the help of men, forgetting in the bargain that their own wives often faced the same kind of problems at home. Admiration for the pluck of French women is one of the most common feelings expressed in the letters, which goes hand in hand with praise for their beauty. The latter however appears often formulaic: French women are frequently compared to fairies or, in some letters from Muslim soldiers, to the houris of Allah’s paradise. These expressions seem to be directly borrowed from a XIXth corpus of travel literature in Persian, of the ‘Wonders of Vilayet’ kind,30 although the most famous Persephone author, Mirza Abu Taleb, had for his part found French women ugly.31 They also tended to disincarnate the women, thus diverting attention from the actual encounters in the flesh that occurred behind the front lines. The soldiers also expressed amazement at 96
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what they perceived as a low incidence of domestic violence: this was largely an illusion, due to the fact that the men were at the front, and not in their homes. Actually wife-beating, although perhaps not as widespread in French peasant households as in north Indian ones, was far from being unknown. But it all built into an image of domestic and social harmony that many soldiers conjured out of scattered observations and which they contrasted with the tension-ridden rural world they had left behind in India. Even more striking for them was the high level of literacy of French society, including in the countryside, and more particularly the fact that women were generally literate, an astounding discovery for rural Indians. Soldiers often linked the high degree of literacy with the apparent prosperity of the French countryside and derived from their observations the idea that the development of female education was the key to social and economic progress. They started writing to their families enjoining them to send girls to school. The example of France was often used by some letter writers, belonging probably to the small (but growing) group of literate soldiers, to advance an agenda of social reform: thus they contrasted the simplicity of French marriage ceremonies with the extravagant expenses linked to weddings in India.32 But there were limits to the value of comparison. Some aspects of French society bewildered and shocked many of the Indian soldiers. They often balked at the lack of personal hygiene of the French (who took very few baths), which contrasted sharply with the cleanliness of public environments and the provision of sanitary facilities.33 Some however remarked on the filth of French villages, which they found worse than in India.34 Their criticism of the French focused mostly on two points: sexual morality and religion. Regarding the former, there was a stark division of opinion amongst the troops: while some soldiers relished what they perceived as an atmosphere of sexual freedom, in a country where, to quote one soldier, ‘the opportunity for love-making comes to all’,35 others denounced French sexual mores as marked by excessive lasciviousness and a lack of decency.36 Such division of opinion in a body of men characterized by a certain homogeneity of social background is puzzling. The alignment was not based on religion: thus, Muslims were at the same time those who were most frequently involved in intimate relationships (most marriages also concerned Muslim cavalry soldiers), and those who expressed the greatest revulsion at French sexual mores. Regarding religion, there was almost universal censure of the French, denounced as a bunch of miscreants or hypocrites. It was difficult of course for the soldiers to understand the very specific French mixture of official secularism (‘laïcité’) and widespread adherence to Catholicism. They formed the impression that most French people were indifferent in matters of religion, and that their Catholicism was very superficial.37 Muslim soldiers appeared particularly repelled by the atmosphere of irreligion, which made them fear for their own faith.38 Sikhs and Hindus seem to have taken it with more equanimity, and to have worried more about practical 97
questions such as the possibility of maintaining a vegetarian diet. Brahmins who were few, mostly clerks, appear to have been resigned to the impossibility of observing all the necessary rituals,39 and to have tried only to minimize breaches. But generally, apart from the cold climate, the separation from their families and of course the slaughter, the fear of contamination by the irreligious atmosphere was one of the major incentives for the men to wish for a prompt return to India, although that wish remained unfulfilled for the infantry which was despatched instead in 1916 to Mesopotamia. There, they suffered even more from the climate, if not from the atmosphere of irreligion, but were slaughtered in greater numbers. Actually some of the soldiers’ letters from Mesopotamia expressed nostalgia for France, its relatively mild climate and the kindness of its inhabitants, a paradise lost in some way.40 On the French side, while little has come to light coming from ordinary soldiers or civilians, a look at a few writings emanating from members of the elite reveals the persistence of ‘Orientalist’ stereotypes, that the encounter with flesh-and-blood Indians did little to dispel. Probably the most prominent writer to have met the Indian soldiers, Maurice Barrès, a right-wing nationalist, wrote an article in 1915 in which he contrasted the Gurkhas with the Sikhs.41 Regarding the Gurkhas, his text is typically ‘Orientalist’, with its emphasis on the ‘mystery’ of these Asiatic warriors with their famous kukris (which spread terror amongst the Germans, while they do not appear to have been actually used). But his view of the Sikhs was different: he saw them as close to the French in some respects and even called them ‘brothers’, a rare recognition of the fraternity between combatants that one finds also in a letter dated 1917 by the young surrealist poet Jacques Vaché, who served as interpreter for an Indian cavalry regiment and talked about Indian ‘poilus’.42 But these were exceptions: on the whole, the Indians were perceived as men from an earlier era around whom there remained an aura of mystery – a journalist who wrote a small book on them after the war saw in them avatars of the Greek warriors of Homer’s Iliad.43 This denial of coevalness, which applied also to other colonial soldiers, was very political. Recognizing in Indians and Africans contemporaries would have meant undermining one of the justifications of the so-called mission civilisatrice that the European powers arrogated to themselves.
Conclusion The encounter that took place in France in 1914–1918 eventually left relatively few traces. The memorial that was erected to the Indian soldiers in Neuve-Chapelle in northern France (location of a battle in March 1915 in which the Indian Corps had played a prominent role) in 1927 on the design of Sir Herbert Baker had aesthetic qualities, but it could not become a real ‘lieu de mémoire’. The result of a purely British initiative, it sought 98
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to celebrate India’s imperial link at the time when Indian nationalism was on the rise. Its inauguration attracted little attention in India and, even in France, was largely ignored by the national press. It is only recently, with the diplomatic rapprochement between France and India, that it has been seen as an asset: thus, Narendra Modi was the first Indian Prime Minister to have paid it a visit during an official trip to France in 2015.44 On 10 November 2018, a new memorial erected by the United Services Institution of India in Villers-Guislain in the north of France was inaugurated. It commemorates the little-known role of the Indian cavalry in the battle of Cambrai in November–December 1917.45 In India, after the war, memories of that encounter appear to have been transmitted mostly within the army through regimental histories, and presumably within families of soldiers in ways that remain largely unrecorded. It is difficult to know whether the sojourn in France and the exposition to a different kind of society had an impact on aspects of the returning soldiers’ lives and that of their families. It has been shown by an economist that there was no post-war surge in female literacy in Punjab,46 in spite of the numerous allusions in the correspondence to the necessity of educating girls. One cannot help suspecting that some of the letters were written with a deliberate intention of pleasing the censors by displaying a ‘modern’ attitude towards female education, which did not translate itself into actual fact. On the French side, one has mentioned the recent rediscovery by some of the hidden Indian side of their ancestry, but this has not percolated to a wider public. Orientalist views of India remained dominant with the educated public, and they persist to this day, and the presence of the Indians on French soil was quickly forgotten. The commemorations of the Centenary which have just ended in France did not draw much public attention to the sacrifice of the Indian soldiers, and my book was also written in the hope of contributing to filling this gap in the French memory of the Great War.
Notes 1 Douglas Gressieux, Les Troupes indiennes en France 1914–1918, Saint-Cyr-surLoire, Editions Sutton, 2007. 2 Claude Markovits, De l’Indus à la Somme : les Indiens en France pendant la Grande Guerre, Paris, Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 2018. 3 Mulk Raj Anand, Across the Black Waters, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Orient Longmans, 2000 (1940), p. 8. 4 Ibid., p. 9. 5 A narrative by Sib Singh recorded on 9 December 1916 is thus transcribed : ‘In India the Englishman rules. We had no knowledge of any other king. When the war began, we heard of several kings’. Quoted in Britta Lange, ‘South Asian Soldiers and German Academics : Anthropological, Linguistic and Musical Field Studies in Prison Camps’, in Ravi Ahuja, Heike Liebau, Franzisska Roy (eds.), When the War Began, We Heard of Several Kings : South Asian Prisoners in World War I Germany, New Delhi, Social Sciences Press, 2011, pp. 149–184.
6 Nicola Frith, ‘French Counter-narratives: Nationalisme, Patriotisme and Révolution’, in Shaswati Mazumdar (ed.), Insurgent Sepoys: Europe Views the Revolt of 1857, New Delhi, London, Routledge, 2011, pp. 43–62. 7 Le Petit Marseillais, 16 September 1914, my translation. 8 Le Petit Provençal, 7 October 1914, my translation. 9 Ibid., 11 November 1914. 10 Rémy Cazals (ed.), Les Carnets de guerre de Louis Barthas, tonnelier (1914– 1919), Paris, François Maspéro, 1978, p. 22. 11 Ibid., p. 23. 12 Robert Graves, Goodbye to All That, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1984 (1929), p. 107. 13 Ibid., p. 140. 14 Two cavalry soldiers were indicted and court-martialled for the rape of a young French woman committed on 21 October 1915. War Office Records, The National Archives of the United Kingdom, Kew: War Diaries (Supplementary), First World War, France, Belgium and Germany, Indian Cavalry Corps. Headquarters. Branches and Services. Adjutant and Quarter-Master General, WO 154/4. 15 Bir Singh, 55th Rifles, to Gunga Singh, Kohat (Gurmukhi letter dated 17 July 1915), Asia Pacific and African Collections of the British Library (APAC), London, India Office Records, Military Department Records, Compilations and Miscellaneous, ‘Military Miscellaneous’ Series 1754–1944, Reports of the Censor of Indian Mails in France (CIMF), L/MIL/5/825 Pt 5. 16 See Ross J. Wilson, Landscapes of the Western Front: Materiality during the Great War, New York, London, Routledge, 2012, pp. 101–105. 17 The mother of Wali Mohamed, Sowar, 15th Lancers, France, to the adoptive mother of Wali Mohamed (Urdu letter dated 7 March 1917), CIMF, L/MIL/5/827 Pt I. 18 Mentioned in Gajendra Singh, The Testimonies of Indian Soldiers and the Two World Wars: Between Self and Sepoy, London, Bloomsbury, 2014, p. 116. 19 ‘Report of Indian Mail Censor’ dated 21 August 1915, APAC, European Manuscripts, Howell Collection, Mss Eur D 681/17. 20 Poem in Punjabi by Sirdar Bishan Singh, inserted in Pokhar Das, clerk in Military Accounts, Rouen, to Lala Chiniot Lal, Indian Expeditionary Force D, Basra, Mesopotamia (Urdu letter dated 1 December 1916), CIMF, L/MIL/5/826 Pt 2. 21 Gressieux, op. cit., p. 195. 22 Ibid. 23 Richard S. Fogarty, Race and War in France: Colonial Subjects in the French Army, 1914–1918, Baltimore, London, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008, pp. 202–229. 24 B.D. Yadav and S.R. Bakshi, Madam Cama, A True Nationalist, New Delhi, Anmol, 1992 (Indian Freedom Fighters, vol. 31). 25 Geoffrey Lewis, ‘The Ottoman Proclamation of Jihad in 1914’, Islamic Quarterly, vol. 19, 1975, pp. 157–163. 26 It is estimated that out of a total of 90,000 combat troops in France and Belgium, only 90 men deserted to the enemy. The best-known instance is that of Jemadar Mir Mast, of 58th Vaughan Rifles, who defected to the enemy with his 12-men platoon of Afridis. Besides, 50 men out of total of 1,000 taken prisoners by the Germans responded to the call to join the Ottomans. 27 David Omissi (ed.), Indian Voices of the Great War: Soldiers’ Letters 1914–1918, Basingstoke and London, Palgrave Macmillan, 1999, pp. 8–9.
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28 Alam Khan, 56th Jacob’s Horse, to Abu Samad Kherr, Mianwali, District Peshawar (Urdu letter dated 28 May 1916), CIMF, L/MIL/5/826 Pt 5. 29 As in this poem by an anonymous Punjabi Muslim: ‘No mosque is seen on Frankish soil, nor any place to worship God’. CIMF, L/MIL/5/825 Pt 5. 30 Mirza Sheikh I’Tesamuddin, The Wonders of Vilayet, Being the Memoir, Originally in Persian, of a Visit to France and Britain in 1765, translated by Kaiser Haq, Leeds, Peepal Tree, 2005 (1829). 31 Westward Bound: The Voyages of Mirza Abu Taleb, translated by Charles Stewart, edited by Mushirul Hasan, Delhi, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005 (1814). 32 Niaz Mahomed Khan, Dafardar, Sialkot Cavalry Brigade, to Maulvi Abdul Gaffur, Bijnor district (Urdu letter dated 4 July 1916), CIMF, L/MIL/5/826 Pt 6. 33 Alam Khan, 56th Jacob’s Horse, to Abbu Samen Khan, Mianwali district (Urdu letter dated 17 February 1917): ‘These people are not particular in their manner of living. … In the whole course of their lives they never bathe, but they keep their clothes and their houses spotlessly clean’. CIMF, L/MIL/5/827 Pt 7. 34 In a letter by a Hindustani Muslim (Urdu letter dated 14 February 1916), CIMF, L/MIL/5/826 Pt 2. 35 Lal Singh 19th Lancers, France, to Harbans Singh, Hoshiarpur district (Urdu letter dated 20 October 1915, detained by the censor): ‘The country is great, as you know. The opportunity for love-making comes to all’. CIMF, L/MIL/5/825 Pt 7. 36 Lance Dafardar Chanda Singh to his wife, Pertab Kor, Lahore (Gurmukhi letter dated 15 February 1916): ‘This France is a very fine country. The father and mother invite a visitor to kiss them. If he declines, they are offended. Then all the family, men and women, indulge in indecent talk and are very much amused. In the presence of the females, one will say to two others: ‘Go and sleep together’ and they all will laugh. It is indeed a very free and easy country’. CIMF, L/ MIL/5/826 Pt 2. 37 In a letter in Hindi dated 22 March 1915, a clerk based in Rouen wrote: ‘They have a Catholic religion which is almost reduced to nothing than etiquette’. CIMF, L/MIL/5/825 Pt 2. 38 Azad Khan, 19th Lancers, France, to Jambudar Khan, Peshawar (Urdu letter dated 17 September 1917): ‘You must all pray that we should be delivered from the proximity of the infidels, for we are not Muslims any more, our faith has disappeared’. CIMF, L/MIL/ 5/827 Pt 5. 39 Mahendra Lal Verma, Field Post Office no. 40, to Pandit Pranti Lal, Madras (Hindi letter dated 19 April 1916), CIMF, L/MIL/5/826 Pt 4. 40 See letter from Abdul Najid Khan, Rohtak, Punjab, to Suliman Khan, 3rd Skinner ‘s Horse, France, dated 18 March 1916, quoting a letter from his brother, a soldier in Mesopotamia: ‘Where, he asks, is that France, and those courteous people; where those fine open roads; where all those nice things?’. Omissi, Indian Voices of the Great War, op. cit., letter no. 271, p. 165. 41 Maurice Barrès, ‘Une visite à l’armée anglaise, II: les Gourkhas et les Sikhs’, L’Echo de Paris, 28 August 1915. 42 Jacques Vaché, Quarante-trois lettres de guerre à Jeanne Derrien, réunies et présentées par Georges Sebbag, Paris, Jean-Michel Place, 1991, letter no. 19, 25 April 1917. 43 Pierre Mille and Paul-Emile Colin, L’Inde en France. Pages liminaires décorées de vingt-quatre bois en camaïeu et suivies de huit grands bois en noir, Bourg-laReine, Paul-Emile Colin, 1920. 44 La Voix du Nord, édition de Béthune, 11 April 2015. 45 La Voix du Nord, édition de Lille, 10 November 2018.
46 Oliver van den Eynde, ‘Military Service and Human Capital Accumulation: Evidence from Colonial Punjab’ (2015). Available at www.Parisschool of econo mics.eu/docs/van-den-eynde-oliver/military-service-colonial-punjab.pdf
Bibliography Primary sources Unpublished records Asia Pacific and African Collections of the British Library, London European Manuscripts, Howell Collection, Mss Eur D 681/17 India Office Records, Military Department Records, Compilations and Miscellaneous, ‘Military Miscellaneous’ Series 1754–1944, Reports of the Censor of Indian Mails in France The National Archives of the United Kingdom, Kew War Office Records: War Diaries (Supplementary), First World War, France, Belgium and Germany, Indian Cavalry Corps. Headquarters. Branches and Services. Adjutant and Quarter-Master General
Newspapers Le Petit Marseillais, Marseilles Le Petit Provençal, Marseilles La Voix du Nord, édition de Béthune, La Voix du Nord, édition de Lille
Secondary sources Books and articles Anand, Mulk Raj, Across the Black Waters, Delhi, Orient Longmans, 2000. Barrès, Maurice, Une visite à l’armée anglaise, II: les Gourkhas et les Sikhs, L’Echo de Paris, 28 August 1915. Cazals, Rémy (Ed.), Les Carnets de guerre de Louis Barthas, tonnelier (1914–1919), Paris, François Maspéro, 1978. Fogarty, Richard S., Race and War in France: Colonial Subjects in the French Army, 1914–1918, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008. Frith, Nicola, ‘French Counter-narratives: Nationalisme, Patriotisme and Révolution’, in Shaswati Mazumdar (Ed.), Insurgent Sepoys: Europe views the Revolt of 1857, New Delhi, Routledge, 2011, pp. 43–62. Graves, Robert, Goodbye to All That, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1984 (1929). Gressieux, Douglas, Les Troupes indiennes en France 1914–1918, Saint-Cyr-surLoire, Editions Sutton, 2007.
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Hasan, Mushirul (Ed.), Westward Bound: The Voyages of Mirza Abu Taleb, trans. by Charles Stewart, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005 (1814). I’Tesamuddin, Mirza Sheikh, The Wonders of Vilayet, Being the Memoir, Originally in Persian, of a Visit to France and Britain in 1765, trans. by Kaiser Haq, Leeds, Peepal Tree, 2005 (1829). Lange, Britta, ‘South Asian Soldiers and German Academics: Anthropological, Linguistic and Musical Field Studies in Prison Camps’, in Ravi Ahuja, Heike Liebau, Franzisska Roy (Eds.), When the War Began, We Heard of Several Kings: South Asian Prisoners in World War I Germany, New Delhi, Social Sciences Press, 2011. Lewis, Geoffrey, ‘The Ottoman Proclamation of Jihad in 1914’, Islamic Quarterly, vol. 19, 1975, pp. 157–163. Markovits, Claude, De l’Indus à la Somme: les Indiens en France pendant la Grande Guerre, Paris, Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 2018. Mille, Pierre and Paul-Emile Colin, L’Inde en France. Pages liminaires décorées de vingt-quatre bois en camaïeu et suivies de huit grands bois en noir, Bourg-laReine, Paul-Emile Colin, 1920. Omissi, David (Ed.), Indian Voices of the Great War: Soldiers’ Letters 1914–1918, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 1999. Singh, Gajendra, The Testimonies of Indian Soldiers and the two World Wars. Between Self and Sepoy, London, Bloomsbury, 2014. Vaché, Jacques, Quarante-trois lettres de guerre à Jeanne Derrien, réunies et présentées par Georges Sebbag, Paris, jean-Michel Place, 1991. Van den Eynde, Oliver, Military Service and Human Capital Accumulation: Evidence from Colonial Punjab (2015), online at www.Parisschool economics.eu/docs/va n-den-eynde-oliver/military-service-colonial-punjab.pdf Wilson, Ross J., Landscapes of the Western Front: Materiality during the Great War, New York, Routledge, 2012. Yadav, B.D. and S.R. Bakshi, Madam Cama, A True Nationalist, New Delhi, Anmol, 1992 (Indian Freedom Fighters, vol. 31).
5 FROM VICTORY TO DEFEAT The Indian Army in Mesopotamia, 1914–1916 Siddhartha Das Gupta
Introduction The British decision to send an expeditionary force to Iraq in October 1914 went against the grain of British policy in the region. Though the strategic importance of the region had increased appreciably in the 19th century, British interests in the region were simply too complex to be served by an injection of military power. As Caliph, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet V was an object of universal veneration among Muslims across the world. An invasion of Turkish territory would be regarded as a severe provocation. But this complex calculus of costs and benefits was upended by the growing military and economic cooperation between Turkey and Germany that yielded a robust German bridgehead in the Ottoman territories based on railways, bridges, mines and access to sources of raw materials. The whittling away of British interests demanded a response. Hostilities broke out in November 1914 when a fleet landed an expeditionary force drawn from the Indian Army at the Fao Peninsula. This army drove deep into Mesopotamia and inflicted several defeats on the Turkish Army before complacency got the better of the judgement of its senior commanders. An entire division, the 6th Indian, under General Charles Townshend surrendered to the Turks at Kut al-Amara on 29 April 1916. But this campaign always remained a sideshow to the war in Europe and the Gallipolli. There must have been moments when the Indian soldiers who slugged their way up Mesopotamia felt that they were fighting the most redundant campaign of the First World War. Even the ammunition they were issued was marked “Made in U.S.A. For practice use only.”1 While the Indian Corps’ activities on the western front have been ably documented by a succession of distinguished chroniclers like Gordon Corrigan, David Omissi, George Morton Jack and Jeffrey Greenhut, scholarship on the Mesopotamian theatre lacks comparable depth and nuance. In Mesopotamia, Indian soldiers shuffled to war through the shadows of anonymity. Prior to the First World War, the Indian Army was an assortment of regiments that flew the flag and carried out punitive expeditions against
From victory to defeat
the insurgent tribes of the North-West Frontier. It lacked the capability to conduct conventional warfare and had never been called upon to do so. Extreme parsimony in the allocation of funds meant that it lagged well behind the armies of first-rate military powers in training, organization and equipment. As T.R. Moreman has pointed out, the Indian Army was weaned on a diet of counter-insurgency between the middle of the 19th century and the beginning of the First World War.2 On the North-West Frontier, British and Indian Army units, assisted by locally raised irregular forces, carried out 52 punitive expeditions against recalcitrant tribes between 1849 and 1914.3 Its participation in conventional military operations was the aberration rather than the norm. But this extensive combat experience existed in a doctrinal limbo. It generated no written manual of irregular warfare, no comprehensive corpus of the principles of “small warfare” or “mountain warfare.” Here, the Indian Army took its cue from the British Army, where there was a tremendous headwind against anything to do with doctrine, theory and critical reading. Any attempt to learn lessons from analyses of past campaigns and to update the Field Service Regulations was regarded at best, with derision, and at worst as a fetish that detracted from soldierly qualities. The consensus prevailing in the pre-war British Army was that intuition, imagination and experience were far more useful assets than familiarity with doctrine.4 In the First World War, this antiquated instrument of colonial warfare was thrown into the vortex of mechanized, industrialized warfare against the German Army on the western front and tasked with conducting a conventional campaign against the Ottoman Army in Mesopotamia. In Jeffrey Greenhut’s view, the Indian Corps on the western front was a premodern and preindustrial army joined together by atavistic bonds of loyalty that bound together British officers and Indian sepoys. It disintegrated swiftly following the decimation of its officer cadre.5 Even sympathetic authors like George Morton Jack and Gordon Corrigan acknowledge that some of the structural features and tactical training of the army were incompatible with the demands of modern warfare.6 The best accounts of the campaign against the Turkish forces in Mesopotamia are A.J. Barker’s and Charles Townshend’s narratives.7 Nikolas Gardner affirms that the colonial Indian Army was held together by an unwritten but tangible contract between Indian sepoys and the British Raj, in which the former served in return for specific material rewards and benefits.8 The drying up of supplies to front-line units in Mesopotamia owing to the breakdown of logistical services in 1915 and 1916 was perceived by sepoys as a violation of this contractual obligation. Amidst falling morale they withdrew their allegiance. Following the surrender at Kut in April 1916, both the Government of India and the British Government made a much greater effort to redirect resources to this theatre. Much better lines of supply and communication raised morale and combat effectiveness of troops, enabling the British imperial forces to decisively 105
Siddhartha Das Gupta
defeat the Ottoman forces in the theatre. That the quality of logistical support was the critical difference between the two campaigns in Mesopotamia has also been highlighted by Kaushik Roy9 and Ross Anderson.10 Roy argues that both the Indian Expeditionary Force D (IEF D) and the Ottoman forces faced severe logistical difficulties but the IEF D eventually prevailed because they were able to improve their logistical capabilities. He also points out that in the expeditionary force, British soldiers were far better supplied and fed than Indian sepoys, a state of affairs attributable partly to racism and partly to the fact that British soldiers required more logistical support in the harsh environment. Anderson highlights the deterioration in the effectiveness of Indian units after the loss of British officers. He stresses the role of personalities, in particular, that of General Stanley Maude, who took over command of the IEF after the Kut debacle and Major General G.F. McMunn, the Inspector General of Communications. Together they reshaped the logistical environment in which the IEF fought. Andrew Syk points to the command and control system that prevailed in the pre-war Indian Army to explain the reverses suffered by the IEF D as they moved up river into Mesopotamia. Senior officers commanded from the front and lacked the ability to influence the battle from the rear.11 In his review of the operational lessons of the campaign, Lieutenant Colonel P.T. Crowley states that the campaign foundered because of the imposition of a confused strategic command structure and the professional shortcomings of the commanders on the ground. Neither General Nixon, the commander of the 2nd Corps nor General Charles Townshend, who took over later as the commander of the 6th Division, fully grasped the complexity of the logistical problems bedevilling the force as it advanced deeper into Mesopotamia.12 While the pre-war colonial army has often been severely criticized for its shortcomings, it also has its partisans. W. Michael Ryan affirms that the Indian Army’s experience of mobile warfare provided a strong empirical context for discussions on armoured warfare in Britain in the interwar period and propelled the British to an early ascendancy in the formulation of the doctrines of mechanized warfare. Far from stagnating in an imperial backwater, the Indian Army gave the metropolitan army important lessons in celerity of movement and counter-guerrilla operations.13 This chapter describes the campaign in Mesopotamia waged by the Indian Expeditionary Force ‘D’ from the declaration of war against Turkey to the surrender of the 6th Indian Division at Kut in April 1916 after a bitter siege of four months. It is an axiom of military history that poorly trained forces generally fight more effectively from prepared positions and find themselves out of their depth when engaged in mobile warfare. The campaign in Mesopotamia demonstrated the reverse. It can be divided into two phases. In the first, lasting from its commencement in November 1914 till December 1915, the British imperial forces won a series of victories against the Turks and advanced from Basra in a northern direction towards 106
From victory to defeat
Baghdad. IEF D levered the Ottoman forces out of their positions by using the river and deployed attacking infantry on local boats called bellums. The second phase was inaugurated when the 6th Indian Division recoiled from its defeat in the battle of Ctesiphon and dug itself in at Kut al-Amara. The Tigris Corps, tasked with relieving the 6th Division, suffered heavily as it launched frontal attack after frontal attack with inexperienced, badly acclimatized troops in a doomed effort to break through to the garrison. While this chapter acknowledges that the punishing environment and an anaemic line of supply starved front-line units of necessary resources, the emphasis remains on strategy, operational philosophy and tactics. The key arguments are: (a) Owing to lack of agreement between Whitehall and the Government of India and ignorance of the conditions prevailing in Mesopotamia, IEF D was never given well-defined objectives. (b) The Indian Army had cut its teeth in small unit-centric mountain warfare and was neither trained nor equipped for conventional war. It went into the conflict thinking that the latter was simply a ramped-up version of the former. The limitations of the IEF D’s senior-most command echelon and its lack of experience in handling large formations were cruelly exposed when combat intensified. (c) The capabilities of the force were further reduced when the Indian sepoys of the expeditionary force forfeited the trust of key British commanders. In the British imagination Mesopotamia was the most vulnerable part of the Ottoman Empire. Turkish authority in the region was friable, with the Turks holding down a restive Arab population. A resurgent and narrower Turkish identity had undermined the more relaxed Ottomanli identity and weakened the ties of affection that linked non-Turkish inhabitants with Turkish rule. Basra vilayat, as remote and inaccessible a patch of the Ottoman Empire as any, was defended by second-string units of an army that had been weakened by a prolonged struggle between modernizers and reactionaries. In August 1914, the 4th Army in Mesopotamia had two army corps: the XII (35th and 36th Divisions) and the XIII (37th and 38th Divisions). But by September, Mesopotamia ceased to be a priority for the Turkish High Command, which transferred the 4th Army Headquarters and the XII Corps to Syria and the XIII Corps HQ and 37th Division to Caucasia. The 38th Division and a smattering of Jandarma and border battalions were tasked with defending Mesopotamia under the Iraq Area Command (the Irak ve Havalisi Komutanligi). A military backwater, Mesopotamia possessed no heavy artillery or aircraft. Its infantry units, composed of Arab levies of doubtful loyalty, were poorly supported by artillery and lacked key combat support units. An acute shortage of experienced officers undermined operational readiness.14 The 38th Division had only six battalions instead of the customary nine and lacked basic equipment.15 In India, the “great betrayal of 1857” had not been expunged from British consciousness and suspicions about Indian soldiers under British command still lingered. About 150,000 Indian soldiers and 36,000 native 107
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reserve forces served alongside 80,000 British troops in the army in India, an amalgam of the Indian Army and of British Army formations stationed in India.16 The entire artillery except for a handful of mountain artillery units was manned by the British. IEF D was organized around the 6th (Poona) Division commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Barrett. The tip of the spear – the 16th Brigade under Brigadier General Walter Delamain – was as good a microcosm as any of the expeditionary force. A single British battalion, the Dorsetshires “stiffened” three Indian battalions: the 20th Duke of Cambridge’s Own Infantry (Brownlow’s Punjabis), the 104th Wellesley’s Rifles and the 117th Mahratta Infantry.17 Preserving the espirit de corps of each of the regiments often meant showing excessive deference to caste and community traditions and hierarchies. Very often this proved inimical to the reforms deemed necessary for an improvement in the army’s capabilities. Though as a result of Lord Kitchener’s reforms the army’s mission had been redefined from internal security to external defence, reforms made little headway against entrenched traditions, and India’s underdeveloped economy failed to provide the equipment necessary for industrialized warfare. The army was a family of regiments rather than an aggregate of combatready divisions. There was a complete absence of centralization. Regiments recruited from well-defined areas and were anchored in depots which served all their needs.18 There were no light machine guns and very few medium guns. Only the field infantry formations were equipped with the short Lee Enfield Rifle, which was the standard issue in the British Army.19 The light guns of the artillery were effective in dispersing tribal lashkars on the NorthWest Frontier but were of little use against a well-trained, well-dug in the enemy. All transport was dependent on animals. Followers, who performed myriad menial duties like waste disposal and the clearing of latrines, were regarded as indispensable.20 Commencement of Operations: Hostilities broke out when General Delamain’s 16th Brigade was disembarked by the navy at the Fao Peninsula. It was tasked with protecting the oil refinery, oil tanks and pipeline at Abadan and securing the peninsula.21 The British imperial forces quickly pushed northwards against a badly disposed Turkish 38th Division whose troops were strung out between Fao and Baghdad. The state of preparedness of the Turkish Army can be gauged from the fact that it went into the campaign without any local maps of the theatre.22 Before the Turkish High Command could recover its strategic poise, IEF D gained a series of quick, cheap victories, taking Basra and Qurna. At modest cost the British had cut off the Turks from the Persian Gulf, threatened their communication with the lower Euphrates and secured the pipeline. With the entire area behind the front inundated by a sheet of water, IEF D improvised and began to train its troops to move and fight on small and manoeuvrable Arab boats called bellums. Each battalion created its own bellum squadron of four bellums with each boat crewed by eight men.23 Though there were 108
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teething problems, this proved a reasonably effective improvisation. But as early as March 1915, field commanders were beginning to have doubts about the combat effectiveness of certain Indian troops. In an engagement with Arab irregulars at Ahwaz, officers dared not order Indian soldiers under their command to double march for fear that they would break and run. According to Viceroy Lord Hardinge, Shia soldiers and trans-frontier Pathans were particularly suspect. General Barrett lacked confidence in four companies of trans-frontier Pathans of the 20th Regiment and requested that they be returned to India.24 The Government of India could not comply with the request because the Pathans could not be deployed on the frontier either and no non-Muslim units could be spared from their duties in India.25 Thrust into the theatre without a clear objective, IEF D was reinforced in April 1915 by the 12th Division led by Major General George Gorringe. A new corps, the second commanded by General Sir John Nixon was created to control the 6th and 12th Indian Divisions. The accretion of striking power was however marginal as the 12th Division arrived without artillery and its full complement of other arms and only exacerbated key shortages. General Nixon’s command now consisted of the 6th Poona Division (16th, 17th and 18th Brigades), the 12th Indian Division (12th, 30th and 33rd Brigades), the 6th Cavalry Brigade (7th Lancers, 16th Cavalry and a Horse Artillery Battery) and miscellaneous non-combatant Corps Troops.26 The corps adopted a more offensive posture consistent with instructions from the Government of India to seek a decisive victory in Mesopotamia. Unfortunately, lack of foresight and staff work meant that no resources were invested in developing Basra port as the main base area, and the Corps was not given any additional river transport to support the much larger force. The medical facilities were barely adequate for a single division.27 As military labour units were unknown in India, Force ‘D’ lacked an organization for the mobilization and deployment of labour.28 These deficiencies were masked by a succession of victories as the 2nd Army Corps penetrated steadily deeper into Mesopotamia. Though the Turks began closing the gap in military capabilities, British imperial troops prevailed in set piece engagements and made skilful use of their naval flotilla in joint operations to prise the Turkish Army out of prepared positions. At the battle of Shaiba a frontal attack routed 15,000 Turkish troops supported by guns who awaited the assault in carefully sited and wellconstructed trenches.29 The pitched battle which resulted was touch and go from the British point of view; their last reserves had been committed, and ammunition was running low when a dash forward by the Dorsetshire Battalion inspired the rest of the attacking force to make a bayonet charge which carried them over the Turkish trenches. The Turkish trenches were sited on the reverse side of a ridge, and the heaviest British losses occurred when they came over the crest of the ridge and began the descent.30 109
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Defeat at the battle of Shaiba threw the Turkish Army into disarray, and the responsibility of pursuing them up the river fell on General Charles Townshend, who had taken over the 6th Division from General Barrett in April 1915.31 General Townshend demonstrated bold generalship, taking both Amara and Nasiriyeh in quick succession. Infantry carried in bellums flushed out Turkish forces from the latter position. IEF D lost 500 men and inflicted a similar number of casualties on the Turks besides taking 1,000 prisoners and capturing 15 guns. But the extreme heat and ailments like heatstroke and sunstroke were taking a toll of imperial soldiers and fraying morale. Despite their victories they were becoming anxious, restless and prone to depression.32 The battles of Kut and Ctesiphon: The early successes of the campaign dispelled the misgivings in India about the military capabilities of the Indian Army and the feasibility of an extended conventional campaign in Mesopotamia. The proponents of a deeper invasion of Mesopotamia included Viceroy Lord Hardinge, and General Nixon, who was confident that the expeditionary force could go all the way to Baghdad. Among the sceptics were General Beauchamp Duff, the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, who believed that a strategic offensive at the end of a weakly guarded line of communication stretching across 200–300 miles was a risky enterprise and General Townshend. The latter, besides losing confidence in his Indian units, was firmly of the opinion that any offensive operations in theatres other than France amounted to squandering of manpower and other military resources.33 He assiduously catalogued the force’s shortcomings: lack of transport, no line of communication units, the lack of a reserve of gun and rifle ammunition and critical shortages in the 12th Division, which had to borrow guns and divisional troops from the 6th Division.34 General Townshend also knew that British prestige could not survive a reverse, that the Turkish commander Nureddin Pasha had rallied the 35th and 38th Divisions and had been reinforced by elements of the 51st Division and 38 guns. Townshend’s operational plans incorporated deception and surprise, features absent from previous battles. A part of the attacking force would grip the Turkish front in a frontal assault, while the bulk of the assaulting force – the Principal Mass in Townshend’s lexicon – would be flung against the Turkish flank. The cavalry would sweep around the Turkish rear and destroy the retreating Turkish forces. At the first battle of Kut, two columns led by Colonel Hoghton (Column A – 17th Brigade strengthened by a battalion from 16th Brigade) and Brigadier General Delamain (Column B – rest of 16th Brigade) were ordered to launch the flank attack, while Column C led by Major General Charles Fry (18th Brigade) would engage the Turkish defences in a frontal attack covered by gunfire from ships. Though Delamain’s troops reached their assigned positions, Hoghton’s column failed to arrive. Delamain launched a frontal attack against the strongly fortified Turkish trenches with the two battalions at his disposal: the Dorsets and the 117th Mahrattas. 110
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Hohgton sent the 119th Infantry and the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry to help Delamain.35 The Turkish General Reserve of about two or three battalions that arrived to shore up the principal defensive position was routed by Delamain’s troops with a bayonet charge. By 29 September, Kut was under British control. This was a decisive victory marred by the inept performance of the cavalry which failed to cut off the fleeing Turkish troops, who retired in good order. There was also a disconcerting breakdown of medical services. Wounded men had wandered for hours across the battlefield before they were collected and received medical attention.36 Flushed with this victory, IEF D pursued the Turks up to Aziziyeh, 102 miles up the river from Kut and only 60 miles from Baghdad, where they deployed on 24 October 1915 with an effective strength of 7,179 rifles and sabres, 483 infantry and 574 cavalry.37 The assaulting units were grouped in four columns: Columns A led by General Delamain, Column B under Brigadier General W.C. Hamilton and C under General Hoghton would attack and bite into the Turkish defences and force the Turks to commit their reserves, while a fourth flying column composed of a mixed force of cavalry and infantry under General Charles Melliss would sweep around the Turkish line, envelop the Turkish Army and advance up the Baghdad road after the battle. But Townshend was unaware that Turkish force had been stiffened and enjoyed local numerical superiority. The Iraq Area Command had been redesignated the 6th Army on 5 October 1915 and the 45th Division, a crack unit of tough Anatolian soldiers, had reinforced the 35th and 38th Divisions. About 18,000 Turkish soldiers dug into well-camouflaged trenches on both sides of the river Tigris at Ctesiphon faced 10,000 men under Townshend’s command. Though all three assaulting columns punched deep into the Turkish line, the Turkish 45th Division stood its ground and inflicted heavy casualties on the British, while the 51st Division checked the outflanking movement by Meliss’s flying column. The Turkish counterattack killed a large number of British officers of Indian units, leaving the latter rudderless.38 Townshend called off the battle and retreated after a second offensive on the following day was held by the Turks. While the Turkish casualties were numerically larger and nearly 3,000 Ottoman soldiers had deserted, IEF D’s onward advance had received a debilitating check, and the Turks were left in possession of the battlefield. Nureddin, on the verge of ordering a retreat, changed his posture and began pursuing Townshend’s division when his cavalry told him that the latter were in retreat. Townshend’s division gave a far better account of themselves during the retreat, but this could not mitigate the fact that he had suffered a significant strategic reverse. Bimbashi Amin, a Turkish officer and an admirer of Townshend’s generalship, identified this as the moment “when that great power called by us Qadr, and by others Chance”, shifted from the British to his own side.39 The valour shown by Indian soldiers did little to bridge the trust deficit between them and their British commanders. After the first battle of Kut, 111
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Brigadier General Delamain warned General Townshend that his Indian sepoys could not be relied upon to assault trenches again and that the success of the turning operation had been due solely to the gallantry shown by the Dorsets.40 General Townshend who was lionized by the British soldiers never succeeded in establishing with Indian sepoys the warm bonds of camaraderie that linked experienced British officers with Indians under their command. This was partly because he had an ingrained contempt for the efficiency of the Indian soldiers and partly because he had never been the commander of an Indian battalion where he would have had a chance to attune himself to the language, cultural sensitivities and expectations of Indian sepoys.41 The Turks won the battle of Ctesiphon because of the resilience of their infantry and the effectiveness of their artillery. Townshend had underestimated the enemy. IEF D was denied accurate information on the strength and capabilities of the Turkish forces owing to the weakness of its organization for the collection and analysis of intelligence. This was a legacy of the neglect of military intelligence in the pre-war Indian Army. The Frontier Corps, tasked with the collection of intelligence on the North-West Frontier and Afghanistan, produced only guides and interpreters.42 The multiplicity of organizations and the lack of trained analysts polluted the information reaching the High Command of IEF “D.” Signals intelligence was non-existent and human intelligence unreliable as it was dependent on information gleaned from Turkish prisoners of war. Of the 656 names on the Agent List of the Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force 608 were classified as “worthless” or “liars.”43 Only one officer on General Nixon’s military intelligence staff spoke Arabic. Military intelligence failed to detect the arrival of the 45th, 51st and 52nd Turkish Divisions. By contrast, 14 of the 15 officers in the Political Intelligence Staff spoke Arabic, but frosty relations between the political wing and the army meant that the inputs provided by the former were rarely factored into operational plans. Strategic intelligence reports from Cairo, London and Russia, including a specific War Office Report that the Turks were redeploying 30,000 soldiers from the Caucasus theatre to Baghdad and that the German Commander General Von Der Goltz was on his way to the front, were ignored.44 He preferred to rely on tactical intelligence, which provided meagre pickings. The entire tactical intelligence effort before the battle of Ctesiphon amounted to eight agents and four aerial reconnaissance sorties with very limited photographic abilities.45 By contrast, the Turks had an effective system of communication based on landlines, employed a Yilderim cipher which the British failed to break and were adept at concealing large numbers of troops as they moved them around the battlefield.46 The reports sent by commanders in the field contained frequent references to the low morale of certain Indian units. Morale was undermined by the appalling medical services and the inability of the logistical services to 112
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deliver essential commodities to the formations at the front. Medical facilities were primitive and soldiers often died of their wounds or were mutilated by Arab irregulars before they could be collected. Indian soldiers regarded active service as a contract between themselves and the British Raj. In their view, this contract had been breached by their sahibs in Mesopotamia. In the case of Muslim soldiers, this ambivalence was amplified by the prospect of service against an Islamic state in a theatre which contained holy sites associated with the Prophet. Incidents of disloyalty multiplied as the division advanced towards Salman Pak, and with desertions increasing, General Townshend decided to send an entire Pathan battalion back to Basra.47 There were fears in the British High Command that an organized attempt was being made to subvert the loyalty of Indian soldiers, using agents the Turkish Government may have planted in India.48 The siege of Kut al-Amara: As IEF D recoiled from the defeat at the battle of Ctesiphon, General Townshend decided to dig in at Kut al-Amara and await relief. Censured by scholars for his poor judgement in choosing Kut al-Amara to withstand a siege, General Townshend later defended himself by claiming that his options had been narrowed by the exhaustion of his troops. Never have I seen anything like the exhaustion of the troops after we reached Kut. The great bulk of the Indian troops would not move at all, although I got the British to work on 4th December, just as the Turkish advance guard came into sight.49 While historians like A.J. Barker and Charles Townshend have tended to agree with General Townshend’s assessment, officers who served in the campaign in close proximity to Indian troops have held the view that while Indian troops were undoubtedly tired and hungry, they were by no means at the limit of their endurance. The energy with which the Indian troops began to prepare fortifications after their arrival at Kut on the 4th of December belies the popular image of a collection of famished, exhausted and utterly dispirited soldiers.50 On 10 December, a new command – the Tigris Corps – was formed under General Fenton Aylmer to relieve General Townshend.51 Comprising the 3rd (Lahore) Division commanded by Major General H. D’Urban Keary, the 7th (Meerut) Division commanded by Major General G.J. Younghusband and the 28th Brigade under General G.V. Kemball, the Corps disposed of a total of 19,000 men and 46 guns.52 The General Headquarters estimate of the Turkish forces facing this relief force – 30,000 bayonets and 83 guns – turned out to be fairly accurate.53 The Tigris Corps had been cobbled together by drawing upon formations in France, Egypt and the North-West Frontier and lacked virtually everything – experience, ammunition, medical supplies, doctors, transport. Its signals were particularly poor, having been improvised from scratch. A Turkish prisoner of war 113
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told the garrison that Kut was being besieged by four divisions: the 35th, 38th, 45th and 51st with the 52nd and 26th Divisions expected shortly.54 The 6th Division fought well from fixed positions, standing firm under intense shelling and repulsing successive attacks. On the 24th of December and Christmas Day, the garrison held off attacks by the crack 52nd Division, suffering 315 casualties and inflicting more than 900 on the Turks. In terms of motivation the garrison was a mixed bag. While units like the 103rd Mahratta Light infantry and the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry displayed conspicuous gallantry,55 individual soldiers received heavy sentences for self-mutilation. A Summary General Court Martial of a sepoy of the 103rd Light Infantry, who fired two shots at an Indian officer while trying to escape while on sentry duty, culminated in a death sentence, carried out the same day at sunset.56 Edwin Latter has pointed out that morale was higher in the British battalions and that incidents of self-mutilation, faking, desertions or intentionally allowing oneself to be taken prisoner were far more likely to involve Indian soldiers.57 An alarmist Situation Report compiled on 24 January 1916 by General Townshend presented a stark picture of a garrison facing imminent starvation and estimated that the garrison could survive on half-rations only till the 18 February.58 Ordered by General Nixon to relieve the 6th Division immediately, the Tigris Corps launched a series of desperate attacks on well-organized Turkish defences. General Aylmer, who believed that set piece attacks launched after adequate preparations offered a greater chance of success, was overruled. Given that the garrison only surrendered on 29 April, General Townshend’s failure to make an accurate inventory of the food at his disposal was responsible for the shedding of a lot of British and Indian blood. The Tigris Corps took heavy casualties as it tried to assault Turkish positions across ground swept by machine guns and small arms fire. The lessons of frontier warfare cast a malign influence on the conduct of offensive operations. Frontal attacks against Turkish trenches showed up the lack of experience of the field commanders in combined arms operations. An attempted outflanking of the Turkish position by the 7th Division at the Battle of the Wadi Creek on 13 January degenerated into a clumsy, stumbling encounter marked by a number of uncoordinated, slapdash attacks by units that had been pushed off their lines of advance. The attack was launched on a two brigade width with the 21st Bde on the left and the 19th on the right, while the 35th was held in divisional reserve in the right rear.59 The cavalry failed to complete the encirclement and the infantry, bereft of artillery support suffered heavily as it tried to attack Turkish positions across open ground lashed by enemy machine gun and artillery fire. The casualty toll was 1,600, of which 218 were killed.60 Among the numerous shortcomings of front-line units was the lack of machine guns. Each Indian battalion had just two, clearly an insufficient number to support attacks against a well-dug in enemy. Indian forces had 114
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little exposure to artillery-intensive battlefields; the only guns used on the frontier were those of the mountain artillery. Communications between infantry and artillery and higher commands and their subordinate formations frequently broke down. Another attempt to break the Turkish front on the 21st of January by the 7th Indian Division failed because the reinforcements that moved up after the first attack had faltered could not be coordinated. While the divisional headquarters was linked to the brigade by telephone, the latter could only communicate with its units by runners. Units were cut off when casualties thinned out the ranks of the latter.61 The Black Watch, the 6th Jats and the 41st Dogras who went over the top all suffered severely; the latter regiment lost all their British officers and emerged from the engagement with 5 Indian Officers and 155 other ranks. The artillery fire supporting the regiment was inaccurate, falling short of the Turkish trenches by some 75 yards.62 The Seaforth Highlanders noted that demoralization was rife in Indian regiments and an unidentified battalion on their left withdrew, leaving behind both their machine guns, complete with belts, guns and ammunition. The rear companies of the Seaforths, D and “B”, had their hands full in retrieving rifles, ammunition and unattended wounded.63 The Seaforths themselves were drenched, exhausted and held the second line of trenches under the “most miserable physical and mental conditions possible.”64 The breakdown in medical arrangements recalled the Crimean campaign. Out of the five divisional ambulances only two sections of a single ambulance were at the front. The wounded lay in pools of water or died from exposure in the rain. Even unwounded soldiers died of exposure.65 These deficiencies in equipment, communication and all arms coordination were exacerbated by an incompetent handling of larger formations. The higher command echelon of the Indian Army shared the prejudices and values of its British Army counterparts and was trained in staff colleges, where qualities like courage, improvisation and determination were prized above familiarity with doctrine and detailed planning of an attack. The Tigris Corps commanders made no allowances for the very different nature of war in Mesopotamia and exercised personalized, inspirational command by placing themselves at the head of attacking formations. The emergence of static and semi-static trench warfare, the increase in defensive firepower and the fragility of communications soon exposed the shortcomings of this style of command. There was either no planning at all or excessively detailed plans that cramped the initiative of subordinate commanders. General Townshend was the exponent of the first kind of leadership; General Fenton Aylmer of the second. An opportunity to break through the Ottoman lines was lost at the Dujaila Redoubt on 8 March 1916. Six infantry brigades – the 9th, 28th and 36th Infantry Brigades under Major General Kemball, the 7th, 8th and most of the 37th under Major General H. D’Urban Keary – supported by the 16th Cavalry Brigade under Brigadier General R.C. Stephen and 66 guns achieved complete surprise after a brilliantly executed night 115
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march with the infantry capturing an empty first line of Turkish trenches.66 This opportunity for bouncing the Turks out of their positions was frittered away because General Kemball preferred to concentrate his brigades in predetermined frontages and wait for artillery support, in accordance with General Aylmer’s orders. By the time the attack resumed, the Turkish command had moved up reinforcements. Corps artillery stuck stubbornly to the prearranged plan and failed to develop flexible fire plans to support the infantry.67 Commanders in the Tigris Corps were slow to realize that command could be more effectively exercised from headquarters and that decentralization and greater coordination between infantry and artillery brightened the prospects of success. The deployment of the 13th British Division led by General Stanley Maude was a whiff of fresh air in the foetid command culture of the IEF D. Prior to the attack by the division at Hanna on 5 April, Maude conducted detailed reconnaissance, issued precise orders to subordinate formations and linked artillery and infantry brigade commanders by telephone. It was only in April 1916 that the commanders of IEF D began to internalize the principles of managerial command, based largely on greater cooperation between infantry and artillery.68 Ad hocism in the administration of the rear, the lack of infrastructure at Basra port and the limitations of inland water transport capacity meant that troops disembarked at Basra could not be moved up the line of communications to reinforce the front-line formations of the Tigris Corps. The very heavy casualties caused resentment among Indian soldiers and sapped their confidence in British officers. Yet it would be wrong to assume that British commanders were simply profligate with the lives of Indian soldiers. General Nixon and other officers of his cohort were ignorant of the vast increase in the lethality of defensive firepower and oblivious to the transformation in infantry tactics that had been wrought on the western front. They believed that the best method of breaking the Turkish front was a frontal attack, delivered with the traditional determination and gallantry of the British and the Indian soldier. They were surprised when troops preferred to dig in instead of continuing an infantry charge. An exception to this was interestingly General Townshend. Among the senior commanders of the IEF D he stood out for his emphasis on turning the enemy’s flank. The Tigris Corps paid a high price in blood for the tactical conservatism and complacency of its commanders. General Nixon’s replacement as theatre commander by Sir Percy Lake on 19 January 1916 did little to reverse the dismal sequence of failures though to his credit Sir Percy Lake showed greater flexibility than Nixon and tried to sort out some of the problems he inherited from his superior. River transport finally started getting the attention it deserved and urgent measures were taken to improve its capacity.69 Whitehall signalled its displeasure at the way the campaign had been run by giving the War Office operational control on the 10 February. The
From victory to defeat
Commander-in-Chief India’s role would be limited to administering India as a base. On 12 March, Major General G.F. Gorringe replaced General Aylmer as commander of the Tigris Corps. By this time most units had been purged of whatever combativeness they may have possessed, lacked faith in senior commanders and were unwilling to carry out frontal attacks. After an engagement in the last week of February, 48 per cent of Indian soldiers had wounds in their hands and feet – something that a British officer termed “very suspicious.”70 Very heavy casualties necessitated amalgamation. The Norfolks and Dorsets were combined into a composite unit. The 9th Bhopals were reinforced with men from the Rajputs. This tested the espirit de corps of Indian regiments and created additional complications for their commanders. About 30,000 men and 130 guns under General Gorringe faced a similar number of Turks supported with 96 guns.71 The British artillery lacked shells and their 5-inch howitzer had a slower rate of fire and smaller range than the Turkish 12-cm gun.72 The only formation whose combat potential was relatively unimpaired was the newly arrived British 13th Division. One of the new army divisions raised by Kitchener, it had taken heavy casualties in the fighting at Gallipoli. Nonetheless, it was considered more effective than the 3rd and 7th Indian Divisions, which had reported 14,000 casualties in the last few weeks. Gorringe threw his British and Indian divisions into repeated attacks against Turkish defences on both sides of the river but failed to break through. Even when the Tigris Corps broke through the first line of Turkish trenches, the Turks from the second and third lines rallied and drove them back in counterattacks. Between January and April, the corps was bled white in massed frontal attacks against fortified Turkish entrenchments, suffering 23,000 casualties, 10,000 of which were suffered in less than three weeks, spanning the 5th to the 23rd of April. When the Turks opened the bunds on the Tigris, the river rose and water seeped into the British trenches. General Gorringe now conceded that the relief of Kut was no longer feasible. On the left bank the British were still 15 miles from Kut; on the right bank 12 miles. To be successful, an infantry attack needed to be preceded by an overwhelming artillery barrage. The famished garrison could not give the Tigris Corps the several days it needed for the artillery preparation.73 On the 16 April, the flour ration in Kut was reduced to 4 ounces for Indian and British troops alike. Indian sepoys were given opium to allay pangs of hunger. Nor was the river transport capacity adequate to bring up sufficient numbers of troops to break through the Turkish line by massed assault. General Lake informed the Chief of the Imperial General Staff that negotiations were the only alternative to risking the destruction of the only British striking force in Mesopotamia.74 He rejected General Townshend’s request to initiate talks and urged the latter to do the negotiating. Townshend, who expected honourable terms of surrender, was speedily disillusioned. The Turkish Government rejected the 117
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terms proposed by him and offered, in exchange of all the guns, arms and stores in Kut, only his release on parole. General Townshend, who found these terms unacceptable, surrendered with 9,250 British and Indian soldiers on 29 April after ordering the destruction of all military and other equipment that could be of any use to the Turks.
Conclusion The Indian Expeditionary Force D landed in Mesopotamia expecting to burst through an open door. The door did swing wide open – and that proved to be the crux of the problem. With the Government of India and Whitehall failing to lay down objectives, the force lunged deep into Mesopotamia. “Mission creep” without a concomitant increase in resources pushed Townshend’s doomed division into the maw of the Ottoman Army. The segregation of the administrative branch from the operations branch in the pre-war Indian Army meant that there was no effort to reconcile objectives with military capabilities or the force’s logistical depth. One of the most serious consequences of incompetent staff work, compounded by poor intelligence, was the underestimation of enemy’s strength. Despite the improved performance of the Turkish Army at the Battle of Ctesiphon, no one in the IEF D’s high command doubted the ability of the Tigris Corps to break straight through the Turkish lines and relieve the garrison at Kut.75 IEF D failed to come to terms with the complexities of conventional combined arms warfare, particularly the challenge of integrating artillery fire with infantry operations. The command echelon of the IEF continued to practise an outmoded style of personalized, centralized command instead of using modern communications to control operations from the rear through a delegation of key tasks to responsible subordinate commanders. One of the interesting features of the campaign was that, within its limited compass, IEF D proved itself better in advancing northwards into Mesopotamia than in the straightforward slogging necessary to break a front. As long as it could use the river as a hinge, it succeeded in levering the Turkish Army out of its positions. But when the Tigris Corps was ordered to break through the Turkish lines and relieve Kut, it lacerated itself by hurling its troops against well-prepared Turkish defences. Its tactical deficiencies were a legacy of frontier warfare, which was embedded deep in the institutional memory of the Indian Army. Its tactics emphasized mobility over power. This was quite adequate for the trans-frontier tribes, who lacked the firepower to engage the imperial forces in pitched engagements. The limitations of this doctrine were exposed when IEF D encountered battle-hardened and experienced Turkish troops, dug into well-prepared positions. The Ottoman Army had perfected a rudimentary but extremely effective defence in depth, plugging the breaches that the British imperial forces opened in their line before the latter could exploit them. 118
From victory to defeat
The crumbling of faith of senior British commanders in their Indian subordinates and formations was an a priori event and had little to do with the behaviour of the vast majority of Indian soldiers who remained loyal and fought as effectively as the circumstances permitted. The Indian sepoy began to reconsider his allegiance to the Raj only when the latter failed to honour its commitment to ensure tolerable conditions of service for him. Even amidst severe deprivation the garrison at Kut reported the desertion of only 47 Indian soldiers, mostly young recruits with between 14 and 16 months of service.76 As the relationship between the British officers and Indian sepoys unravelled, commanders in the IEF D came to rely on just a hard core of British units for the most important tasks. The surrender of Townshend’s division at Kut was the worst debacle for British arms since the surrender at Yorktown during the War of American Independence. The surrender triggered a fierce debate about responsibility and prompted the British Government to set up the Mesopotamia Enquiry Commission. The Mesopotamia campaign had been conceived in India as a classic exercise of imperialism on the cheap; a quick, inexpensive military operation which would securely establish British domination of oil reserves and give Britain the option of striking at the soft underbelly of Turkish power. Its failure was a severe indictment of the Indian administration. Though the Indian Army eventually regrouped in the theatre and inflicted a decisive defeat on the Turkish Army, the disaster sensitized informed public opinion in Britain to the rank incompetence of the ossified bureaucracy that ran the Government of India. It was, to borrow a sobriquet given by a celebrated historian to another shameful surrender of another British imperial army in another world war, “a very British disaster.”77
Notes 1 A.J. Barker, The Neglected War, Mesopotamia 1914–1916, London, Faber and Faber, 1967, p. 18. 2 T.R. Moreman’s The Army in India and the Evolution of Frontier Warfare 1849– 1947, Basingstoke, Macmillan Press, 1998. 3 T.R. Moreman’s The Army in India and the Evolution of Frontier Warfare 1849– 1947, Basingstoke, Macmillan Press, 1998, p. xxi. 4 Tim Travers, The Killing Ground: The British Army, the Western Front and the Emergence of Modern Warfare, London, Allen and Unwin, 1987. 5 Jeffrey Greenhut, “The Imperial Reserve: The Indian Corps on the Western Front, 1914–1915,” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 12(1), 54–73, 1983. 6 Gordon Corrigan, Sepoys in the Trenches: The Indian Corps on the Western Front 1914–1915, Kent, Spellmount, 1999. George Morton Jack, The Indian Army on the Western Front, New Delhi, Cambridge University Press, 2015. 7 A.J. Barker, The Neglected War, Mesopotamia 1914–1916, London, Faber and Faber, 1967. Charles Townshend, When God Made Hell: The British Invasion and the Creation of Iraq 1919–1921, London, Faber and Faber, 2010.
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8 Nicholas Gardner, “Morale and Discipline in a Multiethnic Army: The Indian Army in Mesopotamia (1914–1917),” Journal of Middle East and Africa, 4, 1–20, 2013. 9 Kaushik Roy, “From Defeat to Victory: Logistics of the Campaign in Mesopotamia, 1914–1918,” First World War Studies, 1(1), 35–55, 2010. 10 Ross Anderson, “Logistics of the Indian Expeditionary Force D in Mesopotamia: 1914–1918,” in Kaushik Roy (ed.) The Indian Army in the Two World Wars, Leiden: Brill, 2012, pp. 105–143. 11 Andrew Syk, “Command in the Indian Expeditionary Force D: Mesopotamia, 1915–16,” in Kaushik Roy (ed.) The Indian Army in the Two World Wars, Leiden: Brill, 2012. 12 Lt. Col. P.T. Crowley, “Operational Lessons of the Mesopotamia Campaign, 1914–18,” Defence Studies, 4(3), 335–360, 2004. 13 W. Michael Ryan, “The Influence of the Imperial Frontier on British Doctrines of Mechanized Warfare,” Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies, 15(2), 123–142, 1983. 14 Edward J. Erickson, Ottoman Army Effectiveness in World War I, Oxford, Routledge, 2007, pp. 63–64. 15 Charles Townshend, When God Made Hell, London, Faber and Faber, 2010, p. 28. 16 A.J. Barker, The Neglected War, p. 26. 17 Charles Townshend, When God Made Hell, p. 23. 18 A.J. Barker, The Neglected War, pp. 30–33. 19 Townshend, When God Made Hell, p.25. 20 Townshend, When God Made Hell, p. 25. 21 Edward J. Erickson, Ottoman Army Effectiveness in World War I: A Comparative Study, p. 62. Issac Pitman, The Campaign of the British Army in Mesopotamia, 1914–1918, London, Issac Pitman and Sons Ltd., 1930, p. 1. 22 Townshend, When God Made Hell, p. 33. 23 In his account Major General Sir Charles V. F. Townshend says that each bellum had a crew of one Non-Commissioned Officer and nine soldiers. See Major General Sir Charles V. F. Townshend, My Campaign in Mesopotamia, London, Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1920, p. 57. 24 Townshend, When God Made Hell, pp. 70–71. 25 Nikolas Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara at War in Mesopotamia 1915– 1916, Indiana, Indiana University Press, 2014. 26 Issac Pitman, The Campaign of the British Army, p. 15. 27 Barker, The Neglected War, p. 79. 28 Barker, The Neglected War, pp. 48–49. 29 War Diary No. WWI/ 231/ H Army Headquarters India I.E.F. “D” Volume 9 (1st April to 15th April 1915) Appendix 203, Diary No. 7655, Telegram P. No. 1297-1, dated 15 April, 1915, National Archives of India, New Delhi, pp. 111–112. Henceforth, Mesopotamia War Diary, NAI, New Delhi. 30 Mesopotamia War Diary WWI/231/H, Appendix 217, Diary No. 7731, Telegram P. No. 129-8-1, dated 16 April, 1915 NAI, New Delhi, pp. 119–120. 31 General Barrett was slighted by General Nixon’s appointment as the Corps Commander and refused to serve under him. See Nikolas Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara, p. 18. 32 Barker, The Neglected War, pp. 97–98. 33 Sir Charles Townshend, My Campaign in Mesopotamia, p. 85. 34 Sir Charles Townshend, My Campaign in Mesopotamia, pp. 34, 74, 84. 35 Barker, The Neglected War, p. 112.
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36 Ibid. 37 Townshend, When God Made Hell, p. 149. 38 Issac Pitman, The Campaign of the British Army in Mesopotamia, p. 32. 39 Townshend, When God Made Hell, p. 166. 40 Sir Charles Townshend, My Campaign in Mesopotamia, p. 121. 41 Nikolas Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara, pp. 20–21. 42 Andrew Syk, “Command in the Indian Expeditionary Force D: Mesopotamia, 1915–16”, in Roy (ed.) The Indian Army in the Two World Wars, pp. 87–88. 43 Lt. Col. P.T. Crowley, “Operational Lessons of the Mesopotamia Campaign, 1914–18,” Defence Studies, 4(3), 344, 2004. 44 Andrew Syk, “Command in the Indian Expeditionary Force D: Mesopotamia, 1915–16” p. 87. 45 Andrew Syk, “Command in the Indian Expeditionary Force D” pp. 90–91. 46 Lt. Col. P.T. Crowley “Operational Lessons of the Mesopotamia Campaign, 1914–18”, pp. 344–345. 47 Nikolas Gardner “Morale and Discipline in a Multiethnic Army,” Journal of Middle East and Africa, 11. 48 Mesopotamia War Diary, WWI/238/H Vol. 16 Appendix 29, Diary No. 26094, Part I, Telegram P. No., I.G.- 1553, dated 2 November, 1915, NAI, New Delhi, p. 15. 49 Nikolas Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara at War in Mesopotamia 1915– 1916, pp. 58–59. 50 Nikolas Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara, pp. 59–60. 51 Sir Charles Townshend, My Campaign, p. 223. 52 The order of battle of the two divisions was as follows: 3rd Indian Division: 7th Indian Infantry Bde (Lt Col. L.W.Y. Campbell) and 9th Infantry Bde (Major General R.G. Egerton). 7th Division: 19th Infantry Bde (Brigadier General W.J. Harvey,) 21st Infantry Bde (Brigadier General C.E. de M. Norrie) and the 35th Infantry Bde (Brigadier General G.H.B. Rice). See Barker, The Neglected War, p. 483. 53 Sir Charles Townshend, My Campaign, p. 239 54 Sir Charles Townshend, My Campaign, p. 230. 55 Barker, The Neglected War, p. 159. 56 Sir Charles Townshend, My Campaign, pp. 236–237. 57 Lt. Col. P.T. Crowley “Operational Lessons of the Mesopotamia Campaign, 1914–18,” p. 348. 58 Mesopotamia War Diary, WWI/240/H, Appendix 519, Situation in Mesopotamia, 24th January 1916, NAI, New Delhi, pp. 268–269. 59 Mesopotamia War Diary, WWI/1459/H, Notes from War Diaries, Part LXXXV, Force “D”, General Staff, Army Headquarters, India, June 1916. 1st Battalion the Seaforth Highlanders, January 1916, NAI, New Delhi, p. 6. 60 Barker, The Neglected War, p. 208. 61 Andrew Syk, “Command in the Indian Expeditionary Force D: Mesopotamia, 1915–16” NAI, New Delhi, p. 94. 62 Mesopotamia War Diary, WWI/1459/H, Notes from War Diaries, Part LXXXVI, Force “D”, General Staff, Army Headquarters India, June 1916. 41st Dogras, January 1916, Volume III, NAI, New Delhi, p. 8. 63 Mesopotamia War Diary, WWI/1459/H, Notes from War Diaries, Part LXXXV, Force “D”, General Staff, Army Headquarters, India. June 1916. 1st Battalion the Seaforth Highlanders, January 1916, NAI, New Delhi, p. 8. While British units routinely disparaged Indian regiments in the First World War, the same entry in the War Diary praised the 53rd Sikhs for ‘a very steady advance’ in support of the Seaforths and a professional clearing of the battlefield.
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64 Mesopotamia War Diary, WWI/1459/H, Notes from War Diaries, Part LXXXV, Force “D”, General Staff, Army Headquarters, India, June 1916. 1st Battalion the Seaforth Highlanders, January 1916, NAI, New Delhi, p. 8. 65 Barker, The Neglected War, p. 221. 66 Mesopotamia War Diary, WWI/242/H, Appendix 261, Diary No. 42869, Telegram P. No. 1008-491-0, dated 10th March, 1916, NAI, New Delhi, p. 143. Nikolas Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara at War in Mesopotamia 1915– 1916, pp. 127–128. 67 Nikolas Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara at War in Mesopotamia 1915– 1916, pp. 127–128. 68 Andrew Syk, “Command in the Indian Expeditionary Force D,” pp. 98–99. 69 Mesopotamia War Diary, WWI/240/H, Appendix 519, Situation in Mesopotamia, 24th January 1916, NAI, New Delhi, pp. 268–269. 70 Townshend, When God Made Hell, p. 224. 71 Barker, The Neglected War, p. 248. 72 Sir Charles Townshend, My Campaign, p. 278. 73 Mesopotamia War Diary, WWI/243/H, Vol. 21, Part II, Appendix 441, Dy No. 50087, Telegram P., No. 129-408-O, dated 22 April 1916, NAI, New Delhi, p. 263. 74 Mesopotamia War Diary, WWI/243/H, Vol. 21, Part II, Appendix 480, Dy No. 50341, Telegram P., No. 1008- 675-O, dated 24 April, 1916, NAI, New Delhi, p. 280. 75 Roger Evans, A Brief Outline of the Campaign in Mesopotamia 1914–1918, London, Sifton Praed and Company Limited, 1926, p. 70. 76 Nikolas Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara at War in Mesopotamia 1915– 1916, p. 139. 77 Chris Bayly and Tim Harper, Forgotten Armies, London, Allen Lane, 2004, p. 106.
Bibliography Primary sources National Archives of India War Diary : Mesopotamia, 1915–1916
Secondary sources Anderson, Ross. “Logistics of the Indian Expeditionary Force D in Mesopotamia: 1914–1918”, in Kaushik Roy (ed.) The Indian Army in the Two World Wars, Leiden, Brill, 2012. Barker, A.J. The Neglected War, Mesopotamia 1914–1916, London, Faber and Faber, 1967. Corrigan, Gordon. Sepoys in the Trenches The Indian Corps on the Western Front 1914–1915, Kent, Spellmount, 1999. Crowley, Lt. Col. P.T. “Operational Lessons of the Mesopotamia Campaign, 1914– 18”, Defence Studies, 4(3): 335–360, Autumn 2004. Erickson, Edward J. Ottoman Army Effectiveness in World War I, Oxford, Routledge, 2007.
From victory to defeat
Evans, Roger. A Brief Outline of the Campaign in Mesopotamia 1914 – 1918, London, Sifton Praed and Company Limited, 1926. Gardner, Nicholas. “Morale and Discipline in a Multiethnic Army: the Indian Army in Mesopotamia (1914 – 1917)”, Journal of Middle East and Africa, 4: 1–20, 2013. Gardner, Nicholas. The Siege of Kut-al-Amara At War in Mesopotamia 1915–1916, Indiana, Indiana University Press, 2014. Greenhut, Jeffrey. “The Imperial Reserve; The Indian Corps on the Western Front, 1914–1915”, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 12(1): 54–73, Oct 1983. Jack, George Morton.The Indian Army on the Western Front, New Delhi, Cambridge University Press, 2015. Moreman, T.R. The Army in India and the Evolution of Frontier Warfare 1849– 1947, Basingstoke, Macmillan Press, 1998. Pitman, Issac. The Campaign of the British Army in Mesopotamia, 1914–1918, London, Issac Pitman and Sons Ltd, 1930. Roy, Kaushik. “From Defeat to Victory: Logistics of the Campaign in Mesopotamia, 1914 – 1918”, First World War Studies, 1(1), March 2010, London, Routledge. Ryan, W. Michael. “The Influence of the Imperial Frontier on British Doctrines of Mechanized Warfare”, Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies, 15(2): 123–142, Summer, 1983. Syk, Andrew. “Command in the Indian Expeditionary Force D: Mesopotamia, 1915–16”, in Kaushik Roy (ed.) The Indian Army in Two World Wars, Brill, Leiden, 2012. Townshend, Charles. When God Made Hell, London, Faber and Faber, 2010. Townshend, Major General Sir Charles V. F. My Campaign in Mesopotamia, London, Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1920. Travers, Tim. The Killing Ground The British Army, the Western Front and the Emergence of Modern Warfare, London, Allen and Unwin, 1987.
6 THE INDIAN ARMY IN THE EAST AFRICAN CAMPAIGN, 1914–1918
Introduction It is quite evident that the characters and charisma of the Great War still continue to fascinate historians and readers alike across the globe.1 It is argued that the massive industrialisation of warfare brought the trenches, mass mobilisation and huge casualty in the Great War. This also gave rise to a long-lasting and spirited debate about its origins, conduct and consequences that remains very much alive today among the academicians and strategies of warfare. Perhaps it was the sheer scale of effort and resulting sacrifices coloured by differing national outlooks that keeps it so controversial. In the English-speaking world, study has largely been focused on the Western Front, with lesser consideration given to Gallipoli and Palestine, or in the African warfronts. Therefore, the other, more peripheral theatres have received a fraction of the attention. In proportion to the level of effort, this may be understandable, but in historical terms, it represents a gap.2 This is particularly true of the East African campaign that lasted from August 1914 until November 1918, with the fighting stopping two days after the armistice in Europe. It was never of first importance, yet it ranged from the modern states of Kenya and Uganda in the north, through the Congo, Ruanda, Burundi and Tanzania in the centre to Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique in the south. Few inhabitants, European or African, escaped its effects or ravages, while the colonial empires were irrevocably changed by the conflict. If it was insignificant in global terms, the war there was of overwhelming local consequences. On the other hand, it is equally true that unlike the official history of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War, there is no official history of the Indian Armed Forces in the Great War. Recently, archival research revealed interesting details about Indian troops and their extraordinary services in Africa. As we all know that during the Great War seven Indian Expeditionary Forces (IEF) from ‘A’ to ‘G’ were employed to various 124
Indian Army in the East African campaign
theatres of warfronts in the West, of which IEF ‘B’ and IEF ‘C’ were specially deployed in East Africa as a part of the British colonial force to combat against the Germans. In the four-year period from 1914 to 1918 nearly 50,000 Indian troops passed through East African warfronts. Situation was such that at any one time there were about 15,000 troops on behalf of both the sides in the African warfronts. A total of 2,972 were killed, 2,003 wounded and 43 missing or taken prisoners of war, taking the total casualties to 5,018 including all ranks. Recent researches of the Western-dominated academics has revealed that compared to the Western Front, the campaign in East Africa was very small scale and strategically unimportant, as well as proved insignificant to the British. The strength of the British troop peaked at 58,000 in August 1916, while the total wartime casualties of 349,311, of whom nearly 330,000 were sick, represented some 5.62 per cent of the Western Front’s and 3.15 per cent total losses of the British Empire.3 Yet it is easy to become fixated on numbers alone, and it is worth recalling that the war there lasted from August 1914 until November 1918, leaving a huge sociopolitical and economic impact on Africa. It is further argued that the impact ranged from the modem states of Kenya and Uganda in the north, through the Congo, Ruanda, Burundi and Tanzania in the centre to Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique in the south. Perhaps insignificant in global terms, the war was of overwhelming local consequences.4 The territories which were involved in the Great War were German East Africa (Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi), British East Africa (Kenya), Uganda, Belgian Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo), Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique), Nyasaland (Malawi) and Northern Rhodesia (Zambia).5
Strategic preparations On the eve of the Great War, Germany had four colonies in Africa: Togoland, German South West Africa, Cameroons, and German East Africa (Mainland Tanzania along with Rwanda and Burundi).6 German East Africa measured 384,180 square miles. It was bounded in the north by British East Africa (Kenya), in the south by Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique), Nyasaland (Malawi) and Rhodesia (Zambia); in the east by the Indian Ocean; and in the west by Lake Tanganyika and Belgian Congo (Zaire).7 By 1914, German East Africa had more than 7.5 million Africans: 14,000 Indians, and over 5,300 Europeans. The Europeans were mostly settled in the salubrious northern part of German East Africa. In comparison, there were 7 million Africans, 28,000 Indians and 6,000 Europeans in British East Africa and Uganda. German East Africa measured about 1,100 km2.8 Rainy season in those regions created almost stalemate for movement, while shortage of 125
water made the situation even dismal for the greater part of it. Besides, these regions were covered with thick bush and the transportation was only possible because of the two railways: the Usambara railway in the north and Central railway in the centre of the colony.9 As the likelihood of war became obvious, the German cruiser SMS Königsberg, which was in Dar-es-Salaam, made its escape so as not to fall into British hands. A few days later war was declared, and in accordance with the British Admiralty War Book, the German wireless station was bombed. A week later, the same happened at the German port of Tanga. Almost simultaneously, and in an uncoordinated fashion, the German forces launched various attacks on neighbouring territories. German attacks on Taveta in British East Africa and across into Belgian Congo created havoc in mid-August 1914. A week later, attacks occurred in Portuguese East Africa and at Abercorn in Northern Rhodesia. The outcome of these attacks was the German occupation of Taveta, the only British territory to be occupied by Germany during the war, while the Nyasaland Volunteer Force was able to hold the German attack back.10 On Lake Tanganyika, the Belgian steamer Baron Dhanis was dismantled to keep it safe, allowing the Germans to take control of the lake. When Germany requested in September 1914 that the Congo basin remain neutral, the other 1885 Berlin Convention signatories refused because of the actions that had already taken place. Belgium, its neutrality violated in both Europe and Africa, continued an offensivedefensive in Africa without declaring war against Germany. The situation with Portuguese East Africa, however, was more sensitive as the country was neutral both in Europe and Africa. Between the German governor and the powers in Europe, Portugal maintained its neutrality until March 1916, although it did recruit internally and send out an expeditionary force to protect the colony.11
Situation on the eve of the Great War Before the outbreak of the Great War, all of Sub-Saharan Africa except Liberia and Ethiopia was under the control of the Europeans.12 On 5 August 1914, Great Britain declared war against Germany.13 The War Office in London had been preoccupied with sending the British expeditionary force to France. It had initially passed the responsibility for providing troops for any East African campaign to the India Office and through them to the Indian Army. General Barrow of the India Office in London assumed general control of Indian Expeditionary Force B.14 Combat in East Africa during the First World War may be peripheral in comparison to the enormous struggle that occurred on the Western Front, but it had massive consequences for the Africans. The term ‘Germans’ in this chapter refers to both the German forces along with the auxiliary African troops and the askaris (local boys). This chapter also portrays the combat and diverse strategies 126
Indian Army in the East African campaign
adopted between the British imperial forces, including the Indian component and their counterparts, namely the Germans in the warfronts across Africa.15 At the outbreak of war, the imperial powers in East Africa were unprepared for a major campaign. Although the colonies possessed little strategic value in themselves, the dynamics of imperial rivalry quickly generated armed conflict. The East African campaign evolved haphazardly from neutralising German wireless communications and naval facilities to a wildly overambitious plan to conquer the whole of the colony with scant forces. The British wanted to keep any potential spoils for themselves but were also strongly influenced by the expansionist policies of South Africa, largely propounded by the its own statesmen Louis Botha and Jan Smuts (1870–1950).16 The British forces, commanded by General Jan Christian Smuts (1870– 1950), had occupied the bulk of German East Africa with all the railways, towns and ports in their possession since September 1916. However, he had failed to bring the German Schuatruppe to battle and it remained a powerful and well-motivated force. Furthermore, his reliance to manoeuvre and reluctance to fight battles led his troops ever-deeper into enemy territory and dependent on inadequate lines of communication as well as support from the local populace.17 Under this circumstance, General Jan Smuts continued his advance until January 1917 when he left for the Imperial War Conference in England. As a result, his forces were in terrible condition and unfit for further offensive operations as against the German attacks. He was succeeded by the British General Hoskins for a bare three months. Within that short span of time, he had been instrumental in reorganising the force for possible military deployment in the campaign. In May 1917, van Deventer assumed command of South Africa. This he continued until the end of the war. Van Deventer continued to build on work, which was once initiated by Hoskin. He was instigated by an aggressive policy of fighting and hard battles, whenever possible, while simultaneously trying to destroy the German food supplies. These methods were continued throughout the remainder of 1917 and until November 1918 when the war ended with the Schuatruppe being pursued from Portuguese East Africa into Northern Rhodesia.18
The opposing military forces Both sides participating in the Great War were capable enough to build their own army deployment and subsequently form strategies to maneuvour over each other. Therefore, on land, matters were more evenly matched. The British Colonial Office controlled and funded the King’s African Rifles (KAR). The KAR numbered 3 battalions with a total of 21 infantry companies, of which 2 were trained as mounted infantry, while a third was camelborne. While each unit was territorially based for recruiting purposes, with 127
one KAR from Nyasaland, three KAR from British East Africa and four KAR from Uganda, in practice they could be deployed throughout the region.19 Whatever their role in the defence plans, they were not intended to fight a modern, well-equipped enemy in general warfare. Their expertise lay in maintaining internal security through the suppression of African risings and preventing the depredations of marauding nomads.20 Despite its obvious expertise, the War Office actually played only a minor role in overseeing the force. Its input was limited to seconding officers and supplying arms and equipment. General control of training, administration and operations was the responsibility of the inspector general of the KAR, but as he had to split his time between London and the widely separated colonies, his direct influence was limited. In East Africa, there was only a tiny headquarters with no effective central staff, artillery, medical services or reserves. Given the vast distances and time needed to travel, practical decision-making had to be devolved to the officer on the spot. If these weaknesses were militarily undesirable and caused some inefficiency, they were acceptable to the Colonial Office as its financially straitened colonies had to meet the costs of defence. It deemed the system adequate for the low-level operations expected of the KAR.21 In 1914, the KAR numbered just under 2,400 men, of whom 62 were British officers, 2 were British non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and 2,319 were Africans.22 Like other colonial forces of the period, British officers occupied all senior positions and were supported by African NCOs who rose from the ranks. The theory of the ‘martial race’ was still widely maintained and this meant that the troops were generally recruited only from traditional, favoured tribes. In terms of organisation, the KAR battalions were still using the outmoded eight single-company format. Commanded by a captain, the company normally fielded between 75 and 125 soldiers and could be broken down into two half companies, each of two sections. This system was in the process of being supplanted by the four-company system coming into the British and Indian Armies, as it was unwieldy and lacked flexibility.23 The relatively settled state of the British colonies meant that internal security was proving a lesser role than that of pacification of the border regions, particularly in the north around the border with Italian Somaliland. The principal activity was countering raids by Somali and Turkhana tribesmen into British territory. All three KAR battalions were divided between their home territories and the northern border, with no troops along the German border and the Uganda Railway left completely unprotected. Both Zanzibar and Nairobi had the equivalent of a company, but they were mainly involved in training and garrison activities.24 Like their counterparts elsewhere, the African troops were usually referred to by their Swahili name, askari.25 Apart from the KAR, the colonial governments controlled paramilitary police forces; in British East Africa and Uganda there were 71 Europeans and 128
Indian Army in the East African campaign
2,621 Africans with smaller numbers available in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. Initially they were deployed around the main population centres, and they were quickly pressed into security duties with the coming of war. Subsequently, a considerable number of these police found their way into military service, although initially this was limited by fears of internal unrest and enemy-inspired disorder.26 Whatever its shortcomings in organisation and equipment, the KAR was a well-disciplined and long-service force that was fully acclimatised to fighting in the African bush. It was highly experienced in patrol work and operated independently in small sub-units. In short, it was an ideal force with which to support any campaign against German East Africa.27
German and British military organisations Both German and British forces were under capable generals to motivate each other’s force in the warfronts. Major General P.E. von LettowVorbeck was considered as one of the crucial officers who made significant difference by providing diverse blow against the British force in East Africa.28 Heinrich Schnee was the German governor and also the supreme commander of the police and military forces in the colony. According to one estimate, just before the beginning of the Great War, the Germans had been 2,000–3,000 trained whites and about 8,000 African soldiers. They had about 40 guns and 70 machine guns. The Germans had Schutztruppe (Protective Force), which included 63 German officers, 67 German NCOs and 2,542 Africans organised into 14 field companies. The German officers of the Schutztruppe were in Africa for many years and were also responsible for civil administration of the districts. The tactics of the Schutztruppe were based on mobile company columns, which were able to move independently through the bushes. Each column comprised of 2 German officers, 2 German NCOs, 150 askaris (local boys), 2 machine guns, 322 carriers, 100 askari boys and 13 European boys. Generally, six months’ suppliers for the Europeans were carried and the African component foraged the land. Being self-contained units, each column had its own doctors and artisans such as tailors, shoemakers and so on. Besides field companies, there were rifle companies and reserve companies comprising German settlers. In addition, the Germans had a gendarmerie of 45 Europeans and 2,154 African policemen who were recruited to the Schutztruppe during the Great War. The German askari was paid double the amount of what the askari in the KAR drew. However, the German askaris were equipped with the 1871 Pattern Rifles. German East Africa posed a threat to British communications between the Cape of Good Hope and Cairo and also provided Germany with a potential naval base from where the German ships (especially cruiser) could operate in the Indian Ocean and threaten the British sea line of communication.29 129
The governor of British East Africa was Charles Belfeld. In British East Africa, before the beginning of the Great War, there were 100 whites, 700 African soldiers and 1 machine gun. In 1914, the KAR numbered 62 British officers, 2 British NCOs and 2,319 Africans. As in the case of the Indian Army, all the senior positions were occupied by the British officers, who, in turn, were supported by the African NCOs who rose from the ranks. In 1911, when one KAR battalion was disbanded, many demobilised personnel joined the Schutztruppe. Before the beginning of the Great War, the KAR was spread over 318,942 square metres of Uganda and British East Africa. The KAR was divided into 17 small companies, including 1 mounted on camels, which was deployed in the arid northern part of British East Africa. Furthermore, the British were able to import troops from India. The Allies under Smuts and subsequent commanders tended to adhere to traditional military structures which, in the East Africa context, hampered movement. In contrast, General Northey, operating in the south, although still adhering to the more traditional methods, had taken time to ensure he had adequate supply lines and roads in place before he started any offensive actions. However, it was Lettow-Vorbeck’s almost complete breakaway from the traditional approach to warfare that enabled him and his forces to last as long as they did.30 The German troops operated as independent units for most of the war. Wintgens and Naumann operated in the west, General Hauptmann Theodor Tafel and General Kurt Wahle in the east and Charles Looff in the south after Dar-es-Salaam had fallen as against them. Health measures were given a high regard. A doctor was, as far as possible, assigned to each mobile column, meaning that the wounded could be attended to almost immediately.31 Quinine or Lettow-Schnapps was to be taken daily, and anyone who failed to do so faced disciplinary measures. The Germans also wore long trousers and sleeves, which protected them from cuts and scrapes as well as being bitten by mosquitoes.32
The extraordinary services of the Indian expeditionary force B (IEF-B) The East African campaign proved to be significant to the British-led Indian Army in the Great War. Initially, there was not adequate preparation for sending the Indian Army and especially the Indian Expeditionary Force (IEF) to the African sub-continent as the British officials was quite preoccupied with the sense and sensibilities of the Western Front as a whole.33 Yet, back in India, preparations for sending the Indian Army had been started under the generalship of Aitkin, and IEF-B had to wait until sufficient shipping was available to move them to East Africa.34 Their departure was further delayed by the exploits of the German cruiser, the Emden, which had entered the Indian Ocean and subsequently caused massacres. The very real 130
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fear that it would link-up with the Königsberg could not be discounted and the Admiralty was struggling to find enough escorts to protect the vulnerable convoys. Finally, it emerged that IEF-B would not be able to sail until 16 October 1914.35 Before the outbreak of the Great War, the Indian Army had never been intended for large-scale expeditionary warfare and it was woefully short of material. Like the KAR, it was also in the midst of changing from the singleto double-company system and the process was far from complete. Many units were under-strength and had to receive large drafts before reaching their war establishment. In the 27th Brigade, one battalion only received all of its equipment and manpower on 7 October before embarking the next day. Machine guns were in short supply with only half the battalions initially in possession of them, and thus training had to be improvised. Another boarded on 30 September and had to remain on board for a further 16 days before sailing. For the Imperial Service troops, there were no machine guns available at all.36 The commander of the 27th Brigade, Brigadier General Richard Wapshare, was a cavalry officer of the same vintage as Aitken. His career had been unremarkable with active service in Burma during 1886–1888, followed by regimental command and the commandantship of the cavalry school at Saugor. He had been a brigade commander for nearly two years but had risen through seniority rather than any great talent. Wapshare was seen as being nervous and fussy and could not be considered an energetic or dynamic commander. It was notable that, by departure, he had not been able to review his troops together or, indeed, conduct any collective training.37 With the Indian Army short of regular troops, much reliance was placed upon the Imperial Service Corps that served the Princely States. Training standards ranged widely and they were much less well equipped than their Indian Army counterparts. The Imperial Service Brigade was a brand new formation that comprised of one regular battalion and the equivalent of three battalions, most of whom had never worked together previously. Most notable was their reliance on the obsolete Martini-Henry rifles that had to be hastily exchanged for the new short-magazine Lee-Enfield rifle (SMLE).38 It has been seen that command was vested in Brigadier General Michael Tighe, a 50-year-old officer who had been brought back from retirement. Unlike Aitken and Wapshare, he had extensive operational experience, fighting in six campaigns, including East Africa, and had been decorated for his services. He was promoted to brigadier general in September 1914 and given command of the new brigade. Now, Tighe was well known for his courage and desire to be in the thick of any fight, but he could not be described as a thinking officer. His experience was that of tribal warfare and not of a modern enemy. General Tighe did his best and managed to concentrate his troops, and he conducted some preliminary training before departure. They 131
were not crack troops and had serious limitations, but there was little else he could do in the time available.39 Finally, on 16 October, IEF-B was ready to sail for Africa to participate in the war. The formerly worrisome naval situation had cleared up as it was believed that the Königsberg was hiding along the East African coast, while the Emden was in the eastern Indian Ocean. With an escort that included HMS Goliath, an elderly battleship and an armed liner, the Admiralty was content to let the convoy sail. The fight for German East Africa was about to begin.
Other Indian military units in the East African campaigns Witnessing the changing situations in East Africa and the fierce German aggression, the Government of India (GOI) prepared detailed planning for the dispatch of the Indian troops to East Africa. On 8 August 1914, India Office authorised the formation of the Indian Expeditionary Force B (IEF-B), which was to include 2 brigades of about 8,000 personnel.40 On 14 August, the GOI decided that the IEF-B should include one British and eight Indian Infantry battalions, a sapper and miner company and one heavy and one mountain battery.41 The IEF-B had included the 27th Bangalore and the Imperial brigades. On 17 August 1914, it was decided that Major General A.F. Aitken was to command the IEF-B.42 Brigadier General J.M. Stewart commanded the Indian Expeditionary Force C (IEF-C), which had about 3,000 Indian soldiers. The IEF-C included the 29th Punjabis, Jhind, Kapurthala, Bharatpur, Rampur Imperial Service Infantry, 27th Indian Mountain Battery, Calcutta Volunteer Battery, Volunteer Machine Gun Company and, of course, 120th Field Ambulance. On the other hand, the 4th Indian Mountain Artillery Brigade had also been despatched for the war in Africa. It included 27th and 28th Indian Mountain Batteries. Each battery had six 10 pounder guns with pack mule transport. These two batteries arrived in East Africa during October and November 1914 with the IEF-B and C. The 28th Mountain battery comprised of 5 British officers, 3 Indian officers, 277 IORs, 23 Indian public followers, 8 Indian private followers, 164 pack mules and 6 guns.43 Among the regular Indian units, only the 101st Grenadiers and the 61st Pioneers had machine guns before 1914. The rest of the regular units were given machine guns just before embarkation and they had no opportunity to practice with these guns. The GOI was undecided whether the heavy artillery would be required to capture the German-occupied areas in East Africa. The British had realised that the railways would play an important role in supplying the troops. The GOI expected that strong opposition might be offered by the 2,000 German colonists and the askaris at Dar-esSalam. Moreover, the secretary of state for India contacted the authorities in British East Africa for arranging local porters for carrying the supplies of 132
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the India force. The colonial office informed the secretary of state for India that owing to the outbreak of small pox in Uganda, porters could not be raised there. However, they were trying to recruit porters in Zanzibar. The GOI on 18 August informed the Resident of Zanzibar that a minimum of 10,000 carriers must be raised for the Indian force. The Resident and the governor of British East Africa took the initiative of hiring porters for the Indian expeditionary force.
The theatre of operations It is generally argued that East Africa was a daunting place in which to conduct military operations. Although covering a vast area, the region between the British and German protectorates could be divided into three parts: the coastal strip, the highlands and the low country around Lake Victoria. Starting in the east, it began with a low-lying coastal strip that progressively widened as it ran south. Measuring up to 160 km in depth, this region was very hot and humid and covered with thick bush, making movement difficult and slow. The area was also highly pestilential and malarious. Away from the coast itself, the sparsely inhabited land began to rise with the vegetation changing into mimosa scrub. On the British side, beginning some 80 km inland, the arid Taru Desert supported little life and hindered movement. The desert continued to the great highlands that began around Voi and extended nearly 480 km west to the Great Rift Valley. As the ground rose, it turned to open grass-covered country that was relatively easily traversed. Water was seasonal, with super-abundance in the rainy season and very little in the dry. The great extinct volcanic feature of Mount Kilimanjaro that stood north of the Pare Mountains dominated the region. Beyond that, there was an arid and sparsely inhabited desert that encompassed the salt lakes at Natron and Magadi, before reaching the Great Rift Valley. There, the Mau Escarpment land descended sharply over 600 metres with the ground dropping to the low-lying area around Lake Victoria. It became swampy and covered in thick bush, though the ground in the south towards the German border was higher and healthier. Tropical diseases were a major problem in the area, although it was cultivated and heavily populated. The vast inland sea of Lake Victoria offered the easiest and fastest movement in the region with a number of ports and anchorages. On its western shores, the protectorate of Uganda was covered in tropical forest that eventually opened out into rolling pastoral country covered in grass. To the west, the country rose gradually to a wild and rocky plateau some 1,200– 2,400 metres in elevation, ending at the volcanic chain on the border with the Belgian Congo. In the south, the Kagera River posed a major obstacle with papyrus swamps and thick bush. Man-made communications were few and largely limited to railways. The Usambara Railway ran roughly south-east to north-west from Tanga 133
to Neu Moschi in the shadow of Kilimanjaro, while the Central Railway linked Dar-es-Salaam with Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika. On the British side, the Uganda Railway paralleled the border as it headed west to Voi before turning north-west to Nairobi and then onward to Lake Victoria.44 East Africa also suffered badly from the depredations of the malarial mosquito and the tsetse fly that lived in vast numbers, especially in hot, humid conditions. This, and the extreme seasonality of water supply, meant that the region would be extremely difficult for military campaigning.
Operations in the Southern German East Africa, 1914–1916 During the 1914s, the Nyasaland government took the initiative to gain control of Lake Nyasa, as it was recognised that whoever did so would have the upper hand. As early as 31 July 1914, Charles Walter Barton started defence preparations in case of a German attack.45 On 13 August 1914, the German Hermann von Wissmann was put out of action and its commander taken prisoner by the captain of the Guendolen. The Germans in the area had no idea war had broken out; it was only when the local administrator asked his British counterpart for information that the situation was confirmed. In neighbouring Northern Rhodesia, the Belgians came to the territory’s assistance at the request of the local district commissioner, who feared a German attack. This annoyed the Colonial Office in London, which had hoped to keep the Belgians out of the war for as long as possible. The Belgian presence, however, freed the British colonial forces to repulse the German attack at Abercorn on 5 September 1914, and later at Karonga on 9 September 1914. In January 1915, the Nyasaland government was faced with the Chilembwe uprising.46 The uprising, led by missionary John Chilembwe (1871–1915), took the British government by complete surprise, as it was believed that the territory was the most peaceful and loyal of all.47 Influenced by, although not directly related to, the war, the unrest was significant enough to divert troops from defending the country against the Germans to deal with the internal unrest.48 About 200 South Africans were sent to supplement the meagre Nyasaland forces. The consolidation of the Nyasaland, Northern and Southern Rhodesian forces under one commander, General Edward Northey in November 1915, represented a significant development in the region. Northey’s appointment on 12 November 1915 initiated by South African Governor General and High Commissioner Sydney Buxton streamlined command and led to more coordinated action against the German forces in the south and west of the German colony. Until this time, Buxton had to liaise with commanders in each of the six territories in which South Africans were serving, five of which were in 134
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Africa. In addition to his High Commission territories of Bechuanaland, Southern and Northern Rhodesia, Buxton was responsible for 600 South Africans helping protect the Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland border, 200 South Africans reinforcing the 2nd Rhodesia Regiment already in East Africa and another 200 South Africans in Nyasaland. March 1916 saw Portugal officially enter the war, providing it with the opportunity to occupy the Kionga Triangle on the border of German and Portuguese East Africa. The Portuguese were desperate for this territory, which they believed the Germans had ‘stolen’ from them in 1885. To support the capture of Kionga, Portugal sent out its second expeditionary force to East Africa under Major José Luís de Moura Mendes. The first had been dispatched in August 1914 to provide additional military support to the forces already there. However, it arrived after the first German incursions into the colony. This second expeditionary force managed to occupy Kionga on 10 April 1916 but within the year had lost it again. In May 1916, the Portuguese suffered a major defeat at Namanga, where the Germans were able to replenish their stocks. In June 1916, a third expeditionary force arrived to further Portugal’s territorial claims in the area.49 The forces under Northey’s command pressured the Germans from the south, but were hampered by having too few men to patrol an ever-extending front, particularly since their Portuguese allies were unable to hold their own. In contrast, the Belgians held their captured territory but refused to do anything more. On 7 November 1916, General Jan Smuts asked that Northey officially be placed under his command to ensure coordinated action. This was merely a formality as the two commanders had been working in tandem from the time of Smuts’ appointment on 5 February 1916. Following Northey’s recall to London in preparation for his replacing Henry Conway Belfield as governor of British East Africa, the forces in mid-1917 were united directly under the command of the new General Officer Commanding East Africa Jaap van Deventer. By the time Smuts left in January 1917, the Germans had been pushed south, although Max Wintgens and Heinrich Naumann were still operating in the west.
Fighting in the Western German East Africa border, 1914–1916 Soon after the declaration of war, the Germans took complete control of Lake Tanganyika. After an attack on Lake Kivu, the Belgians declared war on Germany in Africa on 13 October 1914. However, they could do little, whilst Germany retained control of the lake. Discussions took place locally and in London concerning cooperation. As a result, the African or Lake Tanganyika Naval Expedition began the African leg of its journey on 16 July 1915 when two boats, HMS Mimi and Toutou, commanded by Geoffrey Basil Spicer-Simson were sent overland from Cape Town to Albertville (Kalemie) on the Lukugu River mouth into Lake Tanganyika.50 135
The force arrived at its destination in October 1915 and was ready for action by Christmas 1915. On 26 December 1915, the expedition claimed its first prize; the gunboat Kingani was repaired and renamed HMS Fifi. The Hedwig von Wissmann, sister ship to the Hermann von Wissmann on Lake Nyasa, was sunk on 9 February 1916. With both boats having disappeared, the Germans scuttled their newest arrival, the Graf von Goetzen (Gotzen), on 26 July 1916 to prevent it falling into British or Belgian hands. It was raised and refurbished after the war and still ploughs the waters of Lake Tanganyika in 2016 as the MV Liemba. The removal of the Kingani and the Hedwig von Wissmann from German control gave the Allies control of Lake Tanganyika. This enabled the Belgians to attack Kigoma from the air, capture Ruanda and Urundi in May and June 1915, respectively, and, on 19 September 1916, capture Tabora.51 The capture of Tabora allowed the liberation of numerous prisoners and interned civilians. In turn, the German governor’s wife, Ada Schnee, as well as other German women and the wounded were interned in Belgian prison camps.52 Belgian distrust of South African motives had led the Belgian commander Charles Tombeur (1867–1947) to instruct his forces to take Tabora before the force led by Charles Crewe (1858–1936) arrived. Once the Belgians occupied Tabora, they did all they could to prevent the British commanderin-chief East Africa, Jan Smuts, from taking control of the administration or communication lines; Tabora would be a valuable bargaining chip at the peace table for the Belgians.
Operations in the Northern and Eastern German East Africa Border, 1914–1916 The Germans proceeded to attack the Uganda Railway line, which ran from Mombasa to Lake Victoria, under their commander Paul von LettowVorbeck in an attempt to disrupt British plans. This has been done after occupying Taveta in August 1914. Until the Indian Expeditionary Force C arrived to help protect British East Africa, responsibility fell to the most senior military commander in the area, Lieutenant Colonel L.E.S. Ward, who had recently retired and was en route to England when news of war arrived. He returned to his post and oversaw the formation of the East African Mounted Rifles, Magadi Defence Force and the Uganda Reserve, which sought to protect the 450-mile railway against German incursions.53 In addition to the white forces, Arthur Wavell raised 150 Arab Rifles to protect the coastline between German East Africa and Mombasa, while Berkeley Cole led a group of Somali Scouts. These forces supplemented the two battalions of King’s African Rifles, which were based in Uganda and British East Africa, and an Indian company of the East African Regiment.54 The German forces consisted of 2,166 Europeans, 6,895 askaris and ‘about 136
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150 Arabs’ spread across the colony.55 During this expedition, the IEF-C comprised of 880 personnel, including 600 askaris.56 The British were apparently not coping with the German sea line of communication during the Great War, and it resulted in many miseries for the British. It has been seen that on the coast, SMS Königsberg, the German cruiser that had left the port of Dar-es-Salaam on 31 July 1914 in anticipation of war, sank the HMS Pegasus in the Zanzibar harbour on 20 September 1914. A month later, on 31 October 1914, the Königsberg was traced, anchored in the Rufiji (Rufigi) Delta undergoing repairs. The Königsberg was seen to be a major threat at the time as it had sunk the first merchant ship of the war, SS City of Winchester, and was of a better class than most British ships in the area. In November 1914, the British initiated an attack on Tanga.57 The force, consisting of the Indian Expeditionary Force B and the British 2nd Royal North Lancashire Regiment, was repulsed by the Germans. Accounts of the battle for Tanga on 2–4 November 1914 indicate that confusion was rife on both sides and a truce was finally arranged for the British to withdraw their wounded. At the same time, on 3 November 1914, Indian Expeditionary Force C attacked the Germans at Longido, some 250 miles inland. This, too, failed in its objective. In response to the chaos in East Africa, the British War Office assumed control of military decisions in the area, relieving the India and Colonial Offices of this task, although India remained responsible for the supply of equipment and food and army personnel. The result was that the War Office refused to sanction any further action in East Africa unless victory could be guaranteed. The commander, Major-General Arthur Aitken, was removed from his post and replaced by General Richard Wapshare, who commanded from 22 November 1914 to 3 April 1915. On the German side, the victory at Tanga ensured the dominance of the German commander LettowVorbeck over that of the official head of the colonial military, Governor Heinrich Albert Schnee. Overall, some 8,000 British Indian soldiers were beaten by 1,000. The Germans had defeated the allied force at Tanga but failed to annihilate them completely. British general Wapshare was replaced by Brigadier General Michael Tighe as commander-in-chief since April 1915. General Tighe remained in command until December 1915 when General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien was appointed in his place. Smith-Dorrien’s appointment followed prolonged discussions on the future use of South African troops who had served in the German South West Africa campaign. The indecision over what to do about East and Central Africa took place in London, where Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener, secretary of state for war, was reluctant to sanction any action in the theatre, believing that it would be a waste of resources and manpower and that the future of the territories would be determined at the peace table. On 12 November 1915, whilst Kitchener was in the Dardanelles, Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith took control of the War Office, enabling 137
the Committee for Imperial Defence to agree to an attack on German East Africa using South African forces. The command in East Africa became crucial for the British. Therefore, Smith-Dorrien sailed from Britain to take command in East Africa on 23 December 1915. However, he fell ill and on 5 February 1916 was replaced by the South African Deputy Prime Minister Jan Smuts. Smuts, on the face of it, was an appropriate choice as the main force that would be fighting in East Africa in 1916 was South African. The South Africans fought their first battle before he arrived, on 12 February 1916 at Salaita Hill, near Taveta, where they were repulsed. Smuts arrived on 19 February 1915, rearranged the forces and started pressuring the Germans using the encircling movement which had proved successful in earlier South African wars. However, the East African terrain proved a hindrance to quick movement and the prevalence of tsetse flies meant that animals could not be used effectively. In addition, the Germans had realised that to remain a distraction, they should not fight fixed or set battles, with the result that as the net closed around them, they moved southwards across the colony. General Smuts had started preparing his own regiment by collecting both the local and European personnel. In addition to the South African forces, consisting of white and coloured (mixed race) troops, the Cape Corps, the white 2nd Loyal North Lancashires and the 25th Royal Fusiliers (Legion of Frontiersmen), the latter having been sent out in 1915, Smuts had use of the Gold Coast Regiment and the 2nd West Indian Regiment, which arrived in July 1916, as well as Nigerians from December 1916. The year 1916 was characterised by a dash across the length of the German colony. A few battles were fought but on the whole, the Germans spent their time avoiding being encircled by the Allied forces.
Fighting in 1917 Fighting in early 1917 had become different as in early 1917 General Smuts was relieved of his command in East Africa to attend the Imperial War meetings that the new British Prime Minister David Lloyd George (1863– 1945) had organised. Reginald Hoskins, previously inspector general of the King’s African Rifles, would be taken into the system and the whole regiment was under his command. On the last day of the battle for control of the Rufiji River crossing, 19 January 1917, Hoskins became commanderin-chief of the British forces in East Africa. Earlier in the month, he had flown from Kilwa to Nairobi to confer with Smuts about the handover, as there was no time to make the journey overland. As Hoskins was otherwise occupied, it was agreed that Smuts would meet the Portuguese East African governor and army officials to arrange future joint actions against the German forces operating in the south of the German colony. Hoskins’s stint as commander-in-chief lasted a total of four months, from 19 January 138
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1917 to 1 May 1917, before he was replaced by another South African, Jaap van Deventer. Hoskins’s tenure as the commander had been marked by the rainy season, during which no military operations could be undertaken; even if it had been possible, the supply and communication lines needed serious repairing and restructuring. His request for additional troops following Smuts’ announcement that only ‘mopping up’ operations were needed was too much for the War Office and van Deventer became the tenth British commander-in-chief of the East African forces.58 It was argued that Van Deventer’s appointment was political in nature. In London, Smuts had been in discussion with Chief of Imperial General Staff, General William Robertson, over Hoskins’ removal and van Deventer’s appointment. Van Deventer had left East Africa late in 1916 and only returned on 29 May 1917 to take over from Hoskins. In addition, Louis Botha had refused to send reinforcements from South Africa, whilst Hoskins was in command, yet did so following van Deventer’s appointment. Van Deventer benefited from the preparations and repairs Hoskins had made for the British force. Although the majority of South Africans had left the theatre, van Deventer still had regiments from Gold Coast, West Indies, Nigeria, and remnants of the Lancashires and Indian contingents. He also had an enlarged King’s African Rifles Force comprised of 26 regiments and the Cape Corps – all believed to be more acclimatised to the conditions they were fighting in than the white man but who, in reality, suffered the same.59 Now, it has been seen that the change in British command took place persistently to gain the achievements in East Africa. Under such situations, Lettow-Vorbeck entered Nyasaland on 9 May 1917, where he was held in check by Northey’s forces. He returned to German East Africa before turning to Portuguese East Africa, believing it to be an easier target for replenishing food and equipment. In anticipation of this move, Hoskins met with the Portuguese East African governor in April 1917. The situation became even worse as the fourth expeditionary force arrived in the Portuguese colony on 12 September 1917. Yet, this did not ease the tense relations between Portugal and its allies. The Portuguese forces were demoralised on arrival due to poor management and planning. In addition, the political issues dominating the homeland impacted the appointment of commanders and the instructions they were given. The situation was exacerbated by two rebellions. The first took place from March to September 1917 and was instigated by the Barué, who objected to additional taxes being imposed and increasing labour recruitment for the war. The second was led by the Makonde in the spring of 1917 as a result of taxation. To safeguard their own territories, Portugal’s allies refused to come to the colony’s assistance as they feared rebellion spreading into their areas.60 On the Lake Tanganyika side of the colony, the Belgians, realising that the fight was moving into Portuguese East Africa, declined to send any forces, preferring to protect their borders against raids by Wintgens and 139
Naumann. This, as argued, was a wise move, as on 4 May 1917, Wintgens occupied the Kitunda Mission and the following month Naumann defeated the Belgians at Ikoma. However, their success was short-lived as Wintgens had to surrender due to illness soon after entering the mission. Naumann, realising that he had misunderstood intelligence that he had received about an uprising in the north of the colony, surrendered to the Cape Corps at Wanyoki on 2 October 1917.61 Whilst an agreement had been reached with the Belgians over maintaining separate spheres of action, the British-Portuguese relationship remained strained. A month after the fourth expeditionary force arrived, on 18 October 1917, the final attack in German East Africa took place at Mahiwa. A week later, Lettow-Vorbeck started what Max Looff, the captain of the Königsberg, called ‘the battle of the wolves’, where those who were no longer fit to continue fighting were to surrender.62 On 17 November 1917, Lettow-Vorbeck submitted his whole force to a medical examination and those deemed sufficiently fit marched into Portuguese East Africa on 25 November 1917. Three days later, on 28 November 1917, Theodor Tafel surrendered without knowing that he was close to Lettow-Vorbeck. Therefore, this was a major blow to Lettow-Vorbeck. With Lettow-Vorbeck out of German East Africa, Horace Byatt (1875– 1933) was appointed British administrator of the German colony on 11 December 1917. He felt this was a premature move and was proved right when the Germans returned to the colony en route to Northern Rhodesia. With Wintgens, Naumann and Tafel out of the picture, the British War Office ordered a reduction in the forces in East Africa, and the Nigerians, West Indians, Indians and Lancashires were sent home.
The operations in 1918 According to the plan, Lettow-Vorbeck continued through Portuguese East Africa leading the Allied troops as far as Nhamacurra and Quelimane before moving back to German East Africa. On 11 April 1918, he fought his first set battle against the Portuguese at Churimba Hill (Medo or Chirimba). Other battles in Portuguese territory took place at the end of August 1918 at Lioma and on 8 September 1918 at Mahua. The last two battles were fought without the Portuguese, van Deventer having met the Portuguese governor on 22 July 1918 to allocate separate roles for the various forces, which in effect sidelined the Portuguese. The Battle of Nhamacurra earlier in July 1918 had proved the final straw for van Deventer, as Lettow-Vorbeck had been able to replenish his stocks completely to the extent that his forces no longer had to use the 1871 Mausers they had used in 1914. This was made possible by the poor performance of the Portuguese troops and the decimation of the British forces that had been sent in support. 140
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General Lettow-Vorbeck returned to German East Africa on 29 September 1918 and on 17 October 1918 left behind those who were too ill to continue. This time he left them, including General Kurt Wahle (1855–1928), at Ubena near Mbeya and Iringa. He had resisted pressure from Governor Schnee to leave them behind in Portuguese East Africa, preferring them to become British prisoners, certainly they would receive appropriate medical assistance. On 1 November 1918, the Germans attacked Fife (Northern Rhodesia) and moved onto Kasama, where they fought their last battle on 13 November 1918. News of the armistice in Europe arrived in Livingstone on 11 November 1918 but due to communication difficulties took two days to reach Kasama. Lettow-Vorbeck and his German force of 115 Germans, 1,168 askaris and 2,000 porters formally laid down their arms on 25 November 1918 in Abercorn. This was in contrast to a total of 111,731 British troops, including porters, at the end of the war.63 After the conclusion of hostilities, 15,470 Belgian Congolese (officers, Force Publique and carriers) received medals in recognition of their war service,64 while an estimated 24,500 Portuguese (European and indigenous65) survived the war.66
Personnel and their extraordinary services Traditional accounts of the campaign focus on the generic, mainly white, forces, alongside significant publications on the King’s African Rifles67 and carrier corps or porters who formed the backbone of the supply chain.68 Although recent studies are generic in nature, it appears that researchers are starting to explore the experiences of specific micro-nationalities such as black, Indian and coloured South African,69 Faridkot,70 Sikh,71 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles72 and Muslim73 as well as the roles they have fulfilled under diverse condition in the warfronts. It is estimated that over 1 million porters, including 45,000 German East Africans, served the British forces, of which 95,000 died. The Belgians used 260,000 porters. Of these, 20,000 accompanied the troops for the duration of the war, and 6,600 lost their lives. An estimated 60,000 porters supported the Portuguese, with an additional 30,000 recruited to support the British forces. An estimated 191,719 porters worked for the Germans. All forces used local labour, commandeered or otherwise, to carry food, equipment and ammunition. The German forces were the leanest, with an average of two carriers per soldier, whereas the Allied forces had up to six per soldier. Loads of up to 60 pounds were carried by an individual who also had to carry his own blankets and other equipment. As with the military hierarchy, there was a carrier hierarchy, with gun carriers enjoying greater status than food carriers. In addition to carriers, each officer had his own personal servants or batmen, also known colloquially as ‘boys’, and a cook. Soldiers often shared the cost of employing a ‘boy’ and/or cook. The importance of these support workers 141
was evidenced by a nearly riotous outcry when Lettow-Vorbeck reduced the number of personal servants his officers could have from 15 to 6.74 All forces made use of casual labour as they moved through different areas and had specific needs such as road and bridge building. Women were also used as required, the most well-known case being those who carried water eight miles to fill the traction engines of the Lake Tanganyika Expedition. Camp followers, including women and children, fulfilled various social and personal functions as well as labour, although the British tended to discourage camp following.75 In addition to the labour recruited, and commandeered, locally, specialised labour was brought in from the Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the Gold Coast, China and South Africa. Researches show that combatants and labour joined the forces for a variety of reasons. Some volunteered for reasons of adventure or financial necessity. This was particularly the case in the first months of the war. However, as early as August 1915, the settlers in British East Africa approved the Native Followers Recruitment Ordnance, which permitted conscription using quotas. This was extended in March 1917 to the ‘Grand Levy’ conscripting the largest number of men possible. In September 1915, the British colonists called for the conscription of white settlers. Yet in 1916, as a result of the environmental impact on the troops, it was felt whites were unsuited for fighting in East Africa. The outcome was the decision to increase the number of King’s African Rifle battalions. By the end of the war there were 26 battalions, including 1 battalion, 6th KAR, which comprised of askaris who had served in the German Schutztruppe. They, together with the German askari and Belgian Force Publique, proved that black soldiers could hold their own in this ‘white man’s war’ and that they suffered from the environmental conditions as much as their white and Indian counterparts. Michelle Moyd76 has provided insight into the formation and life of the askari in German East Africa, whilst Myles Osborne looked at the Kikamba in British East Africa.77 It has been argued that the African micro-nation78 loyalty was not to the colonising country but rather to individual officers. As a result, desertion was not uncommon when it was perceived that officers were no longer in positions of strength. Hodges notes that 2,847 askaris deserted over the course of the war,79 some joining the British forces as combatants in 6KAR, stretcher-bearers or porters. The British also recorded desertions but do not appear to have kept totals.80 War diaries have revealed of occasions of men being absent without leave for diverse reasons, including buying cigarettes. Punishments ranged from floggings to soldiers being demoted to porters to execution in all forces.
The issue of feeding the forces Feeding the forces under command in the African continent during the Great War became one of the difficult issues faced by both the British and 142
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the Germans. As part of his strategy, especially moving into less-developed areas of the colony, Lettow-Vorbeck arranged for maize and other foods to be planted in the south of the colony. By utilising these sources and raiding the local harvests, he was able to keep his men sufficiently well fed. This contrasted with the British forces, which could not live off the land because of the German scorched earth policy. Supply lines became stretched the further away the forces moved from the railways, leading to men regularly commenting on the paucity of rations, often linked with the challenges of movement. As the campaign progressed, the ravages of the war left the countryside barren and resulted in the worst floods and droughts on record in 1916 and 1917, respectively. An estimated 30,000 people in one region died as a result of the drought.81 These communities, especially those situated along the supply lines, were then ravaged by the Spanish flu that spread like wildfire in 1918.82 In some areas, such as British East Africa, farming returned to some sort of normality after 1916 as the armed forces moved south. By 1918, there was virtually no evidence that the area had been involved in the war.83 The theatres of war made everyone caught up, if not in the actual conduct of the fighting and support of the troops, then behind the lines producing food and other goods required for the purposes of war. In the territories not directly affected by the fighting, farming and food production demanded manpower that led to some clashes with the military command. Edmund Yorke84examined the impact of the campaign on the local communities and missionaries in Northern Rhodesia as well as the tension between the military and the colonial leaders. His work builds on that undertaken by Melvin Page in Nyasaland.85 Both of their works have been complimented by JanBart Gewald.86
Divisive technology and its use in the warfronts During the war, all forces made adequate use of motorcars (including armoured ones) to varying degrees: lorries, bicycles (including motorised ones), boats and railways, depending on the terrain encountered and vehicles available. Where possible, trucks were used to transport goods and the ill or wounded; however, roads were scarce and almost non-existent in the rainy season.87 Horses and oxen, although used, suffered as a result of tsetse flies. Camel and mules, slightly more resilient, were also used where available.88 The speed with which animals succumbed to the fly made them unreliable, with the result that there was literally a reliance on manpower to ensure food and equipment made it to the front lines. Both mechanical power and manpower had to contend with the poor roads, especially in the rainy season when the roads turned to mud and in the extreme dry period when the roads were dust pools. 143
While Lettow-Vorbeck created independent mobile columns, Smuts relied on the traditional base and supply line system. His reluctance to move his supply depots to coastal bases south of Dar-es-Salaam after the capture of the Central Railway exacerbated the supply situation. Only after Smuts left in January 1917 were the lines moved to Kilwa and Lindi. Although this shortened the distances men had to carry equipment and food, it was still a torturous activity. The longest supply line of the campaign was that supplying Nyasaland, which ran from Durban on the South African coast and consisted of ocean transport, railway, river transport and porter. As with all the Allied theatres, shipping was essential to keeping the forces supplied and for defence purposes. In addition, shipping was required to transport raw materials to processing areas and to remove the wounded in specially adapted hospital ships. In the blockade of the Königsberg alone, 35 vessels of various kinds were used. The need for shipping to support the European war effort resulted in pressure on van Deventer to conclude the campaign and release shipping for the Western Front. The Germans, despite realising that they would have to be self-sufficient, were able to resupply to some extent when two blockade runners, the Marie and Rubens (renamed Kronberg), successfully broke through. However, Zeppelin L79, which was sent in 1917, turned back when given misinformation. Modern technological wonders like aircraft, too, featured in the East African campaign. One German plane succumbed to an accident early in the war, while the Belgians obtained two planes from the British in 1916. They were flown by Belgian pilots and used against the Germans at Kigoma. The British used spotter planes in the struggle against the Königsberg and as early as October 1915, the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) set up an air base at Maktau near Taveta,89although later the main base would be on Zanzibar. They were later joined by the 26th Air Squadron. From here, planes were used for observation purposes and to drop bombs and propaganda leaflets on the German forces in the hope of persuading the askari to desert.90
East African warfront: a disease zone The East African warfront was considered to be disease-prone zone compared to its Western and Eastern warfronts during the Great War. Therefore, both the sides were well prepared for the medical arrangements. The British officials and the secretary of state for India office put special emphasis on providing adequate medical supplies to the Indian army formations as they were going to a ‘disease zone’, which had not been fully known to them.91 It was laid down that the British and Indian personnel should receive special vaccination to prevent small pox and a supply of lymph sufficient for 10 per cent of the British troops, 20 per cent of the Indian soldiers. It was further emphasised that mosquito nets should be supplied to the troops.92 However, 144
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the official documents inform us that malaria, dysentery and pneumonia were the principal diseases that affected the Indian troops in East Africa. Malaria was the greatest plague for soldiers and followers alike, with no one – regardless of rank or position – being immune. It caused enormous problems and disabled thousands for long periods, often permanently. Lieutenant Colonel E.W.C. Sandes claimed that malaria was deadlier than German bullets.93 Dysentery was second in seriousness followed by pneumonia. Apart from the extremes of precipitation and aridity, human life was made miserable by the swarms of biting insects, parasites and dangers of wild animals. For domestic animals, the effects of the tsetse fly were even more devastating and scarcely a beast survived the rigours of the campaign. Put simply, East Africa was an extremely unhealthy and uncomfortable place in which to fight a war. An Indian company of Railway sappers that landed in June 1917 with 150 personnel was able to muster only 35 men six months later. In the week ending 24 August 1918, 77 Indian soldiers and 105 Indian followers out of a total strength of 3,109 Indian soldiers and 1,708 Indian followers were in the hospital for the malaria, dysentery and pneumonia.94In comparison to the Indian soldiers, Indian followers fell ill in larger numbers because the former enjoyed better food and followed better sanitary discipline.95 These had some crucial impact on the Indian Army during the war. The Indian contingent numbered 3,015 personnel on 1 September 1918, while on 28 September, there were 2,971 Indian troops and 1,608 Indian followers in East African campaign. The 130th Baluchis returned to India after two and half years of fighting in East Africa on September 1918. On 2 November 1918, the effective strength of the Indian contingent numbered 74 British officers, 16 Indian officers, 360 British other ranks (BORs) and 1,797 sepoys. On 16 November 1918, the Indian contingent numbered 1,939 combatants and 1,361 followers.96 On 25 November 1918, Lettow-Vorbeck surrendered at Abercorn in Northern Rhodesia. At that time, he commanded 29 officers, 125 European soldiers, 1,156 askaris and 1,598 porters. Finally, the IEF-B numbered 1,597 personnel during December 1918.97
Conclusion Therefore, it is interpreted that the campaign fought in East Africa was unique in many respects. In some ways, it reflected the priorities and methods of 19th-century colonial warfare with its reliance on largely infantry columns marching through trackless bush, supplied and supported by carriers. Manoeuvre was often as much about obtaining food or water as it was with tactical advantage. Yet, it also introduced the industrialised warfare of the 20th century with the use of aircraft, motor vehicles, mortars, light machine guns and wireless. In contrast to other theatres, casualties from battle were relatively light, although those from disease were enormous. The 145
diversity of troops and countries involved in East and Central Africa was unrivalled in any other single theatre. The campaign proved the endurance of man and challenged the stereotypical racial views of martial and nonmartial races. The black, Arab and Indian African micro-nations had little option but to get involved in the war. The extremes of climate and terrain found in East Africa meant that campaign conditions were usually very difficult. Given the dependence on subsistence farming and food imports, a well-organised system of transport and supply was absolutely essential to success or even survival. This was a considerable problem that had a major influence on the course of military operations throughout the war. Both sides relied heavily on human porterage and suffered heavily for it; in late 1916 and early 1917, both the Germans and British faced starvation on several occasions. In the end, the British with their superior resources partly overcame this limitation, although there was never an overabundance for the hard marching columns deep in the virgin bush. All participants suffered severely from insufficient rations, medicine and equipment at one or more times. Extreme physical exertion and discomfort were experienced by soldiers of both sides, especially the Indian soldiers. The war caused enormous human suffering, directly and indirectly, especially to the Indian soldiers. If deaths in battle were proportionately much lower than in Europe, the opposite was true of sickness, as it caused great headache for the British officials. The life of a soldier was hard, with few of the comforts or distractions provided elsewhere. But the burden fell even more heavily on the African carriers and followers, who accompanied the soldiers into the battle, as at least 40,000 are known to have died in British service alone and many others never returned home. These men were expected to carry heavy loads in all weathers and for very long periods with meagre food supplies. It is also evident from the archival records that both sides exploited indigenous manpower ruthlessly and many perished from exhaustion, illness or battle. At the end of the day, Kitchener was proved right. He informed that the campaign would be drawn out, drain the European war effort of much needed equipment and shipping and have no major impact on the outcome of the war. Decisions about the future of the continent would be decided by the victor in Europe, which it was – none of the countries were completely happy with the outcome of the territorial division and much of the continuing trouble on the continent today can be linked back to agreements made in the 1920s. The campaign and its consequences provide opportunity for exploring aspects of the wider war, which are less obvious when looking at the European context. In particular, the campaign provides insights into the relationship between the Allies and their various civil and military departments. Issues of identity, nation and memory are starting to be explored more in depth as anomalies and differences are encountered. What was regarded 146
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as a sideshow, insignificant then but now not so insignificant, enables an understanding of the European conflict hitherto unsuspected and unrealised. For those involved in the theatre, it was anything but a sideshow – it was a struggle for survival against nature and man, with long-lasting consequences for those whose land became the battlefield. Now, one has to understand how not to ignore the epic episode of the British-led Indian soldiers in the bloody war across the East African regions during the Great War and their subsequent military tactical proficiency to keep the German force out of it.
Notes 1 It is argued that before the onset of global war in 1941, the war that engulfed the world between 1914 and 1918 was known as the First World War or Great War. I have used the term Great War throughout this chapter to explain the gravity and horrors of the First Global War. See Kaushik Roy, Indian Army and the First World War, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2018, p. 1. 2 Ross Anderson, The Forgotten Front: The East African Campaign, 1914–1918, Tempus, Stroud/ Gloucestershire, 2004, pp. 2–4. 3 War Office 33/858, European War Telegrams, Series D, Volume 1, 29 January 1915–29 February 1917, London: War Office, 1918. Henceforth, Telegrams D 1. No. 1235, Telegram N 1394 General Headquarters to War Office, 14 September 1916, pp. 327–329; Mitchell, Major TJ and Smith, G M, Official History of the War, Medical Services, Casualties and Medical Statistics, London: HMSO, 193 1, reprinted by Imperial War Museum and Battery Press, [n.d.]. Henceforth, Official History – Medical Statistics. See Table I “Approximate Total Casualties in British Expeditionary Forces during the Great War”, p. 12. East African troop casualties reached 349,311 over the course of the war as compared to 6,218,540 suffered on the Western Front and 11,096,338 throughout the British forces worldwide, cited in Anne Samson, East and Central Africa, in: 1914–1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. by Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson, issued by FreieUniversität Berlin, Berlin, 2016. 4 Ross Anderson, World War I in East Africa, 1916–1918, PhD Theses, University of Glasgow, http;// theses. gla.ac.uk/5195 accessed on 10 January 2019. 5 There were 23 territories and European, Indian and Arab micro-nations; the 154 black micro-nations were comprised of 2 in Nyasaland, 108 in Tanzania, 26 in Kenya, 3 in Zambia, 4 in Congo, 2 in Rwanda, 3 in Burundi and 6 in Uganda. For more, see Ross Anderson, ibid., p. 10. 6 Byron Farwell, The Great War in Africa, p. 17; Cannaughton, ‘The First World War in Africa (1914–1918)’, p. 111. 7 Major F.S. Keen, ‘Lecture on the Campaign in East Africa’, Journal of the United Service Institution of India, Vol. 46, No. 206, 1917, p. 71, Farwell, The Great War in Africa, pp. 17, 112. 8 Kaushik Roy, Indian Army and the First World War, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2018, p. 170. 9 War Diary, Appendix 81, From the Governor British East Africa to the Commander-in-Chief in India, Telegram, 20 August 1914, WWI/185/H, National Archives of India, New Delhi cited in Kaushik Roy, Indian Army and the First World War, op. cit., p. 168.
10 S.D. Pradhan, ‘Indians in the East African Campaign – A Case Study of Indian Experiences in the First World War’, in DeWitt C. Ellinwood and S. D. Pradhan eds, Indian and the World War I, Manohar, New Delhi, 197. 11 Maria PaulaMeneses and Margarida Gomes, ‘Secrets, Lies, Silences and Invisibilities: Unveiling the Participation of Africans on the Mozambique Front during World War I’, in Araújo, M./Maeso, S. (eds.): Eurocentrism, Racism and Knowledge: Debates on History and Power in Europe and the Americas, London 2015. 12 Richard Connaughton, ‘The First World War in Africa (1914–1918)’, Small War and Insurgencies, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2001, p. 111. 13 Byron Farwell, The Great War in Africa: 1914–1918, W.W. Norton and Co., New York/London, 1989, p. 21. 14 Legislations and orders relating to the War, 1915–1918, IOR/L/MIL/17/5/2380, British Library, London. 15 Kaushik Roy, Indian Army and the First World War 1914–18, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2018. 16 Captain Angus Buchanan, Three Years of War in East Africa, Naval and Military Press in association with the Royal Artillery Museum, n.d., reprint, p. 17. 17 John P. Cann, ‘Mozambique, German East Africa, and the Great War’, Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol. 12, No.1, 2001, p. 124. 18 History of the Great War based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence, Military Operations East Africa, Vol. 1, August 1914–September 1916, Compiled by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hordern, HMSo, London, 1941, p. 219, Appendix 3, L/ MIL/17/17/11, OIOC, BL, London cited in Kaushik Roy, ibid., p. 175. 19 Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hordern, East Africa, Vol. 1, August 1914– September 1916, Official History of the Great War based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence, Military Operations, Naval and Military Press and the Imperial War Museum, n.d., reprint, pp. 559–561. 20 S.D. Pradhan, Indian Army in East Africa: 1914–1918, National Book Organization, New Delhi, 1991, p. 14. 21 Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hordern, East Africa, Vol. 1, August 1914–September 1916, pp. 570–574. 22 Hubert Moyse-Bartlett, The King’s African Rifles: A Study in the Military History of East and Central Africa, 1890–1945, Gale and Polden, London, p. 701. 23 David Killingray, ‘The War in Africa’, in Hew Strachan ed., The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998, pp. 92–103. 24 Hordern, Military Operations, op. cit., p. 15; Moyse-Bartlett, The King’s African Rifles, op. cit., pp. 260–264. 25 Hew Strachan, The First World War, Vol.1: To Arms, Oxford University Press, Oxford, p. 590. 26 Edward Paice, Tip and Run: The Untold Tragedy of the Great War in Africa, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 2007, p. 30. 27 R. Meinertzhagen, Army Diary, 1899–1926, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp. 86 and 103 and Michelle Moyd, Violent Intermediaries: African Soldiers, Conquest, and Everyday Colonialism in German East Africa, Ohio University Press, Athens/Ohio, 2014, pp. 36–46. 28 P.E. von Lettow-Vorbeck, My Reminiscences of East Africa: The East African Campaign of the First World War, Hurst, London, 1920, pp. 40–52. 29 Anne Samson, World War I in Africa: The Forgotten Conflict among the European Powers, I.B. Tauris, London/New York 2013.
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30 Kaushik Roy ed., Indian Army in the Two World War, Brill, Leiden/Boston, 2012, pp. 10–12. 31 RDA Douglas, Experiences in the East Africa Campaign: The 4th Field Ambulance, South African Medical Record, 1920. 32 Ann Samson, ‘The Impact of the East Africa Campaign, 1914–1918 on South Africa and Beyond’, in Heike Liebau, Katrin Bromber, Katharina Lange, Dyala Hamzah and Ravi Ahuja, eds., The World in World Wars: Experiences, Perceptions and Perspectives from Africa and Asia, Brill, Leiden/Boston, 2010, pp. 483–498. 33 British Officers serving with the Indian Expeditionary Force, 1915, IOR/L/ MIL/17/5/2411, British Library, London. 34 India’s Contribution to the War, 1919, IOR/L/MIL/17/5/2381 and IOR/L/ MIL/17/5/2390, British Library, London. 35 Shrabani Basu, For King and Another Country: Indian Soldiers on the Western Front, 1914–1918, Bloomsbury, London/New Delhi, 2015, p. 40, Santanu Das, 1914–1918: Indian Troops in Europe, Mapin Publishing, Ahmedabad, 2015, pp. 120–128. Santanu Das, Race, Empire and First World War Writing, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2013, pp. 48–52. 36 Development of the man power in India during the War, 1918, IOR/L/ MIL/17/5/2398, British Library, London. 37 Statistical Abstract of Information regarding the Armies at Home and Abroad, 1914–1920, War Office (1920), IOR/L/MIL/17/5/2382, British Library, London, and Memorandum of India’s contributions to the war in men, material and money, August 1914 to November 1(1919), IOR/L/MIL/17/5/2381, British Library, London. 38 A History of Services rendered by the Imperial Service Troops during the Great War, 1914–1918, IOR/L/MIL/17/6/4377, British Library. London. 39 Imperial War Conference: Memorandum on the Military Assistance (1917), IOR/L/MIL/17/5/2393, BL, London. 40 Ross Anderson, The Forgotten Front: The East African Campaign, 1914–1918, op. cit. 41 War Diary, Appendix 9, From Qaurter-Master General (QMG) in India to the Director of Royal Indian Marine (RIM), Telegram, 13 August 1914, Appendix 17, From the QMG in India to the Director RIM, Telegram, 14 August 1914, WWI/185/H, National Archives of India, New Delhi cited in Kaushik Roy, Indian Army and the First World War, op. cit. 42 The Imperial brigade was under the authority of Brigadier general M.J. Tighe. This was included in the 13th Rajputs, 2nd Kashmir Rifles, 3rd Kashmir Rifles and the 3rd Gwalior Infantry. The 27th Bangalore Brigade under the authority of Brigadier General R. Wapshare comprised of the 2nd Royal North Lancashire Regiment, 63rd Palamcottah Infantry, 98th Infantry, 101st Grenadiers, 28th Indian Mountain Battery, 25th and 26th Railway Companies, Sappers and Miners, 61st KGO Pioneers and Faridkot Sappers. For more, see War Diary, Appendix 9, From Qaurter-Master General (QMG) in India to the Director of Royal Indian Marine (RIM), Telegram, 13 August 1914, Appendix 17, From the QMG in India to the Director RIM, Telegram, 14 August 1914, WWI/185/H, National Archives of India, New Delhi and Martin Ferndale, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: The Forgotten Fronts and the Home Base, Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, 1988, p. 308. For more see, Kaushik Roy, Indian Army and the First World War, op. cit., pp. 169–173. 43 A History of Service rendered by the Imperial Service Troops during the Great War, 1914–1918, IOR/L/MIL/17/6/4377, OIOC, British Library, London, 1930.
44 CAB 11/117, Defence Plan, pp. 6–7 and Deeds of Valour Performed by Indian Officers and Soldiers during the Periods from 1860 to 1925, IOR/L/ MIL/17/5/4321, OIOC, British Library, London, 1927. 45 Peter Charlton, Cinderella’s Soldiers. The Nyasaland Volunteer Reserve, Private Publication, 2012. 46 George Shepperson, Independent African: John Chilembwe and the Origins, Setting and Significance of the Nyasaland Rising of 1915, Kachere 2000. 47 Anne Samson, World War 1 in Africa: The Forgotten Conflict of the European Powers, I.B. Tauris, London 2013.. 48 Melvin Page, Malawians in the Great War and After 1914–1925, East Lansing 1977. 49 Santanu Das, India, Empire, and First World War Culture: Writings, Images, and Songs, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2018, pp. 220–232. 50 Great War in Africa Association, The Lake Tanganyika Expedition 1914–1917, A Primary Source Chronology, London 2016. 51 Chad L. Williams, Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2010, pp. 145–149. 52 Belgian Government, The Fate of the Prisoners during the East African Campaign, translated by Timothy Hoffelder, London 2014 (originally published 1919). 53 Harry Fecitt, The Uganda Railway Volunteer Reserve. 1914, issued by Kaisercross, online: http://www.kaiserscross.com/188001/293122.html, accessed on 10 January 2019; The Magadi Defence Force. 1914, issued by Kaisercross, online: http://www.kaiserscross.com/188001/284201.html, accessed on January 24, 2019; Charles Hordern, History of the Great War Military Operations East Africa, volume 1 August 1914–September 1916, London 1941. 54 Fecitt, Harry: The ‘Foreign Service’ Half of 1 King’s African Rifles – Nyasaland Askari in British & German East Africa Part 1. August 1914–January 1915, issued by GWAA, online: http://gweaa.com/foreign-service-half-of-kings-african- rifles-nyasaland-askari-british-germaneast-africa-part-august-january, accessed on 10 January 2019. 55 IWM: German HQ Diary, 1 February 1915. 56 Hew Strachan, The First World War, Vol.1, op. cit., p. 242. 57 Ross Anderson, The Battle of Tanga, Stroud 2002. 58 Anne Samson, Why Were the British/Allied Forces Unable to Dislodge the Renowned German General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck in East Africa?, issued by LSE, online: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/africaatlse/2014/08/04/greatwarinafrica-wh y-were-the-britishallied-forcesunableto-dislodge-the-renowned-german-gen eral-paul-von-lettow-vorbeck-in-east-africa/ accessed on 20 January 2019. 59 Anne Samson, East and Central Africa, in: 1914–1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. by Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson, issued by FreieUniversität Berlin, Berlin, 2016. 60 Ribeiro de Meneses, Portuguese Empire, 2014. 61 Anne Samson, East and Central Africa, in 1914–1918-online, International Encyclopedia of the First World War, op. cit. 62 Edwin Palmer Hoyt, The Germans Who Never Lost: The Story of the Konigsberg, Funk &Wagnalls, London 1970, pp. 226–230. 63 Edward Paice, Tip and Run: The Untold Tragedy of the Great War in Africa, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2007, p. 76. 64 As these awards were separate from the 1914–1917 medal, the assumption is made that these men saw the conclusion of the war. Mantuba-Ngoma,
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Pamphile Mabiala: La Force Publique du Congo Belge et la Guerre contre les AllemandsenAfrique (1914–1918), in Ndaywel e Nziem, Isidore/MantubaNgoma, PampileMabiala (eds.), Le Congo belgedans la Première Guerre mondiale, Paris 2015, p. 139 cited in Anne Samson. 65 Refers to blacks, mixed race (mulato), Indians and Arabs settled in the territory. 66 Arrifes, Marco Forunato: A Primeira Grande Guerra na Africa Portuguesa, Lisbon 2004. 67 Hubert Moyse-Bartlett, The King’s African Rifles. A Study in the Military History of East and Central Africa, 1890–1945, Gale and Polden, London, 1956; and Melvin Page, KAR: A History of the King’s African Rifles, London, 1988. 68 Geoff Hodges, Kariakor: The Carrier Corps. The Story of the Military Labour Forces in the Conquest of German East Africa 1914–1918, University of Nairobi Press, Nairobi 1997 and Timothy H. Parsons, The African rank-and-file: Social Implications of Colonial Military Service in the King’s African Rifles, 1902– 1964, N.H., Portsmouth, 1999. 69 Albert Grundlingh, War and Society: Participation and Remembrance. South African Black and Coloured Troops in the First World War 1914–1918, Stellenbosch 2014; GoolamVahed, Durban’s Indians and the First World War, Vol. 19, 2001. 70 Richard Sneyd, East Africa Campaign 1914–1918: The Faridkot Sappers and Miners, issued by GWAA, online: http://gweaa.com/wp content/uploads/2012/02/ Campaign-East-Africa-Copy for- GWAA-site.pdf (retrieved: 26 January 2019). 71 Jay Singh-Sohal (ed.), The Sikh Chronicles, The Official Journal of the World War 1 Sikh Memorial Fund, Hyphen, Birmingham 2015. 72 Andrew Kerr, I Can Never Say Enough about the Men. A History of the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles throughout Their World One East Africa Campaign, PMC management Consultants, Gloucestershire 2012. 73 Anne Samson, Britian South Africa and the East African Campaign, 1914–1918; the Union Comes of Age, I. B. Tauris, London, 2006. 74 Michelle Moyd, Violent Intermediaries: African Soldiers, Conquest, and Everyday Colonialism in German East Africa, Ohio University Press, Ohio 2014, pp. 1–36. 75 Ibid., pp. 36–40. 76 Ibid., pp. 88–115. 77 Myles Osborne, Ethnicity and Empire in Kenya: Loyalty and Martial Race among the Kamba, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2014, pp. 72–79. 78 This term, which is the most inclusive to date, is used, thanks to Maathai, Wangari: The Challenge for Africa, London 2010. 79 Michelle Moyd, ‘We don’t want to die for nothing: Askari at war in East Africa, 1914–1918’, in Santanu Das (ed), Race, Empire and First World War Writing, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2011, pp. 90–107. 80 Geoffrey Hodges, ‘African Manpower Statistics for the British Forces in East Africa 1914–1918’, Journal of African History, Vol. 19, No. 1, 1978, pp. 101– 116. 81 Gregory Maddox, ‘Mtunya: Famine in Central Tanzania, 1917–1920’, Journal of African History, Vol. 31, 1990, pp. 181–197. 82 Howard Phillips, Influenza Pandemic (Africa), in, Daniel, Ute et al. (eds): 1914–1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, issued by Freie Universität Berlin, online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1546333/ie1418.10431. 83 Norman P Jewell, On Call in Africa: in War and Peace, 1910–1932, Gillyflower, Taunton, 2016. 84 Edmund James Yorke, Britain, Northern Rhodesia and the First World War: Forgotten Colonial Crisis, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2015.
85 Melvin Page, Malawians and the Great War, op. cit., 1977. 86 Jan-Bart Gewald, Forged in the Great War: People, Transport, and Labour, the Establishment of Colonial Rule in Zambia, 1890–1920, Brill, Leiden 2015. 87 Ambulances were not available as we know them today. At the time, an ‘ambulance’ referred to the mobile medical unit consisting of doctor, dressers and stretcher bearers. See Jewell, On Call in Africa, 2016, pp. 34–39. 88 The East African campaign was famous for using the various kinds of animal in the Great War. About 1,500 horses, 2,219 mules had been deployed to make significant changes in it. Along with the animals, carriers were also used here. See Statistical Abstract of Information regarding the Armies at Home and Abroad, 1914–20, L/MIL/17/5/2382, OIOC, British Library, London, p. 398. 89 Ross Anderson, The Forgotten Front, op. cit., pp. 56–72. 90 Charles Miller, Battle for the Bundu: The First World War in East Africa, Macmillan, London, 1974, pp. 22–34. 91 East African warfronts and its miseries had been written by the sepoys of the Indian Army. Their documents have been preserved as a form of letters and memoirs in the Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library, London. See, IOR/L/MIL/17/5/2490. 92 War Diary, Appendix 18, From the Director, Medical Service in India, to the GOC 9th Secunderabad Division, Letter, 14 September 1914, Appendix 23; From the Secretary of State for India to the Viceroy, Telegram, No. 466, 14 August 1914, WWI/185/H cited in Kaushik Roy, Indian Army in the First World War, op. cit., pp. 172–174. 93 Hew Strachan, The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War, Oxford University Press, London, 2000, pp. 92–100. 94 From the GOC Dar-es-Salaam to the Commander-in-Chief, Simla, Telegram, No. 6731 H, 1 September 1918, WWI/361/H, National Archives of India, New Delhi and Sandes, The Military Engineers in India, p. 499 cited in Kaushik Roy, Indian Army in the First World War, op. cit., p. 192. 95 Kaushik Roy, Indian Army and the First World War, op. cit., pp. 189–91. 96 S.D. Pradhan, ‘Indians in the East African Campaign’, op. cit., p. 78. 97 Ibid., p. 193 and Kaushik Roy, Indian Army and the First World War, op. cit., p. 193.
Bibliography Primary sources British Library, London, United Kingdom Military Department Papers, Asia and Africa Collection: 1. Bruce Seaton, Analysis of 1000 injuries, IOR/L/MIL/1715/2402. 2. Military Department Minute on the military situation in India consequent to the war, India Office, 1915, IOR/L/MIL/1715/2401. 3. Scheme for the re-distribution of the Army in India, 1902, 1904, IOR/L/ MIL/1715/1741-42. 4. Additional Military assistance from India, Jan–Feb, 1917, IOR/L/ MIL/1715/2391. 5. Memorandum of India’s contribution to the war in men, material and money, August, 1914—November 1, 1919, IOR/L/MIL/1715/2381.
Indian Army in the East African campaign
6. Memorandum of India’s contribution to the war in men, material and money, 1916, IOR/L/MIL/1715/2388. 7. India’s contribution to the Great War, GOI, Calcutta, 1923, IOR/L/ MIL/1715/2383. 8. War Office 33/ 858, European War Telegrams, Series D, Volume 1, 29 January 1915–29 February 1917, London: War Office, 1918. 9. War Office Telegrams D 1. No. 1235, Telegram N 1394 General Headquarters to War Office, 14 September 1916, Mitchell, Major TJ and Smith, G M, Official History of the War, Medical Services, Casualties and Medical Statistics, London: HMSO, 193 1, reprinted by Imperial War Museum and Battery Press, [n. d.]. 10. Official History - Medical Statistics. See Table I: Approximate Total Casualties in British Expeditionary Forces during the Great War. 11. Legislations and orders relating to the War, 1915–1918, IOR/L/MIL/17/5/2380, British Library, London. 12. History of the Great War based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence, Military Operations East Africa, Vol. 1, August 1914–September 1916, Compiled by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hordern, HMSo, London, 1941, p. 219, Appendix 3, L/ MIL/17/17/11, OIOC, BL, London. 13. Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hordern, East Africa, Vol. 1, August 1914– September 1916, Official History of the Great War based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence, Military Operations, Naval and Military Press and the Imperial War Museum, n.d., reprint. 14. British Officers serving with the Indian Expeditionary Force, 1915, IOR/L/ MIL/17/5/2411, British Library, London. 15. India’s Contribution to the War, 1919, IOR/L/MIL/17/5/2381 and IOR/L/ MIL/17/5/2390, British Library, London. 16. Development of the man power in India during the War, 1918, IOR/L/ MIL/17/5/2398, British Library, London. 17. Statistical Abstract of Information regarding the Armies at Home and Abroad, 1914–1920, War Office (1920), IOR/L/MIL/17/5/2382, British Library, London. 18. Memorandum of India’s contributions to the war in men, material and money, August 1914 to November 1(1919), IOR/L/MIL/17/5/2381, British Library, London. 19. A History of Services rendered by the Imperial Service troops during the Great War, 1914–1918, IOR/L/MIL/17/6/4377, British Library, London. 20. A History of Service rendered by the Imperial Service Troops during the Great War, 1914–1918, IOR/L/MIL/17/6/4377, OIOC, British Library, London, 1930. 21. CAB 11/117, Defence Plan, p. 6–7 and Deeds of Valour performed by Indian Officers and Soldiers during the periods from 1860-1925, IOR/L/ MIL/17/5/4321, OIOC, British Library, London, 1927. 22. IWM: German HQ Diary, 1 February 1915.
23. GOC, Dar-es-Salaam to the Commander-in-Chief, Simla, Telegram, No. 6731 H, 1 September 1918, WWI/361/H, National Archives of India, New Delhi and Sandes, The Military Engineers in India. 24. East African warfronts and its miseries had been written by the sepoys of the Indian Army. Their documents have been preserved as a form of letters and memoirs in the Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library, London. See, IOR/L/MIL/17/5/2490. 25. Statistical Abstract of Information regarding the Armies at Home and abroad, 1914-20, L/MIL/17/5/2382, OIOC, British Library, London.
National Archives of India (NAI), New Delhi, India 1. War Diary, Appendix 81, From the Governor British East Africa to the Commander-in-Chief in India, Telegram, 20 August 1914, WWI/185/H, National Archives of India, New Delhi. 2. War Diary, Appendix 9, From Quarter-Master general (QMG) in India to the Director of Royal Indian Marine (RIM), telegram, 13 August 1914, Appendix 17, From the QMG in India to the Director RIM, telegram, 14 August 1914, WWI/185/H, National Archives of India, New Delhi, India. 3. War Diary, Appendix 9, From Quarter-Master General (QMG) in India to the Director of royal Indian Marine (RIM), telegram, 13 August 1914, Appendix 17, From the QMG in India to the Director RIM, telegram, 14 August 1914, WWI/185/H, National Archives of India, New Delhi, India. 4. War Diary, Appendix 18, From the Director, Medical Service in India, to the GOC 9th Secunderabad Division, Letter, 14 September 1914, Appendix 23; From the Secretary of State for India to the Viceroy, Telegram, No. 466, 14 August 1914, WWI/185/H.
Secondary sources Albert Grundlingh, War and Society: Participation and Remembrance. South African Black and Coloured Troops in the First World War 1914–1918, Sun Media, Stellenbosch, 2014. Andrew Kerr, I Can Never Say Enough about the Men. A History of the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles Throughout Their World One East Africa Campaign, PMC Management Consultants, Gloucestershire, 2012. Ann Samson, ‘The Impact of the East Africa Campaign, 1914–1918 on South Africa and Beyond’, in Heike Liebau, Katrin Bromber, Katharina Lange, Dyala Hamzah and Ravi Ahuja, eds., The World in World Wars: Experiences, Perceptions and Perspectives from Africa and Asia, Brill, Leiden, 2010. Anne Samson, Britian South Africa and the East African Campaign, 1914–1918; The Union Comes of Age, I. B. Tauris, London, 2006. Anne Samson, World War 1 in Africa: The Forgotten Conflict of the European Powers, I.B. Tauris, London, 2013. Aravind Ganachari, Indian’s in the First World War: The Missing Links, Sage, New Delhi, 2020.
Indian Army in the East African campaign
Belgian Government, The Fate of the Prisoners during the East African Campaign, trans. by Timothy Hoffelder, London, 2014 (originally published 1919). Bruce Vandervort, ‘New Light on the East African Theatre of the Great War: A Review Essay of English-language Sources’, in Stephen P. Millier, ed., Soldier and Settlers in Africa, 1850–1918, Brill, Leiden, 2009. Byron Farwell, The Great War in Africa: 1914–1918, W. W. Norton and Co., New York, 1989. Captain Angus Buchanan, Three Years of War in East Africa, Naval and Military Press in association with the Royal Artillery Museum, n.d., reprint. Chad L. Williams, Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2010. Charles Hordern, History of the Great War Military Operations East Africa, Volume 1 August 1914 –September 1916, His Majesty’s Stationary Office, London, 1941. Charles Miller, Battle for the Bundu: The First World War in East Africa, Macmillan, London, 1974. David Killingray, ‘The War in Africa’, in Hew Strachan ed., The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998. Edmund James Yorke, Britain, Northern Rhodesia and the First World War: Forgotten Colonial Crisis, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2015. Edward Paice, Tip and Run: The Untold Tragedy of the Great War in Africa, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2007, p. 76. Edwin Palmer Hoyt, The Germans Who Never Lost: The Story of the Konigsberg, Funk & Wagnall, London, 1970. Geoff Hodges, Kariakor: The Carrier Corps. The Story of the Military Labour Forces in the Conquest of German East Africa 1914–1918, University of Nairobi Press, Nairobi, 1997. Geoffrey Hodges, ‘African Manpower Statistics for the British Forces in East Africa 1914–1918’, Journal of African History, Vol. 19, No. 1, 1978, pp. 101–116. George Morton-Jack, The Indian Empire at War: The Untold Story of the Indian Army in the First World War, Little, Brown and Co., London, 2018. George Shepperson and Thomas Price, Independent African: John Chilembwe and the Origins, Setting and Significance of the Nyasaland Rising of 1915, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1969. Goolam Vahed, ‘Give Till It Hurts’: Darban’s Indians and the First World War, Journal of Natal and Zulu History, Vol. 19, 2001, pp. 41–60 Great War in Africa Association, The Lake Tanganyika Expedition 1914–1917, A Primary Source Chronology, London, 2016. Gregory Maddox, ‘Mtunya: Famine in Central Tanzania, 1917–1920’, Journal of African History, Vol. 31, 1990, pp. 181–197. Hew Strachan, The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War, Oxford University Press, London, 2000. Hew Strachan, The First World War: To Arms, Vol.1, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2003. Hubert Moyse-Bartlett, The King’s African Rifles. A Study in the Military History of East and Central Africa, 1890–1945, Gale and Polden, London, 1956. James G. Wilson, Guerrillas to Tsavo: The East African Campaign of the Great War in British East Africa, 1914–1916, English Press, London, 2014.
Jan-Bart Gewald, Forged in the Great War: People, Transport, and Labour, the Establishment of Colonial Rule in Zambia, 1890–1920, Brill, Leiden, 2015. Jay Singh-Sohal ed., The Sikh Chronicles, The Official Journal of the World War 1 Sikh Memorial Fund, Hyphen, Birmingham, 2015. John P. Cann, ‘Mozambique, German East Africa, and the Great War’, Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol. 12, No.1, 2001, pp. 114–143 Kaushik Roy ed., Indian Army in the Two World War, Brill, Leiden, 2012. Kaushik Roy, Indian Army and the First World War, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2018. Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hordern, East Africa, Vol. 1, Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, London, 1941. Lindsay Frederick Braun, ‘India and the African Experience in the Great War’, in Roger D. Long and Ian Talbot eds., India and World War I: A Centennial Assessment, Routledge, London, 2018. Major F.S. Keen, ‘Lecture on the Campaign in East Africa’, Journal of the United Service Institution of India, Vol. 46, No. 206, 1917, pp. 71–90 Maria Paula Meneses and Margarida Gomes, ‘Secrets, Lies, Silences and Invisibilities: Unveiling the Participation of Africans on the Mozambique Front during World War I’, in M. Araújo and S. Maeso eds., Eurocentrism, Racism and Knowledge: Debates on History and Power in Europe and the Americas, Palgrave Macmillan London, 2015. Martin Ferndale, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: The Forgotten Fronts and the Home Base, Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, 1988. Melvin Page, KAR: A History of the King’s African Rifles, Pen and Sword, London, 1988. Melvin Eugene Page, Malawians in the Great War and After 1914–1925, Ph.D Dissertation, Michigan State University, East Lansing, 1977. Michelle Moyd, ‘We Don’t Want to Die for Nothing: Askari at War in East Africa, 1914–1918’, in Santanu Das ed., Race, Empire and First World War Writing, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2011. Michelle Moyd, Violent Intermediaries: African Soldiers, Conquest, and Everyday Colonialism in German East Africa, Ohio University Press, Ohio, 2014. Myles Osborne, Ethnicity and Empire in Kenya: Loyalty and Martial Race among the Kamba, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2014. Norman P. Jewell, On Call in Africa: in War and Peace, 1910–1932, Gillyflower, Taunton, 2016. P.E. von Lettow-Vorbeck, My Reminiscences of East Africa: The East African Campaign of the First World War, Hurst, London, 1920. Peter Charlton, Cinderella’s Soldiers. The Nyasaland Volunteer Reserve, Private Publication, Kenmore, Scotland, 2012. R. Meinertzhagen, Army Diary, 1899–1926, Oliver and Boyd Press, Edinburgh, 1960. R.D.A. Douglas, Experiences in the East Africa Campaign: The 4th Field Ambulance, South African Medical Record, 1920. Richard Connaughton, ‘The First World War in Africa (1914–1918)’, Small War and Insurgencies, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2001, pp. 110–113 Robert Gaudi, African Kaiser: Paul Von Lettow-Vorbeck and the Great War, Hurst, London, 2017. Ross Anderson, The Battle of Tanga, Tempus Publishing, Stroud, 2002.
Indian Army in the East African campaign
Ross Anderson, The Forgotten Front: The East African Campaign, 1914–1918, Tempus, Stroud, 2004. Ross Anderson, World War I in East Africa, 1916–1918, PhD Theses, University of Glasgow, 2001 Santanu Das, 1914-1918: Indian Troops in Europe, Mapin Publishing, Ahmedabad, 2015. Santanu Das, India, Empire and First World War Culture: Writings, Images and Songs, Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom, 2018. Santanu Das, Race, Empire and First World War Writing, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2013. S.D. Pradhan, ‘Indians in the East African Campaign-A Case Study of Indian Experiences in the First World War’, in DeWitt C. Ellinwood and S.D. Pradhan eds., Indian and the World War I, Manohar, New Delhi, 1978. S.D. Pradhan, Indian Army in East Africa: 1914–1918, National Book Organization, New Delhi, 1991. Shrabani Basu, For King and Another Country: Indian Soldiers on the Western Front, 1914–1918, Bloomsbury, London, 2015. Timothy H. Parsons, The African Rank-And-File: Social Implications of Colonial Military Service in the King’s African Rifles, 1902–1964, N.H. Portsmouth, 1999.
Web based sources: Anne Samson, ‘East and Central Africa in: 1914–1918-online’, International Encyclopaedia of the First World War, ed. by Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer and Bill Nasson, issued by FreieUniversität Berlin, Berlin, 2016. Anne Samson, Why Were the British/Allied Forces Unable to Dislodge the Renowned German General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck in East Africa? issued by LSE, online: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/africaatlse/2014/08/04/greatwarinafrica-why-were-the-brit ishallied-forcesunableto-dislodge-the-renowned-german-general-paul-von-l ettow-vorbeck-in-east-africa. Harry Fecitt, The Uganda Railway Volunteer Reserve, 1914, issued by Kaisercross, online: http://www.kaiserscross.com/188001/293122.html. Harry Fecitt, The ‘Foreign Service’ Half of 1 King’s African Rifles – Nyasaland Askari in British & German East Africa Part 1, August 1914 to January 1915, issued by GWAA. Howard Phillips, Influenza Pandemic (Africa), in Ute Daniel et al. eds., 1914–1918. International Encyclopaedia of the First World War, issued by Freie Universität Berlin, online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1546333/ie1418.10431. The Magadi Defence Force. 1914, issued by Kaisercross, online: http://www.kais erscross.com/188001/284201.html. Richard Sneyd, East Africa Campaign 1914–1918: The Faridkot Sappers and Miners, issued by GWAA, online: http://gweaa.com/wp content/uploads/2012 /02/Campaign-East-Africa-Copy for- GWAA-site.
7 MODERNIZATION, SOCIAL CHANGE AND INDIAN SOLDIERS A case study of Haryana K.C. Yadav
There is no better material for the uplift of a country than its EX-SERVICEMAN.1 F.L. Brayne ICS
It is intended here, as the title of the chapter indicates, to study the role of the First World War soldiers from the Haryana region in disseminating education and bringing about social change in their awfully backward society to transform it into something like they had seen during the War in Europe and elsewhere—a modern society, to be precise.
The perspective Though administratively a part of Punjab during the period under study (Figure 7.1), the region had separate, distinct sociocultural and linguistic identity of its own.2 According to the 1911 census, its area was 17,070 sq. miles, and the population was 4,174,677—2,274,909 males and 1,899,768 females. It was then, as it is now, a land of villages, where 9 out of 10 persons lived. Illiteracy was rampant—only about 4 men out of 100 could read and write. The presence of women was almost negligible.3 Agriculture was the main calling of the people. Except for a very small tract where the facility of canal irrigation was available, crops in the region depended on rains, which were too often erratic—mostly deficient.4 The land holdings were small and earnings meagre. On top of that, the colonial land policy, whereby their (peasants’) land was converted into ‘private property’ and its rent (revenue) was required to be paid in cash, which was hardly available with the peasants, made matters worse. Because non-payment of revenue meant losing their land, the peasants were forced to borrow cash from the officially patronized moneylenders (usurers) on highly exorbitant interest rates. This further weakened those, to use Frantz Fanon’s phrase, 158
Social change and Indian soldiers
Figure 7.1 Map of Punjab showing Haryana region. Source: J.M. Douie, The Punjab, NWFP and Kashmir, 1916, Fig. 83.
‘wretched of the earth’ considerably.5 In that circumstance, they desperately needed some second string to their tattering bow (agriculture) to retain their land and life. But none was there except one, i.e. army service, which the extra hands in their joint families readily availed. Simple, sincere, regulous and bellicose, they made good soldiers.6 And that explains how their small, poor region became big, rich recruiting ground for the army, from where they easily got about 96,000 men for the War (Table 7.1). Contextually, it were these soldiers who became harbingers of modernization of their society.
Sources Before proceeding further, I think it is necessary to have a word about the sources that the chapter is based on. Unfortunately, no primary archival or other later mainstream works,7 barring a couple of references in the accounts of the two ICS officers,8 are available that relate to Haryanavi soldiers’ contribution to the subject under consideration. In this situation, the 159
Table 7.1 District-Wise Recruitment from Haryana, 1914–1918
District Hisar Rohtak Gurgaon Karnal Ambala Total States (3) Grand Total
No. of Persons (Male) of Recruitable Age (18–35)
No. of Soldiers in Army on 4 August 1914
No. of Persons Recruited During War
Total no. No. of of Soldiers Fatal During War Causalities
134,000 118,170 124,290 134,200 120,800 631,460 10,260 641,720
8,400 5,245 12,481 289 2,854 29,269 1,310 30,579
10,000 23,000 17,700 6,530 7,400 64,630 784 65,414
18,400 28,245 30,181 6,819 10,254 93,899 2,094 95,993
344 692 314 67 315 1,732 8 1,740
Source: Civil & Military Gazette (English daily), Lahore, 18.5.1918; Jat Gazette (Urdu weekly), Rohtak, monthly tables, 1917–1919; M.S. Leigh, The Punjab and the War, official, Lahore, 1922, pp. 61–62. The Princely States covered here were Pataudi, Loharu and Dujana.
chapter draws majorly from local sources tapped during a survey by the present author of the area in 2014, the local journals,9 letters of soldiers written during the War,10 interviews and interactions with knowledgeable persons,11 information collected through visits to the old educational institutions,12 pertinent villages,13 families of the War veterans14 and, more importantly, my own personal experience of being a part of one such family, and seeing others in my neighbourhood.15 Understanding the complexities Let us see the interpellation as to how the simple, rustic soldiers came to transform themselves into animated agents of modernization of their backward region. The general explanation is that their exposure to and learning from Europe and other countries they went to during the War did the miracle. The explanation is right, but not quite. In fact, the first roots of change were inhered, not anywhere else but in their villages.16 To elaborate, in the beginning of the 20th century, and a little earlier, ‘Winds of Change’, popularly called the ‘Nai Hawa’,17 swept, first in Punjab, and a little later in the Haryana region—fast and flying. A powerful socio-religious movement, Arya Samaj,18 was its main generator—at least here. In the traditional Brahmanical order, the peasant castes, from which the army took most of its recruits,19 were arbitrarily placed despite their numerical, economic and jajmanic superiority, at the (touchable) Shudra level in the social hierarchy.20 The Arya Samaj rejected this placing and categorized the peasant castes as warrior castes (Kshatriyas), thus raising their social status many notches
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in the society21: therefore, a large number of them joined the Samaj and followed its teachings, which laid emphasis on education, social reforms, health, hygiene, rational thinking and so forth. A little later, the ‘Nai Hawa’ brought forth another phenomenon, the ‘caste renaissance’ in the region. Under its influence the castes went to have their own organizations, called Mahasabhas (grand assemblies), and their own organic leadership. The caste Mahasabhas22 had almost the same agenda that the Samaj had, the only difference being that the Samaj worked at the macro level, whereas the caste Mahasabhas worked at the micro level and, understandably, in a more focused way with greater effectiveness. The caste organizations revived, as was expected, their old tradition of community panchayats23 and the feeling of bhaichara (brotherhood) among their members and inculcated strong caste sentiments among them. When the war came, 1914, the caste leaders appealed to their young men to join the army in large numbers, not only to improve their financial position, but also to raise their caste esteem in the eyes of the government, in particular, and the society, in general, that they were really Kshatriyas.24 This had positive effect. A large number of young men of recruitable age (18–35 years), as seen in Table 7.1, donned the khaki and joined the colours. After their initial training, these young men were sent to Europe and other countries to fight the war. Though engaged in fighting, they had the opportunity of observing and interacting with the civil society there. They were highly impressed with the standard of living of those people and their spic and span houses, villages, towns, in short, everything. They saw women managing their domestic front, working in factories, mills, schools and offices in the absence of their men. The reformers and leaders back home had told them that if they educated their boys and girls and worked other reforms, social, cultural and economic, they could bring ‘heaven on earth’ (zamin par swarg).25 While in village, most of them doubted their contention. How can that be? But once in Europe and other countries and after they saw things there, they were convinced—‘yes that is possible’. The soldiers became active agents of social change! Contribution to education Wiser after new experiences, the soldiers were of the firm belief that education could solve all their problems (ek ko sadhe sab sadhe). They told their people and community leaders, mostly through letters, to popularize education and send their children to schools. Despite the efforts of reformers in that direction, the education of girls had not taken off satisfactorily in their villages, mainly because of nugatory traditional thinking on the issue zealously preserved by family elders.26 The new social reformers (soldiers) took up the thread a bit more seriously. They told their elders on a relatively louder, if not sterner, pitch to make good the deficiency. The following 161
letter from Dafedar Ramji Lal of the 20th Deccan Horse, France, to his grandfather (head of the family) in Rohtak will perhaps give some idea as to how they actually did it: Dear grandfather, I understand things perfectly well, though they are still hidden from my revered elders. I know that woman in our country is of no more value than a pair of shoes and this is the reason why the people of India are low in the scale. You educated Ram Das (boy) and got him a situation, but you never thought of educating any of the girls. Ram Das will be able to help me in my old age but girls will get married and leave the house and not be able to do anything for me (you plead). I should like to write to my wife but she would have to get the letters read by somebody else and all the home secrets would come out. When I look at Europe I bewail the lot of India. In Europe everyone, men and women, boys and girls, are educated. The men are at the War and the women are doing the work (at home, offices, factories). They write to their husbands and get their answers. You ought to educate your girls as well as your boys and posterity will be better for it.27 (censored) Unfortunately, despite such exhortations and efforts of the reformers, the malady showed no encouraging signs till the 1940s. To come to another point: The soldiers saw beautiful schools wherever they went. They also wished to have such schools or something like them in their locales for their children as well. However, their society was, they knew, awfully cash-crunched; therefore, they spared some money from their meagre salaries (paid in cash) and contributed liberally whenever their leaders sought their help, as the following lines from a letter that the Indian officers and other ranks of the ‘B’ Squadron of the 20th Deccan Horse wrote from the War fields to their leader, Sir Chhotu Ram, shows: We, the Indian Officers, Non-commissioned Officers and Jawans of our squadron read the appeal for donations for building of the Boarding House (of Jat School, Rohtak), we considered the matter seriously, keeping in view the well-being of the community, and with great pleasure each one of us has desired to take part in the mission. Each one of us has contributed one anna per rupee for the Boarding House. The money is being sent. All of us are keen to work for the welfare of our community.28 Similarly, other Jat regiments also made liberal contributions and as many as 22 rooms (costing approximately ₹11,500) of the boarding house came up soon. The donation plates on the rooms show that most of the donations had come from the ones deployed in the battle fields of France, Turkey, etc., 162
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where there was no certainty whether one would remain alive to see the next day’s sun (see Figure 7.2). Simultaneously, funds poured in from different Jat Regiments for completing the main building of the Jat School.29 On 1 April 1921, another Jat high school, bearing the name Jat Heroes Memorial High School, came up at Rohtak. It was dedicated to the memory of the heroes who fell on different fronts during the War. This was perhaps the first living and productive First World War memorial of its kind in the country. The new school, because of emotional reasons, elicited tremendous response not only from the Jat fellow soldiers of the departed souls but also from their British officers and soldiers from other castes and communities. For instance, on 23 April 1921, the Indian officers and ORs of the 1/96 Infantry contributed ₹1,577. Their commanding officer contributed ₹1,000 separately.30 The officers and men of the 20th Deccan Horse contributed ₹700. A month later, the 2nd Lancers Indian Officers and ORs contributed ₹288; their commanding officer and 11 British officers gave ₹238 and ₹475, respectively. Col. Betty of the 6th Cavalry informed the school management that he would soon visit the school and personally donate ₹500. He fulfilled his promise.31 The 4/9th Infantry donated ₹1,484. Interestingly, the Muslim Rajput Company of the regiment also donated along with their fellow Jat soldiers.32 In the following year, the donations
Figure 7.2 Soldiers’ contribution from battlefields, WWI, to build educational institutions KC Yadav collections.
to the school amounted to almost double the amount that was received in 1921.33 Thereafter, there was no looking back. The school soon became a leading school in the district. Besides Jats, the Ahir soldiers, who had joined the army during the War in large numbers (about 20,000), also gave substantial help in completing the buildings of their community school, Ahir High School, and its new boarding house at Rewari: ten rooms of the school had donation stones acknowledging their contribution on them.34 In November 1923, the Muslim Rajputs, inspired by Risaldar Abbas Ali Khan, opened a school, Central Muslim High School, at Kalanaur (Rohtak). The serving and retired Indian officers and ORs contributed liberally towards building the infrastructure and other facilities in the school.35 Several other schools, mostly of primary standard, also came up in some villages, mainly with the help and inspiration of the soldiers—serving and retired—and informed members of the civil societies. From social exclusivity to inclusivity En passant, a question may arise here: didn’t the above gestures, i.e. contributing only to their own caste institutions, enhance the parochialism and casteism and increase the level— of the already present social dissensions in their society? The answer is—yes, they did but only for some time. After seeing the world, especially countries like France, Belgium, etc., from close quarters for a longer time, the ‘I-and-my-caste dye’, which the caste renaissance in the villages,36 and the policy of the army establishment of consolidating caste identities (of the soldiers) in their regiments in their interest, had deepened,37 wore off slowly. Inspired by their relatively better educated and informed comrades, the soldiers, most of them, if not all, began to appreciate the Europeans’ secular and inclusive living in preference to their own regressive, exclusionary social practices that impeded free social intercourse and comradery with other castes and communities. They requested their leaders back home to bolster and inculcate such sentiments in their society. Encouragingly, theirs was not what is called the ‘dialogue of the deaf’. Their leaders, most of whom had also changed their old views, by now, listened to their soldier-brothers and popularized their ‘good ideas’ through the community media. A good, representative example of this is the following letter from an Indian Officer Risaldar Tek Chand of the 6th Cavalry, written to their tall leader, Rao Bahadur (later Sir) Chhotu Ram, who gave wide publicity to it through the columns of the popular community journal, the Jat Gazette, with editorial comments. An abridged paraphrased part of the letter: The letter (received from Risaldar Tek Chand) states that those of our brothers who, having joined the Army, had the opportunity of 164
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experiencing the ways of life in foreign lands, have been influenced in many positive ways. Our stay in foreign countries, from 1914 to 1918, and meeting with the people there, Risaldar says, has broken down to some extent the restrictive social evils that hindered free mixing of our various ethnic/social groups with each other and with foreigners. Hopefully these will vanish completely before long. Now more than 25 per cent Indians have started eating food that foreigners take (except for tabooed things) sitting with them at the same table. … I pray that War may linger on for long so that our people’s ardour may be cooled and they find love of their country and inculcate libertarian (azadana) ideals as a gift from the actions of others (foreigners). He further says, good social relationship should be developed first among various Hindu castes and then between Hindus and Muslims. But this social transformation cannot be achieved merely by joining Army, it is possible only by making it a part of the school and college curricula and teaching the same there so that the liberal ideas may be rightly imbibed by our coming generations.38 Such appeals and exhortations by their community leaders sowed the seeds of inclusive thinking in the society to a fair extent, the positive result of which began to show sooner than expected, not only at the social level, but at the political level as well. For example, their leader Rao Bahadur Chhotu Ram, backed by his own and other Hindu peasant castes, joined hands with the Muslims, led by their tallest leader in those days, Sir Fazli-Husain,39 and formed a political outfit, called the National Unionist Party (1923), which, having weaved a strong fabric of social cohesion and national unity and integrity, virtually ruled over Punjab with acclaim for a pretty long time.40
The ‘new’ versus ‘old’ After the War ended, a large number of soldiers returned home. A reformminded British ICS officer, F.L. Brayne, Deputy Commissioner of Gurgaon, a district in Haryana which gave the highest number of soldiers—30,181— for the war, had wondered as to what will happen to these ex-soldiers returning to their villages that are ‘unorganized, insanitary, over-crowded, and uncomfortable. Many of the houses (in the villages) are small, dark and smoke-ridden. Most of the old folks at home are narrow-minded, conservative, uneducated and untravelled’. In the home, how will they pull on with their spouses who ‘have not been exposed to any of the modernizing influences which have changed the men (soldiers); they are still completely uneducated. … [T]hey will meet the soldiers’ new outlook with an uncompromising medievalism’.41
In the end, comparing the two situations, he posed a sharp question: ‘Will the magic word home cause them (soldiers) to shed their ideas, enlightenment, to abandon their habits of vigorous thought, and action and slip into easy-going groove of the ancient ways? Or will they remain fervent social reformers?’42 Mercifully, Brayne’s doubt and disquiet proved to be, to a large extent, unfounded. Neither the soldiers in their new avatar were in any way incapable of meeting the challenges back home as heroically as they had met their deadly enemies at the front nor were their elders and their women-folk, though unlettered, as intransigent as not to change with the times and as naïve as not to be able to discern that some of the changes, if not all, they (soldiers) were introducing were by and large in their interest. The going was, however, unhasty and slow. Not an instant job, as Brayne desired. Interestingly, even Mahatma Gandhi had advised the Gurgaon ‘reformer’ (Brayne) ‘to hasten slowly’ in such cases.43 Besides the challenges that Brayne has mentioned above, there was another serious hurdle that the new reformers (soldiers) confronted— the Swadeshi Movement,44 which was, thanks to Arya Samaj, the socioreligious movement referred to above, and the Congress Party, which had struck its roots in the region about this time, going full steam. The Swadeshi activists not only preached the boycott of foreign things in national interest, but also opposed the foreign lifestyle, language, habits and so forth. The soldier-activists did not, wisely enough, oppose the movement. But they neither gave up their new ideas nor the use of things which made life better and comfortable. They adopted an emulationaccommodation strategy. They accommodated simple foreign things and ideas into their traditional sociocultural framework as far as possible. Let me elaborate.
Better houses and villages The ex-soldiers, had lived, as we know, in airy, well lighted, trig and tidy spaces, barracks or camps, located in spic and span surroundings throughout their service career. They, at least a large number of them, felt uncomfortable, if not miserable, now living in the houses that were small, crowded, dark and dingy, devoid of fresh air and light. To get over the problem, most of them either renovated the old houses or built new ones with their savings, as a survey conducted by the Punjab Board of Economic Inquiry after the War on the ways the Punjab soldiers used their money they received on leaving the army, reports ‘to satisfy their desire’.45 In an army village, Kosli, district Rohtak—now Rewari—(population about 3,000), which provided the highest number of recruits in Haryana during the War (247), perhaps one from every two families, the soldiers built a large number of new, airy, brick houses.46 Another village, Kalanaur, 13 miles on the Rohtak-Bhiwani road 166
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(population 6,000), which had sent about 90 per cent of its recruitable male population to the War, built, on their coming home after the War, several dozen new houses, mostly pakka, all being by and large airy and restful.47 Interestingly, soldiers’ ‘new houses’, popularly called ‘Faujion ke achche ghar’ (good houses), attracted many other non-soldiers in the villages and they also went, provided their pockets allowed, for such houses. There was thus a sort of revolution in the domain of the old, rustic traditional housing architecture in the villages. Most of them kept their houses neat, clean and healthy, and their surroundings free from filth and squalor48 with the help of other villagers. As a result, sanitation conditions improved in many villages. But there is no denying the fact that there were also several others, where ex-soldiers did not play an active part and the villages remained as usual dirty. There is an interesting instance of the type in F.L. Brayne’s book, Winning the Peace, where he shames the ex-soldiers of such one village for their dereliction: Socrates went to chaupal, as usual, and found it full of ex-officers and exsoldiers, all smartly got up with uniform and medals, and looking very proud and gay. Socrates (Brayne): Good morning, gentlemen, how smart you all are today! Do you know what you remind me of most? Ex-officer: What, Socrates ?Socrates: Peacocks sitting on a muck heap. Ex-officers: You are pretty rude this morning, Socrates. Why are you pleased to make such an insulting comparison, old man? Socrates: Well, you are beautifully dressed and covered with medals, but your village is filthy. Subedar-Major: Very well, Socrates; we will make a start and see if we can lead the village in peace as we led our braves in War.49 There is no evidence whether these particular soldiers kept their word or not. But we find the soldiers on the whole made sincere efforts in improving the sanitary conditions in their villages. Somewhere they succeeded, elsewhere they did not.
Better health and hygiene The villages were very low in those days on the standard scale of health and hygiene. The dust, dirt, filth and dung-smell not only found the atmosphere there nasty but also invited several deadly diseases like malaria, diarrhoea, cholera, influenza, small pox, plague, etc., which often took epidemic form and swept away people in large numbers.50 Worse, there were no dispensaries or primary health centres (PHCs), or even private registered medical practitioners (RMP), trained nurses, etc. The people went to unqualified 167
quacks, vaids, haqims or sorcerers for treatment. The soldier-activists launched a two-pronged attack on the problem: firstly, they made, as seen above, their village clean and tidy, and secondly they advised their fellow villagers to go to the qualified doctors in their neighbourhood. Some publicspirited among them even kept medicines which they had commonly used during their service like, for instance, quinine for malaria, iodine tincture for cuts and wounds, aspirin for headache, etc. and gave them free to the sufferers in case the ailments were minor.51 They also exhorted people to care for their personal hygiene, which they usually neglected. For instance, barring some people who cleaned their teeth with datun (made from small stem of neem, kikar, etc.), a large number of them ignored the drill and lost their teeth prematurely. Like teeth, the eyes also remained mostly uncared for. As a result, people suffered from eye ailments, often resulting in near or even total blindness. Many people did not wash their clothes and even themselves regularly. F.L. Brayne gives a typical instance of unwashing that, he says, he met with in a village during one of his tours of villages in his district (Gurgaon). He says: Washing seems to be unknown among a large portion of our village population and I have seen dozens of children together who could not have touched water during the last six months. Often their elders are no better. I once asked a (caste withheld) woman why she had not washed her child for a six month. Her husband said, ‘Why bother about the child? His mother has not washed for a year’. ‘Nor has its father’, I retorted, and the whole village burst into laughter at the obvious truth of my sally.52 This is an exaggerated account. The officer’s sally would have betrayed at least some ‘obvious truth’ had he written above ‘some days’ in place of ‘six months’/’year’ and that too in the winter season in his statement. In summer people took bath, per force, almost daily, male members mostly in the village pond (johar) and women and elderly males and infants in their houses. In winters, there were, no doubt, skipping cases for days but not months. Nor was washing ‘unknown among’, as Brayne says, ‘a large portion of our village population’. And, en passant, how could have children survived ‘without touching water for six months?’ To resume the story: The soldiers, who had learnt the value of personal hygiene during their service, inspired their fellow villagers by their example. They introduced them to the things like soap for bathing and washing clothes; toothpaste, powder and brush; towel, handkerchief, etc.53 Many persons, who could afford, went for these things. Some of the ex-soldiers made separate bathrooms in their houses. And surprise of surprises, some well-to-do Indian officers broke the age-old taboo and built even toilets54 168
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(pakhanas). But, unlike in several other matters, we do not find other persons, including soldiers, aping them in this respect. A toilet inside a house was unthinkable even many years after independence.
Changes in domestic infrastructure and lifestyle During active service, the soldiers had made use of many things in their regimental barracks and camps and in other foreign countries, especially Europe, during the War that made life more comfortable and liveable. Take for instance domestic furniture. Before the War, the houses were scantly furnished—a few khaats/charpoys (stringed cots), khatolas (small version of khaats for children), pidha (four legged string-stool) and paatra (small, low wooden seat). Beside these things, there were chaaki (grinding stone), ukhal and musal (pastel and mortar of wood), charkha (spinning wheel), a number of cooking vessels and utensils of brass/tin like paraat (big tray), thaali, katora, katori (for eating meals), glass for drinking water, patili, etc.; earthen pots like handi (for preparing dalia, rabri, daal, saag, etc.), kadhaoni (for boiling milk), gheeladi (for keeping ghee), basan/matka (earthen pot for keeping water), bilowana (for churning curd for ghee and lassi), kulhara (small pot for keeping water, etc.) and kulahari (still smaller version of the former) and so forth. The soldiers did not remove any of these things but added the following new items they had seen and used: chair (ordinary), aaraamkursi (relaxing chair), table, peck-table, stool (tripod), bench, etc. to the domestic furniture; kettle, ceramic cup and saucer, spoon, knife, etc. to the house utensils.55 Earlier, the wardrobes of people in the villages were as bare as they could be. The male dress consisted of dhoti, kurta and rumal/mandasa (pagdi). The footwear was juti (simple shoes made by village cobbler). The ladies had ghaaghra/ghaarghri (heavy, long skirt), odhani (head cover), kurti (small shirt) and aangi (bodice). Soldiers added several new things like shirt, pant, half pants, coat, overcoat (brandy), socks, vest, jersey, etc. to the male wardrobe. To the zenana (female) wardrobe, we find no addition except for change in the quality of cloth the female garments were made of. Earlier, it was the home-spun rough cloth. As poverty was rife in the society, they remained contented with that. Malcolm Darling, an enlightened ICS officer, during one of his tours to the Haryana villages came across a true representative of such women, who showing her home-spun cotton rough shawl told him, ‘This is my silks’.56 After the War, when some cash came in the families, many lucky women came to have real ‘silks’, i.e. better cloth. The blankets, canvass shoes, leather shoes, popularly called vilayati boots, sandals (for ladies), shoe polish, etc. became popular with them. The ex-soldiers also added many new things to the menu of food and drinks. Earlier people used only grains, mostly coarse ones like jowar, bajra,
etc. and dairy products—milk, curd, lassi, ghee—and occasionally homegrown daal, mostly of chana (gram), moong (green gram), chutney, etc. They promoted the use of vegetables, greens and potatoes; and, interestingly, introduced their seasoning (tadka lagana) as well. They brought tea, biscuits, soda water, rum, whisky and cigarette. Earlier non-vegetarian food was taboo in Hindu families. But after serving in the army, some of them started taking meat. The traditional society, however, did not like such ‘foul’ gestures.57 In the domain of travel and communications, for travelling or sending their messages to other places, earlier people either used ponies, horses, camels, or bullock carts or simply walked to their destination. The soldiers added bicycle, called ‘Engine of Liberation’ (by historian Eric Hobesbawm), and motor cycles (fatfatia). They brought sewing machines (silai ki mashin), gramophone (gaane wali mashin), etc. for the first time in the villages. They also brought wrist watch, leather purse, umbrella, etc. They popularized the use of post and telegraph facility for sending messages and money orders.58 During the War, the soldiers had seen how the peasants in foreign countries did not stick to farming alone. They took to other trades if farming was not profitable. But here it was not so. The peasant would not do anything else other than joining army, police or government service, even if he was starving. But now the attitude of many of them, if not all, had changed. If no better job was available, they were ready to do anything to survive. An interesting study conducted by the Punjab Board of Economic Enquiry after the War as to how the ex-soldiers had spent their ‘savings’ that they got after leaving army tells us that because of famine conditions in Rohtak the occupations of 46 exservicemen recorded in that district, eighteen persons cultivated, mostly on chahi (well irrigated) land. Of the remaining 28, many had sold all their cattle and said they were waiting for the rains. Five worked as manual labourers, two lived by the sale of fuel cut from the waste land and by plying bullock carts on hire. Two others were in domestic service and one was in the employ of a shopkeeper in making rope from sarkanda reed (moonj).59 An ex-serviceman opened a wood stall in Rohtak (Mandi). The community journal, the Jat Gazette, appreciated the gesture and asked people to patronize the stall. Not only that, the editor also exhorted other people of the community to follow his example and go for diversification of professions. One ex-subedar, Bharat Singh, even joined media. He started the first Hindi journal, Jat Sipahi (sepoy) in district Rohtak. Interestingly, the journal was edited by his wife Kesar Devi of district Rohtak. Kesar Devi, along with her husband, established the Jat Women Conference, perhaps the first organization of its type among the peasant communities in north-west India.60
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Thanks to those social activists, the traditional rustic lifestyle of the people moved ahead and up a step, albeit small, but important, towards a modern lifestyle. Change in intra-family relations and empowerment of women One of the most important contributions of the ex-soldiers was the effort that most of them put in to change the intra-family relations and in improving the lot of their women folk by their example and precept. Earlier the architecture, grammar and functioning of the institution of family in their villages was by and large despotic. The father was the head of the family. His wishes were law, and all the members of the family had to obey him no matter whether right or wrong, unquestionably. His wife lorded over the zenana (female quarter) almost the same way. There were many strange, outdated and meaningless customs that were in vogue for long like junior members of the family could neither hold their children in the lap nor love them in front of family elders. Most of the soldiers’ letters I have read contain not a single expression like ‘how is my wife?’ ‘my child/children?’ ‘convey my love to them’, etc. Also, it was a taboo to meet or talk or even say a word to one’s wife openly. Any breach of the customs was tantamount to showing disrespect to the elders. Many exsoldiers defied the senseless custom. And, we were told during the survey that many other villagers followed suit. Several other such meaningless customs met the same fate. Coming to the condition of women: they were malnourished and victimized in most of the families. The advice that the greybeard had been giving to the younger ones for long was that ‘spare the shoe and spoil the woman’, which, in other words, meant a woman remained aright only when given shoe-beating. This began to be challenged, for the first time in centuries, by the ex-soldiers. That was a ‘wrong custom’ (galat rivaj), they said, and took, as elsewhere, special interest in their homes, talked to their wives, listened to their difficulties and tried to remove them with the help of their parents, if possible, and without them, if not.61 The greatest thing was that their (soldiers’) wives, most of them, if not all, felt that since their husbands bettered the lot of their families (in the cash-crunched society of those days), why they should remain dumb dolls, tolerating even unreasonable commands of their mothers-in-law (saas). As a result, says Malcolm Darling, ‘the mother-in-law is no longer secure on her throne, and as with other ancient autocracies in the last twenty years, her authority is challenged’.62 The wives got their due—the proper rank and respect they deserved and were denied for long, as the following excerpt from an interview the officer had with a village gathering of ex-soldiers and civilians of a village, named Beri, in Rohtak district:
Darling: It is well known that your women work harder than any other women in Punjab, perhaps, harder in the world. A Villager: Yes, they work very hard. Darling: Those who do not live in Rohtak say you work your women like slaves, and that they have no time to look after their children. An ex-soldier (Captain): No, not like slaves; but it is true there is no one to look after the children except the old men, and all they do is to pat and pet them when they cry. However, since the War we have been trying to give them less work. Darling: Who made these changes first? Ex-soldier: The soldiers. They have more care for these things, and their Homes are cleaner and better managed than those of others. But before the War women had no izzat (respect) and men beat them with shoes (general laughter), but now light has spread and beating is stopped, and the women have izzat. … That is because we went to Europe.63 Not only to their wives, the ex-soldier also gave personal attention to their children, who had suffered neglect in the old world for long at the hands of the elderly persons, who had neither vision nor means to bring them up properly. Their schooling and hygiene were badly neglected. The girl-child was brought up unequally. The boys got all attention, love and care, but not their sisters. They were ranked and treated as inferior. Mahatma Gandhi quotes a passage from Baryne’s book, Village Uplift in India, in his above quoted write-up on the subject, rating it as a piece of ‘poetic beauty’. Man is the only creature that discriminates his male and female children, treats the females as inferior. Your mother was once a girl. Your wife was once a girl. Your daughters will one day be mothers. If girls are inferior creation, then you are yourselves inferior.64 The ex-soldiers took up the problem seriously. In fact, they were at it even when in active service, fighting the War in Europe and elsewhere. They had seen there how in every society, the people made no difference between girls and boys, and treated them with equal love and care. Impressed by that, some of them wrote, as indicated above, letters from the field to their elders in strong words not to differentiate between girls and boys and to educate and treat them alike.65 After returning home, they took it upon themselves to do this work more critically. They made a good beginning. And success? Well, for that in a tradition-ridden society, one has to wait for long.66 There were some traditional institutions and customs, etc. against which voices were being raised in those days. The ex-soldiers weighed the criticism in the scale of their experience. They did not find anything wrong with things like joint families, same-clan (sagotra) marriage taboo, etc. They had seen the joint families providing security, physical, social, economic
Social change and Indian soldiers
and psychological, to its members for long. They experienced this in their own life. While serving on the front, they were free of anxiety or stress at least on account of safety, security and well-being of their wives and children during their absence. The questions like who would look after them if they got killed or became invalid did not bother them much. They had families to fall back on in such emergencies. How could they think of ‘touching’ such an institution?67 The same-clan (sagotra) marriage taboo was also as old as hills. They saw no reason to challenge the smooth-going custom.68
Other miscellaneous changes The language in Haryana—Haryanvi—was, because of obvious reasons, rough and rustic. Its simple users spoke it the way that it sounded rude, sometimes even offensive, to the outsiders. The soft, finer words like aap, ji, etc. were almost absent in their vocabulary. They would use words like tu, tenney, etc. while addressing their elders, other respectable persons and even their gods and goddesses. The soldiers brought home words like ‘aap’, ‘ji’, ‘sir’, ‘saheb’, ‘hazur’, etc. and many other Urdu, Persian and English words and changed the tone and tenor of speaking from rough to soft and respectable, thus making their language in a way well-off and affable.69 As in the linguistic field, the soldiers also introduced some new items in the field of games, sports and athletics. Football, the most popular game in Europe, was their special gift to the youngsters here. There is an interesting story of a Risaldar, Ramji Lal, of the 20th Deccan Horse who purchased two footballs for ₹9, annas 8 (not a small sum then) and gave those to the boys of a school, Jat Anglo-Sanskrit School, Khedagarhi,70 and taught them how to play the game. They also encouraged athletics and physical training (PT) in schools. In sum, they influenced, differing measures, in almost every aspect of life.
Conclusion In the post-War era, one could see the backward Haryana villages, thanks to their new, dynamic, disciplined soldier-reformers, giving a mien of what the official reformers called ‘Better Villages’. They helped in spreading education in the region and transformed, as seen above, the architecture and ambience, health and hygiene, dietary and dress, language and mannerism, in short, every aspect of life, to whatever extent it was possible, especially in the difficult post-War days. In view of all this, I tend to agree with the wise heads that whatever development, progress and light we see in the state of Haryana today, their seeds were sown a century ago by the First World War soldiers.
Notes 1 F.L. Brayne, Village ABC, Oxford University Press, Bombay, 1950, p. 4. 2 The Haryana region was arbitrarily tagged to Punjab in 1858. Though administratively one, the two regions were socioculturally and linguistically as different as apples and oranges. Small wonder then, what the British bureaucracy did in February 1858, the people undid it in November 1966—Haryana and Punjab became separate states. For details, see K.C. Yadav, Modern Haryana: History and Culture (hereafter Modern Haryana), Manohar Publishers and Distributors, Delhi, 2002, pp. 204–12. 3 The figures have been computed on the basis of the data from the Census of India, 1911, Vol. 14, Punjab, part 2, and District Gazetteers of the 1910s, relating to the districts and princely states that fell in the Haryana region. 4 Except for Karnal, a district bordering Punjab proper, most of the region, says Malcolm Darling, ICS, who toured and studied the region meticulously in early 1920s, was ‘thankful’, if it got 10 or 20 inches rain a year. ‘I remember a year in Hisar when we had less than 4 inches and saw nothing greener than the poisonous akk’. Darling, The Punjab Peasant in Prosperity and Debt, Oxford University Press, Bombay, rep. 1947, p. 82. We have a very detailed study of the scourge in the region in a 7-volume report, Punjab Famine of 1899–1900, official, Lahore, 1901: Vol. 4 on District Hisar, Vol. 5 on Gurgaon, Vol. 6A on Rohtak, Karnal and Ambala and Vol. 6B on the princely states of Pataudi, Dujana and Loharu. 5 As a result of the Government’s exploitative revenue policy and pro-moneylender stand of the courts, the poor peasants became, in H.K. Tresvaskis’ words, ‘the surf of the money-lender.’ See Tresvaskis, The Punjab of Today, C&M G Press, Lahore, 1931, p. 37; also see Sir Chhotu Ram, Peasantry in Colonial India: The Context, Perspective and Text of Bechara Zamindar, Eng. trans., eds. Ranbir Singh and Kushal Pal, Haryana Academy of History and Culture, Gurgaon, 2013. 6 Earlier the people of Haryana used to claim that they were ‘born soldiers’. This was not an empty brag. Because of the geo-strategic location of their region on the Kabul-Khyber-Delhi Highway, which most of the hungry high-lenders of Central Asia used during the course of their invasions on Hindustan, they had to remain in constant state of warfare for centuries. As a result, they came ‘to possess’, as Dr. Jadunath Sarkar has said, ‘great personal bravery and became expert in the use of arms’. Sarkar, Fall of the Mughal Empire, Orient Longmans, Delhi, rep.1972, vol. 4, p.198. 7 While there is ample literature, both academic and general, on the different aspects of the Indian Army, but there is pretty little by way of a fair delineation of its contribution to the process of modernization of the civil society. The case of the Haryana region is still worse. Even the recently published full-length scholarly books covering the subject, Tan Tai Yong, The Garrison State: The Military, Government and Society in Colonial Punjab, 1849–1947, Sage Publications, Delhi, 2005, and Rajit Mazumder, The Indian Army and the Making of Punjab, Permanent Black, Ranikhet, 2011, focus on main Punjab, but neglect the Haryana region that was very much a part of Punjab during the period under study. 8 The works of the ICS Officers, F.L. Brayne and Malcolm Darling, mentioned in the text, give some brief, but, interesting accounts of the post-war changes initiated by the soldiers in their villages. 9 .The most important journal was hitherto untapped Jat Gazette (est. 1916). An Urdu weekly published from Rohtak, it gave valuable information as far as our subject is concerned. It can be reached in the personal collection of the author,
Social change and Indian soldiers
‘K.C. Yadav Collection’, Gurgaon. The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML), Delhi, also has a part of it on microfilm. 10 .Some original letters of the soldiers from Haryana are there in the ‘K.C. Yadav Collection’, Gurgaon, and ‘Family Collection’ of Major General Rajeshwar Singh, Chuddani (Jhajjar). Some other letters, censored and translated into English (preserved in the British Library, London), are reproduced in David Omissi, Indian Voices from the Great War: Soldiers’ Letters, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 1999, and Susan C. Vankoski, ‘The Indian Ex-soldier from the Eve of the First World War to Independence and Partition: A Study of Provisions for Ex-soldier’s Role in Indian National Life’, Ph.D. thesis, Columbia University, 1966. 11 .The following knowledgeable persons were contacted and interviewed for seeking their views on the different aspects of the subjects: Sqn. Ldr. (Retd.) Rana T.S. Chhina, USI, New Delhi, V.S. Rana, HHS, Gurgaon, Dr. Narender Yadav, Historical Division, MoD, New Delhi, Major General (Retd.) Rajeshwar Singh, Chhudani (Jhajjar) and Professor Ranbir Singh, Karnal. 12 The Jat High School (later converted to the Jat Heroes Memorial High School), Rohtak, Ahir High School, Rewari, Anglo-Vedic Jat High School, Khedagarhi, Delhi, to name but a few. 13 The villages were Kosli (Rewari), Mandi Kheda (Nuh), Bhondsi (Gurgaon), Matanhel, Dighal, Mandauthi and Beri (all in Jhajjar), Mori (Dadri), Kiloi and Gochhi (both in Rohtak) and Baliali (Hisar). 14 Navin Dhankar (grandson of Res. Badlu Singh, V.C.), Dhankla (Jhajjar), Raghavender Singh, Gurgaon, Col. Ranbir Singh, Mandauthi, Ris. Daljeet Singh, Kiloi, Major General Rajeswar Singh, Chhudani, Col. Vijay Singh, Kosli (Rewari), Prof. Ranbir Singh, Karnal, Col. (Retd.) Sukhbir Singh Phogat, Mori (Dadri) and Mrs. Savitri, wife of late Col. Shamsher Singh, Gochhi (Rohtak). 15 I was born in 1935. My father was a First World War veteran. Though my family was financially not very different from other peasant families in the village, our way of living was a shade better in matters of cleanliness, dietary, furniture and, more importantly, approach to education. There was no girls’ school in our area. My father used to teach my sisters simple writing and reading Hindi at home. As for me, when kids were not even sent to neighbouring villages for schooling, I was sent to a school—King George Royal Indian Military College—at Balgaum (now in Karnataka) over 2,000 km away when I had hardly seen ten springs. Military service was, sine dubio, at the heart of the change. A few other families in the village, who could afford, followed our examples. 16 How could, sceptic may ask, those illiterate, uninformed villagers understand and appreciate the program of reform? Well, most of the villagers were, no doubt, illiterate, but that does not mean they were unintelligent, fools and blind to the changes that were taking place elsewhere around them. They were not unreceptive to the program of reform. We find them contributing to build schools and giving up many social evils. 17 For details, see K.C. Yadav, Nai Hawa: Origin and Growth of Politico-National Awareness, 1885–1904, in Modern Haryana, pp. 126–41. 18 For the origin, organization and growth of Arya Samaj, see Lajpat Rai, History of Arya Samaj, Munshi Ram Manohar Lal, Delhi, rep.1952; Indira Vidyavaschaspati, Arya Samaj ka Itihas, 2 vols., Aryan Prakashan, Delhi, rep. 2012; Satyaketu Vidyalankar, Arya Samaj ka Itihas, 7 vols., Arya Swadhyay Kendra, Delhi n.d.; Census of India, 1911, vol. 14, Punjab, C&M Gazette Press, Lahore, 1912, part 1, pp. 133–37. 19 That is, Jats, Ahirs, Gujars, etc. A brief, but useful account (especially for Army purpose) of their history, socio-economic life, demographic dispersion in North
India is given in Major A.H. Bingley in Jats, Gujars and Ahirs, revised by Col. R.C. Christie, ed. Capt. Ram Singh, Hope India Publications, Gurgaon, rep. 2010; a detailed general description of these three and other castes is found in Denzil Ibbetson, Punjab Castes, Low Price Publication, Delhi, rep. 1993. 20 In the Brahmanical hierarchical order, the society was earlier divided into four Varnas on the basis of merit and profession—the Brahmanas were concerned with education, the Kshatriyas with governance and fighting, the Vaishyas with trade, commerce, agriculture, etc. and Shudras with service (seva). The Brahmanas and Kshatriyas occupied the highest rung on the social ladder, the Vaishyas middle rung and the Shudras the lowest. Sometime later, when the Varnas came to be determined not on the basis of merit but birth, the Jatis (castes) were formed. In the new scheme, the Shudras were further categorized into touchable Shudras and untouchable Shudras. The agricultural castes were placed in the former category and the Schedule Castes in the latter. For details, see P. Thomas, Hindu Religion: Customs and Manners, J.B. Taropowalla, Bombay, n.d.; Adityamuni Vanaprasthi, Varna Vyavastha banam Jativyavastha, Ved Prachani Sabha, Nagpur, 2002; P.V. Kane, History of Dharmshastras, Vol. 3, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, rep. 1993. 21 The prominent peasant castes that joined the Samaj in a big way were: Jats, Ahirs, Gujars, to name but a few. 22 The Jat Mahasabha was formally formed in Uttar Pradesh in 1906. Its branch was opened in Haryana in the same year at Rohtak. Next year, the Yadav (Ahir) Mahasabha came up in Rewari. A little later some other castes also followed suit. Their agenda was almost similar, as indicated above, to that of Arya Samaj, the only difference being that they concentrated only on their own castes and inculcated caste feelings and sentiments in them. 23 Also called Khap Panchayats or Panchayats of sub-divisions of the community. The Jat Gazette has documented many such Panchayats, their assemblies and achievements. 24 The prominent community leaders who encouraged their people to join Army during the war for the above purpose (i.e. to prove that they were Kshtriyas) were Sir Chhotu Ram, Rao Bahadur Lal Chand and Rao Bahadur Ghasi Ram (Jats), and Rao Bahadur Capt. Balbir Singh and Rao Chhaju Ram (Ahir). 25 The prominent reformer-preachers were Swami Bhism, Basti Ram, Tej Singh, Prithvi Singh (Arya Samajists), Pyare Lal (Jat Mahasabhaite), Chandu Lal (Yadav Mahasabhaite), etc. They exhorted their people to go for reforms which would uplift their communities and the country would become great. Most of their works may be reached in the Haryana Academy of History and Culture Library, Gurgaon, Gurukula Jhajjar Library, Jhajjar, and Dayanand Math, Rohtak. 26 Although voices in favour of girls’ education had begun to be heard, thanks to the Arya and caste sabha leaders and preachers, the old traditional customs discouraging it were too rigid to be budged. The philosophical basis of the custom was that girls were ‘property of others’ (paraya dhan), why invest in their education. But I think the more important reason here was the loss of labour to the family. The girls helped their overworked mothers. More importantly, they looked after small children in joint families. If perchance there was no small girl to do this errand in some family, girl from some close relation was called. 27 From VanKoski, op. cit., pp. 153–54. 28 See Jat Gazette, 9 July 1918. 29 The following Regiments sent donations for the Jat High School and Hostel, Rohtak: 1/12, Pioneers, 2/12 Pioneers, 40 Divisional Signals, D/2 Company Signals, 13th Cavalry, 6th Cavalry, 5th, 10th and 23rd Cavalry and 1/21st
Social change and Indian soldiers
Infantry. See Jat Gazette, 28 January, 26 February, 15 March, 23 April, 4 June and 13 August 1918; also see Illustration 2. 30 See Jat Gazette, 6 April and 4 May 1921. 31 Ibid., 20 October 1920. The promise was, however, fulfilled later. 32 Ibid., 18 July 1923. 33 See Jagbir Singh Nandal, History of the Jat Educational Intuitions in Rohtak (Hindi), Adarsh Prakashan, Rohtak, 2013, pp.58–85. 34 The author saw these Donation Stones on 10 rooms in the Ahir High School in Rewari, mentioning the names of the soldiers/regiments several times during his tenure as Assistant Professor in the College there (1961–1966). These are, however, missing after the renovation of the building done some time ago. 35 See Jat Gazette, 12 December 1923. 36 See ‘Understanding the Complexities’ above. 37 The real sense of ‘National Pride’ and ‘Patriotic Fervour’ that motivate people to join Army and fight and die for (Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire, ABACS, London, 1994, pp. 163–64) was made good artfully and meticulously with artificial substitutes like pride in one’s caste, family, regiments, etc. by the British helmsmen in the Indian Army. 38 See Jat Gazette, 4 June 1918. 39 Sir Fazl-i-Husain (1877–1936) was the tallest leader of Punjab of his time. He was, as seen above, one of the founders of the Unionist Party. He served as Education Minister, Punjab, from 1923 to 1926, Revenue Minister, from 1924 to 1930, and member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council, from 1930 to 1935. He was a great organizer and institution-builder. He passed away on 9 July 1936. See Azim Husain, Fazl-i-Husain: A Political Biography, Longmans, Green & Co. Ltd., Bombay, 1946. 40 See R. Tanwar, Politics of Sharing Power: The Punjab Unionist Party, 1923– 1947, Manohar Publishers, Delhi, 1999. 41 See F.L. Brayne, Winning the Peace, Oxford pamphlet on Indian affairs, no. 25, Oxford University Press, Bombay, 1944, p.3. 42 Ibid., pp. 3–4. 43 See For the Guidance of Village Workers, Report on Rural Uplift Work of F.L. Brayne in District Gurgaon with Comments of Mahatma Gandhi, published in Young India, October and November 1929, p.29. 44 For details, see Yadav, Modern Haryana, pp. 142–44. 45 The account is based on Roshan Lal Anand, Soldiers’ Savings and How They Used Them, Board of Economic Inquiry Punjab Publication, Lahore, pp.18–20; and information collected during the field survey of the region, 2014, by the present author. 46 There is a misunderstanding (to which I also fell a prey earlier) that these new houses were labelled as bungalows by the soldiers because of which the village came to be known as ’52 bungalown wali Kosli’. But recently I found that this epithet was in vogue even in the 1880s. See Danzil Ibbetson, op. cit., p. 202. 47 The account is based on Anand, op. cit., p.3; and also on information collected by the present author during the Field Survey, 2014. 48 Anand says that ‘among the things which usually mark the ex-Military men from others in the village are neater dress and better type of houses’. Anand, op. cit., pp.18–19. Malcom Darling, another ICS Officer, also noticed, as seen below, this change during his tours of the region. 49 Brayne, Winning the Peace, pp. 30–32. 50 See F.L. Brayne, Village Uplift in India, Pioneer Press, Allahabad, 1927, pp.12– 16; Mahatma Gandhi, ‘Village Improvement’ in Young India, 14 November
1929, in Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. XLII, Oct. 1929–Feb. 1930, pp. 142–49. 51 This is based on my personal experience. My father, a war veteran, kept what he called ‘Medical Kit’, having the medicines referred to above for minor ailments, which he distributed free to the villagers. He also used to help the vaccinators and inoculators in their work as the village headman to check the spread of diseases like small pox, tuberculosis, plague, etc. 52 See Brayne, The Village Uplift, p. 152. In another book, Brayne has taken the following light banter of the bath-shirkers made in reply to their ‘advisers’ to take bath regularly: ‘Ya nahlawe dai / ya nahlawen char bhai’ (A man gets only two baths in his life time: Once at birth by the midwife and the second at death by four relatives) as a truth. See An Economic Survey of Bhadas, a Village in the Gurgaon District, the Board of Economic Inquiry Punjab Publication, Lahore, 1936, p. XV. 53 The account is based on information received during the Field Work in 2014. 54 The toilets were built for the first time in their houses by some ex-Officers like Hon. Lieutenant Gopal Singh Bahadur, Matanhel, Hon. Captain Hanumant Singh, Beri, Hon. Captain Gugan Singh, Rithal, Deputy Baldev Singh, Tandaheri, all First World War veterans. 55 The information comes from the old District Gazetteers of the 1880s and the 1910s of Gurgaon, Rohtak, Karnal, Hisar and Ambala districts, and the author’s Field Survey, 2014. 56 A woman taking her coarse, homespun ordinary shawl as her ‘silks’ is from Melcom Darling, Wisdom and Waste in the Punjab Villages, Oxford University Press, Bombay,1934, p. 192. 57 The information comes from my Field Survey, 2014. 58 Ibid. 59 Anand, op.cit., p.10. 60 Jat Gazette, 29 December 1920. 61 Darling, op. cit., pp.185–88, 195–98, 291–96, 332; also information gathered during the Field Survey, 2014 and personal observation in my early days. 62 Darling, op. cit., p. 291. 63 Ibid., pp. 185–86. 64 Mahatma Gandhi, op. cit., p. 148. 65 See letter of Dafedar Ramji Lal to his grandfather (reproduced above) on this subject, from Vankoski, op. cit., pp. 153–54. 66 The problem was taken seriously only after Independence, 1947. 67 It was many decades later—around the 1960s—that because of urbanization, industrialization, fragmentation of land holdings and serious paucity of jobs in the villages, members of the joint families started migrating from villages to cities and towns for jobs. After some time, many of them settled there with their wives and children, which began to break joint families into nuclear families. 68 The custom is still, by and large, intact in the villages. Any breach of it is seen by the clansmen as an ‘offence not worth pardoning’. The breachers are punished severely. 69 The soldiers added many new English words mostly in corrupted form to their language like saloot (salute), oat (out), rat (right), left biscut (biscuit), meat, rum, soda, bottle, maniadar (mone order), sarat (shirt), patlun (pantloon/pant), hat, jersi (jersey), belt, pared (parade), rafal (rifle), amnesan (ammunition), kitli (kettle), podar (powder), cup, plate, magga (mug), santary (sentry), quatar gard (quarter guard), kaptan (captain), laftain (lieutenant), karnail (colonel), jarnail (general), rajment (regiment), company, saksan (section), afsar (officer), dam fool (damned fool), etc.
Social change and Indian soldiers
70 Jat Gazette, 17 November 1920.
Bibliography Primary sources Census of India, 1911. Jat Gazette, 1916–1920. Punjab District Gazetteers of 1910–1912. Report on Punjab Famine of 1899–1900. Young India, 1929.
Private collection and field work Family Collection of Major General Rajeshwar Singh, Chuddani (Jhajjar). Field Work in 2014. K.C. Yadav Collection’, Gurgaon.
Government reports Anand, Roshan Lal. Soldiers’ savings and how they used them, The Board of Economic Inquiry Punjab Publication, Lahore, n.d. Brayne, F. L. An Economic Survey of Bhadas, a village in the Gurgaon District, the Board of Economic Inquiry Punjab Publication, Lahore, 1936.
Secondary sources Brayne, F.L. Village ABC, Oxford University Press, Bombay, 1950. Brayne, F.L. Village Uplift in India, The Pioneer Press, Allahabad, 1927. Brayne, F.L. Winning the Peace, Oxford Pamphlet on Indian Affairs, No. 25, Oxford University Press, Bombay, 1944. Darling, Melcom. The Punjab Peasant in Prosperity and Debt, Oxford University Press, Bombay, rep. 1947. Darling, Melcom. Wisdom and Waste in the Punjab Villages, Oxford University Press, Bombay, 1934. Gandhi, Melcom. ‘Village Improvement’ in Young India, 14 November 1929, in Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. XLII. Hobsbawm, Eri. The Age of Empire, ABACS, London, 1994. Husain, Azim. Fazl-i-Husain: A Political Biography, Longmans, Green & Co. Ltd., Bombay, 1946. Kane, P.V. History of Dharmshastras, vol. 3, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, rep. 1993. Mazumder, Rajit. The Indian Army and the Making of Punjab, Permanent Black, Ranikhet, 2011. Omissi, David. Indian Voices from the Great War: Soldiers’ Letters, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 1999. Rai, Lajpat. History of Arya Samaj, Munshi Ram Manohar Lal, Delhi, rep. 1952.
Ram, Chhotu. Peasantry in Colonial India: The Context, Perspective and Text of Bechara Zamindar, Eng, trans. eds. Ranbir Singh and Kushal Pal, Haryana Academy of History and Culture, Gurgaon, 2013. Sarkar, Jadunath. Fall of the Mughal Empire, Orient Longmans, Delhi, rep. 1972. Singh, J. Nandal. Agbir History of the Jat Educational Intuitions in Rohtak (Hindi), Adarsh Prakashan, Rohtak, 2013. Tanwar, R. Politics of Sharing Power, The Punjab Unionist Party, 1923–1947, Manohar Publishers, Delhi, 1999. Thomas, P. Hindu Religion: Customs and Manners, J. B.Taropowalla, Bombay, n.d.; Vanaprasthi, Adityamuni. Varna Vyavastha Banam Jativyavastha, Ved Prachani Sabha, Nagpur, 2002. Tresvaskis, Huge Kennedy. The Punjab of Today, The C&M G Press, Lahore, 1931. Vankoski, Susan C. The Indian Ex-Soldier from the eve of the First World War to Independence and Partition: A Study of Provisions for Ex-Soldier’s Role in Indian National Life, Ph.D. thesis, Columbia University, 1966. Vidyalankar, Satyaketu. Arya Samaj ka Itihas, 7 vols, Arya Swadhyay Kendra, Delhi, n.d. Vidyavaschaspati, Indira. Arya Samaj ka Itihas, 2 vols, Aryan Prakashan, Delhi, rep. 2012. Yadav, K.C. Modern Haryana: History and Culture (hereafter Modern Haryana), Manohar Publishers and Distributors, Delhi, 2002. Yong, Tan Tai. The Garrison State: The Military, Government and Society in Colonial Punjab, 1849–1947, Sage Publications, Delhi, 2005.
8 RESPONSE OF NORTHEAST INDIA TO THE FIRST WORLD WAR
Writing on the reaction of people against labour conscription in the Chin Hills during the First World War, Mrs. Laura Carson, an American Baptist missionary, recorded that ‘chief after chief’ came to her and said, ‘that their people absolutely refused to go to France; that they said they had no quarrel with Germany and why should they go and fight the Germans?’1 War is a time when people defined their enemy, friend or maintain neutrality. One easy way to see the reach of the war was to navigate into the way people appropriated the War. In Northeast India, one of the remotest frontiers of the British colonial Empire, the First World War was interestingly felt very strongly. Each of the so-called wild and remote hill villages in the frontier, inhabited by the colonial’s ‘primitive’ tribes, were not so ignorant of, and isolated from, the Great War being fought in Europe. Instead, it had become not only ‘the main subject of conversation in all gatherings’ but each tribe was also able to define who its ‘enemy’ or ‘friend’ was in the larger project of the War. The ‘totality’ of the First World War may be best understood if these frontier dimensions of the War are taken into consideration. This chapter concerns the response of the people of Northeast frontier of India to the Great War, which can be described as mixed. While some tribes took up arms against the British government, large number of men also joined the War as combatants, non-combatants, camp followers and labourers. If the term ‘voluntary’ is inappropriate in most cases, those who went to the warfronts were officially considered to be ‘volunteering’ for the ‘king and country’. Since the beginning of the War, a good number of drafts from Assam Military Police (AMP) were sent to Goorkha Regiments for the First World War. Manipur state also sent a ‘Double Company’ to the War besides other contributions.2 However, the major contribution of the region to the War was sending more than 8,000 strong labourers to France under Indian Labour Corps (ILC).3 They joined the War under threat and blandishments. The conscription for the War also, on the other hand, triggered
an armed resistance from tribal Kukis and Haka-Chins of the region. The military operation to suppress the rising was not only the ‘largest’ and ‘longest’ military operations in the region and one of the most brutal and inhuman military operations across the colonial world, but it was also the forgotten Great War theatre.
Narratives of the Great War: facts, rumours, perceptions The Great War had broken the horizon of the village worldview in many ways. Theiriat, a sleepy remote village in the Lushai Hills (now Mizoram state of India), for instance, was one of the hill villages in the region which the Great War had shattered their worldview. Sainghinga, then a young man from that village, and who had gone to France for the War as interpreter in ILC, narrated what had conspired the village community during the War. One day a person on returning from Lunglei (subdivision headquarter) told us that there was a war in Sap ram (Europe) and that even our government of the Kumpinu (Company, British) was taking part in the war. Since that time, everyone, male or female, except small children, became very interested in getting news of the war. It became the main subject of conversation in all gatherings. … Later our missionary would write about the war and put it up at the house of one of the shopkeepers. … And all those who went to Lunglei, and were literate, made it a point to read those notices and they reported back to us that the war was getting worse.4 Through the incredible tongue of the village retailers, the villagers heard about the deadly tanks (‘molten iron that can fight the enemy’), artilleries (‘the huge size cannons’), fighter bombers (‘flying machines’), bombs (‘dropped things that exploded on being thrown’), poison gas (‘dirty smelling air’) and submarines (‘ships that went underwater’).5 There was much fear as admiration so that the stories of the War became ‘the main subject of conversation in all gatherings’.6 Lt. Col. J.L.W. Ffrench-Mullen, DIG, Burma Military Police, for instance, remarked that ‘the horrors of the war had without any shadow of doubt reached the furthest villages probably in a very distorted form’.7 Along this chain of news also came rumours. In Manipur, for instance, there was ‘the wildest rumours’ of British defeat and withdrawal from India when the War started, which was however, very soon ‘satisfactorily allayed’.8 This was also the case across the region. Already in 1915, two men of Haka subdivision in the Chin Hills were ‘convicted and punished for spreading rumours of German victory’.9 At the dawn of 1917, the rumour of German victory had been widespread across the region, spreading with it a narrative of British weakness, defeat and eventual withdrawal.10 When the question of labour conscription was raised, people perceived it in different ways.11 182
Response of NE India to the First World War
They spread rumour, saying that since the British were losing the war, they were recruiting people, in the name of labour, to fight the Germans. J.M. Wright, the Superintendent of Chin Hills, for instance, remarked that the long continuance of the war followed by labour recruitment had ‘spread the idea of our (British) weakness’. The agitators also spread the story that the Labour Corps men were not really to work as labourers but were being enrolled as fighting men who certainly would all be killed by the Germans, who had already killed most of the Government troops.12 In Lushai Hills, Sainghinga also noted that people ‘kept saying that, once they reached the place (France), the authorities would put them in the line of fire (“make them shoot the enemy”)’.13 Within such rumours, the question of death became quite remarkable. Thus, it was assumed in all ways that whoever went to the warfront would surely die. It was under such tense situation that the conscription of soldiers, camp followers and labourers took place in the region during the War, involving threat, blandishments and intensive mobilization to dispel fear and confusion. The following sections discuss the responses of the people from the region, which may be broadly categorized into two – going to the War as conscripts and resistance against war conscription.
For the king and country: generous rajas, sceptic soldiers Great numbers of men from the region ‘volunteered’ for the Great War, including British officers, soldiers, tea planters and thousands of riflemen from Assam Military Police (AMP, rechristened Assam Rifles in 1917), which had then four battalions. For instance, Col. L.W. Shakespear provided the number of drafts from AMP as follows14:
No. of Drafts to Gurkha Regiments Sl. No AMP Battalion
Indian Officer Men
1 2 3 4
Lushai Hills Battalion Lakhimpur Battalion Naga Hills Battalion Darrang Battalion Grand total
3 5 23
720 649 3,174
723 654 3,197
France, Egypt, Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, North Persia, and NW Frontier of India
He said that since 1916, the AMP was supplying drafts to Gurkha Regiments for the First World War ‘at an average of 200 men a month until the end of 1917 when Kuki rebellion obliged these Army drafts to be discontinued’. Of the drafts from AMP, 5 Indian officers and 237 other ranks were killed and 6 Indian officers and 247 other ranks were wounded, whereas 11 Indian officers and 69 other ranks received various honours, including 3 Indian Orders of Merit, 5 Indian Distinguished Service Medals and 12 Meritorious Service Medals.15 Similarly, Manipur state also contributed a ‘Double Company’ (two companies) of soldiers for the War. The first two years of the Great War made little difference to life in Manipur, except that rumours had to be constantly and satisfactorily allayed. In 1916, however, when the Maharaja of Manipur offered a ‘Double Company’ for the War (which was accordingly accepted by government), there was, for a time, a considerable tension and opposition in the valley. The proposed ‘Double Company’ was for an active war service, which should be sent to Lansdowne and attached for training to the 3/39th Garhwal Rifles. The news of this led to considerable uneasiness and opposition from the valley population, which had nearly taken the state into a serious trouble had not the Maharaja himself immediately intervened to restore confidence. It was reported that such fear and opposition was due to ignorance, ultra-conservatism and the fear of being impressed. In order to evade conscription, many young men pretended to go for trading to Burma and in the hills.16 Considering the rumour circulating across the region, that Germans were notorious and were winning the war, their fear was not without substance. However, to allay their fear, the Maharaja toured around the valley, explaining the matters to people, and held a darbar at Imphal attended by the headmen of all Manipuri villages in the valley. This resulted into dispelling their fears and uneasiness and hence recruitment was done ‘without much difficulty’ after that. Recruitment started successfully in the early autumn of 1916, and the first draft of 182 men left on 11 December 1916. A second draft of 57 men left on 5 February 1917 and a third, somewhat smaller draft, to replace men returned unfit, was ready to start at the end of 1917.17 During their training at Lansdowne, the Maharaja himself visited them in February 1917. After their training, they were ordered to go on active service in Mesopotamia during 1917–1918. Mr. Blackie, the Private Secretary of the Maharaja, and who had a considerable knowledge 184
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of Manipur and the Manipuri language, was appointed to the Indian Army reserve of officers and has been appointed to command the Manipuri contingent.18 The Maharaja of Manipur also contributed ₹40,830 towards the expenses of the ‘Double Company’. He also contributed an aeroplane and two motor ambulances at a cost of ₹22,500.19 Besides, he had also donated to various war funds and memorials. Similarly, the Raja of Tripura also contributed for the War ₹1 lakh, besides an annual contribution of ₹15,000 during the continuance of the War. He also sent 800 shirts for the 11 Rajputs serving in Mesopotamia. At the request of the Munitions Board, Tripura state also contributed 23,000 bamboo for revetment work in Mesopotamia. There was also an effort to obtain men for the army and the darbar had offered in cash ₹25 or a free grant of six bighas of land for those who had enlisted from the state. Thus, in the course of the War, about 40 men enlisted in the army.20 Several chiefs in the Chin Hills had also donated to the War Relief Fund; among them were Zahau chief Van Ngul and Falam chief Van Hmung, who donated ₹1,000 and ₹744, respectively.21
A long march to France: reluctant coolies, elated warriors By the turn of 1916, the British War Office required 50,000 Indian labourers for France. The Assam government offered 8,000 men after consulting the district officers who had, through some local associates, expressed confidence to recruit that number of labourers. Yet, the news of conscription soon generated sense of unease and opposition among the people. Considering the prevailing rumours of deception and death, along with the idea of British weakness and eventual defeat, such opposition was not without any substance. In Manipur, for instance, S. Kanrei noted: On receiving this call, folks in every village were apprehensive about being sent to a war and that too in a distant land. So, when the konbaks (hill peon) came calling, they were met with total refusal. The hill people voiced their dissent by saying: ‘even if the government punishes us, we will not go. It is better to die at home rather than die in a war or in a distant place’.22 The Kuki chiefs of the region circulated their traditional sajam (pieces of meat) among the Kukis, ‘inciting them to swear an oath, sealed by eating the flesh, not to go to France’.23 In Lushai Hills, Sainghinga also noted that ‘several elderly men and women strongly expressed the opinion that they would never allow their children to be sent to die’.24 In the Chin Hills, Mrs. Laura Carson noted that chief after chief came to her and said that ‘they would commit suicide rather than go’ to France.25 Their various folksongs composed during this time also strongly expressed their dissent to labour conscription; they are unwilling 185
to send their ‘darling’ to France only to die there.26 The fear of death was so remarkable here that opposition was also ‘total’. Therefore, dispelling the rumours and removing fear from their mind had become the primary objective of mobilization in the beginning. All district officers were, therefore, ordered to tour the hill villages, allay their fears and bring them in for ILC. Yet, in most places, they still found opposition. With opposition from all corners, the government was left with no option but a careful deployment of threat (despite the general policy of voluntarism) and blandishments. While blandishments certainly brought down some hillmen to their toe, threat produced two complex situations. Some hillmen gave in to the conscription due to fear of punishment, while others, who continue to defy threat, took up arms when force was used, the point we will come back to shortly. Of the blandishments, the hillmen were offered, besides the liberal pay (₹20 per month), gratuities and certain specific local/individual incentives, a lifetime exemption from house tax and forced labour. The latter exemptions, the two most unpopular colonial ‘taxes’ in the hills, were certainly a ‘great thing’ in those days.27 Yet, it was only after they were threatened with punishment for defying orders, and that the question of death was removed in their mind, such as by assuring that they will be deployed far away from the warfronts and so on, that these incentives had become effective. For instance, after giving a long lecture to the Tangkhul headmen at Ukhrul, explaining to them not only about the material incentives being offered but also allaying their fears of the War and death, J.C. Higgins, the officer incharge of recruiting labour in Manipur, found that the headmen ‘stood up’ and told him that ‘they could not go’ to France. He was told that France was ‘too far away’ and they were ‘afraid to go there, and would sooner die near their wives and children than in a distant country’. Having no other option left, Higgins then threatened them with punishment for defying order. He told them that he would return with the sepoys from Imphal and ‘reduce them to a more pliant frame of mind’. To Higgins, such threat was decisive, as the Tangkhul headmen, one after another, came to him the following day and promised him to supply men.28 This was the case in many other places as well. In a geography where military violence was the rule for non-compliance, surely such threat was enough to convince the hillmen that it was foolish to refuse inducements offered and more foolish to disobey order and face repression. Although the government considered such threat as ‘injudicious methods of recruitment for Labour Corps’, the fact that it had happened in many places cannot be ignored. Once the idea of death was sufficiently removed through close interaction, and enough threat with military repression was exerted, many hillmen started ‘volunteering’ for the Great War, if ‘voluntary’ is an inappropriate term to use here. The hillmen as ‘volunteer’ came in various ways. Some 186
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came purely due to fear of punishment, some for the material incentives, some for local fame and still some for all. If material incentives are taken as one general inducement attracted to all, many have decided to go to France against all odds from their larger community due to certain specific incentive the War had offered them. For instance, 750 Kukis had joined Manipur Labour Corps in the face of general opposition from their larger community mainly due to the promise of full redemption from their huge debt incurred during the ‘bamboo’ famine of 1911–1912.29 To a large part of the hillmen who had ‘volunteered’ for ILC, evidence also suggested that they went to France with the hope of becoming a ‘warrior’ in local society. I have discussed this in much detail elsewhere. Here, it is suffice to note that many of them joined ILC not as a mere ‘coolie’ for wage and incentives but as ‘soldiers’ and ‘warriors’ on a common project of the War. Seen from the changing warrior tradition under colonialism, the Great War had indeed offered many young men the much coveted trophy of the hill warriors. In Naga Hills, for instance, J.H. Hutton noted that 1,000 Semas men had ‘volunteered’ to work in France in the ‘hope for a chance of “touching meat” (heads) and thus acquiring the right to put on the coveted ornaments (of Naga warrior who took heads)’.30 In Lushai Hills, Sainghinga also similarly noted that ‘some bachelors gave their names just to catch the attention of the ladies’, the point closely intertwined with their warrior tradition. They were afraid of being left out, or as he puts it, of ‘not receiving any attention from the ladies when the volunteers return home from France’.31 To many of them, freedom from the two obnoxious hill taxes, such as house tax and corvée labour, was seen as ‘freedom’ from colonialism itself. It is from this backdrop that one can best see his long march to France as reluctant ‘coolies’ and elated ‘warriors’. More than 8,000 men from the region eventually marched to France, starting from May 1917 and return in the next year 1918–2000 men each from Manipur, Naga Hills, Khasi & Jantia Hills and Lushai Hills, and about 500 men from Garo Hills. The glowing accounts of the labourers who returned from France consisted of a kaleidoscopic view of the long march, including the tedious yet exciting journey to and from France, the weary and fearsome account of the War there, the daily work routine as business, their daily food habits, leisure time and health condition.32 To them, France was a war-torn country. Though they camped far behind the front line, the pressure of the war, such as the rattling gunfire, thundering explosion of artillery shells and fighter planes, and so on, always kept them ‘nervous’. At times, they were ordered to leave their camps. It was under such pressing heat of the war that the labourers took up their routine works, and leisure. Of their daily routine, Lt. Gen. Sir H.V. Cox, for instance, noted range of works like salvaging, levelling and preparing aerodromes, loading and unloading trucks of heavy material, munitions of war, supplies, RESD, 187
ammunition dumps, workshops, feeding sawmills and in rough carpentry, road constructions and so on.33 The accounts of labourers also attested the different works they have engaged with in France, which also includes the clearing of snow and debris from the roads, repairing roads, packaging, etc.34 While some labourers felt the works being ‘toilsome’, others felt that they ‘never do any heavy work’ but ‘leisurely’.35 Their regimented daily work routine was from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a lunch break from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Homesickness further aggravated the monotony of work routine. The heavy demand for ‘notebooks’ for writing letters to home was one pointer, besides the various accounts of the labourers.36 Yet, in order to kill the monotony of work, loneliness and beneath the hectic war formation, it is interesting to note certain forms of recreation at the evening gathering in the camps and on holidays. A visit to nearby hamlets for ‘photography’, ‘shopping’ and ‘sightseeing’ on Sundays was one common form of recreation for the labourers.37 Singing together with British soldiers and Sunday worship services was another. The Lushai Corps even built their own makeshift ‘canteen’ and ‘recreation hall’. They contributed money, purchased a ‘bioscope’ (cinema) and watched movies in their free time.38 However, the most exciting moment was, as Kanrei noted, ‘an inter-Company football match’ every Sunday when people from ‘almost all the nations’ (including English, French, Italian, African, Burmese, Chinese, Indian and American spectators) came ‘in thousands to see these matches’.39 Despite hectic works, the health condition of the labourers was, except during the chilling winter, said to be ‘satisfactory’.40 The regular provision of items like rice, meat, drink and tobacco in the camps was certainly a luxury to the hillmen. No wonder, Kanrei would say: ‘Just like travellers, we were being fed with good food’.41 They were also provided with good medical facilities. The chilly winter, described to be ‘indescribable’, however, caused a heavy toll on them. Many of them also died due to sickness. The common sicknesses were tubercular glands, measles, influenza, debility, myzoedema, endocarditic, syncope, beri beri, VDH Metral, anaemia and so on.42 In many camps, for instance, beri beri epidemic broke out due to the Burmese rice.43 The total death figure may be gleaned from the various memorials at different district headquarters in Northeast India: 71 persons from Lushai Labour Corps, 67 from Khasi Labour Corps and 58 from Garo Labour Company. Most of the Northeast labourers returned home in 1918 at different times. Grand receptions were organized in different district headquarters where they were given a ‘hero’ welcome and regaled with ‘big feast’. In Manipur, for instance, there was a grand reception ceremony at Imphal’s Pologround where the Maharaja of Manipur (with his wife and children) and the Political Agent delivered messages and for the ‘big feast’ 100 pigs were sanctioned.44 Similarly, the Lushai Labour Corps were given a ‘welcome treat’ at Silchar at the cost of ₹5,300 and then a grand reception at 188
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Aizawl.45 At Kohima, the Chief Commissioner of Assam himself participated where, as F. Kingdon Ward remarked, ‘a great festival was held’. In the grand reception, ‘all the tribes sent their warriors to dance … in full war paint’ where ‘several of the warriors who had come home from France joined in the dance wearing German helmets, which they had picked up on the field of battle’.46 To them, the German helmets represent the trophy of the War, equivalent to the human heads they had previously valued, and hence received similar warrior status in the local society, the point I elaborated elsewhere. The reception at their respective village was on similar line, where they were celebrated as ‘warriors’ who returned from the war.
A long war at home: the forgotten Great War theatre When most tribes gave in to the colonial threat and blandishments, the Kukis and Haka-Chins of the region insisted that they should be exempted from going to France.47 Several British officers ascribed their attitudes of being untamed, yet not having suffered from colonial repressive force. Yet, most scholars found the answer from a series of grievances against colonial intrusive policies such as against their independence. Labour conscription was just a mere spark.48 While they still chose to resolve the problem with negotiation, the Political Agent incharge of Manipur, J.C. Higgins, took 50 rifles to Mombi (Lonpi) Kuki village and burnt down on 17 October 1917.49 This incident provoked them so much that they finally decided to take up arms against the British.50 The rising and the military operations to suppress it was officially known as ‘Kuki rebellion’ and ‘Kuki Operations’, respectively. Historians called this event as the Anglo-Kuki War 1917–1919. While the war broke out in Haka subdivision of the Chin Hills in November 1917, in Manipur it took some more time for preparation. The Kukis held a series of war councils in different parts of the Kuki hills and then prepared for the showdown that eventually broke out when the first military column was sent against the Kukis of Ukha hills in last week of December 1917.51 While Haka uprising was suppressed very soon, the military operations against the Kukis went on for almost two years. I have discussed this course in much detail elsewhere.52 Official account put the course of the Anglo-Kuki War into five phases53: 1. April to December 1917, during which the trouble was brewing; 2. December 1917 to mid-April 1918, during which the first attempt at the suppression of the rebellion was made; 3. April to October 1918, during which the Kukis raided and harried loyal tribesmen and interrupted traffic; 4. November 1918 to April 1919, when operations under military direction were in progress and the rebels were systematically attacked and disarmed; 189
5. The stage of punishment and reconstruction. This official time span extends to over seven years, from April 1917 to the period of ‘punishment and reconstruction’, which went on for about four years after April 1919. The military operations covered an area of over 6,000 square miles of rugged mountain surrounding the valley of Manipur, extending over to the Somra Tract, Thaungdut State and Chin Hills in Burma.54 The operations were carried out under one military command (in the second phase) with 6,234 combatants, 696 non-combatants, 7,650 transport carriers and others. It cost the government a total of ₹2.8 million.55 All those who participated in the operations were awarded the two Great War medals – the British War Medal 1914–1919 and the Victory Medal.56 Therefore, the Anglo-Kuki War was not only directly connected to the First World War but it had also been the forgotten ‘theatre’ of the Great War. The Anglo-Kuki War has been officially understood as ‘the most formidable with which Assam has been faced for at least a generation’ and ‘the most serious incident in the history of Manipur’.57 It was also known as the ‘largest series of military operations’ in the eastern frontier of India, eclipsed only by the Second World War in the region in 1944.58 While the Kuki war tactic was largely defensive in character, following guerrilla warfare with their old flintlocks, muzzle-loaders and traditional leather cannons, the war witnessed one of the worst counterinsurgency operations in colonial world.59 It has a close comparison of ‘butcher and bolt’ wars in North-West Frontier of India or of the ‘blockhouse’ operations in the Boer Wars. Yet, it is unique in its own form determined by its geography of military operations. Officially known as the ‘enclosed area’ system, the ‘Kuki Operations’ was driven on the ‘strategical principle of posts and flying columns’, where the entire hostile theatre was divided into six sections/areas, each enclosed by a chain of outposts, and within which strong mobile columns were deployed ‘to do all damage possible’.60 The soldiers did their bit on the ‘plan’ laid out by Lieutenant General H.D.U. Keary, who commanded over the entire operations: The post patrols will keep close touch between posts and endeavour to hem the rebels inside the enclosed area wherein the stronger mobile columns can hunt them down and at the same time destroy rebel villages and sequestrate or destroy livestock and supplies. The rebel will be given no rest and attempts at preparing ground for cultivation or running up temporary villages will be frustrated.61 The strategy was ‘to end the Kuki revolt by force of arms, break the Kuki spirit, disarm the Kukis, exact reparation and pave the way for future administration of their country’.62 Thus, one witnessed one of the worst military 190
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operations throughout the colonial world where the whole Kuki population were declared ‘rebels’ and their resistance was brutally suppressed by ‘force of arms’, practically scorching the Kuki country to the earth. Only in the second phase, a total of 126 Kuki villages were burnt down, 16 villages deserted and 140 villages forced to surrender, besides the whole live and dead stock were completely reduced to ashes.63 The official figure of casualties on the Kuki side was 120, whereas 60 soldiers (including 1 British officer) were killed, 142 wounded (including 3 British officers) and 97 died due to diseases. About 393 coolies also died – 7 killed in crossfire and the rest by diseases.64 While their leaders were kept ‘under personal restraint’ at Sadiya (Assam) and Taungyi (Burma) for three years, collective punishment was given to the Kuki community against conventions. They were incarcerated in ‘concentration camps’ during the war, and after the war, made to pay reparation for all the damage caused to friendly villages and coerced to work in different government projects as communal penal labourers for about five years.65 With the suppression of the rising in April 1919, the whole Kuki country was annexed and put under direct administration. The ‘Kuki Operations’ remained relatively unknown and invisible to press, humanitarians and Indian and world war historiographers, partly because it was relatively insignificant to the Great War fought in Europe during the same time, and partly due to its geographical remoteness and government policy to carry out the operations in secret isolation from the world. The whole episode of colonial violence was confined in the colonial archives when the only press communiqué issued by Assam government in February 1918 evoked furore from Indian nationalists. For instance, the New India, mouthpiece of the India Home Rule Movement, made a scathing attack on the British government, criticizing that while the British condemned German atrocities in Europe, its bureaucrats in India had committed the same act of ‘tragic inhumanity’ and the ‘brute force in all its hideous nakedness’ under its flag. It demanded ‘immediate cessation of the brutality’ and for the institution of ‘a searching enquiry’.66 The India newspaper in London, mouthpiece of Indian National Congress, also criticized on similar ground. It also demanded that the matter should be taken up in the British Parliament.67 The matter had been so secreted from the world that even the missionaries, who were eyewitness to the inhuman operations, did not dare to speak out. Exception to this rule was Mrs. Laura Carson we have noted above.68 In her memoir, published in 1927, she termed the military operations as ‘shameless’, ‘brutal’ and ‘inhuman’: The relief column remained behind to do a shameless thing. They went to Hniarlawn, which has been the leading village in the rebellion, and shot the cattle and hogs, confiscated the grain and fowls and burned the village a thoroughly German performance and quite 191
unworthy of the British government. The poor women and the children will have to sleep in the jungle and we are having freezing weather. I do not see what is to prevent many of them starving to death. It is brutal and inhuman and I resent it with all the strength of my soul.69 Truly, the ‘Kuki Operations’ registered one of the worst face of colonial violence in India and interrogated the British twin doctrines of ‘minimum force’ and ‘moral effect’. Here, the ‘minimum force’ doctrine assumed the form of moral force and for the ‘moral effect’ narrative. The two sit oddly to each other at the inhospitable frontier of the empire. However, the war also gained for the Kukis a special distinction as a ‘fine soldiery material’ in colonial India. They have not only proven their spirit of resistance against colonialism, but also proved themselves as a good fighter, the point duly recognized by the colonial establishment. In his estimation of the Kuki fighting spirit, Col. Ffrench-Mullen said that the Kukis ‘are born snipers’ and ‘are certainly to be called brave’ by taking a big risk in attempting to kill British officers and having ‘been known to stand the scorching fire of seven-pounder mountain guns and Lewis guns at close range’.70 Lieutenant General Keary also reported that the Kukis were able to ‘neutralize’ the modern weapons used against them with their old firearms and tactics and ‘were not lacking in courage or skill’. He, therefore, recommended that they should form part of the colonial armies in the future.71 Colonel Shakespear also said that fighting the Kukis ‘was disconcerting and most difficult to deal with’.72 Such a difficulty is described by Lieutenant Colonel Ffrench-Mullen: There is nothing more disheartening to troops than chasing the elusive savage through his dense jungles never really scoring off him, on the contrary suffering daily casualties with the very remote chance if lucky of ‘downing’ a sniper. Always every moment of the 24 hours, whether in the camp or on the march (they were) in danger of a shot from the surrounding jungle. Nothing to show for weeks and months of effort, no rest and no relaxation of mind or body, bad food and an entire absence of the amenities of life. These operations have no glamour for those engaged, far from it. They are thankless, disagreeable jobs which have to be got over and which involve a serious risk to life and health.73 It was a thankless job for the troops not only because of the harsh geography but more importantly due to the war tactics the Kukis had adopted, in which they put the troops ‘always’ in danger while they remained ‘elusive’ from them.74 At their various stockades in the hills, the Kukis had also however confronted the military columns on many occasions, causing several 192
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casualties on both sides. Ultimately, it was, however, the triumph of the empire against the wretched tribe, the trained army against traditional warriors, mountain guns and Stokes mortars against leather cannons and the modern weaponry against condemned old flintlocks.75 The fact that the war could go on for two years was mainly due to the spirit of resistance, the war tactics the Kukis had opted, and more importantly the mass participation of Kuki population in the war. For instance, Kukis used their own weapons, gunpowder, bullets, food supplies, transportations, etc., in which the participation of the mass, including women and aged, was necessary not only to fuel but also to sustain the war. It was, therefore, people’s war in many senses so much so that the whole community, except few villages who sent labour to France, was declared as ‘rebels’ by the government.76 The war ended through military brutality, yet the spirit of resistance was not. In his ethnographic survey among the Kukis during the 1920s, William Shaw was surprised to see that despite being bitten badly, ‘their tails are not down’ and he heard them saying that ‘they hope to become a “Raj” some day’.77 He went on to say that the Kukis ‘believe that they are destined to be rulers of their earth and not to be submissive to any one. … They do not consider themselves beaten yet and still brood over the future ahead of them’.78 This hope came during the Second World War, when the Japanese and Indian National Army (INA) appeared in the frontier for help. The Kukis joined the INA in large numbers and assisted them in whatever they could.79 The defeat of Japanese and INA once again dashed their aspiration for freedom to the ground.
Postscript The Great War generated not only a number of heroes and warriors in the local society but it had also broken their worldview in many ways. The thousands of young men who had been exposed to the open world of ‘civilization’ and technology were not only conducted by their traditional notion of things but were also guided by the new world they had confronted. The reorienting effect of the new world they had experienced outside their hills would surely have a long-term ramification in their villages and hills. For instance, their accounts show how the hillmen, collected from different parts of the hills and who had not known each other before, had gradually developed a sense of belongingness to the same geography, society, culture and community they shared in the face of ‘others’. Such sense of belongingness, some scholars argued, sowed the seed of, which later developed into ‘ethnonationalism’. Although this cannot be exaggerated, it cannot be completely ignored. Besides, scholars also talked about the rapid progress of English education and Christian conversion movement in the hills, which in turn led to major cultural changes. Thus, the new sociocultural renaissance in many parts of the region after the War was connected to the Great 193
War. Thus, while many young men received the status of hero warriors within the local warrior tradition, both by going to France, and fighting the British troops at home, they were bitten by the new ideas of ‘civilization’ and ‘advancement’ that changed not only their worldview beyond their traditional warrior tradition but also had major sociocultural changes in the hills. These frontier dimensions of the Great War not only added our knowledge of the War itself but also redefined the totality of the War which produced direct and indirect consequences in the remotest hills. If the world war that was thought to be ‘Europeans’ is no more Europe’s war, the war which was claimed to be the ‘just war’ at Europe is no more a ‘just’ war at the frontier of the empire. The frontier’s war, which the Great War had triggered, was brutally suppressed, releasing enormous amount of organized violence, which the Empire had condemned on the European soil – indiscriminate village-burning; wholesale destruction of food grains, properties and livestock; prevention of cultivation and rebuilding of villages; mass displacement to the ‘concentration camps’; and collective punishment (penal labour) after the War. This not only interrogated the very idea of ‘minimum force’ doctrine the British Empire was proud of but also directly exposed its concealed ‘moral effect’ doctrine often carried out under its flag. If the Anglo-Kuki war, and such other wars in the colonies, was certainly a liberation movement triggered by the War situation at the frontier, it will also continuously challenge the colonial idea of ‘civilized’ warfare at the root.
Notes 1 Laura S. Carson, Pioneer Trails, Trials and Triumph, New York: Baptist Board Publication, 1927, p. 227. 2 ‘Double Company’ implies to simply two companies of soldiers. Manipur sent altogether more than 239 soldiers for the First World War. 3 For earlier works on ILC, see, for instance, Pratap Chetri, ‘North East and the First World War’, Eastern Panorama, May, 2015. http://www.easternpanoram a.in/index.php/otherarticles/1562015/may2015/3144; Radhika Singha, ‘The Recruiter’s Eye on ‘the Primitive’: To France – and Back – in the Indian Labour Corps, 1917–1919’, in J.E. Kitchen, et al. (eds.), Other Combatants, Other Fronts: Competing Histories of the First World War (Newcastle upon Tyne, 2012), pp. 199–223; Radhika Singha, ‘The Short Career of the Indian Labour Corps in France, 1917–1919’, International Labor and Working-Class History, 87 (2015), pp. 27–62; Radhika Singha, ‘Finding Labor from India for the War in Iraq: The Jail Porter and Labour Corps, 1916–1920’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 49 (2007), pp. 412–45. 4 As quoted in J.L.K. Pachuau and W. Schendel, The Camera as Witness: A Social History of Mizoram, Northeast India, New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 189–90. See also Sainghinga, Indopui 1914–1918: Mizote France Ram Kal Thu (in Mizo) (Aizawl, n.d), pp. 1–2. (Sainghinga was one of the head clerks of the Lushai Labour Corps. This is his memoir.) 5 Pachuau and Schendel, Camera as Witness, pp. 189–90; Sainghinga, Indopui, p. 2.
Response of NE India to the First World War
6 People also practically felt the War with inflation. See Pachuau and Schendel, Camera as Witness, pp. 189–90; Sainghinga, Indopui, p. 2. 7 British Library, London (BL), Asian and African Collections (formerly Oriental and India Office Collections), Indian Office Records and Private Papers (hereafter IOR), IOR/L/PS/10/724: 1917–1920, File No. P-2686/1919: Lt. Col. J.L.W. Ffrench-Mullen, DIG, Burma Military Police to IGP Burma, 17 September 1918. 8 Robert Reid, History of the Frontier Areas Bordering on Assam from 1883– 1941, Guwahati: Spectrum, 1997 , pp. 94–95. 9 BL, IOR/L/PS/10/724: 1917–1920, File No. P-2686/1919: J.M. Wright, Superintendent, Chin Hills to DIG, Military Police, Burma, 20 July 1918. 10 BL, IOR/L/PS/10/724: 1917–1920, File No. P-2686/1919: J.M. Wright, Superintendent, Chin Hills to DIG, Military Police, Burma, 20 July 1918. 11 For details of arrangement made and recruitment process, see Assam State Archives, Dispur (hereafter ASA), File No. H-281P of 1917, Political – A, December 1917, Nos. 39–80: ‘Recruitment of Labour Corps from Assam for Service in France’. 12 BL, IOR/L/PS/10/724: 1917–1920, File No. P-2686/1919: J.M. Wright, Superintendent, Chin Hills to DIG, Military Police, Burma, 20 July 1918. 13 Pachuau and Schendel, Camera as Witness, p. 190; Sainghinga, Indopui, p. 3. 14 L.W. Shakespear, History of the Assam Rifles, Guwahati: Spectrum, 1980 , p. 245. 15 Shakespear, Assam Rifles, p. 245. 16 Reid, History of the Frontier Areas, pp. 94–95; MSA, R-3/3/S-1: ‘History of the 1st Battalion Manipur Rifles’. 17 MSA, R-3/3/S-1: ‘History of the 1st Battalion Manipur Rifles’. 18 Reid, History of the Frontier Areas, pp. 94–95; MSA, R-3/3/S-1: ‘History of the 1st Battalion Manipur Rifles’. 19 Reid, History of the Frontier Areas, pp. 94–95. 20 See Chetri, ‘North East and the First World War’, Eastern Panorama, May 2015. 21 Pum Khan Pau, ‘The “Haka uprising” in Chin Hills, 1917–1918’, in J. Guite and T. Haokip (eds.), The Anglo-Kuki War 1917–1919: A Frontier Uprising against Imperialism during the First World War, Routledge, September, 2018, p. 81. 22 S. Kanrei, Apuk Apaga Rairei Khare: France Khava, 1917–18 (in Tangkhul), Ukhrul: p.c, 1974, p. 2. (S. Kanrei was assistant interpreter in Manipur Labour Corps. This is his memoir.) 23 Manipur State Archives, Imphal (hereafter MSA), R-2/231/S-4: ‘Tour Diary 1916–1918’ – Tour Diary of J.C. Higins, 4 April 1917. 24 Pachuau and Schendel, Camera as Witness, p. 190; Sainghinga, Indopui, p. 3. 25 Carson, Pioneer Trails, p. 227. 26 One of the songs read: ‘I could not think of my children becoming orphans; I am afraid they’ll lose their father; It is a bad idea to fight against the Germans’. Or ‘All the nations and people are crying; Different races are dying in the hands of the Germans; I cannot let my darling to go there’. See Sainghinga, Indopui, p. 3. 27 Sainghinga, for instance, remarked that ‘it was a great thing to be exempted from forced labour’ and ‘house tax’ in those days. Kanrei similarly felt that lifetime exemption from khazana (house tax), thoukai (porterage), and begari (forced labour) was a great thing. See Sainghinga, Indopui, p. 4; Kanrei, Apuk Apaga Rairei Khare, p. 9. 28 MSA, R-2/231/S-4: Tour Diary of J.C. Higgins, 6–9 April 1917. 29 Kukis of southwestern hills of Manipur were still indebted to the tune of ₹55,892/– by this time. See ASA, File No. 129H of 1918, Pol. B, February 1919, No. 378: ‘Note’ by W.A. Cosgrave, 30 June 1918.
30 J.H. Hutton, The Sema Nagas, Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1921, p. 173. 31 Sainghinga, Indopui, p. 5. 32 See Sainghinga, Indopui; Indopui; Kanrei, Apuk Apaga Rairei Khare. See also W. Chubanungba Ao, Havildar Watingangshi Ao Longkhum: Off the Coast of Tunis 1917, Shillong, 2017 (hereafter Havildar Watingangshi). Watingangshi Ao was one of the headmen of the Naga Labour Corps. This is his autobiography written by his son. 33 ASA, File No. H – 11Pol, Pol. B, September 1919, No. 538: ‘Diary of Tour in France, 27th February to 8th March 1918, of Lt. Gen. Sir H.V. Cox, accompanied by Lt. Col. Lord Ampthill’, 7 March 1918 (hereafter Diary of H.V. Cox). Field Marshall D. Haig, the Commander-in-Chief of British Armies in France, also reported that, among other works, the ILC were employed in ‘salvage, unloading and stacking, forestry, charcoal burning, leveling and draining sites, quarrying and repairing roads’. ASA, File No. H – 11Pol, Pol. B, September 1919, No. 567: D. Haig, Field Marshall, Commander-in-Chief, British Armies in France, 18 May 1918. See also ASA, File No. H – 11Pol, Pol. B, September 1919, No. 541: Capt. C.J. Mudigan, 25 September 1917. 34 Kanrei, Apuk Apaga Rairei Khare, pp. 24–25, 28; Havildar Watingangshi, p. 45; Sainghinga, Indopui. 35 Havildar Watingangshi, p. 45; Kanrei, Apuk Apaga Rairei Khare, p. 40. 36 ASA, File No. H – 11Pol, Pol. B, September 1919, No. 538: ‘Diary of H.V. Cox’, 7 March 1918. The local officers were told to keep sending letters to the warfronts so that the labourers should not feel being forgotten. See ASA, File No. 66H of 1918, Pol. B, October 1918, No. 27: RG Black to Webster, 23 December 1917; No. 28: Webster to RG Black, 25 December 1917. Sainghinga noted that whenever they received a letter from home, they read them ‘instantly’ and ‘wrote replying letters immediately’. See Sainghinga, Indopui, 13. 37 Sainghinga, Indopui, p. 17; Kanrei, Apuk Apaga Rairei Khare, p. 34; Havildar Watingangshi, p. 46. 38 Sainghinga remarked: ‘Most of us did not see a bioscope before and we all enjoyed it very much’. Sainghinga, Indopui, p. 15. 39 Kanrei, Apuk Apaga Rairei Khare, p. 32. 40 ASA, File No. H – 11Pol, Pol. B, September 1919, No. 538: ‘Diary of H.V. Cox’. 41 Kanrei, Apuk Apaga Rairei Khare, p. 40. 42 See ASA, File No. H – 11Pol, Pol. B, September 1919, Nos. 573, 574, 574 and 576. 43 Capt. A.S. Campbell reported that ‘about 10% of the [39 Manipur Labour] Company became casualties’ and it was eliminated by altering their rations – a smaller quantity of rice with vegetables and eggs. Lt. Col. E.P. Anderson reported that it took epidemic proportion among the 22 Khasi Company in February 1918. ASA, File No. H – 11Pol, Pol. B, September 1919, No. 543: Capt. A.S. Campbell to AD Labour Third Army, 20 February 1918, and No. 540: Lt. Col. E.P. Anderson to Labour Commandant Fifth Army, 26 February 1918 (also No. 548). VDH means valvular heart disease. 44 Kanrei, Apuk Apaga Rairei Khare, p. 51; ASA, File No. 129H of 1918, Feb. 1919, No. 373: W.A. Cosgrave to J.E. Webster, 27 June 1918. 45 See Sainghinga, Indopui; ASA, File No. H – 11Pol., Pol. B, September 1919, No. 554: Capt. A. Chrystall to Chief Secretary Assam, 2 August 1918; No. 558: Reception Speech of Capt. A. Chrystall, C/O 69 Garo Labour Company. 46 D.G. Hogarth, F. Kingdon Ward and J.P. Mills, ‘The Assam–Burma Frontier: Discussion’, The Geographical Journal, 67.4 (1926): 299–301, quotation from p. 300.
Response of NE India to the First World War
47 Kuki principal chief Chengjapao went to Imphal for negotiation in May 1917 but he was arrested. Similarly, another principal chief Pache was also arrested when he went to Imphal for negotiation in August 1917. About 40 Kuki chiefs of western hills met Higgins at Oktan (in the hills) on 10–11 October 1917 where they were told to prepare for another meeting shortly for another round of negotiation when the talk failed. See BL, IOR/L/PS/10/724: 1917–1920, File No. P-6933/1919: J.E. Webster to Foreign Secretary GOI, 27 June 1919, File No. 383/1919: Webster to Foreign Secretary GOI, 7 November. 1917; D.L. Haokip (ed.), Documents of Anglo-Kuki War 1917–1919, Imphal: Reliable Publication, 2017: J.C. Higgins to Chief Secretary, Assam, 24 November 1917; MSA, R-2/230/S-4: Tour Diary of JC Higgins, dated 10 and 11 October 1917. 48 See Gautam Bhadra, ‘The Kuki (?) Uprising (1917–1919): Its Causes and Nature’, Man in India, 55:1 (1975), 10–56; Guite and Haokip (eds.), The Anglo-Kuki War 1917–1919. 49 See MSA, R-2/230/S-4, Higgins Tour Diary, dated 13–18 October 1917. 50 Exact dates are not available in the sources, but it was known that meetings were held, for instance, at Ukha, Henglep, Longya, Jampi, etc. Ngulkhup, Mombi chief, declared his country closed to the British officers. See Haokip, Documents of Anglo-Kuki War, pp. 65–74; MSA, R-2/230/S-4: Higgins Tour Diary, 1, 8 November and 1 December 1917. 51 The last of such war council was held at Chassad, in which J.B. Marshall, Deputy Commissioner, Upper Chindwin District, Burma, reported that the Kukis ‘resolved not to obey any orders or summons from Government and to fight if Government tried to enforce orders’. The Chassad Chief Pache then circulated bullets to all the Kuki chiefs ‘with instruction to resist forcibly any attempt to impress coolies or to burn villages’. BL, IOR/L/PS/10/724: 1917–1920, File No. 2686/1919: ‘Report on the Rebellion of the Kukis’ by J.B. Marshall, DC, Upper Chindwin District. n.d. Haokip, Documents of Anglo-Kuki War, pp. 65–74. 52 See Jangkhomang Guite, ‘Fighting the white men until the last bullet’: General course of Anglo-Kuki War’, in Guite and Haokip (eds.), The Anglo-Kuki War 1917–1919, pp. 37–77. 53 BL, Mss. Eur E 325/13: 1920, ‘Extract from the proceeding of the Chief Commissioner of Assam in Political Department’ by A.W. Botham, 27 September 1920. 54 Ibid. 55 BL, Mss. Eur E 325/13: 1920, ‘Extract from the proceeding of the Chief Commissioner of Assam in Political Department’ by A.W. Botham, 27 September 1920. See also BL, IOR/L/MIL/17/19/42: 1919: ‘Despatch on the Operations against the Kuki Tribes of Assam and Burma, November 1917 to March 1919’, Brig-Gen. CEK Macquoid, General Officer Commanding Kuki Punitive Measures to Lieut-Gen. Sir Henry D.U. Keary, Commanding Burma Division, Controlling Kuki Punitive Measures, 27 April 1919, Appendix-I. 56 See ASA, File No. 142/1925, Military Branch, Mil-B, June 1925, Nos. 83–175: ‘War Medals in Connections with Kuki Operations’. 57 BL, Mss. Eur E 325/13: 1920, ‘Extract from the proceeding of the Chief Commissioner of Assam in Political Department’ by A.W. Botham, 27 September 1920; Reid, History of the Frontier Areas, p. 79. 58 Shakespear, Assam Rifles, pp. 235–36. 59 Most field officers also agreed in saying that the Kukis were up against ‘the sahebs and their subordinates’ and ‘it was part of the settled policy to try always to shoot the British Officers’. ASA, GSC, Sl. 260, File No. M/64-P of 1918, Political-B, March 1919, No. 141: Cosgrave Tour Diary-II, 24 January 1918; BL,
IOR/L/PS/10/724: 1917–1920, File No. P-2686/1919: ‘Report on the Rebellion of the Kukis on the Upper Chindwin Frontier and the Operations Connected Therewith’ by J.B. Marshall, DC, Upper Chindwin District. 60 Callwell advised ‘sub-division of the theatre of war into sections, each with its commanders, its chains of posts, and its mobile columns’ and the ‘clearing the country of supplies’ so that ‘it [is] impossible for an enemy to exist in the country at all owing to no food or shelter being left’ as the ‘first step towards dealing with guerilla warfare effectively’. See C.E. Callwell, Small Wars: Their Principles and Practice, London: Harrison & Sons, 1906, p. 133. 61 BL, IOR/L/PS/10/724: 1917–1920, File No. P-5728/1918, ‘Plan of Operations against the Kuki Rebels, September 1918’, by GOC, Burma Division to Chief of Army Staff, Army Headquarters, 5 September 1918. 62 BL, IOR/L/MIL/17/19/42 (1919): ‘Despatch on the Operations against the Kuki Tribes of Assam and Burma, November 1917 to March 1919’, Lt. Gen. HD’U Keary to Chief of the General Staff, June 1919. 63 BL, IOR/L/MIL/17/19/42: 1919: ‘Despatch on the Operations’, Macquoid to Keary, 27 April 1919, Appendix-II and III. See also Shakespear, History of the Assam Rifles, 236–37. 64 BL, IOR/L/MIL/17/19/42: 1919: ‘Despatch on the Operations’, Macquoid to Keary, 27 April 1919, Appendix-II and III. 65 BL, Mss. Eur E 325/13: 1920, ‘Extract’ by A.W. Botham, 27 September 1920. 66 See the extract of New India in BL, IOR/L/PS/10/724: 1917–1920, File No. 1880/1918: ‘Burma–Assam Frontier: Disturbances among Kuki Tribesmen in Manipur’. 67 Ibid. 68 Mrs. Laura Carson was at Haka (Chin Hills) when the ‘rebellion’ broke out in 1917 and was among those holed up in the ‘Police Line’ for 22 days, being surrounded by the ‘rebels’ until re-enforcement arrived there. 69 Carson, Pioneer Trails, p. 182. 70 BL, IOR/L/PS/10/724: 1917–1920, File No. P-2686/1919: Lt. Col. J.L.W. Ffrench-Mullen, DIG, Burma Military Police to IGP Burma, 17 September 1918. 71 BL, IOR/L/MIL/17/19/42: 1919, ‘Despatch on the Operations against the Kuki Tribes of Assam and Burma, November 1917 to March 1919’, Lieut.-Gen. Sir H.D’U. Keary, GOC, Burma Division to Chief of the General Staff, Army Headquarters, June 1919. 72 Shakespear, Assam Rifles, pp. 224, 235–236. 73 BL, IOR/L/PS/10/724: 1917–1920, File No. P-2686/1919: Lt. Col. J.L.W. Ffrench-Mullen, DIG, Burma Military Police to IGP Burma, 17 September 1918. 74 See D.L. Haokip, ‘The Crafty Jungle Fighters’: Tactics, Technology and Symbols of Kuki War’, in Guite and Haokip (eds.), The Anglo-Kuki War 1917–1919, pp. 118–153. 75 See N. Kipgen, ‘Revisiting the “military”: Role of som Institution in the AngloKuki War’, in Guite and Haokip (eds.), The Anglo-Kuki War 1917–1919, pp. 211–233. 76 For a detailed discussion on why this war was of ‘people’s war’, not only the chiefs, see Pum Khan Pau, ‘The “Haka uprising” in Chin Hills, 1917–1918’, pp. 78–90; Ningmuanching, ‘As men of one country’: rethinking the history of the AngloKuki War’, pp. 168–197; Hoipi Haokip and Alfina Haokip, ‘Aphonic Partners of War: Role of Women in the Anglo-Kuki War’, pp. 237–61; Hoineilhing Sitlhou, ‘Her-story in History: Women’s Roles and Participation in the Anglo-Kuki War’, pp. 262–82, all in Guite and Haokip (eds.), The Anglo-Kuki War 1917–1919. 77 William Shaw, Notes on the Thadou Kukis, Delhi: Cultural Publishing, 1983 , p. 23.
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78 Shaw, Notes on Thadou Kukis, p. 50. 79 See J. Guite, ‘Representing Local Participation in INA-Japanese Imphal Campaign: The Case of the Kukis in Manipur, 1943–45, Indian Historical Review, 37(2), pp. 291–309.
Bibliography Primary sources British Library, London, Asian and African Collections (formerly Oriental & India Office Collections), Indian Office Records & Private Papers. Burma Military Police, 1917–1920. Mss. Eur E 325/13: 1920. Assam State Archives, Dispur (hereafter ASA). Political – A, 1917. Manipur State Archives, Imphal. Tour Diary, 1916–1918.
Secondary sources Ao, W. Chubanungba. Havildar Watingangshi Ao Longkhum: Off the Coast of Tunis 1917, Shillong, 2017. Bhadra, Gautam. ‘The Kuki (?) Uprising (1917–1919): Its Causes and Nature’, Man in India, 55(1) (1975), pp. 10–56; Guite & Haokip (eds), The Anglo-Kuki War 1917–1919. Callwell, C.E. Small Wars: Their Principles and Practice, London: Harrison & Sons, 1906. Carson, Laura S. Pioneer Trails, Trials and Triumph, New York: Baptist Board Publication, 1927. Chetri, Pratap. ‘North East and the First World War’, Eastern Panorama, May 2015. Guite, J. and T. Haokip (eds.). The Anglo-Kuki War 1917–1919: A Frontier Uprising Against Imperialism during the First World War, Routledge India, New Delhi, September 2018. Guite, J. ‘Representing local participation in INA-Japanese Imphal Campaign: The case of the Kukis in Manipur, 1943–45’, Indian Historical Review, 37(2) (2011), pp. 291–309. Haokip, D.L. (ed.). Documents of Anglo-Kuki War 1917–1919, Imphal: Reliable Publication, 2017. Hogarth, D.G.F., Kingdon Ward and J.P. Mills. ‘The Assam-Burma Frontier: Discussion’, The Geographical Journal, 67(4) (1926), pp. 299–301. Hutton, J.H. The Sema Nagas, Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1921. Indopui, Sainghinga. 1914–1918: Mizote France Ram Kal Thu (in Mizo), Aizawl, n.d. Kanrei, S. Apuk Apaga Rairei Khare: France Khava, 1917–18 (in Tangkhul), Ukhrul: p.c, 1974. Pachuau, J.L.K. and W. Schendel. The Camera as Witness: A Social History of Mizoram, Northeast India, New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2015.
Reid, Robert. History of the Frontier areas Bordering on Assam from 1883–1941, Guwahati: Spectrum, 1997 . Shaw, William. Notes on the Thadou Kukis, Delhi: Cultural Publishing, 1983 . Singha, Radhika. ‘Finding Labor from India for the War in Iraq: The Jail Porter and Labour Corps, 1916–1920’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 49 (2007), pp. 412–447. Singha, Radhika. ‘The Recruiter’s Eye on “the Primitive”’: To France—and Back— in the Indian Labour Corps, 1917–1919’, in J.E. Kitchen et al. (eds.), Other Combatants, Other Fronts: Competing Histories of the First World War, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2012. Singha, Radhika. ‘The Short Career of the Indian Labour Corps in France, 1917– 1919’, International Labor and Working-Class History, 87 (2015), pp. 27–62.
Aak Barani Bajra Chutney Dalia Dhoti Ghagra/i Gur Hakim Izzat Jajmani System
Jau Johar Jowar Kachcha House Kikar Kothi Kurta Neem Pucca House Vaid
A poisonous plant that grows in dry, sandy places Rain-fed (agriculture) Spiked millet (bulrush) Chopped and mashed onion/small stripped melon (kachri) with salt and chilly Porridge Loin cloth Petticoat Jaggery Indigenous (Yunani) curer Prestige Patron-client relationship in villages where patron (peasant) produced food (grains, etc.) and gave to his/ her clients (carpenter, blacksmith, cobbler, barber, potter, priest, etc.) for giving them their specialized services, in kind (grains, etc.) at fixed intervals, and sometimes in cash for some special services. Barley Village pond Large millet House made of sun-baked bricks Thorny tree (acasia arabica) Mansion Shirt Margosa tree House made of kiln-bricks/stones Indigenous (Ayurveda) curer
Notes: Page numbers in italics denote figures; bold denote tables. 1st Patiala Rajindra Sikhs Infantry 75 2nd/3rd Kashmir Rifles 77 2nd North Lancashires 77 3rd Gwalior Infantry 77 8th Gurkha Rifles (GR) 50, 52 8th Infantry Brigade 51 13th Rajputs 77 14th Sikhs battalion 49 15th Brigade 70 15th Kumaon Regiment 76 32nd Imperial Service Infantry Brigade 70, 75 37th Infantry Brigade 51 39th Garhwal Rifles 69 69th Punjabis 49 89th Punjabis 49 103rd Mahratta Light infantry 114 Across the Black Waters 57, 89 aggression 42–43 Ahir High School 164 Aitken, Arthur 137 American Army 50 American society 46–47 Anand, Lal Chand 57 Anand, Mulk Raj 57, 89 Anderson, Ross 106 Anglo-Kuki War 189–190 Anglo-Russian Boundary Commission 63–64 Arya Samaj 160 askari 128–129 Asquith, Herbert Henry 11, 137–138 Assam Military Police (AMP) 181, 183–184
Babu 19 Baker, Herbert 98 Bandobast Sahib 26 Banerjee, Surendranath 48 Barkawi, Tarak 42 Barker, A. J. 105 Barrès, Maurice 98 Barrett, Arthur 108 Bartov, Omar 41, 43 Basra vilayat 107 Basu, Shrabani 7 Battle of Caporetto (October 1917) 57 Battle of Ctesiphon (22–25 November 1915) 55, 110–113 Battle of Kut 110–113 Battle of Neuve Chapelle 21–22 Battle of Passchendaele 32 Battle of Somme 30 Battle of Wadi Creek 114 Beach, W. H. 75 Bedford House Cemetery, Belgium 35 Belfeld, Charles 130 bellum squadron 108–109 Bengalis 47–48 Besant, Annie 3 Beville, Charles 69 Bhagvad Gita 25 Bharatpur Infantry 78 Bhownagree, Mancherjee 14 Bikaner Camel Corps 69–70 Bikaner Sadul Light Infantry 69 Black Watch 52, 115 Boer Wars 190 Bose, Bhupendra Nath 13 Botha, Louis 127
Devi, Satoori 22–23, 23 Duff, Beauchamp 67 Durand, Mortimer 65 Dutta, Manas 6 Dyer, Reginald 35
Bourke, Joanna 43 Brayne, F. L. 165–168 British soldiers 106 British Special Service Officers (SSOs) 67 Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey, England 19, 35 Browning, C. S. 53 Buckinghamshire Light Infantry 114 Burne, Owen 64 Buxton, Sydney 134–135 Cape Corps 138–140 Captain Jhaggar Singh War Memorial, Kapurthala 82 Carson, Laura 181, 185 caste Mahasabhas 161 caste renaissance 161 Central Muslim High School, Kalanaur (Rohtak) 164 Chand, Tek 164 Chesebrough Manufacturing Company 25 Chesney, George 65 Chetti, Bal Bahadur 77–78 Chilembwe, John 134 Chin Hills 182–183 cohesion 44, 49–52 colonial Indian Army 41–42 combat motivation of sepoys/sowars/ golundazs, First World War 7, 41– 59; aggression 42–43; Bengali Hindu 48; cohesion 44, 49–52; credibility 44, 46–49; cultural uniqueness 43; dharma 43; Frontsoldatens’ 43; military leadership 44, 52–55; Punjabi Sikhs 49; readiness 44, 55–58; sense of pride 43 Comfort Committee 24 Contingent forces 64 Corrigan, Gordon 104–105 Cox, H. V. 187 credibility 44, 46–49 Crewe, Charles 135 Crowley, P. T. 106 Darling, Malcolm 169, 171 Das, Santanu 43 Dast, Mir 24 datun 168 Delamain, Walter 108, 110–112 de Moura Mendes, José Luís 135 Devi, Kesar 170 Devi, Mokhuda 48
East Africa 4, 8 East African campaign (1914–1918), Indian Army in 124–147; fighting in 1917 138–140; forces feeding, issue of 142–143; German and British military organisations 129–130; IEF-B, services of 130–132; Northern and Eastern German East Africa border (1914–1916), operations in 136–138; operations in 1918 140–141; opposing military forces 127–129; other Indian military units in 132–133; personnel and their extraordinary services in 141–142; situation on eve of Great War 126– 127; Southern German East Africa (1914–1916), operations in 134–135; strategic preparations 125–126; technology use in warfronts 143– 144; theatre of operations 133–134; warfront as disease zone 144–145; Western German East Africa border (1914–1916), operations in 135–136 Egyptian Coast Guard Camel Corps 69 Emden 130 Faridkot Sappers and Miners 77 Ffrench-Mullen, J. L. W. 182, 192 Field Service Regulations 105 First Battle of Ypres 20 First World War, India in 1–9; Allenby’s victory in Palestine 4; armies contribution 3–7; in East Africa 4, 124–147; effects 5–6; in Egypt 4; Gandhi’s attitude 2, 6; Garhwal Regiment 15–18; German Tsingtao in China 4; Haryanavi soldiers 158–173; human stories of 7, 11–37; Indian soldiery vs. French population 8; logistics 44, 55–58; Maharajas’ contribution 63–83; in Mesopotamia 3–5, 104–119; micro-nationalities 8; modernization of Indian society 9, 158–173; Northeast Indians, responses of 9, 181–194; reputation of Indian Army 8; resources 2–3; sepoys/sowars/
golundazs, combat motivation of 7, 41–59; treaty obligations 7–8 ‘flight-fight’ behaviour 42 France, Indian soldiers’ experience in 89–99; encounter 92–95; and French, taking stock of 95–98; mutual ignorance, picture of 89–92 French, John 80 Fry, Charles 110 Game of Thrones HBO Series 53 Gandhi, Kasturba 15 Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand 2, 6, 14–15, 47 Ganga Risala 19, 69 Gardner, Nikolas 105 Garewal Jats 45 Garhwal hills 17 Garhwalis 15–18, 21, 24 Garhwal Regiment 15–18, 21–22 Garo Hills 187 George, David Lloyd 138 German military 43 German Schutztruppen 50, 129–130, 142 Gewald, Jan-Bart 143 Ghadr Party 49 The Good Soldier Svejk 41, 57, 59 Gorringe, George 109, 117 Graves, Robert 92 Great War 7–9, 11, 37, 44, 46, 48, 124–147, 181–194 Greenhut, Jeffrey 104, 105 Gregory, C. H. 82 Guderian, Heinz 53 Guite, Jangkhomang 9 Gupta, Siddhartha Das 8 Gurbani 26 Gurkha Regiments 183–184 Gurkha soldiers 15, 18–19, 49–50, 98, 181–194 Guru Granth Sahib 25 Habsburg Army 59 Hamilton, W. C. 111 Hansa 19 Harrari, Yuval Noah 43 Haryanavi soldiers (case study) 158– 173; complexities, understanding 160–161; district-wise recruitment 159, 160; domestic infrastructure/ lifestyle, changes in 169–173; education, contribution to 161–164; empowerment of women, change
in 171–173; health and hygiene 167–169; houses and villages 166–167; intra-family relations, change in 171–173; miscellaneous changes 173; ‘new’ vs. ‘old’ 165– 166; perspective 158–159; social exclusivity to inclusivity 164–165; sources 159–165 Hasek, Jaroslav 41, 59 Henderson, George 7, 18, 22–23, 32 Henderson, Ian 23 Hewett, John 24 Higgins, J. C. 186 Highlanders, Seaforth 114 Hinduism 90 Hindu soldiers 19, 90–91 HMS Goliath 132 Holden, Hyla Napier 74 Home Rule Leagues 3 Hoskins, Reginald 138–139 Howell, Evelyn Berkeley 95 human stories, India in First World War 7, 11–37 Hutton, J. H. 187 Hyderabad Lancers 70–74 Iliad 98 Imperial Camel Corps 69 Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) 53 Imperial Service Brigade 131 Imperial Service Troops (IST) 55, 65–68, 70–83 India Gate, Delhi 82 India Home Rule Movement 191 India in First World War 1–9; Allenby’s victory in Palestine 4; armies contribution 3–7; in East Africa 4, 124–147; effects 5–6; in Egypt 4; Gandhi’s attitude 2, 6; Garhwal Regiment 15–18; German Tsingtao in China 4; Haryanavi soldiers 158–173; human stories of 7, 11–37; Indian soldiery vs. French population 8; logistics 44, 55–58; Maharajas’ contribution 63–83; in Mesopotamia 3–5, 104–119; micro-nationalities 8; modernization of Indian society 9, 158–173; Northeast Indians, responses of 9, 181–194; reputation of Indian Army 8; resources 2–3; sepoys/sowars/golundazs, combat motivation of 7, 41–59; treaty obligations 7–8
Indian Army 41–46; colonial 41–46; in East African campaign (1914–1918) 124–147; in France 89–99; Haryanavi soldiers 158–173; leadership 44, 52–55; logistics 44, 55–58; low castes and tribes in 45; Malerkotla support to 69; in Mesopotamia (1914–1916) 104–119; recruitment policy 45–49; TehriGarhwal support to 69; training/ tactics 44, 49–52 Indian Expeditionary Force (IEF) 8, 55, 77, 89–99, 106, 124–125, 130–133 Indian Labour Corps (ILC) 181, 187 Indian Memorial in Neuve Chapelle 19, 36, 37 inter-species struggle 42 intra-species struggle 42 Jack, George Morton 104–105 Jaipur Transport Corps 76 janeos (Brahmanical threads) 25 Jat Heroes Memorial High School 163 jihad 47 Jind Infantry 77–78 Jinnah, Mohammad Ali 14 Jodhpur Lancers 68–69, 73–75 Johal, Jaimal 23 ‘Kala Pani’ 19 Kanrei, S. 185 Karim, Abdul 71 Keary, Henry 51, 113, 190 Keegan, John 53 Kefarteer village, Chamoli (Garhwal) 16 Kemball, G. V. 113 Khan, Abbas Ali 164 Khan, Ali 69, 71, 73 Khan, Khudadad 18, 21, 35 Khan, Mohamed Afzal 75 Khasi & Jantia Hills 187 King George V 11–12 King’s African Rifles (KAR) 127–129, 139 Kitchener Hospital 27–30 Kshatriyas 161 ‘Kuki Operations’ 189–193 kukris 98 Kut al-Amara, siege of 113–118 ‘Laddie’ Roy see Roy, Indra Lal Lake, Percy 116
Lal, Ramji 161–162 Latter, Edwin 114 Lawrence, Walter 26, 28 Lee Enfield Rifle 108 Les Hindous 90 logistics 44, 55–58 Looff, Charles 130 Looff, Max 140 Lorenz, Konrad 42–43 Lushai Hills 183, 185 Lyall, James 65 Madras War Fund 79 Maharaja of Bikaner 19, 35 Maharaja of Manipur 184 Maharaja of Patiala 65 Maharaja Scindia of Gwalior 79–82 Maharajas’ contribution, First World War 63–83 Malerkotla 69 Malerkotla Sappers 69 Malik, Hardit Singh 30–33, 35 Manipur 182, 184–190 Manjood village, Chamba 16–17 Markovits, Claude 8 Marseilles 89–95 Martial Race ideology 2, 5, 15, 42, 45, 48, 91, 128 martial races of India 15 Maude, F. S. 52, 106 McClenaghan, Tony 7–8 McElroy, George 34, 106 Mehmet V 104 Mehta, Jivraj N 15 Melliss, Charles 111 Melliss, Howard 65 Mesopotamia 56, 76; campaign in 104–119; Indian Army in 104–119; Indian Expeditionary Force D in 104–119; Kut al-Amara, siege of 113–118; Kut and Ctesiphon, battles of 110–113; operations, commencement of 108–110; Ottoman Army in 105–106; Turkish forces in 105, 109–119 Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force (MEF) 51–52, 56 micro-nationalities 8 military leadership 44, 52–55 modernization of Indian soldiers (case study) 158–173 Modi, Narendra 99 Monro, Charles 55
Montagu, Samuel 3 Montagu-Chelmsford reforms of 1919 6 Montague, Edwin 48 Moreman, T. R. 105 Mukhopadhyay, Kalyan Kumar 48 Muslim soldiers 19–20, 27, 47 Mysore Lancers 70–74 Naga Hills 187 Naidu, Sarojini 15 ‘Nai Hawa’ 160–161 Naoroji, Dadabhai 13 nationalism 59 National Unionist Party 165 Naumann, Heinrich 135 Nazism 59 Negi, Darwan Singh 16–18, 18, 21, 35 Negi, Gabar Singh 7, 15–17, 17, 22, 35 Nixon, John 109–110, 112, 114, 116 Nizam of Hyderabad 64 Northeast Indians responses, First World War 9, 181–194; Great War, narratives of 182–183; march to France 185–189; postscript 193–194; rajas/soldiers 183–185; war at home 189–193 Northey, Edward 130, 134–135, 139 North West Frontier 15 O’Dwyer, Michael Francis 49 Omissi, David 104 On War 43 Orpen, William 35 Ottoman forces 51–52, 105–106 Ottomanli identity 107 Oxford Light Infantry 114 Page, Melvin 143 Panjdeh events of 1885 63–65 Panjdeh oasis 63 Parkesh 47 Pasha, Nureddin 55, 110 Pathans (Pashtun) 4, 18, 109 Patiala Lancers 70–73 Pim, Gurkha boy 27–29, 29 Polak, Henry 2 Punjab 49 Quran 25 Rahim, Abdur 14 Rai, Lala Lajpat 14 Raja of Tripura 184–185
Rajasthanis 15 Ram, Chhotu 162, 164 readiness 44, 55–58 ‘Red Baron’ see von Richthofen, Manfred religious books 25 Roberts, Frederick 65 Robertson, William 139 Rommel, Erwin 53 Roy, Indra Lal 33–35 Roy, Kaushik 7, 106 Roy, Lolita 33–34 Roy, Piera Lal 33 Roy, Poresh 33–34 Royal Flying Corps 33–34 Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) 144 Royal Pavilion Brighton: A Description of It as a Hospital for Indian Soldiers 27 RUSA programme 1 Ryan, W. Michael 106 Sandes, E. W. C. 145 Sarbadhikary, Sisir Kumar 47–48 Schnee, Heinrich Albert 129, 137 Second Battle of Ypres 24 Second World War 52 Shakespear, L. W. 183–184 Shamsul-Akhbar of Madras 47 Shapurji, Sorabji 15 Siege of Kut 55–56 Sikh soldiers 15, 18–21, 25, 49, 98 Singh, Assa 23 Singh, Bhupendra 75, 79 Singh, Bishan 94 Singh, Durga 77 Singh, Ganga 11–12, 79–80 Singh, Harnam 78 Singh, Manta 7, 18, 22–23 Singh, Pertab 12 Singh, Pratap 69 Singh, Randhir 77 Singh, Sumer 69 Singh, Summair 12 Singhji, Ranjit 12 Smith-Dorrien, Horace 137 Smuts, Jan 127, 135, 138 Snow, John 53 social change of Indian soldiers (case study) 158–173 soldiers society 44, 46–49 Southern German East Africa (1914– 1916), operations in 134–135 Spicer-Simson, Geoffrey Basil 135 Stephen, R. C. 115–116
Subsidiary alliances 64 Subsidiary Forces 64 Sukha 20, 36–37 Swadeshi Movement 166 Syk, Andrew 106 Tafel, Hauptmann Theodor 130 Tagore, Rabindranath 35 Tata, Ratan 14 Tata steel mills 5 Teen Murti Memorial, Delhi 72–73, 72, 82 Tehri-Garhwal 69 Tehri Garhwal Sappers 69 Thapa, Dal Bahadur 77–78 Theiriat, Lushai Hills 182 Tighe, Michael 131–132, 137 Tigris Corps 56, 107, 113–118 Tilak, Bal Gangadhar 3 Tiwanas 45 Tolstoy, Leo 43–44 Tombeur, Charles 135 Townshend, Charles 50–51, 105–106, 110–114 training/tactics 44, 49–52 Treaty of Versailles 35 Tripura 184–185 Turkish forces 105, 109–119
Vietnam War 46–47 Village Uplift in India 172 von Clausewitz, Carl 43 von Lettow-Vorbeck, P. E. 4, 7, 129–130, 136–137, 139–145 von Richthofen, Manfred 32 von Wissmann, Hermann 134 Vorbeck, Von-Lettow 4 Wahle, Kurt 130, 141 Wapshare, Richard 131, 137 Ward, F. Kingdon 188 Ward, L. E. S. 136 war fund 79–80 Watson, Arthur 70 Watson, Harry 70 Wavell, Archibald 44 Wavell, Arthur 136 Wehrmacht 43, 53 Wellesley, Richard, Marquess 64 Western German East Africa border (1914–1916), operations in 135–136 Willcocks, James 19, 55 Winning the Peace 167 Wintgens, Max 135 Wood, J. B. 67 Wright, J. M. 183
Urquhart, Sligger 31–32
Vaché, Jacques 98 van Deventer, Jaap 127, 135, 139–140, 144
Yadav, K. C. 9 Yorke, Edmund 143 Younghusband, G. J. 113