Introduction to Germany. But because the United Kingdom does


In 1939, the second world war starts in
Europe as Germany invades Poland. At that same moment the United Kingdom and
France declare war to Germany. But because the United Kingdom does not solely
consist of the British Isles, other countries indirectly declare war to Germany
too; including India. It is only when the war is over when becomes clear that
without the Indian troops, the British would have lost the war and suffered
large defeats. The war did cost a lot of resources for the Indians but nobody outside
India ever heard about this. The Indian suffered more than we know about, not
just the soldiers.

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The Indian contribution to WWII

The war with Nazi-Germany was one that will
be remembered forever and changed the world forever. Although the war fought in
continental Europe was fierce, the Japanese in Asia caused a similar threat to
the well-being of British, Dutch and Spanish colonies. The Japanese conquered large
amounts of land stretching from New Guinea to Burma (now Myanmar). Because of
its large population and many in need of an income, India could supply large
amounts of soldiers. Several records point out that about 2.3 million to 2.5
million Indian armed forces served in the war. By Indian armed forces is also
meant the people of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal as these
countries were part of British-India. (Sharma, 2014)

Besides the large amount of soldiers who
served, a large group of people is not accounted for. According to a BBC
article of 2015, 2.5 million is just the tip of the iceberg. The article
explains that many people in India played a role in the success of the Indian
army and thus for the British army as well. However, there are no clear records
of this, just stories of mineworkers in central India, thousands of former
plantation workers who were send into the mountains to carve out a road on high
altitude towards China, while there are hundreds of records from British
soldiers in India. (Khan, 2015)

”What do we know about the thousands of
women who mined coal for wartime in Bihar and central India, working right up
until childbirth? Or the gangs of plantation labourers from southern India who
travelled up into the mountains of the northeast to hack out roads towards
Myanmar and China?” (Khan, 2015)

Monte Cassino

The second world war was an immense
expenditure for the Indian armed forces. Not just in money but also in people.
Over a duration of 6 years, 90,000 soldiers were killed, 6,000 sailors lost
their lives and 1,400 civilians were attacked by Japanese bombs. The Indian
armed forces did not just loose this amount of life within its own border but
also fought huge battles in Ethiopia, north Africa and the Middle East in name
of the British Empire. (The Economist, 2016)

For example, the Indian troops played such
a large role in the battle of Monte Cassino, Italy, that in 2007, the Italian
government organised an memorial at Monte Cassino to pay tribute to the roughly
6,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives for the freedom of Italy. Without
the battle of Monte Cassino, Italy would not have been liberated from the
fascist regime. (The Times of India, 2007)

The Bengal famine of 1943

Although many lives have been lost during
the many battles, most lives were lost during the famine the war inflicted on
the Indian population. In 1943, India paid most of its sacrifice to the war.
Because of the high costs of the war and the relative weak economy of
British-India, the country suffered from a lack of money. So in order to pay
for the war, the money press was put on a higher speed causing a large scale
inflation sometimes doubling prices. Beside from that, the already low
resources the country had were used for the war making many basic provisions
scarce. During that famine a staggering 3 million people lost their lives
making it one of the world biggest humanitarian disasters at that time and
would cause even more urge for independence. (The Economist, 2016)


Another major contribution to the war are
the many accidents in India and its factories. One accident probably caused the
most harm and sacrifice; the Bombay harbour accident of 1944. In the docks of
Bombay a freight ship, the SS Fort Stikine, caught fire. Unfortunately, the
cargo on board of this ship consisted of 1,400 tons of explosives (ammunition,
bullets, gunpowder and shells) in combination with cotton, oil and wood. The fire
and explosion caused so much direct damage that an estimated 800-1,300 people were
killed instantly while another 80,000 were left homeless. (Asher, 2015) The city centre of
Bombay was considered war zone for three days due to the burning pieces of
metal falling down on the houses and causing fire. An estimated 71 firefighters
also lost their lives fighting the fire. (Shivadekar, 2016)


The war with Germany, Japan and Italy caused
severe harm to many. But this war was initially a war declared to Germany by
the British. It is hard to understand that so many Indian armed forces fought a
war that was not even theirs and that besides so many people served directly in
the army, so many other terrible sacrifices have been made by the Indians that
no one knows about. What was most spurring to see is that all the sources used
fort this paper point out that there are no records of Indian armed forces and
the Indian people, no one will ever know how much they suffered for a war that
was not theirs.