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Indian Soldiers in the British Army

LAURENCE REES: And, of course, those victories in Burma were won in large part by Indian soldiers fighting in the British Army.

SIR MAX HASTINGS: The Indian Army in many ways got less credit than it deserved for its part in a lot of the battles. Not only in the Far East, but also of course Indian troops fought with distinction in both the desert, in Abyssinia and in Italy. They played a very important role and the Indian Army eventually grew to a strength of 2 million men. That’s an awful lot of people, that’s nearly half the strength of the war time British Army, and they played a terrific part and of course these were all volunteers and some men who took part in the Burma campaign in end of 1944-45 knew that the game was up for the British Empire.

They knew that even though they were raising the flag again in Rangoon and Singapore really the whole business of the Empire was over, and so men like John Masters, who wrote so many wonderful books about the Indian Army, and his family had served in India for 200 years, found it enormously moving to see this great Imperial Army going down to the charge for the last time together alongside all the men in the British Units and the Berkshire Regiment and the Norfolk’s and so on. There you were getting the Rajputs, the Punjabis, the Gurkhas and all the great Imperial regiments, and there was a deep sense of romance about this last wonderful and alas completely pointless British victory.