"Black Soldiers" India Britain and WW1

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"Black Soldiers" India Britain and WW1

Postby bannerman on Wed Jul 22, 2009 6:41 pm

Hello all.
Ive just started reading a book by Timothy Ryback called 'Hitler's Private Library'. Believe it or not the man more famous for burning books than reading them owned an extensive library of 16,000 books and spent a great deal of his time reading them, sorting through them and making notes in the margins. Im only a few pages into it but on page one it mentions Hitler and the German Soldiers in France in 1915 getting intelligence information from "Black Soldiers" Indians in the British Army during WW1 who had voluntarily surrendered to the German forces. This was a subject I had been completely ignorant or at least not considered until now. I knew from the book "Tip and Run" that most people in Britain and Ireland dont realise the extent of the fighting in Africa in WW1 and I also knew that there were Black / African American and Native American soldiers involved in WW1 in the U.S. Army. But I had never considered until now the position of India as part of the British Empire during WW1.

My question is does anyone have any more information on India and Indians in WW1? Can any one recommend books etc??? The way I see it Ireland and India have a very similar colonial past both nations fought long and bitter struggles for independence (Albeit at times using different methods) Both nations largely abandoned their own native languauges in favour of English, both suffered massacres and the worst excesses of Colonial rule, The Black and Tans - The Indian Mutiny of the 1850's. Bloody Sunday 1920 - The Amristar Massacre 1911. Partition, a tradition of hunger strike etc, etc... So I have two questions

1 My main question is how does society in modern India view their peoples involvement in WW1 - i.e. does it resemble any of the contraversies that rage here about Irishmen in WW1. How were the indians recruited:- appeals to patriotisim? and promises of independence? or was it because of poverty? How many Indians Joined up? Was there conscription etc.

2 Does any one in India Re-enact WW1 British Forces/ And with the growing number of immigrants here from abroad would there be anyone from abroad settled here who would be interested in doing WW1 re-enactment that could dovetail in with whats happening here already? This could give us new insight and open up completely new areas of history to us that we had never thought about before.

And thats all before we even start on the Connaught Rangers Mutiny in India in the 1920's...

Let me know what ye think.
Padraig
http://www.warofindependence.net/

"Is doigh linn gur mor iad na daoine mora mar atamuid fein ar ar nglunaibh. - Eirimis!!!"
Jim Larkin 1913
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Re: "Black Soldiers" India Britain and WW1

Postby tommyargue on Wed Jul 22, 2009 7:27 pm

Britain, France, Belgium and Prussia were all colonial powers back then so there would've been coloured soldiers on all sides. The germans seemed to deploy their colonial troops with the most success. Google Colonel Lettow-Vorbeck, he made the best use of his troops knowledge of the terrain and their survival skills.
I want my scalps
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Re: "Black Soldiers" India Britain and WW1

Postby mock on Wed Jul 22, 2009 8:26 pm

hello padraig,
a great topic, the indian army pre 1914 numbered 155,000.
at the end of 1918 over 1.3 million indians had seen active service protecting british interests in the sub continent itself
and south east asia ceylon, hong kong,burma etc,
they fought in every theatre from east africa, palestine, mesopatamia and the western front.also gallipoli
famous regiments such as the deccan horse and the gloriuosly titled secunderabad cavalry brigade earned
respect and gratitude of the ordinary tommy.
72,000 indian soldiers lost their lives during the conflict.
books i would recommend are Sahib and Tommy both by richard holmes
ill round up a few more books for you for the next event we meet up at.
regards mock.
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86th leinster regiment
prince of wales leinster regiment
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Re: "Black Soldiers" India Britain and WW1

Postby bannerman on Thu Jul 23, 2009 5:19 pm

Great thanks lads ill check them out online. Any Idea as to how the Indians regard them today?
http://www.warofindependence.net/

"Is doigh linn gur mor iad na daoine mora mar atamuid fein ar ar nglunaibh. - Eirimis!!!"
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Re: "Black Soldiers" India Britain and WW1

Postby Cpl Flood on Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:25 am

Padraig,

There's another book called '1915' which details the actions that some of the Indian regiments and the Gurkhas were involved in that (disatrous) year. Its well written and very readable. I think the author's Elizabeth Longford. She wrote a book about Wellington too. It doesn't have any political angle but does give you an idea of how completely ill prepared Britain was for WW1.

Interestingly enough - and this relates to WW2 - the Indian Govt pay pensions to Indians who were in the Indian National Army (who fought with the Japanese) but not those that fought in the Indian (British) Army. Maybe they get British Govt pensions..but then again maybe they don't.

PS:You look the (ruthless) part in that Free State clobber by the way...no wonder the Civil War only lasted a year and a bit!
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