Indian Headgear

Discussion in 'British Indian Army' started by simonclarkson, Apr 14, 2006.

  1. simonclarkson

    simonclarkson Junior Member

    Hi all,

    I am interested to know what headgear the Indian troops wore. I understand it was a mix of soft hats, the comforters, helmets and turbans, but am interested to find out the breakdown (ie did whole companies or battalions wear turbans or was there a mix of headgears within these units). Any information or links much appreciated!

  2. simonclarkson

    simonclarkson Junior Member

    Hi all,

    I am interested to know what headgear the Indian troops wore. I understand it was a mix of soft hats, helmets and turbans, but am interested to find out the breakdown (ie did whole companies or battalions wear turbans or was there a mix of headgears within these units). Any information or links much appreciated!

  3. Gerry Chester

    Gerry Chester WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    My regiment. the North Irish Horse, supported 4th Indian Division on several occasions. Other than for Sikhs, the "tin hat" was the standard wear. There is photo of men from the Punjabi Regiment as an addendum to one of my pages.
    Go to and click on "Roncofreddo"

    Cheers, Gerry
  4. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Attached Files:

  5. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  6. handtohand22

    handtohand22 Senior Member

    Operation Crusader and Force ‘E’ When Operation Crusader was launched on November 18th 1941, Battery HQ, Y and Z Troops were attached to Force ‘E’. This group was commanded by Brigadier Reid. The other units in this group were:
    · 2 South African Field Regiment
    · C Battery, 73 Anti-Tank Regiment
    · 3/2 Punjab Regiment
    · Sec 2: Field Company S & M
    · Detachment 21 Field Ambulance
    · 29 I.B.T. Company
    · 6 South African Armoured Car Regiment

    Force ‘E’ had two main tasks during Operation Crusader. Its primary task was to protect the Western Desert Air Force from Axis attack. It was intended that a series of landing grounds would be set up as far south as Siwa. The aircraft would then be used to harass the Axis forces on the Benghazi Road.
    The secondary task was to create a diversion by attacking the series of Italian forts in their area. This diversion would draw Axis aircraft away from the main battle to the north. Operation Crusader and Force ‘E’ taskings were both launched on the same date.

    When Operation Crusader started on November 18/19 1941 the Battery Troops were in the area of Jarabub. This was south of the main battle and to the west of Siwa Oasis. X Troop were out on the ground on a Brigade exercise. At that time, Major Siderfin was in command of Coleraine Battery.
    The Force was divided into three groups. Y Troop provided AA cover for the tail-end Maintenance Column which consisted of one hundred trucks. Two guns were placed on either flank of this column.
    Battery HQ and Z Troop were responsible for providing AA protection to the other Force ‘E’ units advancing on the four Italian held forts 240 miles away at Aujila, Jikara, Jalo and Geof-el-Matar.

    Attached is a photo of 6 LAA Battery troops and the Indian troops posing for a photo after swapping their headgear.

    These final two photos were taken on January 16 1942 at the last Italian fort to be captured by the joint Indian British troops of Force E, Geof-el-Matar.

    Col Ghrobblar, Col Short, Lt M Jackson 6 LAA Bty and Capt Pearson are lined up to be presented with their Military awards by Brigadier D Reid 29th Indian Brigade.
    Notice the variety in the headdress in these photos, even for formal events.

    Attached Files:

  7. simonclarkson

    simonclarkson Junior Member

    Thanks guys for the quick replies!
    Gerry, I guess my question is how were the Sikhs organised? Were they integrated with other Indian troops, or did they form seperate companies or battalions who would all be in turbans?
    Thanks again
  8. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Some info on Sikhs here

    To over come the heavy demands of manpower six new battalions of the Sikh Regiment were raised. They being 6th,
    7th, 8th, 9th and 25th . Out of the old battalions 1st and 5th saw action in Burma and three others, 2nd, 3rd and 4th fought in the Middle East.
    The 4 Sikh were in Siddi Barrani and El Alamein in 1941. When the Germans launched their offensive on El Alamein the battalion was forced to disperse to the rear in small parties and over 500 became prisoners of war. The battalion was reformed and was back in action in Italy [5]. 2nd and 3rd Sikh were at Basra, Iraq. 2 Sikh later moved on to Italy where they took part in the fighting at the Gothic Line.
    On the Burma-Malaya front, the 5 Sikh were the first to reach Malaya in April 1941. They fought the Japanese in Malaya, but had to disperse in small parties. About 200 of the men reached Singapore while the others were combined with elements from another battalion to form a composite 5 Sikh. The battalion could not hold back the Japanese tide and was pushed back to Singapore along with the rest of the British Forces. When Singapore fell in February 1942 the remnants of the 5 Sikh became POWs. While in the prison camps about 90 % of the men joined the Indian National Army (INA).
    1 Sikh landed in Rangoon in February 1942 and took part in some fierce fighting but the Japanese had built up their strength in the area and pushed the British forces to the Indian border. The battalion was rested and refitted and was back in the war zone on the Indo-Burma border. On March 11, 1943 the battalion was the advance party along the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road. The Japanese were holding a knife-edge hill feature and putting up stiff resistance. The only way to approach the hill was by means of a narrow track. On this track leading the attack was the section commanded by Naik Nand Singh. When the section reached the crest it came under heavy machinegun fire and every man in the section was killed or wounded. Naik Nand Singh dashed forward alone, he was wounded by a grenade as he neared the first Japanese trench. He took out his bayonet and killed the two occupants. Under heavy fire Nand Singh jumped up and charged the second trench, he was again wounded by a grenade and knocked down, but he got up and hurled himself into the trench again killing two Japanese with his bayonet. He then moved on to the third trench and captured it single-handed. With the capture of the third trench the enemy fire started to die away and the rest of the platoon charged the other Japanese positions, killing with bayonet and grenade thirty seven out of the forty Japanese holding it. Naik Nand Singh wounded six times in the assault literally carried the position single-handed. For his valour an immediate award of Victoria Cross was bestowed upon him. The company commander Maj. John Brough was awarded the DSO and the platoon commander Jemadar Mehr Singh the IOM. Two IDSMs were also awarded for this attack [5].
    The battalion then moved to Imphal and took part in the famous battle at Kanglatongbi. After this battle the battalion was among the vanguard in pushing the Japanese back and recapturing Rangoon. During the Second World War the battalions of the Sikh Regiment won 27 battle honours.
    At the end of WW2 all the newly raised battalions except for the 7 Sikh were disbanded and 5 Sikh was not re-raised, because of its men joining the INA. At the time of independence to accommodate the Sikh soldiers coming to India from regiments allotted to Pakistan, three new battalions were raised. They being the 16th, 17th and 18th Sikh.

    Also some good photos of Sikhs pilots,Infantry and VC winners here(not all WW2). Click thru the images.
  9. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Found this about Indians in Burma

    Marston, Daniel P. Phoenix from the Ashes: The Indian Army in the Burma Campaign.
    Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003

    ISBN 0-275-98003-0
    xiv + 283 pages
    Acknowledgments; Introduction; photos; maps; Glossary; Bibliography; Index

    Appendix: The Indian Army in 1944

    Although the sub-title of Daniel Marston's new book might make it sound
    like an Indian-centric view of the war in Burma, that turns out not to be
    entirely the case. Instead, the author has written an analysis of the reforms
    in the Indian Army?tactics, organization, recruiting, "Indianization" of
    the officer corps?during the period 1942 through 1945. The campaign in Burma
    serves mostly as the stage on which Marston displays the results of those
    Although the book covers almost every phase of the war in Burma, it intentionally
    does so in a disjointed manner, because the transformation of the units takes
    precedence over the flow of the campaign. In that sense, this is a book about
    an Army rather than its battles. Marston has relatively little to say about
    purely British units, and even less to say about American, Chinese, African,
    and Japanese forces in Burma. Likewise, there's little mention of Indian
    units deployed in Malaya, North Africa, East Africa, the Near East, Italy,
    or Greece.
    Instead, as examples of how the ongoing reforms affected the Army, the
    book examines the wartime experience in Burma of twelve specific Indian units
    (one of which was actually a Gurkha battalion), referred to collectively
    here as the "Phoenix" units:

    Prewar Units
    5th Probyn's Horse
    7th Light Cavalry
    2/1st Punjab Regiment
    1/11th Sikh Regiment
    4/12th Frontier Force Regiment (FFR)
    2/13th Frontier Force Rifles (FFRifles)

    War-Raised Units
    4/3rd Madras Regiment
    7/1Oth Baluch Regiment
    8/12th Frontier Force Regiment (FFR)
    14/13th Frontier Force Rifles (FFRifles)
    4/8th Gurkha Rifles
    1st Battalion, Sikh Light Infantry
    To begin with, Marston makes some general remarks about the Indian Army
    as it existed between the world wars.

    The character of the Indian Army of the 1920s and 1930s can be considered
    in the light of three of the central goals of this period: first, to begin
    the slow process of Indianizing the officer corps; second, to limit recruitment
    of troops to certain native peoples; and finally, to make the main duties
    of the army the control of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and internal
    Marston then proceeds to review those three topics. His background information
    makes it clear that the fragmented nature of Indian society was reflected
    in the regiments of the Army. Not only were regiments organized and recruited
    to contain troops from a specific region, but within each individual company
    the troops typically comprised a specific tribe, caste, or race. (Generally
    referred to as a "class.") For example: "The 5th Probyn's Horse was designated
    to have only three squadrons: one of Hindustani Musalmans and Musalman Rajputs,
    one of Rajputs, and one of Jats. The 7th Light Cavalry, again a former Madras-based
    regiment, was restructured to comprise one squadron of Punjabi Musalmans,
    one of Sikhs, and one of Dogras." This kind of segregation greatly increased
    the difficulties of recruiting and replacing troops, especially as the war
    dragged on.
    Providing officers was another issue with roots in pre-war regulations
    and traditions:

    The Indian Army was officered for over 100 years by a system of British
    officers and Native (later viceroy) commissioned officers. Indians were not
    allowed to receive commissions from Addiscombe, the East India Company officer
    training academy, or, later, from Royal Military College Sandhurst. Only
    white British officers were put in charge of battalions or regiments. The
    reason given for this was that Indians were not considered capable of leading
    battalions or regiments in the field, a myth that was perpetuated for many
    years. Only British officers were considered able to command many different
    classes of Indians without getting caught up in the men's religious or class
    issues; Indian commissioned officers were considered incapable of rising
    above these controversies. The system had been designed to ensure that British
    officers would not be commanded by Indian officers, no matter how junior
    in age or experience they might be.
    After the initiation of hostilities in Europe, it took more than six months
    before serious expansion of the Indian Army commenced. Expansion faced obstacles
    in lack of equipment, low priority for modern weapons, lack of trained leaders,
    and?to a certain extent?lack of Indian support for the war effort. Also as
    a result of expansion and the need for more officers, training tended to

    The training time given to Emergency Commissioned Officers (ECOs), both
    British and Indian, was drastically shortened from the normal schedule as
    a result of wartime expansion. Regular prewar British commissioned officers
    received 18 months of training at Sandhurst, and prewar Indian commissioned
    officers, 30 months at Dehra Dun. Both then received a year's further training
    in a battalion before being posted to take up their own commissions. In wartime
    circumstances, emergency commissioned officers (ECOs), both British and Indian,
    received only four to six months of tactical training at the various officer
    training schools set up in India. Then, when an officer was posted to a battalion
    or regiment, his instruction continued, at least in theory.
    Shortening the training time also affected the way that officers, both
    British and Indian, generally learned Urdu, the language of the army. All
    commands to the VCOs and men were traditionally given in Urdu, and prewar
    instruction for officers encompassed a year's training with a personal munshi,
    or language teacher. At the end of this time, the officer was expected to
    pass an exam in Urdu and receive his certificate. Wartime conditions meant
    the instruction was seriously curtailed, which in practice meant that, at
    least at first, neither British nor Indian officers had sufficient knowledge
    of the language of command to give orders.
    Marston goes on in the second chapter to discuss how the units adjusted
    to changing equipment and roles during 1939-1941. The needs of the drastic
    wartime expansion brought about many other changes. For example, while pre-war
    Indianization meant that only a few chosen units would be (eventually) fully
    officered by Indians (with most British officers transferred so they would
    not be under the orders of Indian officers), during 1940 the policy was changed
    so that Indian officers could serve in command positions throughout the Indian
    Army, even over British officers. Also, because of difficulty in recruiting
    some of the specific "classes" required to fill individual companies and
    their battalions, there was renewed recruitment among the "non-martial races"
    such as the Madrassis.
    By the end of 1941 the Indian Army was in the throes of expansion, and
    it was also stretched thin by unexpected commitments in Africa and the Near
    East as well as Burma, Malaya, and Hong Kong. When the Japanese invaded Burma,
    the Indian Army learned some very hard lessons in exactly the same manner
    as the British, the Yanks, and other Allied forces learned their own lessons
    in the early months of the war against Japan.
    The third chapter covers the loss of Burma by mostly following the fortunes
    of the 4/12th FFR, 7/10th Baluch, 2/13th FFRifles, and 1/11th Sikhs. Along
    with all the other difficulties imposed by rapid expansion and unexpected
    commitment throughout the British Empire, the Indian units especially suffered
    because their tactical doctrine was not completely suited to the terrain
    of Burma or to the tactics of the Japanese. Marston strives to portray the
    unreadiness of Indian units and their unsuitable maneuvers and dispositions,
    particularly in the jungle, but this is an area where his descriptive prose
    doesn't always live up to the standards he sets in the rest of the book,
    with too many stilted, clumsy phrases that seem not to always reflect traditional
    military usage:

    "...the defense of the town took a conventional-style perimeter layout...."

    "...the 4/12th FFR was ordered to array on the ridge...and they, too, were
    arrayed in a conventional-style linear formation...."

    "...overland encompassing movements...."

    "...the division was stretched out in a linear formation...."

    Although the descriptions of movement, deployment, and combat tend to
    be a little weak in this chapter, the analysis remains strong. British generals
    in India were also carefully analyzing the results of the campaign.

    Defeats in the Malaya and Burma campaigns convinced the Indian Army that
    new tactics and training were required. Over the course of 1942 and 1943,
    the army set out to develop and implement the necessary reforms, with varying
    levels of success.
    The British commanders involved in the first Burma campaign set out almost
    immediately to learn from their defeats. Others in India Command also recognized
    the need for tactical reform, and various units throughout India Command
    began to explore new ways of operating in the jungle. For many units, the
    Army in India Training Memoranda (AITM) and Military Training Pamphlets (MTPs)
    published by GHQ India were the starting points for this process. Veterans
    from both campaigns were sent by GHQ India to different formations to lecture
    about their experiences.
    Even previous to the establishment of the Infantry Committee, India, in
    June 1943, reform was underway at different levels throughout India Command,
    but there was no consistent application of new tactics or processes. Furthermore,
    there had not yet been any redevelopment of basic training and reinforcement
    procedure for units in the field. GHQ India had recognized the need for development
    of new tactics and training procedures and had produced and disseminated
    these through the AITM and MTPs. This was an excellent first step, but at
    this early stage each unit was left to its own devices as to what to do with
    the information, so implementation of the suggestions was piecemeal. The
    performance of the 14th Indian Division in the first Arakan offensive demonstrates
    the difficulties of this transition period.
    In particular it proved necessary to train units to operate effectively
    in jungles, but all training was complicated by the constant shuffling of
    units in India and the need for as many as sixty infantry battalions to serve
    on internal security duties due to local disturbances and fear of disruptions
    caused by the Quit India movement.
    Veterans of the defeat in Burma, experts from other theaters including
    LtCol Ian Stewart of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (see Moon over
    Malaya), and local authorities lectured on "what went wrong" and offered
    various schemes for fixing things. When British commanders attempted to fashion
    new tactical doctrine for the jungle, however, not all innovations were equally
    effective. At one point a division was expected to divide itself into separate
    brigades of tank-supported shock troops, jungle shock troops, and river shock
    troops. The plan to create horse-mounted reconnaissance companies for jungle
    operations also raised considerable controversy.
    Ongoing problems were further revealed in the first Arakan offensive during
    December 1942 through March 1943. Although 14th Indian Division had created
    its own jungle warfare school and undergone some self-training, it clearly
    was not ready to defeat the Japanese in jungle conditions. Marston describes
    the offensive, noting its unpropitious beginning when one British officer
    "brought his classical musical collection with him into the jungle on mule
    transport." (Although Marston makes no further comment, it should be noted
    that the officer's musical collection, and the encumbrance of requisite paraphernalia,
    predated the availability of MP3s and the iPod.) In following the exploits
    of the "Phoenix" battalions in the Arakan, one particular attack seems to
    mirror much of the Allied, not just Indian, experience against the Japanese
    at this stage of the war:

    The attack by the 2/1st was ordered for 0400 hours on February I8, 1943.
    D Company was to move out on the right, with B Company on the left, followed
    up by A Company. C Company was to be held in reserve. The companies were
    to move out from a jungle tree line and attack across an open field. There
    appear to have been no patrolling activities undertaken beforehand to identify
    the Japanese positions. The whole attack was launched against well-entrenched
    enemy positions in a frontal movement; there were no attempts to undertake
    any kind of flanking maneuver. As B Company moved out, it was immediately
    hit by medium machine gun fire on the flank, as was A Company moving up behind.
    Both companies were caught in the open and being hit from all directions,
    and men began to pull back to the jungle edge. D Company had progressed at
    a faster pace; it was able to take its objective but in doing so had exposed
    both its flanks to possible counterattacks. The Japanese saw this opening
    and attacked. Captain Budh Singh decided to withdraw but had to fall back
    across open ground, and as he withdrew his company, it was raked by the Japanese
    positions. By 0630 hours, all three companies had fallen back to their original
    start lines. The battalion had suffered heavily, losing 3 British officers,
    2 VCOs, and 7 Indian other ranks (IORs) killed; 2 VCOs and 99 IORs wounded;
    and 17 missing, including a British officer.
    In large measure due to the Arakan failure, India Command decided to centralize
    its jungle warfare training programs. Both the tactics and the methods of
    teaching them were gradually refined, and eventually all units?and all individual
    replacements?would pass through the jungle training schools before being
    deployed for combat in Burma. One of the important tools for producing the
    training program was the Infantry Committee convened by Field Marshal Archibald
    Wavell in June 1943. The recommendations of the Infantry Committee in large
    measure stand as the point at which the doctrine and training of forces in
    India began to match what would be needed to re-conquer Burma. Strongly supported
    by Claude Auchinleck when he returned to become Commander-in-Chief India
    (and Wavell was promoted to Viceroy) as well as 14th Army commander William
    Slim, these reforms in many ways signalled a new beginning for the Indian
    Army in World War II.
    Marston devotes several pages to describing and assessing the nitty gritty
    of the tactics in which units were being trained, including patrol techniques,
    box formation in the defense, flanking movements, avoiding road-bound movement,
    etc. Earlier problems (such as failure to provide troops with shovels for
    digging slit trenches) were also gradually overcome. To anyone who has studied
    the jungle battles of WWII, these techniques might not sound overly innovative
    or exciting, but they represented a huge step forward for British forces
    previously schooled in internal security duties and fighting on the Northwest
    The next chapter, "Theory into Practice," shows how these reforms eventually
    manifested themselves on the battlefields in 1944.

    The Indian and British units that arrived along the Arakan and Assam fronts
    in late 1943 and early 1944 were a different force than the Japanese had
    encountered previously. The infantry units were trained to fight in the dense
    jungles of Burma, equipped with mules and jeeps to operate over difficult
    terrain. They no longer had to rely entirely on land communications but could
    be supplied by air if necessary. They would not engage in retreats motivated
    by panic but would hold their ground if attacked. Units were trained to operate
    at all times with all-round defense to offset Japanese infiltration tactics.
    They were trained to take the war to the enemy using patrolling to gather
    information and deny control of no-man's-land to the Japanese. All of the
    infantry and cavalry regiments had been retrained and benefited additionally
    from the establishment of Allied air superiority in the form of resupply
    and ground support.
    The initiatives of 1943 began to bear fruit when the first reinforcements
    arrived from the training divisions. Instead of coping with raw, half-trained
    recruits, all units were supplied with replacements who were familiar with
    the basic elements of jungle warfare. Units were able to maintain consistent
    levels of efficiency and, most importantly, performance.
    The bulk of the chapter follows the "Phoenix" units in the second Arakan
    campaign and at Imphal. Although there were failures, in general Marston
    demonstrates that the period of centralized training in standardized, appropriate
    jungle tactics paid off handsomely. In most cases, higher levels of training
    translated directly into improved performances. Most units proved adept in
    aggressive patrolling, individual replacements arrived with a high degree
    of preparedness, the so-called "non-martial races" units performed well,
    and the new Indian officers led units as competently as British officers.
    In short, the Japanese belatedly discovered they were facing an entirely
    different opponent, and one which was prepared to fight and win in the jungle.

    Evaluation and revision of doctrine and training continued after the victory
    at Imphal, including more reorganization of divisions to include an HQ protection
    battalion, a reconnaissance battalion, and a machine gun battalion. Much
    emphasis was still placed on constant patrolling and immediately digging
    in whenever an objective was captured. In chapter six, Marston looks at the
    "Phoenix" units during the return to Burma and the amphibious operations
    in the Arakan in 1945. Especially noteworthy, units highly trained and experienced
    in jungle warfare found it necessary to adjust their tactics when they arrived
    in the open terrain of central Burma, and then switch back to jungle tactics.

    The 7th and 20th Indian Divisions advanced down the Irrawaddy River basin
    to destroy any remaining or retreating Japanese forces and seize the town
    of Prome, strategically located on the Irrawaddy River. The 4/8th Gurkhas
    were part of this force; from February to early April, they had been involved
    in the defense of the 7th Indian bridgehead. The battalion performed well
    in defending the area with a mobile defense around Milaungbya and Singu from
    Japanese attacks, setting up box formations and sending out reconnaissance
    and fighting patrols in the area, both on foot and with tank support. The
    open terrain forced the battalion to adapt their plans of defense to cover
    more ground. During early April, the battalion was pulled out of the line
    for rest and refitting, and during this period it carried out more training
    in accordance with the lessons already learned.
    As the 7th Indian Division recrossed the Irrawaddy River on April 25 and
    proceeded south, the terrain through which it was traveling changed, from
    flat and open to hilly and jungle covered. This meant the division was to
    be resupplied by air and that each brigade operated almost independently
    of the others. Each battalion organized its own airdrops. The march south
    on the western side of the river was characterized by constant skirmishing
    and patrolling....
    The 4/8th Gurkhas had retrained thoroughly in Kohima, learning the basics
    of jungle warfare once again. When faced with the open plains of central
    Burma, it adapted to those conditions, then reverted to jungle warfare as
    the battalion proceeded south. The defensive layout and encircling movement
    of the battalion at Taungdaw denied a large portion of the 54th Japanese
    Division access to the Irrawaddy River and the possibility of escape to the
    east. For the period from February 25 to May 21, the battalion accounted
    for 508 Japanese killed (counted), an estimated further 300 probably killed,
    and many more wounded. The battalion itself lost 1 British and 1 Gurkha officer
    and 32 other ranks killed, as well as more than 100 wounded. Unquestionably,
    the battalion had proven itself when confronted with the changing conditions
    of the 1945 campaign.
    The final chapter assesses the changes in recruiting so-called "non-martial"
    classes in the last years of the war and examines the great increase in the
    number of Indian officers in the Army. According to Marston, in January 1941
    the ratio of British officers to Indian officers was 12:1. By the end of
    the war, the ratio had changed to about 2.5:1. To achieve this increased
    proportion of Indian officers, OCS training was done almost entirely in joint
    British-Indian groups, pay scales were equalized, and by mid-1943 Indian
    officers had finally been granted the power to punish British soldiers and
    sit on British courts-martial. Interestingly, Wavell, Auchinleck, and most
    of the British establishment in India supported these moves, but officials
    in London tended to resist. By the end of the war, the officer corps was
    fully integrated and Indian officers were regularly commanding British officers.
    "The numbers of Indian COs of regiments and battalions had risen by 1945,
    and three Indian Brigadiers had been rewarded for their service with the
    DSO. This was not good enough for some supporters of independence, but it
    demonstrates how hard Auchinleck had pushed to get that many officers promoted."

    While there were certainly instances of discrimination, Marston claims
    they were relatively low in number, largely because Auchinleck refused to
    tolerate such behavior. Indeed, Auchinleck emerges as one of the most visionary
    British leaders in this respect.
    The chapter concludes with a very interesting discussion of the impact
    of the Quit India movement and the Indian National Army on Indian troops
    and officers, along with information about two minor incidents of mutiny
    in 1940. Throughout the book, most readers will be at least partly aware
    of the anti-colonialism sentiment within India, the demands of the Congress
    Party, and Gandhi's refusal to support the British war effort. These issues
    are mostly outside the scope of the book, but Marston eventually brings all
    this into focus in the final paragraph of his Conclusion.

    The victory in Burma was the high-water mark of the British Indian Army.
    It demonstrated the success of an innovative, wide-ranging program of reform,
    and it made a significant contribution to the Allied victories that ultimately
    decided the outcome of the Second World War. In doing so, it achieved several
    crucial short-term goals. It also was eventually to have an important long-term
    political impact, of which some of the highest level commanders were probably
    aware in formulating their plans for reform. Personnel and organizational
    reforms ultimately provided a corps of experienced officers and men who were
    to form the foundations of the independent armies of India and Pakistan,
    following partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. The experience gained
    in the victories won on the battlefields of Burma by South Asian troops would
    supply a much-needed level of confidence in the armed forces of the subcontinent
    during the rapid transition from British rule to independent government.

    More than that, although Marston doesn't say it, his book leads inescapably
    to another conclusion. In a sense, the British were the victims of their
    own progressive policies with regard to the Indian Army. They recruited and
    trained a huge number of Indians from all over the sub-continent, created
    experienced, self-confident units, and gave them a large number of thoroughly
    competent leaders, all of which in the long run almost certainly helped to
    ensure?if not hasten?the British departure from India.
    Throughout the book Marston writes fairly dense, relatively slow-going
    prose full of specialized terminology and very thickly annotated. The first
    chapter of about twenty pages includes 148 notes which amount to another
    ten pages of explanation. The second chapter runs to over eleven pages plus
    another five pages of notes. Despite all this supporting material?and there's
    a great deal of extra information tucked away in the notes?a few tangential
    points still get slightly mixed up. For example, in Chapter Two Marston seems
    to refer to Winston Churchill as prime minister at a time when that job was
    still held by Neville Chamberlain. A note in the same sentence mistakenly
    refers to a pair of Indian divisions serving in France in 1941 (although
    that might just be a typographical error for 1914).
    The vast majority of the book appears to contain information thoroughly
    researched and rigorously analyzed, which seems completely appropriate for
    a book which apparently had its roots in a doctoral thesis. Marston does
    a good job of using archival documents, unit war diaries, and regimental
    histories, as well as, on occasion, works such as Kirby's official history
    volumes, Louis Allen, and other leading secondary sources. Most impressively,
    the author has conducted original interviews (in person or via correspondence)
    with a large number of retired officers who served in the Phoenix units during
    the war.
    Phoenix from the Ashes succeeds admirably in analyzing the evolution of
    the Indian Army, and it's a worthy addition to any WWII library, but it will
    probably be enjoyed more by those who like a dense, academic treatment of
    doctrine and planning as opposed to those who prefer a fast-paced narrative
    of men in battle.
  10. redrat

    redrat Junior Member

    simon ,
    i re-enact the 4th indian , we are a small display group in the north east of england . In the 4th indian division the 4th Shikh regiment was in the division from december 1940 to november 1944 . The Shikh regiment was a unit made of men 90% shikhs, they would have had the odd british officer or indian trooperin the ranks . If you buy the book "The tiger kills " they are some good photos in it, but not to worry im going to scan the pages for you.
    The shikhs never took there turbans off , i remeber an shikh RAF pilot in britian didnt were a flying helmet ! I have a photo of shikh`s from the 4th Shikh regiment putting green camo scrim netting over there turbans ! (turbans were white) . People dont realise that the country india ( then pakistan and india ) was full of diffrent mini states so the punjab regiment came from the state punjab . In the 4th Shikh regiment headwere was mostly Turbans they wore them in combat , radio operators wore head sets over the top of them . In the 16th Punjab regiment HQ i have a photo of a shikh in there . I have another photo of Shikhs with cap badges in the front and side of there turbans in Derna , north africa .

    If you need any more help with the division contact me
    Reeni Mehmi likes this.
  11. simonclarkson

    simonclarkson Junior Member

    Thanks guys... exactly the information I was looking for... much appreciated!
  12. simonclarkson

    simonclarkson Junior Member

    Thanks OwenD... managed to get a copy of the book... just what I was looking for!
  13. redrat

    redrat Junior Member

    Simon, this picture is of shikh infantry,

  14. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Wearing a Turban rather than a Steel Helmet does make we wonder what the incidences of Head wounds were in a Sikh unit compared to a unit wearing helmets.
  15. redrat

    redrat Junior Member

    didnt the russians at the start of the war think it was corwardice to wear a helmet ? Britishs and commonwealth troops in the far east didnt either.
  16. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  17. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    A Sikh D-R , unknown unit, putting on his gas-mask.


    A motorcycle despatch rider putting on his gas mask during a 50-mile motorcycle trial in Cyprus, 3 March 1942.
  18. Kyt

    Kyt Very Senior Member

    Simon, this picture is of shikh infantry,

    Is that like a Scottish Sikh? :D
  19. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    I see 5th Ind Div were in Cyprus, reckon the D-R with them?
  20. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    is this a cam net on his turban?

    Sikh troops man a Bren gun in the line near Villa Grande, 15 January 1944.


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