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Official History of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War, 1939-1945

The role of the Indian armed forces in World War II -- including campaigns in the East Indies, Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, Burma, Iraq, Iran, the Vichy-controlled Levant, British Somaliland, Abyssinia, the Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Italy as well as duty in places like Greece, Cyprus, Aden, and Socotra Island -- is too often obscured by the generalized description of "British" operations. Similarly, while the official histories of other Allied nations -- including the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and even South Africa -- are fairly well-known and relatively accessible, the official history of India remains unfamiliar and difficult to find, even though it is in English.

That's too bad, because exerting a little effort to have a look at some of the Indian titles will be rewarded with a great deal of fresh information from a fresh perspective.

Here then is a list of the main texts of the Indian official history.

Campaigns in the Western Theater

Bharucha, P. C. The North African Campaign, 1940-1943. Delhi (?): Combined Inter-services Historical Section, 1956. Somewhat spotty, with some very detailed coverage and some omissions. Good appendices with much OB material.

Pal, Dr Dharm. The Campaign in Italy, 1943-45. Delhi (?): Combined Inter-services Historical Section, 1960. Solid coverage of 4th, 8th and 10th Divisions in Italy, all of which spent a great deal of time in the line. Nothing on 4th Division in Greece.

Pal, Dr Dharm. Campaign in Western Asia. Delhi (?): Combined Inter-services Historical Section, 1957. Very detailed on the three invasions; less on Paiforce. Much information on OBs for Iraq, Vichy Levant, and Iran.

Prasad, Bisheshwar. East African Campaign, 1940-41. Delhi (?): Combined Inter-services Historical Section, 1963. The weakest volume, it seems to have suffered from a succession of authors before being completed by the general editor. Nothing on the Indian battalions during loss of British Somaliland.

Campaigns in the Eastern Theater

Bhargava, K. D. and K. N. V. Sastri. Campaigns in South-East Asia, 1941-42. Delhi (?): Combined Inter-services Historical Section, 1960. Mostly Malaya and Singapore, but significant coverge of Hong Kong and also 2/15 Punjab on Borneo.

Prasad, Bisheshwar. The Retreat from Burma, 1941-1942. Delhi (?): Combined Inter-services Historical Section, 1954. Good, solid material on the loss of Burma. Besides OBs, the appendices contain a great many official documents.

Madan, N. N. The Arakan Operations, 1942-45. Delhi (?): Combined Inter-services Historical Section, 1954. Probably the most difficult to find of the campaign histories. Well done with some very detailed OBs.

Prasad, S. N., K. D. Bhargava, P. N. Khera. The Reconquest of Burma, volume I: June 1942 - June 1944. Delhi(?): Combined Inter-services Historical Section, 1958. Good information on Burma.

Khera, P. N. and S. N. Prasad. The Reconquest of Burma, volume II: June 1944 - August 1945. Delhi(?): Combined Inter-services Historical Section, 1959. More good information on Burma.

Singh, Rahendra. Post-War Occupation Forces: Japan and South-East Asia Delhi(?): Combined Inter-services Historical Section, 1958. Indian forces continue to get shot at in places like the Netherlands East Indies.

General War Administration and Organization

Collins, D. J. E.. The Royal Indian Navy, 1939-45. Delhi (?): Combined Inter-services Historical Section, 1964.

Gupta, S. C. History of the Indian Air Force, 1933-1945. Delhi (?): Combined Inter-services Historical Section, 1961.

Prasad, Bisheshwar. Defence of India: Policy and Plans. Delhi (?): Combined Inter-services Historical Section, 1963. Overview of Indian defense planning.

Prasad, Bisheshwar. India and the War. Delhi: Government of India, 1966. Very basic introductory volume about the war as a whole and India's role.

Prasad, Sri Nandan. Expansion of the Armed Forces and Defence Organization, 1939-1945. Delhi (?): Combined Inter-services Historical Section, 1956. Half the book recounts the expansion of the armed forces, but with an amazing lack of hard OB information. The other half discusses staff organization of the armed forces command.

Sinha, Nirmal Chandra. Indian War Economy: Supply, Industry, and Finance. Delhi(?): Combined Inter-services Historical Section, 1962.

(There is also one on the "Technical Services" and one on "Medical Statistics".)

The quality of information and presentation in these titles varies from very good to not so good. Unfortunately, the quality of the physical product -- the paper and binding -- is uniformly poor.

All are long out of print, seldom offered by used-book dealers, and difficult to locate. If found, they tend to be quite expensive (at least $100, with some rarer ones running substantially higher) and in poor condition.

Reviewed 15 May 1996
 

 

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