Thursday, 9 March 2017

Random thoughts 10032017

The World War I  took place between 1914. Britain, Russia, France  were the three main countries which constituted the Allied Powers which fought the war against the Central Powers.  The USA, Japan and more interestingly Italy were also part of the Allied powers. Another interesting point to note was that Japan had fought a war with Russia and had won it just a decade back in 1905.

The Central powers constituted mainly of Germany under the Kaiser and the erstwhile Austo-Hungarian empire. They were supported by the Ottoman empire having its capital at Constantinople , now known as Istanbul , in Turkey. During the period of the war itself , Russian revolution happened,  overthrowing Tsar Nicholas and the monarchy in February 1917.

The WW I was predominantly a war between the industrially developed countries and colonial powers of Europe. During the war and after it the German Empire, Russian Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire ceased to exist.Many new countries sprang up on the map of the world. Some have ceased to exist by now. It brought huge devastation in its wake. Though named as the "War to end all wars" , it was followed by the World War II (1939-1945).

Though many Indians may not know or like to forget even after knowing, the participation of Indians in both the World wars was substantial. In the WW I, about a million of Indians or more fought to save the British Empire in the battle fields of Europe, Africa, Egypt and Mesopotamia (Iraq) . An estimated 74 thousand Indian soldiers died in the war. Indian soldiers were posted in Aden to secure the Gulf against the Ottoman forces and the oil fields. The largest contingent of the Indian army was sent to Mesopotamia. In the far east too Singapore and Myanmar were places where the Indian army was deployed. They were even sent to China where the Germans controlled a port in Tianjin. 

A large number of Indians were recruited in the army during the WW I. It provided employment to many Indians, particularly from the northern states and Nepalis too.  The WW I  also gave an opportunity to many Indians to interact with the world outside the shores of the country and integrate with the world . Also it somehow helped to loosen the rigid caste system and expanded the horizon. But at the same time, the Indians were involved in a freedom struggle against the British rule. So  the  story of the soldiers who joined the army mainly to earn their living  did not get so much importance as it deserved. Whether it was right or wrong, one can't say.

Another notable feature was the inclusion of officers of Indian descent. Prior to the WW I , the Indian army consisted of Indian soldiers commanded by officers of British origin. But the casualties in the WW I forced the British to induct Indian officers to command army units . The first time an Indian officer cadet was selected for a training at Royal Military College was in 1919. Remember, the Tata Iron and Steel company and Jmshedpur was already established in 1907, if any reference is required.

Fighting alongside the Indians in the war also changed the perspective of the British who could appreciate the Indian point of view much better and overcome the colonial feeling gradually . It is a fact that without the participation of Indian soldiers and resources, the British would have definitely found it much difficult  to win the two World wars. The presence of the huge Indian army served as a deterrent too.

All these things happened only a hundred years back . Perhaps your grandfather or the great grandfather was alive then . But then how many of us remember the name of our great grand father or even care about it ?

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