• Munshi Ram,
    Tikri Kalan, IndiaMORE...

    My name is Munshi Ram, and I was born in India in 1921. My family were farmers, which fuelled my lifelong love of agriculture. Many of us in India were in impoverished circumstances, and the farms were our only means of thriving.

    In 1939, my country was in serious conflict. British Viceroy Lord Linlithgow declared our entry into the war and India started seeking volunteers. As I remember it, if you had a certain number of men in your family, they would let the oldest men into the service. I happily volunteered to serve my country and provide for my family, who needed serious financial assistance. I had married my wife then and felt a duty to make her life more comfortable

    Once I was enlisted, I was sent to Bareilly to train for six months. There, they taught us everything we needed to know about being effective soldiers. I gained stealth survival skills and became adept at different tactics of combat. We were trained as relentless fighters, ready to fight our enemies to the death. I can remember the long, hard days of training, and the mantra we were taught: "Never step back!" As I was building myself into a warrior, I realized that even if it came down to losing my life, that's just what would have to happen. It was all about the greater good.

    From training, I was sent to our Border Security Force, where I learned even more combat techniques. We then traveled by ship and plane to Europe. Upon arrival, a Senior General of the Allied Forces met us. I can't quite remember his name, but I believe he was American or British. In any event, the General took us to our base camp and briefed us on our mission. He divided us, and then sent us to different borders of Germany. Our duty basically was to make sure no one entered the country.

    It didn't take me long to realize that the Germans were the most powerful people in the world. The Nazis were fighting numerous countries at once and were successful in just about every conflict. The Germans even managed to get a portion of my own country's citizens fighting for them as the Indian Legion. Luckily, our regiment was deployed at a time when the Germans were starting to have difficulties. We gave them a tremendous fight. We were there for about three years before we were sent back to Bareilly via ship, with Germany defeated and in shambles.

    Time has faded my memory of the rest of our mission, but I know we were in China and Tokyo as well during and after the war. I am an old man now and may not remember much, but history shows our side was successful, and I am proud to have contributed to that. I left the Army for good in 1954. After I left, I rejoined the farming business. I then had two sons and one daughter.

    My vision has failed me since those days, but I often visit my farms and family. I still have a strong love for the agricultural industry.

  • Charin Singh,
    Nangal, IndiaMORE...

    My name is Charin Singh and I was born in the town of Nangal Thakran, Delhi in 1918. I had no interest in going to school, so I got involved in the family farming business. I also enjoyed playing the drums as a youth.

    When I reached my teens, I often asked my friends in the neighborhood what they wanted to do with their lives in the future. Given that I had missed so much school, certain jobs weren't attainable, and my family farm wasn't making much money. We decided joining the Army would earn us a decent income and give us purpose. My cousin took me to Bareilly, and I joined the Army on January 10, 1941.

    India was under the British rule at the time. I was in a British Army camp in Bareilly for six months. There we got in optimal condition and learned how to operate weapons and machinery. Upon graduating from basic training, my company was deployed to Singapore to take part in combat.

    At the time, the British had a stronghold in Singapore. After Pearl Harbour, the conflict in the South-East Asian theatre of war had ratcheted up. Japan was trying to take control of Singapore and the surrounding areas to grab a piece of the natural resources in the area, including rubber.

    During my time in Singapore, I was a truck driver. I drove for the Army, transporting supplies like food and weapons from base to base.

    Along with my time in Singapore, I was also involved in combat in Sumatra for eight months. I was a gunman for my battalion. We were in combat with the Japanese and their tactical acumen was impressive. Their soldiers would go into the mountains or other high areas and pick us off. We couldn't see them, but they saw us. They were so effective with that technique that they could take on 10-15 of us by themselves.

    One of my friends from my home village was also in my battalion in Sumatra. He was killed by the Japanese. The pain from his death was one of the the most memorable moments of my combat experience.

    I don't quite remember when, but I was arrested by the Japanese soldiers, and they sailed back me to Japan on a ship. It took them 22 days to transport me. I spent seven long years as a prisoner of war. I don't remember much about my prison experience in my advanced age, but it was inhumane. They treated us terribly. I'm sure once they surrendered in 1945 they were even more upset and took it out on us.

    At one point, around 1948, the Japanese started making a nursing space in the jail. The area was unsecured, and I took advantage of that. I fled the jail from that room, and I traversed the forests to freedom. I remember eating berries from trees just to survive in the harsh Japanese wilderness. I swam and crawled through many waters, which were sometimes all the way up to my neck. It was a long journey with numerous obstacles, but I was determined to reach home.

    Once I reached civilization, I was able to board a ship back home. It took me three months to get back to India, but those months paled in comparison to the seven years of captivity.

    When I reached my home village in 1949, everyone was shocked. My fellow villagers thought I was dead. By that time the war was over, and I hadn't yet come home, so I understand why they assumed that. Everyone in my village and even nearby locations came to visit me. It was a relieving time, until I learned that my first wife was so depressed by my presumed death that she died of shock. I was devastated to hear that.

    I got married to my second wife, and rejoined the agricultural business at my family farm. I've been retired for about 20 years. These days, I spend a lot of time resting at home. My old age has kept me from being as active as I once was, and I don't have a great memory, but I'm still happy to be alive.

  • Fateh Singh,
    New Delhi, IndiaMORE...

    My name is Fateh Singh, and I was born on June 14th, 1920 in India.

    As a youth in the 1930s, our education system was very poor. We didn't have much economic opportunity, and the schools were very strict. I remember our teachers beating us badly if we were not studying or working. One day my mother brought me to school, saw a teacher beating us, and took me out of the class.

    She told me it was better to work with the family at the farm than be abused by the teachers. I never went back to school from that point.

    In the 40s, I saw people joining the Army seemingly left and right. India had one of the biggest volunteer Armies in World history. I was motivated by all the volunteers eager to fight for our country, and decided to join myself. I went to the Lal Quila in Delhi and enlisted in the Army at the age of 19.

    I was then sent to Meerut and Lahore to train. During training they conditioned us, taught us how to use guns and also how to repair them when they broke. We also learned how to use landmines properly, which would later come in handy.

    After the training finished, we received 28 days of holiday leave. I went home during that period. Once the holidays were over, we returned to the Army and went to Nagpur. News soon came that we were being sent to Northeast India to combat Japanese fighters in Assam.

    When we got the order to go to war, I was excited, but a little worried. There were relatively few of us compared to our enemy. Despite being outnumbered, I knew deep down we had the spirit to win. Amongst my regiment, we comforted ourselves by noting that even though there were few of us, we were on the safe side of the mountains. That was our solace, and our advantage. We used landmines to defend ourselves from encroaching Japanese tanks. As they tried to approach us they were destroyed.

    Soon, our Army's resilience overwhelmed Japan, and they surrendered to us.

    Once we defeated the insurgents in Assam, we went to Rangoon, Burma to fight more Japanese soldiers. Through sheer will, we overwhelmed the Japanese army and they surrendered there as well. The faith we had in ourselves helped us prevail against the harsh odds. Japan had given us thousands of weapons when they surrendered, and we gave them to the British Army.

    Once we successfully defended our home front, we were sent to China via ship. In my old age I don't quite remember the experience in China, but I know I made it back! When we came back from China, I went to Rawalpindi, which is now Pakistan, to decompress. We were given a few days off for the holidays to rest. After the break was over, I returned to the rest of my comrades in Lahore. The leaders there told us the war was not over, but we had the individual option to leave and go back home. Quitting was no option for me, so I went back to the front lines.

    During our time patrolling the home front, we were frequently sent to patrol for Japanese soldiers infiltrating our general area. One day, a fleet of us went out to oversee the countryside. On the way back from patrolling, I stayed behind the rest of the troops, watching for any potential attackers from the rear. Then I saw some Japanese soldiers but it was too late to react - they noticed me and opened fire. I was shot in the left leg. I was in immense pain, but I couldn't even scream and alert my troops. If I did, the Japanese probably would have shot me dead. I stayed silent and waited it out.

    I ended up lost in the forest for 11 painful, lonely days. I later found out that my family was informed that I was dead during this time and they even had a funeral. In the meantime, I was writhing in pain, laying wounded in the forest. I managed to gather myself and traverse the woods. I eventually found a village, of which I can't quite remember the name. The village people had mercy on me and took me to a hospital. After basic treatment at the hospital, I was sent back home.

    My family was ecstatic to see me. Just imagine their transition from believing I was dead to seeing me in relatively good health! I recuperated amongst my family for the rest of the war.

    I was married in 1948 to my wife Shandidevi, and had two daughters and three sons. I retired from the Army in 1952 and went back to the family farm. I was getting proposals to work at railways, but I always denied them. My family wanted me to stay with the farm, and that's what I did for the entirety of my life.

    These days, I don't do as much as I once did. I'm in frequent pain, but I still enjoy the good moments. I live with my family, who take care of me. The light of my life is waking up and playing with my grand children. Every August 15th, Indian Independence Day I hoist the countries flag in my neighborhood. I'm proud that I was apart of that struggle.

  • Gimat La Hura,
    Burari, IndiaMORE...

    My name is Gimat La Hura and I was born on March 10th, 1923 in a small village near Lahore, what is now Pakistan. I studied in my local school and I was an excellent student and so my higher studies I was send to a better school in a village called Allibagh, it's in Jammu and Kashmir State. I even used to get some pay from the school - 5 rupees a month. Which at that time was very good money, especially for a kid.

    After graduating school, I had the option to join the family business, but I declined and joined the Indian Army on November 5th, 1941. Many of my relatives were either on the police force or in the Army. I didn't join the Army because I was patriotic or anything, I merely figured I was resigned to choosing between the Army and family business.

    At the time I looked at fighting in the war like I was simply fighting for the British, who ruled us. I was sent to basic training in Lahore. Once I started training, I was consumed by the conflict that was going on, and I realized how much I truly wanted to fight. They taught us all the basics of combat. The more I learned, the more I was prepared for the war, and I wasn't worried about dying. After three months of training in Lahore, we were sent to train further in the Jabalpur section of Madhya Pradesh, India for about nine months.

    From there, I was transferred to Peshawar, then to a company in Delhi. From Delhi, we were transferred to another company in Bangladesh. I didn't see much action myself as I was mostly responsible for the truck repairs and maintenance and for the most part stayed behind the front lines.

    On one instance in 1944, when we were en route to Chittagong, Bangladesh to supply our soldiers with food and artillery shells, we came across Japanese soldiers. It was late at night, so we couldn't see very well. We didn't know how many Japanese soldiers there were. As a mechanic, I had responsibility to fix the trucks and make decisions if one of our vehicles was compromised. So I ordered everyone to take their positions and prepare for an ambush. I presume the Japanese realized we were aware of their presence because they didn't attack.

    I was based in Bangladesh for almost two years and then had a short leave. After more movement, I was ultimately sent to Mumbai, where we boarded ships that took us to Malaya for combat. We spent good 6 days on those ships before finally arriving there.

    Upon arrival in Malaya, we set up a base camp. I was an Army mechanic and craftsman, tasked to maintain our vehicles. We unloaded supplies and equipment from the ship, and then stored it in a garage.

    In Malaysia, not only were we up against the Japanese, Subhas Chandra Bose's Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army) was also there, fighting for Indian independence. I remember they had the Indian flag hoisted very high at their camp. Even though I wasn't fighting for him, I respect what he was trying to do for our country. If it wasn't for him we might not have received independence until much later.

    During our deployment, we had a pretty good relationship with our British superiors. We fought and conducted ourselves as one Army. Two captains in particular, Cpt. D. Beur and Cpt. D. Halliwal were good to us. If our family ever had issues, they would be empathetic to our plight. They weren't cold or overly demanding.

    In August 1945, we received news the Japanese had surrendered. We all celebrated the good news. I retired from the Army on May 25th, 1946, and we went back to our families and villages. Soon, Pakistan and India separated. Pakistan was declared a Muslim country, and there were many Hindus who no longer wanted to live there. Hindus began to face violence in Pakistan. At the time, we lived in Jhelum, Pakistan. We fled with the other families and moved inside the Indian border to an Ambala, a civil Army camp. We stayed there for about a year, then left for Chandigarh in Punjab state.

    Our family was in a dire situation once we left the camp, and were trying to figure out how to survive. We decided to move to Delhi in 1948 and start a business selling painting material. The business wasn't very successful, so I moved onto another job that I worked until March 1982. I had married my first wife Krishna Wandi in 1943, but she died in 1951. I married my second wife, Rambyari and had three daughters and one son. One of my sons sadly passed in 2005.

    These days, I have a grandson who's a real estate agent. I help him at his business from time to time. My family takes care of me very well, and that's the reason I'm still here.

  • Kila Singh,
    New Delhi, IndiaMORE...

    My name is Kila Singh and I was born on January 1st, 1920 in Samashpur Khalsa, Delhi. I went to school for about five years until my Father passed away when I was 10. It was a devastating loss for our family. I had to leave school and take care of my mother and two younger siblings as the oldest son. They were only toddlers and I needed to start taking part in the family farming business.

    In 1939 I decided to join the Indian Army. Partially out of necessity, partially out of desire to help the county. I started basic training in Allahabad, India. There, I learned how to operate vehicles and various weaponry. I impressed my British superiors so much that I was selected to train other soldiers. They saw that I was a great trainee, and I had natural leadership abilities that would help me train others.

    After nine months in Allahabad, I was sent to Jhelum, which is now part of Pakistan. In Jhelum, I was a training instructor. I conditioned the soldiers, taught them how to use their weapons, and how to drive. It was pretty amusing for me - just a few month earlier I was just a kid working on my family farm, then I was a rookie just signing up for the Army and here I was training other soldiers and telling them how to handle their rifles. Each training session was about three months, and then a new regiment of Indian soldiers would arrive.

    After four months, we were transferred to Chhindwara, a heavily wooded area that emulated the forests of the areas we were planning to fight in. I was taught how to combat the enemy in the forest, as well as how to hide and gain a good vantage point. In turn, I trained the rest of the infantry from what I had learned.

    After two years in Chhindwara, I felt I it was time for me as well be sent to the war. I had a strong desire to fight for my country. I asked my superior when I would be deployed. He told me in so many words that he wanted me to stay as an instructor, and that I was to never question him again. I felt that my acumen as a trainer was the primary reason they kept me on the base.

    In 1946, after years as a training instructor, I was deployed to Razmak, in the North-West frontier. Here, we were having significant problems with Pashtun soldiers. I had been such a good instructor, I felt now it was time to actually act on what I was teaching.

    Unfortunately, nothing much occurred there. We were in the midst of building roads that connected us with the Waziristan regiment, to maintain one district. We were rarely in combat. The roads were always closed, and only opened for official military business.

    We were ordered to stay within the confines of our containment camps because the Pashtun soldiers were so dangerous they would kill us on sight. Kids as young as 12 were armed with rifles there.

    Once, my platoon was traveling from Razmak to Bannu and took a break in the middle of the road. One of my fellow soldiers took out his lunch from his backpack, and as soon as he opened his mouth to take a bite, he was shot in the mouth. There was a Pashtun sniper hiding 500 feet away in a cave. We were then ordered to take our positions, and attempted to chase him down. Unfortunately, we weren't able to catch him.

    Soon after that, I was sent to Peshawar, which is now part of Pakistan. We stayed there for two months until we were sent back to Jhelum. Finally in Jhelum, our British superiors dismissed us. I feel like the British government was not able or didn't have enough resources to continue controlling so many territories so they decided to give independence to India and Pakistan. All Indian soldiers wanted one unitary state with Pakistan as a part of India but the British decided to split our country into two separate states. Many of us soldiers wanted to continue in the Army and asked why we were being dismissed. We were informed the war was over, and they simply didn't need us. It was frustrating, because many of us didn't feel like our war was over with Pakistan getting separated from India and also we didn't have much to go home to. The agricultural business was relatively stagnant, and we could make more as soldiers. But it was over.

    I retired and was sent back home in December 1946 and in August next year the Britons left. I only had six hectares on my family farm, which wasn't enough for a profitable business. Somehow, I managed to carry on with what I had and live a prosperous life. I got married, and had four sons and two daughters.

    These days, I haven't been working as much. I enjoy my time with family, and live peacefully. I'm glad to say I was a part of gaining that peace.

  • Lachman Singh,
    Pooth Khurd, IndiaMORE...

    My name is Lachman Singh, and I was born June 2nd, 1914, in the village of Pooth Khurd, Delhi. As a child, I wasn't very interested in going to school. India had a poor education system. I spent most of my childhood and formative years working on my family farm, where we grew wheat, rice, sugarcane and various vegetables.

    Time has faded my memory, but I believe I joined the Indian Army in 1942. I enlisted in Lal Quila, Delhi. As I grew, I realized our family's farming business wasn't very lucrative. As a primary breadwinner in my household, I told my family I would join the military because they were offering good salaries. I wanted to join the Army to serve my country and support my family.

    After enlisting, I was sent to Bareilly for basic training. I went through formalities such as a medical checkup and physical conditioning test. I passed both with flying colors. In training, we learned combat and how to operate vehicles and weaponry. In Bareilly is where I honed my skill as a grenade specialist.

    Once we graduated, we were sent to Manipur, India then deployed to Burma, which Japan had seized from the Allied forces during a contentious battle in the region. Upon arrival, the main thing I noticed in Burma were the narrow roads. This meant that air transport was a major factor in our infantries' efforts.

    Recalling the circumstance to the best of my ability, I served three tours in Burma. After each tour, we were allowed to have a rest for 1-2 months. We deserved it after the carnage we had gone through.

    During most of my stay in Burma, my infantry operated in tandems. If one of us slept, the other soldier kept surveillance for both of us. We alternated throughout the day and night. We had to be on constant alert, as the Japanese forces were highly dangerous. They were masters of stealth.

    I can recall an incident where Japanese soldiers threw few hand grenades at my company and killed dozens of soldiers. As I was also a grenade specialist, my British superiors asked me to do the same thing back to them. Which I did.

    As if this constant paranoia wasn't bad enough, our Army couldn't even provide us with consistent meals. There was a painful famine among British Indian troops. They had deployed us but made no arrangements to feed us! We had to use our survival instincts and ingenuity to find food for ourselves from day to day. We marched through Burma, very hungry, engaging in constant combat.

    I can recall once another soldier and I saw two Japanese soldiers in a bunker, one of which had a machine gun. We killed the soldier with the gun in his hand, then the other Japanese soldier fled in fear. We took the Machine gun and went back to camp.

    Along with being a grenade specialist, I was something of a medical assistant in my infantry. When my fellow soldiers were shot, I was one of the first on the scene with first aid. We had a firm border between our camp and the Japanese soldiers' territory, usually the Chindwin river. For those shot within the "safe zone", I would provide help. My job was to clean their wounds, help mend them, then keep them safe until they were able to be escorted to an Army hospital.

    Little did I know I would soon need my own medical treatment. The Japanese soldiers had an awful tactic of gutting us Indian soldiers then dumping our bodies in the river. The aforementioned scarcity of food made water a paramount resource. We were constantly ingesting the water, but we soon realized the decaying bodies had contaminated it. In my last tour in Burma, I fell ill along with many of my fellow soldiers. I ended up in a Hospital camp for allied soldiers, where I spent the rest of the war.

    Even though I was on the sidelines, I was kept well abreast of the proceedings. After the Battle of the Sittang Bend, Japan's stronghold of Burma was significantly weakened. 10,000+ soldiers died from their side. A couple weeks later, the atomic bombs dropped and they were pretty much finished. The Japanese quickly surrendered.

    After we won the war, my senior officers announced that anyone who had died or had serious injuries would be compensated by the British government. We didn't get anything from them though, the only pension came later from the Indian government. After the war, we were sent back to India. As I was still sick, one of my family members brought me back home to Pooth Khurd from the camp in Bareilly.

    When I regained my health I renewed my love of agriculture on the family farm, where I worked for over 60 years. During the 1950s, I had three children, two daughters and one son.

    My health hasn't allowed me to stay as involved in the farm as I once was. On January 24th, 2015, my only son passed away. My son's death has made me feel terrible. The pain hurts me tremendously, but the rest of my family helps me and lets me know how much they love me.

  • Nathu Singh,
    Ujwa, IndiaMORE...

    My name is Nathu Singh, and I was born on December 13th, 1922 in the village of Ujwa, India. My country didn't have a good education system under British rule, so I never went to school. I spent my formative years on my families' farm.

    When I was 18, both of my parents passed. At that time I felt there was no more purpose in my life, as I was the only son. Listless, I joined the Army on November 25th, 1941 in Delhi. I was sent to Meerut for basic training, where I was assigned to the motor company. The British trained us with their state of the art artillery and their rifles, ray guns and tommy guns. I also learned proper driving techniques on the GMC and Chevrolet vehicles they equipped us with.

    I trained for three and a half months in Meerut. Upon graduation in early 1942, the regiment was given 14 days leave, and were then deployed to Jhansi, India to engage in combat. From that point, my platoon was consistently on the move. We went from Jhansi, all around Madhya Pradesh, to Ranchi, then finally Nagaland in Northeast India by the Burmese border.

    During the war, us Indians were considered the lowest rung of the Allied Forces. The Americans had their own commanding officers but our command was British. Our commanding officers were respectful to us, but we always stayed in separate camps from the British Army.

    I remember a few nights into our stay in Nagaland, I was standing in the road with my car. This was about 10PM. I saw two Japanese soldiers in our territory! I radioed my commanding officer, and he ordered us to move towards Burma.

    We crossed two rivers on the way. One was the Irawati River, and the name of the other has slipped my mind. What I do recall is crossing both rivers on boats, and being in continuous combat with the Japanese! We traversed the rivers, then a hill-filled commute from Nagaland to Burma, all the while fighting the Japanese. They put up a fight, but they were in our country and we outlasted them. Not only were we giving them trouble on ground, the Indian Air Force was attacking them from above.

    I was a motor mechanic, so my main job was to salvage vehicles and transport tanks from base to base. I didn't take part in much combat, but I could tell it was taking a toll on my Infantry.

    The Japanese had hundreds of casualties, but we didn't care. It was the nature of the war. We were on our way to Burma, and fought them until we reached Rangoon, where I stayed for two years. Many other soldiers in my regiment moved towards the border, but I stayed there. My primary objective in Rangoon was to unload ammunition and supplies from the ships the Navy pulled into the port.

    Not only were we dealing with Japanese soldiers, some of our own had turned against us. The Indian National Army (INA), led by Subhas Chandra Bose, was fighting for the Independence of India at the same time. The Japanese wanted Bose to fight alongside them, but he wanted the INA to be its own entity. I think he believed that the British would leave us alone eventually but if Japanese would invade India, Japan would forever control our country. We soon heard that a Major in the INA, I think it was Mohan Singh exposed that their army had no ammunition, and could not withstand a serious attack so no one was taking them seriously. But Subhas Chandra Bose had great intentions and he was a good leader that eventually helped India gain its independence from the Britishers.

    I heard a story once that the Bengali government sent ten girls to infiltrate Subhas Chandra Bose's inner circle in Burma, to ultimately kill him. Those ten girls were told whoever could murder him would become the governor of West Bengal. One girl somehow managed to reach a higher status than the others, and his bodyguards surmised that she was a potential spy. She was confronted, and the underlings found a gun in her property.

    When she was put in front of Subhas Chandra Bose, he apparently gave her mercy. He asked her where her allegiances were, whether she wanted to have an independent country or merely be the governor of a country under British rule. Subhas Chandra Bose was so convincing that she and the other nine women joined the INA. He was a charismatic leader of their Army.

    In mid-August 1946, we found out the war had ended a couple days earlier, as two bombs had hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Japan surrendered. When we heard that, we had a huge celebration. And on December 14th, 1946, I retired from the Army. I had served five years, and felt I had done enough to serve my country. I was the only child, so I had the entire family farm to myself. I came back to my wife in early 1947 and started my own agricultural business. I received a job offer from the Indian government, but I declined it. I felt I had reached my allotment of government service for one lifetime.

    Today, I don't do much. I roam around my village and my family takes care of me. I'm around family, friends and neighbors, and I enjoy my life.

  • Surjan Singh,
    New Delhi, IndiaMORE...

    My name is Surjan Singh, and I was born on July 29, 1921 in Kharia, Delhi. I had a pretty good childhood. India didn't have a great education system, but I made the most of my formative years. I was a playful, energetic child, always interested in having fun in my village.

    When I reached 15, my family believed it was the time to begin working on the family farm. The fun of my childhood was over when I realized just how bad things truly were. The British were in control in India, and they were basically pillaging our land.

    So many people across India were forced to work in the agricultural industry, but eventually it got to the point where so many were doing this so that it was very hard to actually succeed. Besides that, there was mass malnourishment across India, and my family felt it as bad as everyone else. What little farmland we had, it wasn't producing enough to keep us properly fed.

    How would I survive if I was literally dying of hunger? So by the age of 18, I felt my best option was to volunteer for the Army. They paid 15 Rupees a month, which was vital income for my family. Additionally, I wanted to serve my country in this terrible conflict that was going on.

    Upon enlistment, I was sent to Madras for basic training. My memory is a bit hazy, but I can remember learning how to drive, how to conserve my body, and how to be an effective soldier overall. We used to run for kilometers at a time. In the military, I also became familiar with pistols, hand grenades, and rifles. By the time I had graduated basic training, I felt like I was suited for combat.

    We Indians were the lowest rank in the entire Allied Forces. Our entire command was British. They didn't even have the decency to learn our language, we had to learn theirs. We would be in the trucks, training, and they were saying, "go left, go right". As we had such a poor education system, we had no idea what they were saying sometimes, but we soon had to learn or risk catastrophe. A misunderstanding in a combat situation could be fatal.

    We got deployed to Burma first. Japan was a formidable enemy. We had tanks, machine guns, rifles, and even horses for combat. All of us were prepared for the worst, but it soon became apparent we weren't prepared for the Japanese tactics. The Japanese were waging aerial attacks against us, shooting and even throwing bombs out of planes. Our regiment spent most of the time hiding in the mountains and forests from overhead attacks. We had weapons that were capable of many things on the ground, but not in the air. So we couldn't even use them! What would a rifle or even a machine gun do against a plane?

    I can remember once, we were traveling through Burma and I was eating in the car. Our cars were relatively low quality. Instead of windows, we put up bamboo sticks to shield us. The car made a sharp turn and I was flung from the car like a cartoon character! It's funny in hindsight, but my fractured knees and one month stay in the hospital wasn't very funny.

    One story that's not funny at all is what happened to a gentleman from my village that was also in the war. He, along with a few other soldiers, was arrested by the Japanese, and kept as POWs for six years. Many in the village thought he was dead as there was no trace of him. He very nearly was, as he told us later Japanese were going to kill him. They had thousands of POWs, but after losing the war were in no condition to feed and maintain all of them. Their initial plan was to mass murder the Indians, but the revolutionary Subhas Chandra Bose's affiliation with Japan got him and the others spared. On his say, all Indian prisoners were released and sent back to India.

    In 1945, we heard the atomic bomb was dropped. As devastating as the effects were in Hiroshima, people a hundred kilometers away were also getting sick. Our commanders gave us masks, so we wouldn't be affected by the radiation. After we heard the news about Japan surrendering we were ecstatic. We all chanted, "We're saved!" and rejoiced in the possibilities of going back home. Not long after, we were sent back to India.

    Once I got back to India, I was faced with the same issues of my past. I wasn't educated, so I couldn't get a decent job. I went back to the family farm, and lived off my pension from the Indian Army.

    Soon, India was divided, and the Muslim portion of the country was renamed Pakistan. There was a lot of tension that grew into a conflict, so splitting the country was seen as the best alternative.

    After retiring from the Army, I married my wife Khajini Devi in the 1960s, and had four sons and one daughter. Today, I mostly spend my time relaxing with family. This life is much better now.

  • Shiu Narain Dagar,
    New Delhi, IndiaMORE...

    My name is Shiu Dagar, and I was born in Samasbur Khalsa, Delhi in 1923. As a child, my parents wanted me to go to school, but I wasn't interested in wasting my time with our poor education system. I spent most of my youth living a relatively normal, fun life.

    When I was 18, I traveled to Nagpur, India to visit my older brother Hathi Singh, who was in the Jat regimen. While I was there, he strongly encouraged me to join the Army, so I enlisted and began basic training in Nagpur.

    The British conditioned us, and taught us how to use their weapons and vehicles. We learned how to use pistols, steam guns and various artillery. They fed us well, but it was not a pleasant experience. At the time, I felt like for all the hard work we did, the Britishers underpaid us and my current pension from the Indian Government pretty much confirms that.

    On top of being underpaid, we weren't treated very well by the British officers. They would beat us for every little mistake, and never grant us a leave. Some soldiers would be in camp for a year before they were allowed to go home for a break. Treatment was awful, but it was to be expected of people in power. The British controlled us.

    I graduated from training in two years. I remember right before we were to be deployed, our senior command gave us alcohol, and fired us up about heading to war and killing all our enemies. The British also told us if we were successful during the war, they would leave our country and grant us our independence. That evening we were all very motivated for combat, but once we started traveling, the nerves set in. With every mile closer to our destination, the possibility of being killed seeped into our minds.

    We traveled from Nagpur to Lahore via train and then proceeded in vehicles towards Afghani border. In some places throughout Afghanistan we had to travel on foot and were attacked multiple times by local tribesmen. You see Afghanistan was not taking part in the War as they pronounced neutrality after the Blitzkrieg, but they had economical and political ties with Germany back then. And neither British or Soviets trusted Afghani government so we had a small military presence there. But the local tribes did not want us on their land so someone constantly attacked us. Not only did we spend our waking hours battling them, they would invade our confines during the night and gut us or drop hand grenades in our camp as we slept. I wanted badly to go back home, but the war was on and I couldn't go anywhere.

    We were mainly stationed around Indian-Afghani border and soon realized there was a water deficiency. It was hard for us to find water to even bathe or stay hydrated. Our camp was in the mountains, about seven miles from civilization. The terrain of the mountain made using vehicles impossible, so we had to walk everywhere. We would ride donkeys into town to get water or food, but sometimes the Pathan soldiers would kill the donkeys, leaving us without nourishment. Our camp would go 2-3 days without even eating.

    The Pathan insurgents hid behind stones in the sandy mountains firing at us from a distance. We couldn't always see them, but they could surely see us. They would even cut our telephone lines so we couldn't communicate. They would kill us then steal our ammunition. I can remember entire 25-30 men platoons being murdered by the Pathan, who would steal all their weapons and artillery.

    I can remember one instance; I was in a group of five soldiers patrolling the area. It was dark , but we still saw the Pathan coming to attack us. We shot at them and they scurried away. They must have been the soldiers who only had knives, because they didn't shoot back.

    Also they would kidnap our platoon members. I remember once, we received a message telling us that a local tribe wanted ammunition, and if we didn't give it to them they would kill our comrade. We negotiated for two months before they finally released him. Upon his return, he told us about his terrible ordeal. He said they were barely fed, and often beaten.

    The British were aware of the threat, and would only send us Sikhs and Hindus out on the dangerous missions. I felt they were scared of the tribesmen. They would escort us occasionally, but if the terrain we were to travel was too risky, we were sent out alone. I can recall that when we were transferring to other areas in the mountains to set up a camp, we would never know exactly where we were going. The British would tell the senior command, and we would simply follow them through the mountains. When they stopped, we realized we were at our new destination.

    After three long years, we returned to Bareilly in 1947. Over half of our platoon was dead at the hands of the Pathan soldiers. 14 other people from my home village enlisted with me, and I was the only one who survived. The commanding officers told us we could continue on in the Army or be discharged and go home. I immediately decided to retire.

    After a couple more months, we were finally free from the British rule. I started a farming business with my three brothers. We evenly split our 150 hectares of land, and ran our own businesses.

    I was married in 1951. I had two Sons, and now I have three Grandsons. When I left for the Army, our family was in dire shape. Because of the efforts of my Brothers and I, our family is now quite prosperous. We made a nice living, and now my oldest son takes care of me. The war was a frightening experience. I can remember so many moments of hoping to be home, and luckily I got that wish and have lived a full life.