Saturday, April 23, 2011

Going East - WW2 Publication

Today's post is on another book published by The Directorate of Army Education GHQ (India) for British soldiers about to serve in East Asia during WWII. The book was printed by The Times of India Press, Bombay somewhere in 1945. The book doesn't mention date of publication but I could guess based on the contents. The copy I have was once owned by a soldier serving in SEAC.

The book covers following topics:

- The strategic importance of South East Asia
- South East Asian Scene
- The Peoples of South East Asia
- Getting Along with the People
- Currency, weights, and measures
- Government in South East Asian Countries
- India's Fighting Forces
- The Climate of South East Asian Countries
- The Rules of Health
- Amenities in the East
- Useful phrases in Urdu, Burmese and Malay

It starts with a serviceman's guide to India, Burma, Malaya and Sumatra. It talks why the soldier is being deputed in this part of the world.

"You have come or are coming to the East for one main reason - to finish off the Japanese as quickly as possible. They have got to be driven out of the countries they have overrun and finally, if necessary, beaten into surrender in their own homeland. You may find yourself in any one of the countries mentioned in this pamphlet - India, Burma, Malaya or Sumatra. If you look at world map, you will soon see why.

India is a half way house between east and west. It is the centre of the British Commonwealth and Empire, and stands astride the main sea and air routes between Europe, Africa and the Far East. The safety of Australia and New Zealand, and our kinsfolk in them, largely depends upon the integrity of India. India and Ceylon are obviously the countries from which to supply our forces in Burma and to mount any operations going East.

Once the whole of Burma, as well as India, is ours, it will be easier to take and hold Malaya with its important naval base at Singapore, and Sumatra which juts right into the Indian ocean. Once we have Burma, Malaya and Sumatra we are not only closing the ring on the Japanese, but possess the springboards from which to attach them in Indo-China, China and Formosa....."

It then covers the first impression any foreigner gets when landing in Asia particularly in India. The book then takes you to scenic route of Asia. Talking about India, it says India is a land of tremendous contrasts, in which almost every imaginable type of countryside and of climate can be found. It further touches briefly on Himalayas, Northern Plains and The Deccan Plateau. Finally, it briefly covers landscape of Burma and Malaya.

Continuing its journey, the pamphlet then talks about the most important aspect of Asia - its people and cultural heritage. It produces a short historical sketch of India with its history going back to 5000 B.C., about Burma, Malaya and Sumatra.

It advices how to get along with the people. It covers various religion of India such as The Hindus, about Indian Caste System ,The Sacred Cows, The Muslims, The Sikhism, The Parsees, The Gurkhas, Buddhism, Europeans and The Anglo-Indians. It also talks about the hospitality of Indian and Asian people. The sensitive topic of Women in the East, various festivals, fascinating Bazaars, Beggars etc.

Above page shows India's place in World Communications in those times and why it mattered so much for Allies to keep India united and under their control.

The pamphlet covers various places of interest to soldiers on their leave, currency, weights and measures, the respective government in South East Asian countries and princely states.

Finally, it coves India's fighting forces. Talking about them, it mentions:

"The Indian Army is now over 2,000,000 strong and is drawn from all parts of the sub-continent. Every man in the Indian Army is a volunteer. The Indian Army forms an important part of the United Nations' spearhead against the Japanese in Asia. You will also know that Indian troops have played a distinguished part in driving the Germans out of Africa and in making them surrender in Italy. You may find yourself fighting side by side with these splendid men and therefore you want to know a little about the Indian Army and the men in it.

In the last war, the Indian Army consisted of about 235,000 troops, of whom 67 per cent, were Indians. They fought in France, in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Palestine, and at Gallipoli and Salonika.

More than a million Indians volunteered for military services during the last war, and India's fighting forces suffered 120,000 casualties....."

It then covers the Volunteer Army, their grades/designations, The R.I.N. and The R.I.A.F.

"The Indian Air Force came into existence in 1933. It now has 9 squadrons, and an anti-aircraft co-operation unit, a force which, in total strength is equal to 12 squadrons. In March 1945, the I.A.F. became the Royal Indian Air Force.

To-day the Royal Indian Navy is larger than it has ever been before. Since 1939, it has expanded 12 times in personnel, with an even larger expansion in ships and training establishments.

The first warship to be built in India was H.M.I.S. Travancore, launched on July 7, 1941. It was designed as a mine-sweeper and a submarine-chaser.

The R.I.N. has been engaged in mine-sweeping even since the outbreak of war, and in the dark days of 1941 it assisted the R.N. in the Battle of the Atlantic. Indian ships rendered great service in keeping open and protecting the supply lines from India to North Africa, and hence played their part in the victories gained by the Indian soldiers in this theatre. The work of the R.I.N. in the landings off Sicily and Italy, in bombarding Ramree Island just off Burma, in engaging Japanese ships and in patrolling India's coastlines, has been most meritorious....."

It then covers the climate of South East Asian Countries which soldiers have to get accustomed to. The peaks of Himalayas, to rain forest of Burma and Sumatra is some of hurdles that soldiers have to encounter in this theatre. It then recommends soldiers to take some precaution about their health while in Asia.

Finally, it touches some of the amenities in the East, prices in India, useful phrases and some other recommended books to get familiarize with Asia.

You can read complete book here:Going East.

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