World War Two

The impact of World War Two developed only slowly in India and was hardly felt by 1st Queen’s at Razmak. The Viceroy duly proclaimed that India was also at war, but the Commander-in-Chief’s offer to train forces for service abroad was rejected in London and it was reaffirmed that the responsibility of the Government of India remained limited to internal security and frontier defence. Later, however, the Indian Army was to expand to twelve times its peacetime strength, to re-equip and mechanize extensively, and to fight on many fronts outside India.

The entry of Japan into the war in1942, the fall of Malaya and the retreat in Burma, brought the war to the eastern frontier of India and political crisis. By August 1942 the Congress was concerned that Britain could not win the war and rejected the British Government’s offer of Dominion status after the war. Subhas Bose defected to Berlin, then Tokyo, and set himself up as the leader of a government in exile and organiser of a very ineffective Indian National Army recruited largely from Indian prisoners of war. Ghandi initiated a quit-India campaign which initially disrupted communications in India, notably in Bihar, but soon became abortive. He and other Congress leaders were imprisoned; Congress provincial governments resigned and British provincial governors resumed the powers they had delegated to provincial legislatures under the 1935 India Act. The Muslim League, headed by Jinnah, was invited to form provincial governments in Assam, Bengal, Sind and the North-West Frontier Province.

In March 1942 1st Queen’s moved to Peshawar where its role was internal security in the city and defence of the Khyber Pass. However it was not required for either and in December it joined the 7th Indian Division which was being formed at Shinkara in the foothills towards Kashmir. In February 1943 the Division moved to Chindwara in the Central Provinces for training in jungle warfare, and from there to Ranchi which was the mounting base for operations in Burma. In August it sailed from Madras to Chittagong for operations in the Arakan. 1st Queen’s remained with the Division for the rest of the war and did not return to India. The battalion played a prominent part in the Arakan campaign which culminated in the final defeat of the Japanese advance there in February 1944 and in the fierce defence of Kohima in May. They were critical battles for the defence of India which turned the tide of the Japanese advance and ultimately in Burma led to the greatest defeat ever sustained by the Japanese Army.

2nd Queen’s arrived in Ceylon from the Middle East in March 1942 a month ahead of the Japanese air raids on the island, and were there for a year before moving to India in February 1943. Having fought the Germans and Italians in North Africa and the Vichy French in Syria they were now to prepare to take on the Japanese. The battalion was part of the 16th Brigade which rejoined the 70th Division on arrival in India, and which became the major part of a special force formed to operate behind the Japanese central front in the north of Burma. The force became known as the Chindits.


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