- Series: Elite (Book 75)
- Paperback: 64 pages
- Publisher: Osprey Publishing (August 25, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1841761966
- ISBN-13: 978-1841761961
- Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 3.6 x 245.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,014,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Indian Army 1914–1947 (Elite) Paperback – August 25, 2001
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From the Publisher
An unrivalled illustrated reference source on fighting men and commanders, past and present. Each volume is packed with full colour artwork, making military history uniquely accessible to enthusiasts of all ages.
About the Author
Ian Sumner was born in 1953 in Eccles, near Manchester. He originally trained as a librarian in Newcastle-upon-Tyne but is now a freelance author. His previous work for Osprey includes three Men-at-Arms titles on the French Army 1914-45; he has also written several books on the history of the East Riding of Yorkshire, where he now lives with his wife.
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Top Customer Reviews
The Ospery Elite series, of which this is a fine example, has more than a dozen pages over the regular Osprey line. We have the treat of the usual exact and accurate illustrations (this time well done by Mike Chappell). Details of the uniforms, equipment and arms of the soldiers span the period of the World Wars. Modelers will find this useful. Osprey is justly famous for the quality of its drawings.
History buffs like me will relish the detail of the text. We get to know which units served in WWI and where. Indian lancers sent to the Western Front in France? I had no idea. I particularly have an interest in unit assignments and organization and my itch get well scratched here. This holds for both the world wars and also for the period between the massive conflicts.
Author Ian Summer also treats us to a representative battle from each of the wars. He spends several pages on the battle of Megiddo in what is not Israel, complete with orders of battle and maps. He does the same for us with an example from WWII. He describes, maps and again provides the orbat for the battle of Meiktila in Burma.
Summer writes with an uncluttered clarity which makes it easy to follow the complex evolutions of armies in motion.
The Indian army's role in the First World War is covered in ten pages, but after maps, photographs and charts are subtracted there is actually only 7 pages. Most disappointing is the author's fixation on the Battle of Megiddo in September 1918, spending several pages on a high-level narrative of the battle (for which there is already an Osprey Campaign title), with little discussion about what Indian troops per se actually did in the battle. The vital participation of the Indian corps in blunting the German Ypres attacks in 1914-1915 is glossed over in a few sentences. Indian participation in the African, Gallipoli and Mesopotamian campaigns is given even shorter shrift. Granted, the size of the volume does not give the author much space to elaborate, but to devote so much space to one campaign and neglect virtually all the others presents a very lop-sided account. Some 9 ½ pages are spent covering the interwar period, and unburdened by the need to discuss campaigns, the author is largely successful in painting the evolution of the Indian Army after the First World. However, the true weaknesses of the Indian Army at the outset of the Second World War are only hinted at in this text; while the author mentions the lack of motorization and inadequate artillery, the fact is that the Indian Army in 1939 was still essentially an infantry-based colonial force. Anti-tank units, antiaircraft, engineers, signal units and logistic units were virtually non-existent. In fact, British policy had inhibited the development of the Indian Army as an all-arms force in order to undermine its ability to act as other than part of the British military effort. The author does not really address tactics and doctrine, but decades of primary orientation toward frontier patrolling and internal security duties also undermined the ability of the Indian Army to compete in battle against first rate opponents. For these reasons, the British tended to commit the Indian Army mostly to fight less modern opponents like the Turks or the Japanese, rather than the first-class Germans.
Only 8 pages are used to discuss the Indian Army in the Second World War and again, the author's digressions - in this case to discuss the Battle of Meiktila - dominates this section. The stalwart 4th Indian Division's actions in North Africa are barely mentioned, nor the Indian participation in the grueling Italian campaign or the initial stages of the Burma and Malaya campaigns. Instead, the author has a chart which depicts all the Indian Divisions and where they served, but not which campaigns or the dates of participation. This is the poorest section of the book, and Indian casualties are not even listed. The desertion of about 20,000 Indian POWs to serve in the Japanese Army is briefly mentioned, but the 4,000 were volunteered for Wehrmacht service are ignored.
The best section of the book is the 16 pages that cover the Indian Army, branch by branch. Of course the predominant infantry and cavalry receive most of the attention, but informative sections are also provided on artillery, pioneers and auxiliary and support units. However one odd note is the author's interpretation of the effect of the 1947 Partition upon the armies of the princely states, where he implies that there was problems in the transfer of three states: Jammu & Kashmir, Junagadh and Hyderabad. The author states, "In Junagadh and particularly in Hyderabad, which had Muslim rulers but largely Hindu populations, some force was needed before the disturbances could be quelled and peace established." In fact, these three states had elected - as was their right under the partition agreement - to remain independent entities, but India used armed force to coerce them into union. The Indian government used the excuse of "internal civil disorder" to invade Hyderabad with a full armored division in September 1948 and after inflicting 1,200 casualties on the local forces, the state was forced into union with India.
Overall, this volume is useful but far from comprehensive even for a summary work. Unfortunately, the author set his sights too narrowly and thus the reader receives only a lop-sided view of the subject. Even the question of whether or not the Indian Army of the period merits inclusion in the "elite" series is evaded.
Raised, directed, and mostly led by officers of British birth, the Indian Army had a long tradition of faithful service which has continued in the service of the nation of India. This is the story of its last years in the Empire, from Lord Kitchener's reforms which transformed it from a force mainly intended for keeping order to one capable of supporting the forces of the Empire on foreign expeditions. Serving in WW I in France and the Middle East, and in WW II in North Africa, Italy, the Middle East, Burma, and the Far East, its troops were spread widely.
Though starved of modern war material until WW II, with the aid of British and African divisions, by 1944 the Indian Army was capable of defending India proper against strong Japanese forces attacking from Burma and to take back that unfortunate land.
The illustrations are superb and the text well written. Just as much as I wanted to supplement my somewhat sketchy knowledge of the Indian Army of the early twentieth century.