How many people from Undivided India were involved in the Second World War?

Indian Officers
Mahinder Singh Pujji
Mahinder Singh Pujji

Undivided India provided the largest volunteer army in history to the Allied cause during the Second World War. Out of a population of some 384 million, over 2.5 million servicemen and women chose to contribute their services.

Most served in the Indian Army in theatres of war across the world.

Troops from Undivided Indian served in the North African, in Eritrea and Abyssinia; in the Middle East, Iran and Iraq; in the Far East - 700,000 of them in the 14th Army in Burma, representing nearly three-quarters of its strength and in Italy.

30,000 joined the Royal Indian Navy, and many thousands served as merchant seamen.

Indian women labourers, Bengal. 1944
Indian women labourers, engaged in airfield
construction work, Bengal. 1944

55,000 joined the Royal Indian Air Force as flyers or ground staff, while several airmen went to Britain to serve with the RAF, like Mahinder Singh Pujji.

Indian women took part in their hundreds of thousands, either as WRINS (Women's Royal Indian Naval Service) or WACS (Women's Auxiliary Corps: Indian), or as nurses, munitions workers and many other forms of service.

In addition, it is estimated that some 14 million Indians took part in other forms of war work - a great deal of which involved producing and shipping supplies over to Britain.

As in the First World War, Undivided India's contribution to the war effort was financial too.

For example several Indian Princely States provided large donations to support the Allied campaign during the War. Amazingly, they also engaged in fund-raising efforts such as raffles and fetes.

Here is "The Grand Raffle Jhalawar (for War in Europe)". This 1940 war fund ticket was issued by the princely state of Jhalawar. One of the rules on the reverse states (in Hindi)

"Whatever money is collected, 3500 rupees will be set aside for distribution of various prizes and the rest of the money will be sent to Europe for help in the war."

The Grand Raffle Jhalawar (for War in Europe)

Jhalwar War Fund
Bikaner War Raffle Pudukottai State War Fund 1941

With grateful thanks to Jyotirmay Bareria at:

The human cost to Undivided India was enormous.

The CWGC commemorates more than 87,000 servicemen and women from Undivided India who lost their lives in the Second World War.

It is estimated that over 64,000 were wounded, and almost 80,000 had to endure captivity as prisoners of war.

An additional 1.5 - 2.5 million men, women and children died as a direct or indirect result of military activity, most of these in the Bengal Famine of 1943 (ref John. W Dower and Amartya Sen).

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