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4th Indian division

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I am looking for any information on the 4th Indian division as my grandfather served in this division in WW2 campaigned in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. I was told its nickname was the Fireball division. Any information however small will be appreciated. Paul

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Tony   

Helo Paul,

I just did a search on the net and found this book http://www.bagchee.com/BookDisplay.aspx?Bkid=B29112 and this little piece of info http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/wwtwo/col...onials_01.shtml

They isn''t much detail (well, I don't know about the book) but I also found a piece on them here http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/brochures/romar/72-20.htm half way down the page.

Hope there's something there you didn't already know about.

Tony

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Guest Andy D   
Guest Andy D

[attachmentid=29510]

I am looking for any information on the 4th Indian division as my grandfather served in this division in WW2 campaigned in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. I was told its nickname was the Fireball division. Any information however small will be appreciated. Paul

Hi,

I too am a grandchild of a member of the 4th Indian division. Attached is a copy of my grandfathers note home at Christmas time. It clearly names No 3 field section. I have lots of pics of when my grandfather was in North Africa with witty comments on the back of some. I used to love talking to him when I was a child. He used to have the utmost respect for the Gurkhas. Contact me for further information. Andy

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Guest raj-rif   
Guest raj-rif

Hi we are a small group of world war two re-enactors from the UK. our interest is the 4th Indian Division. we have amassed a good amount of imformation about the division and are currently seeking stories about the division and the men who were part of it from the men themselves or from there families.when we have a good selection we will be making our archives available on line. already we have a web site that is being added to all the time, www.4thindians.co.uk . there are 4 books that we have found invaluable in our quest to have these men remembered. all are available on e bay from time to time and one is available to read on line. they are :-

the tiger strikes (north africa)

the tiger kills (north africa)

the tiger triumphs (italy and greece)

Fourth Indian Division by Lieut-Colonel G.R.Stevens written in 1947

the tiger strikes and the tiger kills coveres all three of the indian divisions fighting where as the tiger kills is mostly about 4th indian. The tiger triumphs can be found on line to read at

http://www.ku.edu/carrie/specoll/AFS/libra...umphsTC.html#TC

any information you may want let me know and i will endevour to help and also if you have stories that you may wish to add to our collection please let me know also as every story no matter how small even anecdotes adds to the memory of this division.

The division was not nicknamed the fireball division, that was 5th indian i think as there divisional sign was a red ball, the 4th were the red eagles as our patch was a diving red eagle on a black background, the divisional motto was 'Jo Hukam' which we are lead to believe means 'that which is asked we will do'.

Fourth Indian opened the Desert campaign when along with the seventh armoured (desert rats) the set about ejecting the Italian incursion into Egypt. during this campaign they were rushed to British Sudan where the Italian incursion there threatened the Suez canal. They along with others ejected the Italians and thrust on into Ethiopia. 1st Battalion 6th Rajputana Rifles along with 2nd Camerons fought alongside each other with much bravery in the keren hills and such was the respect earned that the camerons wrote a pipe piece called with wellesly's rifles at Keren (the raj-rifs had been commanded by wellesly in India). On there return to Egypt the then were sent up for the Syria campaign where it was feared vichy French would allow a German incursion. after the fighting there was done they then went back to western desert where Rommel

was now a threat, they took part in all the major actions there and added many honours to there roll, as the north africa campaign was comming to a close they were transfered over to 1st army who had been driving east whilst they with eight arny had been driving west, It was with 1st army that they had the honour of having opened the desert campaign they were to bring it to a close with the capyure by the Sussex of General von Arnim.

After Africa they were summonsed to Italy where the arrived to fight at Monte Cassino. this was the only time there motto was to fail them. they the went to the lower adriatic and took part in the gothic line operation ' Vandal'. late in 1944 they were transfered to Greece to help stabalise the country after the Axis withdrawl and to counter the Eilas guerillas.

all in all it can be said they saw more action than Napolion's old Guard. :unsure:

Edited by raj-rif

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John   

Hi Raj-Rif,

Welcome to GMIC!

Interesting post. What was the religeous make up of this Division? Was each Indian Division made up of one religeon, or was it multi religeous/cultural?

Regards,

John

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Guest raj-rif   
Guest raj-rif

Hi John, Each Indian division was multi cultural and multi ethnic. within the 4th Division you had Muslim,Sikh and Hindu. all the Indian races were represented. i.e the Pathan's, the Garhwali (gurkhas),Madrassi's,Punjabi Mussalmen,Mahratta's,Rajput's,Sikh's and the Dogra's. They all fought with equal bravery and earned the respect of those they fought with English, Australian and Kiwi's. we felt it was somewhat saddening that these fine men have now become forgotten and that is why we have set out to try and bring back to prominence this fighting unit of mixed races who fought together and showed what could be done with great leaders at there head ( General Tucker and of course Auck Monty and Alexander)

Edited by raj-rif

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Hello,

Interesting reading.

If I may ask a favour? I'm trying to find memoirs, diaries, letters, audio/film recordings from Indian soldiers who fought in WWII

in any theatre of battle, but particularly in Italy or Europe in general. I know they fought in Burma, the Middle East, North Africa,

Italy, Greece, and even some in Britain but have not been able to find any personal memoirs, diaries, letters, audio/film

recordings etc describing their story in their own words. There are plenty of such letters etc for non-Indian soldiers.

I was wondering if you know of any or could point me in the right direction. It would be much appreciated.

Thank you very much and keep up the good work.

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Desi Warrior

By coincidence, I am just in the early stages of looking for similar info. from WWI. I work part time at a museum in Mississauga, Ontario, outside Toronto, Canada. 20-25% of the local population is south Asian and our curator and I are going to do an exhibit for 2014 on the Indian troops who served in France/Flanders in 1914. So, of course, I'm looking for local connections - folks in our area who had ancestors serving - and especially letters or diaries.

I have to rush off but I'll write more later - I may have some places you can look.

Peter

Edited by peter monahan

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Peter,

Thank you for the heads-up. Look forward to any information you can provide.

I've got some really good resources for WWI, in particular a book called:

'Indian Voices of the Great War, Soldiers Letters, 1914-18' by David Omissi.

It's a wide collection of letters send by various Indian soldiers - fascinating reading. Wish I could find something like this for the ones who fought in WWII.

Cheers.

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Desi

I suspect you've already found this site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqTEZfh46AM - but I thought I'd include it anyway. Still looking for my copy of "The Tiger Strikes".

I've come across "Indian Voices" but am still looking for a copy that doesn't cost the earth. Luckily I have a sister at the central reference branch of the Toronto Public Library and another at University of Toronto, so I can probably get loaner!

Just out of curiosity, where in the world are you located?

Peter

Edited by peter monahan

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Desi

Yes, I understand that Manchester is widely regarded as a tropical vacation spot for those who can't afford to go to Spainish Riveria. :) Much like British Columbia over here, wher the natives start to worry about drought if the moss on their north sides starts to wilt!

Not finding the resources I thought I had on this topic, but I now have an introduction to a prof at one of our universities here in Ontario and have great hopes that he will have some leads for both you and I. More to come when he answers and we've had a chance to chat.

Happy New Year!

Peter

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Happy New Year as well (sorry for the late reply.)

I have found some great new books recently which may be of interest to you, although my focus is WWII:

For King and Another Country: An Amazing Life Story of an Indian WW2 RAF.. The Sixth Column the Heroic Personal Story of Mahmood Khan Durrani With Eight...

Managed to find cheap copies on ebay and amazon, think abebooks has them as well.

Hope they are of some use....

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I am currently sitting across from my father-in-law Reginald Young (now aged 95) who was attached to the 4th Indian division in early 1940. He joined them along with several hundred troops in Mombassa and they set off through Kenya towards Ethiopia He was in charge of a light A detachment repair unit that followed along behind the column repairing vehicles etc. as they went. If anyone knows where I could find any information supporting this, it would be greatly appreciated. We are currently working on a memoir of his time in India and Africa between 1939 and 1944.

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I remember a little, My father went to Eriteria ( North Africa) during second world war. He was from  4th Indian Division Signals. This is from Gwalior India. He died in 1974 so we dont know much as his medals were stolen, other things were lost.

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Rohan

What a shame!  Many, perhaps most of the veterans, particularly those who saw a .ot of action, were very close-mouthed about their experiences.  The trauma often lasted years and most were not eager to talk about it.

I am assuming that your father's medlas were named,as was practice in the Indian Army, so perhaps there is some slight chance of your recovering them at some point.

Welcome to the GMIC!

Peter

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  1. My father, Ken Powell volunteered into Suffolk (Sussex??) regiment, after Dunkirk, aged 16 (lied about his age). After basic training his unit was shipped to north Africa via Cape Town and Durban. He was attached to the Indian Division for the rest of the war. Seeing action in north Africa, Italy (casino), also in Greece, Syria and Palestine while waiting for demob. ,Very bitter fighting for such a young man to handle. He rarely spoke about his experiences but I do know he was one of only eight survivors of his original draft of several hundred He told me they got atta flour for chapattis, instead of bread or biscuit. Did get beer sometimes though. He remembered having to abandon a case of beer during a retreat. Liked and respected the Indians specially the Gurkhas. I do remember that he said everybody called the unit emblem ( a red hawk) a S*it hawk. He drove a Bren gun carrier and general transport at times but said they were always recalled to the front line for attacks. He remembered advancing across open desert while under fire, with bayonets fitted, just like the home guard in "Dads Army".

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The Indian Kite, a raptor native to the Indian sub-continet, was invariably referred to as a 'shite-hawk' by the Tommies.  They are somewhat predatory but also scavenge - a bit like many gulls - and there are stories of them literally taking food off the plates of incautious soldiers being fed in the field.

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Reg has mentioned the Kites and tells of them stealing food from his plate as he walked across open ground.   What is your connection to WWII Peter?  My father in law is currently living on Salt Spring Island.  Where are you in BC?

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Susan & Reg

That was me with the kite story.  I saw Indian Kites when I lived in West Africa many many years ago and their behaviour there made such tales credible to me.

Many years ago, a friend and I founded the Indian Military History Society, which is now run out of the UK, a small group devoted to studying and preserving the hsitory of the british Indian Army and its descendants: the Armies of India and Pakistan. I am a life long student of military history, a retired history teacher and very involved with educational activities around WWI.  Just back from a week in Halifax, for example, where 8 of us set up a WWI Casualty Clearing Station - think 'M.A.S.H.' - and interpreted it for visitors to the Tall Ships event there.

Reg, your father's experience mirrors that of the Indian troops in France in 1914-15, who were told they couldn't get flour for chappatis and had to make do with army biscuit, at least at first.  'Atta' was in short supply.  In both wars, the majority of the Indian troops were recruited from what the British refered to as the 'martial races' - northern Indians, many from what is now Pakistan, so rice was not part of their daily diet.

Susan,  I'm in Alliston, Ontario, just north of Toronto.  I'm not a WWII specialist, but the Indian Army AND research are both areas I have considrable experience in, so I'd be happy to help, if I can, with the research.  If you have specific questions, please let me know. 

Edited by peter monahan

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