Hughes, David, David A. Ryan and Steve Rothwell. The British Armies in World War Two: An Organisational History, vol 10: The Indian Army, part three: The Indian Army in the East, 1944-45. West Chester, OH: Nafziger Collection, 2008
iv + 116
Preface; Terms and Abbreviations; Guide to Tables; Trivia; tables; TOEs; OBs; Combined Bibliography
Appendices: Unit Histories and Service; Organisations; Orders of Battle and Formation Histories
The first volume in the British Armies in World War Two: An Organisational History series by David Hughes and his colleagures arrived in 1999, and the work produced by that team of researchers and authors has continued to grow and improve. This is the last of three books in the series covering the Indian Army. It might also be the last of the series. If so, it wraps up everything in style.
The title page gives this lengthy sub-title:
Indian Infantry Divisions in the East 1944-45
Indian Tank Brigades in the East 1944-45
Indian Independent Brigades in the East 1944-45
Indian Artillery and Indian Special Forces
Indian State Forces
Where volume nine (the second covering the Indian Army) departed slightly from the usual pattern by dealing with units on a front-by-front basis (Hong Kong, 1941; Malaya and Borneo, 1941-1942; Burma, 1941-1943; Arakan, 1942-1943; etc), volume ten returns to the previous unit-by-unit approach. At this point, of course, Burma 1944-45 is essentially the only front remaining to be covered.
That front includes the following units, some of whichbecause of the way the volumes are partly structured by fronthave already appeared in the two earlier books:
- 5th Indian Infantry Division
- 7th Indian Infantry Division
- 17th Indian Infantry Division
- 19th Indian Infantry Division
- 20th Indian Infantry Division
- 21st Indian Infantry Division
- 23rd Indian Infantry Division
- 25th Indian Infantry Division
- 26th Indian Infantry Division
- 50th Indian Tank Brigade
- 254th Indian Tank Brigade
- 255th Indian Tank Brigade
- 116th Indian Infantry Brigade
- 268th Indian Infantry Brigade
- Lushai Brigade
- 50th Indian Parachute Brigade
- 44th Indian Airborne Division
- 77th Indian Long-Range Penetration Brigade
- 3rd Indian Infantry Division (Chindits)
For each division and brigade Hughes and the gang describe its creation, composition, and employmentusually amounting to several pagesand integrate organizational tables and regimental trivia.
Here's the shortest divisional entry from the shortest-lived division:
21st Indian Infantry Division
The unexpected speed of the Japanese attack against Imphal and Kohima raised serious concerns that
the line of communications back to Assam were in danger. These were normally under the control of
administrative commands, sadly lacking in combat experience, so in mid-1944 the Supreme Commander,
Admiral Mountbatten suggested that "something be done". Specifically he needed a temporary battle
headquarters that could exercise control over any unattached brigades, battalions and regiments and use
them to counter any incursions into the rear areas. The initial prospective candidates for this function were
the 23rd British, the 33rd Indian, the 161st Indian, the 268th Indian Lorried and 3rd Commando Brigades.
Instead the headquarters formed on May 4th, 1944, used elements of the headquarters staff of the newly
forming 44th Indian Airborne Division, based in Secunderabad. In view of the task the most important
contribution was the signal detachment. The newly minted 21st Indian Infantry Division's headquarters
was established at Jorhat, but moved to Hospital Hill in Kohima when the road from there to Imphal was
cleared on June 22nd. It assumed operational responsibility for the three administrative commands, the
252nd (Dibrugarh), 253rd (Dimapur), and 257th (Silchar). However the only major fighting formation under
its command during this period was the 268th Indian Lorried Infantry Brigade, assigned to the 21st
Division on July 15th (note that the actions in the period are covered in the brigade history). In mid-July the
268th Brigade left, taking with it the Stuart tanks of the 45th Cavalry. Since the danger of Japanese
infiltration had diminished to near zero the division was quickly run down. By the end of July the 44th
Airborne Division support units had returned to their parent formation and by early August the division was
simply a title. The 21st Division was disbanded on August 5th, with its few remaining responsibilities
assumed by the 253rd Line of Communications Sub-Area, by now displaced forward from Dinapur to
The unit histories consume about eighty pages with appendices making up the remainder of the book. The bulk of the appendices are tabular listings of individual regiments/battalions and companies. With infantry and armored battalions of the Indian Army already handled in the previous two volumes, this time around coverage includes Indian mountain regiments, field regiments, anti-tank regiments, heavy AA regiments, light AA regiments, coast regiments, survey regiments, and medium regiments. In addition to those Indian Army units, the next appendix covers "Indian State Forces in British Service" with camel/cavalry units, infantry battalions, garrison companies, artillery batteries, and engineer companies. The format for both those appendices is the same one used in volumes eight and nine.
Here's one typical row (plus headings):
|20th Mountain Regiment
West In Dist
West In Dist
West In Dist
West In Dist
West In Dist
Other appendices deal with the Royal Air Force Regiment in India and Burma, the Japanese Army in India and Burma during 1943-1945, post-war actions and occupations (Malaya, Netherlands East Indies, Siam, French Indo-China, Hong Kong, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Burma, and Japan), deception units in the Far East, and the independence armies of Burma, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and Nepal.
In addition, this book contains a combined bibliography for the three Indian volumes. It amounts to three solid pages of official histories, divisional histories, regimental histories, and general works. The three titles by Hughes, Ryan, and Rothwell provide a wealth of information, but the bibliography points readers to even more Indian Army data. Of course, with these three volumes in hand, and perhaps Chris Kempton's Loyalty & Honour series, readers might not need any other books on the forces of the sub-continent.
While Part three: The Indian Army in the East, 1944-45 stands on its own, the three titles comprising the Indian Army function best as a set because of the way the unit histories, OB material, and tabular listings for divisions, brigades, regiments, battalions, and companies have been organized and segregated for publication. As we've mentioned before, while the entire British Armies in World War Two series is of high quality, the last three pieces in particular should be combined into a single fat hardcover with maps and some well-chosen photos (and a little more proofreading and copy editing) to rival H.F. Joslen's legendary British OB volumes.
In any event, while a certain sameness might have settled into this tenth book of OBs and unit histories from David Hughes and his colleagues, it's a sameness of excellence. Those familiar with the series might not be overwhelmed by the newest material, but that's only because veteran readers of The British Armies in World War Two have come to expect top-notch work. Anyone who hasn't yet investigated the series is strongly encouraged to do so. Those with an interest in this topic, and the Indian Army in particular, should be thoroughly pleased. We are.
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Reviewed 4 January 2009
Copyright © 2009 by Bill Stone
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