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Indian Army (War Services)

Volume 388: debated on Thursday 22 April 1943

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19.

asked the Secretary of State for India to what extent and in what theatres of war Indian troops are employed; and whether he can make a statement to the House on the part played by them?

I welcome this opportunity to pay tribute to the gallant and important part played by the Indian Army in many theatres of war. Indian troops are now serving in the United Kingdom, Tunisia, Middle East, Iraq, Iran, East Africa and Ceylon in addition to India and the India/Burma Frontier. Previously, as is well known, they served in France and played a prominent part in the Libyan, Eritrean, Abyssinian and Syrian Campaigns and the forestalling of Rashid Ali's coup d'├ętat in Iraq and the Axis machinations in Iran. Indian divisions played a prominent part in Malaya, where they bore the brunt of the early fighting. Indian troops also fought in Borneo and Hong Kong. In the prolonged and gallant rearguard actions of the Burma Campaign our forces were mainly Indian. In speaking of these Indian formations I do not wish it to be forgotten that Indian formations contain a proportion of British troops.

I regret that within the scope of this reply I cannot do justice to all the gallant actions in which Indian troops have participated since the outbreak of war; but the House will no doubt wish to add its tribute to the prowess of the 4th Indian Division, whose achievements have recently been the subject of a congratulatory telegram from the Prime Minister to the Viceroy. It was in the forefront of General Wavell's Western Desert offensive in 1940, played a leading part in the conquest of Italian East Africa, has been engaged since then in nearly all the fighting in the Western Desert and Libya and is now adding fresh laurels to its record under General Montgomery in Tunisia.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask him whether he will see that the facts he has just given are made widely public in the Press and on the radio in India, as well as in the great Allied countries of the United States and Soviet Russia?

Would my right hon. Friend consider giving these men a campaign medal for the long service they have had?