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Indian Soldiers in Italy: World War II

  • 07 Jul 2021
  • 5 min read

Why in News

The Indian Chief of Army Staff (COAS) will inaugurate an Indian Army Memorial in the Cassino town of Italy during an official visit to the U.K. and Italy.

  • The memorial commemorates over 3,100 Commonwealth servicemen who took part in the effort to liberate Italy in World War II (1939-1945).
  • 900 Indian soldiers were also commemorated on this memorial.

Key Points

  • Indian Army in Italy:
    • Three infantry divisions of the Indian Army took part in the Italian campaign. These were the 4th, 8th and 10th Indian Divisions.
      • The first one to land in the country was the 8 Indian Infantry Division that saw action in Iraq and Iran when the British invaded these countries in 1941.
      • The second one arrived was the 4 Indian Division that came to Italy from North Africa in December 1943. In 1944, it was deployed in Cassino.
      • The third, which is the 10 Indian Division, was formed in 1941 in Ahmednagar and moved to Italy in 1944.
    • Men from the Punjab, and Indian plains, coped with the extremely hostile conditions experienced in Italy.
      • Even the Gurkhas from Nepal struggled with the heavy and persistent rain, and freezing nights in the Italian mountains.
    • All three Divisions performed well in the Italian Campaign and were highly respected by the Allied and Axis commanders alike.
  • Indian Troops in WWII:
    • The Indian Army was the largest volunteer force during WWII, with over 2.5 million (more than 20 lakh) Indians participating.
    • These troops fought the Axis powers (Germany, Italy and Japan) as part of the Allies. They came from different source organizations such as:
      • Indian Army:
        • In the first half of the 1940s, India was still under the British rule and the Indian Army fought in both world wars. It comprised both Indian and European soldiers.
      • East India Company Army and the British Army:
        • Apart from the Indian army there was the East India Company Army that also recruited both Indian and European soldiers and the British Army, which was also present in India.

World War II

  • About:
    • It was a conflict that involved virtually every part of the world during the years 1939–45.
    • It ended six years and one day after Germany’s invasion of Poland on 1st September, 1939, sparked the 20th century’s second global conflict.
    • By the time it concluded on the deck of an American warship on 2nd September, 1945, WW II had claimed the lives of an estimated 60-80 million people, approximately 3% of the world’s population.
    • The vast majority of those who died were civilians, including 6 million Jews killed in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.
  • Principal Belligerents:
    • Axis powers—Germany, Italy, and Japan.
    • Allies—France, Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser extent, China.

  • Causes of War:
    • The impact of the Treaty of Versailles following World War I (1914-18).
    • The worldwide economic depression.
    • The rise of militarism in Germany and Japan.
    • The failure of the League of Nations.

Italy in World War II

  • Under Benito Mussolini, Italy had joined Nazi Germany in 1936 and in 1940 it entered WWII against the Allies.
  • In 1943, Mussolini was overthrown and instead, Italy declared war on Germany.
  • The invasion of Italy by the Allies coincided with an armistice that was made with the Italians.
  • For two years during WWII, Italy became one of the war’s most “exhausting campaigns” because they were facing a skilled and resolute enemy.

Source: IE

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