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The Azad Hind Legion (India)

Indian National Army

Last modified: 2008-06-28 by ian macdonald
Keywords: india | azad hind | world war ii | tiger | indian national army |
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[Azad Hind] by Jaume Ollé

 

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In world war II Indian prisoners of war in North Africa were released to form a Waffen-SS unit, the Azad Hind Legion. Their Colour was a yellow-white-green horizontal tricolour, with the white stripe twice the size of the others and containing a "springing tiger". Lettered in white in the yellow stripe: Azad, and in the green stripe, Hind. They were captured in southern Germany at the end of the war, and shipped back to India to be tried for treason.
Todd Mills, 17 April 1997

A long, long story (on which I did my M.A.). Units were formed in Germany and southeast Asia among captured Indian prisoners of war during WWII under the leadership of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. There is much fantasy and fraud regarding the flags, insignia, medals, etc. of the Indian National Army (as they were called). When the provisional government was announced in Berlin in 1942, the standard Indian National Congress flag was used: like the modern Indian flag but with what was more obviously a spinning wheel in the center. Interviews with veterans and photographs both from Europe and Asia confirm the use of this flag. The flag described (with the springing tiger) has a doubtful pedigree, although the German unit (never SS, by the way!) may have used it briefly, in early 1944.
Ed Haynes, 18 April 1997

Two photographs and an artist's colour interpretation of the Azad Hind flag are included in Brian Davis' FLAGS OF THE THIRD REICH: (2) WAFFEN-SS (Osprey, 1994). I hadn't noticed before, but the uniforms of the colour guard are clearly Wehrmacht and not Waffen-SS. (Actually in one photo, they wear a mix of British, Sikh and German and headgear.) According to Davis, the date of presentation and the ultimate fate of the Colour are unknown, but he guesses it might have been seized by British Intelligence. The Azad Hind (also known as Indian Infantry Regiment 950) took an oath of loyalty to Hitler, Bose and "free India" in September 1942, at which time the Colour may have been presented. Alternatively it may have been presented at Easter 1943 when the Legion moved to Holland. The Legion was formed progressively between December 1941 and December 1942, by which time it numbered 3500 men in 4 battalions. The Colour was paraded on 6 Nov. 1943 at a ceremony at the Hotel Kaiserhof in Berlin announcing the creation the Indian National Government.
Todd Mills, 18 April 1997

The Azad Hind Fauj (Free Indian Army, aka IR 950) never wore the Wehrmacht chest eagle, so technically (!) they weren't even Wehrmacht.
Ed Haynes, 19 April 1997

This unit was know as Indische Freiwilligen Legion der Waffen-SS when it became a part of the Waffen-SS. (A complete (?) history of these voluteers can be found on German Armed Forces in WWII, http://www.uwm.edu/People/jpipes/azadhind.html).
Marcus Wendel, 5 June 1999

A detailed history of the INA is to be found in Wikipedia (with 72 references and a huge bibliographical list), including a report of the first hoisting of the INA flag:
"The Indian National Army Memorial at Moirang, Manipur commemorates the place where the flag of Azad Hind was raised by Col. Shaukat Hayat Malik Moirang was the first Indian Territory captured by the INA."

The Wikipedia article has a black and white photograph kept in the National Archives of Singapore showing the flag with the spinning wheel. However, several Indian newspapers have reported the discovery of the first flag of INA. Quoting Waikhom Shana, IFP agency, 27 April 2008:
"The INA flag which was hoisted for the first time in Indian territory is still existing in good shape. The flag is in the custody of YA Shishak of Shangshak in Ukhrul district, who witnessed the Indo-Japanese war at Shangshak. He also served as a peon in both the Maratha Infantry and Japanese Army in different periods of time. The tricolour flag is made of Khadi and has a tiger printed on it. YA Shishak says the flag was the first INA flag which was hoisted first in Ukhrul by the INA.
[...]
YA Shishak is now living near Shangshak war cemetery in Ukhrul. His small house is a museum of sorts preserving relics of the Indo-Japanese war.
[...]
He showed the INA flag only when he came to know that the persons visiting his museum were media persons. He called them inside and took out a flag from an old aluminium box kept under a side table.
[...]"

Images of the first INA flag are shown by Herbert A. Friedman in his essay "Axis propaganda against Indian troops", with lettering in white instead of yellow as shown above and slightly different proportions - mostly insignificant until we can see a photograph of Shishak's flag. The same source shows the German "Azad Hind" propaganda postage stamp, showing again the first flag of INA, here with white letters bordered in black, commented as follows by Friedman:
"My original 1972 description of the above 1 rupee plus 2 rupees stamp is A turbaned soldier carrying the Azad Hind flag with two companions in German-style field caps, the design flanked by two ceremonial swords. This stamp is one of a set produced in Germany for propaganda purposes and meant to be used at some future time in territories controlled by the Free Indian Army. Twelve million stamps were printed and gummed by the Reichsdruckerei in Berlin. The failure of the Free Indian Army to achieve any military success left the stamps without a reason for use, and the entire issue was still in storage in Europe at the end of the war. None of the stamps was ever placed in use. Postwar forgeries exist, printed offset rather than photogravure, with a washed-out and somewhat unclear appearance."

Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azad_Hind_Fauz Indian National Army in Wikipedia
http://www.kanglaonline.com/index.php?template=headline&newsid=41926&typeid=1 - "First INA flag stored in a box at Ukhrul villager's home" - IFP,
27 April 2008
http://www.psywarrior.com/AxisPropIndia.html "Axis propaganda against Indian troops" by H.A. Friedman

Ivan Sache, 1 May 2008