Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Raj and WWII

THE collapse of British rule in Southeast Asia in the early years of the Second World War was both sudden and absolute as the Japanese invaded their colonies -— Singapore, Malaya, Burma, Shanghai and other territories. There was no resistance; it did come later, towards the end of the war.Although the outcome of the war was different, Japan’s stunning victories badly humiliated the colonialists, weakened their economic might and played an instrumental role in bringing down the curtain on the British Empire that had never seen the sun setting on its conquests. Although Japan had to pay a heavy price for that — atom bombs were dropped on two of its cities — its role in the war reshaped the continent’s future forever, bringing independence to the enslaved lands.The British had over the years now reconciled with the end of their great empire; they could not swallow the humiliation their troops were subjected to by Japan in East Asia. The surrender ceremony in Singapore was one such event. Another was the decision taken in a state of helplessness not to defend Malaya. And then their troops suffered a long spell of indignities in prisons memories of which still haunt the surviving war veterans of the eastern front and the officers who served in the Asian colonies.

Eventually when the Allied forces began their counter-attack and began making gains, it became apparent that the Japanese would lose. In battles at Imphal and Kohima, they tasted their first major defeat of the war, and they too began to suffer with their troops dying by the thousand. It was the triumph of Britain’s 14th army. It took two full years for Britain to raise it and turn it into a competent force, and by 1944 it was ready to fight the Japanese.The authors of the book argue that the famine was a turning point in the war and in Indian history. But Japan’s victories had already dispelled the notion that only “whites”, being a superior race, were entitled to rule India. The famine, which to a large extent was caused by the supply of enormous quantity of foodstuff to Burma, turned the British into villains of the piece in the eyes of the general public.

Forgotten Armies: Britain’s Asian Empire & the War With JapanBy Christopher Bailey & Tim Harper, Penguin Books.
ISBN 0-140-29331-0
Counter Sample Page