I was looking forward to this read – HOnour and Fidelity: India’s military contribution to the Great War 1914-1918, but less than a third of the way in, I was to be more than disappointed.
The chapter on East Africa (chapter 4) was short – very short: pages 64-71 of which at least 1/3 of a page was a map, and 1/2 a page on Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck’s life after the war.
Given a book on the Indian Army published in 2014, this can only be called a poor show. Errors abound in the chapter which readings of general accounts of the campaign would show. The focus is on Tanga and Longido – both November 1914 – nothing of the Indian Army at Salaita or its incredible longevity in the East African theatre.
Apart from supplying manpower, the Indian Army was in control of the military aspect of the theatre to 22 November 1914 when the War Office took over, but continued to supply material for the remainder of the war. Nothing is said about the Faridkot Sappers or any other Pioneer unit and the work they did in keeping the forces moving. I can’t comment on the other theatres Amarinder covers but given his research on East Africa would hesitate to recommend this.
The positives of the book are:
- coverage of all the Expeditionary Forces in alphabetical order resulting in commentary on the Western Front, East Africa, Mesopotamia (by far the longest chapter), Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Gallipoli
- lists of units involved at different times of the war
- Awards made
- some maps
- diverse photographs, including one of Lenin. There are more photographs of the East Africa campaign than information on Indian involvement in the theatre.
The Epilogue provides a summary of India’s contribution to the war:
- 104 Labour Corps each with 1,150 men
- 1013 Porter Corps each with 576 men
- 15 Syce Companies consisting of 210 men each
- Followers/non combatants (shoesmiths, bakers, carpenters, cooks et) = 4.,737
- 7 Expeditionary Forces with a total of 1,338,620 men serving.
- Princely States supplied 26,099 combatants for overseas and 115,891 to the regular army
- donations and monetary contributions totalling £146,356 million
If you are interested in discovering more about India’s involvement in the East Africa campaign, I recommend:
- Harry Fecitt’s articles on GWAA; Kaiserscross and book
- Kaushik Roy’s work – Indian Army and the First World War and The Indian Army in two world wars
- Ross Anderson’s The forgotten Front
- Edward Paice’s Tip and Run
- SD Pradhan’s Indian Army in East Africa (if you can get a copy)
- Andrew Kerr’s I can never say enough about the men – this is the only book on East Africa referenced in Amarinder’s bibliography
- and my own books for the politics around India’s involvement as well as a previous post on the Indian forces.