LETTER:Asian heroes unseen at VJ Day

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The Independent Online
From Major G. R. Bide, OBE

Sir: I write to express both indignation and sorrow at the treatment accorded to the representatives of the Indian Army who marched in Saturday's VJ Day Parade and for many of whom an otherwise memorable day was sadly marred. The 14th Army, under the overall command of Field Marshall Slim - surely the greatest professional soldier of the Second World War - was composed of 750,000 Indian Army troops, all volunteers, and 250,000 British. I do not need to emphasise the appalling conditions under which the 14th Army had to fight nor the difference in the implacable attitude of the enemy as compared with the European conflict.

Without wishing for one moment to deprecate the bravery and resource of the British Army's participation in the Burma campaign, I have to say that it was surely disgraceful that the Indian Army contingent, who represented 75 per cent of the 14th Army's fighting force should have been relegated to a position in the marching order where they were unable to participate in the service in front of Buckingham Palace or in the two minutes silence, because they were too far away either to see or to hear anything that was taking place.

Those of us who are still living are now in our seventies and eighties, but we managed to wait patiently in the heat while these events took place and, finally, after an hour and a half we marched down the Mall behind the Ghurka Band.

It was very heart-warming and some consolation that we received a tumultuous reception from the public.

It is true that India became independent in 1947 but the celebrations on Saturday were intended to commemorate the defeat of the Japanese in 1945. To forget at such a time that the Indian Army outnumbered their British comrades three to one and not to give them a position in the forefront of the celebrations was surely a deplorable error and one which conveys to our children and grandchildren a totally false impression of events.

Yours faithfully,

G. R. Bide

11th Sikh Regiment

Farnham, Surrey

23 August

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