Sunday, May 23, 2010

War (WW2) Fund Tickets - British India

Today's post is going to be a short one. Obviously, the main reason is I couldn't get any information on these. It is about two WWII war fund raffle/ticket.

First one in the series is issued by Chhatarpur State War Committee. Chhatarpur is now a district in Madhya Pradesh state of Modern India. Before independence, Chhatarpur was 11 gun salute princely state, also known as central India (Bundelkhand) agency.

The ticket says it was issued for "Funds needed to fight in the war". The denomination of ticket was 1 Anna. It also has serial number of 0095 (meaning not more than 9999 of such tickets were printed).

Unfortunately, I couldn't get any details on Chhatarpur State War Committee or involvement of Chhatarpur state during WWII. All I could gather was Chhatarpur state also consisted of Nowgong (Nowgaon), a military cantonment town which was the headquarters of the 'Bundelkhand Agency’ of princely states. Thus, I assume that Chhatarpur state must have actively contributed.

After the independence of India in 1947, the Rajas of Chhatarpur acceded to India, and Chhatarpur, together with the rest of Bundelkhand Agency, became part of the Indian state of Vindhya Pradesh. Vindhya Pradesh was merged into the state of Madhya Pradesh in 1956.

Shown above is another of such war fund ticket issued during WWII. It is called "Hujur Viceroy Bahadur Ka Ladai Fund" in Hindi meaning "Viceroy's War Fund". The ticket is dated November, 1940. It is written in a variant of Hindi and the handwriting makes it more difficult to read. I just couldn't even make out the amount mentioned on ticket. Besides, I have no clue which princely state or part of British India had issued it.

Any information on both of above war fund tickets will be highly appreciated.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Indian Military Air Letter Card (MALC) - WWII

Today's post is second in series on Indian Military Air Letter Cards (MALC). The air letter shown below is of type "Christmas Greetings Issues", category ICG. Below MALC was issued for Christmas 1944 and postage free.

Shown above is front side of what is called ICG 44, Sub-Type 5. Coded THE CALCUTTA PHOTOTYPE COMPANY as per catalogue "Indian Military Air Letter Cards 1942-47" by late O.R.J. Lee. The one I have is mint sample.

The external layout of the form is similar to the previous sub-types of this category but the block shows two monkeys in a tree and is 51-1/2 x 33-1/2 mm. The background is dotted and there is a white panel saying Greetings from India. The form number I.A.F.F. - 1083 appears on the front side below block.

Down below on the back side appears - THESE CARDS ARE FOR THE USE OF H.M. FORCES ONLY. and there is provision for Sender's details and the language written in.

The interior comprises a full double page modernistic design by artist J. B. Prentice. At the top left is GREETINGS set at an angle and at the bottom, in a panel running the whole width of the design is:-

CHRISTMAS and the New Year

At the right, sticking up out of the panel, is a serviceman giving the V sign. On his left is a bunch of bananas and a bunch of grapes. While on his right, there is a fruit vendor. In background, some historical monuments are shown. The colours are slate blue, dark green, mauve, brown and yellow.

I would love to have a used sample in good condition for my reference. Thus, anyone willing to offer please contact me.

R.I.A.F. Advertisement - British India

Today's post is a post-war advertisement given in "War supplement to the Jodhpur Government Gazette, August 18, 1945" by R.I.A.F. (Royal Indian Air Force). Even though, it was published in War Supplement of Gazette, I still say it is post-war advertisement because of V-J Day on 14th August, 1945.

You know, the exact date of the war's end is not universally agreed upon. It has been suggested that the war ended at the armistice of 14 August 1945 (V-J Day), rather than the formal surrender of Japan (2 September 1945); in some European histories, it ended on V-E Day (8 May 1945). The Treaty of Peace with Japan was not signed until 1951.

Anyway, this is certainly a WWII item given that it was published in War supplement to the Gazette.

This is an advertisement by R.I.A.F. inviting Indian youth to join them. It claims Aviation as new industry for India which is true only. Those times, the Indian Air Force was very small. The advertisement goes like this:

Prepare for the Newest Industry.


The Royal Indian Air Force calls to the Youth of India. The flying fields, training schools and aircraft, all await those with spirit of adventure.

Now is the time for Indian youth to become air-minded, now is the chance to utilise the opportunity for free training for a flying career. The Royal Indian Air Force needs youngmen who are physically fit, courageous and possess the qualities of leadership. Youngmen with these qualities, who are between the ages of 17-1/2 and 28, and who have good general education, knowledge of current affairs and a first class knowledge of written and spoken English must not miss this chance. The future is theirs, the R.I.A.F. will make it.

Selected candidates who are successful in their training, and in other respects suitable, normally get their commission after 30 weeks. Appointment to a commission is in the rank of Acting Pilot Officer on probation. The probationary period is six months. On satisfactory completion of probationary period or on reaching the required standard of proficiency in his duties, whichever is later, an Acting Pilot Officer is promoted to the rank of Pilot Officer.

To every successful Marwari candidate selected for training as a pilot, the State would give a reward of Rs. 1000/- when he receives his Commission as a Pilot Officer after completing his training and six months probation.

For full details apply to:- .. ..

The Honorary Secretary,
Central Recruiting Committee,

It also mentions salary details offered by R.I.A.F. at different ranks. Since, I feel anything related to CTC shall be kept confidential as taught to me in corporate world, I am not publishing that myself even though you can read them in advertisement :-)

Before we close this post, I just want to give you brief history of Indian Air Force or so called Royal Indian Air Force during WWII.

Royal Indian Air Force had its origins in the recommendation of the Skeene Committee in 1926. Six years later the Indian Legislature passed the Indian Air Force Act. The IAF came into being on October 8, 1932, and the first flight was formed in 1933. At that time, there were only six officers - five pilots and one equipment officer apart from 19 Havai Sepoys (air soldiers) and its aircraft inventory comprised four Westland Wapiti biplanes at Drigh Road (now in Pakistan).

The outbreak of second world war resulted in the expansion of IAF. By the end of 1941, the IAF had three squadrons and five coastal defence flights. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour brought the war to India’s doorstep and in December 1942, the IAF was inducted into Burma for the first Burma Campaign. In recognition of the services rendered by the Indian Air Force during the war, the service was bestowed with the prefix "Royal" on 12 March 1945 and was then known as the Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF). In 1946 it consisted of 8 fighter and 2 transport squadrons with modern aircraft.

People who are interested in knowing the marvelous achievements of Royal Indian Air Force during WWII, are encouraged to browse following link:

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Yesterday, I gave you a lesson on Italian pasta and pizza from Po Valley so don't you think it's time to brush up a bit on French cheese and wine ;-) France and Italy have contributed so much in the area of art, culture, food and fashion that both go hand in hand. I know you will agree, hence I have selected today's topic.

For a change, I will not start with giving lecture on French resistance and armistice during WWII but first show you the item and then we will go down the memory lane :D

Shown above is one of the famous airmail letter issued by Indian Airmail Society during WWII. The concept of such letter was from Stephen Smith, secretary of Indian Airmail Society and a known pioneer of Rocket Mail during those times.

Let's first get into technical part of the letter and then we will touch upon literary section! The letter was carried through a airplane piloted by J. S. Salisbury. The letter carries his signature close to large shaped 'V'. The letter carries two red and one purple colored special cancellation cachets: "BY AIR" on front, "V with M" on reverse side in red color and "A" -> Calcutta on front and reverse side both in purple color.

It is also said that the "A" flight originated in Jhabua according to J. C. Cooper's notes published in "Bulletin of the Airmail Society of India", II, II, (Oct. - Dec. 1974) pp.42-45. The letter has cancellation of Dum Dum (a place in Calcutta) of September 12, 1941, 9:15 a.m. It has been backstamped with slogan "Buy Defence Savings Certificates" dated September 12, 1941, 5 p.m. at Park Street (again Calcutta).

This cover has also been signed by Stephen Smith on the reverse side twice. It also states that 20 piece of mail was carried. Only 12 such envelopes were carried on the flight.

I know by this time you would have already noticed the main attraction of this cover: the text. I am not surprised if you would have read it also and found it amusing :D Well, it is and most important of all carries a good propaganda message.

The letter carries a very large V in red color with text in center "DONT BELIEVE IN RUMOUR" and "DO NOT BE BLIND". At the left side of V, an old English nursery rhyme and musical round has been molded into a great message of war.

The cover has a rhyme:


Man! this is what I like about WWII propaganda. The people working under Psychological Warfare division were so creative and imaginative that they always came up with superb message on any form that they touched whether it was leaflets, posters or covers.

Literature Class

According to Wikipedia, a version of this rhyme was published in Deuteromelia or The Seconde part of Musicks melodie (1609). The editor of the book, and possible author of the rhyme, was Thomas Ravenscroft, who in 1609 was still a teenager. The original lyrics are:

Three Blinde Mice,
Three Blinde Mice,
Dame Iulian,
Dame Iulian,
the Miller and his merry olde Wife,
shee scrapte her tripe licke thou the knife.

Attempts to read historical significance into the words have led to the speculation that this musical round was written earlier and refers to Queen Mary I of England blinding and executing three Protestant bishops, but problematically the Oxford Martyrs, Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer, were burned at the stake, not blinded.

Later, the wordings became:

Three blind mice. Three blind mice.
See how they run. See how they run.
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a sight in your life,
As three blind mice?

History Class

The rhyme was beautifully modified according to the then situation in France. The rhyme on cover mentions three blind mice as Philippe Petain (WWI hero and later becoming chief of the French state known as Vichy during WWII after German forces run over France), François Darlan (Admiral of the French Naval Fleet and Prime Minister of France between 1941 to 1942 when this cover was issued) and finally, Pierre Laval (Prime Minister of France just after French Armistice with Germany in 1940 and then he continued as head of Vichy state after Darlan stepped down.)

These three people were key figures in France during WWII and instrumental in getting Armistice signed with Germany in 1940 after France fell to the Germany. There are numerous articles on internet which talks about the role played by each of these figures during WWII including disagreement between them during WWII days.

Despite, the fact that they never openly agreed to German stand of declaring war on Britain and handing over the French North Africa to German forces as part of armistice which some historians say would have prevented allied landing in Africa, there is no denial in their role in Vichy government which caused thousands of Jews handed over to Germany which resulted in their execution and be part of other atrocities which Germans did during their rule in France.

We can go on writing about each person's role and involvement with Nazi regime but I think internet is right place for people who want to go in depth. Thus, I would end my history class abruptly here with concluding remark that Darlan was assassinated in 1942, Laval was executed by firing squad after his trial and prosecution post-war and Petain died in 1951 after his death sentence was converted into life imprisonment considering his old age during his trial post-war.

Last but the least, they introduced the word "Collaboration" to French people and gave an important history lesson to all coming generations!!!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

"The Po is waiting for you" - German Propaganda Leaflet Against British India

It's leaflet time once again! Today's leaflet is based on one of the important campaign in Europe during WWII called "Po Valley Campaign" in 1945. It was the last campaign in Italy in WW2 and resulted in the complete surrender of the German forces that were occupying Italy.

Before I share the propaganda leaflet dropped by German forces over allied troops specially over 8th Indian Infantry Division which was part of this campaign, here is brief history on Po Valley fighting.

After Rome was captured in June 1944, the next objective was to advance as quickly as possible and force the Germans out of Italy and hopefully to move into Austria or Hungary. The main targets of this plan were the manufacturing centers of the cities that were in the low plains of the Po River and its tributaries. However, the Germans managed to establish a strong defensive line in the northern Apennines Mountains and stopped the Allied advance just short of Bologna and Highway #9. The Allies halted their North Apennines Campaign in November 1944, when the fall rains made it too difficult to support further fighting.

It wasn't until April 1945 before the Allies launched a spring offensive, that attacked across the Po Valley. The campaign, that became known as the Po Valley Campaign, began with the British 8th Army (including commonwealth troops such as 8th Indian Infantry Division, New Zealand's 20 Battalion and Armoured Regiment etc) attacking on the eastern flank and was followed by a major assault by the American 5th Army that captured Bologna. Then the 5th Army drove due north and crossed the Po River and pushed on to the Alps. On the western coast, the 92nd Infantry Division supported by 442 & 473 Regimental Combat Teams, drove along the western coast line and captured Genoa and only advanced a little further before the cease-fire order.

The Po Valley Campaign lasted only 21 days. The Germans were caught by surprise and could not organize a retreat or a fall-back position. The fighting was very confused and very fast paced. Many German small units simply arrived into a town to find it occupied by Allies. The German soldiers surrendered by the thousands.

During this push, the Italian partisans launched attacks behind the lines against the German troops. Benito Mussolini was captured by the partisans and was executed. The German surrender was announced on 2 May, 1945, thus ending the Po Valley Campaign and the War.

There are hundreds of links on this if one searches on Google. Some of most noted ones are here for people who are interested in reading in details:

Finally, here comes the most awaited part :D

Shown above is front side of the propaganda leaflet dropped by German Forces on 8th Indian Infantry Division. The leaflet is numbered as 1908-1-45 on left lower corner. The leaflet is of size 203 x 295 mm. The leaflet carries a text "The Po is waiting for you" in English and Urdu/Arabic.

It shows on front a colourful scene of the Italian countryside on either side of the Po River, with the towns of Cremona, Brescia, Mantova, Verona, Padova, Rovigo, Modena and Ferrara, and in the right foreground a smiling young woman holding a large basket of grapes and oranges.

While on the reverse, it shows a black and white illustration of a laughing skeleton wading in the Po River with a wrecked bridge in the background, and soldiers on boats being attacked and killed by enemy shell fire.

The Germans produced a number of leaflets with the same concept, showing Allied soldiers drowning beneath the dark waters and titles such as “Death in the Po” or “The Po is Waiting for You.”

These leaflets were warning for allied troops of what was waiting for them if they tried to cross the Po River. It is one of my favorite leaflet because of carrying great illustration and visible message.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bhavnagar War Fund Postcard - WWI India

Today's item is based on war fund postcard issued by Princely State of Bhavnagar during WWI. Bhavnagar was a princely state during British India, part of formerly western (Kathiawar) India states agency which later merged into Saurashtra and now part of Gujarat state of Modern India.

Bhavnagar was ruled by Colonel HH Maharaja Raol Shri Sir Bhavsinhji II Takhatsinhji Shaib 1896/1919, born 26th April 1875, during WWI. Initially, the Maharaja was entitled to a salute of 11 guns and was awarded a K.C.S.I (Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India) on 24th June 1904. During WWI, based on his generous contribution, he was upgraded to 13 gun salute.

The Maharaja was known to be a modern ruler and a great supporter of female emancipation. He promoted monogamy, advanced education and abolished "purdah". He also instituted "Bhavnagar War Hospital Medal" in 1916 to commemorate services on board and treatment in the War Hospital during the Great War 1916-1918. The medal was awarded in two classes (1. Silver Medal, and 2. Bronze Medal).

On his personal front, he married 1stly, 1893, HH Maharani Dev Kunverba Sahiba, daughter of HH Maharaja Shri Mansinhji Prithvirajji of Baria, and his wife, HH Maharani Chandra Kunverba Sahiba but he had no issue with his first wife. After he was awarded K.C.S.I., British Govt. granted him a sanad authorizing adoption, and the succession of his throne. Finally, he married 2ndly, 1905, HH Maharani Nand Kunverba Sahiba, daughter of Thakur Raisinhji Jijibhai of Khirasra, and had issue.

Like the Maharaja, H.H. Maharani Shri Nandkunverba Sahiba was also very active on war front. She was granted CI (the imperial order of the crown of India) on 12th December 1911 and awarded KIH (Kaiser-i-Hind) Medal 1st Class on 1st January 1917 due to her distinguished service in the advancement of the interests of the British Raj.

There are set of 5 postcards issued during WWI by order of Her Highness Nandkunverba, C.I., Maharani of Bhavnagar, for the benefit of the War Fund. Four of such postcards show soldiers awarded for their bravery while fifth one shows seal of different rulers of Bhavnagar.

Shown above is 1st of such postcard issued with photograph of Sepoy Khudadad. The photograph carries text below as Sepoy Khudadad, V.C., 129th Baluchis, Won the V.C. for great bravery in action at Hollebeke. The same text is also printed on right side of postcard in Hindi.

For those who don't know, Khudadad Khan was born in Dabb Village, Punjab State, of now Pakistan. When war broke out he joined the Army as a Sepoy or Private soldier and served with the 129th (Duke of Connaught’s Own) Baluchis as a machine gunner. In October 1914 his regiment was sent to the front line in France to help exhausted British troops. The Baluchi’s were pushed back by the Germans and all the gunners were killed apart from Khan who was badly wounded. For his bravery in France and his involvement in preventing the German Army reaching vital ports, Khan received the Victoria Cross on 31st October 1914. He was the first native-born Indian to receive this honour. He died in 1971.

The 2nd postcard depicts Sepoy Chhattar Singh. The text states: Sepoy Chhattar Singh, V.C., of the 9th Bhopal Infantry. Right side of same postcard reads in English and Hindi both:

A Rajput V.C.

"For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in leaving cover to assist his Commanding Officer who was lying wounded and helpless in the open. Sepoy Chhattar Singh bound up the officer's wound and dug cover for him with entrenching tool, being exposed all the time to heavy rifle fire. For five hours until nightfall he remained beside the wounded officer shielding him with his own body on the exposed side. He then under cover of darkness went back for assistance and brought the officer into safety."

Above looks like an official award statement. He was awarded on 13 January 1916. Here is more information on 9th Bhopal Infantry's war adventure.

9th Bhopal - usually referred to as the Bo-Peeps – were in Flanders in October 1914. In the late afternoon of a cold, wet, late autumn day, the Bhopals went to the aid of the remnants of a British battalion near Neuve Chapelle. Still in cotton-drill, they had their first encounter with trenches and barbed wire and stayed, locked in battle for three days without food. Their losses were eleven officers and 262 men. Three days later, at Festubert, they lost a further 200. Remaining in France until May 1915, they then went on to Mesopotamia where a sepoy, Chhattar Singh, earned a Victoria Cross. On return to India, there remained only fifteen of the original who had sailed for France in 1914.

Third postcard shows photograph of Risaldar Mohbat Sinhji. The text reads in English and Hindi as Risaldar Mohbat Sinhji, Bhavnagar Lancers, Imperial Service Troops. Awarded Indian Distinguished Service Medal.

I tried searching some background information via internet on Mohbat Sinhji but failed. If someone can share some more details on his war services then it will be great.

This is fourth such postcard showing photograph of Jemadar Mir Dast. The text reads in English and Hindi both as: Jemadar Mir Dast, V.C., I.O.M. (Indian Order of Merit (Military)), 57th Wilde's Rifles. Won the V.C. for great bravery in the fighting around Ypres.

Mir Dast was awarded Victoria Cross on 26th April 1915 for his bravery in battle of Ypres, Belgium.

The last postcard in this series show state seals of the Former Rulers of the State of Bhavnagar starting from 1703 to 1896.

Princely state of Bhavnagar finally acceded to the Union of India on Feb.15, 1948.
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