Queen Elizabeth 2, George HW Bush and World War 2

Queen Elizabeth 2 must have set many records in longevity. One of them was being the last surviving Head of State who saw service in World War 2:



Before her, the last surviving head of state who served in WW2 was George HW Bush (1924-2018). He served as a carrier pilot in the US Navy and saw active service, being shot down off the Bonin Islands off Japan.

He was the only survivor of a mission in which several of his comrades died in gruesome circumstances:



More details here about the Japanese atrocities:


Tail piece: Can you think of any prominent Indian political leader in recent times who had seen any significant military service?

75 years ago-Japan formally surrenders

While Japan had announced its surrender on August 15, a more formal process occurred on September 2, 1945.

On September 2, 1945, formal surrender occurred aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. While the UK and Commonwealth countries (but not India) consider August 15 to be V-J Day, the US commemorates this on September 2. China, Philippines and Taiwan are the last to commemorate this on September 3.


75 years ago-endgame in Europe-1

The Corona Virus pandemic may well be the worst disaster since World War 2. So it is useful to look back 75 years to the closing stages of the war in Europe.

28/04/1945: Mussolini, his mistress and other Fascist leaders killed by Italian partisans.

Hitler marries Eva Braun.

29/04: Hitler writes his will, designating Admiral Karl Donitz as his successor.

30/04: Hitler and Eva commit suicide.

01/05: Goebbels and his wife commit suicide. They also murder their 6 children.

02/05: The Battle of Berlin ends in a decisive Soviet victory.

04/05: The bulk of German armies surrender at Luneberg Heath in the Netherlands.



World War 2 snippets-Hitler’s personal train

A relatively unknown story from World War 2.

The basic information is here:


More details here, including a 50-minute documentary:



75 years ago-the Fugo bombs

There were many things happening in World War 2 75 years ago. One of them was Japan launching their little-known weapon against the US. This started on Nov 3, 1944.

You may have heard of Japan’s Fugu fish:


But the Fugo bomb was something else.


This was then the weapon with the longest range, as they successfully crossed the Pacific to land on the west coast of the US.

And they were the only example of an enemy attack causing fatalities on the US mainland during wartime. 9/11 was not a wartime attack.

WW2 snippets-Das Panzerlied

World War 2 inspired much patriotic art in the forms of films and music. Germany and the Nazi cultural and propaganda corps specialized in this, with films such as “Triumph of the Will” and “Olympia 1936” which are still being studied as masterpieces of propaganda.

Then there was the German anthem which started with “Deutschland uber alles, uber alles in der Welt” which naturally sounded ominous to other countries. And there were outright Nazi songs such as the Horst Wessel song.

Naturally, the anthem (for West Germany and now united Germany) was changed to something more innocuous and other songs were banned (along with “Mein Kampf”).

There were also some purely military songs which also earned a bad name, even though they were not really propagandist or supporting the Nazi ideology. Like this song of the tank-men of the Wehrmacht Das Panzerlied (or “The Tank Song”).

This version sees an attempt to sing the English lyrics:

Note the fanatical element in the last few lines (say from 2:20 onwards).

A weird Japanese version is included here only because it includes the German and English lyrics in full:

Note the element of fanaticism in the last few lines (around 3:00 onwards).

This became better known in the English-speaking countries through the 1965 Hollywood film “Battle of the Bulge”:

Here, it is the first stanza repeated 4 times rather than the entire song.

Note the commander played by the versatile Robert Shaw, whose last major role was that of the veteran shark-hunter in “Jaws”. And the orderly Hans-Christian Blech, one of many German actors who specialized in roles of soldiers and junior officers (as in “The Longest Day”).

As years passed, it was still sung by the West German and later united German army (besides versions in other languages in countries such as Italy and Chile). Recently the defence ministry had it deleted from the official song book although it was not banned.

It seems that a number of clips of this song have been removed from Youtube  in recent years as it had become popular among Nazi supporters.

And finally, here the instrumental version by a Japanese orchestra a few years ago. The Youtube comments have a number of snide remarks about the Axis coming together again:

Also see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzerlied

More on concentration camps

There is now talk of large-scale detention camps in various parts of India, like here:


which is uncomfortably close to places like this:


This sign was not only at Auschwitz, but at several similar camps.

And who invented the idea of concentration camps? Not Hitler and his pals.

This little video explains further (though you can always look up further references about the conduct of the Boer War).

WW2 snippets-Lili Marlene

Today (September 3) marks the 80th anniversary of Britain and France declaring war on Germany. We look back on a song which was popular among the armed forces of Germany as well as Britain.

The story in brief is here:

And you can see more here:


While Marlene Dietrich had moved to Hollywood before the war, she later made it her signature song:

And Britain’s iconic singer of those days sang the English version:

In years to come, this was invariably sung at British-German war reunions.

Footnote: Vera Lynn (born 1917) lived up to 2020.

The Indians (and Brits) who fought on Hitler’s side

By now you know all about the heroic (?) deeds of the INA in East Asia. But you would not know about the Indians who fought in Hitler’s SS. The SS was not really racist-it had units from much of the Commonwealth, even a British unit as well as numerous non-Aryans from all over.

The main reference is:


though I am summarizing the main points below:

India: 2,500 in the
Indisches Freiwilligen Infanterie Regiment 950 or “Tiger Legion” This is described in some detail (including Netaji’s role) here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Legion

Stranger still was the story of the Britischer Freikorps in the SS (which had a peak strength of 27, not enough for a platoon).

This was indeed so obscure that few people in Britain had heard about it until the publication of the popular novel “The Eagle Has Landed” in the mid-70s. But it does not seem to figure in the movie.

The British government did, indeed, execute a few individuals such as William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) and John Amery for participating in broadcasts for Germany’s Ministry of Propaganda (headed by Herr Goebbels). But the irrelevance of the British Free Corps meant that nothing much happened to them.

Also see:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-jHuqkZzOw


and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Xdx1gd_ZP0&t=42s

BG link to Silchar is finally ready

In the last two days, the CRS has inspected the BG line from Lumding to Badarpur and Silchar. It is understood that this route will be opened for passenger traffic shortly. It has been a particularly tortuous conversion (even worse than that of Hassan-Mangalore) which has stretched on since 1997.

Various acts of terrorism (including attacks on trains as well as construction sites), heavy monsoon rains as well as apathy from various Central governments did not help either. Here we see the distance tables for the BG and MG lines. Note that there is a completely new alignment in the central portion, bypassing Haflong and its circle round the hill. A total of 16 km has been reduced. Some stations have been left out while new stations have been added. These are marked in bold.

Lumding Silchar route 001

Here you can see the beginning of the diversion from Migrendisa. Of course, if you follow the line right from Lumding you will see quite a difference in alignments. In some cases like Migrendisa the BG and MG stations are at different locations. You can follow the route down to Bandarkhal to see the different alignments clearly: https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Haflong,+Assam+788819/@25.1799083,93.0555428,15z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x374fa3e329fdadf3:0xe2ff7a660d6272c8

Important note: As of May 2017 the old alignment is no longer shown on Google Maps. Only the new alignment is shown.

Jatinga is a sort of tourist spot because of the birds which are bent on ending their livesthere, though it is not really a mystery: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jatinga

Another odd point is a station with the typical North Indian name of Kalachand, among exotic names more reminiscent of East Asia.

At the time of writing there is no service between Badarpur and Karimganj (which is still under conversion), while one pair of MG passenger trains are running between Karimganj and Agartala.

The Lumding-Badarpur route has a long and not very happy history. (However, the Badarpur-Silchar section is in the plains and does not have any particular problem with the terrain). The former was considered as a major operational bottleneck, with abut 18 km of 1:37 gradient which is now eliminated. It was a major supply route during World War 2, with supplies being shipped from Chittagong port to Upper Assam, where a number of airstrips in the Dibrugarh area were supplying China over the Himalayas. And there were the army operations in what is now Nagaland and Manipur. The Japanese came close to capturing Dimapur, which may have resulted in the fall of much of North-eastern India. Here are a couple of pictures from that time:


The full caption reads: …crossing the Detokcherra Bridge on the Bengal Assam Railway. The pipeline on the near side of the bridge is the Chittagong-Lumding pipeline.


These pictures are from a book “Line of Communication” by John Thomas (1947) which gives a comprehensive picture of railway operations east of Calcutta during the war, when most of the running was taken over by the US armed forces. At that time the old stalwarts the Eastern Bengal Railway and the Assam Bengal Railway had been merged into the Bengal & Assam Railway for the purpose of better coordination in wartime. There was plenty of reorganization again in 1947. I will cover more about the earlier history later.