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1939 - 1945


Short Historical Note

During WW2 India was still part of the British Commonwealth and as such British awards were available to its servicemen. In this context, two further awards were specifically related to India's participation in the war : the Service Medal 1939-1945 and the Recruiting Badge. Furthermore, a number of Indian states also saw fit to provide medals for their inhabitants for service abroad.

However, at the time there also existed a movement for Indian independence, lead by Subhas Chandra Bose. With the assistance of Nazi Germany and Japan, he raised the Provisional Government of Azad Hind (Free India) which declared war on Great Britain and the United States on 24 October 1943. A number of troops were raised, largely from Indian POW's and the Order of Azad Hind was created by the Provisional Government for award to members of the "Indian Legion" in Europe or the "Indian National Army" in Southeast Asia.

More information on the Indian Legion can be found at http://www.feldgrau.com/azadhind.html .


The India Service Medal 1939-1945

India Service Medal

This medal was awarded for three years of non-operational service in the Indian Forces between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945 excluding those that were entitled to the British Defence Medal. Its ribbon colours represent the Order of the Star of India and the Order of the Indian Empire.


Indian Recruiting Badge

India Recruiting Badge

Perhaps not really a decoration, this badge was awarded for good services in recruiting.


Local Indian States Awards

Bahawalpur (now in Pakistan)

Bahawalpur 1939-45 Overseas Medal, obverse Bahawalpur 1939-45 Overseas Medal, reverse

The Bahawalpur 1939-45 Overseas Service Medal was apparently mainly awarded for service in the Middle Eastern theatre of war but it has also been awarded for active service in Malaya (1st Bahawalpur Infantry Battalion).

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The Victory Star 1939-45 has a blank reverse.


Two bravery decorations were created - pictures and/or details of them would be welcomed.


Hyderabad Victory Medal
Some 3,200 of the silver(ed ?) Hyderabad 1945 Victory Medal were struck.


Jodhpur Commemorative Medal, obverse jJodhpur Commemorative Medal, reverse

Although a 50 mm non-wearable medal seems to have been struck, it would appear that no soldier of the Jodhpur contingent ever received one. The medal pictured was awarded to a British soldier.


Pudukkotai Victory Medal - obverse Pudukkotai Victory Medal - reverse

A Victory Medal is in existence.


Tripura 1939-45 War Service Medal

Some 500 medals of the cupro-nickel Tripura 1939-45 War Service Medal are believed to have been struck for award to the small contingent that served first in India and then in Burma with 15 Corps. Its ribbon is possibly yellow with red edges and a central band of red-white-red.


Udaipur WW2 Victory Medal

A limited number of the 38 mm WW2 Victory Medal were awarded in three classes : gold (25), silver (74) and bronze (1,987)

Acknowledgment : I'm deeply indebted to Mr. Emmanuel Halleux for his information and pictures on the Indian States awards.


The Order of Azad Hind

Believed to be instituted in 1942. Three classes of the order and three medals were created and could be awarded either with or without swords. Nominal awards will most likely have been made but it is doubtful that actual awarding ceremonies did take place before the order petered out into discontinuity in late 1944. The various classes are :

Azad Hind 1st class neck badge with swords

Sher-i-Hind (Lion of India) : neck badge with swords for exceptional bravery, without swords for exceptional distinguished services towards the Indian Legion/Indian National Army.

Azad Hind 2nd class breast star with swords

Sardar-i-Jang (War Lord) : breast star with swords for great personal bravery against the enemy, without swords for distinguished service towards the Indian Legion/Indian National Army.

Azad Hind 3rd class breast badge without swords

Vir-i-Hind (Hero of India) : breast badge with swords for personal bravery against the enemy, without swords for special services towards the Indian Legion/Indian National Army.

Azad Hind Gold Medal, without swords, obverse Azad Hind Gold Medal, without swords, reverse

Thamga-e-Bahaduro (Soldier's Medal) : bronze gilt medal with swords for bravery, without swords for service towards the Indian Legion/Indian National Army.

Azad Hind Silver Medal, without swords

Thamga-e-Azadi (Freedom Medal) : I have found a mention that this silvered bronze medal "with swords" was awarded for a minimum of 1.5 years of service in the Indian Legion/Indian National Army.

Azad Hind Bronze Medal, with swords

Shahid-i-Bharat (Martyr of India) : this bronze medal "with swords" was destined for posthumous award to the next-of-kin of those that gave their lives for India's freedom. It is highly unlikely that a medal without swords was created.

Collectors beware : originals of these awards are unlikely to be found, copies on the other hand are very much in existence.

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Copyright Hendrik Meersschaert 2002-2003