This was the first time Indian women entered the army, it also was the only time they were allowed to serve in a variety roles. Many Indian women laid down their lives during the Second World War, to help save humanity from the horror of Nazism. Unfortunately, most of them remain unknown and unsung.
Noor Inayat Khan
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She was a British secret agent of Indian origin who worked as the first female radio operator in Nazi-occupied France for the Special Operation Executive (SOE). She was betrayed by a French woman, leading to her capture by the Gestapo in October 1943. Despite continued torture over months, the Gestapo failed to procure any information from her, and she made a heroic speech just minutes before she was hanged. Noor faced death with a smile on her face.
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From tracking enemy transmissions and maintaining aircrafts to cleaning depth charges and driving convoys, the bravery, skill and commitment of these women paved the way for those who serve in the Armed Forces today. In fact, at the peak of World War II, around 74,000 women were serving in the WRNS in a huge variety of roles.
Women workers in textile mills
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Thirty-five per cent of India’s great cotton textiles production, amounting to some 5,000,000,000 yards a year, went into war materials for India and the allies, thanks to these woman who worked almost 20 hours and some till childbirth.
The Indian The Quetta Platoon
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These women were the first to enlist in the British Indian Army. Around 11,500 women worked as typists, drivers, switchboard operators, cipher works and general services, such as ferrying supplies for the troops. They would travel with the soldiers working behind the front lines. They were devoted, fearless yet unsung.
Nightingales of WW2
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Thousands of civilian women served as nurses alongside Indian doctors in WW2. A large part of the nurses was of the Anglo-Indian community. Their experience, although less well known, was equally valuable and often quite stressful. There were air raids at night, the wards and departments were all blacked-out, but these nurses had to wade through all that tending to the wounded, some highly critical. Neither bombs nor blackout ever hindered or stopped these Nightingales.
The Indian woman played important roles during World War II, both at home and in uniform. Not only did they give their sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers to the war effort, they gave their time, energy, and some even gave their lives.