Spanish Civil War

17 Jul 1936
End date: 
01 Apr 1939
Event location: 



The Spanish Civil War was an armed conflict that erupted after a conservative-backed military coup to depose Spain’s republican government failed to gain control over the whole country. A bloody three-year war ensued with the Nationalists supported by fascist states like Italy and Germany, and Republicans supported by the Soviet Union and the Left across Europe and the US. Around 40,000 volunteers fought in Spain as part of the International Brigades, which were largely controlled by the Comintern, among them George Orwell and Mulk Raj Anand. The Spanish Civil War ended with the disbanding and surrender of Republican armies at the end of March 1939. The conflict cost an estimated 500,000 - 1,000,000 lives. For Britain it marked a threat to the post-World War I international consensus which would lead to the outbreak of the Second World War.

The conflict’s political impact reverberated far beyond Spain. It was seen as an international conflict and part of a wider struggle between freedom and democracy versus tyranny, dictatorship and fascism. It became a conflict of different conceptualizations of civil society and a struggle for people’s rights to self-determination, democracy and world peace. In the context of India’s struggle for independence it became evident that its own fight for self-determination was linked to other international conflicts like the Spanish Civil War. Nehru and Krishna Menon in particular realized this.

The conflict mobilized many Indian citizens living in Britain. For example Indira Nehru spoke in support of Republican Spain at a gathering organized by Krishna Menon. The January 1938 India League independence day demonstration also highlighted the conflicts in China, Abyssinia and Spain. Along with banners of Nehru and Gandhi, flags of Republican Spain were visible. The India League in collaboration with the Communist Party of Great Britain and other organizations on the Left held meeting and protest marches in support of Republican Spain. Menon and Nehru visited Spain in summer 1938 and Nehru addressed a crowd of 5,000 in Trafalgar Square as part of a demonstration in Aid of Republican Spain on 17 July 1938, which marked the second anniversary of the start of hostilities. The India League also founded the Indian Committee for Food For Spain, with Feroze Gandhi as organizing secretary. Menon and Clemens Palme Dutt combined forces and engaged in fund-raising activities for an ambulance.

People involved: 

Mulk Raj Anand, Protool Chandra Bhandari, Reginald Bridgeman, Clemens Palme Dutt, Avigodr Michael Epstein, Feroze Gandhi, C. L. Katial, Harold Laski, Krishna Menon, Indira Nehru (Gandhi), Jawaharlal Nehru, George Orwell, Reginald Sorensen, Monica Whately, S. A. Wickremasinghe, Ellen Wilkinson.

Published works: 

Nehru, Jawaharlal, Spain! Why? (London: Indian Committee for Food For Spain, 1938)

Orwell, George, Homage to Catalonia (London: Secker & Waburg, 1938)

Orwell, George, Orwell in Spain (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2001)

Secondary works: 

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto, 2002)

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/451, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

L/PJ/12/293, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Indian Committee for Food for Spain

Published works: 

Jawaharlal Nehru 'Spain! Why?’ [pamphlet published by The Indian Committee for Food for Spain]

Key Individuals' Details: 

Feroze Gandhi, C. L. Katial, Protool C. Bhandari


India League

Tags for Making Britain: 

Second World War (1939-1945)

01 Sep 1939
End date: 
15 Aug 1945
Event location: 

Italy, Greece, Sicily, France, Britain, Germany, Middle East, North Africa, Burma, Malaya, India, Far East, Pacific


As in the First World War, Indian soldiers were called upon by Britain to help in the war effort. Despite the constitutional fall-out from Britain’s declaration of war on behalf of India, without prior consultation of Indian representatives, Britain could nevertheless rely on India’s support. The massive involvement of men and women from India in Britain's war effort and her allies has remained a marginalized story of the Second World War. Indian soldiers provided manpower, equipment and auxiliary support in theatres of war throughout the world. Their contribution was vital to keep the supply lines to Britain open and to defend her borders at home and in the empire.

An Indian contingent provided vital backup to the British Expeditionary Force in France in 1940 and these mule transport companies were evacuated at Dunkirk and received praise from British officers for their discipline and exemplary conduct in the midst of chaos. They were stationed in Britain until 1943 to provide vital back-up on the home front. South Asians in Britain such as Cedric Dover and Sudhindra Nath Ghose worked as ARP Wardens in Civil Defence. Indian pilots such as Mahinder Singh Pujji, one of seven fighter pilots chosen to join the RAF, flew Hurricanes, engaging German aircraft in dogfights over the English Channel. He was one of 24 Indian Air Force pilots sent to Britain in September 1940 to fly with the RAF (including four other Sikh pilots: Shivdev Singh, Gurbachan Singh, Tirlochan Singh and Manmohan Singh). Tirlochan Singh and Air Marshal Shivdev Singh flew bombers, the latter making twenty-two operational flights over Germany and later commanding an Indian Air Force squadron in Burma. The Royal Air Force needed to make up a shortage in pilots by actively recruiting personnel from across the Commonwealth. It dispensed with the colour bar of the armed forces that stipulated that only ‘British subjects of pure European descent’ could join. After October 1939 people from across the Commonwealth, regardless of nationality or race became eligible to join the RAF. By the end of the Second World War, over 17,500 such men and women had been recruited, serving in a variety of roles. A further 25,000 served in the Royal Indian Air Force.

In addition to meeting her own requirements, India’s new factories maintained a regular supply of vital war materials to her Allies. Textiles were sent to 15 countries. India would supply 37,000 of the 50,000 different textile articles required by the United Nations in the war. India was the third largest consignor of supplies to Australia for the Pacific war. Russia and China also received much war material from India.

South Asian merchant seamen living around the ports of London, Cardiff, Liverpool and South Shields also played a significant role. These sailors helped to ensure that the supply lines to Britain remained open and provided vital manpower often working under atrocious conditions for less pay than their white counterparts.

The Indian Army played a major part in the operations in Italy, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, East Africa and the Far East. The Fourteenth Army in Burma was the largest single army in the world. Its battle front of 700 miles was approximately as long as the Russian front against Germany. Of the total force of 1,000,000 men employed in Burma ( S.E.A.C.), 700,000 were Indians. By the end of the war, the Indian Army won 31 Victoria Crosses. In all, 4,028 awards for gallantry were made. In WWII the Indian Army suffered 24,338 killed, 64,354 wounded and 11,754 missing.

Secondary works: 

Bance, Peter, The Sikhs in Britain: 150 Years of Photographs (Stroud: Sutton, 2007)

Menezes, S. L., Fidelity and Honour: The Indian Army from the Seventeenth to the Twenty-first Century, rev. ed. (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999)

Prasad, Bisheshwar (general ed.), Official History of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War (Combined Inter-Services Historical Section (India & Pakistan))

Somerville, Christopher, Our War: How the British Commonwealth Fought the Second World War (London: Cassell Military, 2005)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto, 2002)


Oral Archives No. 2/6, British Library, St Pancras


This recording from the British Library oral archive contains an interview with General Auchinleck, who was Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, 1943-5. He also commanded Indian troops during the campaign in North Africa.


I think the English never cared; the English who lived in England, the politicians especially, I think they never took any interest in India at all. I think they used it…They couldn’t have come through both wars if the hadn’t had the Indian Army...I think they never really understood it.


Auchinleck's remarks sum up the British attitude towards the Indian contributions during the war. While there was much propaganda material available during the war, explaining and highlighting the Indian contributions to the allied war effort, their contributions were soon forgotten after the war and the myth that 'England stood alone' was perpetuated in historical accounts of the Second World War.

Archive source: 

L/PJ/8 series, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras:

L/PJ/8/503-536 India and the War, constitutional crisis arising from Governor General’s declaration, 17 October 1939

L/PJ/8/639 Subhas Chandra Bose disappearance and Death

L/PJ/12 series, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras:

L/PJ/12/630 Indian seamen, reports of unrest, welfare and union activities, November 1939 - January 1945

L/PJ/12/643 Indian industrial trainees under the Bevin scheme at Letchworth, Herefordshire, political influence by activists in UK, May 1941 - August 1943

L/PJ/12/659 Indian civilians and prisoners of war suspected of collaboration with Nazis; treatment and welfare, January 1944-1945

L/PJ/12/762 Indian prisoners of war in Europe, 1942-1943

L/PJ/12/763 Indian prisoners of war in Europe, January - December 1945

L/PJ/12/764 Treatment of Indian collaborators, October 1945 - April 1947

L/PJ/12/765 Collaborators in Germany: arrangements for repatriation and passport facilities, August - December 1946

L/PJ/12/766 Collaborators in Germany: arrangements for repatriation and passport facilities, January 1947 - January 1949

L/PJ/12/ 768 Indian collaborators: passport facilities for the UK, March 1947 - January 1948

L/PJ/12/769 Reports of interrogations of Indian prisoners of war and civilians captured in Europe and Far East, August 1945 - April 1946

L/PJ/12/770 Formation and activities of Indian National Army Defence Committee in the UK, October - November 1945

L/PJ/12/771 DIB report and proposal on treatment of members of Indian National Army, November - December 1945

L/I/1 series, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras:

L/I/1/1142 War history prepared by Bureau of Public Information

L/I/1/1122 Treatment of Indian news by the BBC 1942

L/I/1/1075 India’s representatives at the imperial war cabinet and pacific war council

L/I/1/1047 Prime Minister’s message to the Viceroy on the 4th Indian division and visit of a contingent to the UK, 1943-44

L/I/1/1048 Imperial War Graves Commission; publication of important announcements

L/I/1/1039 Broadcasting by Indian Army Officers: arrangements for liaison with War Office, 1944

L/I/1/1034 Honours, 1941-44

L/I/1/1035 Indian Army 1939-47

L/I/1/1036 Formation of Indian Army medical corps, 1943

L/I/1/1005 Suggestion that Mrs K. Bhatia visit UK to speak to women’s organizations

L/I/1/990 Question of bringing an Indian officer from Tunis to UK to lecture, 1943

L/I/1/1000 Proposal to bring Indian speakers to the UK, 1942-44

L/I/1/1001 Press cuttings on Indian speakers in UK, 1943-44

L/I/1/978 Bevin Trainee Scheme

L/I/1/48 Indian societies in the UK, 1933-46

L/I/1/50 India League, 1932-39

L/I/1/122Teaching of Indian history in British schools, 1941-45

L/I/1/124 Education about India in England

L/I/1/198 military (general and misc), 1938-41

L/I/1/540 Royal Indian Navy, 1934-39

L/I/1/542 Bibliography relating to India, 1942-48

L/I/1/836 India’s War Effort, 1941-42

L/I/1/837 India’s War effort, 1943-46

L/I/1/840 Indian Seamen, 1941-45

L/I/1/842 national war front 1943-46

L/I/1/843 Pamphlets, 1940-43

L/I/1/854 India and the war, 1945-47

L/I/1/857 MOI illustrated pamphlet on India’s war effort, 1943-48

L/I/1/858 Military pamphlets,1944-45

L/I/1/877 Muslim attitude to the war, 1940-41

L/I/1/903 Illustrated booklet ‘India at War’, 1941-42

L/I/1/904 France and the war, 1940-48

L/I/1/905 photographs (general), 1939-48

L/I/1/907-911 War Publicity in India by Photography

L/Mil series, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras:

L/Mil/17/5/4247-4285 India and WWII

L/Mil/17/5/4263 (Microfilm Misc 742) Pamphlet: India and the War 1939-1945, The Facts

L/Mil/17/5/4267 info on demobilisation of the Indian Army after WWII

L/Mil/17/5/4272 Pamphlet: Defence head quarters

Frank Moraes


Frank Moraes was born in Bombay in 1907, the son of a Catholic Goan civil engineer. From 1927 to 1934 he read history at Oxford University as a member of St Catherine's Society. He was active in student politics and was elected President of the Oxford Majlis and London Indian Majlis (Indian Students' Association) and of the Indian Students' Union in England. Moraes was affected by events such as the General Strike and the economic depression of the late 1920s. He was the editor of an Oxford student newspaper, Bharat. Later he studied law at Lincoln's Inn, London, and was called to the Bar.

He returned to India in 1934 and practised as a barrister for a few months. Bored with his profession, he wrote several articles for a subsidiary newspaper of The Times of India. In 1936 he joined the staff of The Times of India as a journalist and in 1938 he was promoted to junior assistant editor. From 1942 to 1945 he toured Burma and China as the newspaper's war correspondent.

Moraes married in 1937. He and his wife Beryl had a son Francis (Dom), who became a well-known poet in the 1960s. During the 1940s Beryl Moraes became ill and was confined thereafter to mental institutions. From 1946 to 1949 Francis Moraes lived in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and worked as editor of The Times Ceylon and The Morning Standard. He also served as Indian correspondent for several British newspapers. In 1950 he returned to The Times of India and became its first Indian editor. In 1957 he was appointed editor-in-chief of the Goenka family newspaper, the Indian Express (formerly the Morning Standard). He also wrote articles for various newspapers outside India. Occasionally he broadcast for the BBC and Radio Australia. In December 1972 he retired from the Indian Express. He settled in London in 1973 and died the following year. 

Published works: 

Moraes, F. R. and Stimson, H L, Introduction to India (London: Oxford University Press, 1943)

Report on Mao's China (New York: Macmillan, 1953)

Jawaharlal Nehru: A Biography (London: Macmillan, 1956)

Behind The Bamboo Curtain (London: Phoenix House, 1956)

Sir Purshotamdas Thakurdas (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1957)

Yonder One World: A Study of Asia and the West (London: Macmillan, 1957)

The Revolt in Tibet (New York: Macmillan, 1960)

India Today (New York: Macmillan, 1960)

Nehru, Sunlight and Shadow (Bombay: Jaico Publishing House, 1964)

The Importance of Being Black: An Asian Looks at Africa (New York: Macmillan, 1965)

Witness to an Era: India 1920 to the Present Day (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1973)

Howe, Edward and Moraes, Frank, John Kenneth Galbraith Introduces India (London: Deutsch, 1974)

Date of birth: 
01 Jan 1907

Indira Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (met him in London when Gandhi was attending the Round Table conference of 1931), Humayun Kabir (shared rooms with him in Oxford for a year), Dom Moraes (son), Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahmud Sahebzada (President of the Oxford Majlis for a time when Moraes was at Oxford), Shapurji Saklatvala (met him in London when studying for the Bar).

Contributions to periodicals: 

Times of India

Precise DOB unknown: 
Secondary works: 

Moraes, Dom, My Son’s Father: An Autobiography (London: Secker & Warburg, 1968)

Archive source: 

GB102 PP MS 24, SOAS Archive, London

Correspondence and literary papers of Frank Moraes' son, Dom Moraes, Brotherton Collection, University of Leeds

Correspondence and literary papers of Frank Moraes' son, Dom Moraes, Special Collections, University of Arizona Library

Correspondence and literary papers of Frank Moraes' son, Dom Moraes,  Special Collections, University of Iowa Libraries

Correspondence and literary papers of Frank Moraes' son, Dom Moraes, State University of New York College at Buffalo

Correspondence and literary papers of Frank Moraes' son, Dom Moraes, Harry Ranson Humanities Research Centre Library, University of Texas at Austin

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Current name city of birth: 
Current name country of birth: 
Other names: 

Francis Robert Moraes


Oxford, OX1 3UQ
United Kingdom
51° 43' 26.2992" N, 1° 16' 30.414" W
Date of death: 
02 May 1974
Location of death: 
London, England


Tags for Making Britain: 

Indira Priyadarshini Nehru


Indira Gandhi was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru and Kamala Nehru. As Nehru’s daughter, she became actively involved in the struggle for India’s independence. Indira Gandhi was educated at a number of schools and colleges in India and abroad. She first visited Europe in 1926, accompanying her parents to Switzerland for her mother’s convalescence. She visited Paris and London with her parents in 1927 and returned to India in December 1927. In April 1930 she formed the youth wing of the Indian National Congress, the ‘Vanar Sena’. She attended the Ecole de Bex in Switzerland, December 1927; St Mary’s Convent School in Allahabad, May 1931; and The Pupil’s Own School in Pune (Poona), May 1931 - April 1934. She passed her matriculation examination in April 1934 and in July 1934 was admitted to Rabindranath Tagore’s Visva-Bharati University at Santiniketan, Bengal.

In April 1935 Indira moved to Europe with her mother. In 1936 she joined the Indian National Congress. In February 1936 she attended Badminton School near Bristol and then in 1938 she joined Somerville College, Oxford. In the same year she became a member of the India League and through the contacts of her father was introduced to many figures involved with the Indian struggle for independence in the UK. Krishna Menon persuaded Indira to give speeches at meetings. She was involved with the India League's campaigns especially in support of Spanish Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. While in England she met with her future husband Feroze Gandhi, who was also a member of the India League and studying in London. Plagued by ill-health, she was attended to by C. L. Katial and she made repeated trips to convalesce in Switzerland.

Indira returned to India in 1941 together with Feroze Gandhi, whom she married in 1942. She took an active part in the Quit India movement and was imprisoned in Naini Central Jail from September 1942 to March 1943. Indira Gandhi served twice as India's Prime Minister and was assassinated on 31 October 1984.

Date of birth: 
19 Nov 1917

Miss B. M. Baker (headmistress of Badminton School), P. C. Bhandari (Dr), M. K. Gandhi, Agatha Harrison, Carl Heath (President of the India conciliation group), Naoroji Jal, C. L. Katial, Kailas Nath Kaul and Sheila Kaul (maternal uncle and aunt who lived in London), Parvati Kumaramangalam, George Lansbury (Labour leader of the 1930s), Harold J. Laski, Muriel Lester (social worker in London, who was host to M. K. Gandhi during his 1931 visit), Krishna Menon, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lailamani Naidu and Padmaja Naidu (daughters of Sarojini Naidu), Sarojini Naidu, P. Subbarayan (barrister and political leader of Tamil Nadu), Edward John Thompson, Rabindranath Tagore.

University Labour Club


Secondary works: 

Brass, Paul R., ‘Gandhi, Indira Priyadarshini (1917–1984)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, 2007) []

Frank, Katherine, Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi (London: Harper Collins, 2002) 

Gandhi, Sonia (ed.), Freedom's Daughter: Letters between Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, 1922-1939 (London: Hodder & Staughton, 1989)

Gandhi, Sonia (ed.) Two Alone, Two Together: Letters between Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, 1922-1964 (New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 2004)

Vadgama, Kusoom, India in Britain: The Indian Contribution to the British Way of Life (London: Robert Royce, 1984)

Involved in events: 
City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

Indira Nehru, Indira Gandhi


Somerville College
Woodstock Road
Oxford, OX2 6HD
United Kingdom
51° 47' 16.224" N, 1° 16' 50.1636" W
Badminton School Bristol, BS9 3BA
United Kingdom
51° 29' 35.25" N, 2° 38' 44.484" W
Date of death: 
31 Oct 1984
Location of death: 
Delhi, India
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1936
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1927 (short visit), 1936 - Spring 1937 (Badminton School), September 1937 - November 1938 (Oxford University), April 1939 - December 1939, January 1941.

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