Letter writing was just as important for Indian troops during World War II as it was for the British. Whilst many Indian soldiers were still illiterate, there were enough men with some basic education that it was usually possible for a sepoy to find a friend to write a letter on his behalf and to read him any replies he received. These letters were written on standard forms that were made of a lightweight paper so they were easier to ship the vast distances needed to get them back home to a soldier’s friends and family. Today we are looking at two different variations of this standard form, one in English and one in a script that I believe is Hindi:
Apart from the colour of the form and the script, the two examples are identical. The front has space for the stamp if not on active service and lines for an address to be written on. The rear has space for the sender’s details:
The envelope is integrated into the letter writing space and this opens out to give a space for the soldier to write in:
A selection of the letters sent back were translated into English and reviewed by a censor to ensure that the contents were not classified in nature. As with soldiers everywhere the contents were usually fairly prosaic, but some of the translations have survived and they give a rare insight into how the Indian soldier thought during the war, such as these lines by an Indian officer:
Here I am penning this to you in the middle of one of the biggest nights in the history of this war. Love, I am sure by the time you receive this letter you will guess correctly as to where I am. … You would feel that the whole world were shaking with an earthquake or probably the sky were falling over you…Yet in the midst of this commotion, I sit here, on my own kit-bag and scribble these few lines to my love for I do not really know when I will get the next opportunity to write to you.