This film is held by the BFI (ID: 227144).


The Indian contribution to the war effort.

Titles. Long lines of Indian troops advancing towards camera. A busy Indian street, with statue of British monarch visible in the background. Billboard with cartoon picture of Churchill saying, 'To the question what is our aim. I can give the answer in one word... it is VICTORY. VICTORY AT ALL COSTS. VICTORY. VICTORY IN SPITE OF ALL PERIL. VICTORY. HOWEVER LONG AND HARD THE ROAD MAY BE'. Troops of the United Nations under the command of 'Britain's number one soldier', Sir Archibald Wavell; they are gathering to prevent what 'they most fear: a meeting of the Axis armies, German and Japanese on the plains of India'. Indian civilians unloading military vehicles from a boat. Indian in uniform on a mountain ridge. Construction workers in the mountains. Pilots and aeroplanes of the American Volunteer Group. Three English officers talking together. American military disembarking a boat and enjoying the sights in an Indian town. Military planes in flight. Jawaharlal Nehru addressing a large crowd: 'the leaders of India's powerful National Congress party have refused all active co-operation with Britain and the United States in defence of their own home'. Political procession, amongst the crowd are Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi. Chinese leaders in discussion with Nehru. Gandhi with spinning wheel: 'Gandhi and his disciples announced that they would not be armed, but would meet the enemy with their own peculiar weapon: passive resistance'. Sikh wearing jacket decorated with medals. Indian men enlisting: 'today a majority of the Indian people know that the one way of getting the independence they have so long sought is by giving fullest support to the United Nations in their fight against the enemies of all freedom and all free men'. Indian soldiers on a parade ground; an elderly British official awards a medal to an Indian soldier. Indian troops boarding a train. Indian troops boarding a ship: 'the Indian soldier has lacked neither courage nor endurance but only what the United Nations have everywhere lacked in these first years: tanks and fighting planes'. Indian troops using horse-drawn carts. English-styled architecture in an Indian hill town. The Himalayan Mountains. The Khyber Pass. Shots filmed from British naval vessels at sea: 'like the other western nations the British Empire was loud and complacent and its military men consistently under-rated the legions of little goose-stepping men who were busy in the crowded Empire of Japan, thousands of miles away beyond the China seas'. Title-card: 'For almost four hundred years, India, along with the rest of Asia, has been marked for conquest by Japan's scheming warriors'. Scenes from Japan: Japanese men striking a hue bell; a seated Buddha; Japanese at a pagoda; a militaristic statue; soldiers bowing; inspection of troops; leaders in a rural retreat; a cartoon of Toyotomi Hideyoshi; marching troops; generals discussing plans; female telephone operators; a vehicle assembly plant; soldiers in the snow. Scenes of the Japanese attack on China in 1937. Japanese troops exiting a gateway that has a union jack painted on it. Japanese troops marching in front of members of the Indian navy who stand to attention. A Japanese man painting over the union flag on a wall. English naval troops stood to attention; Japanese and British officers shake hands. Japanese lookout in the turret of a ship. The Japanese bombing of the USS Panay in 1937. Naval boats at sea. An American naval residence in the Pacific. Japanese leaders attending a night-time parade. Front page of Daily News: 'JAPS BOMB HAWAII'.

Japanese planes in flight; bombs being drooped. American troops marching. Japanese troops storming a Chinese building. Japanese troops advancing. Inter-title: 'Today, Japan's armies, consolidating their grip on China, see in India the key to the final conquest of the whole of Asia'. Teeming streets in India: 'nowhere outside of China is there so vast a repertoire of manpower for labour and for fighting, as India's 400 million people'. Government buildings in New Delhi. Viceroy Linlithgow. British and Indian members of the Indian government sat at a table. Indian women working in a telephone operating room. The British coat of arms. British officials formal receiving visitors in a palatial building: 'under British rule, the security of India, half as big as the United States, and three times as populous, has never been entrusted to the Indian people'. General Wavell meeting other military officers. A 'Command Conference' in which senior officers discuss plans. A crowd of Indians in a dockyard. Indians fixing naval boats. Naval boats in a dry dock being repaired by Indians. Indians constructing new naval boats. Indian naval troops marching in a parade ground. Indian volunteers learning naval routine in a training college. Planes of the Indian Air Force being readied for action. Pilots of the Indian Air Force preparing for flight. Exterior of Indian factories: India's 'contribution to final victory, even more than the numbers, skill and bravery of its fighting men, maybe its natural resources and the productive capacity of its expanding war industries'. Construction of military vehicles in an Indian factory. Indian workers in a mill. A naval convoy at sea. An Indian dockyard. Indian workers in an armaments factory. The Tata steelworks. Shots of various Indian factory workers: 'Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and others - their political and religious difference put aside - are working hard and loyally to help bring Victory to the United Nations'. Film concludes by saying that these Indian factory workers 'are confident, that as partners of the world's free people, sharing all the burdens and hardships of the war for survival, they will gain at last what they have so long been denied: the right to live as free men in a united and independent India'. Title card. Ends.



Ashley Jackson writes that ‘India, the non-white Empire’s most politically sophisticated territory, was the centre of the most serious resistance to the British war effort found anywhere in the Empire’ (Jackson, 2006, 381). This manifested itself most clearly in the actions of the Indian National Congress, the predominantly Hindu political party, which resigned from government at the outbreak of the War rather than support the Allied cause.

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941 and the fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942, Britain was in increased need of co-operation: the Japanese now posed a threat to India, and the War also required increased Indian resources and manpower. Consequently, in March 1942 the British despatched Sir Stafford Cripps to India with the aim of eliciting nationalist support. The resultant ‘Cripps Offer’ promised that, in return for co-operation during the war, India could have full Dominion status or the option to secede from the Commonwealth once the war had concluded. There was also a proviso that no part of India could be forced to join the new state. Disliking this opt-out clause the INC rejected the offer in April 1942, and instead embarked upon the open rebellion of the ‘Quit India’ movement. India’s other leading political party, the Muslim League, also rejected the offer. Cripps’ proviso is nevertheless an indication of their increasing influence. The party’s Lahore Resolution of March 1940 called for a separate and self-ruled Muslim homeland within the sub-continent.

There was also support for the War within India. Indians volunteered at the rate of 50,000 a month (there was no conscription in the country), and the Indian army grew quickly from about 200,000 men in 1939 to 900,000 by the end of 1941, and peaked at 2,600,000 men in 1945 (Jackson, 2006, 358). India was also transformed economically. The country produced more wartime supplies than Australia, New Zealand and South Africa combined (Jackson, 2006, 358).

Jackson has argued that because of India’s military and industrial support ‘a return to humdrum peace-time imperial rule in the post-war years was greatly diminished.’ (Jackson, 2006, 354). Judith Brown notes the importance of non-co-operation in securing India’s freedom. She states that ‘the Cripps Offer was the point at which the British departure after the war became inevitable. As even Churchill recognized, there could be no retraction of the offer of independence’ (Brown, 1994, 328).

In November 1940, Rita Andre of the American film company, March of Time, requested the British government’s permission to make a feature that would cover ‘as much of the Indian scene as we can film, including India’s war effort’ (Garga, 2007, 87). March of Time had been launched in 1935 as an offshoot of the magazine, Time, and quickly grew to be the most popular news report of its day: By 1938 it was being distributed to around 11,000 cinemas worldwide (Bohn and Lichty, 1973, 377-78).

Due to the strong tide of anti-imperialist feeling in America, the British government had concerns about how they would be portrayed (Garga, 2007, 88). They nevertheless endorsed the March of Time project, believing that it would provide an ‘opportunity to put across their idea of the benevolence of British rule in India to a global audience’ (Garga, 2007, 88). Filming of an approved script began in October 1941, when Maurice Lancaster, director of production, and the cameraman Victor Jurgens arrived in India (they would later be joined by the cameraman Robert Nabarro) (Garga, 2007, 88). The team remained in India for a number of months, shooting over 30,000 feet of film (Garga, 2007, 89). The film was not completed until 1942, and is reflective of events taking place that year. It was divided into two parts: India in Crisis and India at War.



One of the peculiarities of March of Time’s two Indian news reports is that it is the military film India at War, rather than the political documentary India in Crisis, that is most overt in supporting India’s desire for independence. As such, India at War was the more problematic of the films for Britain’s politicians and critics.

The film’s argument is made circuitously. It begins by outlining the threat posed to India by the Axis powers and then argues against the non-co-operative stance that the Indian National Congress has made. It criticises Gandhi for ignoring the pleas made by China for military support, and the commentary denigrates the stance of passive resistance. Here, images of party members using their ‘symbolic’ spinning wheels are used to demonstrate their impotence in the face of the Japanese threat. The film then shows various scenes of Indians recruiting. It argues that ‘today a majority of the Indian people know that the one way of getting the independence they have so long sought is by giving fullest support to the United Nations in their fight against the enemies of freedom and all free men’. At the close of the film we witness the opposite of the manual spinning wheel: Indians are shown in factories, manufacturing war supplies. The film stresses the numerical weight of this drive: there are ‘millions of labourers and craftsmen’ carrying out these trades. It also stresses the widespread nature of the support. These men are ‘Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and others; their political and religious difference put aside’. The film then underlines the point that it has already made in relation to recruitment: in conclusion it states that Indians ‘are confident, that as partners of the world’s free people, sharing all the burdens and hardships of the war for survival, they will gain at last what they have so long been denied: the right to live as free men in a united and independent India’.

It was the statements about independence that upset officials in London. Alec Joyce, information officer at the India Office, argued that the film’s summary ‘does not do justice to the facts’, and suggested that March of Time alter phrases such as ‘so long sought’ and ‘so long been denied’ (Garga, 2007, 90). March of Time refused to oblige. These same statements brought forth complaints from members of the British public. Writing to The Times G. Burniston-Brown sated that ‘I doubt whether Dr. Goebbels himself could produce anything more subtly misleading and anti-British’ (Garga, 2007, 90).

If the film can be regarded as being anti-British, it can also be viewed as being pro-American, or at least pro the American way of life. The commentary denigrates ‘distant’ British rule and the fact that power ‘has never been entrusted to the Indian people’; statements that are backed up with scenes of an elaborate state ceremony taking place in a cavernous hall. The film then argues for ‘full US co-operation in organising and developing India’s own reserves of manpower and Industry’, and in this sense marks the interests of the USA in breaking up the Empire to facilitate American trade and capital. India’s move towards independence is coupled with the idea of the country becoming an ‘industrial establishment’; in this film shots of industrial India outnumber those of India at war. In the first of the Indian March of Time films, India in Crisis, the achievements of India’s political parties and the making of the Cripps Offer are outlined. However, it is notable that in this film, the one that actually envisions freedom for India, Indian politics take a backseat. Instead it is posited that freedom will be achieved by supporting the fight for democracy and by attaining competence in capitalist trades.

Richard Osborne (February 2010)


Works Cited

Bohn, Thomas W. and Lawrence W. Lichty, ‘“The March of Time”: News as Drama’, Journal of Popular Film, 2/4 (Fall 1973), 373-87.

Brown, Judith M., Modern India: The Origins of an Asian Democracy, 2nd edn (Oxford: OUP, 1994).

Garga, B.D., From Raj to Swaraj: The Non-fiction Film in India (New Delhi: Penguin, 2007).

Jackson, Ashley, The British Empire and the Second World War (Hambledon Continuum, 2006).



  • INDIA AT WAR (No.2) (Alternative)

Technical Data

Running Time:
19 minutes
1736 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Production Company
Time Inc