The History Press will publish historian Ghee Bowman's debut non-fiction book, The Indian Contingent, for the 80th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation.
The book tells the "untold story of the 4,227 soldiers who comprised Force K6 of the British Indian Army, charting their journey from the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent", according to the synopsis. "On the outbreak of the Second World War, they embarked for Marseilles, arriving in December 1939. From there the four companies were dispersed to serve alongside British divisions across France. As the war turned against the Allies, one company found itself cut off by the advancing German Army and was forced to surrender. Others made the dramatic flight to the beaches of Dunkirk to be evacuated for the relative safety of Great Britain."
The History Press acquired world rights and audio rights directly from Bowman. The Indian Contingent will be published in hardback in May 2020, the culmination of five years' research.
Commissioning editor Simon Wright said: "Ghee’s book challenges the persistent myth that Britain stood alone against Hitler at Dunkirk. The story of Force K6 is one of the war’s great hidden stories. At least 320 men were taken to Nazi prisoner-of-war camps, facing the dilemma of risking their lives to escape or staying in captivity, where they could be recruited to fight for the Germans. The experience of the soldiers evacuated to Britain was entirely different, as they were posted with British regiments in places as far apart as Exeter and Edinburgh. Ghee brilliantly demonstrates how the men of K6 have been subject to two kinds of forgetting: both in India and Pakistan, where war narratives were rapidly superseded by partition in 1947, and in the UK, where soldiers from the former British Empire have so often been erased. The Indian Contingent is a story needed now more than ever and we’re thrilled to be publishing it."
Bowman added: "These Indian soldiers came 7,000 miles to help the British Empire, at a time when their country was on the route to independence. They forged strong and lasting relationships with British civilians during a period when people today might think racism was everywhere. As part of Britain’s small Muslim community, they lived in the public eye: marching in our towns and cities and appearing in newsreels and in the press. This is a story whose time has come: with Islamophobia and racism continuing to scourge British society, we need to be reminded that hundreds of Muslim soldiers from India lived peacefully and happily in the UK, strengthening our defences during the war and contributing to the eventual Allied victory over fascism. I’m so pleased to be working with The History Press to tell this story."
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