The Royal Indian Navy revolted in February 1946. The naval uprising that shook the very foundations of the British Empire and was a major turning point in India’s struggle for independence. On February 18, Indian Navymen took over HMIS Talwar revolting against racial discrimination.
The Indian sailors were treated badly by their British commanders and there were stark differences in the pay, living conditions and basic amenities of Indians and British sailors in the navy. Approximately 20,000 sailors, 78 ships and 20 shore establishments along with massive public support revolted in February 1946. On 19 February a Naval Central Strike committee was formed with Leading Signalman Lieutenant M.S. Khan and Petty Officer Telegraphist Madan Singh elected as president and vice-president respectively.
Condemned by INC and Muslim League, the rebels found support from the Royal Indian Air Force men from Bombay and from the Gurkhas in Karachi who refused to fire at the strikers. The mutiny came to an end with the intervention of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Navymen surrendered on 23 February 1946.
A total of 7 sailors, 1 officer, and 200 civilians were killed and 476 sailors were discharged as the result of the mutiny. Sadly, after India became independent these Sailors and freedom fighters were neither reinstated, compensated nor recognised in any way by India or Pakistan Governments.
The resistance offered by the INA until its surrender in 1945 followed by the naval uprising in 1946 tipped the British over and led the British Prime Minister Clement Atlee to announce his plans to actually “Quit India”.
Saluting the unsung and vastly unknown brave hearts of our Indian Navy! Did you know India Post has issued stamps honouring a variety of Indian Ships and the Coast Guards? View them here.
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