Chanan Singh Dhillon

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Lieutenant-Colonel Chanan Singh Dhillon (retd) (1920 - September 14, 2011), is a famous Punjabi Indian Sikh World War II hero and veteran. He fought in world war two in the British Indian army. He was later taken prisoner (PoW) by the Germans in 1943. He stayed in PoW camps in Italy, France and Germany. In Germany he remained confided to POW Camp XII in Limburg near Frankfurt. In addition, the International Red Cross, Geneva who was responsible for the welfare of POWs, appointed him Chief Man of confidence. He escaped many times only to be recaptured by the Germans. One example is when with the help of some Canadian, British and Australian POW soldiers managed to dig a tunnel out of Odine POW camp, near Naples in Italy. When the Germans arrested Marshal Benito Mussolini the Italian guards became so disheartened that they became increasingly lax, he and the others used this opportunity to escape but they were soon recaptured. The Americans rescued him in 1944, where first he was taken to Paris, then bought to London and then sent back to India. After WW2 he rose to the rank Lieutenant-Colonel in the Indian Army. After retiring he became president of the ex-services league (Punjab and Chandigarh), in India. He has tireless campaigned for the full recognition of the sacrifice and courage of the Indian-subcontinent, African and Caribbean origin soldiers who fought in WW2 for the allies and the British. This campaign was realised by the building of a large memorial in London (the Memorial Gates) on August 1, 2001. Queen Elizabeth laid the foundation of the memorial on August 1, 2001 and she inaugurated it the next year, on November 6, 2002.

Lt. Col. Dhillon fought in World War II in the British Indian Army. Lt. Col Dhillon was an NCO when he was taken a POW in 1943 and remained confided to POW Camp XII in Limburg near Frankfurt in Germany. He was rescued by Americans in December 1944 and taken to Paris from where he was brought to London and sent back to India.

In the camp, he was responsible for the welfare of the POWs. He along with some Canadian, British and Australian soldiers managed to dig a tunnel while at the Odine POW camp near Naples in Italy.

When the Germans arrested Marshal Missolini, Italian soldiers were disheartened. In the resultant laxity, Lt. Col. Dhillon and others managed to stage a dramatic escape. But he was caught soon along with others and brought back to Germany. Lt. Col Dhillon, who rose from being a Havildar during the war, was instrumental in successfully persuading the British Government to erect a war memorial for all those who had perished in the world wars in the early 2000s in London.

He was invited to attend the Victory Parade in August, 1995. As part of marking 50 years of the war, he attended Liberation Day at Bethune in France, 29 km north of Arras, where two memorials have been erected for Indian soldiers who died in the two wars. He also visited the Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium, also in the memory of the Indian soldiers.

At both the places, local inhabitants took his hand and kissed it, calling him their saviour. They thanked him for fighting for them. To his surprise during the Victory Parade in London, there was no mention of the Indian forces. This forced him to write to Queen Elizabeth. He also met the then Prime Minister John Major.

Lt. Col. Chanan Singh Dhillon died after a prolonged illness on 14 September 2011. He was 91.

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