Rani of Jhansi Regiment
|Rani of Jhansi Regiment|
A trooper of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment in training, 1940s
|Active||October 1943- May 1945|
|Role||Guerrilla Infantry, Nursing Corps.|
|Ceremonial chief||Subhas Chandra Bose|
The Rani of Jhansi Regiment was the Women's Regiment of the Indian National Army, the armed force formed by Indian nationalists in 1942 in Southeast Asia with the aim of overthrowing the British Raj in colonial India, with Japanese assistance. It was one of the very few all-female combat regiments of the Second World War on any side. Led by Capt Lakshmi Swaminathan, the unit was raised in July 1943 with volunteers from the expatriate Indian population in South East Asia. The unit was named the Rani of Jhansi Regiment after Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi.
Most of the women were teenage volunteers of Indian descent from Malayan rubber estates; very few had ever been to India. The initial nucleus of the force was established with its training camp in Singapore with approximately a hundred and seventy cadets. The cadets were given ranks of non-commissioned officers or privates according to their education. Later, camps were established in Rangoon and Bangkok and by November 1943, the unit had more than 300 cadets.
The recruits were divided into sections and platoons and were accorded ranks of Non-Commissioned Officers and Sepoys according to their educational qualifications. These cadets underwent military and combat training with drills, route marches as well as weapons training in rifles, hand grenades, and bayonet charges. Later, a number of the cadets were chosen for more advanced training in jungle warfare in Burma. The first qualified troops, numbering nearly five hundred, passed out of the Singapore training camp in March 1944. Some 200 of the cadets were also chosen for nursing training, forming the Chand Bibi Nursing Corps.
During the INA's Imphal campaign, an initial contingent of nearly a hundred of the Rani of Jhansi troops moved to Maymyo, part of which was intended to form a vanguard unit to enter the Gangetic plains of Bengal after the expected fall of Imphal. A part of the unit also formed the Nursing corps at the INA hospital at Maymyo. Following the failure of the siege of Imphal and the INA's disastrous retreat, the Rani troops were tasked with coordinating the relief and care of the INA troops who arrived at Monywa and to Maymyo and were not used in combat.
End of the regiment
After the fall of Rangoon and the withdrawal of the Azad Hind government and Subhas Chandra Bose from the city and through Burma, the troops originally from Burma were allowed to disband, while the remainder of the regiment retreated along with the retreating Japanese forces on foot and, when available, on mechanised transport. During the retreat it suffered some attacks both from Allied air attacks, as well the Burmese resistance forces. The total number of casualties suffered is not known. The unit later disbanded.
- Joyce Lebra, Women Against the Raj: The Rani of Jhansi Regiment (2008) ch. 1-2
- Edwardes, Michael (1975) Red Year: the Indian Rebellion of 1857. London: Sphere; p. 126
- Lebra, ch 2
- Hills, Carol and Daniel C. Silverman, 1993. "Nationalism and Feminism in Late Colonial India: The Rani of Jhansi Regiment", Modern Asian Studies, 27, no 4 (July), 741-760.
- Lebra, Joyce. Women Against the Raj: The Rani of Jhansi Regiment (2008)