Zoominar on Indian PoWs
On Sunday 31 October 2021, the Trust held the third in its series of occasional Zoominars. On this occasion, MSMT really spread its wings because the event grouped three guest speakers from three different time zones (U.S.A, Italy and India). The fact that, among the well-attended audience there were listeners from 10 different countries testified to the wide geographical interest of the topic, which was “Indian prisoners of war in Italy during the Second World War”.
The circumstances surrounding the imprisonment of 8,000 Indian soldiers, all of whom had been captured fighting for the Allies in North Africa, have only recently begun to be researched. The three speakers, who were introduced on the Zoominar by Nick Young, MSMT chairman, all had valuable information and insights, from their different perspectives.
The first presentation (read out in translation) was by Costantino Di Sante, an Italian historian, who has researched Italian archives and unearthed fascinating photographs. He described the conditions under which the Indians were held and discussed whether there were differences between their treatment and the treatment of other Allied prisoners. He explained that the Italians, under the impression that some Indians would be hostile to British interests in India, were keen to make use of them for the purposes of propaganda.
Dr. Annu Matthew, our next speaker, was born in the UK and raised in India and is an artist and professor of art at the University of Rhode Island. She outlined her interest in the 2.5 million Indian soldiers who fought for the British in the Second World War and who are largely forgotten in history. She played a clip from her video work “The Unremembered”, which uses historical film footage projected onto the gravestones in the cemeteries in Italy where the Indian casualties of that campaign are buried. This has led her to researching the stories of Indian PoWs in Italy and her most recent artwork using archival photographs of those soldiers.
The third contributor, Samar Salvi, tackled the subject from the more personal perspective of the story of his grandfather Lt Ramchandra Salvi’s capture at Tobruk and subsequent escape from PG 91 Avezzano and months sheltered by four courageous families in the village of Villa San Sebastiano. Samar told of his excitement in locating the village in 2010 and finding members of those families and his subsequent visits and continuing friendships, illustrating the talk throughout with photos and wartime documents.
A considerable number of questions were then put to the three speakers.
To watch the Zoominar in full, please access the link below:
All our Zoominars are available on our Youtube channel: