Indian soldiers mingle with troops of the 81st West African Division

Coming home - Muhammad's story

2020 marks 75 years since the end of the Second World War.

Although the fighting was over, nations had to rebuild, and millions had to find their way home.

Muhammad Hussain at the Festival of Remembrance 2019

Muhammad Hussain

Born in pre-partition India in a village in Rawalpindi Muhammad Hussain, 95, was 16 years old when he ran away from home to enlist in the British Indian Army during the Second World War.

“It was a family tradition, my great uncle was in Burma, First World War, our family since my great grandfather belonged to the Indian Army so we were happy to join the Army, it didn’t matter about the war.”

“My brother was in the Indian Artillery, Heavy Attack Regiment, and my father said: ‘he already goes in the war, you don’t join the Army’. But I said: ‘I want to join the Army’, so I ran away from home.”

“I joined the Armoured Corps, I trained in gunnery, wireless and driving - three trades.”

After training for a year and a half, Muhammad joined the Italian campaign as the machine gunner on an armoured car in September 1943 under the 8th Indian Division commanded by Major General Dudley Russell and fought in the battle of Monte Cassino.  

Sgt Hussain in uniform during WW2

Muhammad served in Italy for all his wartime service along with thousands of other pre-partition Indians who served as part of the British Eighth Army.

When VE Day finally arrived, Muhammad and his comrades had advanced into Austria and learned of the German surrender alongside Bulgarian allies.

“Our division commander Major General Dudley Russell informed our commanding officer Colonel Francis Engel that Germany had surrendered and there was an instantaneous eruption of joy and celebration amongst all the soldiers.

Muhammad sitting in a chair during his interview
Within a few minutes the entire atmosphere has transformed from one of death, to one of a potential new life.

"There was an instant shouting of ‘Long live the King’ and soldiers celebrated in different ways.

“We as Muslims thanked God for victory and continued to pray for all the soldiers who had fallen.”

After the war, Muhammad returned home to his family and continued his career in the military.

“I felt a sense of relief that is simply indescribable and cannot be put into words when I saw the faces of my elderly parents, wife and siblings.

“My elder brother had been tortured by the Japanese and I was the first son to return home so the sense of relief was also tinged with some worry for my older brother Sergeant Fazal Hussain (part of the 1st Indian Heavy Artillery Regiment, he saw action in Burma before being captured).”

In 1960 Muhammad retired from the Army, following a serious car accident two years before in which he broke his neck and spent 18 months in hospital.

Not long after he moved to the UK with his family. He worked near Birmingham as a security officer for a large engineering company for 24 years before he retired.

Muhammad now gives talks across the country as part of the Undivided Indian Army Ex- Servicemen’s Association, and lives with his grandson Ejaz in Berkshire.

VE Day 75 Livestream highlights

VE Day 75 livestream highlights

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