Early Life of Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon
Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon was born on 18 March 1914 at Algon as the 4th child of Sardar Takhar Singh, who was a veterinary surgeon in the 8th King George's Own light cavalry. He was initially educated at Changa Manga government primary school and was later admitted to various schools namely Government High School in Chunian, Lahore district (now Pakistan); Government High School in Dipalpore, Montgomery district; Vernacular Middle School in Raiwind, Lahore district; Victoria Dalip High School in Solan, Baghat; Dayanand Anglo Vernacular High School in Montgomery; and Gordon Mission College in Rawalpindi. He spoke a number of languages including Hindi, Persian, Punjabi, Urdu and English and was a member of the Boy Scout Association.
Dhillon completed his graduation Dayanand Anglo Vernacular High School in Montgomery in the year 1931. Later Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon became the faculty of science in Gordon Mission College in Rawalpindi.
Military Career of Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon
On 29th May 1933 Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon joined the British Indian Army in the Training Battalion of the 10/14th Punjab Regiment. He finished his training in March 1934. Dhillon was selected as a prospective candidate for the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun and received training at Kitchner College in Nowgong in June 1936. During World War II, Gurbaksh Singh was posted to the 1st Battalion of the 14th Punjab Regiment, also known as Sher Dil Paltan. He joined the battalion at Lahore on the last day of March 1940. This battalion moved to Secunderabad from Lahore in September 1940. After the bombing of Singapore and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the United States of America announced war on Japan. On 11 December 1941, 1/14th Punjab Regiment fought at Changlun near the Thai frontier. Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon commanded the Headquarters Company with his Commanding Officer Colonel Fitzpatrick. The Battle of Changlun was eventually ended in defeat.
Dhillon went to Miami Beach in Penang on 13 December 1941. Later he got affected by malaria and was sent to a hospital in Singapore. On 9th February 1941, 2 divisions of the Japanese Army had arrived Singapore and the territory was surrendered on 15th February 1941. The British Forces also surrendered to the Japanese Army. An officer of the Japanese Army, Major Fujiwara, addressed the Indian prisoners of war and advised them to form the Indian National Army that would operate solely to attain freedom from the rule of the British Empire in India. Fujihara provided Captain Mohan Singh with almost 40,000 Indian soldiers, who had surrendered to the Japanese Army. This was the initial step towards the construction of the Indian National Army.
Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon in Indian National Army
After receiving support from Fujiwara, Mohan Singh dedicated himself to the aim of Indian freedom. He started to recruit the Indians who were captured by the Japanese forces in Malaya. He took charge of all stragglers and Indian prisoners of war. This formed the core of the Indian National Army (INA). Mohan Singh requested the Indians to volunteer for the purpose of forming the Azad Hind Fauj or the Free India Army to fight against the British Government of India and to free the nation. Several Indians came forward and joined Mohan Singh's force which was known as the Azad Hind Fauj or the National Army of independent India. Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon was a close associate of Captain Mohan Singh and he became an officer of the Indian National Army on 17th February 1942. He undertook several missions as an officer of the Indian National Army (INA). While he was at the Changi Camp to guard the Australian and British prisoners of war, the Japanese Army asked Dhillon and other members of the Indian National Army to abandon the British drill and adopt Japanese words of command.
Gurbaksh Singh became severely ill while he was at the Changi Camp and was and sent to Seletar Camp from the Changi garrison. There he was admitted to POW Hospital. After his health improved at Seletar Camp, Dhillon, along with other along Indian Prisoners of war, attended the Bidadari conference on 24 April 1942, at Bidadari Camp, Singapore, summoned by Captain Mohan Singh. On 1 September 1942, Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon received his commission. He was posted as a major on the 10 September 1942. He was attached to the Reinforcement Group.
On 29 December 1942, General Mohan Singh was arrested by the Japanese forces. Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon decided to be a part of the Indian National Army, on the suggestion of Rash Behari Bose. After the revival of the Azad Hind Fauj or Indian National Army (INA) under the leadership of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Dhillon was appointed as Deputy Quartermaster General (DQMG) in the Q Branch at the Directorate of Military Bureau (DMB) Headquarters. He was in charge of the Technical Branch and was also responsible for the accommodation as well. The Army Headquarters was organized in March 1943 and gazetted on April 17, 1943. After Gurbaksh Singh was appointed he gathered the kit and clothing of those personnel who decided to leave the Indian National Army (INA).
Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon in 5th Guerrilla Regiment
After Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose arrived on 2nd July 1943, the Azad Hind Fauj was further developed and Dhillon was transferred to the 5th Guerilla Regiment. In December 1943, He was appointed as Second-in-Command to Major J.W. Rodrigues, who raised the 5th Guerrilla regiment at Bidadari, Singapore. Apart from providing support to the 5th Guerilla Regiment, Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon was also responsible for the training, welfare, discipline and morale of the troops. The 5th Guerrilla Regiment was formed as part of the 2nd Indian National Army Division and was organized under the command of Colonel N.S. Bhagat, after the move of the 1st Division to the front. The Regiment moved to Ipoh in Perak on 30th March 1944 and Dhillon continued with the advance party to make essential arrangements for the 5th Guerrilla Regiment.
He was sent to the front at Alor Star in Infantry Regiment at Jitra. Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon officiated as the Deputy Quartermaster General (DGMG) and also the Deputy Adjutant General (DAG) of the Azad Hind Fauj or Indian National Army (INA) during the first anniversary of the Arzi Hukumat E Azad Hind or the Provisional Government of Azad Hind. Gurbaksh Singh made arrangements and issued orders for the ceremonial parade, held on 18 October 1944. With the alleged death of Subhas Chandra Bose on August 18, 1945, the Indian National Army (INA) was considered to be disestablished, along with the end of the entire Azad Hind Movement.
Arrest of Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon
On the 17th May, 1945, the British Forces surrounded the Indian National Army and it surrendered without any formal ceremony. The prisoners of war were sent to Pegu. On 18 May 1945, Dhillon and General Shah Nawaz Khan were sent to No. 3 Field Interrogation Centre, which was under the command of Major C. Ore. Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon was imprisoned at the Rangoon Central Jail on 31st May 1945.
Shah Nawaz Khan and Dhillon were jointly called to the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre for the Indian National Army trials. After the end of the war, on 17th September 1945, along with Raja Habib ur Rahman Khan, Colonel Prem Kumar Sahgal and General Shah Nawaz Khan, Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon was put on trial at Red Fort in Delhi for waging war against the British Emperor on November 5, 1945. The prisoners potentially faced the death penalty, life imprisonment or a fine as punishment if found guilty. Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhulabhai Desai, Kailash Nath Katju, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Asaf Ali and others defended them and demanded that the soldiers of the Provisional Government of Free India should be treated as prisoners of war. Claude Auchinleck, the Commander-in-Chief, decided to remit the sentences after considering the prevailing circumstances and all the defendants were released later.
Personal Life of Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon
Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon was married to Basant Kaur in the year 1928, when he was merely 14 years of age. The couple had a daughter and 2 sons, namely Amrita, Amarjit and Sarvjit. Amrita was born on 15 April 1947 at Simla. She was educated at Banasthali Vidyapith and consequently became a doctor. Basant Kaur died on 19 March 1968 at Shivpuri.
Gurbaksh Singh wrote an autobiography titled "From my Bones". He provided various accounts and his personal experiences regarding the Indian National Army and the trials at Red Fort. He also composed and published some poetry. Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon died on 6th February 2006 at the J.A. Hospital, Gwalior, after a cardiac arrest and prolonged illness. On 8th February 2006, he was cremated at Azad Hind Park, Shivpuri with full military honours.
Awards of Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon
Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon was honoured several times for his contributions to the Indian freedom struggle. He was bestowed with the Padma Bhushan Award on 12 April 1998 by K.R. Narayanan, the then President of India. A stamp was issued in the year 1997 by the Indian Postal Department in his memory and his contribution to Indian independence.