In May 1942, the British formed the Women’s Auxiliary Corps (India) for female volunteers to contribute to the war cause. This was the first time Indian women entered the army, and until 1992, it also was the only time they were allowed to serve in non-medical roles.
As with their counterparts in the United States and Europe, women were not allowed to serve in combat roles. Instead, they worked behind the front lines as typists, switchboard operators and drivers, and could be posted anywhere the Indian Army went. The corps was disbanded in 1947 with Independence.
But women were not just in the auxiliary corps. Civilian women were also allowed to serve as nurses and were employed in light manufacturing jobs in the extensive factories on Indian soil that fed the machines of war.
Here are a few of these early remarkable women.
Bridge in the nurses' mess. Hundreds of Indian nurses have volunteered and are seeing active service alongside Indian doctors in the Middle East. 1941-1943. Photo credit: Library of Congress
Woman power in India. Indian women cleaning and oiling spare parts for tanks supplied under lend-lease. April 1943. Photo credit: Library of Congress
Women workers in a booming Mumbai textile mill. Thirty five percent of India's great cotton textiles production, amounting to some 5,000,000,000 yards a year, went into war materials for India and the alllies. 1941-1943. Photo credit: Library of Congress
The Quetta Platoon, Women's Auxiliary Corps (India), in civilian dress, 1942. Photo credit: National Army Museum, UK
Members of the Women's Auxiliary Corps (India) in service dress, 1943. Photo credit: National Army Museum, UK