‘Dunkirk’ Draws Criticism in India for Not Acknowledging War Contribution

Is 'Dunkirk' missing important historical information?

Dunkirk criticsm India

Kenneth Branagh in Dunkirk. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Dunkirk, which opened last week to near universal praise and strong box office totals, is drawing criticism in India. The Times of India newspaper, along with several other major outlets, are questioning why Christopher Nolan‘s World War II film ignores the “significant contribution” of Indian soldiers at the historic evacuation that stands at the center of the film.

The Times of India‘s article, titled “How Nolan Forgot the Desis (Indians) at Dunkirk,” emphasizes that India’s role in the war effort is much more recognized today by the British public and should have been acknowledged in the film. Instead, Dunkirk glosses over the event’s Indian influence. This sentiment has been echoed by many others.

John Broich, an associate professor of history at Case Western Reserve University, wrote a column for Slate that suggests the involvement of Indian soldiers in the film “would have provided a good reminder of how utterly central the role of the Indian Army was in the war. Their service meant the difference between victory and defeat.”

The movie follows the evacuation of 300,000 Allied forces from the beaches of Dunkirk, France. Among those forces were four companies of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps, who Broich wrote about in the Hindustan Times saying that “observers said they were particularly cool under fire and well-organized during the retreat.”

According to India Today, “The soldiers were part of the first units of the Indian Army to take part in the Second World War. Over the course of the grand war, the Indian Army, which started off with just under 2,00,000 men, grew to more than 2.5 million personnel, becoming the largest volunteer force in history.

“The Indian Army’s contributions during the latter part of the World War II are well documented. However, the story of four transport companies of Indian Army that sailed from Mumbai and had to be rescued from the beaches of France has mostly skipped the history books.”

Nolan has yet to comment publicly on the criticism.

‘Dunkirk’ Draws Criticism in India for Not Acknowledging War Contribution