A soldier of the Rani of
Jhansi Regiment in training, c 1940s.
the opening of the camp, another 150 women were recruited. They
came from all walks of life; the majority worked as plantation
workers, while some came from business families. Many joined despite
families’ disapproval. Even though they had never stepped
on Indian soil, they were inspired by Bose’s fervour and wanted
to fight for India’s Independence. By November 1943, the
camp had more than 300 cadets.
The recruits were divided into sections and platoons
and were accorded ranks of Non-Commissioned Officers and Sepoys
according to their educational qualifications. In the camp, strict
military discipline was instilled. The women had to endure long
route marches, carrying sacks and rifles. In less than four months,
on 30 March 1944, the Rani of Jhansi Regiment held its first passing
out parade which was 500 strong.
Following the opening of the camp in Singapore, camps
were also set up in Rangoon and Bangkok. Advanced training in jungle
warfare was conducted in Burma to prepare the women to fight at
the Indo-Burma front.
The women’s role in the Regiment was not confined
to combat operations only. About 50 recruits were selected by Dr
Lakshmi to be trained as nurses. In addition, the women organised
fundraising activities to support the war effort.