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Before we go into the philatelic side of things, just a very short introduction, what was the Freies Indien or Azad Hind?

The Azad Hind or Indian National Army was formed from Indian POWs captured during WW2 who were willing to fight on the Axis side. They can be split up into two groups, the first and smallest group numbering only a few thousand were captured by the Germans and Italians. These troops later formed a fully motorised Panzer Grenadier regiment and were stationed in France, they were withdrawn when the Allies landed, but did see some action against the French resistence, where about a dozen Indians were killed including an Indian officer. A much larger force was formed up later in Asia, which fought under Japanese command.

A leading figure fighting in the Indian struggle for an end to British domination was Subhas Chandra Bose, he was able to get financial support for the cause from the German authorities, which included the printing of millions of stamps for the liberation of India from the British. These stamps were to have gone on sale in India until they could have printed their own. Bose then left for Japan by U-Boat and got there safely, having transfered to a Japanese submarine at Madagascar.

The Asian Azad Hind fought at Rangoon under General Mohan Singh and unlike their cousins in Europe, numbered more than 40.000 men. Bose was allowed to administer the captured Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Bay of Bengal where a provisional government was set up, this was formerly recognized by Japan and Germany. However, the INA was defeated in May 1945 at Rangoon and Bose died in a plane crash on Formosa. In Europe the Azad Hind or Freies Indien Legion was transfered to the Waffen-SS just before the wars end. The Azad Hind postage stamps were never delivered and stayed in the Berlin State Printing Works until the end of the war, as a symbol of "great plans".


1. The General Issue

Planned for use in India by the National Government, these stamps were printed in the State Printing Works in Berlin 1943. They were designed by one of the top husband and wife teams, Axter-Heudtlass. All of the General Issue stamps contained surcharges. One million of each stamp were printed.

The finished stamps, but no transport arrived at the printing works to take them to India, they stayed in storage until the end of the war.

These stamps remained unfinished, they never made it to the perforation stage before the project was halted. Unknown how many stamps printed imperf.

2. The Andaman and Nicobar islands issue

The stamps for the Andaman and Nicobar islands, where the Provisional Government had its seat, were printed not only in different colours, but contained no surcharge. Half million of each stamp printed perforated  i.e. in a finished state, but like the others stayed in storage.

The set in its perf and imperf states, note without surcharge and the colours have been changed.

The Andaman and Nicobar islands continued to use existing British stamps even under the Azad Hind Government, these two contained overprints "10" and "20" as a surcharge and were only overprinted on these islands.

3. The One Rupie Stamp

The one Rupie stamp caused printing problems due to three colours being used, the stamps went through printing three times, once for each colour. Stamps exist with one, two or all three colours, most are off centre. The three colours were due to the fact that the flag contains an orange and a green stripe. All of these stamps were imperf and only a very small amount containing the orange colour were gummed.

A. Black: First stage in printing, 4.500 stamps were discovered in this stage.

B. Black/Orange: Second colour added. 2.000 stamps had only the orange added.

C. Black/Orange/Green: All three colours, the almost finished product, 7.000 stamps reached this stage.

D. Black/Orange/Green: Colours totally off centre, this one would have been rejected by the postal services had it reached India, it is also from my own collection.

Note the colours are not the same shades and none are really where they should be on the stamp design. The One Rupie Stamp is very expensive for philatelists.

4. Azad Hind Post-war

Most foreign volunteers who fought for the Axis powers in WW2 had problems after the war, seen as renegades or common criminals. Not so the Azad Hind, they returned to a free nationalist India as heroes! The only other country to experience this after WW2 were the Spanish when the remnants of the Blue Division returned to Madrid.

Incredible as it may seem and something the Germans never could of imagined, Azad Hind stamps used on cover in India 1964! (Source: kind permission of Herb Friedman) http://www.psywarrior.com/AxisPropIndia.html

From the Stanley Gibbons 1973 Catalogue

1964. Subhas Chandra Bose Nationalist Indian WW2 hero

1968. 25 years since the formation of the Azad Hind and Provisional Government

The 1968 cover was photocopied a number of years ago and the quality is not too good, but I have enlarged the left hand side of the cover to highlight this design. Is it just me, or do you see the resemblance to the 1943 One Rupie stamp? All three are wearing German uniforms and the one in the middle wears a turban, just like the early stamp.

The 1968 stamp and the Stanley Gibbons catalogue for India.