- The Online Reference Guide to World War II German Helmets 1933-1945

    Freiwillige: Foreign Volunteers - Free Indian Legion

The Insignia of the Free Indian Legion

Free Indian Legion

In 1941 approximately 6,000 Indian prisoners-of-war (as well as a small number of Indian civilians living in Germany) were moved by train to Frankenburg, Germany to undergo military training by German officers and NCO's.  These volunteers were intended to form the "Indian National Army" that would eventually assist National Socialist Germany in defeating British colonial rule in India.  It was Germany's hope to capitalize on the fact that Indian nationals were eager to have their own government with less rule from England.

The volunteer group consisted of men recruited predominantly from former Indian soldiers who had served with British forces in North Africa.  Many of these men had been captured in battles where Rommel had lead German forces to victory.  After initial training, it was determined that the majority of the volunteers were better suited to serve the Wehrmacht as a military labor pool.  It is believed that Adolf Hitler's dislike of the notion of forming a military force of Indian nationals to serve in the Wehrmacht lead to these decisions.

However, in 1942 some 300 volunteers from the original group of 6,000 were sent to Künigsbrück in Eastern Germany where they were officially outfitted with German Army (Heer) uniforms and combat equipment.  Here the 300 men completed their basic infantry training.  The uniform insignia denoting these volunteers consisted of a specially designed national arm badge in the shape of a shield comprising the Indian national colors and a leaping tiger with the words "Freies Indien."  The uniforms of the volunteer unit were identical in all respects to those worn by regular German Army troops save for the arm shield insignia.  On 26th August 1942, the unit was officially designated the "Legion Freies Indien" (Free Indian Legion) and continued to served under the authority of the German Army. 

By 1943 the ranks of the Free Indian Legion grew to more than 2,000 men now re-designated the "Indisches Infanterie Regiment 950."  The equipment provided to the unit included standard German Army combat helmets both with and without insignia.  In 1943 the "Legion Freies Indien" was deployed in southern France on coastal defense duties.  After the Invasion at Normandy in June 1944 the unit was slowly withdrawn through France to western Germany.  On 8th August 1944 the Free Indian Legion was transferred to the control of the Waffen-SS.  The unit was re-designated the "Indische Freiwilligen Legion der Waffen-SS."  Despite the change in authority, the Free Indian Legion continued to use German Army uniforms and equipment. Several skirmishes occurred with French troops and Allied armor during the withdraw through France.  The unit was eventually captured by French and US forces as it made an attempt to enter Switzerland at the close of World War II.


Each section of is divided into separate Information Tracks that outline important details, facts, and historical notes pertaining to steel helmets used by the German Armed Forces during World War II.  

Information Tracks are organized by subject matter and their content is directly related to the service arm or organization to which each topic is related.  Topic areas that bridge one subject matter to another are cross linked within each Information Track.

This Information Track provides historical facts pertaining to helmets of the Free Indian Legion from 1941-1945.  Individual links related to this subject are outlined below.

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Indian Volunteer Main

Helmet Types

Helmet Insignia

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Foreign Volunteers Main


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