Gorleston former soldier recalls atrocities and horror of partition of India

PUBLISHED: 13:35 29 August 2017 | UPDATED: 13:35 29 August 2017

Donald Bullard, who served with the Norfolk Regiment, recalls his days in India during 1947. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Donald Bullard, who served with the Norfolk Regiment, recalls his days in India during 1947. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

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It was a tumultuous event that saw millions of people forced to leave their homes amid countless atrocities that claimed the lives of men, women and children of different religions.

In August 1947, the partition of India saw Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs take part in what is called the greatest migration in human history as the sister state of Pakistan was formed amid scenes of carnage and destruction.

The scenes of horror are still seared in the memories of a former soldier from Gorleston who served in India at the time and was regularly called out to deal with the aftermath of clashes between rival communities.

As a solider with the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Norfolk Regiment, Donald Bullard saw bodies impaled on railings and whole families burnt alive.

Now 91, Mr Bullard served in India from 1945 until just after the partition of the country.

As tensions built ahead of the partition, his company was called out to deal with the aftermath of atrocities and potential flash points.

In August 1946, his unit had its first taste of the horror of what lay ahead as the battalion was sent to Calcutta to deal with what were described as “serious communal disorders”.

Mr Bullard said: “When we got to Calcutta there were bodies on the streets and on the railways. There were bodies impaled on the railings.”

In another village Mr Bullard’s unit came across a temple where another atrocity had happened.

He said: “People had gone there for sanctuary. Then the doors were locked and petrol was poured through, everyone died, of all ages.”

A history of the battalion says before the partition the unit was “fully employed, evacuating refugees and attempting to stop looting and burning”.

Mr Bullard, who lives in Elm Avenue and has three children, still has sympathy for the millions of people who were forced to leave their homes and travel enormous distances without proper transport arranged for them.

He said: “The everyday man on the street did not want to move. The ones who came up with the idea thought it would be peaceful. They were living in cloud cuckooland. It was chaos, total chaos.”

After the war, Mr Bullard worked in his family’s bakery business in Gorleston and he then went on to work in insurance.

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