At the outbreak of World War II, the Indian Army numbered only 205,000 men. Later during World War II, it became the largest all-volunteer force in history, rising to over 2.5 million men in size - which included tank, artillery and airborne forces. More than 87,000 Indian soldiers lost their lives during this conflict, which began in 1939 and ended in 1945. On 18 October 1941, the 151st Parachute Battalion was formed from soldiers serving in the Indian Army. Later this unit was joined by the 152nd (Indian) and 153rd (Gurkha) Parachute Battalions. Particularly notable contributions of the Indian Army during this conflict include the Battle of Kohima & the Battle of Imphal (both in Burma), the First & Second Battles of El Alamein (North Africa) and the Battle of Monte Cassino (Italy).
Indian soldiers won 30 Victoria Crosses - Britain's highest gallantry medal - during the Second World War. Also of notable mention, is the Indian National Army (INA) that was raised by the Japanese from Indian Prisoners of War (PoW) captured in Malaya and Singapore in cooperation with Indian independence leader Subhash Chandra Bose and numbered nearly 40,000 men. The Nazis also raised the Tiger Legion from Indian Prisoners of War captured by Germany. This unit never numbered more than 2000 men and was largely used for propaganda purposes. The Tiger Legion wore standard German Army uniforms with the addition of a shield shaped badge on the upper right arm consisting of the Indian flag and the image of a leaping tiger.