Winston Churchill Starved 3 Million Indians to Death in the Man-Made Bengal Famine of 1943

The great hero of the Anglo-American world did his best to keep up with Stalin and Hitler

Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II is a book by the science journalist Madhusree Mukerjee. It tells of British policy in India in the Second World War and how it relates to the Bengal Famine of 1943.

Mukerjee reminds the reader that before the British conquest India was a rich land. Certainly, the conquerors drawn to Bengal in the 18th century were of the opinion they were adding a magnificently wealthy possession to their empire. Under colonial rule, however, Bengal soon became a synonym for poverty and a frequent setting of famine.

During the Second World War the colony was made to contribute heavily to the British war effort. India’s industries, manpower, and foodstuffs were made to serve requirements of the war the empire had involved itself in.

This was merely the latest escalation in a long-lasting exploitation of the colony. The British deemed their unwanted presence in India a service and therefore extracted “payment” for it in the form of the Home Charge. As the British obstructed the expansion of manufacturing in India lest it provide competition for their domestic industry, the export of agricultural produce presented the only way of realizing this transfer.

Finally, since the empire set the transfer so high so much grain was extracted for export that the colony — which continued to produce more food than its need through the 19th century — was artificially kept in a condition of chronic malnutrition.

Unsurprisingly, there was strong resistance to colonial rule that could only be overcome by large-scale repression. As part of the August 1942 crackdown against the Quit India Movement alone, more than 90,000 people were locked up and up to 10,000 were killed.

Short on manpower the British at times resorted to attacking crowds with aircraft. In particularly rebellious districts authorities burned down homes and destroyed rice supplies. British India was not unlike an occupied land.

The book exposes the manifold causes of the Bengal Famine. To begin with the mortality rate in Bengal under British rule was atrocious even in a normal year with some of that attributable to malnutrition.

The immediate reasons why conditions deteriorated beyond this “normal” state of semi-famine was the catastrophic Midnapore Cyclone and the Japanese capture of Burma.

The Cyclone storm and subsequent floods disrupted life and ruined crops. The loss of Burma severed links with an important source of rice imports to India. These two factors, which were outside British control, were probably enough for a disaster on their own, but subsequent British policies made the crisis far worse than it needed to be.

Anticipating the possibility the Japanese could advance further, the British carried out a scorched earth policy in coastal Bengal, seizing rice stocks, motor vehicles, bicycles, and boats. Seizure of boats was particularly disruptive as they normally represented the primary means of transporting rice crops to the markets.

The loss of Burmese rice imports to India was not made up by imports from elsewhere, nor was India’s obligation to supply British Indian troops abroad lessened. Instead, India was made to cover the loss of Burmese rice imports to Ceylon, Arabia, and South Africa even though these territories were already better provisioned with food than India.

Albeit in the years before WWII India had become a net importer of food, importing at least one million tons of cereal per year — a figure that was not actually sufficient to cover its needs, but represented what it could afford to import after paying the Home Chargethe British now undertook to export food from India.

Anticipating food shortages that were certain to follow colonial administration moved to protect the strata of society most useful to the British Empire — administrators, soldiers, and industrial workers. It set out to buy up huge quantities of grain and store it for their use. It would pay for these stocks in the same way it acquired supplies for the war effort — by printing money.

The government acquired some grain by requisitioning, but for the most part, it simply bought it. Some purchases it made on its own, others it contracted out to private traders. Big merchant companies were given advances of vast sums of money and instructed to purchase grain at any price for the government.

The price of already precious grain skyrocketed and the Bengal peasant was priced out of the market. Between the purchases of the Bengal administration, the Government of India, the army and the industries which were recipients of government largesse, grain was sucked out from rural areas. Departments of government and industries crucial for the war effort secured huge stocks of grain — part of which would end up rotting as millions starved.

What made the looting of the countryside to this extent possible was the transfer of purchasing power away from the peasant and to the government and to those the government made business with, that money printing enabled.

In the course of the war, the money supply increased by between six and seven times, so that the British worried they were “within sight of collective refusal to accept further paper currency”. This confounded the problem of food scarcity since some cultivators understandably held onto their grain rather than release it to the market, as it was seen a better store of value than the rapidly depreciating currency.

The reason government purchases were so devastating for Bengal peasants was that most families owned tracts of land too small to sustain their families on their own.

Even in a normal year, such families were not in a position to store enough of their harvest to sustain them until the next one. They were not sellers of crops, they sold their labor to the big landowners and bought food.

Except now buying food meant competing with a government that could print money at will.

Prevalence of effectively landless peasants in Bengal in itself was the result of British policies in India which had created the landlord class from what had been tax collectors before the conquest.

Albeit crop failure and the loss of Burmese imports were enough to create a serious food deficit for India, there was actually no food problem for the British Empire taken as a whole. In fact, London claimed that Bengal could not be fed — not for a lack of food, but for a lack of ships — supposedly shipping was so scarce that grain, which was available, could not be taken to India without disrupting the British war effort.

Prioritizing its war over the bare lives of three million of its subjects would have been bad enough, but Mukarjee shows that shipping was nowhere as scarce as London claimed, albeit it was certainly being mismanaged. For example there was shipping and food enough to build up a stockpile in the Eastern Mediterranean to supply an Allied invasion of the Balkans that would never come about. Also, there were always ships aplenty to build up an enormous and ever-growing stockpile of food in the British Isles that the London government was actually building up for post-war use.

In reality, the biggest obstacle to secure food for famine-stricken India was not the lack of means, but the lack of will to allocate the resources necessary. Such readjustments would have clashed with the interest and the intent of the British Empire under Winston Churchill to exploit its colony for its purposes to the greatest extent possible.

To their credit, not every Brit was of a mind with the London government personified in Winston Churchill.

Many officials, including high-ranking ones like the Secretary of State for India, Leopold Amery and the Viceroy of India, Field Marshal Wavell repeatedly called for a decisive effort to relieve the famine. Governments of Australia, New Zeeland, and Canada offered grain for India if the United Kingdom, which had taken control of their shipping, would transport it there.

British soldiers on the scene defied orders not to help famine refugees often handing over food from their own rations.

In addition to showing how the British Empire helped cause the Bengal Famine of 1943 and then denied it famine relief Churchill’s Secret War also provides the context for these two stories.

Mukarjee recounts a fair bit of the dynamic between colonial metropolis and the colony centering on exploitation and resistance, explains the consequences of British wartime policies for the political future of the colony — partition and independence — and paints a picture of famine and repression as seen from the ground by offering vivid first-hand accounts by people who were affected.

It is a book rich in content, but probably the one thing to take from it is the way in which the famine was made worse and its victims selected by government abuse of paper currency.

British reaction to food shortages in Bengal was to protect the cities and industries at the expense of the peasants. Like the Soviet Union which had faced a food crisis of its own a decade earlier, the British Empire figured it was up to it to decide who would live and who would die.

Only where the Soviet method of robbing the countryside of grain in 1932-33 was requisition, the British method of choice in India was money creation. It was a more elegant method, but no less deadly, and more difficult to effectively resist.

If the famine in 1932-33 in the Soviet Union was a requisition famine, the Bengal Famine of 1943 was a printing press famine.

  1. Kazmis says

    There were great rebellion in Bengal always, sadist people were even torturing their own Bengali as Master. Winston Churchil made them hungry and they gone hungry and died…No No they had bad deeds and died out of that.

    1. Sel Brackley says


  2. […] (Check Point India) — Mukerjee reminds the reader that before the British conquest India was a rich land. Certainly the conquerors drawn to Bengal in the 18th century were of the opinion they were adding a magnificently wealthy possession to their empire. Under colonial rule, however, Bengal soon became a synonym for poverty and a frequent setting of famine. […]

  3. Nalliah Thayabharan says

    The western countries could never lead! They could only conquer and
    rule. Everywhere the western countries went disaster struck. Problem is
    the leadership is about money driven by greed and thirst for power. In
    fact there are very few leaders in the western world who have been good.

    Europe was pretty much a poor smelly underdeveloped backwater in
    global terms for most of history, although the culture and civilization
    of Asia and Africa often reached across the Mediterranean and especially
    into the areas near the middle east.

    The change from poor backwater to rulers of the world started with
    the conquering of South Asia, America & Africa and especially the
    vast amounts of gold flowing in from India, South America and Africa.
    This gold was in large used to pay for an arms race and the building of
    several huge European fleets. These armies and fleets in turn was used
    for trade. The unfriendly trade generated more wealth, more European
    arms races and even more fleets and more wealth.

    Industrial revolution made Britain and Europe enormously wealthy, so
    much so that they now could do very unfriendly trade with pretty much

  4. Nalliah Thayabharan says

    India was already a highly “developed” and advanced civilization for
    4000+ years when Rothschild’s sea pirates stepped on Indian shores.
    Rothschild’s sea pirates began landing on the shores of India and
    started setting up armed forts at various places such as Chennai. The
    Rothschild family owned the trading company British East India Company.
    East India Company indulged in outright, shameless thievery . In 1600,
    the East India Company was granted the Charter to trade with India.
    After conquering Bengal in India, the Rothschilds set up a notoriously
    corrupt system of administration, whose sole objective was to
    shamelessly plunder the countless riches of Bengal which was the richest
    province in the entire world during that time. Bengal was literally
    turned into a graveyard of death and desolation… Millions of Bengalis
    were eliminated through the spread of diseases like the bubonic plague.
    In 1757 at the Battle of Plassey, Clive and British troops secured
    Bengal under the control of the East India Company. The Nawabs and the
    Rajahs and Zamindars were robbed of their priceless treasures.The
    Rothschilds then moved this entire horde of tons of gold looted from the
    people of Bengal to London. It was with this gold looted from Bengal
    that the Rothchild family set up the privately owned Bank of England. In
    the decades that followed, the Rothschild banking family set up the
    Federal Reserve Bank of America which to this day indulges in day light
    robbery of the American people. The Rothschilds then set up the World
    Bank, the IMF and the Bank for International Settlements. The
    Rothschilds use banks such as the World Bank, the IMF, the Bank for
    International Settlements to institutionalize the robbery of the third

    Banks such as Citibank and Standard Chartered bank etc. were also set upwith the secret support of the Rothschilds to continue the robbery of
    third world and Indian people.

    When Indians revolted in the year 1857, they were told that the East
    India Company was abolished and India will be administered directly by
    the CROWN. What most of the Indians do not know to this day is the fact
    that CROWN does not mean the King or Queen of Britain but a privately
    owned Corporation of London headed again by the Rothschilds who owned the East India Company Indians were tricked and cheated with a simple name change game! The exploitation and robbery of India, its resources and people continued till 1947 under this CROWN.

    James Wilson (founder of The Chartered Bank of India, Australia and
    China) was sent to India to establish the tax structure, a new paper
    currency and remodel the finance system of India after the revolt of
    1857. Transactions in the opium trade generated substantial profits for
    Chartered bank.The same year (1853) The Mercantile Bank of India, Londonand China was established in Bombay by the Parsis who were the middle men for the East India Company. Later, the Bank also became one of the principal foreign banknote issuing institutions in Shanghai; which we
    know today as the HSBC Bank.Drug trafficking and the gold looted from
    India, Portugal, Brazil, China, Burma and other countries laid the
    foundations of the modern Monetary System controlled by Rothschild

    In its day, the Rothschild Family owned East India Company occupied
    and manipulated the interstices of a truly global economy. Tea from
    China was bought with opium from India; Indian and later British
    textiles made from cotton grown in India purchased slaves in west
    Africa, who were sold in the Americas for gold and silver, which was
    invested in England, where the sugar harvested by the slaves ensured a
    booming market for the tea from China.

    In 1947, India and its people were again tricked into believing that
    we were granted “Independence” through the complicity of Pandit Nehru.
    Under secret orders from the Rothschilds given to him through his Jewish
    girl friend Edwina Mountbatten – a close relative of the British Queen,
    Nehru turned India and its people into rag tag clad beggars by aligning
    India with the Soviet Union which was another creation of the Jewish
    bankers. You must not forget that today the richest people in the
    country are undoubtedly the politicians who continue their thievery and
    robbery of India for the East India Company Rothschilds banking family
    as their front-men.

    The Rothschilds are now married into the British Royal Family and
    many aristocratic families of Europe. The Kohinoor Diamond which was
    robbed by Robert Clive was presented to the British Queen.The Bank of
    England which was set up through the thievery of gold from Bengal and
    the rest of India was also able to finance other banks such as Citibank
    and Standard Chartered bank. The East India Company bankers are using
    these multinational banks to rob the people of India now.

    1. David Samuel Shalen says

      Do you realize what a coward you’re being trying to pin all the horrors of world history on a largely defenseless minority? The Rothschilds were important bankers in the early 19th century. They were just a few rich people thereafter. British colonialism in its deeds and mentality wear the work of upper crust Britons. You refuse to go after them because this is easier. You conveniently exempt the major powers front real malfeasance, hoping to Ally yourself to them to defeat a scapegoat. The only problem is that this is totally useless. The people you Ally yourself with are the real powers who stand to exploit by neo-colonialist means. Good luck pinning world history on a bank because it was owned by members of a religious-cultural minority in Europe. Oldest, and mosr futile, game in the book.

    2. Cricket says

      Nice copy-paste job.

  5. Billy Bones says

    No debt in the universe goes unpaid. Wait and watch

  6. John McCullagh says

    Now you understand how the Irish feel about the British!

    1. Egil Henrik Lehmann says

      Yes ! However, a Japanese occupation had not been better, probably worse. What if GB had given in to Nazi Germany and Japan ?

      1. R Laycock says

        Russian won the second world war with Germany that the british had started and Russian and China finished the war with Japan

        1. Cricket says

          Beg to differ. The United States led allied forces into Germany to
          defeat the Nazi’s and two atomic bombs, courtesy of the United
          States, stopped Japan. Thank you for playing though.

          1. Tony says

            R laycock was correct. Russia was responsible for defeating Germany. Check the real history of that war. The u.s took credit for it. Thank you for playing. Check your facts

            1. Peter J. Fazio says

              The Allies would have defeated Germany in WWII without Russia. The decision by Hitler and his insane lieutenants to attack Russia accelerated Germany’s demise, but their thirst for OIL for the “machine” drove the problem…let’s not forget that!

            2. CassandraSays says

              The Allies didn’t fire a shot in the European Theatre of Operations until after the Soviet Union had won the war. They were off in North Africa seizing Italy’s colonies for Britain and securing Britain’s Mediterranean and Suez Canal access to the Empire.

            3. Rodney E. Smith says

              Check yours. Giving the Soviets credit for beating the Germans is like giving an arsonist credit for putting out a fire he started. They originally allied with the Germans and every bit as responsible as the Germans for starting WWII in Europe. Look up the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression pact.

              Even at that, while 4 out of 5 German soldiers killed in the war were on the Russian front, the vast majority of their material and industiral resources were expended protecting them from the Western Allies. If Britain had come to terms with Germany after Dunkirk there would have been no lend lease, no Battle of the Atlantic, no Battle of Britain, no North African Campaign, no invasion of Sicily, Italy or Normandy and no Strategic Air Campaign. Rommel would have been on the Eastern front with vastly stronger armies.

              Two thirds of the German fighter planes and two thirds of the German artillery were occupied fighting the western allies strategic air war.

              Without Britain in the war there would have been no Lend Lease for them or Russia and no need to construct 1,100 U boats. In weight of materials and men each U Boat was equal to at least 10 Tiger II tanks. For perspective, the Germans produced less than 500 Tiger IIs.

              Think what 11,000 extra Tigers would have done for them. And that is to say nothing of the other material and industrial resources sucked up by the Western Allies.

          2. Terry Debassige says

            Russia faced 180 German Divisions on its own. There were about 130 Germans Divisions in the European and Mediterranean Theaters being contested by armies from Britain, the US, France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Morocco among the more notable ones.
            If those 180 German Divisions had been available for the fighting in the European Theater the allies would never have stood a chance to invade or hold territory in Europe,

            1. Peter J. Fazio says


            2. CassandraSays says

              Germany had 40 divisions in France when the Western Allies pulled out of Europe and moved into the Mediterranean and North Africa. The Germans sent two divisions to reinforce the Italians, left one in France, and had 37 free to beef up German forces fighting the Soviet Union.

            3. Rodney E. Smith says

              And if the Germans had not been occupied with the Africa, Med, ect.. those freed up divisions would have carved up Russia like a cake. See my post above.

              Stalin was an idiot who thought he could trust old Adolf.The Soviets got in bed with Hitler, and it backfired on them. Some migh even say the Soviets got what they deserved.

          3. plamenpetkov says

            USA waited until the Sovite Union had won the woar to get involved in Europe and the ONLY reason USa invaded Normandy was to stop the Sovite Union totally taking over Europe.
            As for japan Japan had already asked to surrender. it was the USA that disnt accept that surrender.
            Try next time with real facts instead of lies, but thanx for playing and you lose.

            1. Genghis Gobi says


              As Stalin said, the Second Front was delayed as long as it could to bleed the USSR until it could be delayed no more. The troops and ships were all available by early 1943. Instead of the short journey across the English Channel, they were sent all the way to North Africa to invade (almost undefended) Vichy French Tunisia and Morocco.

            2. CassandraSays says

              It seems nobody ever rethinks these things when they get new information. We have to remember that Stalin had Kim Philby and a phalanx of spies infiltrating the high levels of the British government. He knew what Britain was thinking and doing behind the scenes from before the war. He knew Churchill was playing to have the Soviet Union and Germany kill each other off.

            3. Rodney E. Smith says

              When the war started the US had the 17th largest Army in the world. Right behind Romania. Operational readiness was less than 20%. Operation Torch involved 100,000 men and occured in Nov of ’42. Not ’43. And we were fighting Frenchmen, not Germans. Ike had 2.8 million men availeable for Overlord.The two operations are in no way comparable.

              The whole Med campaign was only done to provide relief for the Soviets, who were also getting millions of tons of Lend Lease materials (from socks and uniforms to fighter planes, and most importantly… 150,000 duece and a half trucks) at a great cost in resources to the US. George Marshall and most of the other American brass wanted to skip the med and make one mass invasion of France. But Roosevelt knew he had to provide Stalin with some sort of relief… fast.

              If they had really wanted to bleed the Soviets dry they would have skipped Africa and the Med entirely. That might have enabled them to invade earlier, but it also might have meant that the Soviets would have gone down for the count.

              Overlord landed over 2 million men in Germany in a period of a couple of months. Take out a calculator and see what kind of shipping resources are required to transport that many men across the Atlantic Ocean and then equip them to attack heavilly defended beaches. All this with the US fighting in the North Africa, Sicily, Italy, the South Pacific, the CBI, the Aluetians, and waging two major Naval Wars (which are the most resource intensive wars of all). One of the biggest bottlenecks was simply amassing the required specialized landing craft (of almost every conceivable shape and size with many designed from scratch) which were being sucked up for use in the Pacific.

              The Soviets could devote essentially all their resources to a single land campaign with tactical fighter support. Many of which were supplied by the United States. The US, however, was literally fighting a global. Because of our industrial base, and the fact our mainland was protected by Oceans, we could expend materials instead of lives. The USSR was just the opposite. Rich in bodies, but a weaker industrial base and no natural defenses other than the Russian winter.

              Considering they were as responsible as the Germans for starting the war in Europe, I’d day we treated the USSR pretty damn well.

          4. CassandraSays says

            You know that how?

            The evidence for what stopped Japan lies in the transcripts of the meetings in which the Japanese government and military discussed policy. The bombs didn’t worry them; they were hardly mentioned. Japan had long since accepted that the United States could and would firebomb a major city into ashes overnight. They didn’t care how many bombs it took.

            What made them see their situation as hopeless was the Soviet Union’s declaring war and attacking them in Manchuria.

            1. Rodney E. Smith says

              And the fact the US had completely destroyed their naval and air forces and deprived them of their supplies of oil and other strategic materials had little to do with it, right?

              The Soviets were hyenas trying to steal a lion’s kill.

      2. Alexander Hed says

        That is true..India was always victin until modern times of invasions..from Aryans, Muslim Arabs, Muslim Afghans, Persians and the last the Britisg..the Imperial Japanese tried to invade British India from Siam they succeded in driving the British from Burma but then got stuck in a jungle war..horrendous tales of Japanese suffering in that Jungle…and of the suffering of the Burmese who fled Rangoon in 1942..I think that Calcutta was also bombed by the Japanese?

    2. Jay Dillon says

      My dad’s parents came to USA from Ireland in the 1800s. I don’t know the exact year though.

    3. Sel Brackley says

      As a Welshman…..I NEVER consider myself as a Brit. God forbid

  7. Sam_Jennings says

    Before the English conquest, India was a land which had been overrun by Muslim Moghuls, who had committed the largest genocide in known history… they killed more than 80 million Hindus. The English drove out the Moghuls. So at least don’t try to turn this against the UK as a whole. I’m not defending that monster tyrant, Churchill though… it’s open season on him.

  8. […] with body counts in the millions you’d have to go back to Stalin’s famines and terror, and to those of Churchill (if you count the Crown’s subjects in British India as Churchill’s “own […]

  9. […] with body counts in the millions you’d have to go back to Stalin’s famines and terror, and to those of Churchill (if you count the Crown’s subjects in British India as Churchill’s “own […]

  10. […] with body counts in the millions you’d have to go back to Stalin’s famines and terror, and to those of Churchill (if you count the Crown’s subjects in British India as Churchill’s “own […]

  11. Mark says

    well written

  12. Yasir Ali says

    We fought the War with them and see what they did to us

  13. Vish says

    All the Anglo American imperial apologists are crawling of the woodwork to pimp for their beloved mass murderer, Winston Churchill, and the crimes that the British Empire committed against India under his rule.

    What is really sick is that even in modern times almost “60 per cent of Britons were proud of the British Empire and almost 50 per cent thought it had made the colonies better off,” according to this Irish Times article below.

    Inglorious Empire: what the British did to India

    If there is any consolation for the British, however, it’s that the Americans are even more depraved in terms of their imperial delusions.

    Indeed, one of the greatest (unacknowledged) crimes of the British Empire is spawning the Anglo colonizer states of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and of course America–which lead the world in bloodlust (and deceit) as they wage multiple wars of aggression around the world, under the pretext of expanding the White Man’s Burden … my bad … “democracy and freedom.”

  14. Richard M. Langworth says

    Long refuted. Absent Churchill, the Bengal Famine would have been worse.

    1. RoboJ1M says

      Indeed, people see what they want to see.

  15. Vish says

    Politically Incorrect History will get Face-banned!

    1. CassandraSays says

      The decision on what is politically incorrect to be made by a Snowflake who is guided by her grade eleven history textbook.

  16. Mr Smith says

    I posted this on FB and they put me in FB Jail for 3 days

  17. Miriam Fenech says

    I was blocked from f.bk. for Sharing

  18. Kushal says

    Great article. Hats off from India.

  19. wildcatwilly says

    It was not so much the British people themselves but those who held the reins of power as in Ireland under British rule. Those in power (probably the Tories !) treated their own people like shit, maybe not to the point of starvation but cerainly like sub-humans, nothing of worth or any importance.

  20. के. एल बीरा says

    हम मूर्ख अदूरदर्शी हिन्दूओं आपस की फूट के कारण ही ये सारे हरामीं अंग्रेज और मुसलमान भारत में प्रवेश कर पाए, और हम पर इतने नृषंस अत्याचार~दुराचार कीए~!! किन्तु यह दुर्भाग्य ही है~हम हिन्दू~!! आज भी समझदार, दूरदर्शी, सँगठित नहीं हुए हैं~!! धनसत्ता लोभ में बीजेपी बनाम ठगबँधनीयों के रुप में परस्पर लड़ते रहते हैं~!! इट्ज रीअली शेम अॉन डिवाईडेड एण्ड रुल्ड बाइ सच बास्टर्ड्स……..

  21. enrico martelloni says

    The piece is a fake. Gandhi does not tell it. (Yoghesh Cahada)

  22. EdMahn says

    The whole of combined India was about 300M people while Colonial rule was in effect with starvation a regular fixture in the British press. Once the Colonials got the flick, even divided, the Sub Continent never suffered another famine.
    The untold misery suffered under British Rule(Tyranny) was greater than the entire Mongol Dynasty. Gandhi was way to kind allowing those heathens to get away without massive compensations as they were force to pay the slave traders.

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