Indian War Journal



In 1914, a war journal titled Indian Ink: Splashes from Various Pens was launched in India, edited by Everard Digby and published and printed by Messrs Thacker, Spink and Co. in Calcutta. Published annually and priced at Re. 1, it was aimed at ‘the well-to-do and generous classes of India’, with its readership totalling 20,000 in 1916. In some ways, Indian Ink was a quintessential colonial enterprise. Funded by leading Anglo-Indian companies, it was a highly entertaining and lavishly illustrated journal for the leisured classes, comprising short stories, poems, art, advertisements, travelogues, reminiscences, and cartoons. The war issues published a number of stories and poems about the war, including those by the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, and the proceeds from the journal went to the Indian Soldiers' Fund. The journal was short-lived and ended in 1916 (check).


Indian Ink was one of the very few war journals produced by the colonial rulers but including contributions by Indian writers. The journal remains a classic example of the collaboration and interaction between the ‘babus’ and the ‘sahibs’ – the educated, Bengali upper-middle class and the colonial elite, respectively – showing how privileges of class, education, and wealth overcame divisions of nation and race. The magazine included war poems, from elegies such as ‘The Tirailleur (To The Memory of Rene)’, (1916:1), to the adaptation of the war to the accents of Hamlet (‘Now all the World’s a Camp and all men soldiers’) or the mock-heroic ‘A Field Day with the C.L.H’ written, as the preface jokes, ‘at a hand gallop while chasing Squadron B through the jungle’. Indian Ink was essentially an exercise in soft propaganda, trying to promote and celebrate the themes of imperial brotherhood and loyalty during wartime. Characteristic poems included Shirley Hodginson's ‘India to England’, an ode to ‘Proud Rajputs, gallant Gurkhas,…/Thy soldiers are we, England’ and R.C. Lehmann’s ‘Epitaph’ for an ‘English Soldier and an Indian Soldier buried together in France’. The star contributor was however the Indian Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore whose contributions included two 'war poems', ‘The Trumpet’ and ‘Crossing’ which were published in the Times in 1914 - both poems are very different, marked by the absence of any glorification of war and empire.