Recently I asked an Indian student of the Kendriya Vidyalay in Dubai, whether he was aware that the great Indian war time freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose had escaped in a dare devil episode from Germany to Japan in 1943? The boy expressed ignorance about this escape and just knew that Bose was "one of the freedom fighters". What a travesty of truth. Not many Indians are aware of this great romantic adventure at the height of the war, when the Royal Navy was searching the oceans for Bose as a war criminal.

Bose had escaped to  Germany where he met Adolf Hitler. Photographs and minutes of the meeting in Berlin are available. At that time Rommel the German commander of the Afrika Corps was sweeping across North Africa. Bose requested German assistance for overthrow of the British empire in India. Hitler agreed, but pointed out that his ally Japan was sweeping across SE Asia and the British and French were on the run. He suggested that Bose move to Tokyo and join up with the Japanese. He offered to facilitate the move to Japan, but warned it would be a hard decision as the entire Atlantic and Indian Ocean were under the control of the Royal Navy.

Bose accepted and planning to move Bose to Japan commenced. The overland route through Russia was blocked as the German army was deep inside Russia and "Operation Barbarossa" was on. 

The Germans made arrangements to transfer Bose by a submarine to Japan. A coded message was also sent to the Japanese to have a rendezvous with the German Submarine near the island of Madagascar. Bose was then to be transferred to a Japanese submarine in mid ocean and taken to Japan. This was an operation fraught with great danger as the Royal Navy was searching for Bose and British intelligence had become aware that Bose would escape to Japan. At the same time the British got a commitment from the 3 Indian leaders Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah that they had no objection to Bose being tried as a war criminal. Isn't this shocking?

Bose set sail from Hamburg in submarine no U-181 commanded by Captain Musenberg on 8 Feb 1943 . Bose was accompanied by his secretary Abid Ali. He left behind his wife and 8 month old daughter.

The submarine crossed to the North Sea and then entered the North Atlantic. It carried on through the South Atlantic and rounded the cape of Good Hope in Africa. It was a hazardous voyage and captain Musenberg displayed great skill. The submarine reached Madagascar and made wireless contact with the Japanese submarine, which had already reached the spot. Both the subs then surfaced and made visual contact. What a feat of navigation to have reached the exact spot of the rendezvous.

For 2 days rough sea  did not allow  Bose to be transferred to the Japanese Submarine. But with battery running low a decision was taken to transfer Bose and his secretary to the Japanese submarine. A rubber dingy boat now ferried Bose in choppy sea to the Japanese Submarine. He shook hands with Musenberg and left. The Japanese also transferred 2 naval officers to the German submarine who would go to Germany to study submarine construction.

The rest is history as the Japanese submarine took Bose to the Island of Sumatra and from there he flew to Tokyo and met  General Hideki Tojo the  Japanese Prime Minster.

The voyage was an act of great courage and took more than a month. It is a tale to fire the imagination of any child or man. It's great material for a film also. Unfortunately Nehru and the Congress party kept all such episodes in wraps, that is the tragedy of Bose and India.


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