I'm not entirely sure how notable this claim is. But a popular Tweeter named WW2 Tweets from 1941 made the following claim:

British officers in Egypt now using their Indian soldiers to translate all radio messages into Hindustani- fearful of snooping Germans.

The tweet was retweeted 68 times and favourited 26 times. It has (since) been doing the rounds in blogs and such.

Is there any basis for this claim?

(One of the repliers to the tweet claims that the Indian army similarly employed Tamil during the 1971 Bangladesh/East Pakistan War. A less notable claim, but just as interesting.)

  • 1
    The Wikipedia article on Operation Battleaxe states At 10:45, Messervy contacted Creagh over the radio and, speaking Hindustani for security, informed him that he had ordered a retreat of his infantry from Capuzzo and Halfaya, to begin at 11:00 and references the claim to The Tanks: The History of the Royal Tank Regiment and its Predecessors, Heavy Branch, Machine-Gun Corps, Tank Corps, and Royal Tank Corps, 1914-1945
    – Compro01
    Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 19:07
  • 4
    I haven't found evidence for it. The claim "all radio messages" seems extreme (improbable). A related phenomenon is well documented in en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_talker which is about Native-American (aka "American Indian") languages. Note the section which starts with, Adolf Hitler knew about the successful use of code talkers during World War I. He sent a team of some thirty anthropologists to learn Native American languages before the outbreak of World War II. and note that Hindustani was a relatively commonly-known language: why Hindustani and not e.g. Cornish, Welsh, or Nepali?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 0:52
  • @Compro01 Thank you. That is certainly promising even if Messervy doesn't sound like a terribly Indian name :) Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 5:17
  • Remember that India and Pakistan were still British property at the time. It's reasonably likely that many Brits working in India would learn a local language.
    – Compro01
    Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 14:38

1 Answer 1


Did British officers in Egypt use Indian soldiers to translate all radio messages into Hindustani?

No, certainly not all.

All radio messages includes both voice messages and morse-code messages.

And certainly not all messages in Hindustani would have required required an indian soldier.

  • As compro1 notes in a comment, In at least one case, the services of an Indian soldier were not needed. General Frank Messervy was born in Trinidad to English and French parents. - Unless the term "Indian soldier" encompasses all the soldiers of every nationality who ever served in the British Indian army.
  • Michael O'Moore Creagh (the other half of Messervy's conversation in Hindustani) does not seem to have been in the British Indian Army, though his Irish father was and that is presumably how he learnt the language
    – Henry
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 11:12

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