Bhullar, Bhag Singh

Bhag Singh Bhullar was born May 14, 1924 in the village of Bhullar, in the Punjab region of India.  At least that’s what his official military records say; the reality is that he was born in 1922, and his family had lied about his birthday, hoping that making him two years younger would keep him away from the front lines.  He grew up in a rural area, working on his family’s farm, against the backdrop of British colonial rule.  And that world intruded on his life in his village when British soldiers came looking for recruits when he was 16.  Bhag was one of five brothers, but he was the only one whose health allowed for him to join the military.  He and his family saw this as an opportunity for one of the sons to be able to leave the village and pursue something beyond farming – and to have some extra money coming in.  Bhag therefore enlisted, and was soon off to training, followed by a deployment to southeast Asia; his regiment was sent to the Malay peninsula, where they saw fighting in the Penang area, as British colonial forces sought to stop the advance of the Japanese.  Bhag was just a teenager when he saw his first combat against the Japanese, and after a few months the colonial forces were forced into a surrender as the Japanese onslaught was too much for them.  Now a POW, Bhag and many Indian troops were sent north, where they would endure years of hard labour and deprivation at the hands of their captors.  Bhag survived this ordeal, eating little and enduring long hours of road construction punctuated by beatings.  He remembers that most of the Indian troops did not return home at war’s end.  For Bhag liberation came in the spring of 1945, and he returned to his family, who had known nothing of his fate.  He stayed in the army for the next ten years, welcoming and protecting India’s newfound independence.  After that he transitioned to civilian life and raised his family, and emigrated to Canada in the 1990s.  Bhag Singh Bhullar was interviewed by Rishi Sharma and Scott Masters in April 2022 at his home in Brampton, Ontario.