From Police File MEPO 3/1743
- kept secret for 56 years
Udham Singh was one of the great patriots of India, with a burning desire to see his motherland free from the clutches of British colonialism and imperialism. According to British records, he was born at Sunam Village, Patiala State, on 23 August 1901, and was known at various stages in his relatively short life by the following names: Sher Singh, Udham Singh, Udhan Singh, Ude Singh, Frank Brazil and Mohemed Singh Azad. Being orphaned at the age of three, he was brought up in the Sikh orphanage attached to Khalsa College, Amritsar. Re was issued with a passport on 20 March 1933 in Lahore in the name of Udham Singh. In a Metropolitan Police report, file MEPO 3/1743, dated 16 March 1940 (3 days after Udham Singh had been charged with the murder of Sir Michael O'Dwyer), we find information concerning his life, which reveals him to be a highly active, well-travelled, politically motivated, secular-minded young man with some great purpose in his life, a supporter of Bolshevism and driven by an ardent hatred of British rule in India. This is how the report runs:
SINGH served in the Army in Basra for a year and a half and in British East Africa for two years. He returned thereafter to India for a few months and then proceeded to London in the company of one PRITAM SINGH. The two sailed for the United States via Mexico. He worked for two years in California and for some months in Detroit and Chicago, whence he moved to East New York where he lived for five years. Thereafter he shipped for voyages in various vessels of the US Shipping Line according to his own account as a Porto Rican, because no Indians were allowed to be employed on US vessels. (He is known to have held a seaman's certificate in the name of FRANK BRAZIL of Porto Rico). From New York he made a trip to Europe, landing in France, and thereafter visiting Belgium, Germany and going as far as Vilna in Lithuania, returning via Hungary, Poland, Switzerland, Italy and France, embarking there for America. After another few months in the USA, he took employment on vessels plying to most of the Mediterranean ports and thereafter secured employment on the S.S. Jalapa as a carpenter. He arrived in this vessel at Karachi in July, 1927, and deserted from her in Calcutta.
While in America he appears to have come under the influence of Ghadr Party [Party of Revolt] and to have been affected by its teaching. He used to read seditious literature published by this party. On 27 July 1927 he was fined at Karachi for having in his possession a large number of obscene postcards.
On 30 August 1927 he was arrested at Amritsar as it was suspected that he was in possession of unlicensed Arms. Two revolvers, one pistol, a quantity of ammunition and copies of the prohibited paper, Ghadr-i-Gunj [Voice of Revolt], were recovered from him. He was prosecuted under section 20 of the Arms Act and was sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment. He stated that he had intended to murder Europeans who were ruling over Indians and that he fully sympathised with the Bolsheviks, as their object was to liberate India from foreign control. He was released from gaol on 23 October 1931.
He visited his village for a short time in 1933 and then proceeded to London where in 1934 he was known to be living at 9 Alder Street, Commercial Road.
On 5 July 1934, as Udham Singh, he applied in London for endorsements to his passport no. 52753, issued in Lahore: he gave his address as 4, Best Lane, Canterbury, Kent, and said he had a business as a sports outfitter in India, but that he had not worked since his arrival some nine months previously. (There is, however, evidence to show that he had been pursuing the calling of a peddler). He announced that he wished to travel by motor-cycle via Germany, Belgium and Poland to Russia, across Russia to Odessa, where he would take ship for Constantinople en route for India. This was considered rather strange, in view of the fact he had recently broken his arm, but as he had not at that time been identified as an Indian of extremist views no objections could be raised.
On 12 May 1936, he applied in London for endorsements for Holland, Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary and Italy, giving the address 4, Duke Street, Spitalfields, E. The application was granted.
On 16 May 1936 he applied in Berlin for further endorsements including the Eastern European countries and the USSR. In view of the fact that he had not asked for these at the time of his application in London four days earlier, he was informed that his case would have to be referred to London, where upon he withdrew his application.
On 25 June 1936 he was reported as arriving in London from Leningrad, and in the following November it was reported that he was living with a white woman in the West End of London and was working at intervals on crowd scenes at film studios. On several occasions he is reported to have expressed extreme views and he is known to have boasted that he had smuggled arms into India.
In August, 1938, UDHAM SINGH was charged in London with demanding money with menaces. The Jury disagreed at the first trial and he was acquitted at the second trial.
He has not come under notice at meetings organised by Indian extremist movements in London.
On National Registration day he registered in the name of AZAD Singh, under Serial No. EACK/305/7, giving his occupation as carpenter, and stating that he was born on 23 October 1905. His address was given as: 581 Wimborne Road, Bournemouth.
A further record of antecedents was supplied by the prisoner to Detective Sergeant Lisney and this is also attached.
It appears his last employment terminated on 7th November, 1939, since when he has been receiving 17/-per week unemployment benefit in the name of SINGH AZAD.
'Lalkar', November-December, 1996.
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