By the dawn of 9 February 1941, almost two divisions of the Japanese had landed on the soil of Singapore. On February 10, 1941, 7 MRC was moved to Raffles Square, a business area. By that time it was apparent that the surrender of Singapore was imminent. On February 13, 1941, Raffles Square was bombed. 7MRC suffered heavily with about 300 killed and many more wounded. The second-in-Command of 7 MRC, an English Major and Dhillon had a difficult job disposing of corpses. They dropped them in ocean. Singapore capitulated on February 15, 1941 and British Forces surrendered unconditionally to the Japanese.
The defeated and demoralized Indian soldiers collected themselves at Farrer Park in Singapore. Major Fujiwara addressing the POWs expressed that it was his firm belief that world peace and the liberation of Asia could not be achieved and maintained without a free and independent India. He further said that if Indian POWs in Malaya were prepared to fight the British imperialism for the noble cause of achieving the independence of their motherland, the Imperial Japanese Government would advance all out support. He suggested the formation of Indian National Army. He handed over all the POWs in Malaya to Capt. Mohan Singh, the G.O.C. of the Indian National Army.
Indian National Army
At the stage on Farrer Park Capt. Mohan Singh addressed the POWs and decided to form an organized and disciplined power in the form of Indian National Army. The erstwhile POWs were to become now the soldiers of India’s Army of Liberation, the army that was to fight under its own leadership, with a real and just cause to wage war.
Mohan Singh was from the same unit from which was Dhillon. He was a close friend of Dhillon. On February 17, 1942, Dhillon decided to join the Indian National Army and took the vow not to drink till India became free. Next morning Capt. Mohan Singh issued orders to march off all the units of various camps on the island where the units were to occupy their allotted accommodation. Dhillon’s unit was to proceed to Neesoon Camp. Neesoon village was situated 13 miles (21 km) away from main town of Singapore. This camp was the Regimental Centre of the Hong Kong and Singapore Royal Artillery.
The Japanese Headquarters had asked the Supreme Headquarters to provide 200 officers to guard the British and Australian prisoners of war at Changi Camp. Dhillon took the risk and volunteered his services for this unpleasant task. At Changi Camp, Dhillon and other Indians were asked by the Japanese to give up the British drill and words of command and adopt Japanese ones. Within a fortnight they learnt the Japanese drill and words of command. Here they kept the Allied POWs in five separate Camps – Australian Camp, Hospital area, 9th Indian Division]] Camp, 11th Indian Division]] Camp and 18th British Camp. Its own officer, usually a General residing in the Camp, commanded each Camp. Changi was under military control of Japanese as well as Dhillon. Dhillon inculcated amongst the prisoners the feelings of national unity, discipline and keen sense of duty through daily lectures personally delivered by him. After some time at Changi Camp Dhillon fell seriously ill. He was released from the command of the Changi Garrison and sent to Seletar Camp and was admitted to POW Hospital.
On The May 17, 1945 the enemy encircled The Indian National Army. So they surrendered without any surrender ceremony. They were put into prison at Pegu. Shah Nawaz and Dhillon were taken to No. 3 Field Interrogation Centre under command of Major C. Ore on May 18, 1945. Later on May 31, Dhillon was sent to Rangoon Central Jail. On the June 9 1945 Shah Nawaz was brought from Pegu and put up with Dhillon in Rangoon Jail.
On July 1, 1945 Dhillon was brought to Calcutta by plane and from there, sent to Delhi by train. On July 6, 1945 he was put in the Red Fort and interrogated by Mr. Bannerjee of the Central Intelligence Department. The interrogation was over by the third week of July. On the August 6, 1945, Shah Nawaz, Sahgal and Dhillon were jointly summoned to the CSDICfor the first time. It was the beginning of the first INA trial at Red Fort. On September 17, 1945 the trio were served a copy of charge sheet. The main charge was waging war against the King. The news of trial was made public through the press and All India Radio.
The Red Fort trial
The historical trial of Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon, Prem Kumar Sahgal and Shah Nawaz Khan at the Red Fort began on November 5, 1945 by a General Court Martial for the charge of waging war against the King. When the trial began a mass demonstration was going on outside the Red Fort. People gave voice to their resentment on the trials by shouting:
Lal Qile se aaee awaz,