British Military & Criminal History:
1900 to 1999.
|Home - Criminal Cases - The 1940s - Udham Singh|
Udham Singh (also known as Mohammed Singh Azad) was 37 years old and lived in lodgings located in Mornington Cresent. His Brother was one of those killed during the British suppression of the Amritsar Riots in 1919.
The Amritsar Massacre, is the name given to the massacre of demonstrators supporting Indian independence by soldiers of the British Empire on 13 April 1919, in the northern Indian city of Amritsar.
The event was precipitated by the extension of emergency powers assumed by the government of British India during World War I to combat subversion; Mohandas Gandhi called on all India to oppose this action. When local leaders allied to the Indian National Congress were arrested on April 10, supporters gathered to protest were fired on by British troops, causing a riot during which British banks were burned, four Europeans killed, and two British women attacked.
Troops commanded by Brigadier-General Reginald E. H. Dyer were dispatched from Jullundur to restore order. Dyer's forces confronted some 20,000 unarmed protesters, gathered in an enclosed public square called the Jallianwalla Bagh.
Assembling 50 soldiers at the square's sole exit, Dyer ordered his force to fire without warning on the crowd, which included many women and children. Some 1,650 rounds were fired over 10-15 minutes: an estimated 379 protesters were killed and over 1,200 wounded.
Sir Michael O'Dwyer, who was The Governor of the Punjab region, supported the massacre but it was condemned at an official inquiry in 1920. Dyer was forced to retire to Britain, but received praise from the House of Lords and a jewelled sword purchased by public subscription.
The Case Details
On 13 March 1940, Sir Michael was one of a distinguished company at a joint meeting in the Tudor Hall, Caxton Hall, Westminster, of the East India Association and the Royal Central Asiatic Society.
Extract from Udham Singh's Diary including the date of O'Dwyer's murder
As the meeting was breaking up Udham Singh fired all 6 rounds of a .45 Smith & Wesson revolver into a group of people on the platform of whom O'Dwyer was a part. O'Dwyer was was hit twice in the back, and killed instantly. One bullet passing through his heart and right lung. Another bullet passed through both kidneys.
Lord Zetland, Secretary of State for India, was hit twice although he was only slightly injured, as were Lord Lamington and Sir Louis Dane. The numbers of people killed were not as large as could have been expected, as Udham Singh used 30 year old, poor fitting .44 bullets.
Udham Singh was overpowered before he left the room. His hatred had not been diminished by killing O'Dwyer:
"I did it because I had a grudge against him, he deserved it. I don't belong to any society or anything else. I don't care, I don't mind dying. What is the use of waiting until you get old? That is no good ... Is Zetland dead? He ought to be, I put two in him. I bought the revolver from a soldier in a public house. My parents died when I was 3 or 4 ... Only the one dead, eh? I thought I could get more."
Udham Singh was tried for the murder of Sir Michael O'Dwyer at London's Central Criminal Court during June 1940. He was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.
On 31 July 1940, Udham Singh was hanged at Pentonville Prison. As with other executed prisoners, he was buried later that afternoon within the prison grounds.
During the trial, Udham Singh had made a request that his remains be sent back to India, but this was not allowed. In 1975, however, the Government of India, at the instance of the Punjab Government, asked for the return of Udham Singh's remains. Their request was accepted by the UK Government, and his exhumed remains were handed over to representatives of the Indian Government.