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.

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.

Udham Singh's Diary including the date of O'Dwyer's murder
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.

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.

The Times newspaper, published 16 March 1940, contained details of the injuries suffered by Sir Michael O’Dwyer.

Sir Bernard Spilsbury told the Coroner that he found two bullet wounds in Sir Michael’s back. One bullet had entered about four and a half inches below the other and they had run practically parallel courses through the body. The upper one had smashed the 10th rib on the right side, passed through the base of the lung and through the right ventricle of the heart, and emerged on the left side, where there was an open wound. The lower one smashed the 12th right rib, went through the right kidney and the soft tissues of the abdomen, and finished up under the skin of the abdominal wall, where he found a bullet.

The Times newspaper, 16 March 1940.

The Times newspaper of the same date, 16 March 1946, also contained an article headed “THE CAXTON HALL CRIME – DETESTATION EXPRESSED BY INDIANS” and is reproduced below.

A remarkable demonstration of the detestation by Indians in this country of the Caxton Hall crime was afforded by a meeting hastily summoned at India House by Sir Firozkhan Noon, who was in the chair. It was called chiefly by telephone, but there was a large and representative attendance of Indians living in or near London.

The main resolution, after conveying the condolences of the meeting to Lady O’Dwyer, hopes for the speedy recovery of Lord Zetland, Lord Lamington, and Sir Louis Dane from their injuries, and sympathy with them, expressed horror at the crime. The resolution was moved by Dr. Katial, representing the Hindu Association, seconded by Dr. S. Mohamedi, of the Moslem Society, and supported by Dr. P. D. Patuck, president of the Parsee Association of Europe, and Mr. T. D. Santwan, of the Indian Christian Community.

The Times newspaper, 16 March 1946.

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.

Udham Singh’s appeal in the Court of Criminal Appeal, before Mr. Justice Humphreys, Mr. Justice Hilbery and Mr. Justice Croom Johnson was rejected.

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.