The Rani of Jhansi Regiment was the Women’s Regiment of the Indian National Army (INA) during the Second World War. It was named after Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi, a revolutionary heroine.
The regiment was formed in 1942, along with other Indian nationalist forces aiming to overthrow the British Raj in colonial India, with assistance from Imperial Japan. Most of the 1500 women were not from India at all, but teenage volunteers of Indian descent from rubber plantations in Malaya.
The regiment was raised in Singapore and were organised into officers or sepoys (privates) based on their education. It was led by Captain Lakshmi Sahgal, who was upper-class and highly educated. The cadets were trained in the use of rifles, hand grenades and bayonet charges. Some received additional training in field medicine and jungle warfare in preparation for operations in Burma.
In 1944 the Rani were deployed in Burma alongside other INA forces and the Japanese army. 100 Rani troops are are noted as forming a vanguard unit as part of the ongoing Battle of Imphal, while other Rani gave support to the Nursing Corps there.
By March 1945 the INA had failed at Imphal and were forced into a disastrous retreat. The Rani suffered losses from Allied air attacks during the retreat and were disbanded not long after. While Lakshmi Sahgal went on to become the Minister of Women’s Affairs in the Azad Hind government, the fate of most members of the Rani of Jhansi regiment is unknown.