‘I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion’, said Winston Churchill as prime minister in 1942, to his secretary of state for India, Leo Amery.
Like John Nicholson, Churchill had soldiered on the subcontinent as a young man, and both men saw fighting on the North-West Frontier. Nicholson was a career officer in the East India Company army. ‘I dislike India and its inhabitants,’ he said as a young man, and never changed that opinion. Duty, obligation and a career kept both men in a country they loathed; the graves of more than two million Britons in India demonstrate that it was not simply a place to get rich in, but a place, too often, to die in at an early age.
Nicholson was a fundamentalist evangelical Protestant from Ulster, the descendant of lowland Scots immigrants.