On 28 May 1940, Major Akbar Khan marched at the head of 299 soldiers along a beach in northern France. They were the only Indians in the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk. With Stuka sirens wailing, shells falling in the water and Tommies lining up to be evacuated, these soldiers of the British Indian Army, carrying their disabled imam, found their way to the East Mole and embarked for England in the dead of night. On reaching Dover, they borrowed brass trays and started playing Punjabi folk music, upon which even ‘many British spectators joined in the dance’. What journey had brought these men to Europe? What became of them – and of comrades captured by the Germans? With the engaging style of a true storyteller, Ghee Bowman reveals in full, for the first time, the astonishing story of the Indian Contingent, from their arrival in France on 26 December 1939 to their return to an India on the verge of partition. It is one of the war’s hidden stories that casts fresh light on Britain and its empire.