UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


The Army of India After the Mutiny

After the transfer of the Government of India to the Crown in 1858, the whole military organization was re-arranged. The Crown assumed the government of India, and after the Mutiny was quelled a period of reconstruction followed. The local European forces were merged into the general army; the native armies were reorganized on the ' irregular' system, under which there were but few British officers in each regiment; a Staff Corps was formed; but in creating a new Bengal Army, the Madras and Bombay armies, the Punjab frontier force, and the Hyderabad contingent, all of which had done admirable service in putting down the rebellion in a series of arduous campaigns, were maintained as separate entities.

The artillery attached to it, continued under the Punjab Government. In addition, the Hyderabad contingent of 4 cavalry, 6 infantry regiments, and 4 batteries native artillery, and a local force in Central India of 2 regiments cavalry and 6 infantry, were retained under the Government of India. After all the arrangements had been completed the army of India consisted of 62,000 British and 125,000 native troops.

The Company's military college at Addiscombe was closed in 1860, and the direct appointment of British officers to the Indian local forces ceased in 1861. In that year a staff corps was formed by Royal Warrant in each Presidency "to supply a body of officers for service in India, by whom various offices and appointments hitherto held by officers borne on the strength of the several corps in the Indian forces shall in future be held." Special rules of pay, pension, and promotion were laid down; the principle of the last being promotion by length of service in the various ranks from second lieutenant up to lieut.colonel. The corps was at first recruited partly from officers of the Company's service and partly from the royal army, holding staff appointments (the new regimental employment being considered as staff duty) and all kinds of political and civil posts; afterwards by young officers from the British service, and in addition by second lieutenants drafted direct from the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.

The native artillery and sappers and miners were to be officered from the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers. The only English warrant and non-commissioned officers to be employed in the native army were to be those of the Royal Engineers with the sappers and miners. Officers of the old Indian army who did not accept service in the artillery, engineers, and new line regiments transferred to the British army on the amalgamation, remained in their former cadres for promotion.

A radical change in the regimental organization of all the native armies was effected in 1863. The Punjab Frontier Force was from the first organized on the irregular system, which was there seen at its best, as also were the new regiments raised during the Mutiny. This system was now applied to the whole army, each regiment and battalion having seven British officers attached to it for command and administrative duties, the immediate command of troops and companies being left to the native officers. Thus was the system reverted to which was initiated by Clive, in the early days, of a few British officers only being attached to each corps for the higher regimental duties of command and control. Time had shown that this was more effective than the regular system instituted in 1796 of British officers commanding troops and companies.

Selection for all regimental commands was now the order. A new spirit was breathed into the army. The supremacy of the commandant was the main principle. He was less hampered by the unbending regulations enjoined upon the old regular regiments, had greater powers of reward and punishment, was in a position to assume larger responsibility and greater freedom of action, and was supported in the full exercise of his authority. The system made the officers.

Shortly after the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857-58, the role of the presidency armies was reevaluated. In 1861 the Bengal Army was disbanded, and the total number of sepoys was reduced from 230,000 to 150,000 while the British element was increased from 40,000 to 75,000. Most Indian artillery units were disbanded, and artillery was placed under British control. Under the aegis of the imperial "divide and rule" policy, which had its inception at this time, the British ensured that a sense of nationality would not be allowed to develop among the sepoys. The growth of such feelings, it was feared, would undermine the prospects of imperial control. Accordingly, Indian regiments increasingly were organized on a territorial basis; individual companies -- and in some cases entire regiments -- were drawn from the same religious, tribal, or caste backgrounds. When companies from several regiments were grouped into battalions, considerable efforts were made to promote cultural and social distinctions among companies of different compositions.

The total strength of the army in British India during the year 1866 consisted of 66,814 Europeans, and 117,095 natives. The staff and staff-corps consisted of 1,866 Europeans; the engineers, sappers and miners, 378 Europeans and 2,794 natives; the artillery, horse and foot, of 12,299 Europeans and 1,891 natives; the cavalry, of 6,050 Europeans and 18,776 natives; the infantry of 45,910 Europeans and 93,631 natives; and the invalids, veterans, and warrant officers, of 810 Europeans; the medical establishment being included in each arm of the service. Of these total numbers, 38,993 Europeans and 43,394 natives were stationed in Bengal, 14,184 Europeans and 46,485 natives in Madras, and 13,638 Europeans and 27,268 natives in Bombay ; those stationed in the northwest provinces and Punjab being included in the presidency of Bengal.

Sir John Lawrence was governor-general from 1863 to 1869. Among the remarkable features of the Administration of Sir John Lawrence, is generally counted the execution of a grand scheme of great military barracks and fortifications. Just before Sir John Lawrence's arrival, Lord Elgin's government had determined to provide barracks after the most approved sanitary fashion for the English troops, and strategical buildings and appliances, such as might be required in an emergency, thus saving soldiers' lives and rendering it possible to hold the country with a smaller number than the 90,000 of 1859.

The development and maturing of his policy fell to his successor, and Colonel Crommelin, the first of military engineers, was placed it the head of a special department for this purpose. Some time was necessarily spent in agreeing upon model plans for the housing of soldiers. As in the course of 1864 and 1865 the scheme gradually assumed shape, it was found that its cost would be not under ten millions sterling, and it was expected that the whole of India would be supplied with barracks and forts on the best plan and of the most durable character by the close of 1871, by which time, too, the Great Trunk railway system of Lord Dalhousie would be completed, besides several extensions. Forts and fortified posts were constructed at almost every military station, and especially near every great railway station a place of refuge, for women and children and non-combatants, was provided against an emergency. These posts took the form of a four, five, or six-sided enclosure flanked by bastions at the angles, and of which the hospitals and two or more barracks constituted the curtains. Such posts were formed at Nowgong, Sealkote, Jullundur, Umballa and Hyderabad, in the Deccan. Where there were magazines and positions exposed to hostile tribes, or commanding unruly neighbors, great forts were erected.

Up to 1881 the native army underwent little change, but in that year financial considerations prevailed and 18 regiments of infantry and 4 of cavalry were broken up, while the rank and file of the rest were increased. Almost the same number of men were maintained as before, but in fewer and stronger regiments and better organized for war. The only reduction made in the British troops was in the Royal Artillery, which was diminished by 11 batteries. The events of 1885, however, on the Russo-Afghan frontier led to an augmentation of the army. The 11 batteries Royal Artillery were brought back from England, each of the 9 British cavalry regiments in India received an addition of a fourth squadron; each of the British infantry battalions was increased by 100 men and 3 battalions were added. The native cavalry had a fourth squadron added to each regiment; three of the four regiments broken up in 1881 were re-raised, while the native infantry was increased in regimental strength, and 9 new battalions raised composed of Gurkhas, Sikhs, and Punjabis. The addition in all amounted to 10,600 British, and 21,200 native troops. In 1890 the strength of the army of India was 73,000 British, and, including irregulars, 147,500 native troops.

Many important changes had taken place since 1885, which vastly improved the efficiency of the native army. Seven Madras infantry regiments were converted into regiments for local service in Burma, composed of Gurkhas and hardy races from Northern India; six Bengal and Bombay regiments were similarly converted into regiments of Punjabis, Pathans, and Gurkhas; the native mountain batteries have been increased to ten; the system of linked battalions has been introduced with the formation of regimental centers for mobilization; and reserves for infantry and mountain artillery have been formed. The number of British officers present with each regiment was increased to nine, and the two wing commands in battalions were converted into four double-company commands of 250 men each, under a British commander, who is responsible to the commandant for their training and efficiency, the command of the companies being left to the native officers. This system, which was analogous to the squadron command in the cavalry, admitted of closer individual attention to training, and distributes among the senior British regimental officers effective responsibility of a personal kind.

The unification of the triplicate army departments in the different Presidential armies was completed in 1891, all being brought directly under the supreme Government; and the three separate staff corps of Bengal, Madras, and Bombay were fused into one in 1891 as the Indian Staff Corps. These measures prepared the way for the new system of army organization, which, by authority of Parliament, abolished divided control and placed the whole army of India under the Governor-General and the Commander-in-Chief in India.

Administrative reforms in 1895 abolished the presidency armies, and command was centralized under the aegis of a single army headquarters at Delhi. On 01 April 1895 the army of India was divided into four great commands—Punjab, Bengal, Madras, Bombay. These commands were under lieutenant-generals, styled as commanding the forces therein, all under the direct command of the Commander-in-Chief, and the control of the Government of India. The Punjab command included the whole of the Punjab province. The Bengal command included the territories under the civil governments of Bengal, Assam, the North-West Provinces and Oude, and part of the Central Provinces. The Madras command included the Madras Presidency, Burma, and the Belgaum district. The Bombay command included the Bombay Presidency, Baluchistan, and parts of Rajputana, Central India, and the Central Provinces.

The two local cavalry regiments and six battalions in Central India were included in the Bengal and Bombay commands. The Hyderabad contingent remained as a separate force under the direct orders of the Government of India. It was commanded by a general officer and garrisoned a district of the Hyderabad state, but was available for general service.

The unified army was organized on the territorial principle. The old Madras and Bombay armies were included in the Madras and Bombay commands, and recruited with some exceptions within the territories of these commands. The Bengal army was divided into two parts. All that which recruited in the Punjab was included in the Punjab command, while that which recruited in North-West India and neighborhood was included in the Bengal command. The Gurkha battalions, a foreign element, were divided between the Punjab and Bengal commands with one battalion in Burma. All the troops, though they had a home connection with their particular commands, were interchangeable and liable to serve anywhere in and outside India.

The key of the policy which, after many years, led to the reorganization of 1895 was decentralization, power of mobilization, with the more complete segregation of the races. It was to be one army divided into four watertight compartments-the Punjab, Bengal (or Hindustan), Bombay, and Madras. It was found by experience that, for example, Sikh regiments degenerated, and were prone to assimilate with other elements, when quartered long away from their homes. There was to be no 'localization' in the exact sense, but so far as was practicable the troops were to be stationed in the main area from which they were drawn. The idea was not merely the preservation of the balance of power, which all history had taught was necessary in dealing with mercenary Asiatic armies, but to introduce a simpler and decentralized system.

The main constituents of the army were Pathans, Sikhs, Punjabi Mohammedans, Dogras, Gurkhas, Jats, Hindustanis, Mahrattas, Rajputs, and Madrasis. There are other classes from which Britain drew recruits, but these were the main elements. Of these, the Pathans and Gurkhas may be called 'foreigners,' as they did not belong to British India, although many Pathan tribes dwelled within the British borders. Pathans are physically fine men, and, as soldiers in our ranks, brave, loyal, and devoted. The merits of Gurkhas are well known. They are brilliantly courageous, cheerful, staunch, and dogged. The Sikh is a splendid soldier in physique, in character, and resolute bravery. Neither he nor the Gurkha could pass examinations or reach a standard of education such as some think should be exacted of all soldiers, but both have the true soldierly instinct, and no finer soldiers can be found.

The Punjabi Mohammedan was an admirable soldier - although the quality varied with the particular tribe - sturdy, brave, and with many martial instincts. The Dogra from the lower Himalayas became an excellent fighting man. Jats, mainly from the Delhi territories, furnished good material. Hindustanis, Brahmans, and Rajputs still produced good soldiers, but had fallen from their high estate since the days when the British conquered India with their aid. By around 1900 the Rajput was not the soldier he once was, but was still capable of doing good service when well led. The Mahratta, once the fighting man of the Deccan, who did such fine service under Wellington, seemed to have lost much of his military virtue; while the Madras soldier, whether Tamil (Hindu) or Mohammedan, was no longer the soldier of our early history in India.

By the end of the 19th Century the regular native army drew its recruits from the North-West Frontier and beyond for Pathans, from Nepal for Gurkhas, from the Punjab for Sikhs and Punjabi Mohammedans, and from the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh for Hindustanis - both Hindus and Mohammedans. The Western or Bombay area furnished Mahrattas, Rajputs, and some Mohammedans, while the Madras territories are now called upon to furnish only a few men, Tamils (Hindus) and Mohammedans. The center of military activity had shifted more and more to the north, and the tendency was to draw to a much larger extent upon the resources of that part of India.

From 1879 through 1903 immense progress was made in every branch of the army and in every department appertaining to it. Increase of the army by 10,000 British and 20,000 native troops, reserves, linking of battalions, establishment of regimental centers, the amalgamation of hitherto separate presidential departments, the creation of Imperial service troops, increase of pay to the native army, reorganization of recruiting, re-armament, elimination of inferior material, introduction of the double-company system in the infantry, complete reorganization of the transport, increase to the supply and transport corps, establishment of mounted infantry schools, formation (1886) of a plan of mobilization and its development, completion of frontier and coast defenses, reform of horse-breeding, remount, and military account departments, institution of an ambulance corps, a great development in the manufacture of warlike stores, and continuous improvements in the sanitary service of the army were some of the measures which were carried out prior to 1903.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 03-08-2012 19:23:44 ZULU