Indian Army

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The official (British) Indian Army was formed in 1895. Prior to this date there were three separate Presidency armies (which after 1861 were sometimes unofficially referred to as the Indian Army).

Indian Army regiments can be viewed here.

See also

FIBIS resources

The book guides the reader through the various stages of the development of the Indian Army and covers aspects including the structure of the army, campaigns, the various regiments, as well as details of how to find information on officers, NCOs and other ranks; attestation, training, service history, leave, pensions, wills, etc. There is also a soldier’s detailed career path illustrating what can be found in the various records cited in the book. Available from the FIBIS Store.
  • FIBIS database: Soldiers’ and Widows’ Pension details -1896 IOR/L/MIL/14/214 & 215. Includes previous members of the Bengal, Madras and Bombay Armies, including men from the Unattached List. May also include a few members of the Indian Army which officially was formed in 1895. These records are available on LDS microfilm 2029979 Items 1-2 with catalogue entry, however the FIBIS database record contains all the information available in the microfilm.
  • Review by Richard Morgan of A Soldier’s Story in FIBIS Journal Number 26 Autumn 2011, page 52. For details of how to access this article, see FIBIS Journals. The review may also be read in this link, along with other reviews.
Details of the book A Soldier’s Story-From the Khyber Pass to the Jungles of Burma: The Memoir of a British Officer in the Indian Army 1933-1947 by John Archibald Hislop, edited by Penny Kocher 2010.

British Indian Army Cavalry

The British Indian Army maintained about forty regiments of cavalry, officered by British and manned by Indian sowars (cavalrymen). The legendary exploits of this branch lives on in literature and early films. Among the more famous regiments in the lineages of modern Indian and Pakistani Armies are:

  • Governor General's Bodyguard (now President's Bodyguard)
  • Skinner's Horse (now India's 1st Horse (Skinner's)
  • Gardner's Horse (now India's 2nd Lancers (Gardner's)
  • Hodson's Horse (now India's 4th Horse (Hodson's) of the Bengal Lancers fame
  • 6th Bengal Cavalry (later amalgamated with 7th Hariana Lancers to form 18th King Edward's Own Cavalry) now 18th Cavalry of the *Indian Army
  • Probyn's Horse (now Pakistani)
  • Royal Deccan Horse (now India's The Deccan Horse)
  • Poona Horse (now India's The Poona Horse)
  • Queen's Own Guides Cavalry (now partitioned between Pakistan and India).
  • Several of these formations are still active, though they now are armoured formations, for example Guides Cavalry in Pakistan.

Details of the book Izzat: Historical Records and Iconography of Indian Cavalry Regiments 1750-2007 by Ashok Nath 2009, published by the United Service Institution of India. It consists of over 800 pages and includes information about badges, buttons and shoulder titles. See Military reading list. Further details about the book are available in the Tribune India review and the review by SASNET - Swedish South Asian Studies Network, Lund University, now an archived webpage. This book is available at the British Library.

Reserve of Officers

The official title was Army in India Reserve of Officers or A.I.R.O, but it was also known as the Indian Army Reserve of Officers, or I.A.R.O. Applications to the I.A.R.O are held in the British Library and itemised online in the Catalogue Browse by searching under term IARO or by entering name of soldier (surname first!)

Some, or perhaps all, appointments were promulgated in the London Gazette, which may be searched online.

There are India Office Records at the British Library called Collection 397 Reserve of Officers IOR/L/MIL/7/16215-16279 1886-1940 .Another item is the publication Regulations for the Army in India Reserve of Officers 1939. Delhi: Defence Dept, 1939. IOR/L/MIL/17/5/654 1939

The British Library has the book, in five volumes, covering the First World War, Alphabetical list giving particulars of officers of the Indian Army Reserve of Officers / [issued by] Army Headquarters, India, Military Secretary’s Branch. The catalogue entry states "Contents: [v.1]. 26th June 1916 _ v.2. 24th January 1917 _ v.3. 31st December 1917 _ v.4. 30th June 1918 _ v.5. 31st December 1918". The shelfmark is OIR 355.37 Open Access

FIBIS database: A List of Officers (I.A.R.O.) recruited to or Re-engaged during the Year 1916 and up to the middle of January 1917


British Library

There are India Office records in the British Library, reference IOR L/MIL/14. The records include Indian Army Records of Service IOR/L/MIL/14/239-72481 c 1901-1947. It appears unlikely that these records contain men in the Volunteer or Auxiliary Regiments. Previously the catalogue entry advised that the closure period for these files has been set at 75 years from the date of entry of the serviceman/woman into the service. The files are opened on an annual basis. On 1 January 2010, files relating to persons joining the service in 1934 were opened. However, this wording does not now appear. A complete alphabetical index to the opened files is now available on open access in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room at the British Library or it can be searched by name on British Library archive search. Note *The majority of files date from the 1930s. *Generally there will not be files for officers who retired, as officer papers were presented to them on retirement.[1] *It is not known whether the search facility only locates names where there is an open file.

Additionally, there are publications from the Military Department Library in respect of the Indian Army, catalogue entry IOR/L/MIL/17/5 1854-1947 including

  • Indian Army List IOR/L/MIL/17/5/1-219 1889-1947 These are readily available on the open shelves. War Services are a particularly valuable feature of the List and the volumes in which they appear or with which they were issued separately are marked within the link with an asterisk. After 1892 the war services of Indian Officers are included in January issues only. A few editions have been reprinted. See below.
  • Stations of the Army in India Distribution Lists/Lists of Units IOR/L/MIL/17/5/771-1132 1908-1947

Earlier Indian Army Lists may be found in India Office Serials IOR/V/6 1768-1948 including

  • Indian Army and Civil Service List, from January, 1861 IOR/V/6/125-156 1861-1876
  • India List Civil and Military, from January, 1877 IOR/V/6/157-191 1877-1895

For online editions see Indian Army List online.

The book Index of Indian Army Regimental Titles by Anthony Farrington, published 1982 is on the open shelves at the British Library

India’s Army by Major D. Jackson 1940 contains a "potted history" of every Regiment & Corps (including the auxiliary & princely state forces). With 70 chapters, over 100 B & W photos & illustrations, 14 full Colour plates. Available online, refer below.

A good source of military information is the annual publication of Indian Army Orders IOR/L/MIL/17/5/245-299 1903-1947, issued by the Adjutant General's Department and Army Headquarters India. Volumes 245-85 (to 1942, and partially 1943) contain annual indexes. This publication includes at least some information from the official Gazettes (see the following item). Some editions of Indian Army Orders are available online, see Military periodicals online -Indian Army Orders.

The India Office Records at the British Library include Government Gazettes IOR/V/11 1831-1947 which contain much military information.
The Government Gazettes were the official newspapers of the Government of India and its provincial governments. The series held are: Gazettes of India 1865-1947, Calcutta 1832-1947, Assam 1874-1947, Bihar and Orissa 1912-1947, United Provinces, 1850-1947, Fort St George 1832-1947, Bombay 1831-1947, Punjab 1872-1947, North-West Frontier Province 1932-1947, Central Provinces 1875-1947, Coorg 1885-1947, Sind 1869-1947, Burma 1875-1947. Summaries of the contents of each series are to be found in the handlists in the Reading Room of the British Library

Some editions of the Gazette of India are available as pdf downloads, Digital Library of India, see Gazette of India online. Editions of the Calcutta Gazette are also available as pdf downloads from the Digital Library of India.
Some editions of the Gazette of India and the Calcutta Gazette are available as pdf downloads from DSpace at West Bengal State Central Library

National Archives of India

Indian armed forces personnel records are held at the National Archives of India [2] with the contact email address given as:

"I enquired at the National Archives in Delhi and received 150 pages of my grandfather's service record. An enquiry doesn't cost any money until they copy documents for you. The process is slow but well worth the wait". D. Fielder 14 April 2011.[3] Subsequently he advised "My grandfather was in the IMS… I received it [the record] within 3-4 months".[4] Some earlier advice is contained in “How to Retrieve Indian War Records” a WW2Talk Forum post dated 2 July 2009.[5]

The writer of this section sent an email request in October 2013, using the email address previously quoted. A reply was received seven weeks later, but unfortunately no record is available, (nor is there a record at the British Library).

A researcher visiting India was advised to contact the Adjutant General's Office in Delhi. Eventually she found the actual address to be Adjutant General's Office, Indian Headquarters of the Ministry of Defense (Army), Room No. 280, South Block , New Delhi 110011. Email address The files in Delhi are filed by the service record numbers, so it is necessary to have this information.[6]

It seems probable that the files accessible through the National Archives of India and the Adjutant General's Office, both located in Delhi, are the same files, but this is not yet known.

Note: Refer comment under British Library records above that generally there will not be files for officers who retired, as officer papers were presented to them on retirement.

Regarding other records about the Indian Army at the National Archives of India, a researcher commented: "There is a lot on the Indian Army at the NA of India. Most of it is of course part of the Army/Military Department collection but one can find some interesting files every now and then in the Home Department or the Foreign and Political Department. Unfortunately they do not allow researchers to make copies of the indexes and to the best of my knowledge there is no online reference. The only way to get to it is to go there yourself or engage a local researcher...Sadly they do not allow photography".[7]

British Army records after January 1921/April 1922

If you are looking records for British personnel who served in the Indian Army , either officers whose service ended after April 1922 or soldiers whose service ended after January 1921, and there is no record in the series "Indian Army Records of Service IOR/L/MIL/14/239/1-72481", or at the National Archives of India, (refer above for both these sources), you could try contacting the Army Personnel Centre Historical Disclosures Section, whose details are set out in the article British Army-Army personnel serving after January 1921. This is not a confirmed source, but some other British Army records include British officers from the Indian Army. Note: Refer comment under British Library records above that generally there will not be files for officers who retired, as officer papers were presented to them on retirement.

LDS Microfilms

Indian Army Lists are available as LDS microfilms, possibly for the period only to 1888 and appear in the LDS catalogue as An East-India register and directory. It is possible that the publications from 1889 only contain the Civil Service List, and not the Army List, but this is not known. (The LDS catalogue also has an military records entry for "The India Office list, 1886-1940 : containing an account of the services of the officers in the Indian service and other information" available on microfiche. It seems likely that that these are in fact catalogued incorrectly and are not military records, as the India Office Lists for 1924 and 1929, (see Directories online) do not appear to contain an Indian Army List)

A limited number of additional LDS (Mormon) microfilms are available in respect of the Indian Army: Search the LDS Library catalogue using keywords “Indian Army” and “India Office” (Ordering microfilms).

The National Archives (TNA) (UK)

The National Archives at Kew house a good run of Indian Army Lists available on open shelves. There is a full run from 1902-1939 but also some earlier volumes dating from 1860s.

Online records

  • Refer Directories online and Military periodicals online for Army Lists available online. On the latter page, there is information about British, Indian Army Officers in the New Annual Army List, also known as Hart's Annual Army List which is searchable through the National Library of Scotland website.

National Army Museum

The National Army Museum in London has the following guide on its website:

The collection at the NAM includes the card index by Hodson and Percy Smith which includes details of officers who joined the Indian Army from Sandhurst, warrant officers and some Emergency Commissioned Officers of the Second World War. The NAM collection also includes 3,400 questionnaires completed in the 1960’s, 70s and 80s by former India Army Officers about their careers and families.

The NAM also holds some Indian Army regimental histories.

Prince Consort's Library

The Prince Consort's Library, Aldershot, Hampshire contains a large number of pre Independence Indian Army regimental histories.

Uniform items

Also refer Externals links, Uniforms below.

The turban

The turban provided protection from sun, wind, cold and minor blows to the head.[8] When it was windy, with sand being blown around, an end of the turban could be used to cover face, nose, ears and beard.[9]

Dress Regulations 1913 refer to the lungi and the pagri.
British Officers serving with Indian units are permitted to wear a lungi in place of a helmet with khaki dress…All officers of a unit must be dressed alike. (Page 7)

The Pashtu language word is lungi, (lungee,[10]) while the Hindi/Punjabi word is pagri, (pugri, puggaree, pagree, pagg, pagh, pagari).

The lungi was often wrapped around a kullah, (kulla, khulla), a dome shaped scull cup, which however is not worn by Sikhs. Sikhs in the Army, as part of their uniform, were issued a 5 metre turban, and a half size, smaller, under turban called a "fifty" which was usually in a contrasting colour. [11] The smaller cloth was also known as a pag, (pakta), (which could also be a bandana type cloth) and shows as a small triangle of contrasting colour in the centre of the forehead under the lungi.

In Army terminology, the term lungi was usually used for the cloth the turban was constructed from, and a pagri usually referred to the cloth which was wound around a sun helmet, the latter worn both by British in the Indian Army, and in the British Army. However, in some contexts, a lungi and kullah together formed a pagri, and in other contexts the words lungi and pagri have the same meaning.

The lungis were of “regimental pattern” which often differed between officers and O.R.s, and also could differ from one decade to the next. [12]. This means it may be difficult to identify the regiment from the pattern.

The kurta

The kurta was a kaftan like garment which could be knee length or longer.

Indian Military Academy and other Training Schools

Indian Military Academy

The Indian Military Academy was established at Dehra Dun in 1932. The course was designed to be parallel to the course at Sandhurst, UK.
During WW2 it provided an eight month training course for soldiers from the rank, or for civilians who had graduated from a prior eight week program at Datta Officers Training School, Lahore. The successful participants were graduated as Second Lieutenants.

Other Officer Training Schools

  • To meet the urgent needs for officers, the Daly College at Indore was converted to an Officer Training School in 1918. [13] There was one batch of graduates.
  • C 1943, there were Officer Training Schools at Bangalore, Belgaum , Mhow and Datta, (Dutta) Lahore. Dutta O.T.S was situated in one wing of the Foreman Christian College campus on the bank of the canal which ran through the suburbs of Lahore.[14][15]

Staff College

The Army Staff College moved to Quetta in 1907. Established in 1905, it was a training college for existing officers to become eligible for Staff appointments.

Officers trained in countries other than UK or India

Top officer cadets in both Australia and Canada could opt for service in the Indian Army. The Australians liked the cavalry and the Canadians liked the infantry.[16]

External Links



Foreword, Introduction and Chapter 1 of The British Indian Army: Virtue and Necessity Edited by Rob Johnson
Historical Orders of Battle and TOEs 1939-1945. Includes Indian Army., now archived.


Historical books online

The Martial Races Of India by Lieut-General Sir George MacMunn, Colonel Commandant, the Royal Artillery. c1932
Turmoil and Tragedy in India, 1914 and After by Lieut.-General Sir George MacMunn 1935 is available to read online on the Digital Library of India website, in TIFF format. It is catalogued as Turmoil The Tragedy In India 1914. It is also available as a pdf to download from DLI.
1908 (catalogued Jan,vi Th, 1945), 1910 (catalogued Jan,thired 1855), 1912, 1922, 1923, November 1924, 1927, 1929, 1931, 1932, 1933
  • Armaments Year-Book : General and Statistical Information. Published by the League of Nations at Geneva from 1924. These books have been digitised separately in Chapters. Links to pdf downloads, Northwestern Univerity Library Evanston, IL, USA. Chapters relating to British Empire/ India or India, which contain details about the structure of the Army, training schools etc:
Vol. 1 (1924), Vol. 2 (1925/1926), Vol. 3 (1927), Vol. 4 (1928), Vol. 5 (1928/1929), Vol. 6 (1929/1930), Vol. 7 (1930/1931), Vol. 8 (1931/1932, Vol. 9 (1933), Vol. 10 (1934), Vol. 11 (1935)
  • Handbook on Sikhs for the use of Regimental Officers by Captain R W Falcon 4th Sikh Infantry, Punjab Frontier Force (lately Officiating District Recruiting Officer, Sikh District) 1896. British Library Digital, British Library itemViewer
  • Handbooks for the Indian Army
    • "Recruiting" , Chapter V, page 106 Handbooks for the Indian Army: Sikhs by Captain A H Bingley, 7th (Duke of Connaught’s Own) Bengal Infantry. Compiled under the orders of the Government of India. 1899
    • The Sikhs by A E Barstow 2/11th Sikh Regiment (late 15th Ludhiana Sikhs) 1928. Pdf download, Digital Library of India. Full title: Handbook for the Indian Army: Sikhs. 1928 edition, reprint 1940, is also available to read on line on the Panjab Digital Library.
    • Handbooks For The Indian Army: Hindustan Musalmans and Musalmans of the Eastern Punjab by W. Fitz G. Bourne 1914 is available as a pdf download Digital Library of India.
    • Handbooks for the Indian Army: Gurkhas Compiled under the orders of the Government by Lieut- Colonel Eden Vansittart 2nd Bn 10th Gurkha Rifles. revised by Major B U Nicolay 1st Bn, 4th Gurkha Rifles 1915 (Reprint 1918), is available to read as a pdf download on the Digital Library of India, catalogued as Gurkhas (1915).
    Handbooks for the Indian Army: Gurkhas Compiled under the orders of the Government by Major C J Morris, late 2nd Bn, 3rd QAO Gurkha Rifles Second edition 1936, revised by the author, first published 1933, is available to read as a pdf download on the Digital Library of India website, catalogued as Gurkhas (1936).
  • Page viii and page 44 A Short history of the lives of Bombay opium smokers by Rustom Pestanji Jehangir 1893 Details and a comment about the use of opium by Sikh soldiers.
  • "The Regimental Durbar" by Major General Sir George Younghusband, page 617 Blackwood’s Magazine, no 209 January-June 1921.
  • Indian Army Uniforms by W Y Carman 1969. Full title: Indian Army Uniforms under the British from the 18th century to 1947 : Artillery, Engineers and Infantry. Pdf download, Digital Library of India. There is also a volume by this author with a similar title on Cavalry published in 1961, not available online, but available at the British Library.
  • Army Regulations (India) 1913. Volume VII. Dress. [Dress Regulations are in respect of Officers]. This book is available to read online on the Digital Library of India website. There are two copies available, however both copies appear to be incomplete. The better copy is catalogued as army regulations, india, 1913 barcode 99999990265902, but is missing the rear index, pages 91-96. Pdf download. Second pdf download. Also available to read online on Scribd
Dress Regulations India 1926. Pdf download, Digital Library of India. Print quality is poor for most pages. The text commences digital file page 8. Index, digital file page 106. It seems likely that pages are missing from the digital file.
Dress Regulations For The Army(1934) is available as a pdf download, Digital Library of India.

Recommended Reading


  1. Matthew B Major CAK Johnson, 1st Bengal Lancers (Skinner's Horse) Great War? Great War Forum 15 April 2015.Retrieved 15 April 2015
  2. Tracing your Asian roots on the Indian subcontinent by Abi Husainy 
(Last updated 2011-02-17) BBC
  3. WW2Talk Forum thread British Indian Army records - where are they? by D. Fielder dated 14 April 2011.
  4. Fielder, David. IAMC Records Rootsweb India Mailing List 21 June 2016. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  5. How to Retrieve Indian War Records , a WW2Talk Forum post dated 2 July 2009 by 'Elven6'
  6. India List Post Address for Adjutant General's Office in Delhi by Shirley Barbur dated 1 March 2014
  7. Risaldar. Murder of the CO of the Hyderabad Lancers Great War Forum 17 August 2016. Retrieved 18 August 2016
  8. Page 328 East of Indus: My Memories of Old Punjab by Gurnam Singh Sidhu Brard 2007 Google Books
  9. Page 145 East of Indus: My Memories of Old Punjab by Gurnam Singh Sidhu Brard 2007 Google Books
  10. Afghan Turbans by najib 06. Sep, 2011 Pashto Language Blog
  11. What Is The Fifty? by Jagdeep Singh Sahota June 25, 2015 (scroll down page).
  12. ‪PhilinYuma‪. ID question, Indian Army Victorian Wars Forum 17 June 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  13. Page 123 Short Stories from the British Indian Army by J Francis Google Books
  14. Page 129 One Hell of a Life: An Anglo-Indian Wallah's Memoir from the Last Decades of the Raj‬ by Stan Blackford. Google Books
  15. From Air Force to the Army- Dutta OTS. From the handwritten diary of Abu Taher Khairul Haque (Ansari) born in Perozpur, Barisal January 1923 , see January 2000 archives, sidebar. The Auhomias Bangladesh Online Photo Album.
  16. bushfighter Indian Army Officers Great War Forum 25 August 2014. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  17. "Lieutenant-Colonel Seton Churchill and the financial lessons of the African campaigns, 1879-1902" by J Black Military History Journal Volume 14 No 1 - June 2007 South African Military History Society. ( link)