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 includes information about uniforms, badges and emblems. 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. 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 here

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. 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. 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: 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

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.

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 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 [1] 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.[2] Some earlier advice is contained in “How to Retrieve Indian War Records” a WW2Talk Forum post dated 2 July 2009 [3]

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.[4]

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.

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

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

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.

External Links



Historical books online

Recommended Reading


  1. Tracing your Asian roots on the Indian subcontinent by Abi Husainy 
(Last updated 2011-02-17) BBC
  2. WW2Talk Forum thread British Indian Army records - where are they? by D. Fielder dated 14 April 2011.
  3. How to Retrieve Indian War Records , a WW2Talk Forum post dated 2 July 2009 by 'Elven6'
  4. India List Post Address for Adjutant General's Office in Delhi by Shirley Barbur dated 1 March 2014
  5. "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)