Military reading list

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Army

  • Duckers, Peter

British campaign medals 1815-1914. Oxford: Shire, 2000 (Shire album; 384)

This small, prolifically illustrated book outlines medals issued to British soldiers and sailors who were involved in action around the world. As the HEIC began the habit of issuing general campaign medals examples of several of these are pictured. Whether one wants to identify a medal inherited from an ancestor or see what an ancestor's campaign medal would have looked like this title is a useful starting point.

  • Hennessy, Maurice

The rajah from Tipperary. Sevenoaks, Kent: New English Library, 1972

This little book (under 200 pages) relates the rise and fall of the inimitable George Thomas (1756-1802), an Irish mercenary who was leader of a large contingent of soldiers, became the one-time lover of the renowned Begum Sombru and eventually established his own kingdom based at Hansi. The narrative reveals the complexity of a man who exhibited a ruthless courage in pursuit of his enemy but was loyal and generous in his dealings with his own men and those who hired them. Each chapter embodies quotes from relevant texts and footnotes to satisfy the academic. For the average reader, this book is an excellent introduction to this early period in the history of India and to the type of life lead by European mercenary soldiers. There is also a list of characters and glossary for ease of reference, plus a bibliography. An enthralling and unforgettable read. Recommended. (Beverly Hallam, FIBIS trustee, 2010)

  • Holmes, Richard

Sahib : the British soldier in India 1750-1914. London: HarperCollins, 2005

"Holmes is a distinguished historian of the British Army ...[In this book he writes] about both [East India] Company and British Army soldiers, and both the officers and the rankers. He seems to be on surer ground when it comes to the British Army and to the officers but still has much to tell us on the rankers, with his source material coming from a mixture of the ten page bibliography and memoirs and letters. He lists eighteen such sources in the National Army Museum and thirteen in the British Library (as well as published sources), and gives numerous extracts from them as he describes what life was like... As nearly every fact is footnoted with the citation, anyone who is interested can follow up clues in the bibliography. All in all, this 500 page book is excellent background reading for anyone with a soldier ancestor." The full review by Steve van Dulken is available on p. 46 of the FIBIS Journal 15 (Spring 2006)

  • Irving, Miles

Soldiers of the Raj, compiled by Miles Irving and George William De Rhé-Philipe. Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2002

Inscriptions from graves and monuments of some 1100 soldiers, mostly officers, together with additional biographical notes. Originally published as volume 2 of the Indian Monumental Inscription Series, this covers the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Kashmir and Afghanistan.

  • Nath, Ashok

Izzat : historical records and iconography of Indian Cavalry Regiments 1757-2007. Delhi: Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research, United Service Institution of India, 2009

"This enormous tome is effectively an encyclopedia of anything which can described as an Indian cavalry regiment. Its purpose of the book is explained in the opening paragraph:

This book attempts to record the regimental iconography of Indian Cavalry regiments in the armies of India from circa 1750 to present times including Pakistan. Since the evolution of regimental iconography or the regimental badges would be incomplete without its history , the lineage, battle honours, ethnic composition, highest awards won, as well as highlights from the respective histories are included.

... Within each section, the regiment is described in terms of the date and circumstances of its being first raised; what the author calls its lineage (that is any mergers with other regiments in its composition), its battle honours; its ethnic composition; a very brief description of its uniform (eg 13th Duke of Connaught’s (Watson’s Horse) Uniform Blue Facings Scarlet), highest gallantry awards, and finally its iconography – that is to say the details of buttons, shako badges and so forth which identify the regiment.

It must be admitted that some of these sections are brief. However the completeness of the coverage of all regiments is impressive. It even includes short-lived volunteer corps such as the Bengal Yeomanry Cavalry, which lasted for about a year during the Mutiny...

The iconography section does not show uniforms – only the buttons and badges, sabretaches and a few shakoes... It must be regretted that there are no illustrations of picturesque uniforms...

Nevertheless the more limited objectives that the author has set himself have been realised very thoroughly. This is not a book to find out about individual family ancestors, but it is a book to find out about something of what sort of regiment they served in and about its 'iconography' (to use the author’s word). Izzat means respect or renown, and this is a work of love and piety to a great tradition, and is available for reference on the open shelves of the Asian and African Studies Reading Room at the British Library."

The full review by Richard Morgan, former FIBIS Trustee, appears in FIBIS Journal 23 (Spring 2010) pp. 49-50, available online to members in Search FIBIS. Details on purchasing a copy in the United Kingdom are included in the full review.

Army lists

Army lists are the directories of this section of the military. They are a useful way of tracking an officer's career. Some key years are available as reprints. Original editions may be consulted in large reference collections.

  • Hart, G. A.

Hart's annual army list for 1860. Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2001

Lt. Col. Hart's annual volumes, begun in 1840 and continued until 1915, generally contain far more career information than the official Army Lists. This is a reprint of the edition corrected to December 1859, and thus includes details of service in the Crimea and the Indian Mutiny. Covers all Commissioned Officers (including paymasters, quartermasters, surgeons, etc) in the Army (including Militia), Ordnance and Marines.

  • Hart, G. A.

Hart's annual army list. [Online versions]

1861-1870

A full view of a series of this invaluable title covering the years following the institution of the Indian Army is available at Google Books

Later published British Army lists

Full view editions covering years up to 1946 are available to search and view at archive.org


  • Hart, G. A.

Hart's annual army list for 1885. 2 vol. Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2001

This is a reprint of the edition corrected to December 1884. Covers all Commissioned Officers (including paymasters, quartermasters, surgeons, etc) in the Army, Ordnance and Marines, plus the Militia list, Indian Civil Services list, Indian Staff Corps and Indian local forces.

British regiments

  • Beckett, Ian F. W.

Discovering English county regiments. 3rd ed. Princes Risborough: Shire, 2003 (Discovering series; 294)

"This is a fabulous compact guide to the confusing world of British Army regiments. [It] lists all the Regiments of Foot ... and cross-references the regimental names with the regimental numbers. Equally importantly, it covers when regiments were raised, disbanded, and amalgamated with other regiments (including battalions). Each regiment has a brief history, and includes additional information such as battle honours, Victoria Crosses, nicknames, mottoes, memorials and details for the regimental museum. There are also numerous colour and B&W illustrations ... Please note that this book does not cover the Royal Artillery or the Royal Engineers". (Anne Kelsall, former FIBIS Webmaster and Marketing Manager, 2005).

  • Gould, W.J.D.

Ten years in India in the 16th Lancers, and three years in Africa in the Cape Corps Levies. Toronto: Hunter Rose, 1880

"This book, which is available online through the Canadian Libraries Internet Archive, records the author’s ten year tour of duty with the 16th Lancers in India from 1837 to 1846, gives a fascinating insight into the early days of the Raj, and life in the British Army. It also explores his later military exploits with the Cape Corps Levies in Africa. It will appeal to those who have military ancestors, and those who are interested in military history – with the added spice of eye-witness accounts of that history.

There are very powerful descriptions of the battles of Ghunzee, Cabul, Maharajapoor, Buddiwal, Aliwal, Sabraon etc, as well as descriptions of the beauty or otherwise of the countryside and the military cantonments. It also contains humorous anecdotes, descriptions of British soldier's social life in India at that time from the point of view of a non-commissioned officer, and the hardships endured during the battles." (Ainslie Sharpe, 2009)

  • Richards, Frank

Old soldier sahib. Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2003

Private Frank Richards DCM MM, enlisted in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in 1901 and, in this reprinted prequel to Old soldiers never die, he recounts his experiences as a British soldier serving primarily in India and Burma prior to WW1. As the publisher says: "his descriptions of the soldier's life in those countries in those far off days and his anecdotes makes wonderful reading".

HEIC armies

  • Bailey, Peter
Guide-001.gif
Researching ancestors in the East India Company's Armies.

Families in British India Society, 2006. (FIBIS research guide; 1)

This is the essential handbook for anyone researching ancestors who were connected to the HEIC Armies of Bengal, Bombay, and Madras. It covers records from the armies' origins until their assimilation into the British Army in 1860. Laid out in a clear and accessible manner, the book directs searchers to records on all available stages of a man's career, whether officer or soldier, including sources which may provide details on his wife and children. For those researchers not fortunate enough to have access to the India Office Records at the British Library, the LDS film numbers are included. A full review by Richard Scott Morel, Archivist of Pre-1858 India Office Records, is available on pp. 45-46 of the FIBIS Journal 17 (Spring 2007) Available from FIBIS shop

  • Dodwell, Edward

Alphabetical list of the officers of the Madras army : with the dates of their respective promotion, retirement, resignation or death, whether in India or in Europe; from the year 1760, to the year 1834 inclusive, corrected to September 30, 1837, compiled by Messrs. Dodwell and Miles. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, 1838

An invaluable reference work for those whose ancestors were officers in the HEIC Madras Army between 1760 and 1837. Available for reading online or download at Internet Archive

  • Dodwell & Miles

Alphabetical list of the officers of the Bengal army : with the dates of their respective promotion, retirement, resignation or death, whether in India or in Europe; from the year 1760, to the year 1834 inclusive, corrected to September 30, 1837, compiled by Messrs. Dodwell and Miles. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, 1838

Similar volume to the above Madras Army List but now covering Bengal Army. Available to download or read online at Archive.org

  • Hodson, V.C.P.

Officers of the Bengal Army 1758-1834. 6 vols. Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2001

This is an important reference work, originally published in 1927, on the officers of the HEIC Bengal Army who entered service between 1758 and 1834. Their military careers are shown, where appropriate through to the beginning of the 20th Century, covering service in the Afghan Wars, the Sikh Wars and the Indian Mutiny.


Indian Army

  • Barthorp, Michael

Indian infantry regiments 1860-1914. London: Osprey, 1979 (Men-at-arms series)

A basic overview of the infantry regiments of the Indian Army, with useful illustrations showing the various uniforms.


  • Duckers, Peter

The British-Indian Army 1860-1914. Princes Risborough: Shire, 2003 (Shire album; 412)

This useful, well-illustrated little book provides an introduction to the institution, uniforms, arms and services of the Indian Army from its formation in 1860 until the advent of WW1.

  • Harris, R.G.

Bengal cavalry regiments 1857-1914. London: Osprey, 1979 (Men-at-arms series)

Short history of the Indian Army cavalry with illustrations showing their uniforms.

  • India. Army Dept.

Army regulations, India. Vol. 7: dress. Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2001

A reprint of the 1913 official instructions regarding all aspects of dress for both the British Army in India and the Indian Army. Descriptions of uniforms, facings, badges and devices are given for all regiments, and the variations for all officers, staff, and men.

  • Jackson, Donovan

India's Army. London: Sampson Low, Marston, 1940

Available in a number of reprints, "Major Donovan Jackson's comprehensive compilation of histories of individual regiments of the Indian Army is an almost essential reference tool for those interested in the Indian Army during the British Colonial period. In the author's forward he notes that much of the contents of the book originally appeared as a series of articles in The Statesman during 1938-39. All the histories were compiled from official or regimental sources. For each regiment Major Jackson covers its development and changes of names, with relevant dates, actions, awards, notes on uniforms, etc. The book is copiously illustrated with photographs and drawings of badges. No regiment is excluded, with brief histories of the units of the Auxiliary Force (Volunteer Regiments) included, as well as lengthier descriptions of the Indian States Forces, Body Guards and Irregular Regiments. The only criticism is that there is neither a bibliography nor a subject index provided. However, the overall content makes this an outstanding work of reference on the Indian Army from its earliest days as EIC Army regiments up to the outbreak of WWII". (Sylvia Murphy, 2008)

  • Mason, Philip

A Matter of honour : an account of the Indian Army, its officers and men. London: Cape, 1974

"Philip Mason (1906-99) was for 40 years an Indian Civil Servant. On his retirement he wrote some excellent books on India. One was A Matter of Honour which traces the history of the Indian Army from its origins under the East India Company through to Independence in 1947. All the main campaigns of the Indian Army and of course the disintegration of the Bengal Army in the Mutiny and its later painful reconstruction are chronicled.

A major theme is how you instill loyalty in what can be seen effectively as an army of occupation. The answer according to Mason is only by the highest standards of military conduct.

If your ancestors were in the Indian Army, whether under the East India Company or later, this book is highly recommended". (Richard Morgan FIBIS trustee, 2008)

  • Yeats-Brown, Francis

Lives of a Bengal Lancer. New ed. London: Dennis Dobson, 1954 (Twentieth century classics)

"This book won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography in 1930. It is a palatable sized introduction to the life of a Bengal Lancer from 1905 until the time his regiment was disbanded at the end of the First World War. However it is not a mere military account as the book divides naturally into three sections of interest. Primarily, the life of an English cavalryman in the Bengal lancers is presented. Days of regimental routine interspersed with pig sticking, polo playing and visiting nautch girls. The cavalry regiment comprises both English and Indian soldiers and the author easily assimilates the attitudes of both worlds – the society of the west and the mysticism of the East.

During the First World War Yeats-Brown is sent to France and later joins a flying corps in Mesopotamia – where is he captured by Turks. He eventually escapes and returns to India. However his days as a lancer are soon over and the reader is presented with a wonderful tour of India as he goes in search of practising gurus to learn the secrets of yoga and inner truth. An evocative and satisfying read. Recommended." (Beverly Hallam, FIBIS trustee)

Medical Departments

  • Crawford, D.G.

Roll of the Indian Medical Service 1615-1930. Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2002

Originally published in 1930, this gives details of educational qualifications, dates of birth, appointments and promotions, and war service for 6,586 surgeons in the Indian Medical Service. The IMS was a division of the military, although its surgeons were sometimes seconded to civil postings. In addition to career information there are a variety of appendices and background detail on such topics as medical colleges and places of instruction in India. Note that the Roll does not include members of the Subordinate Medical Service/Departments.

Other

Navy

  • Low, Charles Rathbone

The history of the Indian Navy, 1613 to 1863. 2 vols. Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2001

This history covers the life span of the HEIC Indian Navy. Operations from the Persian Gulf to the Burma and First China Wars, from Aden to New Zealand and the Maori Wars, and the Indian Mutiny. Survey work from the Red Sea to the China Seas. The author entered the East India Company's Indian Navy in 1853 and saw active service against pirates and slave traders in waters ranging from Zanzibar to the China Seas. This edition includes indexes of ships and officers, compiled by Captain Douglas Morris R.N.

Wars and battles

The Mutiny

  • Dalrymple, William

The last Mughal : the fall of a dynasty, Delhi, 1857. London: Bloomsbury, 2006

For anyone who wishes to form a balanced picture of the Indian Mutiny, this is essential reading. The last Mughal of the book's title was the Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II, whose line, the House of Timur, had gradually seen their power and influence eroded by the British foreigners. Coming as traders but gradually amassing for themselves huge wealth and power, even to the extent of taking over the Emperor's capital city, Delhi, their overall arrogance and lack of understanding of the local people laid the ground for the largest uprising ever experienced in the British Empire. Using English, Urdu and Persian language sources, Dalrymple presents the results of his extensive research into the causes, events and consequences of the Mutiny in this readable but, of necessity, long book.

  • David, Saul

The Indian Mutiny : 1857. London: Viking, 2002

This is the standard modern account of the Indian Mutiny.

  • Fremont-Barnes, Gregory

The Indian Mutiny 1857-58. Oxford: Osprey, 2007. (Essential histories; 68)

This is a useful, short introduction to the subject, with many illustrations and some maps and plans.

  • Llewellyn-Jones, Rosie

The great uprising in India 1857-58. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2007. (Worlds of the East India Company; 2)

"From the outset there has been a tendency to see the ‘Mutiny’ purely in military terms and concentrate on the stirring deeds of heroism, and even many modern histories largely ignore all other aspects. Dr Llewellyn-Jones’ new book is a helpful corrective. Heroism is there in abundance – but also bureaucracy, misunderstanding, crass stupidity and worse. The events of those terrible two years of 1857-8 contain an uneasy mixture of deeds both great and monstrous.

It must also be admitted that some of the older histories have tended to ignore the Indian point of view. Again Dr Llewellyn-Jones makes clear not only why so many Indians joined the uprising, but also how effective the Indian rule in the areas they controlled was.

The book has useful studies of many neglected aspects of the Uprising – the use of Prize Agents for example. Strongly recommended".

The full review by Richard Morgan, a FIBIS Trustee, is available on pp. 53-55 of the FIBIS Journal 19 (Spring 2008)

  • Ward, Andrew

Our bones are scattered : the Cawnpore massacres and the Indian Mutiny of 1857. New York: Holt, 1996

Focusing on the siege and subsequent massacres at Cawnpore, the author presents an authoritative and detailed account of these horrific events, and their consequences. The result is a long, readable book with copious foot notes.

WW1

  • Spencer, William

First World War army service records : a guide for family historians. 4th ed. Kew: The National Archives, 2008

This invaluable guide to locating information on ancestors who served in WW1 has been expanded and updated to refer to many resources which are now available online. The primary source is still the National Archives (TNA) at Kew in England, where in addition to the more obvious Records of Service (British Army officers and other ranks, RAF, WAAC, auxiliary and nursing services) are those of the Indian Army and Dominion Forces. This directs the family historian to a possible treasure trove of records, including those for medals and awards, prisoners of war, unit war diaries and maps.

WW2

  • Brayley, Martin J.

The British Army 1939-45 vol. 3 : the Far East. Oxford: Osprey, 2002 (Men-at-arms; 375)

This provides a concise overview of events in the Far East, with a major focus on Burma. In common with all titles in this series there are coloured illustrations showing uniforms in detail, plus many photographs.

Other wars and battles

  • Young, James

Galloping guns : the experiences of an officer of the Bengal Horse Artillery during the Second Maratha War 1804-05. s.l.: Leonaur, [2008?]. (Eyewitness to war series)

"This is not great literature, but it is one of only a very few accounts of this important, but today virtually unknown, campaign. [This conflict], however, went a long way to securing British domination of central India covering as it did an area surrounding Agra and Dehli, and several hundred miles around those towns. The book contains a great deal of information on the daily life of the army, and a lot about the introduction of Horse Artillery into Indian Warfare. ... if your ancestors took part in this campaign, it is well worth buying. (Nick Balmer, 2008)

This title is one of more than a dozen contemporary accounts of battles in India and Asia which Leonaur have brought back into print in attractive, affordable versions. The books are OCR versions of the originals and it should be noted that in the case of Galloping guns, and possibly also the other titles, software recognition failures have not been corrected.