British Army

From FIBIwiki
Revision as of 01:55, 16 November 2009 by HughWilding (talk | contribs) (typos)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The British Army is the land-based forces of the United Kingdom. The British Army was heavily involved in Imperial affairs in India and most regiments (both infantry and cavalry) served in India at some point. Throughout the nineteenth century, a significant number of British troops were stationed at India at any one time. In 1847, for instance, around 20% of British Army regiments were on the sub-continent.

A British man, or man of British descent could also be a soldier/officer in one of the Presidency Armies. These were seperate from the British Army, instead consisting of regiments formed by the East India Company and under their control.


Any regiment name prefaced by the initials H.M. (Her or His Majesty's) is a British Army regiment, although the term is not strictly applied, especially amongst the ecclesiastical records. These regiments may be referred to as "Royal Regiments".

Regiments are divided across several arms of the army, these being the Cavalry (who fought mounted on horseback), the Infantry (soldiers who fought on foot) and the support arms such as the Artillery (who used weaponry such as canons and large guns) and the Engineers construction, demolition, surveying etc.)

The article History of British Army Infantry Regiments is a general history of the origin and development of the infantry regiments and explains some of the reforms that took place.

The cap badges of a few regiments can be found in Cap badge images.

Regiment names terminology

Regiments, especially prior to the twentieth century, were not named in a uniform manner and the historical terminology used can be unfamiliar to a beginning researcher. Some common terms and the regiment types they apply to can be found below.

Term Regiment type
Dragoons Cavalry
Foot Infantry
Fusiliers Infantry
Grenadier Infantry
Hussars Cavalry
Lancers Cavalry
Life Guards Cavalry
Rifles Infantry

Wars and campaigns

The British Army were involved in numerous wars, campaigns and battles in India and the surrounding region. The Fibiwiki has a Chronological list of wars and campaigns.


See also - Military reading list and Occupation:Soldier

There are various sources of information for finding out about a man in the British Army. For a comprehensive description of sources available in the India Office Records, see Peter Bailey's article in FIBIS Journal 13.

Military records

Unlike those of the presidency armies, muster rolls for British Army regiments stationed in India are not at the British Library but are instead at The National Archives at Kew in London. Discharge papers (usually contains service/attestation information) and pension records may also be found at TNA. Discharge papers up to 1854 are listed alphabetically by name and can be searched online. Copies (paper or digital) of TNA records can be ordered by distance for a fee. Another useful TNA source may be the WO22 subseries Army and other pensions paid out locally in India, Ceylon and China. The National Archives is working with to scan and place online two series of records: WO 97 (Royal Hospital Chelsea: Soldiers' Service Documents 1760-1913) and WO 96 (War Office: Militia Attestation Papers 1806-1915). The aim is to have all the records online by 2011. This India List link is about WO 97 documents.

Ecclesiatical returns

If the man married, had children or died out on the Sub-continent then records of these occurences can often be found in the India Office Church records. However, some regimental chaplains only filed their BMDs with the General Register Office in London and certificates of these army returns can be obtained via them by ordering them online. The British Army Overseas Indexes can be found in genealogical libraries, the National Archives and searched on various websites including and Also refer Chaplains Returns.

Note that if a record is available both in the Church records and in the General Register Office records, the latter may contain more information, at least for some time periods. By way of example, in 1903 the additional information was the nationalities of the groom and bride, and the occupations of the fathers of the groom and bride.

Other sources

Additional sources include:

  • 1911 England and Wales Census.
    British Army personnel in India, together with their families appeared for the first time in an England and Wales Census in 1911.
    Search the 1911 census data.

See also

External links

Encyclopedia articles


Historical books online