East India Company Army

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The East India Company maintained a formidable army in each of its three Presidencies. Although there was a military presence in each Presidency beforehand, the Company established formal armies following the French capture of Fort St George (Madras) during the War of Austrian Succession in 1746. These armies grew over the next hundred years until the renowned ‘Indian Mutiny’ (1857-59). After the Mutiny, the India Act of 1858 of the English parliament, decreed the dissolution of these armies. Its European soldiers were given the option either of transferring to the British Army or of discharge with a bounty and shipment back to Europe. About 50 percent selected each option. The mutinous native regiments were disbanded but those few, who remained loyal to the British, plus loyal native irregular units, formed the basis of the new ‘Indian Army’, which continued until Independence

The three Presidency armies were quite distinct from each other and operated independently. More information can be found on their respective articles:

Recruitment and conditions

Fairly consistently six percent of soldiers were recruited as married, based on a statistical analysis of the Depot Lists and Embarkation Lists of recruits going to India, by Peter Bailey, FIBIS Chairman. One of his ancestors joined the EIC Army at very closely the same time as his daughter was born and was sent to India several weeks later with his wife and new-born baby[1] c mid 1820s.

Although the East India Company provided a passage back to Britain for soldiers [2][1] at the expiration of their term of service,[1] it appears that very few elected to return.

Samuel Hickson who was in India 1777-1785 lists the reasons in his Diary: disease, the good provisions made by the Company relating to age and incapacity, the bounty paid on renewal of service, and family ties.[3]

FIBIS resources

Part 1 FIBIS Journal Number 17 (Spring 2007) Part 2 FIBIS Journal Number 22 (Autumn 2009)
Refer FIBIS Journals for details of how to access these Journals


FIBIS Research Guide


Researching ancestors in the East India Company's Armies by Peter Bailey 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)

Purchase a copy from the FIBIS Online Shop

India Office records at the British Library

Also see the individual pages for the three Presidency Armies, mentioned above

The British Library’s "Search our Catalogue Archives and Manuscripts" Search by name.

British Library’s Help for Researchers: European Officers

Records include Cadet Papers IOR/L/MIL/9/107-253 1789-1860. Cadet Papers up to about c 1805, may comprise nothing more than a baptism certificate or father's declaration of date of birth. Many of these records have now been digitised and held on the findmypast websiteunder the heading of British India Office Records births and baptisms.

Embarkation records

Books and Articles

"Irishmen in the East-India Company Army" by Peter Bailey in Irish Family History-Journal of the Irish Family History Society Volume 17, 2001 page 84


The National Army Museum, London has a card index, mainly in respect of East India Company Army Officers

Wives and children

Marriages between EIC soldiers and Anglo Indians or Native women, the allowances paid to wives and the army records kept regarding these wives are discussed in "Haemoglobin D (B Punjab) in an East Anglian Family", The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 95, No. 2 (Jul. - Dec., 1965), pp. 295-306. .[4]. The 2nd Madras (European) Light Infantry is particularly mentioned as marriage registers were (in 1965) available for the period 1840-1863 showing the race of the bride. The article may be read online on the subscription website JSTOR for free, but first you must register. Some card holders of participating libraries may also have access, refer Miscellaneous tips for more about both options. Also available at the British Library

See also

External Links

  • Presidency Armies Wikipedia
  • British East India Company Armies Wikipedia
  • Army and Civil Service Wikipedia. Gives strengths of the Presidency armies in 1796, 1806 and 1857.
  • This India List thread is about the difference between “Rank in Regiment” and “Rank in Army”
  • This India List thread is about the fact that commissions and ranks were not purchased within the East India Company Armies. However one possible exception is mentioned.
  • This India List post discusses some of the advantages of joining the East India Company’s Armies, rather than the British Army, as does this further India List post .It lists a number of the various types of Sergeants to be found on the Madras 'Effective Supernumeries' and advises these were positions of significant importance and standing.
  • The Nafziger Collection of Orders of Battle from the Combined Arms Research Library of the Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth Kansas. Contain a PDF catalogue document for the 7000 PDF documents in the collection. The files relating to India are mainly in respect of location of regiments of the British Army, but there does appear to be some limited information in respect of the location of East India Company Army regiments. For hints about the Finding Aid, see British Army-Locating a regiment
  • A helpful website which has closed is regiments.org, here are pages from the archived site at January 2008 An overview of the South Asian Armies page, Alphabetic Index, South Asia page and Numeric index, South Asia page
  • The Cadet and Staff Registers of the Sandhurst Collection. The registers show the details for almost every officer cadet that attended the Royal Military Academy Woolwich and Royal Military College Sandhurst, England
  • Babes in Arms by Hedley Sutton 13 August 2013 British Library Untold lives blog. 'Minor cadets'. The term relates to a practice which flourished very briefly in India in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, when young boys, including babies, were appointed as cadets.

Historical books on-line


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Email from Peter Bailey to User:Maureene dated 10 April 2014
  2. Also including wives "on the strength”
  3. "Diary of Samuel Hickson 1777-1785" in Bengal Past and Present, Volume 49, Part 1 1935, pages 28-30 (computer pages 35-37) which is available to read online on the Digital Library of India website.
  4. Ian Macdonnell. "MORE HELPFUL INFORMATION ...Allowance for Eurasianwives.", Rootsweb India Mailing List, 21 Jan 2010. Retrieved on 11 April 2014.