Auxiliary Regiments

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The Indian volunteer regiments were originally local civilian volunteer corps tasked with local security.

In 1917, the Indian Defence Force (IDF), a part-time group, was formed to undertake garrison duties in India to release professional soldiers for fighting duties. Although the Indian Section was voluntary, the British Section was compulsory. This was the cause of dissatisfaction among many British persons.

The IDF was replaced by the Auxiliary Force, India (AFI) in 1920. This saw volunteer service resume, however there was a minimum term of service. The AFI officers and men could be mobilised in the event of war.


  • Post-1858 - volunteer corps formed over subsequent decades
  • 1917 - Formation of Indian Defence Force (IDF), disbanded at the end of the war
  • 1920 - Formation of Auxiliary Force (India) (AFI)

Indian volunteer force

The Bengal Yeomanry Cavalry was a volunteer force raised in July 1857 after the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny and disbanded in 1859.

After the Indian Mutiny local volunteer infantry forces began to be set up. Cavalry corps started in the 1860s and the first volunteer artillery brigade was constituted in 1879. Railway companies also formed infantry corps from their staff beginning in 1869, more on which can be found in the Railway Regiments article.

The volunteer corps were open to Europeans and Eurasians and (with the exception of an adjutant and others such as sergeant instructors) consisted mainly of volunteers. However, in railway employment, it was virtually compulsory for all employees, both European and Eurasian, to enlist in the Railway Volunteer Regiments.

For men who were employed by the Army (non-volunteers), it may be possible to find them in the army records. Usually these men may be found on the Unattached List.

Officers of the Indian Volunteer Corps from Military periodicals online-New Army List [British Army]

October-December 1913
January- March 1914 April-June 1914 October-December 1914
January-March 1915 April-June 1915 July-September 1915 October-December 1915
January-March 1916 April-June 1916 July-September 1916 October-December 1916
January-March 1917 April-June 1917 July-September 1917 October-December 1917
January-March 1918 April-June 1918 * *

*Lists of Officers of the Indian Defence Force were published in the Indian Army Lists. See Indian Army List online

Indian Defence Force

During the First World War compulsory service was deemed necessary and the Indian Defence Force Act was passed in 1917. The volunteer corps became units of the IDF and were redesignated. European British men between the ages of 18 and 41 were subject to compulsory service within India. Some corps allowed Indians to join as volunteers.

The IDF corps performed local security duties during the war and were not sent to the front. Some officers were transferred to regular Indian Army units.

However, a few units were formed comprising volunteers who wanted to fight the war. "Indian Volunteers in the Great War East African Campaign" by Harry Fecitt, now an archived webpage, gives details of The North-Western Railway Volunteers, the Calcutta Volunteer Battery and the Indian Volunteer Maxim Gun Company in East Africa, although the Commonwealth War Graves Commission classifies them as East African Protectorate units in its records. Elsewhere, there is a brief mention of the Nagpur Volunteer Machine Gun Company in German East Africa.[1], however this appears to be the Indian Volunteer Maxim Gun Company, whose membership included some from the Nagpur Volunteer Rifles.[2] At least one member of the North Western Railway Volunteers also served in Mesopotamia,[3] but it is possible this may have been an individual appointment for an existing member of the Volunteers.

The Volunteer Artillery Battery in which the majority of the men came from Burma, served in Mesopotamia, and was captured at the fall of Kut.

The Anglo Indian Force, including the Anglo Indian Battery, was raised by the Anglo-Indian Association and served in Mesopotamia. Refer First World War - Anglo-Indians.

After the War the IDF as an official organization was disbanded.

Auxiliary Force India

A further reorganization of the units occured in 1920 when the Auxiliary Force (India) replaced the IDF. Volunteers enrolled for an indefinite period but could be discharged after four years (or upon reaching the age of 45). The AFI was disbanded upon Partition.

Auxiliary Force Burma

FIBIS resources

  • "William Garnett, the Volunteering Major" by Michael Garnett FIBIS Journal Number 26 Autumn 2011, pages 26-30. For details of how to access this article, see FIBIS Journals
He played a major role in the establishment of the Cawnpore Light Horse and on retirement to England in 1919 held the rank of Company Sergeant Major. This article contains much information about the Cawnpore Light Horse and about Volunteer Regiments generally.


In 1894 the grant of the Volunteer Officers’ Decoration was extended to India and the Colonies, followed in 1896 by the Volunteer Long Service Medal for Indian and Colonial Forces.[4] The qualifying period for the former was eighteen years[5] and recipients were entitled to use the initials V.D. after their name.[6]

For the latter medal, it is likely the conditions were the same as applied in Australia where "The medal will be granted to all volunteers (including volunteers who have retired, and officers who have served in the ranks but have not qualified for the Volunteer Officers' Decoration) on completion of 20 years' service in the volunteer forces provided that they are recommended by their present, or former, commanding officers".[7] The Volunteer Long Service Medal was replaced in 1930 by the Efficiency Medal “to reward the long and meritorious service of warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men”, and it applied after twelve years of service.[8]

It seems likely that the names of the medal recipients for the Indian Volunteer Forces Officers’ Decoration were gazetted in the Gazette of India, as they do not appear to be in the London Gazette. Some volumes of the Gazette of India are available online, refer Newspapers and journals online. At least some names of the Volunteer Force Long Service Medal recipients were published in Indian Army Orders, some of which are available online, refer Military periodicals online - Indian Army Orders/Instructions.

In January 2016, findmypast introduced the dataset "British Army, Indian Volunteer Force Medal Awards 1915-1939", now incorporated into the larger dataset "Britain, Campaign, Gallantry & Long Service Medals & Awards", located under Armed forces & conflict/Medal rolls and honours. The information for each transcript was extracted from the Indian Army Orders by Kevin Asplin. This dataset appears to inaccurately titled, as it relates to the Indian Army.


Refer British Library holdings below


British Library holdings

India Office records:

  • Collection 108 Volunteer Corps in India IOR/L/MIL/7/4876-4945 1863-1919
    • Collection 108/15 Volunteer officers' decoration. IOR/L/MIL/7/4891 1892-1894
    • Collection 108/20 Volunteer officers' decoration: supply of and publication of rules. IOR/L/MIL/7/4896 1894-1908
    • Collection 108/27 Volunteers' Long Service Medal: rules. IOR/L/MIL/7/4903 1896-1913
  • Government Gazettes IOR/V/11 1831-1947


  • The Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers’ Decoration ; The Indian Volunteer Forces Officers’ Decoration by J.M.A. Tamplin. (Spink medal booklets ; no.6) c 1981. UIN: BLL01011834952
This volume is part of a series of 12 by JMA Tamplin, published between 1978 and 1992 by the medal company Spink & Son of London. At least some of the books in this series appear to be sourced from records in The National Archives series WO 102. The series also includes Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal by J.M.A. Tamplin. (Spink medal booklets ; no.8) 1984. UIN: BLL01011188375. This book is available as a reprint from Savannah Publications It seems likely, but has not been confirmed, that this book does not include information about India, as there was a separately named medal "Volunteer Long Service Medal for India and the Colonies".
  • Information about the volunteer movement and the Auxiliary Force (India) Cavalry are included in 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. UIN: BLL01015325022 . Read about the book here It includes information about badges and emblems. These two reviews give further details about the book: Tribune India review. SASNET review Swedish South Asian Studies Network, now archived.

External links

Efficiency Medal Wikipedia.
  • The Auxiliary Force, India (AFI) on 3 September 1939 from
  • Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, Volume 247, Autumn 1983 pages 160-185. "The Auxiliary Force (India)" by A. A. Mains. An article about the European Volunteer Movement in India. Read online for free on the website, subject to registration with, and restrictions apply. For more details about Jstor, and the restrictions, see the page Miscellaneous tips. Alternatively you may be able to log in with a Library card.

Historical books online

"The Volunteer Forces of India" by Edwin Collen page 221 The Empire Review. Volume V, No 27 April 1903.


  1. Page 4 Supplement To The Quarterly Civil List For The Central Provinces And Berar Up to 1st Jan 1938. Scroll to the bottom of the page for the entry for E H Milner, Public Works Department.
  2. bushfighter. Graves of the Indian Volunteer Maxim Gun Company in Kenya Great War Forum 16 February , 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  3. Wilton-Davies, Colin Railway Regiments Rootsweb India Mailing List 18 January 2000, archived.
  4. Medals and Decorations of the British Army and Navy - Vol. I, page 37 by John Horsley Mayo
  5. Volunteer Officer’s Decoration from The Guide to British War Medals from North East Medals.
  6. Volunteer Decoration Wikipedia
  7. The West Australian (Perth), Monday 19 November 1894, page 6 Australian Newspapers, National Library of Australia
  8. The Efficiency Medal from New Zealand Legislation, a New Zealand Government website


This list is currently being reorganized

1917 redesignations

Corps redesignated as numbered battalions on the 1st April 1917 on formation of the IDF:

1920 redesignations

Battalions and regiments redesignated on the 1st October 1920 on formation of the AFI:


This list is currently being reorganized

1917 redesignations

Corps redesignated as numbered battalions on the 1st April 1917 on formation of the Indian Defence Force:


1920 redesignations

Battalions and regiments redesignated on the 1st October 1920 on formation of the AFI:



This list is currently being reorganized

Volunteer units of the Royal Artillery in India.

1917 redesignations

Batteries and brigades redesignated on the 1st April 1917 on formation of the IDF:

1920 redesignations

Batteries and brigades redesignated on the 1st October 1920 on formation of the AFI:


1933 redesignations

Batteries and brigades redesignated in 1933:


Corps Of Signals

Machine Gun Corps