Trooping season

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and Troopships.

The Indian Trooping season generally began with troop ships leaving England in September, and ended with the last ships leaving India in March. This pattern was probably established once troop ships no longer sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and started using the "Overland Route", and then the Suez Canal after its opening in 1869.

The reasons for a restricted period were to travel in the cooler months so that

  • troops were not travelling during the hot summer months in unventilated ships, particularly in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, when conditions could become dangerous.
  • unacclimatised troops from Britain were not travelling from the ports of Bombay or Karachi to their cantonments during the heat of an Indian summer.
In 1916, when normal procedures were disrupted due to the First World War, the "Karachi troop train incident" of the 5th June, 1916, resulted in the death of nineteen Territorial Troops due to heat stroke on a troop train between Karachi and Lahore.

Initially troops changed ships at Suez, so there were different ships on the routes England to Suez, and Suez to India, but subsequently (and by 1886) ships sailed a round trip from England to India, approximately three weeks in each direction.

Each season generally there were only two of the twelve or so voyages which called at Aden on the way out to India and three on the way back. The extra one coming from India was needed to effect the annual relief of the British infantry battalion in Aden.[1]

HM Indian Troopships

Although generally referred to as HM Indian Troopships, the official designation was HMS Her Majesty's Ship. The Euphrates- class troopships were a group of five purpose-built troopships paid for by the Indian Government and launched in 1866-7. The sister-ships were the 'Crocodile', 'Euphrates', 'Jumna, 'Malabar' and 'Serapis'. Each ship could transport a full battalion of infantry with its married families, or about 1,200 people.

Before the opening of the Suez Canal the 'Crocodile' and 'Serapis' ran between England and Alexandria, whilst the other three ran from Suez to Bombay.

By 1894, four of the five naval troopers were laid up while two P&O ships, 'Victoria' and 'Britannia' had a trial as troopers on charter. The two newcomers soon demonstrated that they could make a better job of it than the old naval ships and 'Crocodile' and her sisters were disposed of in 1896[2] (or 1894[3]).

The ships were then designated HMT Hired Military Transport. During the First World War HMT could also mean His Majesty's Transport, but this use was probably unofficial, as the terminology would officially only apply to commissioned ships.

Movements of Crocodile 1886-1888

6th Oct Sailed Portsmouth for Bombay;
2nd Nov Arrived Bombay
13th Nov Sailed Bombay for Portsmouth via Suez
8th Dec Arrived Portsmouth
22nd Dec Sailed Portsmouth for Egypt
8th Jan Sailed Suez for Bombay;
14th Feb Sailed Bombay for Portsmouth;
11th Mar Arrived Portsmouth
17th Mar Capt. Richard Evans assumed Command. End of trooping season.
7th Sep Sailed Portsmouth for Bombay via Queenstown. Commencement of trooping season.
5th Oct Arrived Bombay
15th Oct Sailed Bombay;
10th Nov Arrived Portsmouth
23rd Nov Sailed Portsmouth for Bombay;
20th Dec Arrived Bombay
31st Dec Sailed Bombay
25th Jan Arrived Portsmouth
08th Feb Sailed Portsmouth for Bombay via Plymouth;
7th Mar Arrived Bombay
17th Mar Sailed Bombay
12th Apr Arrived Portsmouth
7th Sep Sailed Portsmouth for Bombay[4]

1904-05 Trooping Season

"The Indian Trooping season will begin in September… The following are approximately the dates on which the ships will start from Southampton and arrive there on their return.

1. September 8-November 3
2. September 30-November 12
3. October 1-November 24
4. October 11-December 8
5. November 15-January 6, 1905
6. November 23-January 18, 1905
7. December 6-January 28, 1905
8. December 17-February 8, 1905
9. January 17, 1905-March 11
10. January 28, 1905-March 28
11. February 7, 1905- April 5
12. February 18, 1905-April 13" [5]

External links

Eastern Monarch 1859 Fire broke out in English waters on this ship, whose passengers included 352 invalid soldiers from North West India.
Troop ship: ‘five weeks on board’ 29 November 1914, written onboard SS Grantully Castle.
  • An Excerpt from the Diaries of Private John Charles Waters February- March, 1916, now an archived webpage. He was a member of the 1st/1st Kent Cyclists and travelled on the S.S."Benalla" a Peninsular and Oriental liner, to Kebbal Camp, Bangalore.
  • Life on a Troopship A Pictorial History featuring the photographs of John Ernest Brown Royal Sussex Regiment. He sailed to India in 1932, and returned in 1937, via Egypt (1935) and the Sudan (1936)
  • "Every Day A Bonus" by Ken Clarke from Regimental Association of The Queen's Own Buffs (PWRR): The Journal issues No 11-14 Autumn 2005- Spring 2007. The pages covering the voyage to India in 1933, time in India, and voyage back to England in 1938 are (11)48-49; (12)29-39; (13)15-25; (14)38.
Issue 11, 12, 13, 14
Issues 11 and 14. He joined the Army as a Boy Musician in 1932 aged 14 and went as part of a a draft to India leaving 4th February 1933 on the troopship HMT Dorsetshire, returning to England on the Dilwara arriving Southampton on 13th January 1938.

Historical books online


  1. Troopships from "Aden in Days of Empire"., now archived
  2. Preece, Nigel HM Indian Troopship Crocodile Rootsweb India Mailing List 28 January 2000. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  3. HMS Crocodile
  4. qprdave HMS Crocodile from World Naval Ships Forum 9 January 2011. Retrieved 26 February 2015, but now not available.
  5. "Chaplains for Troopships" page 15 The Tablet, 20th August 1904, archived page.
  6. dunnboer Numbers for transport ships?
  7. Ebay, seller three4five
  8. "A Few Stations In India" by Mrs. H. V. Bagshawe. Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps 1926;46:3 214-223.
  9. A History of the British India Steam Navigation Company Limited , pages 17 and 62. Pdf, archived.
  10. A History of the British India Steam Navigation Company Limited, page 62.