Indian Army under British Rule in 1905



At no period of our history has it been more imperative than at the present time that those who believe in the Empire should understand what its constituent forces are, and how these can be applied to the maintenance of its security. The days of isolation of the Mother Country are sped, never to come again; but the task is one of enormous difficulty, requiring years of labour and the efforts of many minds, both of statesmen and of soldiers. Unless we apply ourselves earnestly to it, in a patient and scientific spirit, we shall never achieve that which should be the aim and object of this long and laborious work, the safety, peace, and honour of all the dominions over which the Sovereign of this island-kingdom rules, whether by his Lieutenants and Viceroys, or through the constitutional Governments of those great countries oversea, united to us by the bonds of race, religion, speech, interest, and sentiment.

In all the discussions which have taken place since the war in South Africa upon the vital subject of the defence of the Empire, at. least three main points stand out sharply above all the mists of doubt and detail gathering round them: the need for an army for service oversea, capable of large expansion, the powerful help which can be given by the armed forces of the self-governing Colonies, and the fact that the defence of the land frontier of the Empire means the defence of the land frontier of India. It is true enough that the defence of India has long been recognised as the essential military problem of our times. Statesmen and soldiers who have made this question their study, who have been connected, whether for long or short periods, with England’s great Eastern dependency, have over and over again pleaded for a just consideration of the military claims of India. By precept and by practice, a long and distinguished succession of Governments of India have endeavoured to establish the doctrine, and, although the full measure of our responsibilities has not always been taken, even in the East, efforts have been steadily, if gradually, made to give effect to the principles of defence. But until quite recently these things have been dealt with from the Western point of view, in an insular and isolated fashion. ‘India must look to herself, and no doubt we shall come to her aid if she is hard pressed, as we have done before. So long as we supply her with drafts for her normal garrison, she must be content to rest assured that we shall do our best when the time comes, if it ever does come; but we cannot make any promises. We may have to stand against enemies in our own gates, and we must be careful not to encourage false hopes. ‘India has great natural barriers, and she must make the most of these’—and a great deal more to the same effect. This sort of argument has now somewhat fallen into the background, but its supporters are still not inactive, and they have been reinforced by the fact that the military Power, Russia, whose outposts have been pushed nearer and nearer to the Indian border, has sustained a series of defeats from a people small in numbers, but animated by lofty patriotism, by the courage which despises death, and by a long-sustained effort to organize their forces for victory. There is a very simple reply to those who do not believe in the possibility of Russian aggression in Afghanistan. Russia has undoubtedly lost heavily in military power and prestige in Asia, and this fact, and the probable change in her domestic institutions, may operate to prevent her from troubling us for some time to come. But of this there is no certainty, and we must not overlook the possibility that Russia, after a period of recuperation, will profit by the lessons she has learned, and emerge with far greater military strength than she possessed before the war. Undoubtedly all this will take time. Russia cannot recover, and reorganize her military system, in a day or in a year. Our position in the East is also immensely strengthened by the recent treaty with Japan. We shall have breathing-time for our own task, and that task is so to organize our own forces that we may be able to reinforce India, and other possessions, in such a way and to such an extent that we may insure the safety of the vast country which has been committed to our keeping. Such a policy is perfectly consistent with an endeavour to establish an ‘understanding’ with Russia. It makes for peace, and not for war.

It is fortunate that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has proclaimed more than once, in clear and unmistakable language, that the problem of the British Army is the problem of the defence of Afghanistan—in other words, of the defence of India. If that declaration is thoroughly pressed home into the national mind, then it must follow, as the night the day, that, despite all difficulties and opposition, we shall obtain, although not without infinite toil, a military system which will enable us to rise to the height of our responsibilities. It is, then, of the first importance that the people of England should understand what the Indian Army is; what its evolution has been; its characteristics; how far it meets the conditions of the problem; what has been done to render it capable of performing, with the aid of the support which must be forthcoming from the central power of the Empire, the task which may be before it; what the lessons are which we may learn from the past; and that they may be able to judge with impartiality whether we are on the right track in our efforts to render it a more efficient military weapon.

Before attempting to describe what the army in India is, let us consider for a moment the nature of the task it has to undertake. It is not merely the defence of India or of Afghanistan, whichever way we like to put it. It is the active defence of India, and, added to that, the maintenance of order within India itself. And if we remember that the area of India is 1,870,000 square miles, that the frontier line is about 6,000 miles long, that its length from north to south is some 1,900 miles, and its breadth from east to west about the same, and that the population of India is 800,000,000, we may form some idea of the magnitude of the problem. Now, this vast population, consisting mainly of those who, in one form or other, adhere to Hinduism, and of Mohammedans, the great preponderance being on the side of the Hindus, is of the most varied character, just as the language and the characteristics of the country are varied. Amidst plenty of peace-loving folk desirous of living and dying as their fore-fathers did, there are elements of violent disturbance, and the stupendous natural upheavals which have produced the terrible catastrophe we have lately lamented are only emblematic of the explosive forces which lie beneath the fair and tranquil surface. It is a common saying amongst experienced men who know India well, that ‘we are living on a volcano’; and this is said by those who have the greatest affection for their native fellow-subjects, . but who know that there exists, and must exist, in the vast congeries of peoples and races, and tribes and castes, those who are dissatisfied with British rule, and who are ready to work on an inflammable material. We have had plenty of disturbance in past times, and must expect it in the future. Fanaticism, religious bigotry, and extreme credulity are potent enemies to peace and order if the power of control is weakened or removed; and although they may be jeered at as alarmists, there are many shrewd observers, some of whom have had long and intimate contact with the people, who are inclined to think that, with the process of assimilation of Western ideas which is going on, the respect for authority is being lessened rather than increased. However this may be, few will be found to deny that the every-day task of maintaining the Pax Britannica throughout this immense Empire is no light one, and that it will be tenfold heavier whenever war beyond the frontier causes the depletion of our garrisons.

The regular army in India embraces both British and native troops, the former in round numbers some 74,000, and the latter 157,000 with a small reserve of 25,000, and a total of 486 guns. But just as in this country we have a second line of militia, yeomanry, and volunteers, so in India there is a second line of European volunteers, Imperial service troops, militia, and military police, numbering about 76,000. We see, then, that the total regular army, British and native, including the reserve, is 256,000 strong, and the second line 76,000. The reserve is to be increased to 50,000, and might be further enlarged. If we choose to put it in another way, we can say that the British Army and volunteers number 106,000, the regular native army and its reserves 182,000, and the native auxiliaries 44,000. Of the British portion of the regular army it is unnecessary to say much. The cavalry regiments, batteries of artillery, and battalions of infantry relieved periodically from home maintain in India the splendid traditions of the regular army—an army which has won victory for England in every part of the habitable globe—and keep up the admirable regimental system which has survived all the changes of the last and present century, and is admitted to be the best training-school for the officer or private soldier. The units of the British force are maintained at high strength, because they must be ready to take the field, and a further increase in that strength would be most desirable.

The regular native army comprises batteries of mountain guns, sappers, cavalry, and infantry. It draws its recruits from the North-West Frontier and beyond for

Commands. British. Native.
Cavalry. Artillery. Royal
Infantry. Total. Cavalry. Artillery. Sappers
Infantry. Reserves. Total.[1]
Punjab 1,881 3,619  91 14,460  20,051 9,411 3,725  585  39,775 10,908  53,496
Bengal 1,881 4,522  95 17,550  24,048 7,018 1,393  708  24,072  5,435  33,191
Madras (Division) 1,256 1,968  28  6,188  9,440 1,839   37 1,569  26,185 3,276[2]  29,630
Bombay  627 4,178  46 11,358  16,209 6,673 1,575 1,398  25,197 5,223  34,843
Burma (Division)  290  4,132  4,422  680  170  5,931  6,781
 Reserves  24,842
 Auxiliary forces  32,000  44,500[3]
   Total 5,645 14,577 260 53,688 106,170 24,491 7,410 4,430 121,160 24,842 227,283
British troops  74,170
Auxiliary forces (volunteers)  32,000
———— 106,170
Native troops 157,941
reserves  24,482
Auxiliary forces  {\displaystyle \scriptstyle {\left\{{\begin{matrix}\ \\\\\ \\\ \ \end{matrix}}\right.}} Imperial service troops  18,000
Militia  6,000
Military police  20,500
———— 227,283
Grand total 333,453
The ‘levies’ in the Punjab and Baluchistan, numbering about 4,000, are not included, as they are not officered by Europeans or enrolled as military bodies.

Patháns, from Nepal for Gúrkhas, from the Punjab for Sikhs and Punjabi Mohammedans, and from the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh for Hindustanis—both Hindus and Mohammedans. The Western or Bombay area furnishes Mahrattas, Rajputs, and some Mohammedans, while the Madras territories are now called upon to furnish only a few men, Tamils (Hindus) and Mohammedans. The centre of military activity has shifted more and more to the north, and the tendency is to draw to a much larger extent upon the resources of that part of India. And to complete this brief summary, the whole army, British and native, is now divided, according to the latest scheme, into three large Commands—the Northern, Eastern, and Western, with divisional commands in Southern India and in Burma. These territorial Commands are again divided into divisional areas, and the troops are eventually to be organized into mobile divisions, leaving other troops for garrison purposes, and to form movable columns to maintain order. The accompanying tables show the strength and distribution of the military forces .

The history of the evolution of the native army and of its organization can hardly be told in a few words. It abounds with dramatic incidents, and in lessons for the future, but it cannot be done full justice to here. The French taught us to enrol and discipline natives to fight our battles, and as we gradually advanced from our bases at the seaports we drew to the colours, not only the inhabitants of the conquered countries, but adventurers in the shape of Patháns, Rohillas, Rajputs, and others from more distant lands. Field brigades were organized, then divisions, until at last, just before the Mutiny of 1857, we had 811,000 native troops, forming, with the European forces, 40,000 strong, three ‘presidential’ armies, and various local forces and contingents. These separate armies, belonging to the presidencies of Fort William in Bengal, Fort St. George in Madras, and Bombay, had grown up into almost independent forces. In those days of great distances, unshortened by rail and telegraph, it would have been impossible to have had one army directed by a central authority. Campaigns, reorganizations, mutinies, followed in rapid succession. The Nepal War gave us the Gurkha soldier, and the Punjab Wars the Sikh; but we crowded the ranks of the largest portion of the army with high-caste Hindus, and a tremendous military revolt shook India from one end to the other. An overgrown and amalgamated army, dangerous centralization of authority, the weakness of the European force, religious fears bred by ignorance, credulity, and fanaticism, and our blind following of Western patterns and ideals, were the main causes which prepared the way. The Sepoys seized upon the new cartridge made up ‘agreeably to instructions received from home,’ to declare that the lubricatory material was a mixture of the fat of pigs and cows intended to destroy alike Mohammedans and Hindus, and became convinced that their religious safety lay in joining the standards of rebellion, and in exerting their utmost efforts to overthrow the dominion of their alien masters. The career of the East India Company had been ‘from factories to forts, from forts to fortifications, from fortifications to garrisons, from garrisons to armies, and from armies to conquests,’ but this chapter of history had now closed upon them. The Crown assumed the government of India, and after the Mutiny was quelled a period of reconstruction followed. The local European forces were merged into the general army; the native armies were reorganized on the ‘irregular’ system, under which there were but few British officers in each regiment; a Staff Corps was formed; but in creating a new Bengal Army, the Madras and Bombay armies, the Punjab frontier force, and the Hyderabad contingent, all of which had done admirable service in putting down the rebellion in a series of arduous campaigns, were maintained as separate entities. The minds of men were concerned with so framing the new plan that another outbreak might have no chance of success. But by degrees the warnings of the Mutiny faded away, the Bengal Army had become unwieldy, and was fast tiding to an amalgamation of material, and it was only in 1879, when the Afghan War was teaching us a sharp lesson, that those who believed it to be possible to have a better system of administration, with a more scientific and a more secure plan, were able to obtain a hearing. Things did not move fast, a great deal of discussion took place, and it was not until 1895 that the Bengal Army was divided into two parts, or Commands—the Punjab, with its Pathán, Sikh, and Punjabi regiments; the Bengal, with its Hindustanis—and the Madras and Bombay armies allotted to the areas to be known as the Madras and Bombay Commands; while the Commander-in-Chief in India was given full powers over all, with the intention that he should delegate to the Generals commanding the forces in these great territorial areas a large measure of initiative and responsibility. Since 1879 immense progress has been made in every branch of the army and in every department appertaining to it. Increase of the army by 10,000 British and 20,000 native troops, reserves, linking of battalions, establishment of regimental centres, the amalgamation of hitherto separate presidential departments, the creation of Imperial service troops, increase of pay to the native army, reorganization of recruiting, re-armament, elimination of inferior material, introduction of the double-company system in the infantry, complete reorganization of the transport, increase to the supply and transport corps, establishment of mounted infantry schools, formation (1886) of a plan of mobilization and its development, completion of frontier and coast defences, reform of horse-breeding, remount, and military account departments, institution of an ambulance corps, a great development in the manufacture of warlike stores, and continuous improvements in the sanitary service of the army—these are some of the measures which were carried out prior to 1908, from which year a fresh departure took place in the unification of the army, and a further ‘reorganization’ was initiated under the auspices of the present Commander-in-Chief in India, Lord Kitchener.

Before these new schemes are discussed, it will be well to consider, although necessarily with brevity, what are the characteristics of the material of which the native army is composed; for it is this material to which we have to trust largely in the hour of stress and peril, and our plan of reorganization must be based upon a knowledge of its conditions and capability. Let us first look at the main constituents of the army—Patháns, Sikhs, Punjabi Mohammedans, Dogras, Gúrkhas, Jâts, Hindustanis, Mahrattas, Rajputs, and Madrasis. There are other classes from which we draw recruits, but these are the main elements. Of these, the Patháns and Gúrkhas may be called ‘foreigners,’ as they do not belong to British India, although many Pathán tribes dwell within the British borders. Patháns are physically fine men, and, as soldiers in our ranks, brave, loyal, and devoted. The merits of Gúrkhas are well known. They are brilliantly courageous, cheerful, staunch, and dogged. The Sikh is a splendid soldier in physique, in character, and resolute bravery. Neither he nor the Gúrkha could pass examinations or reach a standard of education such as some think should be exacted of all soldiers, but both have the true soldierly instinct, and no finer soldiers can be found. The Punjabi Mohammedan is an admirable soldier—although the quality varies with the particular tribe-sturdy, brave, and with many martial instincts. The Dogra from the lower Himalayas becomes an excellent fighting man. Jâts, mainly from the Delhi territories, furnish good material. Hindustanis, Brahmans, and Rajputs still produce good soldiers, but have fallen from their high estate since the days when we conquered India with their aid. The Rajput is not the soldier he once was, but is still capable of doing good service when well led. The Mahratta, once the fighting man of the Deccan, who did such fine service under Wellington, seems to have lost much of his military virtue; while the Madras soldier, whether Tamil (Hindu) or Mohammedan, is no longer the soldier of our early history in India. When we think of all that these men have done for us—of how Wellesley’s Madras battalion fought at Assaye, of the story of self-devotion at Arcot, and of ‘Who will follow a damned black fellow?’ as the little Madras Sepoy shouted when he dashed over the ground swept by the storm of battle—it is impossible not to regret the decay of the military spirit But peace and civilization, as well as our own neglect, have been the contributory causes, and we have to face the situation. To some the solution would be to have none in our ranks but Patháns, Sikhs, Punjabis, and Gúrkhas. To others this seems to be a most dangerous doctrine, and probably the true remedy is to be found in steering the middle course, and by careful selection endeavouring to get the best men from the areas longest under our rule, as well as from the northern countries. Of one thing we may be quite certain—we can never have material of a uniform standard of excellence, and what we have to do is to look to it that we improve what we have got.

Now, these classes and races group themselves naturally into the northern, eastern, western, and southern areas of India. The key of the policy which, after many years, led to the reorganization of 1895 was decentralization, power of mobilization, with the more complete segregation of the races. It was to be one army divided into four watertight compartments—the Punjab, Bengal (or Hindustan), Bombay, and Madras. It was found by experience that, for example, Sikh regiments degenerated, and were prone to assimilate with other elements, when quartered long away from their homes. There was to be no ‘localization’ in the exact sense, but so far as was practicable the troops were to be stationed in the main area from which they were drawn. The idea was not merely the preservation of the balance of power, which all history has taught is necessary in dealing with mercenary Asiatic armies, but to introduce a simpler and decentralized system; not to focus everything at the far-off headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief, but, while putting him at the head of the whole army, to delegate responsibility to high and powerful commanders of the forces. In fact, to make the chief command one over four armies, call them what you will, instead of having independent local armies, and in the case of Bengal dangerously overgrown and amalgamated.

The statesmen and soldiers who supported this ‘reorganization,’ with long experience of India and the character of the people, were fortified by every incident in the military history of India, in their desire to preserve the country from the dangers of an immense amalgamated army. They felt, too, that from these four or five commands (for Burma was to be separate as at present) would spring the field army in due proportions, which could be mobilized more easily from these areas, each with its own military resources, than from a huge military force, unified and governed by a central power. The native soldier does not enlist from any sentiment or patriotic feeling; he may come from a fighting stock, but he passes under our standards because soldiering is a good trade, and his pay and pension are assured. The reorganization of 1895 made for safety and mobility. The men were not disturbed; the Sikh knew he would be for the most part within hail of his home and under Generals, great and lesser, who would identify themselves with him and his country. And so it was with the others.

The first step in the abandonment of the principles which had held the field for so long was made in 1908. The regiments of cavalry and battalions of infantry were re-numbered and re-named, so as to get rid of all territorial connection. The object aimed at was to have one army in India, and not four bodies in one army—a complete reversal of the older policy. The next step was to abolish the Southern or Madras Command, and practically the Madras army, substituting regiments recruited from northern races for the Madras battalions, with the exception of ten battalions maintained at a reduced strength. The re-distribution of the army, which is understood to be largely due to Lord Kitchener, although it has been often discussed before, and put on one side owing to its great cost, is an attempt to organize the army in units of command similar to those in which it would take the field, as follows:

Divisional Commands.
Northern Command {\displaystyle \scriptstyle {\left\{{\begin{matrix}\ \\\\\ \\\ \ \end{matrix}}\right.}} Peshawar, First Division.
Rawal Pindi, Second Division.
Lahore, Third Division.
Western Command {\displaystyle \scriptstyle {\left\{{\begin{matrix}\ \\\\\ \\\ \ \end{matrix}}\right.}} Quetta, Fourth Division.
Indore, Fifth Division.
Poona, Sixth Division.
Eastern Command {\displaystyle \scriptstyle {\left\{{\begin{matrix}\ \\\\\ \\\ \ \end{matrix}}\right.}} Meerut, Seventh Division.
Lucknow, Eighth Division.
Secunderabad, Ninth Division.

The idea is that each divisional area shall furnish one fighting division, subdivided into three brigades, to concentrate the main portion of the army in large cantonments, and abandon a number of the smaller stations. There will also be some separate troops on the North-West Frontier, at Aden, and a divisional command in Burma. No details are as yet available showing how far the concentration will go, but as a division consists of one cavalry and three infantry brigades, and divisional troops such as artillery, sappers, and pioneers, besides other auxiliary services, it is evident that the redistribution will involve a heavy building programme. From a strictly military point of view, the troops should be actually concentrated in divisions; but there are many reasons of the strongest kind against such an arrangement. In a country of the vast extent of India it would be out of the question to have troops at nine points only, and the real question is, does the advantage of concentration compensate for the disadvantages? The troops cannot always be training. In the hot weather most of the British troops should be away in the hills, while the native soldiery require liberal furlough to visit their homes, and their wives and families. This is an essential condition of the existence of the native army, a married army with the families living in distant homes. Under the previous arrangements field divisions were drawn from particular areas, but not symmetrically. That was impossible. Some of the divisions, but not all, could have been trained together in the cold weather, under the Generals who would lead them in the field, and have had all their stores and transport at hand; but they could not be actually concentrated, and neither under the old nor the new plan can the troops, the units, always be the same, as there must be changes of station in relief.

The whole thing turns on the degree of concentration. Let us take an example. The present Eighth (or Lucknow) Division has its headquarters at Lucknow, with a brigade at Fyzabad; a second brigade distributed between Cawnpore, Allahabad, and Benares, hundreds of miles apart; a third at Calcutta, the capital of India, and seven hundred miles from Lucknow, embracing garrisons and outposts from Dinapore to Darjeeling, and from Buxa Duar, on the Bhutan frontier, to Cuttack in Orissa, on the Bay of Bengal; and a fourth brigade in still more distant Assam, and distributed in various stations and outposts for the protection of a frontier liable to the incursions of savage tribes. To call the troops stationed all over this immense area a ‘division’ is, of course, merely calling old things by new titles. If there is to be reality, then this division must be concentrated at least in brigades, and that will necessitate the withdrawal of garrisons not merely from unimportant places, but from points of which some are of vital importance; while unless the whole country of Bengal and Assam is deprived of military garrisons, no further concentration can take place, and no training as a ‘division’ can possibly be undertaken. The excessive concentration of troops in India has hitherto been regarded as inexpedient. It is certainly not desirable from the health point of view, nor is the association of large numbers of native troops desirable, having regard to their own comfort, and political and economic conditions. If the formation of class brigades of native soldiers be intended, then it cannot but be regarded as a most unwise and dangerous experiment, while the withdrawal of troops from a number of stations means that the civil power will have to rely more and more on the police. These are some of the objections which present themselves. On the other hand, the policy of reasonable concentration instead of dispersion has been followed since the Mutiny days, as railways developed and conditions changed it is a military advantage to have formed bodies of troops ready to take the field, and to increase the field army from 100,000 to 140,000, irrespective of Imperial service troops. But advantages may be purchased too dearly, and it ought to be shown exactly how the troops to be left behind are organized in movable columns and garrisons, and the effect upon the native troops carefully ascertained, as that is a matter of vital importance. Above all, we must be assured that true mobility can be attained, and that the army is preserved from the centralization which was so fruitful a source of danger in the past. By the judicious expenditure of money the additional divisions of the field army can be thoroughly equipped, but it will take many years. The transport alone will be on a gigantic scale, while several thousand officers would have to be obtained from England, and this in itself is a problem difficult of solution. The transport of India is not inexhaustible, but the foundation of an expansible system was laid some years ago by the formation of organized corps and cadres, and by continual effort to search out the resources of the land. The power of rapid railway construction must also be enormously developed in order to move and to feed this increased field army. It is one thing to move a large army in a land of railways and roads and resources, but quite another to make such an effort through mountain passes and over such a country as Afghanistan. It would be useless to discuss, even if there were space, hypothetical conditions of the forces we might have to meet But so much may be said, that it is not merely a question of putting 140,000 men into the field. If we have to defend Afghanistan, we shall require a much larger force of British and native troops. It is to England we must look to supply the former, and to India for the power of expansion of the latter. White officers and transport are the essential requirements, and such a system in India as will enable us to draw large numbers to our colours. These are the essentials, and not merely the concentration of divisions and brigades, a plan which involves a loss in expansive power, and a withdrawal of the army from contact with the sources of that power—the people. The plan of concentration has its advantages, but by itself it cannot create the force we must he prepared to organize, while it has by no means been proved, so far, that with the development of railway communication, present and future, it would not be better to avail ourselves of this power of concentration, rather than embark on a most costly expenditure in bricks and mortar.

In this sketch only the broader aspects of the constitution of the Indian army have been touched upon. It would not be possible to enter upon the details of such matters, For example, as the recruiting system, the special conditions under which the native soldier serves, the organization and establishment of units, the officering of corps, the system of promotion, the condiditions of reserve service, the details of the army departments, such as supply and transport, ordnance, remounts, medical, ambulance, and military finance. Nor can the forces of the second line—the volunteers, the Imperial service troops, militia, and military police—be more than alluded to. The Imperial service troops are raised and paid for by the native Princes, while loyally placed at the disposal of the British Government when their services are required. Until recently, the principle was always accepted that the central administration was governed by the supremacy of the Governor-General in Council, as responsible for all military affairs. The Military Member of the Council, assisted by a small military department or war office, was charged with military administration and finance, and was in effect a Minister of War, but with sharply-defined responsibilities. The Commander-in-Chief, with a large and powerful staff, had the entire control and command of the army. He was the executive servant of the Government, while his presence in the Cabinet or Council insured the complete presentation of purely military considerations. The high efficiency of the Indian Army was the best evidence of the effectiveness of the military administration.

From henceforth the system of army administration in India will be greatly changed. As a result of the recent controversy, and of the demand made by Lord Kitchener for the concentration of all powers of administration, as well as of command, in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief, a large redistribution of army business will take place. The Military Member of Council will now be limited to responsibility for contracts, stores, ordnance, remounts, military works, clothing, and manufacturing services, for the Indian medical service, and the Indian marine. The question of the control of military finance has not yet been settled. The Commander-in-Chief will be directly responsible for all other military business, including supply and transport, and it is possible that further additions to his powers will be made. The Military Supply Member of Council is to be intimately acquainted with the characteristics of the native army, but will only specially advise the Governor-General in Council on questions of general policy as distinct from purely military questions. This officer is also to possess special knowledge of manufacturing business, and it is apparent that the interests of the native army will inevitably suffer, as it is not possible to obtain a technical officer who has made a study of its conditions. The Army Department, with a Secretary, will have the Commander-in-Chief as its head, while the Military Supply Department, also with a Secretary, will have a Member of Council There are elements of great difficulty in this arrangement, and the position of the latter officer will be peculiarly invidious. Other disadvantages are that a vast deal more work will be thrown upon the Viceroy and his Council that any difference of opinion must bring the Viceroy and Commander-in-Chief into direct conflict, and that the functions of administration and command will be hopelessly mixed up. The system which had lasted so long, and had on the whole worked well, might have been improved without radical change. It had yielded a thoroughly efficient army, whose striking power was increased year by year in pursuance of a definite policy. That policy has now been abandoned for one which leads to the amalgamation and centralization of military forces and powers. The old safeguards have been swept away.

In the Indian Army, rightly governed and organized, Britain has a most powerful weapon of offence, the most potent means of defence, and a guarantee for peace. But its constitution as an Oriental force requires to be incessantly watched, and guarded from rash experiments. The greater the knowledge of that force and of the elements of its composition, the greater will be the security against sudden and dangerous innovations, and, possibly, a revulsion of feeling may take place in the direction of the administrative system which has been destroyed without due inquiry, and from merely personal reasons, and has not been replaced by any workable arrangement. By studying the conditions of India, the more convinced will the people of this country become, that our military system at home must be framed in such a way, that in the hour of peril to the Empire it may be able, not only to reinforce the Indian Army, but to meet all other demands which may be suddenly made upon it.

  1.  Reserves not counted in Command total.
  2.  Includes Burma
  3. Imperial service troops 18,000
    Militia corps  6,000
    Military police 20,500
    Total 44,500

SOURCE: The Empire and the century -The Indian Army by Edwin H. H. Collen-LONDON

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