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"Indian Infantry Rifle Company Organization" Topic

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Personal logo J Womack 94 Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2012 1:32 p.m. PST

Does anyone know how companies, platoons, and sections were designated in the Indian Infantry Rifle divisions?

For example, were companies numbered or lettered? What abour platoons? And sections? Were the numbers continuous or did the restart the numbering with each unit?

i can't find this in my limited research materials.

Jemima Fawr Inactive Member08 Mar 2012 2:18 p.m. PST

I'll have to go back and look in my books for the early part of the war (if you're interested?), as there were various odd establishments (e.g. garrison battalions and Gurkha garrison battalions having different organisations to field-service battalions). But certainly by later in the war they pretty much followed the usual pattern of four lettered rifle companies (all the ones I've found have been lettered A-D), each with three platoons. I've no idea how the platoon numbering worked in the Far East, sorry.

Platoons were organised in the usual three sections, with each section having a Bren LMG. Boys ATRs were issued at a rate of 1 to 3 per Company, but were often ditched. PIATs were issued from 1944 onwards and were far more popular, as they could lob HE through a bunker aperture. 2-inch Mortars were in short supply until well into 1944 and it wasn't unusual for there to be only one per company – I know of one unit that got it's 2-inch mortars by re-capturing them from the INA (who had been issued with weapons captured from the British in 1942)!

Early in the war, platoons could have four sections and were very short of LMGs (the LMG in question often being the Vickers-Berthier, rather than the Bren).

There was a bewildering array of 'local variations' on battalion organisation – particularly with regard to support platoons – and it was often the case that every division had its own subtle differences.

I've not come across a Support Company establishment in the Far East, though they probably did have them in the Med – I'll have to look that up.

In the Far East they usually had a Carrier Platoon, but this could sometimes be dismounted as a very Bren-heavy Recce Platoon or could be mounted in Jeeps. In some divisions, the dismounted Carrier Platoon was known as the Commando Platoon, but I've also found this name given to the Pioneer Platoon or an amalgamation of the two.

I've never come across a battalion Anti-Tank Platoon in the Far East, but I have found references to battalions transferring from the Med, converting their AT Platoons into Jeep and/or mule supply columns.

All battalions seem to have had a Mortar Platoon, regardless of formation or theatre.

In 1941/42 there was often a Battalion AA Platoon, with 4-6 LMGs on AA mounts. However, units often 'lost' the AA mounts. These were eventually disbanded.

The vulnerability of HQs and echelons brought about the need for Battalion HQ Escort Platoons. These were often created from disbanded AA Platoons.

I don't recall coming across references to Assault Pioneer Platoons, but the mysterious Commando Platoons appear to have taken on some of that role. Indian Engineer platoons were also often attached directly to infantry battalions in the assault pioneer role.

I've also found references to some battalions creating a Scout Platoon in addition to Carrier Platoon and/or Commando Platoon – mainly snipers and other sneaky types.

As you can probably tell, many units and formations were simply making it up as they went along – trying out new tactical ideas and constantly reorganising based on experience and lessons learned, as well as consolidating after suffering losses.

Clear as mud! :o)

Jemima Fawr Inactive Member08 Mar 2012 2:19 p.m. PST

Oh, and that's without even touching on the thorny subject of the segregation of sub-units by religion/ethnicity…

Jemima Fawr Inactive Member08 Mar 2012 2:30 p.m. PST

I forgot to mention MG Platoons – early in the war, some batalions had organic MG Platoon with 4x Vickers MMGs. One type of establishment even included an entire MMG Company. However, divisional MG Battalions eventually replaced these, but confusingly some divisions appear to have brought back organic battalion MG Platoons at various points in their history.

There's an excellent divisional history for 5th Indian Division here that you might be able to glean something from:


kustenjaeger08 Mar 2012 2:30 p.m. PST


Rifle battalions had lettered companies A-D. I'm not aware of exceptions but not impossible (as there were in British units).

Platoons were numbered throughout the battalion. British battalions had the rifle platoons numbered 7-18 (3 per company) with 1-6 being support platoons (1 Signals, 2 AA (later AT), 3 mortar, 4 carrier, 5 pioneer, 6 admin/MT eg WE II/1931/12 B/3). Not all Indian battalions would have all support platoons present depending on theatre and role.

In at least one Gurkha battalion the rifle platoons seem to have been numbered 1-12 (4/8 Gurkhas 1944-45 see p152 of A Child At Arms by Pat Davis).

Sections would be numbered 1-3 per rifle platoon. In memoirs they are usually referred to by the section commander's name.



Personal logo J Womack 94 Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2012 2:55 p.m. PST

I'm looking at 8th Army / North African units.

Personal logo J Womack 94 Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2012 2:59 p.m. PST

Thanks for the help, gents! I have a close enough grasp for my puroposes (labeling FOW stands).

Jemima Fawr Inactive Member08 Mar 2012 3:11 p.m. PST

Arse. :o)

Personal logo J Womack 94 Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2012 3:13 p.m. PST

That would be me. Usually followed by "-hole!"


Gary Kennedy Inactive Member09 Mar 2012 4:28 a.m. PST

I've never had the forutne to come across an Indian Army WE, just a couple of 'wiring diagrams' from the 1944 Indian version of the Infantry Battalion training manual. That gives some vague details but is for mixed animal and MT and pure MT units, so I suspect not relevant to North Africa. My instinct is they adopted the same modified WE as elsehwere in 8th Army, bringing in an Atk Pl with eight 2-or guns, and making a few other changes.

I did ask on another forum once about accounts of atk guns in Indian and South African units in 8th Army to get an idea if my feeling was right, but the replies drifted a long way from the original request, winding up with Stugs I think…


kustenjaeger09 Mar 2012 8:01 a.m. PST


I suspect that the Indian Army WE were retained in India after 1947. Which Indian government department has them I have no idea.

It is possible something can be gleaned from Armed Forces Headquarters material at the National Archives but I'd be surprised if this included formal WEs.



Gary Kennedy Inactive Member09 Mar 2012 2:04 p.m. PST

I've tried all those routes, unfortunately with no luck. It seems the British Library have some Indian Army WEs, but I lost the details of which file they 'might' be in. I did get as far as asking a couple of researchers to have a gander for me, but the first wanted as much for a recce as my entire budget, and the second sadly seemed to be taken ill and didn't reply to emails. I'm not convinced it would be third time lucky…


ravachol Inactive Member10 Mar 2012 2:28 p.m. PST

wondering if indian armu in burma had some cavalry units alike those seen in europe eastern front or in china .

As well as the kinds of changes uniforms and equimpents occured for the 8th army parts that were sent back in burma theater .

Would aswell be interested in the mentioned ethnics / religious sub-units and the level they appeared (team, squad , platoons , companies or battallion ?) and how much could have the ad-hoc commando formations being present in the same time as "scout" snipping units in a companie.

Jemima Fawr Inactive Member10 Mar 2012 4:41 p.m. PST

There was one. The 3rd Gwalior Lancers (an Indian States Forces unit belonging to one of the semi-independent Indian Princely States) had a Mechanised Wing and a Horsed Wing. The Horsed Wing was credited with detecting the flanking move on Cox's Bazaar during Operation 'Ha-Go' in the first weeks of 1944. However, that's about it. There were other Indian cavalry regiments in the CBI, but they were mechanised.

As for uniform changes; the entire British-Inian Army started the war in Khaki Drill for all tropical theatres, so troops in Burma/Malaya/Hong Kong circa 1942 looked very much like those in North Africa. However, Jungle Green rse to the ascendant during 1943 and by mid-1944 virtually all men in the CBI Theatre were dressed in various shades o Jungle Green. The Gurkha/Australian-style bush hat was also adopted in the theatre during 1943.

Re ethnic segregation; this came about as a direct result of the Indian Mutiny of 1857-59. Segregating units meant that religious needs (particularly dietary requirements) could be catered for as a group.

Some regiments were 100% of the same ethnicity/religion e.g. the 11th Sikhs and the Gurkha regiments. Some regiments had single-religion battalions (e.g. the 12th Frontier Force Regiment, which had Sikh-only battalions).

Other infantry and cavalry regiments were segregated by company. I'll dig up some examples later, but a Punjabi battalion, for example, might have a company of 'Punjabi Mussulmen' ('PMs' i.e. Muslims), two companies of Sikhs and a company of 'Mahrattas' (i.e. Hindus).

Infantry battalions an cavalry regiments were never segregated at anything below company level. However, supporting corps such as Indian Engineers, could be segregated at platoon level. or example, I know of one company of the Bombay Sappers and Miners (Indian Engineers) that had a platoon each of PMs, Mahrattas and Sikhs, with each platoon attached to a Gurkha battalion! That must have led to some interesting language issues… :o)

The term 'Commando' was defnitely over-used in the Far East and didn't necessarily refer to pukka Commandos, as trained in Achnarcarry! The Chindits called their assault pioneer platoons 'Commandos', while some regular infantry batalions used it to describe snipers, assault pioneer or dismounted carrier platoons. It didn't mean that they were actually Commandos in the proper sense.

There was however, the 3rd Special Service/Commando Brigade in the CBI Theatre. This brigade engaged in raiding and assault operations along the Arakan coast, but also provided small detachments to the formations inland, to provide a long-range recce and raiding capability.

Jemima Fawr Inactive Member10 Mar 2012 4:45 p.m. PST

There are some Indian battalio orbats here, showing ethnicity of companies:

PDF link

PDF link

kustenjaeger10 Mar 2012 5:11 p.m. PST


The light brigade recon battalions in the Indian light division TO&E contained mounted infantry companies (source: Kirby Vol III p461). I'm not sure of their operational use which in any case was not in a cavalry role. Indian cavalry units in Burma were mechanised.

Former 8th Army units arriving in Burma were IIRC restricted to the two Stuart tank equipped units that arrived in Rangoon during the retreat from Burma. The vehicles seem to have been painted green on voyage. Normal khaki drill tropical dress was worn by all ranks until jungle green appeared iin 1943.

Generally caste/ethnic divides were accommodated by being in separate battalions or in some cases companies.

Ignoring the Special Service Force (Chindits), infantry battalions in various theatres could organise scout platoons at the CO's option. British (not sure about Indian) units had snipers initially attached to each rifle company but then operationally under the control of the battalion intelligence officer.



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