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"How many Europeans in an Indian foot or cavalry regiment?" Topic


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Au pas de Charge14 Jan 2022 11:29 a.m. PST

Concerning the Indian units from the Second Afghan war to about 1900, what ranks would be (or could be) filled by Europeans vs strictly Indian/Afghan natives?

nnascati Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2022 11:43 a.m. PST

If you are talking about standard TSATF units, I'd say in a twenty figure foot unit, the officer and NCO would be white, unless you wanted a heroic Indian NCO. In a twelve figure cavalry unit, I'd say just the officer.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2022 12:47 p.m. PST

You don't need any white officers or NCOs if you don't want them as the Indians supplied both. At most, I would make the CO a white officer. Or have native platoon commanders and a white company commander.

raylev314 Jan 2022 6:35 p.m. PST

There were Indian company commanders and lieutenants so there would be no problem with Indians at the platoon/company level. I have Indian officers and NCOs in my British Indian Army TSATF units.

Au pas de Charge14 Jan 2022 7:06 p.m. PST

The TSATF info is appreciated but also, historically, how many of the officers an ranks were or could be European?

oldjarhead15 Jan 2022 9:29 a.m. PST

I have the same organization as @79pa. Indian officers and NCO at platoon/company level.

Cerdic16 Jan 2022 10:25 p.m. PST

It's not really my area, but I did read some stuff years ago including John Masters books. He, of course, was an officer in the Indian Army.

My impression is that maybe a third to a half of the officers were British, the rest Indian.

Mad Guru Supporting Member of TMP18 Jan 2022 4:34 p.m. PST

Prior to the Second Afghan War the number of British officers per Indian infantry or cavalry regiment was 7, with another 16 native officers. Experience during the Afghan war showed this created a rather "fragile" system that could suffer from just a few officer casualties, which by 1882 led the authorities to increase the number from 7 to 10. I should add that overall unit size was also increased -- in the case of infantry battalions from 712 to 832 -- but that's obviously less of an increase than going from 7 to 10.

RE: The Second Afghan War I should also mention that it was official policy at the start of wars and major campaigns for Indian regiments deemed to be in need of them to receive additional British officers who had been on furlough or doing the equivalent of Temporary Duty Assignment in civilian posts, or were serving in garrison regiments that were not going to the front. But even with those supplements, I think few if any Indian regiments would have had 10 or more British officers until after the changes made in 1882. So approximately twice as many native officers per unit as British ones, officially a bit more than twice as many.

Mad Guru Supporting Member of TMP18 Jan 2022 5:38 p.m. PST

EDIT: I was in the midst of adding to my above comment when the window for editing timed-out, so… I'm posting it here:

As the OP question was how many British in an overall regiment… if we use the convenient number of 700 officers and men all-told for an infantry battalion/regt., with an official complement of 7 British officers, you're looking at one out of a hundred or 1% of total roster of officers and men.

Mad Guru Supporting Member of TMP18 Jan 2022 7:18 p.m. PST

Should also have added that your educated guess was pretty on-target, Cedric! It's not my area of expertise but I wouldn't be surprised if the number of British officers per Indian regiment increased a bit more by John Masters' time.

Au pas de Charge19 Jan 2022 9:57 a.m. PST

@Mad Guru

Thanks for the Intel. Is there a good readable book of organizational facts and factoids for the British Colonial armies? Something that covers organization, ratios, recruiting, social interactions and contracts, supply, pay, weapons, equipment etc.?

I would imagine that there are plenty of books but I was hoping for an informative AND re-readable volume in the spirit of the great Philip J. Haythornthwaite…who seems to have actually written this book which I never bought:

The Colonial Wars Source Book

Mad Guru Supporting Member of TMP19 Jan 2022 5:36 p.m. PST

Au pas de Charge: Unfortunately I don't know of a book that focuses specifically on the "metrics" of the Anglo-Indian Army. I will recommend "The Indian Army, The Garrison of British Imperial India 1822-1922" by T.A. Heathcote (1974), which includes a good amount of info on the areas you list.

"The Indian Army" by Boris Mollo (1981) has a lot of great illustrations and detailed info on many regiments.

"Sword of the Raj, the British Army in India, 1747-1947" by Roger Beaumont (1977) has many extensive quotes from primary sources like officer journals and official reports, and though the title implies the book could be on the British Army in India, its main focus is the Anglo-Indian Army.

Die Engelsman15 Aug 2022 2:20 a.m. PST

Au Pas De Charge,

While not a detailed TOE, John Master's book, Bugles and A Tiger gives the best hints. It seems new subalterns fresh from commissioning would be posted either as company commanders (if they had already done a year with a "proper" battalion of the British Army) or platoon commanders. A company was likely to have a British commander and one British platoon commander. The 2 i/c and the other 2 platoon commanders would be Indian Viceroy Commissioned Officers who had come up through the ranks. The CO would be British and the battalion 2 i/c could either be British or Indian. Any technical appointments were more likely to be British due to their better technical education.
Thus it would seem about 50% of the officers and closer to 75% of the "frontline" officers were Indian. Assuming a total of about 30 officers per battalion that gives a total of 10 to 15 British (or King's Commissioned Officers) and 15 to 20 VCOs.
To my knowledge there weren't any British NCOs attached to Indian regiments.

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