King's Commissioned Indian Officer

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A King's commissioned Indian officer (KCIO) was an Indian officer of the British Indian Army who held a full King's commission after training at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in England, as opposed to the Indian commissioned officers (ICOs), who were trained at the Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun, and the Viceroy's commissioned officers (VCOs), who were treated in almost all respects as commissioned officers, but who only had authority over Indian troops. KCIOs were introduced in the early 20th century under the Indianisation process. They were equivalent in every way to the British officers holding a King's commission (known in India as King's commissioned officers, or KCOs). They held the same ranks, and unlike VCOs had authority over British troops. In fact, most KCIOs served on attachment to a British unit for a year or two early in their careers.


It was announced in 1918 that the King's Commission would be opened to Indians for whom ten places would be reserved in the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, UK, to be trained as officers of the Indian Army.[1] The first cadets from both Sandhurst and another defence college, Daly College in Indore, India, were given the King's Commission.[1] There was great disquiet amongst the British, who disliked the idea of serving under native officers; others felt that without good breeding, a public school education, and sufficient suitable training, Indians would not become good officers and would neither be able to lead nor be accepted by the native troops. There was a firm belief among British officers and the home government that only the British educational system could provide the right kind of officer, and that it could do it only from suitable stock.[2]

The Sandhurst training directly pitted young Indian men against young Europeans in conditions alien to their upbringing and experience, and not surprisingly the results were unsatisfactory. Of the first batch of 25 cadets admitted to Sandhurst, ten failed to meet the requisite standard, two died, two resigned, one was deprived of his commission, and ten passed. To remedy this, on 13 March 1922 the Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College was established for preparing native Indian cadets for entry to Sandhurst.

In the mean time, the first measure taken by the British government to "Indianise" the army - the Eight Unit Scheme of Indianisation - was announced on 17 February 1923. Indian proposals for faster induction were rejected, and equally unrealistic plans for indianisation over forty years, with restricted kinds of commission, were suggested. Finally, only eight units of the Indian Army were accepted by the British for Indianisation - only five infantry battalions out of 104, two cavalry regiments out of 21, and one pioneer battalion out of seven. They were to be reorganised on the British Army model, with King's Commissioned Indian Officers at every officer level and Indian Warrant Officers replacing Viceroy's Commissioned Officers.

Eight accepted units[edit]

The eight units selected were:[3][4]

The King's Commissioned Indian Officers[edit]

The first batch of KCIOs included: Commander-in-Chief Tripura Forces and Colonel Rana Jodha Jung Bahadur, Amar Singh, Major General A A Rudra, K A D Naoroji (grandson of Dadabhai Naoroji), Field Marshal K M Cariappa and C B Ponnappa.[5] Many officers who later held high rank in the post-independence Indian Army and Pakistan Army began their careers as KCIOs. Maj Gen Dinkarrao Appasaheb Surve Maratha Light Infantry, Gen Kodandera Madappa Cariappa, Hanmantrao Mohite, Gen Kodendera Subayya Thimayya, Lt Gen S. P. P. Thorat, Jai Singh, Maj Gen Harkirat Singh E-in-C, Lt Gen Moti Sagar, B. M. Kaul, Ishfakul Majid and Ayub Khan were a few of the Sandhurst-trained officers.


  1. ^ a b Marston, Daniel (2003). Phoenix from the Ashes: The Indian Army in the Burma Campaign. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 17. Retrieved 8 September 2014. 
  2. ^ Mason, Philip (1974). A matter of honour. London: Holt, Rhinehart & Winston. ISBN 0-03-012911-7. 
  3. ^ Khanduri, Chandra B. (2006). Thimayya: an amazing life. New Delhi: Knowledge World. p. 394. ISBN 978-81-87966-36-4. Retrieved 30 Jul 2010. 
  4. ^ We Were There. MOD website Archived 2008-10-02 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Barua, Pradeep (2003). Gentlemen of the Raj: The Indian Army Officer Corps, 1817-1949. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 47, 75. Retrieved 8 September 2014.