Madras Army

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Madras Army
Flag of the British East India Company (1801).svg
Active1757–1895 (as the Presidency of Madras Army of the East India Company)
1895–1908 (as the Madras Command of the British Indian Army)
BranchPresidency armies
TypeCommand
Size47,000 (1876)[1]
Garrison/HQOotacamund, Nilgiris district

The Madras Army was the army of the Presidency of Madras, one of the three presidencies of British India within the British Empire.

The presidency armies, like the presidencies themselves, belonged to the East India Company until the Government of India Act 1858 (passed in the aftermath of the Indian Rebellion of 1857) transferred all three presidencies to the direct authority of the British Crown.

In 1895 all three presidency armies were merged into the British Indian Army.

Establishment and early history[edit]

Left to right, the Madras Horse Artillery, the Madras Light Cavalry, the Madras Rifle Corps, the Madras Pioneers, the Madras Native Infantry, and the Madras Foot Artillery, c. 1830
A painting showing a sowar (cavalry equivalent of sepoy), 6th Madras Light Cavalry circa 1845.

The Madras Army of the Honourable East India Company came into being through the need to protect the Company's commercial interests. These were mostly untrained guards, with only some bearing arms. The French attack and capture of Madras in 1746 forced the British hand. In 1757, the East India Company decided to raise well-trained military units to conduct operations, conquer territory, and demand allegiance from local rulers.[2]

The loosely organised military units were later combined into battalions with Indian officers commanding local troops. One of the first major actions fought by these troops was the battle of Wandiwash in 1760. The troops were highly praised for their steadiness under fire. Earlier a good part of the force was sent to Bengal under young Clive, who made history and a personal fortune after the Battle of Plassey.[3]

The 1st Madras Pioneers, c. 1890
The Queen's Own Madras Sappers and Miners, 1896

The Madras Army officers were in the early years very conscious of the soldiers' local customs, caste rituals, dress, and social hierarchy. Some leading landowners joined the Madras Army, one of whom is recorded as Mootoo (Muthu) Nayak from the nobility in Madura. As the army expanded and new officers came in, mostly from Company sources, the leadership style and care of the men changed for the worse. The most famous incident in the Madras Army was the Vellore mutiny. After Tipu Sultan was killed, his two sons were held in British custody in Vellore Fort.[4] On the night of 10 July 1806 the sepoys of three Madrasi regiments garrisoning Vellore Fort mutinied, killing 129 British officers and soldiers. The rising, caused by a mixture of military and political grievances, was suppressed within hours by a force which included loyal Madras cavalry.[5]

In the 1830s the Madras Army was concerned with internal security and support for the civil administration. This was a multi-ethnic army in which the British officers were encouraged to learn and speak Asian languages. In 1832–33 superior discipline and training enabled the Madras Army to put down a rebellion in the Visakhapatnam district.[6]

Under the British Raj[edit]

Post-1857 history[edit]

The Army of the Madras Presidency remained almost unaffected by the Indian Rebellion of 1857. By contrast with the larger Bengal Army where all but twelve (out of eighty-four) infantry and cavalry regiments either mutinied or were disbanded, all fifty-two regiments of Madras Native Infantry remained loyal and passed into the new Indian Army when direct British Crown rule replaced that of the Honourable East India Company.[7] Four regiments of Madras Light Cavalry and the Madras Artillery batteries did however disappear in the post-1858 reorganisation of the Presidency Armies. The Madras Fusiliers (a regiment of European infantry recruited by the East India Company for service in India) was transferred to the regular British Army.[8]

End of the separate Madras Army[edit]

In 1895, the three separate Presidency Armies began a process of unification which was not to be concluded until the Kitchener reforms of eight years later.[9] As an initial step the Army of India was divided into four commands, each commanded by a lieutenant-general. These comprised Madras (including Burma), Punjab (including the North West Frontier), Bengal and Bombay (including Aden).[10] In 1903 the separately numbered regiments of the Madras, Bombay and Bengal Armies were unified in a single organisational sequence and the presidency affiliations disappeared.[11]

Disbanding of Madras infantry regiments[edit]

While the Madras Army remained in existence as a separate entity until 1895, twelve of the Madras Native Infantry regiments were disbanded between 1862 and 1864. A further eight went in 1882, three between 1902 and 1904, two in 1907 and four in 1922. The remainder were disbanded between 1923 and 1933, leaving the highly regarded Madras Sappers and Miners as the only Madrasi unit in the Indian Army until a new Madras Regiment was raised in 1942, during World War II. Both of these regiments continue to exist in the modern Indian Army.[12]

The gradual phasing out of Madrasi recruitment for the Indian Army in the late 19th century, in favour of Sikhs, Rajputs, Dogras and Punjabi Mussalmans, was justified by General Sir Frederick Roberts on the grounds that long periods of peace and inactivity in Southern India had rendered the Madras infantry soldier inferior to the Martial Races of the North.[13] The military historians John Keegan and Philip Mason have however pointed out that under the "watertight" Presidency Army system, Madras regiments had little opportunity of active service on the North-West Frontier. As a result, the more ambitious and capable British officers of the Indian Army opted for service with Punjabi and other northern units and the overall efficiency of the Madras Army suffered accordingly.[14]

Composition[edit]

Madras Native Infantry[edit]

Madras European Infantry[edit]

Madras Light Cavalry[edit]

Artillery[edit]

  • Madras Foot Artillery (effectively divided into the 'Natives' and 'Europeans', but not segregated into battalions.) The sub-units of the group included;[15]
    • 1st Battalion (Formed 1765)
      • A Company (raised as 1st) raised 1748, re-designated as 1st Battery, 17th Brigade Royal Artillery 19 February 1862
      • B Company (raised as 2nd) raised 1753, re-designated as 2nd Bty, 17th Bde, Royal Artillery 19 Feb 1862
      • C Company (raised as 3rd) raised 1753, re-designated as 3rd Bty, 17th Bde, Royal Artillery 19 Feb 1862
      • D Company (raised as 4th) raised 1767, re-designated as 4th Bty, 17th Bde, Royal Artillery 19 Feb 1862
      • E Company (raised as 10th) raised 1786, re-designated as B Co, 3rd Btn 1825
      • F Company raised 1800, re-designated as C Co, 2nd Btn 1825
      • G Company raised 1800, disbanded 1824
    • 2nd Battalion (formed 1786)
      • A Company (raised as 5th) raised 1786, re-designated as 1st Bty, 20th Bde, RA 19 February 1862
      • B Company (raised as 6th) raised 1778, re-designated as 2nd Bty, 20th Bde, RA 19 February 1862
      • C Company (raised as 7th) raised 1778, re-designated as 3rd Bty Bty, 20th Bde, RA 19 February 1862
      • D Company (raised as 8th) raised 1778, re-designated as 4th Bty, 20th Bde, RA 19 February 1862
      • E Company (raised as 9th) raised 1786, re-designated as D Co, 2nd Btn 1825
      • F Company raised 1799, re-designated as A Co, 2nd Btn 1825
      • G Company raised 1817, disbanded 1824
    • 3rd Battalion (formed 1825)
      • A Company joined 1825, re-designated as 1st Bty, 23rd Bde, RA 19 February 1862
      • B Company joined 1825, re-designated as 2nd Bty, 23rd Bde, RA 19 February 1862
      • C Company joined 1825, re-designated as 3rd Bty, 23rd Bde, RA 19 February 1862
      • D Company joined 1825, re-designated as 4th Bty, 23rd Bde, RA 19 February 1862
    • 4th Battalion (raised 1845)
      • A Company raised 1845, re-designated as 5th Bty, 17th Bde, RA 19 February 1862
      • B Company raised 1845, re-designated as 6th Bty, 17th Bde, RA 19 February 1862
      • C Company raised 1845, re-designated as 5th Bty, 20th Bde, RA 19 February 1862
      • D Company raised 1845, re-designated as 5th Bty, 23rd Bde, RA 19 February 1862
  • Madras Horse Artillery (all units transferred to Royal Artillery on 13 April 1864)[16]
    • A Troop (formed 1st Half-sqn then 'The Trp' then 1st Trp) formed in 1806, reformed in 1809 and 1810 then transferred as A Battery, 3rd Horse Artillery Brigade, RA
    • B Troop (formed as 2nd Troop) formed in 1810 then transferred as B Battery, 3rd Horse Artillery Brigade, RA
    • C Troop (formed as the Madras Rocket Troop, then Reserve Troop) formed in 1816, reformed in 1821 then transferred as C Battery, 3rd Horse Artillery Brigade, RA
    • D Troop formed in 1825 then transferred as D Battery, 3rd Horse Artillery Brigade, RA
    • E (Native) Troop formed in 1825, amalgamated with F Troop in 1860
    • F (Native) Troop formed in 1825, amalgamated with E Troop in 1860, disbanded 1866

Engineers[edit]

List of Commanders of the Fort St George garrison[edit]

Commanders included:[17]

  • Lieutenant Jermin (1640–49)
  • Lieutenant Richard Minors (1649–51)
  • Captain James Martin (1651–54)
  • Lieutenant Richard Minors (1654–55)
  • Sergeant Thomas Sutton (1655–58)
  • Captain Roger Middleton (1658–60)
  • Lieutenant William Hull (1660)
  • Captain Thomas Axtell (1661–64)
  • Lieutenant Francis Chuseman (1664–68)
  • Lieutenant Timothy Sutton (1668–73)
  • Captain Philip O' Neale (1673–80)
  • Captain James Bett (1680–92)
  • Captain Francis Seaton (1692–1707)
  • Captain Gabriel Poirier (1707–16)
  • Major John Roach (1716–19)
  • Captain Alexander Fullerton (1719–23)
  • Captain Alexander Sutherland (1723–24)
  • Major John Roach (1724–29)
  • Major David Wilson (1729–38)
  • Captain Peter Eckman (1738–43)
  • Major Charles Knipe (1743)
  • Captain Peter Eckman (1743–46)

Commanders-in-Chief[edit]

Commanders-in-chief included:[18][19]
Commander-in-Chief, Madras Army

Commander-in-Chief, Madras Command

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Raugh, p. 55
  2. ^ Schmidt, p. 26
  3. ^ "'Plassey', the pet tiger of the Royal Madras Fusiliers, 1870". National Army Museum. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  4. ^ "Vellore Fort – Vellore, Tamil Nadu". Express Travel World. 11 August 2012. Archived from the original on 2 December 2013. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  5. ^ Philip Mason, pages 240–241, A Matter of Honour – an Account of the Indian Army, ISBN 0-333-41837-9
  6. ^ Crowell, Lorenzo Mayo, Jr (1982). "The Madras Army in the Northern Circars, 1832–1833, Pacification and Professionalism". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  7. ^ Mason, p. 349
  8. ^ "Medals of the Regiments: Royal Dublin Fusiliers". Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  9. ^ Gaylor, John (1992). Sons of John Company. The Indian & Pakistan Armies 1903–1991. p. 2. ISBN 0-946771-98-7.
  10. ^ "Northern Command". Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  11. ^ Gaylor, John (1992). Sons of John Company. The Indian & Pakistan Armies 1903–1991. p. 3. ISBN 0-946771-98-7.
  12. ^ Keegan, p. 310
  13. ^ Creese, Michael (2015). Swords Trembling in their Scabbards. The Changing Status of Indian Officers in the Indian Army 1757–1947. pp. 40–41. ISBN 9-781909-982819.
  14. ^ Mason, pp. 345–350
  15. ^ Frederick 1984, pp. 457–8
  16. ^ Frederick 1984, p. 429
  17. ^ Love, Henry Davidson (2006). Indian Records Series Vestiges of Old Madras. Asian Educational Services, India. p. 546. ISBN 978-8120603202.
  18. ^ India Office, Great Britain (1819). The India List and India Office List. p. 123. Retrieved 7 June 2014.
  19. ^ Love, Henry Davidson (2006). Indian Records Series Vestiges of Old Madras. Asian Educational Services, India. p. 548. ISBN 978-8120603202.
  20. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times. No. 36917. London. 5 November 1902. p. 11.

Sources[edit]