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Going Over The Top: The Indian Army

Death's Companion

General Ugg Apologist.
#2
Interesting read as always David.

However I do think it could have had a bit more of a general overview. I know the choice to focus on individuals and the human side was intentional but the Indian Army's role is so often neglected that some exploration of its role and achievements beyond its size would have been wonderful. That said the human side is horrifically under explored in most histories I've read so I can totally appreciate why you focused on that rather than retread old ground.
 

SenatorChickpea

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#3
I rather enjoyed that dry little note on George V's approval of the marriage.

That note on the Princely colonel though- I wasn't aware that Indians were allowed to serve in such senior ranks. Was that because the regiment was technically from a Princely (ie, allied) State rather than the Indian Army?
 

David Flin

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#4
That note on the Princely colonel though- I wasn't aware that Indians were allowed to serve in such senior ranks. Was that because the regiment was technically from a Princely (ie, allied) State rather than the Indian Army?
There weren't many, but they were around. John Masters, in Bugles and a Tiger, in which he describes life in a Gurkha regiment between the wars, talks about Indian officers and their standing in comparison to British officers.

In the Indian Army generally, I'm not sure if there's a difference between units drawn from Princely states or not. Indian officers were a thing, and some achieved quite high-rank.
 

David Flin

A home of love and laughter.
#5
However I do think it could have had a bit more of a general overview. I know the choice to focus on individuals and the human side was intentional but the Indian Army's role is so often neglected that some exploration of its role and achievements beyond its size would have been wonderful. That said the human side is horrifically under explored in most histories I've read so I can totally appreciate why you focused on that rather than retread old ground.
The simple answer is space. Space, for articles like this, is the final frontier. It's a personal quirk of mine (for good or ill) that I like to look at the individuals involved rather more than the big picture. That said, a look at what the various operations of the Indian Army (and, indeed, other operations) would be worth while.

For good or ill, I've tended to assume that it's relatively easy for people to find out what happened at Palestine in 1918, or wherever; it's harder to find out the stories of individuals. My collection of memoirs is sufficiently large that I suspect it generates its own gravitational field.
 

Death's Companion

General Ugg Apologist.
#6
The simple answer is space. Space, for articles like this, is the final frontier. It's a personal quirk of mine (for good or ill) that I like to look at the individuals involved rather more than the big picture. That said, a look at what the various operations of the Indian Army (and, indeed, other operations) would be worth while.

For good or ill, I've tended to assume that it's relatively easy for people to find out what happened at Palestine in 1918, or wherever; it's harder to find out the stories of individuals. My collection of memoirs is sufficiently large that I suspect it generates its own gravitational field.
I admite I'm vaguely aware of it but never been particularly interested in researching it. Like many I think I fall prey to finding the European Theater exceptionally interesting and everything else just...less. In fairness as you noted this is a view well in keeping with a portion of the people who actually organised the fighting of the war in question and a lot of those who wrote about it afterwards.


I do appreciate learning of the individuals, I was just a bit excited because I know its a hole in my knowledge so I was hoping for the curtain to briefly part on something that I've never bothered to look into myself but doubtless has a lot to be said for it.
 

David Flin

A home of love and laughter.
#7
I do appreciate learning of the individuals, I was just a bit excited because I know its a hole in my knowledge so I was hoping for the curtain to briefly part on something that I've never bothered to look into myself but doubtless has a lot to be said for it.
No worries. I'll add it to the list of things to cover.

My list is reaching the length where the series will last longer than the War.
 

David Flin

A home of love and laughter.
#9
Excellent article. I'm intrigued to learn that a soldier could change caste - or have I misunderstood? I always thought caste was unchangeable and fixed.
It's complicated, and my understanding is very incomplete. I'm sure there's someone who can give a better answer.

However, my understanding is that the British were happy to take suitable recruits, and didn't worry too much about the details of caste. Once the individual was a soldier, then they were of the warrior caste. It seems unlikely (to judge by evidence of non-British units in the region) that someone of low caste would be accepted as a soldier, so the situation didn't arise. There's also the question as to how much this raising of caste was accepted in the places where they had been known before. John Masters references soldiers retiring to somewhere new, so I'm fairly sure it gets complicated.
 

Redolegna

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#10
Once again, one must marvel at the charming example that percolated from top to bottom in the German army with the attitude of Wilhelm.

I always thought caste was unchangeable and fixed.
I'm by no means an expert but I think that only started to hold true once the British started to systematise their rule and the joys of post-Enlightenment 19th century classification were spread around.

Witness also the abrupt shift in some ethnicities from 'warrior races' to not-so after the Mutiny, depending on whether the ethnicity had fought alongside the British or not.
 

David Flin

A home of love and laughter.
#11
Once again, one must marvel at the charming example that percolated from top to bottom in the German army with the attitude of Wilhelm.
I must admit, the more I dig into the German side of things, the clearer it becomes that the racial theories that arose later in Germany were a development of attitudes that already had a foothold.

It's certainly something that should be borne in mind when writing "Germany wins WWI" timelines.
 

Artaxerxes

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#12
I rather enjoyed that dry little note on George V's approval of the marriage.

That note on the Princely colonel though- I wasn't aware that Indians were allowed to serve in such senior ranks. Was that because the regiment was technically from a Princely (ie, allied) State rather than the Indian Army?
Royalty/wealth and the right school background could take you quite far, regardless of race iirc
 

Redolegna

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#13
I must admit, the more I dig into the German side of things, the clearer it becomes that the racial theories that arose later in Germany were a development of attitudes that already had a foothold.

It's certainly something that should be borne in mind when writing "Germany wins WWI" timelines.
Quite.

I once had to read a violent screed discussing 'the right of peoples to exist' won essentially by dominating others. Except it was in a book by a well-respected professor. It was utterly horrifying. The French far-right could produce horrible things, but I don't think I've ever seen stooping so low, even from Déroulède or Maurras.
 

David Flin

A home of love and laughter.
#14
Royalty/wealth and the right school background could take you quite far, regardless of race iirc
Well, it was a bit broader than that. To take just two examples from dozens:

Ajit Rudra, for example, was the son of an educationalist; he had a university education from St Stephen's College, Delhi, and went on to the University of Cambridge. WW1 broke out, and although he didn't qualify as an officer, he enlisted in the British Army (not the Indian Army) as a private, fought at Mons, and was part of the Royal Fusiliers during the Somme. He and 500 chaps of the Fusiliers went forward, and in due course, he and 80 survivors held the objective. He was the senior man present, took command. On return, he was offered a commission, which he declined, because he wanted to serve in the Indian Army. At the end of the war, he joined the Indian Army, was commissioned, fought on the North West Frontier, and ended up as Lieutenant Colonel come the start of WW2. He rose to Brigadier during WW2, and then, come Independence, he transferred yet again to the Indian Army, and rose eventually to Major General.

Or CB Ponnappa, who started as a KCIO (King Commissioned Indian Officer), with no details on his family readily available. Educated at St Aloysius in Mangalore, and rose to the rank of Brigadier.

Education was pretty much essential to progress beyond junior officer level, but that applied across the board wherever one came from. Royalty/wealth certainly helps, but that was (and is) true regardless of whether one hails from Annandale, Scotland or Annandale, India.
 

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#15
Excellent article. I'm intrigued to learn that a soldier could change caste - or have I misunderstood? I always thought caste was unchangeable and fixed.
It depends on a whole lot of factors. Caste has overall grown more fixed in India and today it’s been compared to ethnic groups especially in places like Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, but historically there’s been the example of the Jats of much of northern India who have had an often variable placement in the caste system dependent on time period. Another example of variable caste is the Marathas - they originated in the armies of the Deccan sultanate and they were considered shudras (worker caste), but the founder of the Maratha Empire, Shivaji, claimed lineage from the Sisodia Rajputs which allowed the Marathas to be considered kshatriyas (warrior caste). But nevertheless many Brahmins disputed this claim and in the nineteenth century Britain stressed that Marathas were shudras while excluding them from their lists of “martial races”. Furthermore, Shahu II, the Maratha ruler of the princely state of Kolhapur was an anti-casteism ruler who allied himself with lower castes and proclaimed that they too were Marathas - today he’s a hero to lower-castes even beyond Maharashtra. By the modern day Marathas have vast political power in Maharashtra and as a result you can expect they’re considered kshatriyas.