(Last Updated on : 04-09-2012)
The Presidency Armies in British India referred to the armed forces of the 3 Presidencies in British India
, which were under the administrative rule of the British East India Company
. Later the forces came under the control of the British Empire in India
. The Presidency Armies in British India were named after the 3 major British Presidencies, namely the Bengal Army in Bengal Presidency
, the Madras Army in Madras Presidency
and the Bombay Army in Bombay Presidency
. In the beginning, only Europeans served as commissioned or non-commissioned officers. Later the Indian Army
units were stationed to Rangoon in the east and to Sind in the west from Peshawar in the north. The Presidency Army was involved in 4 Mysore
wars, which culminated in the year 1799; the 3 great Maratha wars from 1761 to 1819; and the 3 wars against the Sikhs during the 1840s.
Like the Presidencies in British India, the Presidency Armies in British India belonged to the British East India Company
until the Great Revolt of 1857, also known as Sepoy Mutiny
. Later the British Crown seized control over the British East India Company and the three Presidency Armies in British India. In the year 1895, the 3 separate presidency armies were amalgamated into the united British Indian Army.
Origin of Presidency Armies in British India
The British Indian Army and the later Army of independent India originated from the Presidency Armies in British India which predated them. The initial entirely Indian troops employed by the British administration were primarily watchmen who were garrisoned in each of the British Indian Presidencies in order to protect their trading stations. All of the units were placed under one Commander-in-Chief, Major General Stringer Lawrence in 1748. The British East India Company started to maintain armed forces at each of the 3 Presidencies in British India, which were its main stations, at Calcutta (now Kolkata
) in Bengal Province, Bombay Province and Madras Province, since the mid-18th century.
The Bengal Army, Bombay Army and Madras Army were rather distinctive, and each unit comprised its own Regiments and cadre of European officers. All of the 3 units included European regiments, where both the officers and military personnel were Europeans. The armies of the 3 presidencies also contained large number of native regiments, where although the officers were Europeans, but the other ranks were held by Indians. The armies included Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery regiments. After the mid-18th century, the British Empire started to discharge regiments of the regular British Army to British dominated India, in order to reinforce the armies of the British East India Company. These troops were referred to as Royal regiments. The size of the united armies of Bengal Presidency, Madras Presidency and Bombay Presidency
By the year 1824, the size of the united armies of Bengal Presidency, Madras Presidency and Bombay Presidency was around 200,000 and consisted of about 16 European regiments and 170 sepoys.
Regimental Organisation of Presidency Armies in British India
In the year 1784, regular cavalry regiments were established. After the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, only 3 of these regiments survived. Moreover, under the Silladar system, guerrilla cavalry was established which was grounded on the native system of raising cavalry by Indian rulers of princely states of India
. These irregular cavalry regiments contained few British officers. Further more, the native artillery, sappers and miners were also established and developed. Later a regimental system on 2 battalion basis was inaugurated from the year 1796 to 1804. The volume of British officers was also increased up to 22 per battalion. This resulted in the reduced importance of indigenous officers.
The authority by the Regimental commander was unwarranted and aggravating to its battalions. Later in the year 1824, the system was regressed with the units forming into single battalion regiments with numbering as per their ranking of establishment.
Development of Presidency Armies in British India
After the Great Revolt of 1857 and the subsequent abolishment of the British East India Company, the European regiments were merged with the British Indian Army in the year 1860. The 3 separate Presidency Armies in British India thus sustained to exist. The European officers continued to be listed as members of the Bengal Army, Madras Army and Bombay Army. However, the Presidency Armies in British India started to be identified together as the British Indian Army. Moreover, the artillery was restricted to the British Indian Army after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. In the year 1895, the distinct Presidency Armies were finally abolished and an entirely united British Indian Army came into existence.
Operations of Presidency Armies in British India
The Presidency Armies in British India participated in several military operations throughout its existence. These are mentioned as follows-
* First Anglo Burmese War (1823 to 1826)
* Second Anglo Burmese War (1852 to 1853)
* Third Anglo Burmese War (1885 to 1886)
* First Anglo Sikh War (1845 to 1846)
* Second Anglo Sikh War (1848 to 1849)
* First Anglo Afghan War (1839 to 1842)
* Second Anglo Afghan War (1878 to 1881)
* First Opium War (1839 to 1843)
* Second Opium War (1856 to 1860)
* Expedition to Abyssinia (1867 to 1868)