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Indian Officers and Other Ranks

These pages provide guidance to family historians on how to use sources from the India Office Records such as occupational descriptions or types of documents (wills, pensions or ecclesiastical records for example).

The main sources are listed under the six headings below:

Lists of officers | Lists of Honours and Awards | Pensions and family information | War Services | Casualty Returns - World War I | Additional information on Indian soldiers and officers

Indian officers and soldiers made up the bulk of the East India Company's Army ever since it was established in the 1750s to protect and defend the Company's newly acquired territories. The ordinary Indian infantryman was called a sepoy, a cavalryman a sowar. Indian officers and NCOs held ranks which were different from their European counterparts, e.g. the rank of Jemadar was equivalent to the English Lieutenant, Havildar to Sergenat, Naik to Corporal etc. For a full list of the various ranks see the notes in the Glossary under Indian Commissioned Officers and Indian Non-Commissioned Officers. There are no records on recruitment, pay, leave and pensions equivalent to what exists for European personnel, and only a small handful of service files (for some King's Indian Commissioned Officers in World War II).

Lists of officers

  • From December 1831, the Madras Army List, [IOR: L/MIL/17/3] records the names of Subadar Majors of cavalry and infantry regiments.
  • From October 1876, the Bengal Army List gives the complete lists of the Indian officers of each regiment [IOR: L/MIL/17/2].
  • Same is true with the Madras Army list from Mar 1877 [IOR: L/MIL/17/3]
  • and the Bombay Army list from Jan 1877 [IOR: L/MIL/17/4].
  • All Indian officers are recorded in the quarterly Indian Army list 1889-1947.

Honours and Awards

Awards to Indian officers and other ranks are recorded in the various Army Lists:

Order of British India (officers only)

  • Bengal Army List, by regiment from Dec 1838 and separately from Jan 1864
  • Madras army List, from Jan 1842
  • Bombay Army List, from Apr 1851
  • Indian Army List, Oct 1889-Jul 1919
  • Indian Army List Supplements, Jan 1902-Jan 1942

Indian Order of Merit

  • Bengal Army List, from Mar 1883
  • Madras Army List, from Jan 1876
  • Bombay Army List from Jul 1890
  • Indian Army List Oct 1889-Jul 1919
  • Indian Army List Supplements Jan 1902-1942

Deeds of valour of the Indian Soldier which won the Indian Order of Merit during the period from 1837 to 1859, compiled P.P.Hypher (Simla, 1925)
[OIOC: T35367]

Indian Distinguished Service Medal

  • Indian Army List, Jan & Jul editions from Jul 1907 to Jul 1919
  • Indian Army List Supplements, Jan 1920-Jan 1931

Awards to Indian officers and other ranks which are not noted in the Army Lists may often be found in the Gazette of India [IOR: V/11], and in Indian Army General Orders [IOR: L/MIL/17/5]

Pensions and family information in the Accountant-General's Department Records

  • [IOR:L/AG/26/11/1] Pensions of Indian troops charged to the UK government 1834-87
  • [IOR:L/AG/26/11/2] Extraordinary pensions granted to Indian troops and their dependants 1902-11
  • [IOR: L/AG/26/17/1-2] Schedules of disability pensions awarded to Indian troops 1921-41, index: [IOR: L/AG/26/17/3]
  • [IOR: L/AG/26/17/4-8] Schedules of awards of pensions to dependants of Indian troops 1921-41, index [IOR: L/AG/26/17/9]
  • [IOR: L/AG/21/44/12-14] Payments of pensions to Indian soldiers in the Colonies/Dominions, 1907-1955.

War Services

War services of Indian officers are recorded in the January editions of the Indian Army List 1890-1919 and in the Indian Army List Supplements 1902-1942

Casualty Returns - World War I

The separate Casualty Appendices to the World War I War Diaries within series L/MIL/17/5/2421-4223 record the deaths of all Indian Army soldiers individually down to Sepoy/Sowar with background information on each soldier - casualty returns exist for all the theatres of war, i.e. France, East Africa, Egypt, Aden, Persia, except Mesopotamia.

Additional Information on Indian Soldiers and Officers

Types of information about Indian soldiers - retirements, pensions, courts martial, postings, promotions, native medical pupils:

  • L/MIL/17/2/290 Bengal Commander-in Chief General Orders 1841
  • L/MIL/17/3/421 Example of Madras C-in-C General Orders 1846
  • L/MIL/17/4/411 Example of Bombay Government and General Orders 1841


L/MIL/17/5/245 India Army Orders India 1903: Information about individual Indian soldiers on
pp.149 (meritorious service and long service and good conduct medals), 352-363 (musketry),
Nominal index at front (pp.41-45)

L/MIL/17/5/250 India Army Orders C-in-C India 1908: Information about individual Indian soldiers on pp.76-78, 89-90, and 429-456 (meritorious service and long service and good conduct medals), p.340 (individual award for shooting),
Nominal index at front (pp.49-59)

L/MIL/17/5/2333 Matters of interest to Indian soldiers and their families 1943