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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Training Indian Soldiers in the UK


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Soldiers of most of the major Allied nations who served on the Western Front spent time in the UK, either doing preparatory training or awaiting repatriation in 1919. In particular I'm aware of ANZAC, Canadian and American soldiers, with individual countries identified with particular parts of the country. But what about Indian troops?

Did many of them train in the UK? I stress the word "train", because I know that some were hospitalized here, witness the Chattri war memorial on the Downs near Brighton and several war graves at Brockenhurst.

(I'm prompted to ask after acquiring a postcard showing what appears to a mainly Indian class at Lark Hill. See the thread that I started yesterday, "Overseas cadets on gunnery course at Lark Hill 1917".)


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There's an account in The Times of October 2nd 1914 indicating that the first Indian troops arrived at Marseilles direct from the sub continent 'in an armada of transports' ( a 'score' is also mentioned) having travelled via the Indian Ocean, the Red sea & the Med (strangely it doesn't mention the Suez Canal!) without landing in the UK. Later it gives: 'Not the least extraordinary feature of this wonderful expeditionary force is that not only is it an army from another continent, but an army complete in every detail and ready to take its place in the firing line at a moment's notice'.

My understanding is - and doubtless I'll be corrected promptly if wrong - was that the IEF was needed (and in a position of readiness to do so) for immediate front line service in the early months of the war to fill the gaps while units of the BEF, not so far deployed, completed training and mobilization, and, once this stage of the war was over, Indian troops were then deployed in other theatres than Europe. On that basis, and from the above, it seems likely that the bulk of the IEF - certainly the first arrivals - didn't, unlike other Empire troops, train in the UK pre-deployment (specialist training, such as gunnery, excepted).

Awaiting others' comments with interest


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