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Indian Volunteer Force


ddycher
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Can anyone recommend a good reference covering Volunteer Force units in India at the start of the Great War ? As the Indian equivalent of the British TF I am trying to get a sense of how they were mobilized and what war time service they saw in India and Overseas.

Regards

Dave

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Indian Volunteer Corps corrected to 30 June 1914

http://archive.org/stream/armylistjanvol21915grea#page/638/mode/2up

However, they weren't mobilised in the way the British TF was

The Volunteer Units which proceeded overseas were generally formed specifically for that purpose, although some/most of their members came from particular Volunteer regiments in India. There is generally not much documentation.

There were some Volunteers in East Africa, mentioned on the FIBIS Fibiwiki page East Africa (First World War), including some men from the North-Western Railway Volunteer Rifles

http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php/East_Africa_(First_World_War)

There were some Anglo Indian (mixed race) Volunteers in Mesopotamia, see the FIBIS Fibiwiki page First World War, section Anglo Indians

http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php/First_World_War#Anglo-Indians

The Volunteer Artillery Battery served in Mesopotamia

http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php/Volunteer_Artillery_Battery

25th Motor Machine Gun Battery (Calcutta Volunteers) was for a short time in Egypt before it was disbanded

http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php/25th_Motor_Machine_Gun_Battery_(Calcutta_Volunteers)

There were Volunteers from the Railway Battalions in Mesopotamia, but their role is not well documented.

Cheers

Maureen

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Dave

Greetings again.

They were not mobilized as a force because their role was Internal Security in India.

Only volunteers from the Volunteers were mobilized, often as individual reinforcements but in a few instances, as Maureen states, in newly formed and titled units.

I have attempted to explain the background to the Volunteer units that were sent to East Africa here:

http://www.westernfrontassociation.com/the-great-war/great-war-on-land/other-war-theatres/1072-indian-volunteers-in-the-great-war-east-african-campaign.html

Harry

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Maureen / Harry

Many thanks, very very helpful.

Interesting aspect this and one I have never looked at before. I am struggling to understand why the Indian Volunteer Force (IVF) was not mobilised for Internal Security work when Regular units of the Indian Army were sent overseas for Imperial Service. The IVF contained various arms which were similar to the original British Volunteer Force. Light Horse, Mounted Infantry and Infantry units should have been available. Perhaps it was, and I just lack the references, but from what I can see the IVF was not mobilized until the forming of the Indian Defence Force (IDF) in April 1917.

Not having the working knowledge of the IVF that I do with its British counterpart I waded through the Indian Volunteer Regulations of 1913 on the Digital Library of India. My best guess is that there were two root causes :

1. The Rifle Corps of the IVF does not seem to have gone through the Consolidation and Territorialization in the 1860's ~ 1880's that the British Volunteer Force did to become an effective Auxiliary Force. As such potentially they remained Corps or Companies rather than in most cases consolidated battalions. Most appear to have been at the sub-division or section level although Corps were accepted from Section, through Half Company (sub-division), Half Battalions (of 2, 3 and 4 Coys) and Battalions of greater than 6 Coys. This would have meant large numbers of small units wwithout an effective organization.

2, Even where battalions had been consolidated their limit of service was to within the civil district in which they had enrolled. ? It would appear cross referencing the 1913 Reg's that the limit of service was maintained. Very similar to the old militia rules in the UK, that stated no member could be forced to serve outside of the civil district in which he enrolled w/o his consent. In India this had been re-enforced as late as 1896 and again ratified in 1907. By the start of the war units did report through Divisional GOC's and IVF units were therefore available to be called out within the divisional area by the local commissioner. This does not seem to have happened and British units of the IVF were therefore not compulsorily mobilized until April 1917. ie. well after the advent of conscription in the UK. Even then to wide spread complaint. Upto this point they seem to have been utilized in a special constabulary role quelling small local disturbances.

Although I had not realised that some units did go on Imperial Service until the responses above, and from what you both say these were new units purposefully built, I have seen that IVF men were encouraged to attest in the Regular Forces from the onset of the war. I am not clear what this meant to the strength of the units remaining at home. I do have examples of IVF officers serving with the Devons (my area of interest) as well as Devon officers serving as Adjutants in IVF units later in the war. Interestingly members of the IVF who were home on leave were mobilized along with British Auxiliary Forces and found their way into the TF. This happened to an officer of the Simla Rifles in my case. Adjt's dont seem to have been assigned in India until after the forming of the IDF.

So why use green TF recruits for Internal Security work when there was trained companies at hand already in country ? The arriving TF troops required intensive initial training to bring them to competency levels. The Devons were not to reach efficiency status until April 1915 but had been employed on Internal Security work in the Punjab as early as January. Surely the use of the IVF units, with certified efficiency, would have made more sense. One also has to wonder why the limits of service were not repealed earlier as they were in the UK.

Case in hand I am still trying to get my head around which IVF units should have been available in the Punjab and what their establishments were when war was declared. Specifically I am looking at the Lahore Divisional Area and IVF units that would have reported through GOC 3rd (Lahore) Division pre-war.

Any thoughts you have on the above would be greatly appreciated.

Regards

Dave

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Dave

One big problem about mobilizing Indian Volunteer units for internal duties was the make-up of these units.

Many of these units, particularly those recruited from railway personnel, could not be mobilized for long without serious harm being caused to the economy.

My perception is that many units provided men for internal security duties on a voluntary or a 'rolling annual camp' basis, so that tasks could be adequately performed without important companies or plantation industries being seriously affected.

(I have mentioned one such unit, The Surma Valley Light Horse, here: http://www.kaiserscross.com/304501/525801.html ).

However those Volunteers that served overseas were understandably elitists, and during the post-war Volunteers Dinner in Bombay, all the non-volunteers for operational duties were de-bagged !)

Dave, the Indian Volunteers in the Great War need a book writing about them - can you do it?

Harry

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Would love to Harry but what I knew until a week ago I could have written on a beer mat.

I think you are dead right about the make up of the Corps. Have continued to plod through my ref's. There were 5 Corps active in the area I am interested in. All of them spread thin across a large area :

Punjab Light Horse (~ 200 men)

1st Punjab Volunteer Rifle Corps (~ 700 men)

Simla Rifle Volunteers (~ 400 men)

North Western Railway Volunteers (~ 1200 men)

East India Railway Volunteers (~ 100 men)

The split between British and Native garrisons is also interesting. As it the huge demarcation between Imperial Service and local troops. Local troops without exception appear to have been little more than an armed police force.

Regards

Dave

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Throughout most of India, apart from the major cities, there were relatively few English. Particularly in the mofussil (countryside), most of the very small number of English would join the Volunteer regiments. Those who belonged to the Volunteer Regiments usually held positions where they helped govern the country or run the economy. I agree completely with Harry's statement above that many of these units, particularly those recruited from railway personnel, could not be mobilized for long without serious harm being caused to the economy. Most Volunteers were more valuable in their civilian roles, as at this period, Indians generally had not been trained for senior roles. Volunteers in India who were not officers probably held much more responsible, higher status jobs, than men in the TF in Britain.

Cheers

Maureen

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Maureen / Harry

Thought the following from Heathcote's "The Indian Army" might be of interest :

"During World War 1 the Volunteers were embodied from time to time and took over garrison duties normallyt formed by Regulars.Coatal units especially were mobilized in the early part of the war....as the force was restricted to local service, and had not become a general purpose force like the British TF, itsunits could be deployed not where the C in C wanted but where its members had agreed to serve. Its major contribution to the war effort was probably in supplying men to the IARO...."

Re the IDF, he further states :

"Unlike the conscription system in the UK men were not required to serve overseas, nor were they called up for continuous training but could have been embodied for service anywhere in India."

Heathcote re-enforces Maureen statements that the men in the IVF held high ranking civilian positions and could ill be spared.

Getting there....

Dave

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  • 1 month later...

Dear Maureen, Dave and Harry,

I am very much in agreement with the aforegoing: especially regarding the Indian Volunteers vis-a-vis the IARO.

Sandes wrote in The Military Engineer in India:

India drained herself dry of young Royal Engineers and followed them by a flood of junior civil engineers of the Indian Army Reserve of Officers, whose services in every theatre of war were as conspicuous as they were valuable.

(The IARO had supplied over 5,300 officers to all branches of the Service by the end of the war.)

Kindest regards,

Kim.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Dear Maureen,

I was very pleased to see the news of the forthcoming publication (I have several Vol LS medals in groups in my collection), and immediately ordered a copy.

Another gap yet to be filled would be a similar publication about the Indian Volunteer Officers' Decoration: until now served by a slim Spink booklet by the late John Tamplin, who did trail-blazing work.

Kindest regards,

Kim.

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  • 5 years later...

All

 

trying to track down a copy of this. Given Tom Donovan Editions now defunct any ideas on how to do so ?

 

regards

Dave

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The book was stated to be a limited edition. It seems so limited I cannot see it mentioned in any UK library, (including the British Library which is supposed to be legal deposit) or in worldcat.org.

 

Is there any particular information you are trying to source?

Maureen

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Thanks Maureen

 

Likewise I am struggling to track it down. Our friend Kim has a copy and has said he will check for me. I am looking at details of the 1st PVR, especially any ref to Multan as I am still trying to determine which Company the detachment there was affiliated to. Should be A or B Coy from Lahore, E from Amritsar or K from Ferozepore but for the life of me I cant find a link.

 

Gent in question is one Lieut. Edward John Ryan. Ryan was a Deputy Commissary with the Supply and Transport Corps and simultaneously a Lieut. In the 1st PVR

 

Any pointers would be appreciated.

 

Regards

Dave

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A few miscellaneous facts  which probably won't help

 

This link c 1909 says there was a detachment of railway volunteers at Multan

http://dsal.uchicago.edu/reference/gazetteer/pager.html?objectid=DS405.1.I34_V18_043.gif

 

 C 1898 there was a section  at Mooltan of the 1st Punjab Volunteer Rifles https://archive.org/details/quarterlycivill00offigoog/page/n274/mode/1up but any officers mentioned were part of the North-Western Railway Volunteer Rifles, which seems to be based at Lahore.

 

If during WW1 there was still only a section of 1st Punjab Volunteer Rifles at Multan, it is more likely to be affiliated with Lahore?

Multan not mentioned in January 1917 Indian Army List

https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.284989/page/n411/mode/2up

https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.284989/page/n891/mode/2up Ryan mentioned page 683

 

Maureen

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Dear Dave,

I beamed you a personal message, but now have seen,540356509_RyanLtEJOct1914IAL.jpg.e38782f51c8b077ba684b72daa4695b1.jpg this naming Multan in connection with Lieut Edward John Ryan in the Oct 1914 IA List - for what it is worth?

Kindest regards,

Kim.

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Posted (edited)

Both

 

Many thanks for taking the time to do this.

 

Patching together the movements of the Volunteers at Multan (or even the Punjab as a whole) has proven fascinating. From the early days in my research when I first realised there had been an Auxiliary Force in India I have been intrigued by the equivalents of the Territorial Force and how the two interacted after the arrival of the TF in October 1914. My main focus remains the 5th Devons of the T.F. but their history in India with the 3rd Lahore Divisional Area is entwined with the men of the IVF. Lahore has proven somewhat easier to research but Multan has been alot more difficult. This is what I know so far :

 

1. The first Volunteers were first formed at Multan as H Coy of the 1st Punjab Volunteer Rifles (PVR) on 21st April 1877 under William Jones of the Scind, Punjab and Delhi Railway. Jones and William Dorton were the earliest Sub.-Lieut’s. Both from the Scind, Punjab and Delhi Railway.

2. On the forming of the 3rd Punjab Volunteer Rifles (the 2nd PVR was at Simla) in March 1880 H Coy (along with 5 other Coy’s of the 1st PVR were transferred to the 3rd PVR)

3. The 3rd PVR maintained a detachment in Multan.

4. In July 1890 the 1st PVR established a Reserve Coy with its HQ in Lahore. This Coy had a detachment in Multan.

5. In 1893 the 3rd PVR was renamed the North Western Railway Volunteer Rifles (NWRVR). D Company was at Multan & Montgomery.

6. In May 1912 the NWRVR was re-organised into 2x Bn’s and from this point on Multan was an out-station of the 2nd Bn headquartered at Karachi. 

7 (Edited). Previous thinking that the 1st PVR again officered a Coy at Multan pre-war now challenged. Edward Ryan does not appear on the Active list at Multan until around the time war was declared. He remains the only officer at Multan through the end of the year indicating at best the 1st PVR had a detachment there at the time. Now known that he was posted there on returning from leave early in the year but remained on the Supy list until the summer. He was promoted to Commissary at Multan in December. He was posted away from Multan ~April 1915 and ref's to the 1st PVR at Multan dry up at this point.

8 (Edited). There is no evidence in the Army Lists that the detachment at Multan was built up to Company strength. My previous ref's mix up the 1st PVR with the Multan & Montgomery Company of the North Western Railway Volunteers.

(Edited) As such my research has taken me back to the detachment of Reservists at Multan and the presence of the Supply & Transport Corps there at the start of the war. Today I am unable to track the Reserve Coy past 1910. The hole in my research shifting to the Reserve Coy and what the S&T Corps were doing at Multan in the first half of the Great War.

Maureen has set me off to an afternoon of cross referencing the Civil Lists I have on file. I had missed that thread. Many thanks Maureen. Will update if I find anything further.

(Edit. Cross referencing the Civil Lists is proving challenging. Will up date as I make sense of what I am reading).

Kim I have sent a PM back to your earlier message.

 

Again thank you both.

 

Regards

Dave

Edited by ddycher
Corrections in earlier assumptions
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