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Remembered Today:

Why the Indian Corps was withdrawn from France.


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Byron Farwell in his, "Armies of the Raj", suggests it was due the hundreds of self-inflicted wounds in the Indian regiments, even in those composed of the so-called "martial races". In effect that the Indian troops simply could not stomach the conditions in the trenches

Not having read 'The Indian Corps in France", I don't know what reasons are given there.

Can anyone shed some light on this?

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Gobs of reasons, some of these being:

1. Lack of trained officers/NCO's and replacements

2. Language problems, officers, with those that did serve as replacements

3. Many officers, instead of being with their regiments, were kept in England to officer new formations

4. Proper rationing

5. Unclimatatized

6. Poor arty support due to lack of arty pieces. Army was equipped to fight on the NW Frontier, not Europe

Doubtless others will add even more.



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Main one was reinforcements: the Indian Army was supplying forces in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Gallipoli and Africa (amongst other theatres), and keeping a small force (only 2 Infantry Divisions) was exceptionally difficult - the reinforcement system of the IA had, frankly, just about collapsed.

Language problems were an issue, but not as big as thought: the IA reinforced officers by using the IA Reserve of Officers - often teachers, civil servants,, etc, who had a firm grasp of the languages necessary. In IA battalions, the number of British Officers was relatively low in fact.

Artillery wasn't an issue: true, the Indian Army had only mountain guns (a throwback to the Mutiny), but the RFA had supplied full artillery compliment to the 2 divisions.

Rationing, yes, could be an issue, but as the contingent was quite small, not as bad as it might have been.

The point about officers being used for the New Armies is valid -to a point. The battalions making up the Indian Corps had come out from India; only officers at home on leave (can't remember the length of time allowed, but it was something like 6 months after 4 years' service) were commandeered - as these were being 'covered' by the regiment, then the loss of these officers wasn't a sudden shock - they weren't expected to be with their regiments (if you see what I mean).

Bluntly, by late 1915 - they weren't needed. the Indian Corps had stepped into the breech in late '14 - magnificently - but after a year, the problems (many outlined by DrB) actually were less than they had been earlier in '15. The fact was that the TF and K Armies had come along, and with pushing 50 British and Empire divisions on the Western front, as Corps of 2 divisions made little difference, but would have an effect on the smaller 'sideshow' campaigns.

Remember that the Indian Cavalry Divisions stayed in France until 1918 (I think - certainly late '17), so the rationing/offcier/reinforcement problems cannot have been insurmountable.

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Get Sepoys In The Trenches, Gordon Corrigan, some of his work has been disparaged here but this is excellent.

Totally agree with that, Paul.

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Remember that the Indian Cavalry Divisions stayed in France until 1918 (I think - certainly late '17)....

Given the conditions, and the shortage of opportunity for cavalry in a pure cavalry role on the Western Front, wouldn't the Indian cavalry have been better employed in the Middle East?


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Probably, Mick...probably. But don't forget the break-through conspiracy! ;)

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It is extremely unlikely that deployment of the Indian cavalry units to the Middle East would have been any more productive. Mounted units were highly dependent on water supplies. In Mesopotamia, the flanks were often 'open' as the Anglo-Indian forces moved up the rivers. The cavalry could not exploit this tactical opportunity, however, despite numerous attempts to do so. By the time the horses had got onto the flanks, the lack of water severely restricted any attempts at exploitation. Forage was also hard to come by.

The situation was no less problematic in Egypt and Palestine. The Aussie Walers did very well, often going without water for long periods. Even so, the normal operating range of cavalry/light horsemen was not sufficient to allow for wide outflanking manoeuvres or deep penetration until Megiddo.


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