This guide will explain what an Indian Army List is and how to use the volumes to research a British or Indian officer who served in the Indian Army. If you are researching a British Indian Army officer you should also look at my guide to finding British Indian Army officers’ service records. I’ve also created a series of articles on researching those who served in the British Army:
I also offer a Second World War Soldier Research Service.
The Indian Army List
The Indian Army List was an official publication published between 1889 and 1947 which recorded information regarding the services of British and Indian officers and British warrant officers of the Indian Army. This article looks at the Indian Army List from 1930 onwards and how it can help you research officers who served in the Second World War. I have written a separate guide to using the Indian Army List prior to 1930 on my First World War website: Researching a First World War Officer Using the Indian Army List. Between 1930 and 1947 the frequency the Indian Army List was published varied:
- 1930 and 1931: The Indian Army List was published quarterly with a January, April, July and October edition.
- 1932 and 1934: The Indian Army List was published biannually with an April and October edition.
- 1935 and 1941: The Indian Army List was published quarterly with a January, April, July and October edition.
- 1942 and 1946: The Indian Army List was published biannually.
- 1947: August 1947 edition. This was a special issue and the last Indian Army List.
Where can I Find Indian Army Lists?
A handful of Indian Army Lists from the period between 1930 and 1947 have been digitized and can be downloaded for free from archive.org. The link below will take you to the website with the search set to “Indian Army List”. Add your year after “Indian Army List” to see if the volume is available.
If the volumes you need are not online, then the best place to view them is at the British Library in London. There are bookcases holding the Indian Army Lists on open access in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room, though you will need a reader’s card to gain access. While the British Library has a complete set of Indian Army Lists not all of them are on open access so you may need to order the lists from the catalogue. There are 219 volumes in total and their catalogue references run from IOR/L/MIL/17/5/1 to IOR/L/MIL/17/5/219. There are also Indian Army Lists on open access at the National Archives and you don’t need a reader’s ticket to view them. However, the National Archives does not have a complete set and there are large gaps in the volumes available. The photograph below shows a section of the Indian Army Lists on open access in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room. All the volumes have been bound and are far easier to use when compared to the National Archives’ collection which is falling apart and nowhere near as comprehensive.
What Information does an Indian Army List contain?
The Indian Army List contains a vast amount of information regarding the services of British and Indian officers of the Indian Army. A combination of the following information will be recorded:
- Officer’s full name
- Date of commission
- Date of promotion
- Post-nominal letters for a gallantry award or honour
- Remarks column
- The regiment or corps the officer was serving with, though their exact unit may not be shown
Below is an extract from the January 1941 Indian Army List showing the layout of the lists during the Second World War. There’s a lot of military jargon in the pages and I’ve written a guide to help you: Second World War Abbreviations and Acronyms.
Supplement to the Indian Army List
In addition to the quarterly Indian Army List, a supplement was produced each year in January which carried information not found in the main issues. These supplements contain a wide array of important information but it is the war service statements which will be of most interest. These statements record where and when an officer served in a theatre of war as well as any decorations awarded, mentioned in despatches along with the London Gazette issue, whether they were wounded, etc. The contents of the Indian Army List Supplements will vary slightly depending on the year but they will usually contain the following information:
- Special Lists: Officers who have attended the Imperial Defence College, passed the Course of Instruction, London School of Economics, Ordnance Officer’s Course or Gunnery Course. Name only.
- List of Staff College Graduates now Serving: Name only.
- Supernumerary List – Date of transfer and which department (Political, Civil etc.)
- Non-Effective List – Medical Services – Date of rank and date of retirement.
- Non-Effective List – Recording date of birth, first commission, date of rank and retirement.
- Indian Officers Holding Honorary Rank in the Army: Date of Rank and Remarks
- Retired Indian Officers Holding Honorary British Rank – Date of Rank.
- List of officers who have been awarded the Victoria Cross, Military Cross, Order of British India. Name and date of the award, or the date the award was gazetted in the London Gazette.
- List of officers who have been awarded the Indian Order of Merit: Corps, Name and rank, in what rank admitted, date of admission to class and authority.
- War Services of the British and Indian Officers, Army of India Reserve of Officers, Auxiliary Force. Below are two typical examples of the type of information recorded on war service statements.