Bombay Army

The Bombay Army was the army of the Bombay Presidency, one of the three presidencies of British India within the British Empire.

Bombay Army
Active1662–1895 (as the Bombay Army)
1895–1908 (as the Bombay Command of the Indian Army)
Branch Honourable East India Company
British Indian Army
Size2,000 (1779)[1]
44,000 (1876)[2]
Garrison/HQPune, Pune district

The presidency armies, like the presidencies themselves, belonged to the Honourable East India Company until the Government of India Act 1858 (passed in the aftermath of the Indian Rebellion of 1857) transferred all three presidencies to the direct authority of the British Crown.

In 1895 all three presidency armies were merged into the Indian Army.


18th century

In the early stages of HEIC rule Bombay was rated as a unhealthy and unprofitable region. Accordingly only a small garrison was maintained while emphasis was placed on creating a local navy (the "Bombay Marine") to control piracy. In 1742 the Bombay Army consisted of eight companies of European and Eurasian garrison troops, numbering 1,593 of all ranks.[3] These had evolved from independent companies dating back as far as 1668 when the Company took over control of the city of Bombay.[2][4]:14

The Mahars served their Army and Marine battalions as well. they were heavily recruited and constituted a Sixth to a quarter of the entire Bombay Army.[5]

By 1783 the Bombay Army had grown to 15,000 men, a force that was still significantly smaller than the other two Presidency armies. Recruitment from the 1750s on had however been expanded to include a majority of indigenous sepoys, initially employed as irregulars for particular campaigns. The first two regular sepoy battalions were raised in 1768, a third in 1760 and a fourth ten years later.[4]:16 The non-Indian (mostly British but also including Swiss and German mercenaries) element was organized in a single Bombay European Regiment.[6]

In 1796 the Bombay Native Infantry was reorganized into four regiments, each of two battalions. The Bombay Foot Artillery, which traced its history back nearly 50 years prior to this date, was brought up to six companies in strength in 1797.[7]

The Bombay Army was heavily involved in the First Maratha War and the defeat of Tipu Sultan of Mysore in 1799.[8]

19th century

Prior to the cessation of Company rule in 1861, the Bombay Army played a substantial role in campaigns against the Bani Bu Ali in 1821, in North-Western India, notably the 1st Afghan War of 1838-1842, the Sind War of 1843, the 2nd Sikh War of 1848-49 and the Persian War of 1856-57. The Bombay Army had acquired responsibility for garrisoning Aden, and The 1st Bombay European Regiment, The Bombay Marine Battalion and the 24th Bombay Native Infantry all saw service there in 1839.[9]

As as 1 January 1842 the Bombay Army's disposition was as follows:[10]

  • The Bombay Garrison
  • The Poona Division - Headquartered in Poona
  • The Northern Division - Headquartered in Ahmedabad
  • The Mhow Brigade
  • The Scinde Field Force
  • Forces in Lower Scinde
  • Forces Garrisoning the Asirgarh Fort
  • Forces in and around Karrack Island (Kharg Island), in the Persian Gulf
  • Forces in Aden.

The Bombay native infantry establishment continued to expand until it reached 26 regiments in 1845. Three Bombay Light Cavalry regiments were raised after 1817, plus a few troops of irregular horse. One brigade of Bombay Horse Artillery comprising both British and Indian personnel had been established by 1845, plus three battalions of foot artillery.[3]

The Indian Rebellion of 1857 was almost entirely confined to the Bengal Army. Of the thirty-two Bombay infantry regiments in existence at the time only two mutinied. After some initial uncertainty as to the loyalty of the remainder, it was deemed possible to send most of the British troops in the Presidency to Bengal, while the Bombay sepoy and sowar (cavalry) units held the southern districts of the North-West Frontier.[4]:92 Some Bombay units saw active service during the repression of the rebellion in Central India.[11]

The Bombay Presidency's Army was also supplemented by regular British Army Regiments and in 1842 one cavalry and four infantry regiments were deployed on the "Bombay Establishment".[12]

Post mutiny

Following the transfer of HEIC rule to that of the British government in 1861 the Bombay Army underwent a series of changes. These included the disbandment of three regiments of Bombay Native Infantry and the recruitment of replacement units from the Beluchi population. Originally created as irregular units, the three "Belooch" regiments in their red trousers were to remain a conspicuous part of the Bombay Army for the remainder of its separate existence.[13]

By 1864 the Bombay Army had been reorganised as follows:[14]

  • The Northern Division
  • The Poona Division
  • The Mhow Division
  • The Scinde Division

With brigades at Bombay, Belgaum, Neemuch, Poona, Ahmednuggur, Nusseerabad and Deesa; as well as a garrison in Aden. During the remainder of the 19th century Bombay Army units participated in the 1868 Expedition to Abyssinia, the Second Afghan War of 1878-80, and the Third Anglo-Burmese War of 1885-87.[15]

In 1895 the three separate Presidency Armies were abolished and the Army of India was divided into four commands, each commanded by a lieutenant-general. These comprised Madras (including Burma), Punjab (including the North West Frontier), Bengal and Bombay (including Aden).[16]

End of the separate Bombay Army

In 1895 the three separate Presidency Armies began a process of unification which was not to be concluded until the Kitchener reforms of eight years later.[17] As an initial step the Army of India was divided into four commands, each commanded by a lieutenant-general. These comprised Bombay (including Aden), Madras (including Burma), Punjab (including the North West Frontier) and Bengal.[16] In 1903 the separately numbered regiments of the Bombay, Madras and Bengal Armies were unified in a single organisational sequence and the presidency affiliations disappeared.[18]


Bombay Army units. In 1864 the following were recorded as being on the Bombay Army's order of battle[19] (locations at that time are shown):

Bombay Royal Artillery – HQ Kirkee

  • E Brigade of horse artillery (4 troops)
  • 18th and 21 Brigades of foot artillery (6 companies each)

Corps of Royal Engineers – HQ Poona

Corps of Sappers and Miners – HQ Poona:

  • 1st Company - Mhow
  • 2nd Company - Carwar
  • 3rd Company - Carwar
  • 4th Company - Aden
  • 5th Company - Aden.

Native Cavalry

  • 1st Light Cavalry (Lancers) – Deesa
  • 2nd Light Cavalry – Neemuch
  • 3rd Light Cavalry – Poona
  • Poona Horse – Seroor
  • 1st Regiment Scinde Horse – Jacobabad
  • 2nd Regiment Scinde Horse – Jacobabad
  • 3rd Regiment Scinde Horse – Jacobabad
  • Southern Mahratta Horse – Kulladghee

Native Infantry

  • 1st or Grenadier Native Infantry Regiment – Aden
  • 2nd or Grenadier Native Infantry Regiment – Belgaum
  • 3rd Native Infantry Regiment – Malligaum
  • 4th Native Infantry Regiment (Rifle Corps) – Bombay
  • 5th Light Infantry – Belgaum
  • 6th Native Infantry – Mhow
  • 7th Native Infantry – Poona
  • 8th Native Infantry – Neemuch
  • 9th Native Infantry – Dhoolia
  • 10th Native Infantry – Poona
  • 11th Native Infantry – Deesa
  • 12th Native Infantry – Surat
  • 13th Native Infantry – Ahmedabad
  • 14th Native Infantry – Ahmedabad
  • 15th Native Infantry – Mhow
  • 16th Native Infantry – Rajkota
  • 17th Native Infantry – Nusseerabad
  • 18th Native Infantry – Bhooj
  • 19th Native Infantry – Baroda
  • 20th Native Infantry – Ahmedabad
  • 21st Native Infantry or Marine Battalion – Bombay
  • 22nd Native Infantry – China
  • 23rd Native Infantry – Kurrachee
  • 24th Native Infantry – Dharwar
  • 25th Native Infantry – Bholapore
  • 26th Native Infantry – Kolapore
  • 27th Native Infantry or 1st Belooch Regiment – Hyderabad
  • 28th Native Infantry - Mehdipore
  • 29th Native Infantry or 2nd Belooch Regiment – China
  • 30th Native Infantry or Jacob’s Rifles – Jacobabad

Irregular, Police, Medical, Ordnance and Commissariat units are not listed separately.

The three European infantry regiments had been absorbed into the British Army as line infantry units.

Prestigious units of the Bombay Army include the 1st Bombay Grenadiers (now called The Grenadiers) raised in 1784 from grenadier companies of existing regiments, and the Maratha Light Infantry.

Commanders in Chief

Commanders-in-Chief included:[20]
Commander-in-Chief, Bombay Army

Commander-in-Chief, Bombay Command

See also


  1. Colonel Sir Reginald, Hennel CVO, DSO, OBE. A Famous Indian Regiment - 2/5th [Formerly the 105th Mahratta Light Infantry 1768-1923. Dehli: B.R Publishing Corp. pp. 32–33.
  2. Raugh, p. 55
  3. Reid, Stuart. Armies of the East India Company 1750-1850. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-84603-460-2.
  4. Mollo, Boris. The Indian Army. ISBN 0-7137-1074-8.
  5. Richard B., White. "The Mahar Movement's Military Component".
  6. Mainwaring, Arthur Edward; Wylly,, Harold Carmichael (1911). "Crown and Company: the historical records of the 2nd Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers, formerly the 1st Bombay European Regiment". A. L. Humphreys.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  7. Carman, WY. (1969). "Indian Army Uniforms - Artillery, Engineers and Infantry". London: Morgan-Grampton. p. 34
  8. "Storming of Seringapatam". British Battles. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  9. "British Military Forces at Seedaseer and Seringapatam in 1799". Macquarie University. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  10. "The Bombay Calendar and Almanac, for 1842". Courier Press. 1842. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  11. MacMunn, Lt. Gen. Sir George. The Armies of India. p. 101. ISBN 0-947554-02-5.
  12. "The Bombay Calendar and Almanac, for 1842". Courier Press. 1842. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  13. Carman, WY. (1969). "Indian Army Uniforms - Artillery, Engineers and Infantry". London: Morgan-Grampton. pp. 182-3
  14. "The India office and Burma office list 1864". Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  15. Roy, Kaushik (2011). "War, Culture and Society in Early Modern South Asia, 1740-1849". Routledge. p. 49. ISBN 978-0415587679.
  16. "Northern Command". Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  17. Gaylor, John. Sons of John Company. The Indian & Pakistan Armies 1903-1991. p. 2. ISBN 0-946771-98-7.
  18. Gaylor, John. Sons of John Company. The Indian & Pakistan Armies 1903-1991. p. 3. ISBN 0-946771-98-7.
  19. "The India office and Burma office list 1864". Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  20. The India List and India Office List


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