Madras Army

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

Madras Army
Active1757–1895 (as the Presidency of Madras Army of the Honourable East India Company)
1895–1908 (as the Madras Command of the British Indian Army)
Branch British Indian Army
Size47,000 (1876)[1]
Garrison/HQOotacamund, Nilgiris district

The presidency armies, like the presidencies themselves, belonged to the 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 British Indian Army.

Establishment and early history

The Madras Army of the Honourable East India Company came into being through the need to protect the Company's commercial interests. These were mostly untrained guards, with only some bearing arms. The French attack and capture of Madras in 1746 forced the British hand. In 1757, the British decided to raise well-trained military units to conduct operations, conquer territory, and force allegiance from local rulers.[2]

The loosely organised military units were later combined into battalions with Indian officers commanding local troops. One of the first major actions fought by these troops was in the battle of Wandiwash in 1760. The troops were highly praised for their steadiness under fire. Earlier a good part of the force was sent to Bengal under young Clive, who made history and a personal fortune after the Battle of Plassey.[3]

The Madras Army officers were in the early years very conscious of the soldiers' local customs, caste rituals, dress, and social hierarchy. Some leading landowners joined the Madras Army, one of whom is recorded as Mootoo (Muthu) Nayak from the nobility in Madura. As the army expanded and new officers came in, mostly from Company sources, the leadership style and care of the men changed for the worse. The most famous incident in the Madras Army was the Vellore mutiny. Looting was an organised activity among the East India Company officers. Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington, was in the Seringapatnam battle. In keeping with the times, he laid down the share of every officer and sepoy from the loot that was organised after Tipu was killed. The defeat of Hyder Ali and the death of Tipu with the most widespread looting of Seringapatnam rankled with Indians at all levels. After Tipu Sultan was killed, his two sons were held in British custody in Vellore Fort.[4] On the night of 10 July 1806 the sepoys of three Madrasi regiments garrisoning Vellore Fort mutinied, killing 129 British officers and soldiers. The rising, caused by a mixture of military and political grievances, was suppressed within hours by a force which included loyal Madras cavalry.[5]

In the 1830s the Madras Army was concerned with internal security and support for the civil administration. This was a multi-ethnic army in which the British officers were encouraged to learn and speak Asian languages. In 1832–33 superior discipline and training enabled the Madras Army put down a rebellion in the Visakhapatnam district.[6]

Under the British Raj

Post-1857 history

The Army of the Madras Presidency remained almost unaffected by the Indian Rebellion of 1857. By contrast with the larger Bengal Army where all but twelve (out of eighty-four) infantry and cavalry regiments either mutinied or were disbanded, all fifty-two regiments of Madras Native Infantry remained unaffected and passed into the new Indian Army when direct British Crown rule replaced that of the Honourable East India Company.[7] Four regiments of Madras Light Cavalry and the Madras Artillery batteries did however disappear in the post-1858 reorganisation of all three of the Presidency Armies. The Madras Fusiliers (a regiment of European infantry recruited by the East India Company for service in India) was transferred to the regular British Army.[8]

End of the separate Madras 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.[9] As an initial step 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).[10] In 1903 the separately numbered regiments of the Madras, Bombay and Bengal Armies were unified in a single organisational sequence and the presidency affiliations disappeared.[11]

Disbanding of Madras infantry regiments

While the Madras Army remained in existence as a separate entity until 1895, twelve of the Madras Native Infantry regiments were disbanded between 1862 and 1864. A further eight went in 1882, three between 1902 and 1904, two in 1907 and four in 1922. The remainder were disbanded between 1923 and 1933, leaving the highly regarded Madras Sappers and Miners as the only Madrasi unit in the Indian Army until a new Madras Regiment was raised in 1942, during World War II. Both of these regiments continue to exist in the modern Indian Army.[12]

The gradual phasing out of Madrasi recruitment for the Indian Army in the late 19th century, in favour of Sikhs, Rajputs, Dogras and Punjabi Mussalmans, was justified by General Sir Frederick Roberts on the grounds that long periods of peace and inactivity in Southern India had rendered the Madras infantry soldier inferior to the Martial Races of the North.[13] The military historians John Keegan and Philip Mason have however pointed out that under the "watertight" Presidency Army system, Madras regiments had little opportunity of active service on the North-West Frontier. As a result, the more ambitious and capable British officers of the Indian Army opted for service with Punjabi and other northern units and the overall efficiency of the Madras Army suffered accordingly.[14]


Madras Native Infantry

Madras European Infantry

Madras Light Cavalry



List of Commanders of the Fort St George garrison

Commanders included:[15]

  • Lieutenant Jermin (1640–49)
  • Lieutenant Richard Minors (1649–51)
  • Captain James Martin (1651–54)
  • Lieutenant Richard Minors (1654–55)
  • Sergeant Thomas Sutton (1655–58)
  • Captain Roger Middleton (1658–60)
  • Lieutenant William Hull (1660)
  • Captain Thomas Axtell (1661–64)
  • Lieutenant Francis Chuseman (1664–68)
  • Lieutenant Timothy Sutton (1668–73)
  • Captain Philip O' Neale (1673–80)
  • Captain James Bett (1680–92)
  • Captain Francis Seaton (1692–1707)
  • Captain Gabriel Poirier (1707–16)
  • Major John Roach (1716–19)
  • Captain Alexander Fullerton (1719–23)
  • Captain Alexander Sutherland (1723–24)
  • Major John Roach (1724–29)
  • Major David Wilson (1729–38)
  • Captain Peter Eckman (1738–43)
  • Major Charles Knipe (1743)
  • Captain Peter Eckman (1743–46)


Commanders-in-chief included:[16][17]
Commander-in-Chief, Madras Army

Commander-in-Chief, Madras Command

See also


  1. Raugh, p. 55
  2. Schmidt, p. 26
  3. "'Plassey', the pet tiger of the Royal Madras Fusiliers, 1870". National Army Museum. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  4. "Vellore Fort - Vellore, Tamil Nadu". Express Travel World. 11 August 2012. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  5. Philip Mason, pages 240-241, A Matter of Honour – an Account of the Indian Army, ISBN 0-333-41837-9
  6. Crowell, Lorenzo Mayo, Jr (1982). "The Madras Army in the Northern Circars, 1832–1833, Pacification and Professionalism". Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  7. Mason, p. 349
  8. "Medals of the Regiments: Royal Dublin Fuliliers". Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  9. Gaylor, John. Sons of John Company. The Indian & Pakistan Armies 1903-1991. p. 2. ISBN 0-946771-98-7.
  10. "Northern Command". Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  11. Gaylor, John. Sons of John Company. The Indian & Pakistan Armies 1903-1991. p. 3. ISBN 0-946771-98-7.
  12. Keegan, p. 310
  13. Creese, Michael. Swords Trembling in their Scabbards. The Changing Status of Indian Officers in the Indian Army 1757-1947. pp. 40–41. ISBN 9-781909-982819.
  14. Mason, pp. 345-350
  15. Love, Henry Davidson (2006). Indian Records Series Vestiges of Old Madras. Asian Educational Services, India. p. 546. ISBN 978-8120603202.
  16. The India List and India Office List. p. 123. Retrieved 7 June 2014.
  17. Love, Henry Davidson (2006). Indian Records Series Vestiges of Old Madras. Asian Educational Services, India. p. 548. ISBN 978-8120603202.
  18. "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times (36917). London. 5 November 1902. p. 11.


This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.