This article will help you to find a British officer’s or Warrant Officers Indian Army Service record. Unfortunately, the service records of Indian Viceroy Commissioned Officers (jemadars, subadars etc.) have not survived to the present day. I have also written a guide to help you find a British officer’s First World World service record and other articles to help you research soldiers who served in the Indian Army:
- How to Find British Officer’s First World War Service Records
- Researching Soldiers who Served in the Indian Army
I also offer a First World War Soldier Research Service.
British Officer’s Indian Army Service Records
The surviving service records for British officers or warrant officers who served in the Indian Army can be found at the British Library in London. To view these documents you will need to register for a reader’s card, though I offer a copying service. You will either be given the original service record or a microfilm containing a copy which you can either email to yourself as a pdf file or print off. If the service record is only available as a microfilm order it to the Newsroom, not the Asia and Africa Reading Room as the microfilm readers in the Asia and Africa Reading Room are awful.
The majority of service records for officers who served in the First World War belong to soldiers who continued to serve in the Indian Army past 1930. Prior to this date, it was custom to hand officers their service records when they retired. The files contain a variety of official documents and will usually include multiple confidential reports, their service history and medal entitlement. I have found from my own research that you stand a good chance of finding a Warrant Officer’s (Sub-Conductor, Conductor etc.) service record.
If you are researching an officer who originally served in the British Army you must search the service records held at the National Archives (see below). If a British officer joined the Indian Army Reserve of Officers there may also be an application to join the Indian Army Reserve of Officers. Even if a service record no longer survives then there is a very high chance that at least one of an officer’s confidential reports have survived.
If you are researching an officer who joined the armed forces less than 85 years ago look at my guide to Researching WW2 Indian Army Service Records.
Searching the British Library’s India Office Catalogue
You must make sure you search the Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue, as the India Office collection is not included in the British Library’s main search catalogue. To start your search type in the full name of your officer. If the file has survived it should appear near the top of the search results with the officer’s surname first. Most officers are recorded by their full name but there are a handful listed by initial only. However, their unit and date of first commission is usually recorded so you should be able to work out if you have the correct soldier. Use the Indian Army List to work out when an officer was first commissioned. If you have no success try searching just the officer’s surname.
I offer a copying service for Indian Army service records which most files costing between £10 and £16.
Searching for an Officer’s Service Record at the National Archives
To look for an officer’s file at the National Archives, you will need to search two parts of the catalogue:
- WO 339 – Service records of officers who finished serving before 31 March 1922.
- WO 374- Records of officers given a Territorial Commission.
These service records were part of a supplementary series of files held on officers and the main files were destroyed during in 1940 during the Blitz. The records will usually contain official documents relating to a soldier’s service before they joined the Indian Army and possibly a copy of their original application for a commission. I have written a detailed step by step guide to finding officers service records at the British Library:
Captain Robert Frank Clothier, 13th Rajputs who was killed in action at Tanga, German East Africa on 3 November 1914. In common with other British Indian Army officers who died during the war, there is no service record for Clothier. However, his confidential reports have survived which offer a good insight into his career and personality. Clothier’s final confidential report from his commanding officer for 1913-14 is transcribed below:
Has worked very hard and given me entire satisfaction as Adjutant. Is energetic, keen and of active habits, has plenty of initiative and good knowledge of his work. His character has developed considerably of late and I think he would make a good staff officer. Not yet passed for promotion.