Indian Army Reserve of Officers Applications

This article looks at the “Applications for appointments to the Indian Army Reserve of Officers 1916-1918” held at the British Library in London. Another important resource for researching those who served in the Indian Army Reserve of Officers are five books also held at the British Library which list every officer appointed during the war and provide additional information on their background. This article is just one of a series of guides to help you research those who served in the Indian Army:

Indian Army Reserve of Officers Applications

In August 1914, the Indian Army Reserve of Officers (I.A.R.O.) had a strength of forty-seven men. By 1916, the I.A.R.O. had grown to 2,600 and when the Armistice was signed on 11 November 1918 to 4,500. Applications for soldiers wishing to be appointed to the I.A.R.O. between 1916 and 1918 are held at the British Library in London and can be viewed in their Asian and African Studies reading room. You will need a reader’s card to view the files which haven’t been digitized.

The applications will either be loose in A4 folders or bound into volumes. There will usually be at least twenty applications in each file. Each page will be foliated and the page number will match the number recorded in the officer’s catalogue entry. The series runs from IOR/L/MIL/9/552 to IOR/L/MIL/9/623. Each of the seventy-one catalogue references will contain a number of men recorded in the following way: Catalogue reference-┬ápage numbers – surname, forename, IARO, 1916-1918.

IOR/L/MIL/9/552/1-21: Murray, Philip Ernest IARO (1916-1918)

Murray’s application will be the first one in the file and it runs from page 1 to 21. Murray’s file is a lot longer than most applications for an appointment in the Indian Army Reserve of Officers. There are no applications in this series for men who applied prior to 1916. A good source of information for these early officers are the I.A.R.O. books on open access in the Asia and African Studies reading room. You will still need a reader’s ticket to access these books.

How to Search for an Indian Army Reserve of Officers Application

To conduct your search, click on the link below, type in your officer’s full name, followed by the letters IARO and click the magnifying glass. This will bring up a list of results. If you do not get a result, search their surname only, followed by IARO.

Search for Indian Army Reserve of Officers Applications

Once you have conducted your search, make sure you check to see if a service file is held at the British Library or National Archives. You may find duplicates of some of the I.A.R.O. application forms in an officer’s British Army service record at the National Archives. However, there will usually be new information in an application. Philip Murray has a service file at the National Archives as he was initially commissioned into the Connaught Rangers. See my articles on finding service files below:

What Information Will an Application Contain?

There can be a great variation when it comes to individual applications to join the I.A.R.O. both in the forms used and their length. Some applications will only be a couple of pages while others will run to over twenty. The application for Philip Murray is over twenty pages, as he deserted at South Africa, was sentenced to death and later reprieved. An application will contain at least some of the following information:

  • Correspondence between the applicant and the India Office. The files can contain the original letter asking for application papers.
  • Correspondence between the War Office and India Office. The date an officer sailed for India is usually recorded.
  • Biographical information including place and date of birth, address, next-of-kin etc.
  • Report of a medical board.
  • Character references.
  • Previous military service which can be very detailed if sent by the applicant. A typical entry reads ‘joined the ranks of 6th Battalion King’s Liverpool Regiment on 7 August 1914. Served overseas with this unit. Promoted corporal in 2nd line. Wounded 25 May 1915. After leaving hospital attached 3rd line until gazetted’.
  • Where an officer was educated.
  • Any special qualification for Indian service.

Most applications will contain Army Form W3530 or a variation and the questions asked are transcribed below to give you an idea of the type of information a file usually contains.

Army Form W3530

Particulars of an Officer holding a commission in the British Army who desires to be considered for appointment on probation for a commission in the Indian Army Reserve of Officers.

The candidate will carefully complete the following particulars and then forward this application to his Commanding Officer.

Name of candidate in full. Surname. Christian Names.

Unit to which he belongs.

Present rank, and date of first Commission.

Service in the Army before date of first Commission.

Date of birth.

Whether married.

Name in full and position in life of father, and whether of English, Scotch, or Irish family.

Name, relationship, and permanent address of next-of-kin.

The Branch of the service (Cavalry or Infantry) in which desirous of serving. If more than one branch is stated they should be placed in order of preference.

The unit (if any) to which desirous of being appointed.

Any special qualifications for Indian service, such as knowledge of Hindustani or other Indian languages, family connections with India, &c.

Particulars of Field Service (if any).

These questions are then followed by a candidate’s declaration regarding his health and a report of a medical board.