The Indian Army on the Western Front: India's Expeditionary Force to France and Belgium in the First World War, by George Morton-Jack
Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. x, 336. Notes, biblio., index. $99.00. ISBN:1107027462.
John Sepoy on the Western Front
During the Great War, elements of the
Indian Army fought on the Western Front with the British Expeditionary
Post-war accounts were, however,
not kind to the reputation of the Indian Army.
Often influenced by colonialist attitudes, these offered tales
of self inflicted wounds,
lack of courage
This book is a well researched and modern study of the role played by this professional force in the war.
served in France and Belgium, East Africa,
Mesopotamia, Egypt and Gallipoli. The first Indian Expeditionary Forces were made up of prewar personnel. On the eve of the war, the Indian Army had 190,500 "native" combat troops, plus 74,500 British troops. The Indian and British units served in the same divisions and brigades.
decade prior to the out break of
in 1914 saw
a number of reforms
by Lord Kitchener. Indian soldiers were issued a modern rifle and machineguns,
musketry standards were raised,
Indian units practiced infiltration and sniping at a high standard.
But if senior British officers, such as
, saw a
in which Indian troops would service outside the subcontinent
, the civilian leadership, that is the
Viceroy and India Office, thought otherwise. So war planswere developed without civilian authorities knowing the details.
When war came, the Indian Army sent two infantry division and two cavalry divisions to serve in France, while a
brigade was assigned to Egypt to guard the Suez Canal
and another to seize Basra, two areas that would soon require much larger forces.
The divisions in
received new equipment and more appropriate
European-style uniforms. The fighting in France and Flanders took an enormous toll on both British and Indian troops, but together they held until Kitchener's New Armies and Dominion forces arrived.
While focused on the role of the Indian Army in France and Belgium, this work also touches upon its operations in other theatres, demonstrating its
vital contribution to the Allied
A volume in the series “Cambridge Military Histories,”
The Indian Army and the Western Front
will prove valuable reading for anyone interest in the Great War or the Indian Army.
Reviewer: Dan David
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