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Today in the series of Know your Defence Forces we will examine the History of Indian Armed Forces in British India and its role after the independence. If you haven't read our previous article on Know Your Defence Forces, do so preferably.

The armed forces of the Republic India consist of four qualified uniformed services. They are:

-The Indian Army
-The Indian Navy
-The Indian Air Force
-The Indian Coast Guard

Along with these, India also has numerous paramilitary organisations like the Assam Rifles and other Central forces such as the CRPF and the CISF.

The Indian Troops have taken part in some military conflicts within two months of its freedom and majority of its fight occurred against its newly created neighbour Pakistan, such as India-Pakistan War of 1947, the 1962 Indo-China War, the 1965 Indo-Pak War, the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, the Kargil Conflict, etc.

Now let's look at the short history of the Indian Armed Forces.

British India - 1857 to 1947

To state briefly, the history of the Indian Army goes back to the Presidency armies of the East India Company in the late 18th century. These Presidency armies were combined in 1903 to become the Indian Army. Like the Army, the foundations of the Indian Navy lie in the maritime operations of the East India Company.

These navies of the 18th century evolved into Her Majesty's Indian Navy in 1830 and were used to fight the Opium Wars in China. In the beginning, the Indian Navy comprised entirely of British officers. The first Indian naval officer to be given an approved Commission was Sub-Lieutenant D. N. Mukherji only in 1928. He joined the Royal Indian Marine as an engineer officer in 1928. The Indian Air Force was formed in 1932 as a reserve air force of the Royal Air Force, it later became the Royal Indian Air Force at the end of the Second World War, and the Indian Air Force after India became a republic.

 

The British Indian Army marches in the Victory Parade in Delhi.

The British Indian Army marches in the Victory Parade in Delhi - Image Credit: Imperial War Museums (IWM)

During the First World War, the Indian Army contributed soldiers for several independent brigades and divisions to the Middle East, Mediterranean and European war zones.

A woman pins flowers on to the tunic of a soldier at a march-past of Indian troops.

A woman pins flowers on to the tunic of a soldier at a march-past of Indian troops - Image Credit: Imperial War Museums (IWM)

In the war, the Indian Army soldiers faced off against the soldiers of the German Empire.

Two officers of an Indian mule company in Gallipoli, 1915.

Two officers of an Indian mule company in Gallipoli, 1915 - Image Credit: Imperial War Museums (IWM)

Indian soldiers also fought in Egypt, Gallipoli and about seven lakh fought versus the Ottoman Empire in Mesopotamia.

Indian soldiers guarding Baghdad railway station shortly after the city's capture in March 191

Indian soldiers guarding Baghdad railway station shortly after the city's capture in March 1917 - Image Credit: Imperial War Museums (IWM)

Out of one million Indian troops who fought in the First World War, over seventy thousand lost their lives.

Indian reinforcements being transported to Kilwa in German East Africa to support military operation

Indian reinforcements being transported to Kilwa in German East Africa to support military operation - Image Credit: Imperial War Museums (IWM)

The Indian Army joined the First World War in 1939 with fewer than 200,000 men. Nonetheless, it rose to become 2.5 million men in August of 1945 and was the largest volunteer army during the war. The force comprised of armour, infantry and a small airborne force fighting on Asian, European and African soils.

Indian soldiers training with bayonets.

Indian soldiers training with bayonets - Image Credit: Imperial War Museums (IWM)

Post the defeat of the Italian army; the battle continued between Indian and German army on German soil. Indian army was pitched against the Italian Army in Ethiopia, and both German and Italian army in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.

Indian soldiers during a gas mask drill.

Indian soldiers during a gas mask drill - Image Credit: Imperial War Museums (IWM)

However, the significant portion of the Army at the time was engaged in conflict with the Japanese Army in Indo-China.

Troops of the Indian Lancers Cavalry Regiment on a parade.

Troops of the Indian Lancers Cavalry Regiment on a parade - Image Credit: Imperial War Museums (IWM)

Over 36,000 soldiers died in the Second World War, while another 34,354 were injured, and another 67,340 were taken, prisoner.

In next article, we will review the Armed Forces of the Republic of India.