JOURNAL OF DEFENCE STUDIES

‘Arriving in the Nick of Time’: The Indian Corps in France, 1914–15

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  • October 2015
    Volume: 
    9
    Issue: 
    4
    Focus

    Today, military historians as well as those dealing with colonial South Asian history tend to overlook the fact that during the First World War, the Indian Army was Britain’s strategic reserve. It vitally despatched over 150,000 troops to the Western Front to shore-up the British sector in the critical period of 1914-1915. To the Indian sepoys who crossed the kala pani to fight, die or be wounded in the trenches there, it was a jarring initiation into modern industrialised warfare. This article examines that episode and advances two arguments: first, that, contrary to accounts written as recently as the 1980s, Indian sepoys performed quite well in the trenches; second, that racial concerns and the advent of the Kitchener armies, rather than a poor combat record, led to their transfer from the Western Front at the end of 1915.

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