British Indian Army

A Military Department was created in the Supreme Government of the East India Company at Kolkata in the year 1776, having the main function to sift and record orders relating to the Army issued by various Departments of the Government of the East India Company.

With the Charter Act of 1833, the Secretariat of the Government of the East India Company was reorganized into four Departments, including a Military Department. The army in the Presidencies of Bengal, Bombay and Madras functioned as respective Presidency Army until April 1895, when the Presidency Armies were unified into a single Indian army. For administrative convenience, it was divided into four commands at that point of time, namely Punjab (including the North West Frontier), Bengal, Madras (including Burma) and Bombay (including Sind, Quetta and Aden).

The British Indian Army was a critical force in the primacy of the British Empire in both India, as well as across the world. Besides maintaining the internal security of the British Raj, the Army fought in theaters around the world – Anglo Burmese War, First and Second Anglo-Sikh Wars, First, Second and Third Anglo-Afghan Wars, First and Second Opium Wars in China, Abyssinia, and Boxer Rebellion in China.

First World War


In the 20th century, the British Indian Army was a crucial adjunct to the British forces in both the World Wars. 

1.3 million Indian soldiers served in World War (1914–1918) for the Allies after the United Kingdom made vague promises of self-governance to the Indian National Congress for its support. Britain reneged on its promises after the war, following which the Indian Independence movement gained strength. 74,187 Indian troops were killed or missing in action in the war. 

The "Indianisation" of the British Indian Army began with the formation of the Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College at Dehradun in March 1912 with the purpose of providing education to the scions of aristocratic and well to do Indian families and to prepare selected Indian boys for admission into the Royal Military College Sandhurst. Indian officers given a King's commission after passing out were posted to one of the eight units selected for Indianisation. Political pressure due to the slow pace of Indianisation, just 69 officers being commissioned between 1918 and 1932, led to the formation of the Indian Military Academy in 1932 and greater numbers of officers of Indian origin being commissioned. 



In World War II Indian soldiers fought for the Allies. In 1939, British officials had no plan for expansion and training of Indian forces, which comprised about 130,000 men. (In addition there were 44,000 men in British units in India in 1939.) Their mission was internal security and defense against a possible Russian threat through Afghanistan. As the war progressed, the size and role of the Indian Army expanded dramatically, and troops were sent to battle fronts as soon as possible. The most serious problem was lack of equipment. 

Indian units served in Burma, where in 1944-45 five Indian divisions were engaged along with one British and three African divisions. Even larger numbers operated in the Middle East. Some 87,000 Indian soldiers died in the war. On the opposing side, an Indian National Army was formed under Japanese control, but had little effect on the war. 

Formation of Indian National Army

"It is our duty to pay for our liberty with our own blood. The freedom that we shall win through our sacrifice and exertions, we shall be able to preserve with our own strength" Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose to the Indian National Army in Malaya/Singapore .

Subhash Chandra Bose (1897 –1945)

Subhash Chandra Bose was one of India’s most prominent nationalist leaders who advocated armed struggle as the only way to free India. Born in Bengal, Bose was educated at the universities of Calcutta and Cambridge. He gave up a civil service career in the early 1920s to join the nationalist movement. A popular leader who was imprisoned several times by the British, Bose became President of the INC in 1938. However, political differences with Gandhi led him to resign the following year.

The Indian National Army (INA) was originally founded by Capt Mohan Singh in Singapore in September 1942 with Japan's Indian POWs. This was along the concept of- and with support of- what was then known as the Indian Independence League, headed by expatriate nationalist leader Rash Behari Bose. The idea of a liberation army was revived with the arrival of Subhash Chandra Bose in the Far East in 1943. In July, at a meeting in Singapore, Rash Behari Bose handed over control of the organization to Subhash Chandra Bose. Bose was able to reorganize the fledging army and organize massive support among the expatriate Indian population in south-east Asia, who lent their support by both enlisting in the Indian National Army, as well as financially in response Bose's calls for sacrifice for the national cause. At its height it consisted of some 85,000 regular troops, including a separate women's unit, the Rani of Jhansi Regiment (named after Rani Lakshmi Bai), which is seen as a first 

Spoken as a part of a motivational speech for the Indian National Army at a rally of Indians in Burma on July 4, 1944, Bose's most famous quote was "Give me blood, and I shall give you freedom!" . In this, he urged the people of India to join him in his fight against the British Raj. Spoken in Hindi, Bose's words are highly evocative.

The INA's first commitment was in the Japanese thrust towards Eastern Indian frontiers of Manipur. On the Indian mainland, an Indian Tricolors, modeled after that of the Indian National Congress, was raised for the first time in the town in Moirang, in Manipur. Bose had hoped that large numbers of soldiers would desert from the Indian Army when they would discover that INA soldiers were attacking British India from the outside. However, this did not materialize on a sufficient scale. Instead, as the war situation worsened for the Japanese, troops began to desert from the INA. At the same time Japanese funding for the army diminished, and Bose was forced to raise taxes on the Indian populations of Malaysia and Singapore.


History of Gallantry Medals

As a result of the Indo-Pak conflict of 1965, the Raksha Medal, Samar Seva Star and some others were introduced. Then came the 1971 war and it led to the institution of the Sangram Medal, Poorvi Star and Paschimi Star.For the purpose of classification, Indian honours and awards can be divided into two categories.

  Gallantary awards

The gallantry awards are again divisible into two categories
Those for gallantry in the face of the enemy.
Those for gallantry other than in the face of the enemy

The first category of the gallantry awards comprises :

1. Param Vir Chakra
2. Maha Vir Chakra
3. Vir Chakra
4. Sena, Nao Sena and Vayu Sena Medal
5. Mention in Dispatches
6. Chief of Staff Commendation Card.

The second category of the gallantry awards comprises :

1. Ashoka Chakra 
2. Kirti Chakra
3. Shaurya Chakra

These were originally named Ashoka Chakra Class I, Class II, Class III

Non-gallantry awards comprises:

1.Bharat Ratna
2. Padma Vibhushan
3. Padma Bhushan
4. Param Vishisht Seva Medal
5. Padma Shri
6. Sarvottam Yudh Seva Medal
7. Uttam Yudh Seva Medal
8. Ati Vishisht Seva Medal
9. Yudh Seva Medal
10. Vishisht Seva Medal
11. 30 Years Long Seva Medal
12. 20 Years Long Service Medal
13. 9 Years Long Service Medal
14. Meritorious Service Medal
15. Long Service and Good Conduct Medal
16. General Service Medal - 1947
17. Samar Seva Medal
18. Sainya Seva Medal
19. Videsh Seva Medal
20. Commendation Card
21. Raksha Medal
22. Poorvi Star
23. Paschimi Star
24. Sangram Medal
25. Wound Medal
26. 25th Independence Anniversary Medal


Param Vir means "Bravest of the Brave"
(Param = Highest; Vīr = Brave warrior; Chakra = wheel/medal)

The Param Vir Chakra (PVC) is India's highest military decoration awarded for the highest degree of valour or self-sacrifice in the presence of the enemy, similar to the British Victoria Cross, US Medal of Honor, or French Legion of Honor. It can be awarded posthumously with many of the awards having been awarded posthumously.

The PVC was established on 26 January 1950 (the date of India becoming a republic), by the President of India, with effect from 15 August 1947 (the date of Indian independence). It can be awarded to officers or enlisted personnel from all branches of the Indian military. It is the second highest award of the government of India after Bharat Ratna (amendment in the statute on 26 January 1980 resulted in this order of wearing). It replaced the former British colonial Victoria Cross (VC)

The award also carries a cash allowance for those under the rank of lieutenant (or the appropriate service equivalent) and, in some cases, a cash award. On the death of the recipient, the pension is transferred to the widow until her death or remarriage. The paltry amount of the pension has been a rather controversial issue throughout the life of the decoration. By March 1999, the stipend stood at Rs. 1500 per month. In addition, many states have established individual pension rewards that far exceeds the central government's stipend for the recipients of the decoration.


The Ashok Chakra is an Indian military decoration awarded for valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice away from the battlefield. It is the peace time equivalent of the Param Vir Chakra and is awarded for the most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent valour or self-sacrifice other than in the face of the enemy. The decoration may be awarded either to military or civilian personnel and may be awarded posthumously.

The medal is circular gold gilt, 1-3/8 inches in diameter. In the centre, the chakra (wheel) of Ashoka, surrounded by a lotus wreath and with an ornate edge. Suspended by a straight bar suspender. The medal is named on the edge.


The Maha Veer Chakra (MVC) established on 26th January, 1950 is the second highest Indian military decoration and is awarded for acts of extraordinary gallantry and bravery in war on land, at sea or in the air. The medal is circular and is made of standard silver. Embossed on the obverse is a five pointed heraldic star with circular centre-piece bearing the gilded State emblem in the centre. The words “Maha Vir Chakra" are embossed in Devanagari and English on the reverse with two lotus flowers in the middle.


The Kirti Chakra is an Indian military decoration awarded for valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice away from the field of battle. It may be awarded to civilians as well as military personnel, including posthumous awards.

The medal is circular silver, 1-3/8 inches in diameter. In the centre, the chakra (wheel) of Ashoka, surrounded by a lotus wreath and with an ornate edge. Suspended by a straight bar suspender. The medal is named on the edge.


Veer Chakra is an Indian gallantry award presented for acts of bravery in the battlefield. Award of the decoration carries with it the right to use Vr.C. as a postnominal abbreviation. It is third in precedence in the wartime gallantry awards and comes after the Param Veer Chakra and Maha Veer Chakra.

The medal is 1-3/8 inch circular silver medal. A five pointed star, with the chakra in the centre, and, on this, the domed gilded State emblem. The decoration is named on the rim and suspended from a swivelling straight-bar suspender. The decoration is almost always named and dated on the edge. Around a plain centre, two legends separated by lotus flowers; above Veer Chakra in Hindi and in English. The ribbon is 32 mm, half dark blue and half orange-saffron. Dark blue 16 mm, saffron 16 mm.


The Shaurya Chakra is an Indian military decoration awarded for valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice while not engaged in direct action with the enemy. It may be awarded to civilians as well as military personnel, sometimes posthumously. It is the peacetime equivalent of the Vir Chakra. It is generally awarded for Counter-Insurgency operations and actions against the enemy during peace-time.

This is circular bronze, 1-3/8 inches in diameter. In the centre, the chakra (wheel) of Ashoka, surrounded by a lotus wreath and with an ornate edge. Suspended by a straight bar suspender. The medal is named on the edge

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