Swords trembling in their Scabbards

The changing status of Indian officers in the Indian Army 1757-1947

Michael Creese

Date Published :
December 2014
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
War and Military Culture in South Asia, 1757-1947
Illustration :
7 b/w illustrations
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781909982819
Pages : 206
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Available


The Indian Army founded by the East India Company in the eighteenth century was unique among the armies of the world in that it had two groups of officers – British and Indian. The intention was that the Indian officers, coming from similar backgrounds as their men and naturally understanding their social and religious mores and customs, would form the crucial link between the British officers and the sepoys. It is surprising, therefore, that there has been very little written, by either British or Indian historians, regarding the role and experience of those officers. They were promoted from the ranks and served for many years in their units, embodying both the spirit and the traditions of their regiments. So who were these Indian officers who look out at us from photographs taken from the eighteen eighties onwards? What was their background, education and training? How did they, and their British officers, interpret their role? The present volume is a long overdue attempt to answer these questions and to pay due tribute to the men who served the Raj and their country so well in peace and war.

A wide variety of sources has been drawn upon, including interviews with British officers who served with the Indian Army. A thread running through the book is provided by the diary of Amar Singh, a Rajput from Jaipur. He was one of the first members of the elite Imperial Cadet Corps and served in China, France, Mesopotamia and on the Northwest Frontier. He ended his military career as Commandant of the Jaipur State forces.


“ … I found the book an easy read. It contains many interesting bits and pieces of information, which are tied together to make a fascinating narrative. Anyone interested in the armies of British India (and beyond) should have a copy on their shelf.”

- Chote Sepoy: The Magazine of the Indian Army Group of the British Model Soldier Society

“The author transmits well the code of honour and loyalty felt by both officers and men to their regiments, their group and caste, and their British seniors. … an important contribution

- Newsletter of the Society of Friends of the National Army Museum

“ … the book does add to the overall debate and will hopefully stimulate further research into this important area.” Durbar,

- Journal of Indian Military History

“ … a well researched and balanced study … While the work is academic in nature, any reader with an interest in societal change and the profound impact that the transition within the Indian military had on the stability of the independence of India itself, would do very well to read this book.”

- War History Online

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