Search for British Army soldiers who were sent as overseas drafts for service in India between 1871 and 1889. Discover details including your ancestor's age, date of enlistment, the regiment he served with, the date he embarked for India and the name of the ship he sailed on.
These are transcriptions taken from original embarkation returns held in the British Library’s India Office Collection. These returns were subsequently bound into volumes and ultimately returned to the UK.
The amount of information listed varies, but the records usually include the following information about your ancestor:
These original volumes survive at the British Library and have been catalogued in the IOR-L-MIL-15 series.
There are over 100,000 records in this collection which spans the years 1871 to 1889. Note, however that there are gaps. The years covered and their IOR reference numbers are as follows
In all cases, the years mentioned above are the years of embarkation. There are no embarkation lists for the years 1875-1877, these presumed to have been lost.
For the military or family historian these records are important because in many instances these offer unique evidence of a soldier’s service. Some of the men in this collection have surviving service records in series such as WO 97 but many do not. For instance, if a soldier died whilst serving overseas, his record was routinely destroyed and thus the evidence of his embarkation to India may be the only surviving document relating to his military service.
The original papers at the British Library are in an extremely fragile state but can be viewed in the India Office reading room, subject to the usual reader ticket requirements. Some of the papers are damaged and in some cases pages have been glued together rendering some information about soldiers illegible. Typically, this often affects the left-hand margin meaning that some regimental numbers – usually the first piece of information recorded against a man’s name – may be either completely missing or only partially visible.
The historical period covered by this collection (1871-1889) is an interesting one, and one of great change for the British Army. From the 1st July 1881, most line infantry regiments were given new territorial or county names and the old regiment of foot designations were officially abandoned, even though these lived on in cherished regimental traditions and in regimental communications for decades afterwards.
Serving soldiers were not issued with new regimental numbers when these changes took place and so a wide variety of regimental numbers is to be found in these records. With the exception of the Rifle Brigade which stubbornly plodded along with its pre-July 1881 regimental number series, all line infantry regiments began issuing regimental numbers from 1 on the 1st July 1881.