Gentlemen of the Raj: The Indian Army Officer Corps, 1817-1949

By Pradeep P. Barua | Go to book overview

4

Wogs in the Mess: The Introduction of Indian Officers into the Colonial Indian Army, 1919-1947

On 16 March 1929 a young Indian second lieutenant embarked upon his journey from Nasirabad to Jullunder to join his new regiment, the 7th Light Cavalry. As he approached his destination, Lieutenant Chaudhuri realized “that this was the test, the crucial posting on which the future would depend.” 1 Along with other Indian officers commissioned after Sandhurst, Chaudhuri had completed a brief “acclimatizing” one-year stint with a British unit, the 1st Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment, in Nasirabad. Now he was on his way to join his permanent unit. The “future” that Chaudhuri mentions was not just his own personal future in the Indian army, but that of the entire Indianization policy. Unlike at Sandhurst and the IMA, the new young Indian officers were usually on their own in their new units. The pressures upon them to perform in the field were immensely greater than any they had known in the military schools. These pressures were not only due to the fact that they were isolated, but because they had finally come into contact with the rank and file of the Indian army. Based upon the unsatisfactory performance of the ICC and other directcommissioned officers who had preceded the Sandhurst and IMA cadets, the British officers and Indian soldiers had a rather jaundiced view of the new aspirants.

Often one of the first distasteful confrontations experienced by Indian officers when they joined a unit was that of blatant racism, very different from the subtle version practiced in Sandhurst. Chaudhuri recalls the second in command of the North Staffordshire Regiment who habitually belted out epithets for Indians, such as wog, niggers, and nig-wigs. When Chaudhuri politely expressed his discomfort at the major's use of such language, the latter expressed genuine surprise, noting that he did not think

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