« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
THE INDIAN IMPERIAL SERVICE TROOPS.
A YEAR ago all thoughts were turned towards the gallant garrison beleaguered in Chitral fort, and the determined little force which brought them relief over the snows of the Shandur pass. A very large share of both the hard fighting and the arduous work, which rendered those events conspicuous, was borne by the Imperial Service regiments of his Highness the Maharajah of Kashmir, and thus for the first time the attention of the general public in England was drawn to a new element in our Indian armies, the rise and development of which have been the object of much interest and discussion in military circles in India during the last eight years.
It has always been recognised as desirable that the great feudatory States of India should bear some part in the defence of the empire, in return for the advantages of tranquillity and prosperity secured to them by the strength of the British rule. To this end, in the first half of the present century, several of the largest States, notably Hyderabad, Oudh, and Gwalior, were moved to raise considerable bodies of men at their own expense, which were considered as forming integral parts of the British forces, and which were commanded by British officers. These contingents rapidly attained such efficiency as to be regarded as amongst the corps d'élite of India; service with them was eagerly sought after by officers, and those who obtained such appointments were selected for their special military proficiency and smartness. But, with the exception of the Hyderabad contingent,
the whole of these corps disappeared after the great Mutiny, in which most of them joined. The system on which they were formed was a mistaken one: instead of being used to foster such military spirit as might exist in the States to which they severally belonged, they were composed almost entirely of mercenaries, drawn from the recruiting grounds of British India, which already supplied the fighting material for the native army of the Company. They were thus no more intimately attached to their States than were the trained brigades of De Boigne and Perron devoted to the cause of Scindia or Holkar in the Mahratta wars of fifty years earlier. The Hyderabad contingent alone was, by reason of its long standing and material, more particularly identified with the Government by which it was paid; and it alone, as has been said, continued to exist after the Indian Mutiny. The other great States, however, continued as heretofore to keep up standing armies of their own, in numbers proportionate to their size and wealth. In many cases the material composing these forces was excellent; but want of discipline, instruction, and proper organisation reduced them for the most part to a mere disorderly rabble, far more dangerous to the public safety than ever they would be to a foreign foe. They were generally divided into regulars and irregulars, of whom the former remained at or near the capital and in attendance on the ruling prince, while the irregulars were employed in the country districts as police, collectors of revenue, &c. These native armies
reached, in 1887, to a total of some 80,000 regular and 100,000 irregular troops, of which 18,000 regulars and 7000 irregulars were maintained by the Maharajah of Kashmir, 8000 regulars and 22,000 irregulars by the Nizam of Hyderabad, 9500 regulars and the same number of irregulars by the Maharajah of Gwalior, 4500 regulars and 4000 irregulars by the Gaikwar of Baroda, and 3500 regulars by the Maharajah of Mysore.
In the leading States above named efforts were made from time to time to make the standing armies really efficient, but such attempts were generally attended with but indifferent success. The large regular force of Kashmir was for the most part composed of Dogras, Sikhs, and Gurkhas, the flower of the fighting races of India; the Maharajah and his Government entertained a very high opinion of its efficiency, and large sums were annually drawn from an impoverished exchequer to pay for its maintenance. Its discipline and organisation, how ever, left much to be desired; nor was it in reality very superior to the ill-armed, undrilled rabbles which represented the military force of other States of the Punjab.
In Central India the army of the Maharajah Scindia of Gwalior was trained and organised with a care which placed it in the front rank of the native forces of India, and far above any of its immediate neighbours; but notwithstanding the fact that good fighting material exists within the confines of the State, no effort was made to take advantage of it, and the army was composed entirely of mercenaries.
In Hyderabad there was (and still exists), besides the contingent already mentioned, a miscellaneous assortment of troops of all kinds
and nationalities, and almost all more or less useless. Some years ago a brigade of cavalry was or ganised under a British commander, and its regiments were termed "the reformed troops," a name by which they are still known. They have, however, ere this been left behind in the advance towards efficiency by another force of cavalry formed more recently, and called the "Golconda Brigade." This force is commanded by Major Afsur Dowlah, a Hyderabad gentleman of distinguished ability, and it has been trained by him to a high standard of excellence. With the exception of these two brigades, the army of the Nizam is of no practical value. The Hyderabad contingent need not be further described here. Although the cost of its up-keep is borne indirectly by the Hyderabad State, yet it in no way forms part of the standing army of the Nizam. It is in all respects under the orders of the Government of India; it is commanded by British officers, and there is no practical dissimilarity between its regiments and those of the British Indian army.
In Southern India Mysore has for some years been conspicuous as possessing a force of moderate dimensions, but of more value than the hordes existing elsewhere. During the long minority of the late Maharajah the army, in common with all the affairs of the State, was under British control, and on his attaining his majority the prince continued to administer this, as well as other departments, with the good sense and moderation which have caused his early death to be universally deplored. The infantry of the standing army has never, however, been of much value as fighting material; but the cavalry, which was for many years commanded by the late Colonel
Hay, was recruited from the classes which furnished the troops of Tippu Sultan in the last century, and was officered by members of some of the best families of the State, and it certainly equalled any similar force in India previous to 1887.
The whole of the forces described above, as well as the standing armies of other native States of less importance, were entirely under the control of their respective Governments; they were officered entirely by native gentlemen, nor had they any connection whatever with the army of British India. How to moderate the extravagant expenditure by native States on troops worse than useless, how to train this idle and undisciplined material, so that in case of need it might aid in the defence of the empire on which it is dependent, have been problems which have more than once occupied the serious attention of the Government of India. The strained relations between Great Britain and Russia in the spring of 1885, and the consequent increased attention to the internal as well as the frontier defences of India, were the causes of a renewed consideration of the question of inviting the principal native rulers to bear a share in those schemes of defence. No definite decision had, however, been arrived at when, in August 1887, the Nizam of Hyderabad intimated to the Viceroy that he wished to do honour to the year of her Majesty's jubilee by contributing a very large sum of money towards the cost of the frontier defence works then in progress, and by placing such a force as his State could afford at the disposal of her Majesty in case of need. This loyal offer met with a ready echo in other parts of India; the native States both great and small
hastened to follow the lead set them by the Nizam, and offers of contributions both of men and of money poured in in rapid succession to the Governor-General. It was evident that the time had arrived for carrying out those projects of securing co-operation and aid frora the princes of India which had so often been put forward, and the Government of India forthwith proceeded to consider how best the loyal offers of the native States might be accepted.
It was at once decided that contributions of money should not be accepted, and that such assistance as might be given by each State must be very carefully proportioned to its resources, while at the same time its offer must be absolutely spontaneous. The essence of the scheme finally adopted was the employment of the actual resources of each State both in men and officers, and the formation therefrom of serviceable corps, which, while available for Imperial defence in case of need, should be otherwise as much identified with the State which raised them as were the old, disorderly, and useless standing armies. Such "Imperial Service" corps, as they were termed, were to be liable to inspections by selected British officers, but were otherwise to be in no way connected with the British army; they were not even to be under the orders of the Commander-in-Chief, except in the event of their mobilisation, but
It was not until the latter part of 1888 that the scheme for the formation of Imperial Service Corps was put into definite shape. It was then decided that the ex
periment should first be tried with some of the principal States of the Punjab, and with the Rajput State of Ulwar. A chief inspecting officer (Colonel H. Melliss) was appointed, with two inspecting officers under him. These officers, under the orders of the Foreign Department, were in the first instance to superintend the organisation of the new corps, the selection of recruits, the supply of their equipment; they were to advise the States' Governments on all military matters, and when the corps were in working order they were to inspect them constantly and report on their progress and efficiency.
The corps were raised entirely from amongst the subjects of the States, and were in like manner officered for the most part by gentlemen of position in the State, often by relations and connections of the ruling chief.
The work of organisation was assisted by the services of noncommissioned officers from native regiments of the British service, who were attached as instructors to the various corps; while their labours were further supplemented by the deputation of classes from Imperial Service regiments to undergo courses of instruction with some of the best native regiments.
Both these methods of obtaining efficient instructors proved eminently satisfactory, the classes sent to our regiments showing especial eagerness to learn their work, and rapidly acquiring great proficiency in the duties of regimental instruc
In equipment, as in drill, the Imperial Service Corps followed
the main lines of our own native regiments, and though the advice of an inspecting officer or the taste for novelty of the native chief occasionally introduced innovations in colour, &c., yet all corps were equipped with an eye to utility and to avoidance of wasteful extravagance. In this matter, however, the inspecting officers had sometimes a good deal of difficulty to restrain the enthusiasm of the princes, eager to show their approval of the scheme by dressing the rank and file of their new regiments in broadcloth and gold, or by housing their cavalry horses in palatial stables. This very enthusiasm it is which indicates one of the greatest dangers to the future of the Imperial Service Corps. The ardour of an oriental ruler for any novelty is apt to resemble the delight of a child with a new toy, or the unthinking excitement of the London public over a new lion, quite irrespective of the real value of its object. But in native States much depends on the sunshine of royal favour, and should the enthusiasm of the ruler abate, or should he be succeeded by one of a different way of thinking, the former object of so much solicitude and attention would soon feel the result of the change.
Meanwhile, however, the Imperial Service Corps have been firmly established, and are daily securing a more certain footing. But a very few months sufficed to show that the scheme was in the main a success. Fresh corps were accordingly organised, those of the Rajput States of Marwar, Bikanir, and Jeypur, and the Central India principality of Gwalior, being followed by Indore, Bhurtpore, Rampur, and others, and in the south by Mysore (where, as has been mentioned, a cavalry force on the
lines of the present scheme already existed), and finally by Hyderabad. As the corps have gained increased efficiency, many of them have been exercised at camps of instruction, where they have been brigaded with regiments of the British forces. Some few have been employed on active service, and have amply proved their value. The military authorities have come to regard these regiments as something more than the creation of faddists, or the outcome of a passing fancy amongst the princes of India: they are acknowledged to be in many cases fit to take their places in the front line of defence against any foe, and to be a really serviceable auxiliary to the forces of the Crown.
What the strength and efficiency of the Imperial Service troops are at this moment may best be gathered from a few details about some of the more important of them.
Foremost among these are the forces of Kashmir, which consist of two ressalahs or squadrons of cavalry, each 300 strong, six regiments of infantry of about 600 men each, and two batteries of mountain artillery, each of 150 men (the only artillery corps which have been raised by a native State). The greater part of this force of some 4500 men has already done good service in the field: in the expedition against HunzaNagar in 1891-92 the 2d Regiment of Kashmir Rifles, then only lately raised, served with distinction; and the gallant conduct of the 4th Rifles throughout the defence of Chitral, as well as the share taken by the 5th and 6th Regiments in Colonel Kelly's march to the relief of the fort, have been already alluded to, and are still fresh in all men's minds. These regiments are composed for the most part of Do
gras and Gurkhas, hardy mountaineers, and accounted the best infantry soldiers in India: they are commanded by officers of ability, intelligence, and position; their discipline and smartness leave nothing to be desired; and their performances in the arduous mountain warfare in which they have borne so prominent a part are sufficient indication of their value in the field. Nor is less to be said of the mountain batteries, the first of which also shared in the Chitral campaign, while the second is composed of equally good material, and may be trusted to do equally good work when called
All the above corps have had assigned to them a more active rôle than falls to the lot of other Imperial Service troops, or than was contemplated when the scheme was first formulated. Events of the last five years on the northern and north-western confines of Kashmir, the establishment of the Gilgit Agency, and the assertion of a real control over the dependent States of Hunza-Nagar, Chilas, and Chitral, have necessitated the employment of larger bodies of troops on those frontiers than could be conveniently spared for a length of time from India; moreover, the work has been all to the advantage of Kashmir, whose territories have been secured from depredation and her frontiers respected. The troops of that State have therefore been employed for the purpose, and the Imperial Service regiments were naturally pushed to the front as being the best organised and drilled. At the same time, it must be admitted that the cost of keeping a considerable body of men constantly employed in the inaccessible outposts of the Gilgit district is more than the State of Kashmir, which is by no means wealthy, wealthy, can afford. Owing to