What was the relationship between the HEIC army and the British army?

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,471
T'Republic of Yorkshire
Prior to the establishment of the British Raj, was was the relationship between the Company's army and the British army?

During the Mutiny, I believe units from both armies served side by side. What was the chain of command?

What would happen if an officer wished to transfer from one army to another - would he retain his rank?
 

Kevinmeath

Ad Honoris
May 2011
14,069
Navan, Ireland
Technically none, the BEIC was a private concern and the army simply a bunch of hired hands, they did not hold the Kings Commission so could not command his majesty's soldiers , in theory and BIEC General could not issue an order to a Crown soldier and was lower than the lowest ensign.

However in reality the BIEC hired out crown regiments, officers could serve in both--Wellington I believe had ranks in both -- and there was 'custom and practice' of respecting each others ranks but especially amongst higher ranking officers (lower down you'd be a fool to make enemies in the wrong places) there was often 'friction' between company employees and the Kings Officers.

Sorry missed the transfer bit-- no you could not for a start you had to buy your Kings commission (some of the time)not just be given it that's a matter for regiments and individuals-- Washington being 'refused' a commission was actually he wanted to be given a very expensive gift--
 
Dec 2018
103
Australia
Technically none, the BEIC was a private concern and the army simply a bunch of hired hands, they did not hold the Kings Commission so could not command his majesty's soldiers , in theory and BIEC General could not issue an order to a Crown soldier and was lower than the lowest ensign.

However in reality the BIEC hired out crown regiments, officers could serve in both--Wellington I believe had ranks in both -- and there was 'custom and practice' of respecting each others ranks but especially amongst higher ranking officers (lower down you'd be a fool to make enemies in the wrong places) there was often 'friction' between company employees and the Kings Officers.

Sorry missed the transfer bit-- no you could not for a start you had to buy your Kings commission (some of the time)not just be given it that's a matter for regiments and individuals-- Washington being 'refused' a commission was actually he wanted to be given a very expensive gift--
How did someone get a commision in the BIEC's army?
 

Edric Streona

Ad Honorem
Feb 2016
4,531
Japan
It was a separate organisation funded by the company. HEIC soldiers were technically employees of the company.

It’s European Regiments contained all manner of white foreigners and while Scots were under represented in the British army, they made up nearly half of the HEICs officers.

HEIC officers, if joining the infantry or cavalry needed a letter of recommendation, medical papers and baptismal papers and a short but formal interview at the company offices.
Specialized officers “engineers and artillery” needed to complete a two year training course in the companies military seminary then another years training in Woolwich.

Once complete their commission was dated from the day the left England. They were signed up for a 25 year career which allowed a 3 year furlough after 10 years service. The company had 3 armies, Bengal, Madras and Bombay which were distinct organizations. Madras army was considered the least attractive, Bengal the best and most prestigious.

While the peace time British army offered little opportunity, in India there was always action and possibilities to earn distinction... in some cases it was seen as a better chance for a certain type of man.

Relationships between soldiers in British and Indian armies were good at the lower level. At the top there were certain rivalries though, which seems to have been stronger towards the mid to late Victorian period. Possibly some regular generals did not consider Indian warfare as equal to European warfare? Or Indian officers resented the status and reputation of regulars? Possibly jealousy of the good points of the others advantages?
 
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Edric Streona

Ad Honorem
Feb 2016
4,531
Japan
And HM regiments pretty much were always used to bolster HEIC forces.

The 33rd, 74h, 75th snd 94th were used in the Anglo-Mysore wars.

The 22nd was alongside Bombay units at Meeanee.
 
Dec 2018
103
Australia
It was a separate organisation funded by the company. HEIC soldiers were technically employees of the company.

It’s European Regiments contained all manner of white foreigners and while Scots were under represented in the British army, they made up nearly half of the HEICs officers.

HEIC officers, if joining the infantry or cavalry needed a letter of recommendation, medical papers and baptismal papers and a short but formal interview at the company offices.
Specialized officers “engineers and artillery” needed to complete a two year training course in the companies military seminary then another years training in Woolwich.

Once complete their commission was dated from the day the left England. They were signed up for a 25 year career which allowed a 3 year furlough after 10 years service. The company had 3 armies, Bengal, Madras and Bombay which were distinct organizations. Madras army was considered the least attractive, Bengal the best and most prestigious.

While the peace time British army offered little opportunity, in India there was always action and possibilities to earn distinction... in some cases it was seen as a better chance for a certain type of man.

Relationships between soldiers in British and Indian armies were good at the lower level. At the top there were certain rivalries though, which seems to have been stronger towards the mid to late Victorian period. Possibly some regular generals did not consider Indian warfare as equal to European warfare? Or Indian officers resented the status and reputation of regulars? Possibly jealousy of the good points of the others advantages?
So there was no possibility of buying or selling commissions in the East India Companies Army??
 

Edric Streona

Ad Honorem
Feb 2016
4,531
Japan
As far as I understand no. HEIC promotion was by seniority only, and commissions were not bought and sold.
 

Edric Streona

Ad Honorem
Feb 2016
4,531
Japan
I don’t think you could easily transfer between them. Any movement up and down the ladder would occur with in their own organisation.

But an officer could sell his commission and apply for the HEIC.
An HEIC Officer could always resign and buy a commission if he had the money.
 
Dec 2018
103
Australia
I don’t think you could easily transfer between them. Any movement up and down the ladder would occur with in their own organisation.

But an officer could sell his commission and apply for the HEIC.
An HEIC Officer could always resign and buy a commission if he had the money.
Yes that was what i was wondering