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Rajya Sabha TV In Depth Indian Army in World War One

Rajya Sabha TV In Depth Indian Army in World War One




World War I was a ‘Great War’. From 1914 to 1918 it embroiled various regions like most of the nations of Europe (France, Great Britain, Germany, etc), the middle East, Russia and from 1917 the United States. The ‘Central powers’ (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey) were defeated against the ‘Allies’ (France, Great Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan and United States). WW I was one of the greatest watersheds of the 20th century geopolitical history. It led to the fall of 4 great imperial dynasties (Germany, Russia where Bolshevik revolution was triggered, Austria-Hungary and Turkey) and destabilised European society. Seeds of World War II were also sown.

The war also saw the role of Indian Army that battled distinctly at a time when India was under the British colonial rule.


Map showing Central and Allied Powers during WW I


  • Indian Army contributed in large numbers and distinctly to the European, Mediterranean and the Middle East theatres of war in WW I. Their contribution in the victory of Allied powers was vital.
  • Indian Army was taken in the WW I by British rule without consulting the Indian leaders. Indians fought in the war hoping that they may be awarded with independence after the war ends.
  • Over 1 million Indians served overseas (of whom above 70,000 died and another 67,000 were wounded).
  • India also supplied various equipment, materials and animals required during the war.
  • The Indian Army served in France, Belgium, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Sinai, Gallipoli, etc.
  • The Indian Army fought against the German Empire in German East Africa (a German colony in the African Great Lakes region) and on the Western Front.
  • Western Front was opened by Germany by invading Luxembourg and Belgium which bordered France. It became a main theatre of WW I and saw many attacks between 1915 and 1917.
  • After the war ended officially (by the signing of TREATY OF VERSAILLES on 28 June 1919), India was denied its promise of self-rule. Instead the British imposed the ROWLATT ACT in 1919 that effectively authorized the government to imprison any suspected person for up to 2 years without a trial.


  • 1774 – 1895: The ‘PRESIDENCIES ARMY’ were the armies of three presidencies of the East India Company’s rule in India.


Presidencies Army = Bengal Army + Madras Army + Bombay Army


They were engaged in wars to extend British control in India (Mysore, Maratha and Sikh Wars) and beyond (Burma, Afghan and Opium Wars)

The Crown took over the Presidencies Army after the Indian Rebellion of 1857.


By QUEEN VICTORIA’S PROCLAMATION OF 1858 Indian administration was to be placed under the British crown. Also, the annexation of Indian states by Doctrine of Lapse was renounced.


  • 1895 – 1902: ‘INDIAN ARMY’ (or BRITISH INDIAN ARMY) had a formal existence raised by the Government of India that included British and Indian sepoy units. In 1895, the three ‘Presidencies Army’ were merged into the ‘Indian Army’.


Indian Army = Northern + Southern + Eastern + Western commands


They were engaged in both the World Wars.


  • 1903-1947: Following the ‘Kitchener Reforms’,

Army of India = British Indian Army + British Army in India

British Army in India consisted of British Army units posted to India for a tour of duty.



European diplomatic alignments shortly before the WW I

  • 28 June 1914: Archduke Franch Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary was killed by a Serbian man.
  • Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia
  • Russia got involved (as Russia had an alliance with Serbia).
  • Germany then declared war on Russia because Germany had an alliance with Austria-Hungary. German troops also entered neutral Belgium and Luxembourg (at the Western Front)
  • 4 August 1914 – Britain declared war on Germany (because of its invasion of neutral Belgium).
  • 10 October 1914 – The Indian Army joins the war (with the Allies in France)
  • 25 April 1915 – Australian, New Zealand, British, French and Indian troops suffer a defeat at
  • 1915 and 1916 – Several wars are fought between Britain + France and Germany.
  • 6 April 1917 – America enters the war
  • 8 November 1917 – Russian revolution; Russia leaves the war
  • 11 November 1918 – Armistice (Germany agrees to withdraw its forces from France and Belgium)
  • 1919 – Treaty of Versailles imposes harsh terms on Germany forcing them to accept the blame for the war and pay huge reparations. This Treaty later became a major cause for World War II.


  • ALLIANCES: Forming of mutual defence alliances between nations.
  • IMPERIALISM: Desire for greater empires
  • MILITARISM: Colonial rivalry had led to a naval arms race between Britain and Germany
  • NATIONALISM: Countries wanted to be better than each other.


 The World War I was a very costly affair that led to use of various new weapons in war (tanks, submarines, U-boats, poison gas, aeroplanes and long-range artillery) and high number of casualties. Downfall of monarchies in Germany, Turkey, Austria-Hungary and Russia occurred. USA emerged as a superpower and Japan became a powerful country in Asia. The tough restrictions imposed on Germany after WW I became a major cause for another World War. Thus, the race for power and growth engaged the world in such great powers which shall be prevented from occurring to save the high number of losses they ultimately lead to.



  1. MAINS 2015

To what extent can Germany be held responsible for causing the two world wars? Discuss critically.


  1. PRELIMS 2015

What was/ were the object/objects of Queen Victoria’s proclamation (1858)?

  1. To disclaim any intention to annex Indian states.
  2. To place the Indian administration under the British crown.
  • To regulate East India company’s trade with India.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below

  1. i and ii
  2. Only ii
  3. i and iii
  4. All of these


  1. PRELIMS 2015

The Partition of Bengal made by Lord Curzon in 1905 lasted until

  1. The First World War when Indian troops were needed by the British and partition was ended.
  2. King George V abrogated Curzon’s Act at the Royal Durbar in Delhi in 1911
  3. Gandhiji launched his Civil Disobedience movement
  4. The Partition of India in 1947 when East Bengal became East Pakistan.


  1. PRELIMS 2012

The Rowlatt Act aimed at

  1. Compulsory economic support to war efforts
  2. Imprisonment without trial and summary procedures for trial
  3. Suppression of the Khilafat movement
  4. Imposition of restrictions on the freedom of press