India 1930 - 1947

Headquarters, The Army in India




The Headquarters The Army in India (A.H.Q. India), was based at Delhi. During the summer months, some elements of the headquarters moved to Simla in Himachal Pradesh state in order to be alongside the government which moved there due to the stifling heat in Delhi. The name, 'The Army in India' was used as the headquarters had operational control over British Army and Indian Army units serving in the sub-continent.

Headquarters of the Army in India was a pre-war command covering the entire country of British India.  The headquarters consisted of six branches:

  • Military Secretary’s Branch;
  • General Staff Branch;
  • Adjutant General’s Branch;
  • Quarter-Master-General’s Branch;
  • Master-General of the Ordnance Branch;
  • Engineer-in-Chief’s Branch.

The Commander-in-Chief was a General in the Indian Army.  This was usually a four year posting.

At the beginning of the Second World War, the headquarters was redesignated as the General Headquarters (G.H.Q.), India Command. The initial focus was to raise divisions for deployment overseas, in particular in the Middle East. The entry of Japan into the war on the 8 December 1941, and the subsequent capture of Burma, moved the focus of G.H.Q. India very firmly back to the defence of India. This was the period of most significant growth in G.H.Q. India, until by the end of the Second World War, just over two and a half thousand service personnel were based there.

PRINCIPAL ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER’S OFFICE

In October 1943, with the growth of the Indian Army and the growth of the G.H.Q. India, it was decided to appoint a Principal Administrative Officer whose main function was to coordinate and audit the administrative arrangements in G.H.Q.  The post continued to exist until abolished in the run up to partition.

POST WAR CONTRACTION AND PARTITION

In November 1945 the number of officers based at G.H.Q. India was:

  • Lieutenant Generals = 8
  • Major Generals = 30
  • Brigadiers = 83
  • Colonels = 102
  • Others = 2,375

With the end of hostilities, the political pressure increased to reduce the number of personnel at G.H.Q.. There were already some vacancies as with the introduction of ‘Python’ leave for British Army personnel, there was a shortage of suitably trained and experienced staff officers.  In the period from August 1945 to November 1945, three Brigadier’s posts had already been abolished, and by the end of the year, further reductions planned were:

  • Major Generals = 2
  • Brigadiers = 15
  • Colonels = 20
  • Others = 729

G.H.Q. India remained in existence until the 15 August 1947, when it was disbanded upon the partition of India and Pakistan.  A new Headquarters, Pakistan Army was formed by Northern Command, and a new Headquarters of the Indian Army took over the headquarters in Delhi.  Field Marshal AUCHINLECK was appointed the Supreme Commander of the Army in India and Pakistan to transfer responsibilities to the new armies, and to organise the withdrawal of British Army units and British former officers and men of the British Indian Army.

The office of Supreme Commander closed on the 1 December 1947 upon the formal retirement of Field Marshal AUCHINLECK.  Major General L. G. WHISTLER had been appointed the General Officer Commanding British Troops in India in 1947, and remained in command until the last British unit, the 1 Bn. The Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert’s) left on the 28 February 1948.  The 2 Bn. The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) had been the last British Army unit to leave Pakistan on the 26 February 1948.

Some British officers remained in senior positions in both the Indian and Pakistani Armies until well into the 1950’s.




Pre-war, India Command was divided into four commands, each headed by a General or Lieutenant General, namely:

  • Northern Command;
  • Southern Command;
  • Eastern Command;
  • Western Command.

In 1937 or 1938, Western Command was downgraded to become the Western Independent District. Each command had a number of Districts under command, each being a Major General's command. In April 1942, with the threat of Japanese invasion, Eastern Command and Southern Command were given a more operational focus and were redesignated as Eastern Army and Southern Army respectively. Also in April 1942, the Western Independent District was absorbed by Northern Command, which itself was redesignated as the North Western Army. In May 1942, a new command was established to control the central part of India. This meant that the higher level formations from May 1942 until the end of the war were:

  • North Western Army;
  • Southern Army;
  • Eastern Army;
  • Central Command.

With the end of the war, in 1946 the Armies reverted to being Commands, and British India moved back onto a peacetime setting with Central Command being disbanded. However, India quickly moved towards partition, with Northern Command becoming the Army Headquarters of the new Pakistan Army, and the other commands passing to the new Indian Army.