Presidency armies

Armies of the East India Company and British Crown from 1774 to 1895

The presidency armies were the armies of the three presidencies of British India. The presidency armies, like the presidencies themselves, belonged to the East India Company until the Indian Mutiny, when the British government took over all three presidencies. Eventually all three presidency armies were merged into the Indian Army.

The presidency armies were named after the presidencies, these were:

Before the rebellion


From the mid-eighteenth century, the East India Company began to keep armies at each of its three main stations, or ‘Presidencies’, in India at Calcutta (Bengal), Madras and Bombay. The Bengal Army, Madras Army, and Bombay Army were quite different, each with its own list of Regiments and European officers. All three armies had both European regiments in which both the officers and men were Europeans, and a larger number of ‘Native’ regiments in which the officers were Europeans and the ordinary soldiers were Indians.

Also from the mid-eighteenth century the British government began to send regiments of the regular British Army to India to reinforce the Company’s armies. These troops are often referred to as ‘H.M.’s Regiments’ or ‘Royal regiments’.

After the rebellion


Following the Indian rebellion of 1857-58 and the end of the East India Company, its European regiments were joined in 1860 with the British Army, but its ‘Native’ regiments were not. The three separate Presidency Armies continued to exist, and their European officers continued to be listed as members of the Bengal, Madras or Bombay Army rather than the British Army. However, the Presidency Armies began to be described as the Indian Army. Also after the rebellion artillery was only to be used by the British Army and not by Indian troops.

In the 1890s, the separate Presidency Armies were joined together to form the Indian Army.