Though the modem Indian Army traces its history from the middle of the 18th Century, once the East India Company had established itself in the three Presidencies of Madras, Bengal and Bombay, due to various paradigm shifts a major reorganisation and rationalisation was felt necessary towards the turn of the 19th Century.
In November 1902, when Lord Kitchener became Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, he immediately set out to rectify the various anamolies prevalent in the Army. Since the recruitment pattern had shifted further towards the north-central areas of India, he resorted to the first major reorganisation wherein it became necessary for Indian battalions to be given new names like Madrassis, Punjabis, Bengal Infantry (with the term 'native'dispensed with much earlier), Marathas, Rajputs, Sikhs, Jats, Garhwalis, Moplahs and so on, depending on their recruiting pattern. To cite an example, the initial five battalions of the Madras Presidency were further redesignated as 'Punjabi' battalions. By adding a numerical 60 to their Madras Infantry designation, these battalions then became 67,69, 72,74, and 87 'Punjabis' respectively. A similar restructuring took place in the other Presidencies, but no major changes took place with regard to other arms and services.
Lord Kitchener also completed the unification of the Indian Army, which had begun inl895. A centralised command and control structure was resorted to in 1903. The erstwhile four commands were reduced to two, that is Northern Army and Southern Army, and all infantry regiments after re-numbering were grouped into brigades and divisions placed under permanent commanders with staff. In effect this led to the advent of our command and staff systems.
Second Major Reorganisation of Indian Army
During World War-I, I, 40,000 Indian Army troops were deployed on various fronts overseas. Trench warfare was entirely new to the Indian soldier. These trenches were continuous deep ditches, damp and muddy and prone to collapse under heavy bombardment, a complete contrast to the dry hills and scrub of the North-West Frontier. Though initially they moved into the theatres of war ill trained and ill-equipped, they rose to various challenges with dexterity and fervour, to be fully equipped and trained in due course.
World War I, however, had shown glaring deficiencies in the organisation and administration of Indian Army. Efforts to set these right now started in right earnest. One of the greatest deficiencies had been in the system of recruit training and maintenance of reserves. This was sought to be set right by introducing a Regimental system. Therefore, in 1922 the large and unwieldy single-battalion groups were reorganised into various regiments under Lord Rawlinton of Trent, the then Commander - in- Chief, wherein four or five erstwhile battalions from a certain ethnic region of India were amalgamated into a Regiment, with the 10th becoming a training battalion. Each Regiment was given its own distinct dress code, badge, training centre and it developed its own customs and traditions. Each Regiment was also allotted a number based on the seniority of its battalions since raising and, similarly, each battalion was given a sub-number.The Regiments thus created, seniority wise, were I Punjab, 2 Punjab, 3 Madras, 4 Grenadiers, 5 Maratha Light Infantry,
6 Rajputana Rifles, 7 Rajput, 8 Punjab, 9 Jat, 10 Balucb, 11 Sikh, 12 frontier force Regiment, 13 frontier force Rifles, 14 Punjab, 15 Punjab, 16 Punjab, 17Dogra, 18 Garhwal, 19 Hyderabad, Assam, Gurkhas and so on. For instance, 3/2 Punjab represented the third battalion of the 2nd senior most Regiment of Indian Army - 2nd Punjab.
However, the ten Gorkha Rifle Regiments remained on two-battalion system, without any training battalion. As a result the existing 131 battalions were integrated into the newly created 19 Infantry Regiments. With regard to arms and services, a status quo was maintained.
This system is continuing till date, except that post partition Muslim majority Regiments (1,8,10,12,13,14,15 and 16} went to Pakistan. Training centres were fully established for all Regiments; 19 Hyderabad Regiment formed the nucleus of the Kumaon Regiment and, in part, the Maratha and Bihar Regiments; all Regimental suffix numbers were dropped, being redundant; some of the seasoned Princely State force units were merged into various Regiments of Indian Army; some new Regiments came into being and all Regiments expanded gradually, as per requirement, from time to time.
(Courtesy: Indian Army)