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HISTORY

What about the Navy?

Although the East India Company had originally maintained an armed naval capability, responsibility for warlike duties was transferred to the Royal Navy in 1863, leaving the Indian Marine to man dockyards and transport vessels.  In 1892 it became the Royal Indian Marine and, while continuing to convey troops and stores between Indian ports and further afield, it also provided station vessels for Aden, Port Blair and Rangoon.  Its vessels were usually unarmed, though the Troopships “Hardinge” and “Dufferin” had been constructed for their use as Auxiliary Cruisers should the need arise, although in the event of war they would be transferred to the Royal Navy.

 

When World War I started this is exactly what happened, along with the Troopship “Northbrook”, Station Ships “Dalhousie” and “Minto”, Despatch Vessel “Lawrence” and the “Comet”, a shallow-draught gun-boat employed on the Mesopotamian waterways until captured by the Turks. All vessels were captained by Royal Navy officers, but officered and manned mainly by Royal Indian Marine personnel.  In addition, the RIM provided crew for the Hospital Ships “Loyalty” and “Madras” brought into service as a result of financial contributions from a number of the Indian Princes.  Precise figures for the Royal Indian Marine are more difficult to determine but, in addition to the 13 principal vessels, some of which are named above, and some 40 smaller vessels, they also provided a sizeable number of shallow-draught rivercraft and crew for use in Mesopotamia.  21 officers, 9 warrant officers and approximately 300 ratings of the Royal Indian Marine gave their lives during World War I, though the percentage of Muslims among this number has not been determined.

The Royal Indian Marine became the Royal Indian Navy on 2 October 1934.  On the outbreak of war in 1939 it numbered 5 Sloops and 3 smaller vessels with a total of 1,846 officers and ratings.  By July 1945 it had expanded to 127 ships of various description and 30,478 officers and ratings.  The RIN lost three ships to action during World War 2; HMIS Pathan was sunk by an Italian submarine in June 1940 during operations off the coast of East Africa, HMIS Prabhayati was accidentally sunk by HMS Glasgow in the area of the Laccadive Islands in December 1941, the British warship having mistaken her for a surfaced Japanese submarine; and HMIS Indus was sunk by Japanese aircraft in April 1942 during the Burma campaign.  Unlike the Army, recruitment to the RIN was on an all-India basis irrespective of class or caste, though by far the largest number came from the Muslim communities of the Punjab, Deccan and Konkan coast.

Sources

    India’s Contribution to the Great War, op.cit., pp. 210-218

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