Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

miles of railway complete in the country, while at the present moment we have 8,312 miles of railway open.'

‘All our great cantonments, all our fortresses and arsenals, save one, are now connected with each other, and with the seaboard, by railway. The strength of our European troops for action at any point, within or without the borders of British India, has thus been enormously increased. For example, whereas in 1857 a regiment took three or four months to march from the seaboard to Lahore, it can now move from Calcutta to Lahore in a week.

Reinforcements from England, which then occupied three months on a voyage round the Cape, now land in Bombay within thirty days of leaving England. Again, the power of British troops has been indefinitely increased by their armament with breech-loading rifles, and by the substitution of rifled fieldpieces of higher power for the smooth-bore six-pounder, ninepounder, and mountain guns of the mutiny era. In any contest within the borders, or on the frontiers of India, these improved armaments would tell heavily; for the troops of Afghánistán, Burma, Nepál, Gwalior, Hyderabad, and the Cis-Sutlej States, are for the most part still armed with smooth-bore muzzle-loading weapons.'

The efficiency of the British troops has been greatly increased by another cause. Among all the changes that have occurred in India since the transfer of the Government to the Crown, there is not one over which we have better reason to rejoice than the improvement in the health of our soldiers. The Royal Commission which inquired in 1859 into the sanitary condition of the army, reported that the average death-rate among the British troops in India, for the forty years ending with 1856, had been 69 per 1,000. This was six times as high as the rate among Englishmen of the same ages at home. The Commission expressed the hope that the death-rate might be reduced by measures of sanitary improvement to 20 per 1,000, or even lower. This hope has been more than fulfilled. In the ten years ending with 1879 the death-rate was 19

1 In the beginning of 1888, 14,383 miles of railway were open and 2,487 miles were under construction or sanctioned.

per 1,000. In 1883 it was less than 11 per 1,000, and in the worst of the four following years it hardly exceeded 15 per 1,000. No efforts have been spared to improve in every way the position of the British soldiers in India. They now live in barracks which, in comfort and in all sanitary conditions, excepting those conditions of climate over which we have no control, surpass any that can be found in any other country. Cantonments for more than 20 per cent. of the whole force have been provided at stations in the Himalaya or in other mountains. Since 1858 more than 30,000,0001. has been spent on military works in India.

Supreme authority over the army throughout India is vested by lawl in the Governor-General in Council. The military member of Council has charge of the Military department, which corresponds to the War Office in this country. Subject to the administrative control of the Governor-General in Council, the chief executive officer of the army is the Commander-in-Chief in India. He has special command of the troops in the Bengal presidency, and he exercises a general control over the armies of Madras and Bombay, each of which has its local Commander-in-Chief. The Governments of the minor presidencies possess certain administrative powers,

, but the ultimate military authority rests with the Governor-General in Council.

The British officers of the Native army are taken from the Indian Staff Corps. A Staff Corps for each of the three armies of Bengal, Madras, and Bombay, was established in 1861, when the Native army was reorganised. The officers of the Staff Corps were, in the first instance, transferred from the East India Company's army, but they are now drawn from British regiments of the line or artillery. Officers are admitted to the Staff Corps under certain conditions, and after passing examinations in the native languages and in professional subjects. The three Staff Corps include more than 2,000 officers. They are employed not only in the Native army and in military appointments on the staff, but also in a large number of civil posts. They hold the majority of appointments in the political de. partment, and many administrative and judicial offices in non-regulation provinces.

1 3 and 4 Will. IV. c. 85.

Before the mutinies of 1857 duties were often performed by the Native army which were really duties of police, and the great reduction, amounting to more than 90,000 men, made in the numbers of the army was followed by a complete reorganisation of the police throughout India. The number of men available for military duty was, therefore, not diminished to the extent that the figures seem to show. Exclusive of the village police, of whom there are some 700,000, the regular police force in India consists of about 150,000 men, of whom about 55,000 have firearms, and are inore or less drilled. There is no part of British India in which the people habitually carry arms, or commonly possess them, and the occasions are rare, not, on an average, more than two or three in each year, on which, usually in consequence of religious disputes between Hindus and Mohammedans, or between other sects, it is necessary to call out troops to assist the civil power in maintaining order. Considering that the population of British India exceeds that of the five great powers of Europe together, this furnishes a good illustration of the quiet character of the people.

1 This is exclusive of the military police in Upper Burma, nearly 20,000 strong. The disturbed condition of that province after annexation rendered it necessary to maintain a larger police force than will ultimately be réquired,

The so-called Bengal army is by far the most important of the three armies of India, not only because it is more numerous than the two others together, but because, being chiefly recruited from the more vigorous races of the northern provinces, it is, as a fighting machine, incomparably more efficient. The term • Bengal army' has long been a misnomer, since, as I shall again have to explain, there is not a single native of Bengal Proper in its ranks, and only a small part of it is ever stationed in Bengal. The Bengal army garrisons the whole country from the Bay of Bengal to the frontiers of Afghánistán, and occupies the Punjab, the NorthWestern Provinces, and Oudh. In Bengal Proper a few thousand men are stationed at places on the railway to the northern provinces and the frontier towards Nepál and the other Hill States, and there are usually between 4,000 and 5,000 men in Calcutta and its neighbourhood. In the rest of the lieutenant-governorship of Bengal, with its population of 69,000,000, there are no troops. Sir William Hunter is well within the mark when he says that “probably 40,000,000 people go through life without once seeing the gleam of a bayonet or the face of a soldier.'

The defence of the north-western frontier is mainly entrusted to the Punjab Frontier force, a body more than 12,000 strong. It formed until lately a virtually distinct army, under the Government of the Punjab; but this arrangement has ceased, and, although it preserves its separate organisation, it has been brought, like the rest of the army, under the orders of the Commander-in-Chief. This admirable force is almost entirely recruited from the warlike races of the Punjab and of the north-western frontier.

The organisation of the Native army has been completely changed since the mutinies of 1857. Up to that time the infantry of the Bengal army was, as I have already said, mainly recruiied from the Brahmans and Rájputs of Oudh and the North-Western Provinces. Although men of fine physique, they were not remarkable for fighting efficiency, and the former reputation of the Native army of Bengal was certainly exaggerated. Most of its triumphs were largely due to the British troops who were associated with it. The ruinous consequences of drawing the larger proportion of our soldiers from a single class, under the influence of the same feelings and interests, and holding more than any other people in India the strictest prejudices of caste, were shown by the events of 1857. The old system no longer exists; I quote from the Report of the Indian Army Commission a description of that which has taken its place :

6

"The systems of recruiting for the several armies are diverse. Regiments of the Madras and Bombay armies draw their recruits from

many

any tribes and castes over the several recruiting grounds of those presidencies, and the Bombay regiments have an admixture of Sikhs and Hindustanis from Northern India in their ranks. These armies are thus composed of what are called

mixed recruits '—that is to say, of corps in which men of different races, several religions, and many provinces are thrown together into the same company or troop. In the Bengal and Punjab armies the majority of corps are what are called 'class-company regiments'—that is to say, the regiments draw recruits from three or more different races and recruiting grounds, but the men of each class or race are kept apart in separate companies. Thus,

« ÎnapoiContinuați »