PRIVATE ARMY OF THE HONOURABLE EAST INDIA COMPANY [HEIC].
From 1700 onwards and for the next 160 years or so, the Honourable East India Company raised its own armed forces. The three administrative areas of India, the Presidencies of Bombay, Madras and Bengal, each maintained their own army with its own commander-in-chief.
The commander-in-chief Bengal was regarded as the senior officer of the three. These armies were paid for entirely out of the East India Company's Indian revenues and together were larger than the British Army itself.
All the officers were British and trained at the Company's military academy in England. There were a number of regiments of European infantry but the vast majority of the Company's soldiers were native troops. These Sepoys, as they were called, were mostly high caste Hindus and a great many of them, especially in the Bengal army, came from Oudh in what is now Uttar Pradesh state in northern India.
They were organized in numbered regiments and drilled British style. The Sepoy regiments were officered by Europeans, with a stiffening of European NCO's, and were treated with great affection and trust by their regimental commanders.
Attached to this formidable force were regiments of the Crown, actual units of the British Army lent by the Crown to the HEIC in times of need. By 1857 the total number of soldiers in India was 34,000 Europeans of all ranks and 257,000 Sepoys.
From their very first formation, the HEIC troops fought many minor skirmishes and major battles to protect the assets of the East India Company. It was not until late 1756 that the Bengal Regiment emerged after reforms by Lord Clive.
Below are listed a brief number of events in the early history of the East India Company.
1613 - Early in the year the Mogul Emperor issued a Firman to the HEIC for the establishment of a factory at Surat near Bombay, this was the first settlement of the British on the continent of India. The HEIC prospered and expanded.
1625 - Factory was established at Masulipatam.
1634 - February 2nd, a Firman issued to HEIC by the Emperor Shah Jehan for establishment of factories in Bengal.
1640 - Concession obtained for establishment in Madras.
1645 - An unexpected extension of the Company's power in Bengal was obtained. The Emperor Shah Jehan had a favourite daughter who had been seriously burnt, the Surgeon of one of the HEIC ships Gabriel Broughton, was sent to attend her, his treatment so successful the Emperor was overcome with gratitude, said he would grant Broughton anything he might ask for. Broughton's request was that permission should be given to the HEIC establish a factory at Hoogli (Calcutta), this was granted and a prosperous trade sprang up.
1652 - It was necessary from the first to have some form of guards at these factories, about this time an officer and thirty European soldiers were employed by the Company to protect it's factory near Calcutta, and by all accounts they were a mixed bunch, mercenaries, adventurers and deserters from foreign armies, however they were melded into an efficient professional military unit.
History claims the 1st and 2nd battalions, The Royal Munster Fusiliers Regiment, designated by Lord Cardwell's British Army reorganization on July 1st 1881, can trace their regimental roots to this small band of military men.
1668 - March - Island of Bombay granted to the HEIC by King Charles II. A detachment of the Kings troops was offered and accepted military service under the HEIC.
1680's - The expansion and increased trade of the HEIC required additional recruits for the HEIC private Army. Recruiting took place in England and James II gave permission to raise small numbers of troops in Ireland.
1685 - Six companies of infantry sent from England and Ireland, and a detachment from Madras for the purpose of establishing the position of the Company in Bengal.
1689 - Settlements in Bengal given up, the whole military force returned to Madras.
1690 -Settlements were re-established in Bengal by year-end, the force amounted to a company of 100 men under a Captain Hill.
1692 - Captain John Goldesborough arrived Madras to command all the HEIC's forces in India.
1694 - Goldesborough when on a tour of inspection in Bengal ordered the establishment to be reduced to 2 sergeants, 2 corporals, and 20 privates.
1697 - Dangerous revolt breaks out in Bengal, led by Rajah Subah Sing, against the Emperor's authority. The HEIC's agent, Mr. (afterwards Sir) Charles Eyre, applied to the local Nawab for permission to fortify the factory at Chattanuttee, the modern Calcutta. This being given, it was decided to erect a fort, which was to be named Fort William, in honour of King William III, and at the same time Bengal was declared a separate presidency.
1707 - Fort William works reasonably completed, with a number of guns, and 125 soldiers, of whom half were Europeans.
1710 - Strength and constitution of the military forces in the three Presidencies, Bombay, Bengal and Madras had gone through many changes, each had more or less the organization and disposal of their own forces. The white portion of the armies was composed of detachments sent out from England and Ireland.
1743 - Robert Clive arrives in India, civil servant of the HEIC, later he transfers to the military service with the HEIC, distinguished himself as a soldier.
1753 -Clive returns to England after accumulating wealth.
1756 - June - Robert Clive returned to Madras from England, appointed Governor of Fort St David with a commission as Lieutenant Colonel. He is also attributed with forming the Army in India into an orderly military force.
1756 - 5th August - News received in Madras, capture of Calcutta by Surajah Dowlah, the new Nawab of Bengal, the imprisonment of Europeans in a dungeon named Black Hole. Clive was commanded to secure Calcutta and release the prisoners.
1756 - 16th December - Independent companies and detachments formed into a Regiment by Clive, placed under command of Major Kilpatrick under the designation of -
THE BENGAL EUROPEAN REGIMENT.