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Role of Royal Indian Marine in World War I (1914 – 1918)

As part of the centenary celebrations of World War I, the Hon’ble President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated an exhibition highlighting the role of India in the Great War at the Manekshaw Centre this evening. It may be noted that by the time the war ended in 1918, the Royal Indian Marine had transported or escorted 13,02,394 men, 1,72,815 animals and 36,91,836 tonnes of war stores. The Royal Indian Marine suffered 330 causalities and 80 of its personnel were decorated with gallantry awards.

It is a lesser known fact that the Expeditionary Forces of the Indian Army that travelled to France, Africa and Mesopotamia to participate in the Great War were transported largely on board ships of the erstwhile Royal Indian Marine, which was the fore-runner to the Indian Navy of today. In fact, the convoy transporting the first division of the Indian Cavalry to France sailed within three weeks of the Declaration of War, on 25 Aug 1914. At the outset of the war, a number of ships were fitted out and armed at the Naval Dockyard in Bombay (Mumbai today) and the Kidderpore Docks in Calcutta (Kolkata today). The Indian Marine also kept the harbours of Bombay and Aden open through intensive mine-sweeping efforts. Smaller ships of the Indian Marine, designed for operations in inland waters, patrolled the critical waterways of the Tigris, the Euphrates and Shatt-al-Arab, in order to keep the supply lines open for the troops fighting in Mesopotamia. There was even a hospital ship operated by the Indian Marine to treat wounded soldiers.

In all, the Royal Indian Marine played a vital role in supporting and transporting the Indian Army throughout the Great War and their gallant contribution can be viewed at the exhibition.


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