How to Retrieve Indian War Records

Discussion in 'British Indian Army' started by Elven6, Jul 2, 2009.

  1. Elven6

    Elven6 Discharged

    A few people have asked me how to retrieve war records and I have gladly helped. The problem is I probably won't be around here forever; this is why I decided to create this thread, a guideline of sorts for people wanting to get war records from the Indian government. This will also get crawled on Google, Bing, Ask, etc so it will potentially help bring new people to the forum.

    There are two ways to go about this; the first one is a simple method with limited access. The second is more complicated but ensures access to a much larger database.

    Getting in touch with the British government, more specifically the British Library. The BL records pale in comparison to those held by the Indian government of course, the files they have are not limited to a certain rank either. File sizes for the records they have range from a single piece of paper to nearly 800 pages from what I am told. There are 4 options you can use to get in touch with the British Library, I will post them in the order I believe is best.


    The easiest way to get in touch with them is via email. Simply fill out this form and someone will contact you within a week. I recommend you not include and service record related information at this time, simply introduce yourself and explain why you want to get in touch with them. When they contact you they will ask for the appropriate information.


    Keep in mind long distance costs and such.

    +44 (0)20 7412 7873


    Traditional mail works, although email so much more convenient,

    Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections enquiries
    The British Library
    96 Euston Road
    NW1 2DB
    United Kingdom

    Not sure if you should be giving away personal details during your first mailing here either, in the end it is completely your choice.

    In Person

    Unless you are a "local" or have confirmation that records for your case do exist, I wouldn't recommend going in person, especially if you are traveling great distances to do so.

    Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections enquiries
    The British Library
    96 Euston Road
    NW1 2DB
    United Kingdom

    If you need more info,

    India Office Records

    The second option is to contact the Indian government, the only way(s) to contact them is mail or in person. I personally haven't tried in person so I don't know if it will work, if anyone has tried please post your results.


    The Adjutant General's Office
    Army HQ, West Block No lll
    R K Puram
    New Delhi 110066
    (enquiries in writing only)

    A few complications will arise, you are writing to a foreign country where English is not the primary language. This isn't me being racist; it's me speaking from personal experience. You will probably find an English speaker at the Adjutant General's Office; the problem is the post workers. When I sent my letter my parents (who emigrated from India to Canada) advised me to write the addresses on the envelope in BIG letters. This way if the guy delivering your mail knows little English he would be able to make out some of the letters on the envelope and hopefully deliver your message. If you ever received any mail from India, this is why the formating and text would look "odd".

    When you are writing the letter itself make it as in-depth as possible, explaining why you are getting in touch with them along with including as much information as you can regarding the person whose records you are looking for. Make yourself seem important and worth their time, at the same time don't insult them in any way. Feel free to use a template to get your letter started if you want to write it on your computer. Use the many templates Word 2007 offers if you need to. Writing the letter by hand also works, not sure if one will impress them more than the other, although a hand written letter may seem more sincere.

    I'd recommend you get in touch with both, the British Library will probably get you some basic info, the Indian government on the other hand will have the ability to get more in depth information.

    If the person was K.I.A., try this website.

    :: CWGC ::

    That's basically it, questions, comments, etc? Leave them below; keep in mind the British Library also extends to other parts of Asia and Africa, just not the second part. :p

    Your results will vary, you may not even get a response at all, don't let it discourage you though. Other steps you can try,

    • Ask your relatives or those close to the person whose record you are looking for. They may have more information about the persons war career then the government might. If the person in question is still living why not ask them? If they are living, don't force them into telling you anything, some people would rather leave old wounds untouched. They will tell you when they are ready to do so.
    • Trying finding people who served alongside your dad, grandfather, etc. They will be able to tell you stories no piece of paper will ever be able to.
    • Visit the house they lived in (assuming it is still owned by your family of course), for all you know they may have a trunk full of "war goods" hidden in a storage room somewhere.
    • Suppose your grandfather had told you stories of his war career when you were young, use this to your advantage. See if you can piece together information to get a map, essay, etc together regarding where he had served. Documents do remain classified, perhaps your grandfather had accidentally told you something he shouldn't have, if you don't find anything, don't let it discourage you.
    • Assuming the person in question is your grandfather, odds are he would go to a military base near his home to collect pension checks. If they were elderly they probably had someone accompany them on their journey. The next time you visit ask that person to take you there, the base should have basic info on hand (used to determine amounts paid and such) that you can use to your advantage. The money would not be sent personally, I assume it is such so if a person fails to collect their pension cheque the government saves some money.
    If you ever need help, there are many great people on this forum, some with first hand experience who will gladly help. Don't let anything discourage you, good luck in your search!
  2. zahonado

    zahonado Well-Known Member

    Thanks for that useful info. Do you by any chance know whether there is/was an Indian Military Hospital in Quetta during WW2? I confirm that going to the BL India records office in Euston is very time consuming , but the librarians are very helpful if you email them and if you order what you want in advance it may come from different storage areas which can be frustrating ,especially at 4.30pm!

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