The records of service cover mainly European personnel. They include regular officers of the Indian Army, Second World War emergency commissioned officers, departmental warrant and honorary officers, as well as the mediacl services and nurses. Earlier records of service, up to and including the First World War, are incomplete. The files range over a number of Indian Army regiments and corps as well as other groups, Indian Army Corps of Clerks, Chelsea Pensioners, Voluntary Aid Detachments, Indian Medical Service, Women's Auxiliary Corps, Emergency Commissioned officers, and also include a series of confidential reports on persons from these various groups. The files start from around the 1890s (although there are some that are earlier) and end in 1947 or shortly after that date, the majority dating from the 1930s. From the 1890s the India Office's Military Department adopted a modern file-keeping system for holding personal information on servicemen and women in one place rather than in several volumes as had been the practice before. However, papers on the early files may date back to the late 1870s, for example original enlistment documents. Thus they include men and women who served in both the first and second world wars, as well as those who were recruited as normal for service as part of the British Armed Forces in India.
A complete alphabetical index to the opened military files is now available on open access in the Oriental and India Office Collections Reading Room.
These files are classified under the Public Records Act as 'documents about individuals, containing information which if disclosed could cause either substantial distress or endangerment from a third party, to persons affected by the disclosure, or their descendants'. As such they are held under the terms of a statutory instrument, authorised by the Lord Chancellor, under 'extended closure' of between 75 to 100 years. The reason for this closure is to protect the subject of the file whilst they are still living. In order to safeguard confidential information on the subjects of the files, who may still be living, the closure period for these files has been set at 75 years from the date of entry of the serviceman/woman into the service. The files are opened on an annual basis, i.e. on 1 January 1999, files for persons joining the service in 1923 were opened. On 1 January 2000, files relating to persons joining the service in 1924 were opened and so on.
For files of persons who joined the service less than 75 years ago, access can only be granted to:The subject of the file (still living)
The (official, i.e. legal) next of kin of the subject, if the subject is dead
Other persons, who have the signed, written permission of either the subject, or if the subject is dead, then from the official next of kin
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