Order of British India

The Order of British India was an order of merit established in 1837 by the East India Company for "long, faithful and honourable service".[2] The company's powers were removed after the Indian Mutiny, and the Order was incorporated into the British Honours System in 1859. The order became obsolete in 1947, after the partition of British India into the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan.

Order of British India
Insignia of the Order, Second Class (above) and First Class, prior to 1939, (below)
TypeOrder of merit
Awarded forLong, faithful and honourable service
Presented bythe British monarch
EligibilityOfficers of the British Indian Army holding a Viceroy's commission, Indian Officers of Indian States Forces, Frontier Corps and Military Police
StatusNo longer awarded after 1947
Established17 April 1837

Ribbon 1837–1838

Ribbon 1838–1939

First Class ribbon 1939–1947

Second Class ribbon 1939–1947
Next (higher)Royal Red Cross (Class II)
Next (lower)Kaisar-i-Hind Medal[1]
1st class Insignia of design awarded from 1939, with presentation case

The Order

The Order of British India was awarded by the Viceroy of India for long, faithful and honourable service by Viceroy's Commissioned (i.e. native Indian) Officers in the Indian Army. While the Order could be awarded for distinguished service on a particular campaign, it was more often awarded to selected serving officers of between 20 and 30 years service.


When first ordered by Lord William Bentinck in April 1837, the Order was intended as a means of providing recognition for serving Indian officers in the East India Company's military forces. These so-called "Native Officers" faced slow promotion under a system that was based on advancement through seniority. The 1st Class of the Order conferred the title of sirdar bahadoor on the 100 subedars and risaldars (senior Indian officer ranks) to whom membership was limited, plus an increase in salary of two rupees a day. Appointments to the 2nd Class, limited to a further 100 Indian officers of any rank, entitled the recipient to the title of bahadoor and a more modest wage increase. In an article published in the Calcutta Review in 1856 Henry Lawrence however expressed the opinion that the Order had become "virtually the reward of old age" with its wearers mostly limited to retired pensioners.

Later history

In September 1939 eligibility was extended to include native officers serving in the Indian States Forces, Frontier Corps and Military Police,[3] and further extended in January 1944 to include native officers and Indian Warrant Officers in the Royal Indian Navy and the Hong Kong and Singapore Royal Artillery, as well as foreign officers, who could be appointed honorary members of the Order.[4]


The Order was awarded in two classes, both worn from a neck ribbon:[5]
First Class. The badge consisted of a gold star 1.7 inches (43 mm) in diameter composed of rays of gold with in the centre the words ORDER OF BRITISH INDIA encircling a lion on a background of light blue enamel, surrounded by a laurel wreath, surmounted by a Crown. The enamel behind the wording was dark blue until 1939, when it was changed to the same light blue as appears behind the lion.[5] Recipients of the first class were entitled to use the title Sardar Bahadur (heroic leader).[3]
Second class. The badge comprised a slightly smaller gold star 1.5 inches (38 mm) in diameter of similar design to the first class, but without the crown and with the centre enamel in dark blue enamel. Recipients of the second class were entitled to the title Bahadur (hero).[3]

Holders of both classes could use the post-nominal letters OBI.[3]

All initial awards to the Order were in the second class, with appointments to the first class made from existing members of the second class.[2]

The ribbon was originally sky-blue, but changed to dark red in 1838 after it was found that the hair oil favoured by Indian soldiers stained the ribbon. From September 1939 the first class ribbon had two thin light blue strips added towards the centre of the dark red ribbon, while the second class had one light blue stripe added to the centre of the ribbon.[2]

Pakistan awarded the Order to a small number of seconded British officers who rendered outstanding services at the time of independence.[6][5]


The following is an incomplete list of people appointed to the Order of British India:

First Class

  • Sardar Bahadur Major General Bakhshish Singh OBI 1st Class 14 June 1912 (Military Secretary Patiala).[7]
  • Sardar Bahadur Captain Gardhara Singh Minhas OBI, was awarded the OBI(First Class) for his contribution in the Great Wars and long meritorious service.


Honorary Captain Muhammad Khan in the picture wearing OBI first class medal
Portrait of honorary Subedar Major Bahadur MULTANI RAM with his medals(first class) and insignia.
  • Subedar Major Bahadur Multani Ram, OBI (First Class) 1920, IDSM, Faizabad Cantonment (Royal Army), WW1 participant.
  • Sardar Bahadur Unjur Tiwari, 1st Bengal Native Infantry. Spied for British forces during the Indian Mutiny.[9]
  • Colonel Rao Bahadur Thakur Balu Singh ji Inderpura, OBI, IDSM (1st Class)
    Col Rao Bahadur Balu Singh OBI IDSM
  • Nawab Mir Hashim Ali Khan, Col Hahsim Nawaz Jung, OBI SB, (1st Class 1897).[10]
  • Sardar Bahadur Lieutenant Raja Paindah Khan O.B.I Chieftain of Mohrah Rajgan Jhelum, 1/14 Punjab Regiment.
  • Sardar Bahadur Captain Moovera kalappa, OBI, 71st Coorg Rifles, WW2 Burma Campaign.
  • Sardar Bahadur Raja Jeoraj Singh, of Sandwa, CBE, OBI, Major-General in the Bikaner State Forces, Member, Executive Council, Bikaner State, Rajputana.[11]
  • Sardar Bahadur Captain Raja Feroz Khan Chieftain of Gorha Rajgan Jhelum, O.B.I, Frontier Force Rifles.[12]
Honorary Lieutenant Pehlwan Khan OBI First Class
Honorary Captain 'Sardar Bahadur' Rewat Singh Chandawat Gotan War. Highly decorated for World War 1
  • Khan Bahadur General Fateh Naseeb Khan OBI 1st Class 17 January 1929 (Alwar State Forces).[13]
Honorary Captain Sardar Bahadur, Mihr Din, OBI (1st Class)
  • Honorary Captain Sardar Bahadur Bhola Singh Gulia, OBI (1st Class), Indian Survey Regiment of Badli, Haryana, India.[14]
  • Subadar Major and Honorary Captain Sardar Bahadur Ghafur Khan OBI, IDSM late 4/15th Punjab Regiment.[15]
  • Subedar Major and Honorary Lieutenant Sardar Bahadur Pehlwan Khan MBE, OBI, Bronze Star Medal.[16]
  • Sardar Bahadur Tiku[17][18] Singh Thapa, OBI,[19] KPM, CM, 2nd in Command, Gurkha Military Police.
  • 'Sardar Bahaudur' Honorary Captain Bakhshi Jagat Singh, OBI(1st class); enlisted in 5th Bengal Cavalry in 1857, participated in the 'Bhutan War' then served as a spy in Afghanistan providing valuable maps and sketches of routes; retired from the 16th Bengal Cavalry.
  • Honorary Captain Taj Mohammad Khan OBI, IDSM, Poona Horse

Second class

  • Subedar Major Purushottam Dass "Bahadur" at Chitral(1895) Afghanistan During Relief Of Chitral 1895.
    Risaldar Nadir Ali Khan, Bamba Rajput, 9th Hodson's Horse.[20]
  • Subedar and Honorary Captain Bahadur Inayat Ullah Asmie, OBI (2nd Class), 10 Baluch Regiment.[21]
  • Subedar-Major Bahadur Jagindar Singh, OBI (2nd Class), IOM (2nd Class).[22]
  • Subedar Major Purushottam Dass "Bahadur" OBI (2nd Class) of 74th Punjabis, (Village Heb, Thural Kangra District (Then Jullundar District). awarded the Order of British India on 16 April 1911.
  • Subedar Major and Honorary Lieutenant Ram Singh Kaila, Bahadur, IOM, OBI, of 15th Ludhiana Sikhs (1887–1916), 82nd Punjabis (1916–21). IOM for gallantry at Chagra Kotal (Tirah, NWFP, Pakistan).[23]
  • Commandant Sardar Bahadur Narain Singh Hundal, OBI 2nd Class, Kapurthala State Forces.[24]
  • Risaldar Mir Dad Khan Tarin of 9th Hodson Horse.
  • Subedar (Hony Subedar-Major) Amar Nath Puri, Bahadur, OBI, of Indian Medical Department, posted in I.M.H Bakloh in 1942 .
  • Risaldar Major Ganga Dat Honorary Lieutenant 2nd lancer OBI 1917 France


  1. ORDER OF WEAR, Website of the UK government: Directgov, date accessed 4 January 2018.
  2. H. Taprell Dorling (1956). Ribbons and Medals. A. H. Baldwin & Son, London. p. 42.
  3. "London Gazette, 26 Sept 1939, page 6511". Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  4. "London Gazette, 21 January 1944, page 434". Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  5. John W. Mussell, ed. (2015). Medal Yearbook 2015. Token Publishing Limited, Honiton, Devon. p. 88.
  6. Edward C Joslin. Observer Book of British Awards and Medals. p. 42. Published by Frederick Warne & Co, 1973.
  7. Army Headquarters, India (6 February 2012). Indian Army List January 1919 — Volume 3. ISBN 9781781502594.
  8. "When Army runs in the DNA".
  9. Field Marshal Lord Roberts, Forty-one Years in India 1897. Note, page 208.
  10. Various (15 March 2007). Hyderabad State List of Leading Officials, Nobles and Personages. Potter Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-4067-3137-8.
  11. Singh, Raja Jeoraj. "SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, I JANUARY, 1941" (PDF). thegazette.co.uk.
  12. Army Headquarters, India (3 February 2012). Indian Army List January 1919 — Volume 2. ISBN 9781781502570.
  13. Various (15 March 2007). Alwar State List of Leading Officials, Nobles and Personages. Potter Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-4067-3137-8.
  14. 33 Years record of unbroken service (1911–1944). Served in both world wars. Madras War Review journal. 21 January 1944.
  15. "The London Gazette". 20 November 1936. p. 7495.
  16. Condon, W.E.H. (1962). The Frontier Force Regiment. Gale & Polden. p. 574.
  17. "File:Sardar Bahadur Tiku Singh Thapa, OBI, KPM, CM, 2nd in Command, Gurkha Military Police.jpg – Wikimedia Commons". commons.wikimedia.org. 14 August 2020. Retrieved 14 August 2020.
  18. Thapa, Tiku (February 1937). "Sardar Bahadur" (PDF). Edinburgh Gazette. Retrieved 14 August 2020.
  19. iarchive:in.ernet.dli.2015.169153
  20. The award of the OBI to him was gazetted in August 1897, as he was one of a special contingent that went to London to present a Guard of Honour to Queen Victoria, on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee. Naval and Army Illustrated August 1897; also see Indian Army Lists, 1902, 1911
  21. Captain Bahadur Inayat Ullah Asmi, OBI served in two World Wars, as Subedar and Captain (King's Commission); he died in 1947 in Lahore.
  22. Subedar-Major Bahadur Jagindar Singh, OBI "" O'Dwyer, Michael Francis (1918). War Speeches. Lahore, Punjab: Superintendent Government Printing. p. 129. his conspicuous gallantry in action on 17 November 1914 when with a party of Sappers under the command of a British Officer he was always to the fore and led his men with great determination into the enemy's trenches. Subedar-Major Jagindar Singh, Saini Sikh of Kheri Salabatpur in Bupar, gained the 2nd Class Order of Merit at the battle of Loos in Belgium for striking leadership and conspicuous bravery in action after most of his company and all but one British Officer in his regiment had been killed or wounded. This officer was also awarded the 2nd Class of the Order of British India for distinguished conduct in the field.
  23. vide GGO No. 430 of 1898. OBI vide Gazette of India No. 872 of 1917.
  24. "The Gazette of India, 1903, January-June". 6 October 1903 via Internet Archive.


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