Military Wiki
Royal Indian Navy
Active 1612 – 14 August 1947
Country  British Raj
Branch Navy
Garrison/HQ Bombay
Engagements Seven Years' War
Anglo-Burmese Wars
First Opium War
First World War
Second World War
Naval Ensign (1928-1950) Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Naval Jack (1928-1947) Flag of Imperial India.svg

The Royal Indian Navy (RIN) was the naval force of British India. Along with the Presidency armies, later the Indian Army, and from 1932 the Indian Air Force, it was one of the Armed Forces of British India.

From its origins in 1612 as the East India Company's Marine, the Navy underwent various changes, including changes to its name. Over time it was named the Bombay Marine, Her Majesty's Indian Navy, Her Majesty's Indian Marine and the Royal Indian Marine, until being renamed the Royal Indian Navy in 1934. However, it remained a relatively small force until the Second World War, when it was greatly expanded.

After the partition of India into two independent states in 1947, the Navy's assets and personnel were split with the new Royal Pakistan Navy. Approximately two thirds of the fleet remained with the Union of India, as did all land assets within its territory, and this force, still under the name of "Royal Indian Navy", became the navy of the Union of India until India became a republic on 26 January 1950. It was then renamed as the Indian Navy.


East India Company[]


The East India Company was established in 1599, and it began to create a fleet of fighting ships in 1612, soon after Captain Thomas Best defeated the Portuguese at the Battle of Swally. This led the Company to build a port and to establish a small navy based at Suvali, near Surat, Gujarat, to protect its trade routes. The Company named the force the 'Honourable East India Company's Marine', and the first fighting ships arrived on 5 September 1612.[1]

This force protected merchant shipping off the Gulf of Cambay and the rivers Tapti and Narmada. The ships also helped map the coastlines of India, Persia and Arabia.[2]


In 1686, with most of English commerce moving to Bombay, the force was renamed the 'Bombay Marine'.[1] This force fought the Marathas and the Sidis and took part in the Anglo-Burmese Wars. While it recruited Indian sailors extensively, it had no Indian commissioned officers.[2]

Commodore William James was appointed to command the Marine in 1751. On 2 April 1755, commanding the Bombay Marine Ship Protector, he attacked the Maratha fortress of Tulaji Angre at Severndroog between Bombay and Goa. James had instructions only to blockade the stronghold, but he was able to get close enough to bombade and destroy it.[2]

In February 1756, the Marine supported the capture of Gheriah (now Vijaydurg) by Robert Clive and Admiral Watson and was active in skirmishes against the French, helping to consolidate the British position in India.[2]


Sailors of the Indian Navy breaching the Delhi gates during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

In 1830, the Bombay Marine was renamed the 'Indian Navy'. The British capture of Aden increased its commitments, leading to the creation of the 'Indus Flotilla'. The Navy then took part in the First Opium War of 1840.[2]

In 1852, at the outset of the Second Anglo-Burmese War, ships of Her Majesty's Indian Navy joined a Royal Navy force under the command of Admiral Charles Austen to assist General Godwin in the capture of Martaban and Rangoon.[3]

Direct British rule in India[]

After the end of Company rule in India following the Indian rebellion of 1857, the force came under the command of the British government of India and was formally named "Her Majesty's Indian Navy".[2]


Her Majesty's Indian Navy resumed the name 'Bombay Marine' from 1863 to 1877, when it was renamed 'Her Majesty's Indian Marine' (HMIM). The Marine then had two divisions; an Eastern Division at Calcutta and a Western Division at Bombay.

In recognition of its fighting services, HMIM was given the title of 'Royal Indian Marine' in 1892. By this time it consisted of over fifty vessels.[4] In 1905, the service was described as having "Government vessels engaged in troop-ship, surveying, police or revenue duties in the East Indies".[5]

When mines were detected off the coasts of Bombay and Aden, during the First World War, the Royal Indian Marine went into action with a fleet of minesweepers, patrol vessels and troop carriers. Besides patrolling, the Marine ferried troops and carried war stores from India to Mesopotamia (now Iraq), Egypt and East Africa.

The first Indian to be granted a commission was Engineer Sub-Lieutenant D. N. Mukherji, who joined the Royal Indian Marine as an officer on 6 January 1923.[6]



The Indian sloop HMIS Sutlej played a key role in Operation Husky.

File:Indian Navy seaman.jpg

A Punjabi seaman of the Royal Indian Navy holding twin Lewis Guns, in the Mediterranean (1943), during the Allied invasion of Sicily.

HMIS Bombay in Sydney Harbour, 1942

In 1934 the Royal Indian Marine changed its name, with the enactment of the Indian Navy (Discipline) Act of 1934. The Royal Indian Navy was formally inaugurated on 2 October 1934, at Bombay.[7] Its ships carried the prefix HMIS, for His Majesty's Indian Ship.[8]

At the start of the Second World War, the Royal Indian Navy was small, with only eight warships. The onset of the war led to an expansion in vessels and personnel described by one writer as "phenomenal". During the War, the Women's Royal Indian Naval Service was established, for the first time giving women a role in the navy, although they did not serve on board its ships.[7]

The sloops HMIS Sutlej and HMIS Jumna played a key role in Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily.[9]

Mutiny of 1946[]

In February 1946, Indian sailors launched the Royal Indian Navy Mutiny on board more than fifty ships and in shore establishments, protesting about alleged discrimination against Indian sailors and officers by the British during the war.[10] The mutiny found widespread support and spread all over India, including the Army and the Air Force. A total of seventy-eight ships, twenty shore establishments and 20,000 sailors were involved in this mutiny.

Independence and Partition of India, 1947[]

Following India's independence in 1947 and the ensuing partition, the Royal Indian Navy was divided between the newly independent Union of India and Dominion of Pakistan, and the Armed Forces Reconstitution Committee divided the ships and men of the Royal Indian Navy between India and Pakistan. The division of the ships was on the basis of two-thirds of the fleet to India, one third to Pakistan.[11]

The committee allocated to the newly formed 'Royal Pakistan Navy' (RPN) three of the seven active sloops, HMIS Godaveri, HMIS Hindustan and HMIS Narbada, four of the ten serviceable minesweepers, two frigates, two naval trawlers, four harbour launches and a number of harbour defence motor launches. 358 personnel, and 180 officers, most of whom were Muslims or Europeans, volunteered to transfer to the RPN. India retained the remainder of the RIN's assets and personnel, and many British officers opted to continue serving in the RIN.[7]

On 26 January 1950, when India adopted its current constitution and became a republic, the 'Royal Indian Navy' was renamed the Indian Navy. The Union Jack in the canton of the White Ensign was replaced with the Tiranga. Its vessels were redesignated as 'Indian Naval Ships', and the 'HMIS' ship prefix for existing vessels was changed to 'INS'.[12]

Commanding Officers[]

See Commander-in-Chief, Indian Navy

Partition of ships, 1947[]

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Harbans Singh Bhatia, Military History of British India, 1607-1947 (1977), p. 15
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Charles Rathbone Low, History of the Indian Navy: (1613-1863) (R. Bentley & Son, 1877)
  3. Edmund Burke, ed., The Annual Register of the Year 1852 (Longmans, Green, 1853), p. 283
  4. Genesis at
  5. Archibald Greig Cowie, The sea services of the empire as fields for employment (1905), p. 246
  6. D. J. E. Collins, The Royal Indian Navy, 1939-45, vol. 1 (Bombay, 1964), p. 8
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Bhatia (1977), p. 28
  8. D. J. E. Collins, The Royal Indian Navy, 1939-45, vol. 1 (Bombay, 1964)
  9. Inmed
  10. Christopher M. Bell, Bruce A. Elleman, Naval mutinies of the twentieth century: an international perspective (2003), p. 6: "The first navy to experience a major mutiny after the Second World War was the Royal Indian Navy. For five days in February 1946, Indian sailors rose up against their predominantly British officer corps: approximately 56 ships..."
  11. Bhatia (1977), p. 28: "Consequent on the partition of the country on 15 August 1947, two thirds of the undivided fleet and associated assets came to India."
  12. Indian and Foreign Review, vol 3 (Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Publications Division, 1965), p. 65: "The residual part which continued as Royal Indian Navy had to face many problems, specially regarding personnel. On India becoming Republic on January 26, 1950, the Navy dropped the word "Royal" in its name and became Indian Navy."

Further reading[]

  • Charles Rathbone Low, History of the Indian Navy: (1613-1863) (R. Bentley & Son, 1877)
  • Harbans Singh Bhatia, Military History of British India, 1607-1947 (1977)
  • Collins, D.J.E. The Royal Indian Navy (1964 online official history

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