WINS-345A Three Sepoys, 1/8th Madras Native Infantry
A Sepoy was originally the designation given to a professional Indian infantryman, usually armed with a musket, in the armies of the Mughal Empire. In the Eighteenth Century, the French East India Company and its other European counterparts employed locally recruited soldiers within India, mainly consisting of infantry designated as “Sepoys”.
The largest of these Indian forces, trained along European lines, were those that belonged to the British East India Company.
The term “Sepoy” is still used in the modern Nepalese, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh armies where it denotes the rank of private soldier. In its most common application, sepoy was the term used in the British Indian Army and earlier in the army of the British East India Company, for an infantry private.
The term Sepoy came into common use in the forces of the British East India Company in the eighteenth century where it was one of a number of names, such as Peons, gentoos, mestees and topasses, used for various categories of soldier. Initially it referred to Hindu or Muslim soldiers without regular uniforms or discipline. It later generically referred to all native soldiers in the service of the European powers in India.
Close to ninety six percent of the British East India Company’s army of 300,000 men were native to India and these sepoys played a crucial role in securing the subcontinent for the company.