Untold lives blog

18 July 2023

A soldiers’ guide to Bangalore

In 1917 the Army Young Men’s Christian Association in Bangalore, India, published a guide to the town for British soldiers.

Front cover of A Soldiers' Guide to BangaloreFront cover of A Soldiers' Guide to Bangalore

Henry Venn Cobb, the Resident of Mysore, wrote a foreword to the book, welcoming all ranks of His Majesty’s Forces quartered in Bangalore.  He said that they would be living amongst friends and well-wishers in as good a climate that India could give.  Bangalore was the stepping stone to what all the soldiers wanted – a speedy transfer to the far-flung battle lines.

The Lal Bagh garden at Bangalore, looking towards the glass houseThe Lal Bagh garden at Bangalore, looking towards the glass house

The guide opens with general information about Bangalore – the government, population, climate, electricity supply, manufactures and agriculture – followed by an historical overview.  It describes some places of interest both in Bangalore and nearby –
• Cubbon Park – over 100 acres in size and beautifully laid out, with a bandstand for regular concerts.
• The Museum with collections of carvings, birds, insects, fishes, shells, and geological specimens.
• The Old City and the Fort.
• Tata Silk Farm, given to the Salvation Army around 1911.
• Lal Bagh, a pleasure garden with a rare and valuable collection of tropical plants, a menagerie, and a glasshouse for exhibitions.
• Maharajah’s Palace, designed on the model of Windsor Castle.
• Bull Temple with a huge bull carved out of rock and dedicated to the god Siva.
• Ulsoor Temple, an example of pyramidical architecture.
• Military Dairy Farm run by the British Government to supply produce to its forces.
• Tata Institute for scientific study and research.
• Mysore Government Experimental Farm.
• Cauvery Falls.
• Kolar Gold Fields.
• Mysore City.
• Nandidroog, a fortified hill providing wonderful views.
• Seringapatam, an old town with a fortress.
• Sivaganga, a sacred hill.

There are sections on missionary work in and around Bangalore, and on the Y.M.C.A.

Soldiers visiting Bangalore on furlough could stay at the Church of England Institute or the Wesleyan Soldiers’ Home.  Details are provided of all the churches in Bangalore with times of services – Church of England, Church of Scotland, Wesleyan, Methodist, Baptist, Roman Catholic.

Health hints are given to the soldiers –
• Inoculation for enteric and malaria.
• Getting at least seven hours’ sleep, eight if possible.
• Taking a sponge bath every morning if nothing better is possible.
• Eating only foods known to be good and properly cooked.
• Drinking water only when the source is known to be pure, or after it has been boiled.
• Not drinking or eating too much of anything.
• Taking some form of vigorous exercise – football, hockey, cricket, fives, basketball, tennis, golf, swimming, boxing, wrestling.
• Forming ‘high ideals of sex relation’ - medical science has proved that sexual intercourse is not necessary for the preservation of virility.
Soldiers should remember the folks at home; think clean thoughts; eat clean foods; and drink clean drinks.

There are explanations for a short list of Indian words.

Explanations for a short list of words

Explanations for a short list of words

The Guide ends with recommendations for reliable merchants and business houses in Bangalore whose advertisements had paid for the publication of the booklet.  The goods and services offered include furniture, stationery and books, Indian curios, clothing, footwear, jewellery, tools, cinema, car and cycle hire, medicines, toiletries, and confectionery.

Merchants' advertisements - curios, pharmaceuticals and cyclesMerchants' advertisements - curios, pharmaceuticals and cycles


Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Army Y.M.C.A., A Soldiers' Guide to Bangalore (1917) British Library General Reference Collection 10056.de.13.


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