It must have been very confusing for the young British soldier landing in India for the first time. Not only was he assailed by new sounds, smells, animals and people for the first time, but he also had to come to grips with a whole new currency. The coins he received in his pay or as change in the bazaar were quite unlike any he had seen before; they had odd names and new multiple to learn and in the 1930s this handy guide was published in the Woodbines Guide to India for newly arrived soldiers:
Note the warning across the top of the page- indicating that there were a lot of forged coins in circulation at this time.
As someone who collects Indian military kit, I have been keen to put together a representative selection of the coins a man might have carried in his pockets. The coins still seem strange and exotic today, but I have collected up a nice range of different denominations:
L to R, Back Row: 1/2 Rupee, 1/4 Ruppee, 4 Annas. Front row: 2 Annas, 1 Anna, 1/2 Anna, 1/12 Anna
The rear of the coins have the sovereign’s head on them, wearing the Imperial crown as Emperor of India. Unlike English coins, the legend around the head is in English, not Latin, and has the sovereign’s name plus the phrase ‘King Emperor’:
In the Second World War a private received an average of 12 rupees a week, equivalent to 15 shillings back home at the same period. This was still considerably more than native troops received. A sepoy would get around 24 rupees a month, half his British counterpart.