The need for troops and ships to transport them was immediate. Existing Channel steamers and naval ships carried the British Expeditionary Forces to France and Belgium but larger, faster, passenger ships were required to mobilise troops from further afield.
As the Australian and Indian Governments responded to the call to 'rally round' the empire flag, P&O and BI ships formed an important part of the troop transport convoys east of Suez.
In the course of the war over a million and a half Indian troops volunteered and some 800,000 fought in various campaigns, including the Western Front. The Times would later report:
'The Indian empire has overwhelmed the British nation by the completeness and unanimity of its enthusiastic aid.'
The largest convoy of Indian troops departed on the 20th September 1914 and included 13 BI ships with a further five joining in Karachi.
No fewer than 60 BI troopships were involved in the transport of Indian troops in the first ten weeks of war.