The attached image is the first page of the passenger list for the voyage of the Kaiser I Hind from London to Calcutta on 12th October 1893.
The passenger list shows what appears to be part of a fishing fleet. There are no obvious fishermen on board, however, because this is a very special type of fishing fleet. All the people on this page are noted simply as being “ladies and gentlemen”. Reading down the list of names, past Mrs Wright, Mrs Simpson, the infant and ayah (Indian nanny), you come to Miss Max, Miss Cowell, Miss Blyth, Miss Graham… a long sequence of unmarried women, down to Miss Sandys and Miss Good. This is the suspected “fleeting fleet”: marriageable young women sailing out to India in search of eligible bachelors, preferably the so-called “heaven-born” serving in the Indian Civil Service or officers in the Army. The fleet sailed out from Britain in the autumn or early winter and spent the next few cooler Indian months socialising at the British clubs and angling for a groom. There was always a shortage of unattached British women in India, so the arrival of the fishing fleet was doubtless fondly awaited by sincere and ardent gentlemen ready to be affianced, not to mention by dastardly bounders who enjoyed toying with a lady’s affections for the season.
Unsuccessful women – the “returned empties” – re-embarked for Britain in the spring.
According to the charity British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia, 2 million British and other Europeans are buried in the Indian sub-continent. Many more British people than realise it have a connection with India. If you are interested in the subject of the British in India from a family history perspective, two excellent places to start are BACSA’s website and the Families in British India Society.