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The Frontier Force 

Compiled by 



Printed and bound in Great Britain 
by Gale and Polden Limited at their Wellington Press, 
Aldershot, Hampshire 


from a photograph taken in 1948 on retiring from the Army 

Face page v 


K.C.B., C.LE., M.C. 

IT is not quite forty years since the Regiment came into being in 1922, but 
the history of the Battalions which were selected to compose the then new 12th 
Frontier Force Regiment goes back over a hundred years. 

And a glorious history each of those Battalions had: Guides Infantry, Ist, 
2nd, 3rd and 4th Sikh Infantry, P.F.F. All of it is now part of the History of the 
12th Frontier Force Regiment. 

There were many teething troubles in the early days of the new regiment 
and it took, I think, the Second World War to mould us truly into one regiment 
with a real 12th Frontier Force Regimental spirit. 

Many other regiments of the Indian and Pakistan Armies had produced 
their histories before Partition. Here at last is our own. It has been written by an 
officer belonging to what was once our sister regiment, the 13th Frontier Force 
Rifles, Brigadier W. E. H. Condon, O.B.E. We were very lucky to get him to 
undertake the task. Not only is he an experienced writer of military history, take 
for example his History of his own old regiment, but he was faced with many 
difficulties. There was the time involved in obtaining information from Pakistan 
and other parts of the world. The Partition of the old India made the tracing of 
certain records most difficult and there were inevitable delays over this and the 
transfer of funds from Pakistan for the expenses of publication. 

For these funds we are indebted to the present members of the Regiment, 
who most generously made the money available. Without this help this History 
could not have been written. We owe Bill Condon and our comrades in Pakistan, 
in particular our old friend Major-General Hayaud Din, a great debt of gratitude. 
“Ganga” was a protagonist in initiating the writing of the history and in taking 
steps to make its completion possible. 

I am sure all members of the Regiment, past, present and future, will 
welcome this book. I heartily commend it to them all. I am confident that for 
those who are now serving and carrying on so splendidly the Piffer Tradition, 
as well as for those who may serve in the days to come, it will bring pride in 
the past and inspiration for the future. 

nL / cetera: 
Rav ee 



THis History is a companion volume to its predecessor by the same author, 
The History of the Frontier Force Rifles. Similarly it seeks to tell the story in one 
volume, of the Battalions of the Frontier Force Regiment from their inception 
as irregular units for special duties on the North-West Frontier of India, till the 
conclusion of their first ten years as Regular Battalions of the National Army 
of Pakistan. 

Most of the prefatory remarks to the first volume apply therefore equally 
to this. Particularly applicable are those referring to the general lay-out and the 
occasional vagaries of style in the different narratives, which are due to using at 
times verbatim the writings of officers and thus preserving the vivid atmosphere 
of the events they describe. 

The record of military achievement with its background of gallantry, 
endurance, loyalty and unquestioning sacrifice is no less outstanding in this 
volume than in the first; and the two Regiments, now one in the Pakistan Army, 
have a tradition to maintain that is second to none and of which they can be 
proud indeed. 

In telling the story about half the book is devoted to the Second World War 
and half to the earlier years. This earlier period is covered generally in outline, 
but the narrative goes into more detail for events of particular interest or 
importance. Where details of minor happenings prior to the Second World 
War are required, the individual histories of Battalions must be consulted. 

These histories indeed are the source from which the outline of the early 
period in this volume has been compiled, though in some cases Battalion records 
had to be consulted also. For the narratives of the Second World War, the War 
Diaries were available in nearly all cases. The only Battalion whose entire War 
Diary for its campaign in the Second World War is missing, is the 2nd Sikhs 
(now the 6th Battalion of the Regiment). 

This Battalion’s heroically tragic struggle in the Malayan campaign of 
1941-42, ended with its extinction as a Battalion for the time being, its diary 
and records in the field being destroyed and the remnant of its officers and men 
going into captivity. The story, however, has been most ably written by Lieuten- 
ant-Colonel Grimwood and illustrated by his sketch maps. As Adjutant he 
fought through the campaign and went into captivity in Japanese hands on its 
disastrous conclusion. Of his narrative, which Chapter XX closely follows, 
Lieutenant-Colonel Grimwood remarked regarding himself and the 2nd Sikhs: 

“I would never have attempted this record had I not seen for myself during 


viii Preface 

a recent visit to Pakistan (1953) the intense pride and interest shown by the 
present Pakistani officers and other ranks in the history of the battalions of the 
Regiment and their determination to carry on its traditions. The existence of 
such a spirit makes it imperative that as complete a record as possible ... be 
handed on. The story (of the 2nd Sikhs) covering the war period has had to be 
written entirely from personal memories of events as no records exist to which 
reference can be made. All War Diaries and Battalion Orders of the period were 
destroyed by 2nd Echelon before the capitulation of Singapore, and no personal 
diaries survived the period of captivity.” 

However, to provide a check on Lieutenant-Colonel Grimwood’s record, 
Chapter XX was read and verified by Brigadier Arthur Cumming who com- 
manded the Battalion throughout the campaign and was decorated with the 
Victoria Cross for the greatest gallantry in one of its actions. He found little to 
amend in Grimwood’s narrative. 

Where verification of narratives is concerned, this has in fact been carried 
out in all cases whether compiled from War Diaries of Battalions or from 
personal notes and records—on the same lines as above. In many cases where 
the Commanding Officer has changed more than once, several officers have 
assisted by reading and noting on narratives. 

In this connection my acknowledgments are due to the following officers 
for the trouble they have taken in reading and checking narratives or otherwise 
assisting with personal reminiscences : 

Ist Sikhs 
General Sir Rob Lockhart, K.CB., 
C.I.E., M.C. 
Brigadier L. E. MacGregor, O.B.E. 
Brigadier H. E. Cubitt-Smith, C.B.E., 
Lieutenant-Colonel H. E. Boulter, 
2nd Sikhs 

Lieutenant-Colonel] Ian Grimwood. 
Brigadier A. E. Cumming, V.C., 
O.B.E., M.C. 

3rd Royal Sikhs 
Lieutenant-Colonel W. E. Dean, J.P. 
Lieutenant-Colonel J. E. B. Barton. 
Brigadier H. W. D. McDonald, D.S.0. 
Major J. H. Chandler, M.B.E. 
Major R. A. Nicholls. 
Captain P. Glenn. 

Preface ix 

4th Sikhs 

The Guides 

6th Battalion 
7th Battalion 

8th Battalion 

9th Battalion 

10th Battalion and Regimental Centre 

11th/14th Battalion 

Machine Gun Battalion 

Lieutenant-Colonel O. L. Ruck, D.S.O. 

Major-General R. G. Ekin, C.LE. 

Brigadier W. D. Edward, D.S.O. 

Colonel J. L. Carter, M.C. 

J. O. C. Beazley, Esq. 

Lieutenant-Colonel D. J. Bryceson, 

Major R. Elsmie. 

Major P. Stewart, M.C. 

Brigadier P. R. Macnamara, D.S.O. 
Colonel L. V.S. Blacker, O.B.E. 

P. A. Hughes, Esq. 
Lieutenant-Colone] A. S. Lewis, D.S.O. 

Lieutenant-General K. M. Sheikh. 
Major D. D. Slattery. 

General Sir Douglas Gracey, K.C.B., 
K.C.LE., C.B.E., M.C. 

General Sir Stuart Greeves, K.B.E., 
C.B., D.S.O., M.C. 

Brigadier L. R. Mizen, C.B.E. 

Colonel H. R. Hugo, O.B.E. 

Major D. G. Butterworth, M.C. 

Major-General M. Hayaud Din, H.J., 
M.B.E., M.C. 

Major A. R. Gurney. 

Colonel E. A. Stead, M.C. 
Lieutenant-Colonel D. J. Cairns. 

Lieutenant-Colonel R. E. F. G. North. 
Major-General M. Hayaud Din, H.J., 
M.B.E., M.C. 

The late Colonel G. F. Taylor, O.B.E. 
Colonel W. I. Moberly. 

Vill Preface 

a recent visit to Pakistan (1953) the intense pride and interest shown by the 
present Pakistani officers and other ranks in the history of the battalions of the 
Regiment and their determination to carry on its traditions. The existence of 
such a spirit makes it imperative that as complete a record as possible . . . be 
handed on. The story (of the 2nd Sikhs) covering the war period has had to be 
written entirely from personal memories of events as no records exist to which 
reference can be made. All War Diaries and Battalion Orders of the period were 
destroyed by 2nd Echelon before the capitulation of Singapore, and no personal 
diaries survived the period of captivity.” 

However, to provide a check on Lieutenant-Colonel Grimwood’s record, 
Chapter XX was read and verified by Brigadier Arthur Cumming who com- 
manded the Battalion throughout the campaign and was decorated with the 
Victoria Cross for the greatest gallantry in one of its actions. He found little to 
amend in Grimwood’s narrative. 

Where verification of narratives is concerned, this has in fact been carried 
out in all cases whether compiled from War Diaries of Battalions or from 
personal notes and records—on the same lines as above. In many cases where 
the Commanding Officer has changed more than once, several officers have 
assisted by reading and noting on narratives. 

In this connection my acknowledgments are due to the following officers 
for the trouble they have taken in reading and checking narratives or otherwise 
assisting with personal reminiscences : 

Ist Sikhs 
General Sir Rob Lockhart, K.C.B., 
C.LE., M.C. 
Brigadier L. E. MacGregor, O.B.E. 
Brigadier H. E. Cubitt-Smith, C.B.E., 
Lieutenant-Colonel H. E. Boulter, 
2nd Sikhs 

Lieutenant-Colonel Ian Grimwood. 
Brigadier A. E. Cumming, V.C., 
O.B.E., M.C. 

3rd Royal Sikhs 
Lieutenant-Colonel W. E. Dean, J.P. 
Lieutenant-Colonel J. E. B. Barton. 
Brigadier H. W. D. McDonald, D.S.O. 
Major J. H. Chandler, M.B.E. 
Major R. A. Nicholls. 
Captain P. Glenn. 


4th Sikhs 

The Guides 

6th Battalion 
7th Battalion 

8th Battalion 

9th Battalion 

10th Battalion and Regimental Centre 

11th/14th Battalion 

Machine Gun Battalion 


Lieutenant-Colonel O. L. Ruck, D.S.O. 

Major-General R. G. Ekin, C.LE. 

Brigadier W. D. Edward, D.S.O. 

Colonel J. L. Carter, M.C. 

J. O. C. Beazley, Esq. 

Lieutenant-Colonel D. J. Bryceson, 

Major R. Elsmie. 

Major P. Stewart, M.C. 

Brigadier P. R. Macnamara, D.S.O. 
Colonel L. V.S. Blacker, O.B.E. 

P. A. Hughes, Esq. 
Lieutenant-Colonel A. S. Lewis, D.S.O. 

Lieutenant-General K. M. Sheikh. 
Major D. D. Slattery. 

General Sir Douglas Gracey, K.C.B., 
K.C.LE., C.B.E., M.C. 

General Sir Stuart Greeves, K.B.E., 
C.B., D.S.O., M.C. 

Brigadier L. R. Mizen, C.B.E. 

Colonel H. R. Hugo, O.B.E. 

Major D. G. Butterworth, M.C. 

Major-General M. Hayaud Din, H.J., 
M.B.E., M.C. 

Major A. R. Gurney. 

Colonel E. A. Stead, M.C. 
Lieutenant-Colonel D. J. Cairns. 

Lieutenant-Colonel R. E. F. G. North. 
Major-General M. Hayaud Din, H.J., 
M.B.E., M.C. 

The late Colonel G. F. Taylor, O.B.E. 
Colonel W. I. Moberly. 

x Preface 

25th Garrison Battalion 
The late Lieutenant-Colonel L. R. 
Knight, M.C. 

In particular I owe a debt of gratitude to Brigadier Pat Macnamara of the 
Guides, who not only read and checked the Guides’ narratives, but offered to 
read the proofs of the whole volume. I was grateful for this generous offer as 
an insurance against the errors and omissions of my own proof reading, but 
found in addition that I was given a host of valuable suggestions for the im- 
provement of the volume. These I was glad to accept almost without exception 
and I think the History has benefited greatly as a result. 

Following the pattern of the first volume, the narratives of Battalions have 
been given individually throughout the Second World War, and almost through- 
out the First World War and earlier period also. 

The order in which these narratives (relating to any particular war or 
period) have been placed, has been governed by how best to present the general 
picture of the war or campaign concerned. Already a generation has matured to 
whom the course of even the Second World War and the strategy of its cam- 
paigns is a vague miscellany of names of places and men; and before future 
generations of the Regiment can appreciate the part its Battalions played in the 
campaigns of the first 100 years of their existence, an overall picture of what was 
happening in those campaigns must surely be grasped. 

The author has found that the best way to help to this end is to commence 
the Regiment’s story in a given campaign or war theatre, with that of the Batta- 
lion that first entered it, and open its narrative with a short review of the situa- 
tion and the events leading up to it. For this reason all order of seniority of 
Battalions or precedence of any kind has been set aside in selecting the sequence 
of narratives, and only considerations of clarity in presenting the general picture 
have been taken into account in deciding which narratives should be presented 

The History has been provided with maps and illustrations on the same 
scale as the first volume, limitations being those of cost. The sketch maps cover 
all the campaigns or actions of first importance or interest, and two large 
itinerary maps at the end show the wanderings overseas of the Regular Battalions 
in the Second World War. For the excellence of the intricate work in these 
itinerary maps, I have to thank Colonel T. M. M. Penney of the Cabinet Histori- 
cal Section who so kindly permitted his expert draughtsmen to carry them out. 

As regards illustrations, officer groups of Regular Battalions taken just 
before the Second World War have been included as far as possible, since these 
show the leaders in the War that followed. Unfortunately one or two groups are 
missing. At the same time some interesting illustrations of Regimental or 
Battalion occasions in Pakistan add considerably to the interest of the final 
chapter. This chapter, added at the special request of the Regiment after its first 

Preface xi 

ten years in the Pakistan Army, gives an illuminating account of Battalions’ 
doings and shows the keenness with which the “‘Piffer” tradition is being main- 

In conclusion the author feels that he cannot do better than repeat some of 
the remarks with which he ended his introduction to the first volume. 

The Second World War was perhaps the first great conflict in which the 
integration of forces on land, sea and in the air was studied and achieved. In 
particular the influences of the air at times became a ruling if not a decisive 
factor—tactically, strategically, and administratively. Particularly was this so 
in Burma in 1944-45, and this volume may be criticized for the very limited 
references to naval and air forces that it contains. The reader will realize that 
these omissions are not because the influence of these forces are not appreciated, 
but because in a Regimental History the focus must be kept on the Battalion 
and its doings. Others come into the story only when their activities come into 
the Battalion’s picture. The reader who knows what the naval and air forces 
achieved, will readily fill in the blanks in his imagination and give these 
important arms the weight due to them. 

Finally, if this History, like all Regimental Histories of the time, gives the 
impression that the Second World War was won by the Frontier Force Regiment, 
who would not welcome such a criticism! If such an achievement were possible 
in the spirit alone, assuredly these volumes show that the men were capable of it. 






Foreword by General Sir Rob Lockhart, K.C.B., C.L.E., M.C. 
The Frontier Force Regiment’. 

The Birth of the Punjab Frontier Force—The Guides and the. Frontier 
Brigade—The Punjab Irregular Force (P.I.F.). 

THE MUTINY AND AFTER (1850-1878) ss 

The Ist Sikhs, 1850-78—The 2nd Sikhs, 1850-78—The 3rd Sikhs, 1850-78 — 
The 4th Sikhs, 1850-54 (Second Burmese War)—The 4th Sikhs in the 
Mutiny—The 4th Sikhs in the Mahsud Expedition of 1860—The Guides, 
1850-57—The Guides in the Siege of Delhi—The Guides on the Frontier, 
1858-78—The Ambeyla Expedition, 1863. 


Outline of the Campaign—The Guides in the Second Afghan War, First 
Phase—The Residency, Kabul, 1879—The Defence of the Residency— 
The Sorties—The Final Sally and End of the Disaster—The Guides in the 
Second Phase of the Second Afghan War—Occupation of Kabul—Battle 
of the Asmai Heights—Winter in Sherpur Cantonment—The Ist Sikhs 
in the Second Afghan War—The 2nd Sikhs in the Second Afghan War— 
Ahmed Khel—The March from Kabul to Kandahar—The Battle of 
Kandahar—The 3rd Sikhs in the Second Afghan War. 


The P.F.F. placed under the C.-in-C.—The Relief of Chitral, 1895—The 
Great Frontier Revolt of 1897—Tirah, 1897—The Edwardian Decade— 
Tonnochy’s Raid—The Ist Sikhs in China, 1900-01—The 2nd Sikhs in 
Somaliland, 1903-04—The Disaster of Gumburru—The Battle of Jidballi 
—Zakka Khel and Mohmand, 1908. 


France, 1914-15 and the Guides Company with Wilde's Rifles—Col. 
Blacker’ s Account of his Experiences in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle— 
The Guides in Operations on the North-West Frontier, 1915-16—The 
Platoon Organization—Mesopotamia, 1917-18—-Palestine, 1918—The 
Final Offensive—Syria and Egypt, 1!919-20—Return to India and 


The 28th F.F. Brigade—The Suez Canal, 1914-15—Aden, 1915— ‘Mesopo- 
tamia, 1914-15—The Battle of Sheikh Saad—The Battle of Dujailah and 
the fall of Kut—The advance to Baghdad and the conquest of Mesopotamia, 
the Fall of Kut—The Advance to Baghdad and the Conquest of Meso- 
potamia, 1917—The Capture of Baghdad—Operations north of Baghdad 
in 1917—Palestine, 1918. 


















Formation of the 2nd Guides—Palestine, 1918—Post-war services of the 
2nd Guides in Syria, Egypt and Palestine—The 3rd Battalion: Formation 
and Early Days—The Third Afghan War—Waziristan, 1919-20—Return 
to Mardan and Disbandment. 


Drafts to maintain Linked Battalions—Action on the ‘Dande Plain, 
Waziristan—Mesopotamia, 1918—Kurdistan and Iraq—The Mazurkha 


Waziristan, 1917—Palestine, 1918—The 54th in the Final Battle, 1918— 
The 54th in the Near East and Black Sea, 1919-21—Egypt and the Return 
to India. 


Inception of the Training Battalion—The Reorganization of the Indian 
Army, 1922—The Frontier Force Memorial at Kohat—The Training 
Battalion at the Outbreak of the Second World War—Expansion as a 
Regimental Centre—The Raising of War Battalions and the Development 
of Training with Modern Equipment—Some Administrative Stories— 
Demobilization after the Second World War and Resettlement in Civil 

Q.V.0. CORPS OF GUIDES) 1919-39 _... 

The Reorganization of 1922—The Guides in the Red Shirt Disturbances— 
The Chitral Relief, 1932, and the Loe Agra and Mohmand Expeditions, 
1933 and 1935—Wucha Jawar—The Khaisora, November 1936—The 
Shahur Tangi, April 1937—The Sherawangi Narai, and Death of 
Lieutenant-Colonel Grant—Last Days at Razmak—Last years in Mardan. 

1919-39 ... 

In Occupation of Enemy Territory, 1919- 20-—Jerusalem, 1920—Return to 
India—-Peace-time Duties in India and Service in Waziristan, 1920-39. 


Jullundur and Waziristan, 1921 -24—Kohat District, 1925- 32—Jubbulpore, 
[932-35—Baluchistan, 1935- 37—Lansdowne, 1937-39—Waziristan, 1939. 

REGIMENT) 1919-1940 x oe be oe on. oe 
Minor Frontier Tasks, 1921-27—Kohat; the Bosti Khel Outlaws and 
Kidnapping of Miss Molly Ellis, 1923—-Calcutta, 1927-30—The Frontier, 
1930-38—Wana, 1936-38—Baroda and Secunderabad, 1939-40. 

1919-40 ... 

Return from the. Black Sea ‘and First Post- War Years—Mardan and 
Ambala, 1924-28—Waziristan and the Red Shirt Disturbances, 1929-31 
—Nationalization—The Ahmedzai Salient, 1940. 


















Sudan and E. Africa, 1940-41—Gazelle Force—The Advance on Eritrea— 
The Battle of Keren—Amba Alagi—Egypt, Iraq and Cyprus, July 1941 
to April 1942—The Western Desert and After, 1942-43—The El Adem 
Box—‘“B"’ Echelon and the Reconstitution of the Battalion. 


Sicily and the ‘Beach bricks’’—The Landing in Italy—Italy, 1944—The 
Battle of Campriano—“‘B”’ Company’s Attack—*'C’ Company's Advance 
—The Pathan Assault—The Battle of Castel Nuovo—Montebello— 
Greece, 1944—Salonika, 1945-46. 

The Ahmedzai Salient—The Middle East—The Mid-East Situation, 
1941—Iraq, 1941-42—Iraq and Syria, 1942-43—The General War Situa- 
tion, 1942-43—Italy, 1943-44—The Battle of the Gari River—The Advance 
into Northern Italy—1945 and the Final Victory in Italy—The 8th Indian 
Division—The Return to Sialkot. 

Problems of Training and Expansion, 1939-40—Training in the use of 
New Weapons and Equipment—Fort Salop, 1940-——Quetta and Secun- 
derabad, 1940—Malaya up to the Japanese Assault—Defence Plans in 
Malaya, 1941---Kelantan, 1941—The Japanese Landing and the Battle of 
Kota Bahru—The Withdrawal Commences—Kuantan and After— 
Lieutenant-Colonel Cumming, V.C.—The Retreat to Singapore—The 
Battle for Singapore Island—Capitulation of Singapore, [5th February 
1942—Captivity to the End of the War, 15th August 1945—Reconstitu- 


The Japanese Assault on Burma—The Defence of Moulmein—The 
Sittang River—The Situation in Burma after the Battle of the Sittang— 
The Retreat from Burma, 1942—The Administrative Achievement— 
Imphal and Ranchi, 1942—Imphal and Shillong, 1943—The Situation in 
the South-East Asia Theatre, 1943-44—Fort White and Tiddim, 1944— 
The Battle for Imphal—The Fourteenth Army Offensive, 1944—Burma, 
1945—The Reconquest—Meiktila, February 1945—The Battle of 
Pyawbwe, April 1945—-The Drive on Rangoon—The Pegu Bridge— 
Burma, 1945-46—Last Days in Burma and the Return to India. 

India, 1939-41—Iraq and Persia, 1941-45. 

AND THE N.W. FRONTIER i was se a5 ees a5 
Inception and Early Days—Waziristan, 194t—Wana, 1941-43—Kohat, 
1943-44 and Disbandment. 



















Raising and First Eight Months in "Shillong—The Khajuri Plain, the 
Khyber, and Kohat, 1941-43—The 39th Training Division—The Curricu- 
lum—The Battalion’s Achievement. 


Raising and Early Days—Training in S. India—The Burma Campaign, 
1944-45—The Attack on Mandalay Fort—Operations towards Taunggyi— 
The Advance into Lower Burma—Operations towards Mawchi, East of 
Toungoo—The Battle of the Break-Through—The Aftermath and Return 
to India. 


Birth of the Battalion and its Early Days—Ceylon, 1942- 43—The Japanese 
Raids on Ceylon, 1942—The Situation on the Burma Front, Autumn, 
1943—The Kabaw Valley, 1943-44—The Deception plan for ‘the Intro- 
duction of General Wingate’s Chindits and the Start of the Japanese 
Offensive, 1944—-Withdrawal through the Hills to the Tamu-Imphal Road 
—The Battle of Oinam, 22nd-27th May, 1944—Offensive Operaiions 
leading to the Final Crushing of the Japanese Advance, 1944—The 
Japanese Retreat—Long Range Penetration—Tragic Casualties Caused 
by a Single Shell—Battle of Inza-Yezin—The Advance to Kyaukse on 
the Road and Railway to Rangoon—The Drive to the South—French 
Indo-China, 1945-46—Return to India, and Reconstruction of the Batta- 
lion as 2nd Battalion Frontier Force Regiment. 

Inception as Territorial Battalion—Peace-time Status—-Mobilization and 
War Status—Service in India, 1942—Arakan, 1943—Service in Mid-East 
and the Grecian Islands, 1945-46. 


Raising, Early Days and Training—Arakan, 1943—The Jap Offensive in 
Arakan, February 1944—Amphibious Operations, 1945—Taungup and 
Rangoon—Sumatra and the Aftermath of War. 


Raising and Early Days in India—Duties i in the Middle East—Return to 
India and Reconstitution as the Khyber Rifles. 

The 25th Battalion F.F.R.—The Bombay Explosion, 1944—The 26th 
Battalion F.F.R.—Iraq, 1942—The Garrison Companies—312 Garrison 
Company—S12 Garrison Company. 

Independence and the Partition of the old Indian Army—2nd Battalion 
(Guides) (old 5th Battalion Guides)—3rd Battalion (old {ist Battalion 
(P.W.O.) )—1th Battalion (old 2nd Battalion)—Sth Battalion (old 3rd 
Royal Battalion)—6th Battalion (old 4th Sikhs)—13th Battalion (old 8th 
Battalion)—14th Battalion (old 9th Battalion)\—Conclusion. 




















F.F. REGIMENT ... fad ead : : 





THE VicToriA Cross 









GENERAL SiR Ros LOCKHART, K.C.B., C.ILE., M.C. ... ad 5 ... facing Vv 
THE Gurpes, DECEMBER 1934 re se vs oud weg oai wal «- = =170 
Hitt 4080 FROM THE AIR ... 178 
KEREN 240 
WoRLD WAR we Sex ike eee sae oe wie 392 
FRENCH LEGION OF HONOUR ict ie sis “3h sae es ifs 514 
Ist SIKHs, TiARZA COLUMN, Wana, 1934 538 
NOVEMBER 1946 ‘ee set re ue wae : ... 540 
UNVEILING ... seis ce we a as i See see See w= 559 
CUMMERBAND eo: bbe Soe a be bcs Ke 3 .. 560 
AT LAHORE ON 28TH DECEMBER 1956... se or in ; 564 




THe Marcu To Det, 1857 





GENERAL LINE Hie 1 BY are Cone IN BRANGE: 1914-15. 

MEsoporTaMIA, 1916-17 



MrT. EPHRAIM, PALESTINE, 1918 - ies 
SKETCH Map OF INDIA _... des ‘ey ai’s sa ... facing 
YusaFzAl, Loz AGRA AND THE MoHicAnis Cointays 

WAZIRISTAN ... ves as ae Mes ie ads su sia ..- facing 
KEREN.. gee bed See ous eas aes ae met ... facing 
NorTH Renee 1942-3 


CAMPRIANO “ 2 vie 
CENTRAL ITALY vo a wie sis ae vee 364 ae ... facing 
NORTHERN ITALY ... ous soe bis as ... facing 

3RD ROYAL BATTALION IN ‘Giice. 1944-45 

IRAQ AND SyriA, 1941 ‘ 


Ma aya, 1941-42 

Kota BAHRU... 

KUANTAN est ne a abe 
GENERAL MAP OF Bue. ee is 2 bi is ... facing 
MEIKTILA, 27TH FEMnvAny-10Td Mice "1945... sue bes ae ... facing 
9TH BATTALION OPERATIONS, NOVEMBER 1943—Juty 1944... we ... facing 



*Itinerary maps showing movements of Battalions in the Second World War. 








.. at end 
.. at end 


‘‘Pegu’’ ‘‘Mooltan’’ ‘‘Goojerat’’ ‘‘Punjaub’’ ‘‘Delhi, 1857’? ‘‘Ali Masjid’? “Kabul 1879"° 
‘‘Ahmed Khel’’ ‘‘Kandahar, 1880" ‘Afghanistan, 1878-80”’ ‘‘Chitral’’ ‘‘Malakand’’ ‘‘Punjab 
Frontier’ ‘‘Tirah’’ ‘‘Pekin, 1900°’ ‘‘Somaliland, 1901-04’ ‘‘Afghanistan, 1919”’ 

The First World War.—‘‘Suez Canal’’ ‘Egypt. 1915” ‘‘Megiddo’’ ‘‘Sharon”’ “Nablus” 
“Palestine, 1918’? ““Aden’’ “Tigris, 1916’? ‘‘Kut al Amara, 1917’ ‘‘Baghdad’’ ‘‘Sharqat”’ 
‘‘Mesopotamia, 1915-18’? ‘‘N.W. Frontier India, 1914, 15, 1916-17”° 

The Second World War.—‘‘Gazala’”’ ‘‘Keren’’ ‘‘Amba Alagi’’ ‘‘Landing in Sicily’’ ‘‘Impos- 
sible Bridge’’ ‘‘The Sangro’’ ‘‘Cassino II’’ ‘‘Gothic Line’’ ‘‘North Malaya’”’ ‘‘Ngakyedauk 
**Pass’’ ‘‘North Arakan’’ ‘‘Imphal’’ ‘‘The Irrawaddy” ‘‘Meiktila’’ ‘‘Mandalay”’ 

Class Composition:—(a) In the (British) Indian Army—Pathans (from the N.W.F.P., 
N.W.F.P. States, and Tribal Territory). Dogras—P.Ms. and Sikhs. 
(5) In the Pakistan Army—Pathans and P.Ms. 

2ND BATTALION (GUIDES) (/ate Sth Battalion Q.V.O. Corps of Guides).—-Raised at Pesha- 
war in 1846 by Lieut. H. B. Lumsden as the Corps of Guides, Punjab Irregular Force, 
1851, the Corps of Guides, Punjab Frontier Force; in 1866 The Queen’s Own Corps of 
Guides, Punjab Frontier Force; in 1876 The Queen’s Own Corps of Guides (Lumsden’s); 
in 1904, The Queen Victoria’s Own Corps of Guides (Frontier Force) (Lumsden’s) Infantry ; 
in 1922, 12th F.F. Regiment 5th Battalion (Queen Victoria’s Own Corps of Guides, F.F.). 
Present designation in 1956. 

3RD BATTALION (late 1st Battalion Prince of Wales's Own).—Raised at Hoshiarpur in 
1846-47, by Capt. J. S. Hodgson, as the Ist Regiment of Infantry of the Frontier Brigade. 
Became the Ist Regiment of Sikh Local Infantry, 1847; the Ist Regiment of Sikh Infantry, 
1857; the ist Regiment of Sikh Infantry, Punjab Irregular Force, 1857; the Ist Regiment of 
Sikh Infantry, Punjab Frontier Force, 1865; the 1st Sikh Infantry, 1901; Sist Sikhs, 1903; 
S5ist The Prince of Wales’s Own Sikhs (Frontier Force), 1921; the 1st Battalion (Prince of 
Wales’s Own Sikhs) 12th F.F. Regiment in 1922; Ist Battalion The F.F. Regiment (Prince 
of Wales’s Own) on Partition in 1947; Present designation in 1956. 

4TH BATTALION (late 2nd Battalion) Dogra paltan.—Raised at Kangra in 1846-47 by 
Capt. J. W. V. Stephen as the 2nd Regiment of Infantry of the Frontier Brigade. Became 
the 2nd (or Hill) Regiment of Sikh Infantry, Punjab Irregular Force, in 1857; the 2nd 
(or Hill) Regiment of Sikh Infantry, Punjab Frontier Force, 1865; the 2nd (or Hill) Sikh 
Infantry in 1901 ; 52nd Sikhs (Frontier Force) 1903; 2nd Battalion (Sikhs) 12th F.F. Regiment 
in 1922; 2nd Battalion The F.F. Regiment on Partition in 1947; present designation in 1956. 

5TH BATTALION (late 3rd Royal Battalion).—Renny-ki-paltan.—Raised at Ferozepore 
in 1846-47 by Capt. F. Winter, as the 3rd Regiment of Infantry of the Frontier Brigade. 
Became the 3rd Regiment of Sikh Local Infantry, 1847; the 3rd Regiment of Sikh Infantry, 
1857; the 3rd Regiment of Sikh Infantry, Punjab Irregular Force, 1857; the 3rd Regiment 
of Sikh Infantry, Punjab Frontier Force, 1865; the 3rd Sikh Infantry, 1901; 53rd Sikhs 
(Frontier Force), 1903; 3rd Battalion (Sikhs), 12th Frontier Force Regiment, 1922; the 3rd 
Royal Battalion (Sikhs) 12th F.F. Regiment in 1935; 3rd Royal Battalion, The F.F. Regiment 
on Partition in 1947. Present designation in 1956. 

“Not including the Battalions that were Frontier Force Rifles in the (British) Indian Army, 
viz. the Ist, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th Battalions of the Frontier Force Regiment in the 
Pakistas Army. 


XXil Frontier Force History 

6TH BATTALION (/ate 4th Battalion) Burmah paltan.—Raised at Ludhiana in 1846-47 by 
Capt. C. Mackenzie, Madras Army, as the 4th Regiment of Infantry of the Frontier Brigade. 
Became the 4th Regiment of Sikh Local Infantry, 1847; the 4th Regiment of Sikh Infantry, 
1857; the 4th Regiment of Sikh Infantry, Punjab Irregular Force, 1857; the 4th Regiment 
of Sikh Infantry, Punjab Frontier Force, 1865; the 4th Sikh Infantry, 1901; 54th Sikhs 
(Frontier Force), 1903; 4th Battalion (Sikhs) 12th Frontier Force Regiment in 1922; 4th 
Battalion the Frontier Force Regiment on Partition in 1947. Present designation in 1956. 

Battalions raised in the Second World War and retained as Regular Battalions of the Pakistan 

8TH BATTALION.—Raised at Bareilly, U.P., on Ist April, 1941, by Lieutenant-Colonel 
J. E. Redding. Became the 13th Battalion in 1956. 

9TH BATYALION.—Raised at Jhansi on Ast April, 1941, by Lieutenant-Colonel D. J. 
Bryceson, M.C. Amalgamated into 2nd Sikhs on Ist April, 1946. Re-raised as 14th 
Battalion on Ist October, 1948, by Lieutenant-Colonel S. K. Lodhi. Present designation 

PAKISTAN NATIONAL GUARD (late 11th Territorial Battalion, named 14th Battalion in the 
Second World War).—Raised at Nowshera, N.W.F.P., on 11th March, 1922, as Ist (Terri- 
torial) Battalion Slst (P.W.O.) Sikhs. Became the 11th Battalion 12th Frontier Force 
Regiment 1922. Present designation 1956. 

REGIMENTAL CENTRE.—Raised from the 2nd Battalion Guides in 1921 as the 10th Battalion 
12th Frontier Force Regiment. Became the Regimental Centre 12th Frontier Force Regiment 
15th September, 1941. Became the Regimental Centre Frontier Force Regiment (Pakistan 
Army) 1956. 


Battalion Histories and Records of the Ist, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Sikhs and History of the Q.V.O. 
Corps of Guides. 

Eastern Epic. Sir Compton Mackenzie. 

The Second World War. Sir Winston Churchill. 

The Malakand Campaign. Sir Winston Churchill. 
The Golden Carpet. Somerset de Chair. 

Small Wars, their Principles and Practice. Calwell. 
With the Indian Corps in France. Sir James Willcocks. 
History of the First World War. Buchan. 

Official History of Operations on the N.W. Frontier. 
History of the 4th Indian Division. 

The Second World War. Fuller. 

Campaign of the Fourteenth Army. Slim. 

Forty-one Years in India. Lord Roberts. 

Lord Lytton’s Administration. Balfour. 

Official Account of the 2nd Afghan War. 

Lumsden of the Guides. 

Official History of the Somaliland Campaign, 1903-04. 



The Birth of the Punjab Frontier Force—The Guides and the Frontier Brigade—The 
Punjab Irregular Force (P.I.F.). 

The Birth of the P.F.F. 

Tue North-West Frontier has been from time immemorial the land gateway 
to the Indian continent, through which successive invaders have poured into 
the country. When the administration of the British Government gradually 
covered the North-West and replaced Sikh rule in the Land of the Five Rivers, 
the responsibility for watch and ward on the North-West Frontier had to be 
accepted by the British. 

The Indian borderland is for the most part a barren mountainous region 
with few fertile valleys and an inadequate water supply. The lower spurs of 
the hills merge into the Indus valley, and the entire region is inhabited by 
turbulent tribesmen owing allegiance neither to the Government of Afghanistan 
nor that of India. Their habit has been to attack either whenever opportunity 
offered, and otherwise, when not engaged in internecine feuds among them- 
selves, to raid the trade routes and villages of the plains. Living in an infertile, 
unproductive countryside in a severe climate, this had become their heritage 
and perhaps to a great extent their means of survival. 

In the days of Sikh rule the Frontier roughly followed the line of the 
Indus. In 1846 the First Sikh War ended with the complete defeat of the 
Army of the Khalsa at the battle of Sobraon. This brought the entire Punjab 
to the feet of the East India Company, but the Governor-General determined 
not to take over the whole country but only the cis-Sutlej states and the tract 
between the Sutlej and Beas rivers. 

The reverses to British arms, however, in the First Afghan War, which 
ended in the disastrous retreat from Kabul in 1842, had clearly shown the need 
for raising, from the local population of the North-West Frontier, troops to 
defend that region and maintain law and order. Accordingly, in 1846 the first of 
these was raised as an Irregular Force called ““The Frontier Brigade,” consisting 
of one company of artillery and four regiments* of infantry. In addition to this, 
Colonel Henry Lawrence, who had been appointed the Agent to the Governor- 
General on the Frontier, asked permission to raise from the border tribes 

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2 Birth of the Punjab Frontier Force 

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a small irregular body to be called “Guides,” consisting of one troop of 
mounted men and two companies of foot. In a letter to the Government of 
India (7th June 1846) we find Lawrence writing as follows: 

“The Guides I would wish to keep with myself in lieu of all guards 
now supplied by the Regular Army; when I would have half of them 
always employed in making themselves acquainted with localities and with 
the highways and byways of the frontier . . . The necessity of having a 
small force, acquainted with localities, at the command of the Civil 
Authority in a new country, bordering on troubled districts, is too 
apparent to require comment. Ordinary Police are usually very inefficient, 
and it often happens that the danger has passed and the mischief been 

Early Days—The Guides and the Frontier Brigade 3 

accomplished before the prescribed forms of military routine have enabled 
the local Civil Officer to obtain assistance from the Military Authorities.” 

The Guides and the Frontier Brigade 

By the end of that year Lawrence’s proposals were sanctioned and 
Lieutenant H. B. Lumsden* was selected to raise and command the Corps 
of Guides. He was admirably fitted for the task and collected men from every 
wild and warlike border tribe. Tempted by the prospect of regular pay and 
enterprise, they formed a band that quickly became noted for both daring and 
fidelity. The Corps gave conspicuously loyal and reliable service in the Second 
Sikh War, and Lawrence saw the desirability of raising a much larger corps 
on the same lines. 

In the meantime, the Frontier Brigade was raised in November 1846, 
each regiment receiving a nucleus of a few men from the regular infantry 
regiments of the line and some police. The following year the term “Frontier 
Brigade” was dropped and the four regiments were designated the Ist, 2nd (or 
Hill Corps), 3rd and 4th Regiments of Sikh Local Infantry. 

As these four regiments, together with the infantry of the Corps of Guides, 
formed in 1947, respectively, the Ist, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Regular Battalions of 
the Frontier Force Regiment, and during the intervening century achieved 
a record, as this volume will show, of loyalty, devotion and sacrifice second to 
none in military annals, it is opportune to record the name of the officers 
who raised them and the places where they were raised: 

ist Sikh Infantry: raised by Captain J. S. Hodgson at Hoshiarpur. 

2nd Sikh Infantry (Hill Corps): raised by Captain J. W. V. Stephen 
at Kangra. 

3rd Sikh Infantry: raised by Captain F. Winter at Ferozepore. 

4th Sikh Infantry: raised by Captain C. MacKenzie at Ludhiana. 

The Corps of Guides: raised by Lieutenant H. B. Lumsden at 

The class composition of the Sikh battalions was never wholly Sikh, nor 
indeed did Sikhs preponderate even at the start, and eventually the composition 
conformed to that of all units of the Frontier Force, ie. Pathans, Punjabi 
Mussalmans, Sikhs and Dogras. The reason for the name “Sikh Infantry” 
being given to them at their raising was that they were raised mainly from 
disbanded elements of the Sikh Army. 

The Second Sikh War broke out in 1848 when these regiments had barely 
recruited and trained their personnel, but they demonstrated in it their 
enterprise, reliability and loyalty so signally that the raising of a much larger 
corps on the same lines suggested itself to Lawrence. He accordingly obtained 

“* Later General Sir Harry Lumsden, K.CS.I., C.B. 

4 Early Days—The Punjab Irregular Force 

the consent of the Governor-General, Lord Dalhousie, to the formation in 
1849, of a force known as the Trans-Frontier Brigade. It was to be used for 
service in the Punjab and the trans-Indus country, now known as the North- 
West Frontier Province, and also beyond these limits should it become 
necessary. It was to be independent of the Regular Army (in those days divided 
into Presidency Armies) and remain under the direct control of the Punjab 

The force consisted of three light batteries of artillery, five regiments of 
cavalry and the above five regiments of infantry, with a strength of 8,000 in 
all. It was distributed along the Frontier with detachments at Dera Ghazi Khan, 
Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Kohat and Mardan, and was placed under the 
command of Brigadier-General J. S. Hodgson, who had, as recorded above, 
originally raised the Ist Sikh Infantry. 

The Punjab Irregular Force 

Two years later, in 1851, the force was augmented and reorganized under 
the title, “Punjab Irregular Force,”’ from which early title emerge, for the first 
time, the historic letters “P.I.F.” It was composed as follows: 

Five Regiments of Cavalry; 

The Corps of Guides (comprising both Infantry and Cavalry); 
Four Mountain Batteries; 

One Garrison Battery of heavier pieces; 

Four Regiments of Sikh Infantry; 

Six Regiments of Punjab Infantry; 

One Regiment of Gurkha Infantry. 

Five of the six regiments of the Punjab Infantry in 1947 composed the 
Frontier Force Rifles. The original six regiments were the following: 

Ist Punjab Infantry (Coke Paltan*), later Ist Bn. (Coke’s) F.F. Rifles; 

2nd Punjab Infantry (Johnston Ki Paltan), later 2nd Bn. F-F. Rifles; 

3rd Punjab Infantry (Moorcroft Ki Paltan), disbanded in 1882; 

4th Punjab Infantry (Wilde Ki Paltan), later 4th Bn. (Wilde’s) F.F. 

5th Punjab Infantry (Vaughan Ki Paltan), later Sth Bn. F.F. Rifles; 

6th Punjab Infantry (Scinde Camel Corps), later the 6th Royal Bn. 
(Scinde) F.F. Rifles. 

The Force, now 11,000 strong, was recruited generally from the same 
classes as the Guides, and the officers were men of the highest standard. In 
Anany. cases their names are a source of pride to this day and their careers an 

* The Hindustani word for “battalion,” derived from the French ‘ toaeiias * which 
also gave us the British “platoon.” 

Early Days—The Punjab Irregular Force 5 

inspiration to all. Such men were Lumsden, Wilde, Sam Browne,* Chamberlain, 
Keyes, Egerton, Robertst and many others. 

In 1854 Major-General Neville Chamberlain succeeded Hodgson in 
command of the Force. A veteran wounded more than once in the First Afghan 
War and the Sikh Wars, he was the first to study specifically the problems of 
mountain warfare. Under his forceful and energetic leadership the Punjab 
Frontier Force, as it was now called, soon gained an outstanding reputation 
among the Forces in India. And, indeed, this was to be transcended, not only in 
the great sepoy Mutiny, when practically alone with the Gurkha regiments the 
battalions of the P.F.F. helped British arms to save India from anarchy, but 
in our own generation, when they fought in two world wars in the cause of 
freedom with such valour, skill and fidelity that they could claim a place in 
the front rank, not only of the armies of India, but of the world. 

The story must now divide itself for a while into separate narratives to 
follow the individual fortunes of the various battalions during the campaigns 
of the Great Mutiny of 1857-58 and the sixth, seventh and eighth decades of the 
last century. 

* Later Lieutenant-General Sir Sam Browne, V.C., G.C.B., K.C.S.L, the inventor of 
the famous Sam Browne Belt that was destined to be worn by the officers of every 
modern army in the world, and by such men as Stalin, Churchill, Hitler, Mussolini, 
Eisenhower and all Allied leaders of the First and Second World Wars. Sam Browne is 
credited with inventing the belt so that, as he had lost an arm, the sword could be 
drawn with one hand, which was impossible with the sword-slings of those days. From 
his letters, however, it is clear that it was really part of a comprehensive scheme of 
more practical equipment for officers, and that he was working on it before the 
campaign in which he lost his arm. 

+ Lord Roberts, the great leader of the Second Afghan War, and afterwards. 


The ist Sikhs, 1850-78—The 2nd Sikhs, 1850-78—The 3rd Sikhs, 1850-78—The 4th 
Sikhs, 1850-54 (Second Burmese War)—The 4th Sikhs in the Mutiny—The 
4th Sikhs in the Mahsud Expedition of 1860—The Guides, 1850-57—The Guides in 
ae of Delhi—The Guides on the Frontier, 1858-78—Ambeyla Expedition, 

The Ist Sikhs, 1850-78 

THE first campaign in which the Ist Sikhs participated was the Black Mountain 
Expedition of 1852-53. As a result of the murder, by a section of Yusafzais 
inhabiting the Black Mountain, of Mr. Carne of the Customs Department, a 
punitive expedition was dispatched to that wild region, which the Battalion, 
though much below strength, accompanied. 

The outbreak of the Mutiny in May 1857, found the Battalion at Dera 
Ghazi Khan, and a spontaneous petition was submitted from the J.C.Os. and 
rank and file in June, asking to be sent against the mutineers. It was not till 
the following December that the Battalion marched. It reached Ambala on the 
11th, covering 145 miles in four days. It reached Roorkee on the 24th February 
and, as part of the Rohilkand Field Force, acquitted itself to such good purpose 
that in a Government order of 1859 it is mentioned as having served with 
great distinction in the United Provinces and Oudh. 

The Battalion later became escort to the Governor-General’s camp on the 
march northward, a duty which lasted five months and earned a message of 
approbation from His Excellency on its completion. 

In 1862 the class composition of the Battalion was fixed as: 4 companies* 
Sikhs, 14 companies Punjabi Mussalmans, 1 company trans-Indus Mussal- 
mans, 1 company Hindustani Mussalmans, and 4} company Dogras. 

For the next seventeen years the Battalion was engaged in duties on the 
Frontier, including a spell at Multan, and during this period only two 
operational tasks came its way. 

In 1878 is recorded an inspection of the Battalion for the first time by 
Brigadier-General F. S. Roberts, V.C.t It was not long before both that great 

* Company strength was approximately 100 men, and a battalion consisted of eight 
companies till the First World War. 
+ Later Field-Marshal Earl Roberts of Kandahar and Waterford. 

The Mutiny and After—The 2nd Sikhs 7 

captain and war leader and the Battalion were involved in the Second Afghan 
War—a campaign that brought renown to the forces and their commander, and 
a settlement, to last for forty years, with the Afghan Government. 

During this war, the story of which follows in a later chapter, the 1st Sikhs 
were brigaded with the 17th Foot. By an interesting coincidence it was again 
brigaded with that battalion (under its new name, the Leicestershire Regiment) 
throughout the First World War in the 28th Frontier Force Brigade. The story 
of this will be found in Chapter VI. 

The 2nd Sikhs, 1850-78 

As noted above, this Battalion was originally called “The Hill Corps” of 
the Frontier Brigade. This was because it was raised in Kangra and was at first 
composed almost entirely of Dogras with a small proportion of Pathans and 

It was the first to enlist Dogras in the Indian Army and was known for 
many years as the Dogra Paltan. 

The newly-raised corps was soon to receive its baptism of fire. In 1848 
the Punjab was in turmoil owing to the outbreak of the Second Sikh War, and 
three companies of the Battalion were dispatched to assist in the suppression of 
an insurgent jagirdar (landholder). 

In 1857 the outbreak of the Mutiny found the Battalion at Abbottabad. 
It was ordered to the United Provinces in the autumn of 1858, but by then only 
smouldering embers of the Mutiny remained to be stamped out, and the 2nd 
Sikhs took no part in the campaign. 

Earlier however, the Battalion was actively enough employed, as follows, 
in the Peshawar plain and the mountain regions of Swat and Hazara. 

In the middle of May 1857, three companies of the 2nd Sikhs in 
Abbottabad and Murree were the only infantry left to hold the whole of the 
Hazara District. 

At this time the 55th Bengal Native Infantry had relieved the Guides at 
Mardan and was furnishing a detachment at Nowshera. On 21st June this 
detachment mutinied. A force of frontier police immediately moved out from 
Peshawar on the 23rd and approached Mardan on the following evening. The 
55th broke out on hearing of their approach and swarmed off to the frontier 
close by. pursued by the frontier police, who killed 100 and took 150 prisoners. 
The remainder, some 600 strong, escaped into Swat, where they offered their 
services to the Akhund if he would raise the border tribes against the 

The Akhund refused and, expelled from Swat, the refugees of the 55th 
set out with the intention of entering Kashmir to seek asylum with Maharajah 
Gulab Singh. The 2nd Sikhs, less the three companies at Murree, were ordered 

8 The Mutiny and After—The 2nd Sikhs 

to head them off. Leaving only recruits for the protection of Abbottabad, the 
Regiment marched to Shinkiara, some twenty-five miles to the north, to intercept 
the mutineers. 

The move was successful and 200 mutineers were captured. The remainder 
of the 55th, now a disorganized rabble, fled into the hills of the border, where 
they were robbed and killed for their equipment and enslaved. The fate of the 
55th N.I. was the source of Kipling’s story “The Lost Legion.” 

After its return to Abbottabad the Battalion remained there during the 
winter of 1857-58, and in April 1858, was ordered on service to Sitana against 
the Hindustani Fanatics. This was the second of many punitive expeditions 
against these trouble-makers in the nineteenth century. 

Sitana lies on a spur of the Hindu Kush range, on the right bank of the 
Indus, some twenty-five miles north-west of Abbottabad. Here, since the early 
part of the nineteenth century, a colony of Hindustani Mussalman fanatics, 
or Wahabis, had been established which had formed a rallying-point for 
fugitives from justice and a centre of subversive propaganda. A punitive 
expedition had been sent against Sitana in 1853, but the effect had not been 

The Battalion formed part of a column consisting of the 6th Punjab 
Infantry (F.F.), the 12th Punjab Infantry and five mountain guns. Sitana was 
surrounded and destroyed, sixty of the Fanatics being killed for a loss to the 
column of six killed and twenty-nine wounded. After this the Battalion, as 
remarked above, went to the United Provinces till 1861. 

The Battalion returned from its above-mentioned duty in the United 
Provinces in the spring of 1861 and was sent to Kohat. It was the commence- 
ment of a long association with that place, but at the start it was an unhappy 
one as a result of sickness there, which took a heavy toll of the Battalion during 
the first two years. It suffered severely from both cholera and what is now known 
to be malaria, and as a result missed the Ambeyla Expedition of 1863, being 
left to garrison Kohat. 

From this time till the outbreak of the Second Afghan War in 1878 the 
2nd Sikhs were employed on watch-and-ward duties along the Frontier. 

The 3rd Sikhs, 1850-78 

After it was raised in January 1847, this Battalion’s early history contains 
nothing notable till 1852, when a request from all ranks to be sent on service 
to Burma was refused with regret. 

On the outbreak of the Mutiny in May 1857, it was moved to Bannu. At 
that time it had a company of Hindustanis who were suspected of being 
disaffected, and they were disarmed, paid up and discharged. 

The Mutiny and After—The 3rd and 4th Sikhs 9 

The composition of the Battalion became: 5 companies of Sikhs, 2 
companies of Pathans, 2 companies of Punjabi Muslims and 1 company 
of Dogras. 

On 24th September 1858, it marched to the United Provinces to join in 
the mopping-up operations against the mutineers, and in the following February 
it is recorded as forming part of a field force operating in Gorakhpar, Oudh 
and Nepal. 

Its steadiness and endurance in this campaign earned the thanks of the 
Governor-General. The Battalion did not return to the Frontier until 1863, and 
when doing so it marched north as escort to H.E. the Commander-in-Chief. 
This duty lasted from January to May. 

Later,* in December of that year, it formed part of the Ambeyla Force and 
acquitted itself well in action on the 14th, 15th and 16th December. 

From this time until the outbreak of the Second Afghan War the Battalion 
served on the Frontier, taking part in minor affairs with efficiency and zeal. 
None however were of sufficient importance to merit further description here. 

The 4th Sikhs, 1850-54 (Second Burmese War) 

As the 4th Sikhs of the original Frontier Brigade raised in 1846, the early 
history of this Battalion differs little from that of the other three, but in 1852 it 
volunteered, as did the 3rd Battalion, for service in the Second Burmese War, 
which had just broken out. Unlike the 3rd, however, its petition was granted, 
and in November 1852, it arrived by sea in Rangoon. Incidentally, it was thus 
the first Punjab regiment to cross the sea for active service. 

On arrival in Rangoon the Battalion was immediately posted to the 2nd 
Brigade with orders to relieve Pegu,{ fifty miles up river. This was successfully 
accomplished, the Burmese enemy refusing to fight; and during the ensuing 
cold weather the Battalion was employed on columns mopping up independent 
bodies of freebooters. These duties were very arduous and unhealthy, as fever 
and cholera were rife. They culminated in an attack on the stronghold of the 
chief Burmese leader, Myat Tun, and it proved somewhat costly before it 
succeeded. The Battalion lost 31 casualties, including 7 Indian ranks killed and 
the Commanding Officer, Major Armstrong, and 23 Indian ranks wounded. 

The Battalion remained in Burma till 1854, when it returned to the Punjab, 
having acquitted itself right well in its first campaign. As a reflection on the 
changed conditions of modern campaigning in tropical climates (due to progress 
in hygiene and prophylactic measures against disease) the period spent in Burma 
cost the Battalion 122 deaths from fever and cholera. 

* See p. 24. 
+ See Chapter XX. This Battalion’s last major battle in the Second World War was 
also at Pegu, ninety-three years later. 

10 The Mutiny and After—The 4th Sikhs 
The 4th Sikhs in the Mutiny 

As this Battalion and the Guides Infantry were the two Battalions of the 
Regiment that were seriously engaged in the desperate fighting of the campaign 
against the mutineers of the old Bengal Army, it is convenient here to recall 
how the Great Mutiny in 1857 broke out and to sketch in outline the strategy 
of the campaign that ensued to deal with it. 

Whilst many causes have been assigned to account for the outbreak, a 
state of acute discontent among the Indian ranks certainly existed and made 
the Indian sepoy ripe material for the plotter and intriguer. One strong com- 
plaint that was universally brought up to the authorities was that the 
cartridges (which in those days had to be opened by biting with the teeth before 
the powder could be loaded into the musket) were greased with fat obtained 
from the carcases of pigs. The pig being an “unclean” animal, this was 
represented as a religious grievance.* In addition, the existence in the Red Fort 
in Delhi of the aged Bahadur Shah, nominally King of Delhi and descendant 
of the Mogul emperors, together with his daughter, a scheming and ambitious 
woman, formed a focus for agitation and anti-government intrigue. The 
sedition spread unchecked—officers, when warned, refused to believe that the 
slightest disloyalty was possible. 

In the end the initial outbreak occurred at Meerut. It spread like wild- 
fire till almost the entire Bengal Army mutinied and a large proportion, 
beginning with the regiments in Meerut (only forty miles away), flocked to Delhi 
and received blessing and encouragement from the King’s daughter on the 
battlements of the Fort. 

Thus in the space of a few days the Government of the country with the 
Viceroy and the Commander-in-Chief in the Punjab (at Simla) were cut off 
from the main communications with Calcutta, the capital. Together with the 
mutinous sepoys, the bulk of the civil population also turned against the 
Government in the whole region from Benares and Allahabad to Delhi, and 
anarchy and bloodshed were unchecked everywhere in this huge area. 

The strategy necessary to quell the Mutiny and restore order and safety 
demanded the recapture of the great cities of the United Provinces and, most 
important, Delhi itself. The loyal forces ready to support the British troops 
were small and the British forces themselves that were available to march from 
Bengal were wholly inadequate. Reinforcements from Great Britain could not 
be quickly transported across the sea in those days and there was no Suez 
Canal. Moreover, in one or two large centres such as Cawnpore and Lucknow 
the British garrisons, supported by small contingents of loyal troops, were 
holding out, besieged by overwhelming numbers of mutineers. At Delhi itself 

* While the authorities issued official denials at the time to settle this grievance, 
subsequent inquiries after the Mutiny elicited the fact that in substance the complaint 
was well founded. 

The Mutiny and After--The 4th Sikhs 1 

the garrison, together with the British garrison of Meerut, had taken up a 
position on the famous Ridge overlooking the city, and here to their support 
came all the British regiments and artillery that could be spared from all stations 
to the north, where generally the Mutiny had not spread. 

At the end of May 1857, this small force on the Ridge was, in fact, the 
nucleus of all resistance and counter-measures from the North; and it was here 
that reinforcements and supplies flowed from the Punjab to build up the force 
until it was strong enough to take the initiative against the enemy. The latter 
were now in great numbers in the city, but from all accounts they were ill- 
organized and there was no effective leader to co-ordinate their efforts. At the 
same time they were well supplied with ammunition for both muskets and guns, 
as the main magazine of Delhi had been captured at the outset by the 

This, then, was the picture when the 4th Sikhs, whose strength contained 
Many recruits and young soldiers, left Abbottabad for Delhi. It arrived at 
Lahore on 1st June, at Ludhiana on the 8th (where it dealt with a body of 
mutineers which delayed it four days) and reached the Ridge at Delhi on the 
23rd, where it went into action at once. 

This march to Delhi was of course entirely by road and an exceedingly 
fine performance. Deducting the four days’ halt at Ludhiana, during which the 
men got no rest, the time taken to cover the 560 miles was thirty days including 
halts, an average of eighteen and two-thirds miles a day for a month on end, 
and this in the hottest time of the year in one of the hottest countries in the 
world. t+ 

The reason for the Battalion going into action with such speed was that 
the enemy had just launched a heavy attack from the west, through the gardens 
of the Sabzi Mandi. They had selected the anniversary of the battle of Plassey 
for this, and the garrison on the Ridge had been hard pressed. The Battalion, 
together with a detachment of the 2nd Fusiliers, were launched in a counter- 
attack which was completely successful and drove the enemy back into the 
walled city. 

There now followed nearly three months of continuous heavy outpost duty 
and incessant attacks by the enemy. 

During the latter part of July and August, however, the enemy began to 
lose heart somewhat, and their attacks were not made in the same determined 

manner as earlier. 
By 6th September all the reinforcements that were expected, and the 

 * The heroic blowing-up of the magazine near the Fort by two British N.C.Os. was 
in fact a useless sacrifice, since this was only a minor “expense” store of ammunition— 
the main magazine was some miles outside the city, and this fell into the hands of the 
mutineers unopposed. 
+ See also pp. 17-22 for the account of the Guides in their march to Delhi and their 
part in the siege of Delhi. (Map p. 22.) 

12 The Mutiny and After—The 4th Sikhs 

siege train, had reached Delhi. Preparations were immediately made for con- 
structing batteries within close range of the walls for the purpose of breaching 
the bastions for the assault, for it was now determined to seize the initiative 
and capture the city. 

On 11th September the bombardment began in earnest and continued for 
three days and nights. By the night of the 13th the Water and Kashmir 
Bastions had been breached, and orders for the assault were issued. 

The main attack on the 14th September was to be made in three columns 
against respectively, the Kashmir Bastion, the Water Bastion and the Kashmir 

The 4th Sikhs were detailed to the second column, which was to storm the 
breach in the Water Bastion. The other troops in this column were 200 men 
of H.M. 8th Foot and 250 men of H.M. 2nd Fusiliers. The Battalion went into 
action 350 strong. 

The second column was on the left, to its right being the first and third 
columns making for the Kashmir Bastion and Gate respectively. 

The following is Lord Roberts’s description of the advance of the second 

*“No sooner was its head seen emerging from the cover of the old 
customs house, than it was met by a terrible discharge of musketry. Both 
Engineer Officers who were leading it were severely wounded and of the 
39 men who carried the ladders, 29 were killed or wounded in as many 
seconds. The ladders were immediately seized by their comrades, who, 
after one or two vain attempts, succeeded in placing them against the 
escarp; then amidst a shower of stones and bullets, the soldiers ascended, 
rushed the breach, and, slaying all before them, drove the rebels from the 

The other two columns had been equally successful, but a fourth column, 
which had been ordered to make a flank attack on the Kabul Gate, had so far 
failed to capture it. 

After re-forming, the first and second columns moved along the ramparts 
to the Kabul Gate, capturing the guns and driving all before them and finally 
planting the Union Jack on the Kabul Gate. 

The Burn Bastion was, however, strongly held by the enemy and was only 
approached by a narrow lane down which the enemy poured a heavy fire. It 
was in the attempt to take this Bastion that General Nicholson was mortally 
wounded, and after several attempts to carry it, it was decided to wait till next 
day, when the troops could be reorganized. The men spent the night near the 
Kabul Gate. 

* Field-Marshal Earl Roberts, Forty-one Years in India. 

The Mutiny and After—The 4th Sikhs in the Mahsud Expedition, 1860 13 

The casualties suffered by the 4th Sikhs on this date were: 1 J.C.O. and 
7 rank and file killed, and 1 British officer, 1 J.C.O. and 42 rank and file 
wounded; total of all ranks killed and wounded, 52 out of a total strength of 
350 engaged. 

From the 15th to the 20th September the Battalion was continually engaged 
in street fighting. On the 20th the city was completely captured, and the next 
day the old King of Delhi was taken prisoner. 

After the capture of Delhi the Battalion took no further part in the war 
but remained as garrison in Delhi. 

After the Mutiny campaign the 4th Sikhs returned to the Frontier, and in 
the course of its service there between 1859 and the outbreak of the First World 
War it took part in many of the important punitive campaigns against one or 
other of the tribes. It took no part in the Second Afghan War of 1878-80. 

While most of these affairs are more conveniently dealt with in the next 
chapter, one that occurred very shortly after the Battalion’s return from Delhi 
is Of sufficient interest to record here. It was the operation of General 
Chamberlain’s column against the Mahsuds and Wazirs in 1860. 

The 4th Sikhs in the Mahsud Expedition, 1860 

In the spring of 1860, 430 bayonets from the Battalion, under Lieutenant 
Jenkins, were sent from Abbottabad to join the Tank Field Force, which was 
assembled at Tank for operations against hostile Mahsuds and Wazirs. under 
the command of General Chamberlain. 

On 17th April the Force marched via the Tank Zam to Kot Khirgi and 
next day reached Palosina Kach, destroying Shingi Kot on the way. The main 
part of the Force then advanced up the Shahur valley, the remainder, including 
the Regiment, staying at Palosina with heavy transport and supplies. This 
detachment, though left behind, was destined to see the sharpest fighting of the 

The camp was situated on the left bank of the Zam. It was protected on 
the south by piquets placed on the plateau to the south-east of the camp. Each 
piquet was composed of one non-commissioned officer and eight men and each 
had a support of the same strength in rear of it. 

No information had been received of the proximity of the enemy in any 
strength. However, on the night of the 22nd the camp was sniped, but otherwise 
all seemed tranquil till suddenly, at dawn on the 23rd, 3,000 Waziris over- 
whelmed the piquets to the south-east of the camp with a rush and seized the 
plateau. Five hundred of them, continuing their advance, charged the south- 
east end of the camp itself. This end of the camp was occupied by the levies 
and the supply go-down, followers, etc., so the enemy quickly gained an 
entrance, and the greatest confusion ensued. Next to the levies were the Guides, 

14. The Mutiny and After—The 4th Sikhs in the Mahsud Expedition, 1860 

who formed up and drove the enemy out of that part of the camp with the 

The 4th Sikhs and the Hazara Gurkha Regiment (later the Sth Royal 
Gurkha Rifles Frontier Force) were in the centre of the camp. Major Rothney, 
the Commanding Officer of the Battalion, who commanded it throughout the 
siege of Delhi (but who was at the time officiating Commandant of the newly- 
raised Gurkhas, many of whom had been transferred from the 4th Sikhs as a 
nucleus two years before) at once formed up the two regiments. The enemy were 
by this time pouring into that part of the camp, but the men, quickly falling in, 
drove them back with the bayonet and cleared them out. 

Major Rothney then advanced onto the ridge and took the enemy on the 
plateau in flank. Both Battalions bore down on them with great steadiness and 
drove them off the tableland. Then, being joined by the Guides, all three pursued 
the enemy for three miles over the hills until they dispersed. 

The loss of the Force was heavy, 63 being killed and 166 wounded, the 
levies, followers and the Guides, whose piquets were cut up, suffering the most 
severely. The Battalion did not have any casualties, as the men had time to get 
under arms and form up before the enemy attacked their part of the camp. The 
piquet found by the Regiment on the plateau held its ground when the enemy 
charged and was not driven in. 

The enemy suffered heavily and received a sharp lesson: 92 bodies were 
found in camp and 40 more were abandoned in their retirement over the hills. 

After a fierce action at the Berari Tangi, in which the Battalion was not 
engaged, the Force advanced to Kaniguram, the religious centre of the country. 

After this the enemy offered no more resistance. The Force continued 
punitive measures; it destroyed Makin and Razmak and, retiring over the pass 
of that name, marched to Bannu. where it was broken up. The Battalion 
returned to Abbottabad. 

It is interesting to note that sixty years later, almost in the same place, 
Mahsud tribesmen fought a similar fierce campaign against General Skeen’s 
force in 1920. 

The following extracts from General Neville Chamberlain’s despatch are 
interesting, showing that in those early days of Frontier fighting the lessons of 
hill warfare against the Frontier tribes had already been learnt and the tactics 
had been adapted to the nature of the enemy and the country. They have not 
changed to the present day, except for the modifications necessitated by modern 

“The shortest marches took hours to perform, the safety of the 
followers, supplies, and baggage, requiring the heights on both sides to be 
crowned and held until the arrival of the rear-guard. Though starting by 
sunrise it was generally midday by the time the new ground was reached, 
and often later. Arriving there, day piquets had to be posted and escorts 

The Mutiny and After—The Guides 15 

for the surveyors, cattle and foragers to be supplied. In the afternoon 
fatigue parties had to be turned out to construct breast works for the night 
piquets. These had to be substantially built with the stones collected from 
the hillsides, and to be palisaded, to prevent a sudden rush by 
overpowering numbers. At sunset from 700 to 1,000 men occupied these 
works, their comparatively isolated position rendering support difficult; 
at dusk the tents were struck, and, in addition to inlying piquets, half the 
men slept accoutred and the whole in uniform.” 

After this expedition the 4th Sikhs remained on the Frontier but engaged 

In no major enterprise. 

The Guides 1850-57 

It will be recalled that the initial raising of the Corps of Guides in 1846 
was quite separate from that of the Frontier Brigade, and the purpose for which 
Henry Lawrence needed the Corps was quite different. As had been noted, he 
described the role to be assigned to it as that of a small force acquainted with 
the highways and byways of the Frontier and ready to the hand of the Civil 
Authorities in a new country bordering on troubled districts. 

For this reason he included in its strength both mounted and foot. The 
Corps remained, after its expansion to the full strength of a cavalry regiment 
and a battalion of infantry, a unit organized as a separate corps, self-contained 
with both infantry and cavalry. Thus it remained until the reorganization of 
1922.* It had its own well-equipped centre at Mardan—indeed, the Guides’ 
home there remained jealously guarded and beloved by them and to a great 
extent their own property till 1938, when they finally left it. 

In 1922, however, when the Indian Army was reorganized on a basis of 
regiments, the Guides Infantry were incorporated into the Frontier Force 
Regiment as its 5th Battalion, and the Guides Cavalry were given a separate 
entity as a cavalry regiment of the Indian Army. Nevertheless, the bonds 
between the two remain unbroken and are proudly maintained to this day. 

It is as well that the reader should understand the above history of the 
inception of the Corps and its organization, tradition and status up to 1922 
and subsequently; otherwise he might be somewhat mystified as to how a 
portion of the Corps became part of another regiment altogether, particularly 
as under its original title the Corps has been perhaps the most famous single 
unit of the Indian Army and probably the only one with a name and legend of 
world-wide character. 

Many are the interesting stories told of Lumsden’s early dealings with the 
wild characters of the Frontier from whom he recruited so largely the men of the 
Corps he was raising, but for these the reader must go to the history of the 
Corps or the biography of Lumsden (Lumsden of the Guides). He will not 

* See Chapter X, “The Regimental Centre.” 

16 The Mutiny and After—The Guides in the Siege of Delhi 

regret the time spent in reading them. Unfortunately, in a volume of this nature 
space does not admit of the inclusion of more than the major events in the lives 
of the Battalions of the Regiment. 

One innovation of this time made by Lumsden must, however, be recorded, 
since it is a matter about which many erroneous claims have been made and 
much written that is incorrect. He was the first to introduce khaki as a colour 
for soldiers’ uniform, and the Guides were the first corps to be dressed in it. The 
colour was earlier known among the Punjabis as “Multani mitti,” but the 
Persian word (meaning dust-coloured) was briefer and more civilized and came 
into general use. 

The fact that for obvious reasons the British Army had to be dressed in 
khaki for the South African War in 1899 has led many to suppose that that was 
its first appearance. Actually, the facts are as stated above. and it was on the 
Ridge at Delhi in 1857 that many units copied the Guides, and the wearing of 
khaki became more general both in the Indian Army and in British units 
serving in India. 

As has been briefly recorded on p. 3, the Guides gave outstanding service 
in the Second Sikh War and by 1849 their value had been established and 
recognized by higher authority. 

The Guides in the Siege of Delhi 

The outbreak of the Great Mutiny of 1857 and the military situation it 
gave rise to are described above in the narrative of the 4th Sikhs. It was as part 
of the build-up of the army on the Ridge facing the walls of Delhi that the 
Guides were ordered to join it there with the utmost speed. 

They were in Mardan at the time, and the march they performed has been 
acknowledged as one of the great classic marches in the annals of military 
history. It has indeed become almost legendary. 

They marched as a corps, Cavalry and Infantry together, and arrived as a 
corps. Although camels were provided, one to every two infantrymen, to enable 
them to keep up with the cavalry, it may well be claimed that the major share 
of endurance in such a feat was that of the Infantry. Clearly, in any case, it 
merits description in some detail here, for many erroneous accounts of it have 
been given credence, and indeed the facts are even more astonishing than most 
of the legends. 

The news of the outbreak at Meerut was received in Peshawar on the night 
of 11th May, and the Guides were originally ordered to Jhelum forthwith to 
form part of a column of all arms to deal with any outbreaks that might occur 
in that neighbourhood. They were relieved at Mardan by the 55th (an Indian 
battalion from Nowshera which subsequently mutinied*). They marched on 
13th May—the very hottest time of the year in one of the hottest regions in the 

* See page 7. 

The Mutiny and After—The Guides in the March to Delhi 17 

world. Their marching-out strength was 5 officers, 153 sabres and 349 rifles. In 
addition, it was the month of Ramazan, when all Mussalmans fast during 
the hours of daylight, so that a great proportion of the men were physically ill- 
prepared for the endurance that such a march entailed. 

Before reaching Jhelum the Guides had learnt that the proposed movable 
column was not to be formed and that they were to continue the march to Delhi 
without delay. Thus it was that the march of 580 miles from Mardan to Delhi 
was Carried out in one operation in twenty-six days, which included four days’ 
halt on the orders of superior authority. The distance was covered therefore, in 
twenty-two marching days. 

The following extracts from the diary of Captain Daly, who commanded 
the Corps, give some idea of the conditions under which a portion of the march 
was carried out (see also plate). 

“May 20th. Reached Mandra, twenty miles at 5 a.m., having marched 
at 10 p.m. last night. Great difficulty in keeping awake. . . . Men very 
cheerful and ready to go anywhere; none admit themselves too knocked up 
or too stiff to proceed. 

“21st. Sohawah, twenty-four miles, crossing the Bakriala; ravines and 
roads broken and intricate; spent a burning day; march at 8 p.m., wind 

“22nd. Jhelum at 5 a.m.; encamping ground by the river, delightfully 
fresh after twenty-eight miles. First trumpet at dark; crossed the river at 
nine. Great storm of dust and rain made the road difficult to follow. 

“23rd. Koria, fifteen miles from the Chenab and ten from Gujerat, 
twenty-one miles from Jhelum. Roads heavy from the storm, air delicious 
and fresh; so tired all night that I was compelled to walk myself awake; 
even that remedy failed, constantly found myself abreast of a sowar’s 
horse. Some of the sowars in the rear troops kept passing right up through 
the column . .. . Resolved to take advantage of the cool day and push 
off to the Chenab. Cavalry first, Infantry in the evening. Marched cavalry 
at 3 p.m., reached the Chenab at eight and commenced the crossing. 

“25th. Marched to Kamokee this morning by 7 a.m., thirty-two miles. 
Started for Lahore at 5 p.m., distance thirty miles. 

“26th. Reached Lahore at 6 a.m. Was met by the Commissioner and 
Military Secretary—difficulty about selecting recruits. 

“27th. Recruiting ... . (Corps continued march). 

“28th. Overtook the Corps at Powindiah at 7 a.m. 

“29th. Reached the banks of the Sutlej close to Sobraon battlefield 
by 6 a.m., commenced the crossing at once. Here it was that the river 
ran red with Sikh blood. Determined to follow the Umballa road. 

“30th. Reached Mihna, thirty-two miles, about 7 a.m. The cross- 
country road sent many straggling; some did not reach till dark: there was 

18 The Mutiny and After—The Guides March to Delhi 

baggage and three men missing when four o’clock struck. Resolved on a 
short march and to leave at the usual time, so as to enable them to make 
a night’s rest. Marched at 6 p.m. to Jagraon, fourteen miles; reached 
before midnight. 

“31st. Had a delightful sleep. Men much refreshed . . . . Marched 
at7 p.m. 

“Ist June. Reached Ludhiana, twenty-four miles, at 3 a.m. and at 
once composed ourselves to sleep until daylight at the foot of the Kutcherry 
steps, the lowest step serving as a pillow ... . Marched on Alawi-ki-Serai 
at 7.30 p.m., distance twenty-eight miles. 

“2nd. Got a sight of the Serai soon after daybreak. Had two hours’ 
sleep off the reel and was much refreshed. The men very cheery... . 
Officers and men fall asleep on the ground for an hour and the difficulty 
is, who shall remain awake to sound the trumpet? Off to Rajpoora, 
distance twenty-eight miles, at seven this morning. 

“3rd. Reached the old Serai with the Cavalry at dawn just as the 
light was breaking . . . . Started for Umballa at 6 p.m., marched through 
the cantonment at 1 a.m., every house deserted .. . . Our guide took us 
down to the Boobial Tope, magnificent trees, under which a score of 
horses can stand free from the sun, and a large tank; altogether a beautiful 
spot. We all laid down to rest by the trunk of the old banyan tree. 

“4th. Marched to Pipli, twenty-six miles, by 4.30 this morning. 
Road very heavy. 

“Sth. Pipli arrived at dawn. Road heavy. Spent this day in the tahsil 
and marched for Karnal, twenty-four miles, at sunset. 

“6th. Reached Karnal at 3 a.m. Cholera appeared amongst us this 
evening and attacked three Gurkhas; one cook died, seven or eight men 
under its pressure at sunset; obliged to leave five men behind... .” 

At Karnal the Corps carried out a punitive operation to destroy a mutinous 
village five miles away. This was at the request of the local magistrate. They 
marched on, however, the same night and covered thirty miles of the remaining 
sixty to Delhi before dawn. They arrived in one further march on the morning 
of 9th June. 

As the Guides approached the Ridge at the close of their thirty-mile march 
from Larsauli, a staff officer galloped up to their Commanding Officer and 
inquired, “(How soon can you be ready to go into action?” “In half an hour,” 
was Captain Daly’s reply. 

The marching-in strength of the Corps of Guides was 5 officers, 9 J.C.Os. 
and 209 rank and file of the Cavalry, and 17 J.C.Os. and 406 rank and file 
of the Infantry—a total for the whole of 646 all ranks. 

They had even managed to swell their ranks with recruits during the 



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20 The Mutiny and After—The Guides at Delhi 

march, so that they arrived on the Ridge stronger than they marched out of 
Mardan—and that in spite of sickness and casualties on the way. 

The Guides could scarcely have had time to do more than pitch camp 
and take a very brief rest at the close of their historic march, when the rebels, 
during the afternoon of 9th June, made a sortie in force from Delhi and 
delivered a sharp attack on the Hindu Rao’s house, a large stone building 
which crowned the south-western end of the long rocky Ridge. The Guides 
were at once called upon; and while the Infantry, under Captain Daly, with 
Lieutenants Battye and Hawes, were told off to reinforce the piquet on the 
extreme right of the Ridge, the Cavalry, under Lieutenant Kennedy, was 
directed to move along the foot of the Ridge on their right. The Infantry went 
straight into the fight, attacking the rebels fiercely and driving them back into 
the Sabzi Mandi. 

The entry in Captain Daly’s diary cf the 10th is very brief: ““The Regiment 
hotly engaged. Battye mortally wounded. Kahan Singh Rosa hard hit. Hawes 
clipt across the face with a sword and many good men down. Men behaved 
heroically, impetuously.” 

From 9th June till the 23rd the Guides were permanently posted and 
constantly engaged on the right flank of the Ridge, repelling enemy attacks 
(there were twenty-six in all on this flank). They greatly distinguished themselves 
and, in particular, Captain Daly, for his personal gallantry and leadership on 
15th June, was considered worthy of the Victoria Cross. 

The situation on this day was serious. The enemy had penetrated on the 
Guides’ flank almost to the supporting artillery, when Daly led the Guides 
Cavalry in a magnificent charge to restore the position. He himself was severely 
wounded in the action, which an eyewitness described as follows: “I have no 
hesitation in saying that in all human probability that charge saved the guns 
from falling into the hands of the enemy. We were in a very nasty position and 
the enemy were very close to the guns and doing us great damage with their 
sharpshooters. Daly’s charge was a desperate one, right up to the enemy’s guns. 
It was a most perilous and bold movement, but necessary to save the guns.” 

That night General Barnard (the Commander-in-Chief) visited Daly and 
expressed his regret that he could not recommend him for the Victoria Cross, 
which was not then open to officers of the Indian Army. Early in 1859 the 
award of the Victoria Cross was thrown open to British officers of the 
Honourable East India Company’s service, and Sir Hope Grant strongly 
recommended Daly to Lord Clyde. who was by then Commander-in-Chief, for 
the decoration; but the reply was that “His Excellency has been obliged to 
decline forwarding claims of this sort made so long after the occurrence for 
which the claim is preferred.” 

The enemy attack on 23rd June, the anniversary of Plassey. has 
already been referred to in the narrative of the 4th Battalion. The Guides took 



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22 The Mutiny and After—The Guides at Delhi 

their share in repelling this onslaught, and one of their officers, Lieutenant 
Murray (60th Native Infantry, attached to the Guides), was severely wounded. 

On 14th August General Nicholson marched in with reinforcements from 
the Punjab, and these brought up the strength of the Delhi Field Force (as it 
was now called) to more than 8,000 effectives, while there were also nearly 
2,000 sick and wounded in camp. 

The time for resolute action had now come and the plan for the capture 
of Delhi by assault prepared by General Nicholson was put into effect on 14th 
September. It has been described on page 12, and the Guides Infantry 
were part of the fourth column, which was 860 strong and in fact made up of 
detachments from ten different regiments. Its role was to attack and clear the 
suburbs of Paharunpore and Kishenganj and enter the city by the Lahore Gate. 

As has been recorded, this column met with little success. What happened 
was that a flanking party prematurely engaged the enemy, and troops were 
committed before the artillery were ready to support the attack. The Guides 
suffered severely, losing 1 officer (Lieutenant Murray) and 10 other ranks 
killed, and 2 officers (Lieutenants Shebbeare* and Bond) and 26 other ranks 
wounded. For this action Lieutenant Shebbeare was subsequently awarded 
the V.C. 

With the success of the other columns Delhi was captured, and though 
a lodgment on the walls and city fringe was all that was secured on the day 
of the assault, the whole city was taken by 20th September. 

The final task allotted to the Guides was to capture the bridgehead over 
the Jumna across the bridge of boats. This was achieved with an attack which 
drove the enemy from their position covering the bridge and captured a gun. 

The cost of the so-called Siege of Delhi had been heavy, and of this the 
Guides paid a large share—their casualties out of a total strength of 646 on 
their arrival, amounted to 361. It is perhaps fitting to close this narrative with 
the words of Lord Roberts’s tributet : 

“Where all behaved nobly it is difficult to particularize, but it will 
not, I hope, be considered invidious if I specially draw my readers’ 
attention to the four corps most constantly engaged, the 60th Rifles, the 
Sirmoor Battalion of Gurkhas, the Guides and the Ist Punjab Infantry. 
Placed in the very front of the position, they were incessantly under fire, 
and their losses in action testify to the nature of the services they 

The Guides on the Frontier, 1858-78 

The Guides left Delhi on 18th December 1857, and marched back to 
Mardan in more leisurely fashion. Visiting Peshawar first for an official 

* Wounded six times in all during the campaign. 
+ Forty-one Years in India, by Earl Roberts of Kandahar and Waterford. 

The Mutiny and After—The Guides on the Frontier, 1858-78 23 

welcome, they arrived in Mardan on 11th February 1858. They were not long 
however in peace. 

The Hindustani Fanatics of Sitana,* reinforced by the absconders from 
the mutinous 55th Infantry mentioned above, started trouble by attacking the 
camp of the Assistant Commissioner of the Yusafzai District. 

The Guides formed part of a punitive force of 5,000 assembled in April 
1858, to deal with them. Advancing in converging columns, the force destroyed 
three Hindustani villages and returned home. The Guides were not seriously 
engaged and were back in Mardan by June. 

In the same month Lumsden, who had been on a special mission to 
Kandahar, rejoined and resumed command of the Corps in time to take the 
Guides Infantry to join a punitive force in 1859 against the Kabul Khel in the 
Kohat District. Here the Battalion had a sharp fight, losing one man killed 
and ten wounded, but the tribe submitted immediately afterwards. 

Again, only a few weeks after this affair the services of the Guides were 
once more required for a punitive expedition, but this time on a larger scale. 
It was the expedition against the Mahsuds in April 1860, already mentioned 
above in the narrative of the 4th Sikhs, and noteworthy for the fierce attack 
on the 23rd of that month on Palosina Camp. 

The Guides were heavily involved in this action and lost fifteen killed and 
sixty-one wounded, but Lumsden (now a Lieutenant-Colonel) wrote in glowing 
terms of the manner in which the men rallied when taken aback and scattered 
by the sudden onslaught which penetrated the camp, and of the Guides’ 
punishing pursuit of the enemy afterwards. 

This and the defeat inflicted at the Berari Tangi on 4th May (which 
was the last action in which Lumsden commanded the Guides Corps) broke 
the tribes’ resistance, and the punitive march through country that was to 
become so familiar (and give so much trouble) sixty, seventy-five and eighty 
years later, was completed without further difficulty. 

After this, it was not till 1863 that the Guides were called on again, this 
time to form another expedition against the Hindustani Fanatics in the Black 
Mountain. This has since become known as the Ambeyla Expedition and 
involved severe fighting. But before this the Guides lost their Commandant, 

*Early in the nineteenth century one Sayed Ahmed Shah, a native of Bareilly, 
returned from the pilgrimage to Mecca and preached the doctrines of the Wahabi sect, 
attracting a certain number of fanatical Mussalmans in Hindustan. With these he began 
a religious war against the Sikhs in Yusafzai in 1824. In 1829 he captured Peshawar. 
A year later he himself was killed and his followers (who now amounted to 1,600 
Hindustanis) were defeated on the borders of Hazara, at Balkot. The remnant of his 
followers established themselves at Sitana in Buner. Here they were joined from time 
to time by other parties of fanatical Hindustanis. They were supported with arms and 
money from Patna, Bengal and parts of Rajputana. ; 

The fanaticism of these people led them to raid into settled districts of India. 

24 The Mutiny and After—The Guides on the Frontier, 1858-78 

Colonel Lumsden, who accepted advancement outside the Corps and went to 
command the Hyderabad Contingent. 

As one of the pioneers of soldiering on the North-West Frontier as we 
know it, and the father of the Corps of Guides, it is fitting to record here 
the tribute paid to him by a later commander: 

“This fine soldier from the raising of the Corps in 1846, had held 
command of it for sixteen years; the brightest example of what a brave, 
chivalrous and resourceful leader should be. Commanders of regiments 
come and go and few leave their mark; but over the Guides the 
influence of Lumsden still burns bright and clear. To be alert and ready; 
to rise equal to the occasion, be the call small or great; to be not easily 
taken aback in a sudden emergency; to be a genial comrade and a good 
sportsman,—such are the simple soldierly maxims left to his comrades by 
one of the best soldiers who ever drew sword.”’* 

He was succeeded by Lieutenant-Colonel A. T. Wilde, C.B.f 

Ambeyla Expedition, 1863 

This expeditionary force advanced in two columns, one from the Peshawar 
valley and the other from Hazara, and it was soon evident that the Hindustani 
Fanatics were being supported by contingents from tribes covering the whole 
Northern Frontier from the Indus to the border of Afghanistan. 

The crisis of the Expedition occurred on 14th, 15th and 20th November, 
when the advance of the Peshawar column under General Chamberlain seized 
a pass leading to the valley of Ambeyla in Buner. A perimeter camp was 
established on this pass, and the camp piquets were repeatedly attacked by 
great numbers of fanatical tribesmen, two of them changing hands more than 
once. In the final recapture of Crag Piquet,t General Chamberlain himself 
was severely wounded and had to relinquish command of the Force; but the 
tribes had suffered heavily—especially the Hindustani Fanatics themselves— 
and their resistance crumbled. The Force withdrew after carrying out severe 
punitive measures against villages and property and ensuring the expulsion 
of the Hindustani Fanatics from Buner. 

In 1864 Colonel Wilde was promoted to command the Punjab Frontier 
Force in succession to General Chamberlain, whose above-mentioned wound 
had caused him to vacate the appointment on medical grounds. This left the 
command of the Corps of Guides vacant, and the officer who was appointed 
was Colonel Sam Browne.§ 

* Younghusband, The Story of the Guides. 

+ Later Lieutenant-General Sir A. T. Wilde, K.C.B., after whom the 4th Bn. F.F. 
Rifles (Wilde’s Rifles) was named. 

t Afterwards known locally as Katalgarh, “The Fort of Slaughter.” 

§ See note on page 4. 

The Mutiny and After—The Guides on the Frontier, 1858-78 25 

After the Ambeyla Expedition in 1863-64 the Guides continued till 1878 
in watch-and-ward duties and participated in several small affairs that were 
not of sufficient importance to describe here. One item of importance in 1875, 
however, needs to be recorded. 

In November 1875, King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, arrived in 
India on a tour, and when in the following January he visited Lahore, the 
Guides Cavalry marched there and provided the escort under Captain Stewart. 
On 10th March the following was published in the Government Gazette: 

“The Viceroy and Governor-General in Council has the highest 
gratification in announcing that, in commemoration of the visit to India 
of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, the Queen has been pleased 
to appoint His Royal Highness to be Honorary Colonel of the following 

“*#****The Corps of Guides. 

“Her Majesty has been further graciously pleased to confer on the 
following Corps the distinction of being styled ‘Queen’s Own’ and wearing 
on their collars and appointments the Royal Cipher within the Garter. 

“#*#*#The Corps of Guides.” 


Outline of the Campaign—The Guides in the Second Afghan War, First Phase—The Resi- 
dency, Kabul, 1879—The Defence of the Residency—The Sorties—The Final Sally 
and End of the Disaster—The Guides in the Second Phase of the Second Afghan War 
—Occupation of Kabul—Battle of the Asmai Heights—Winter in Sherpur Canton- 
ment—The Ist Sikhs in the Second Afghan War—The 2nd Sikhs in the Second 
Afghan War—Ahmed Khel—The March from Kabul to Kandahar—The Battle 
of Kandahar—The 3rd Sikhs in the Second Afghan War. 

Outline of the Campaign 

THE outbreak of this war in 1878 was the outcome of Russian penetration 
towards Afghanistan and of a series of provocative actions by the Amir Sher 
Ali of Afghanistan. These culminated in August of that year with the reception 
and welcoming in Kabul of a Russian envoy, while the British representative, 
Sir Neville Chamberlain, and his mission were rebuffed and turned back at 
Ali Masjid in the Khyber Pass. 

As further diplomatic advances were not only ignored by the Amir, but 
active hostility began to be shown by him, the Viceroy, Lord Lytton, delivered 
an ultimatum demanding an apology for the treatment of Sir Neville Chamber- 
lain’s mission. This also brought no reply, and war was declared on 21st 
November 1878. 

As this war involved four of the five Battalions of the Regiment, and in 
particular the Guides and the 2nd Battalion, their stories will now be followed 
separately; but first it is necessary to understand briefly the strategy and course 
of the campaign and an outline of the sequence of events. 

In 1878 an advance into Afghanistan was made in three columns via the 
Khyber, Kurram and Bolan Passes, the columns being commanded respectively 
by General Sir Sam Browne (an ex-commandant of the Guides and the P.F.F.*), 
General Roberts and General Biddulph. The opposition met was signally 
defeated on each line and the Afghans submitted at the Treaty of Gandamak. 
The Amir Sher Ali fled to Russian Turkistan, where he died two months later, 
and the heir to the throne succeeded him in the person of one Yakub Khan. 
The latter, however, proved weak and incapable, if not actually treacherous. 
Under the above treaty the Indian Government sent an envoy, Sir Louis 

* See page 4. 

The Guides in the 2nd Afghan War 27 

Cavagnari, with an escort to reside in Kabul. Within a month of their arrival, 
and in the presence of Yakub Khan, Afghan soldiery attacked the Residency 
in September 1879, and in spite of an heroic defence massacred Cavagnari 
and his escort of Guides under Lieutenant Hamilton. 

Swift advances on Kabul and Kandahar were made at once by Generals 
Roberts and Stewart, and both cities were occupied throughout the winter of 
1879-80. General Roberts's advance was resolutely opposed at the approach to 
Kabul in the battle of Charasiah, in which the Afghans and tribesmen were 
heavily defeated and dispersed. Thereafter his force was involved in continuous 
fighting round Kabul before the Afghans in that province were finally 

In the summer of 1880 the disaster to a brigade of the Kandahar Force, 
at Maiwand, led to Lord Roberts’s famous march from Kabul to Kandahar 
and his destruction of the Afghan army there. This brought the war to an end 
and the British Indian Forces were withdrawn. 

The Guides in the Second Afghan War 
(First Phase) 

Such, in a few words, is an outline of the Second Afghan War. As already 
remarked, most of the Battalions of the Regiment were involved in it under 
their names and titles of those days, but the Guides played a leading military 
part in its initial phases. For that reason, while the narrative of each Battalion 
will be recorded separately in this chapter, that of the Guides will be taken 

When General Sir Neville Chamberlain was chosen as the envoy to Kabul 
in 1878 to counter the growing threat of Russian penetration, the escort to 
his mission consisted of a detachment of 100 sabres and 50 bayonets of the 
Corps of Guides under Lieutenant-Colonel Jenkins (Commandant). As it was 
the turning back of this mission at Ali Masjid in the Khyber Pass that finally 
caused the rupture of relations with the Amir Sher Ali, a description of this 
illuminating incident is of interest. 

In September 1878, Major Cavagnari, the Political Agent in Peshawar, 
commenced negotiations with the Khyber Pass Afridis for the mission’s safe 
conduct. While these were progressing it became clear that the Amir was 
resolved to prevent our bringing matters to a test with him, and that for this 
purpose he would neither receive nor refuse to receive our mission, but keep 
it waiting indefinitely on the threshold of his dominions without any answer 
at all, while the Russian mission still remained at his capital. Such a position 
we could not possibly accept with either dignity or safety.* 

* Balfour, Lord Lytton’s Administration. 

28 The Guides in the 2nd Afghan War 

On 21st September the mission moved out from Peshawar to Jamrud, 
and within a mile of Ali Masjid, at a water-mill,* Major Cavagnari and Colonel 
Jenkins parleyed with the Afghan representative, Sirdar Faiz Muhammad Khan. 
There was a prolonged discussion in which the latter made it clear that he had 
received no orders from the Amir to let the mission pass and that in the absence 
of such orders he could not allow it to proceed. 

On being further questioned, the Sirdar confirmed that his troops, who 
were in position to oppose the advance of the mission, would open fire. There- 
upon, Major Cavagnari, Colonel Jenkins and the party of the Guides returned 
to Jamrud, and the Guides escort marched back to Mardan. 

The hostility of the Afghan Government’s attitude increased; and when 
the Afridi head malik’s home was burnt by the Afghans as a reprisal for his 
share of assistance to the mission, an ultimatum was sent that led to the outbreak 
of war. 

Of the three columns that were formed to invade Afghanistan, the Guides 
were allocated to General Sir Sam Browne’s—called the Peshawar Valley Field 
Force.t The Guides Infantry were in the 2nd Infantry Brigade with the Ist 
Sikhs and the 17th Foot (later the Royal Leicestershire Regiment). 

The first objective of Sir Sam Browne’s Force was to drive the enemy 
from the Ali Masjid position in the Khyber Pass, which the Afghans were 
holding in strength. 

The Guides Infantry reconnoitred the position to see if it could be turned 
by an advance via the Rhotas heights, which overlooked it on the north. This 
was found to be practicable by a seventeen-mile detour, and the Ist and 2nd 
Brigades were allotted the task of carrying it out by night. The advance com- 
menced on 20th November, and in spite of the great difficulties of the route in 
darkness the Guides Infantry and Ist Sikhs reached a position commanding the 
rearward communication of the Pass by the afternoon of the 21st. 

In the meantime the advance on the position itself was carried out by 
the rest of the Force, but by 11 a.m. on 21st November the Afghans had 
evacuated the position and fled. 

After this the advance into Afghanistan continued without opposition and 
Jalalabad was taken on 17th December. Here news of the flight of Amir Sher 
Ali was received, but the Afghans still remained hostile and it was not until 
March 1879, that Yakub Khan, Sher Ali’s successor, opened negotiations. 
While this was going on, tribal hostility grew in the neighbourhood of Jalalabad 
and Gandamak, and the Guides were involved in some severe fighting. In one 
action at Fattehabad, Major Wigram Battye was killed and Lieutenant W. R. P. 

* This water-mill still exists and is a halting-place for caravans passing through 
the Khyber. 

+ Composed of one cavalry and three infantry brigades with a further brigade of 
cavalry and of infantry in reserve at Hassan Abdal. 

The Guides in the 2nd Afghan War—The Residency, Kabul 29 

Hamilton won the Victoria Cross while inflicting heavy punishment on hostile 

The negotiations, however, ended satisfactorily on 17th May with the 
Treaty of Gandamak, by which among other clauses, India was accorded the 
right to establish a mission in Kabul. To this mission Sir Louis Cavagnari was 
appointed as envoy and Lieutenant Hamilton of the Guides, Military Attaché. 
The escort was furnished by the Guides and consisted of : Cavalry—1 jemadar. 
1 kote-dafadar, 1 dafadar and 22 sowars—total 25; Infantry—1l jemadar, 2 
havildars, 2 naiks, 1 lance-naik, 1 bugler and 45 sepoys—total 52; with } 
hospital assistant. The Mission also included Mr. Jenkins as Secretary and 
Doctor Kelly as Medical Officer. 

This party and the mission were received with friendship and respect, 
arriving at Kabul on 24th July. 

The Residency, Kabul, 1879 

At the outset, indeed, nothing could have been better than the reception 
accorded to the British mission on its arrival at Kabul, where it was lodged in 
a commodious building near the Bala Hissar, about 250 yards from the Amir’s 
palace. The Amir’s demeanour was most friendly and no restrictions seem to 
have been placed on the movements of the British officers attached to the 
mission, who were allowed to go about freely and ride out daily in the environs 
of Kabul. 

This satisfactory state of affairs was not destined to last. Some two or 
three days after the arrival of Sir Louis Cavagnari and his mission, six regiments 
of Afghan infantry arrived from Herat and encamped for three days about 
two miles out of Kabul. On the morning of the fourth day they marched 
through the principal streets of the city, headed by their officers and with 
bands playing, staged a hostile demonstration, and shouted abuse at the Envoy. 

The inhabitants of Kabul viewed the demonstration with indifference. The 
affair was, however, immediately reported to the Envoy by a pensioned Indian 
officer of the Guides Cavalry then living in Kabul. This man, Risaldar-Major 
Nakshband Khan, Sirdar Bahadur, appears to have recognized the danger 
from the first. Sir Louis Cavagnari tried to reassure him, but Nakshband Khan 
was not satisfied. During the ensuing days he noted and reported many 
disquieting signs which strengthened his suspicions that the Amir was not as well 
disposed towards the British mission as he would have it appear. 

Reports from other sources must have confirmed those of the old 
Risaldar-Major, but it was not until 6th August that there appeared any word 
of disquiet in the envoy’s correspondence. 

However, it seems to have been hoped and believed that matters had 
quieted down, for on 12th August Cavagnari noted in his diary that the men 
of the Herat regiments had received their arrears of pay and that many had 

30 The Guides in the 2nd Afghan War—The Defence of the Residency, Kabul 

been given furlough; and neither in the last instalment of the diary sent out, 
dealing with the events of 23rd August, nor in a telegram dispatched on the 
24th and ending with the words, “Embassy all well,” is there anything to show 
that any untoward event was expected, though on 23rd August four sowars 
of the Guides had been attacked in the Kabul bazaar, but managed to escape 
and return to the Residency. 

It was not until the night of 4th September that news of an outbreak 
in Kabul came through to Simla. Upon receipt of it the Viceroy cabled as 
follows to the Secretary of State for India: 

“During the night of 4th September information reached Ali Khel 
that, on morning of 3rd, British Embassy at Kabul was attacked by three 
Afghan regiments, joined later by six others. Embassy defending itself 
when messengers left Kabul. Tonight letters received at Ali Khel from 
Amir leave no hope as to fate of Embassy. General Massey ordered to 
move from Ali Khel on Shutargardan tomorrow. General Roberts from 
Simla will reach Peiwar in five days and take command of rapid advance 
on Kabul. General Baker will command one Brigade. General Stewart 
ordered to hold Kandahar and threaten Ghazni if necessary.” 

The Defence of the Residency 

The tragedy of the defence of the Embassy in Kabul was an epic that 
excited the admiration of the world. An extract from the vivid account given 
in the History of the Guides merits a place in this History. 

“The morning of 3rd September broke calm and clear, and Lieutenant 
Hamilton and Dr. Kelly went out riding, looking for a place where good 
grass could be cut for the horses of the escort. They had been preceded 
by a party consisting of three men of the Guides Cavalry and twenty-five 
grass-cutters. One man of the Guides Infantry was about the same time 
in the Kabul bazaar arranging for the purchase of flour for the escort. 
To the fact of being on these simple duties these men owed their lives, as 
none of them except the two British officers—and for them Fate willed it 
otherwise—was able to re-enter the Residency. 

“Lieutenant Hamilton and Dr. Kelly must have returned from their 
ride about 7.30 a.m. and probably went to their breakfast in the Residency. 
While the British mission and its escort were thus going about their 
ordinary morning routine, a short distance away in the Bala Hissar the 
curtain was rising on the drama so soon to be enacted. 

“Shortly before 8 a.m. the Turkestani Ardal Regiment, lately arrived 
in Kabul, was paraded to receive its pay. The men wore side arms but 
carried no rifles with them. There was another Afghan regiment with them 
in the Bala Hissar and on duty at the Arsenal close by. There is no doubt 
that the pay of the Ardal Regiment was in arrears and that the men 

The Guides in the 2nd Afghan War—The Defence of the Residency, Kabul 31 

were thoroughly discontented. In lieu of the two months’ pay which they 
demanded, they were given one. Brooding discontent gave way to open 
mutiny. From words the soldiers passed to deeds and started throwing 
stones at General Daud Shah, who at the Amir’s orders was superintending 
the disbursement of pay. On his coming down to reason with them he 
was cut down with a tulwar and then bayoneted. 

“News flies fast in the East, and the troops were soon joined by the 
other disaffected regiments lately arrived from Herat, and the riff-raff from 
the bazaars. The mob made for the Residency cavalry lines, started stoning 
the syces and troopers, and attempted to untie the horses. The troopers 
quickly armed and the mutineers met with sturdy resistance. The escort 
sustained its first casualty here, one of the troopers, a Sikh, being mortally 
wounded by a tulwar, but not before accounting for at least one adversary 
who lay dead beside him. Two or three shots were fired, but the crowd, 
who were mostly without rifles, retired and some 200 of them went to the 
Bala Hissar to fetch their arms. 

“Lieutenant Hamilton came out of the Residency at this moment and 
gave orders for the door to be shut. The crowd contented itself with stone- 
throwing for a few minutes, and then it too made off to the Arsenal to 
procure more suitable weapons. 

“Taking advantage of the temporary lull, the troopers and the men 
in the courtyard were ordered into the Residency buildings. Lieutenant 
Hamilton and about twenty men took up a position on the roofs, where 
luckily there was a parapet which was quickly loop-holed. 

“Spasmodic firing now started from the Afghans clustered round the 
Arsenal, which, standing on higher ground, commanded the roofs. 

“The fire of the Afghans gradually became general and from this 
moment the mutineers had one definite purpose—to destroy the defenders 
who had dared to show fight. This was at about 8.45 a.m. 

“The men with Lieutenant Hamilton had meantime received orders 
to fire and after what must have seemed hours of inaction responded with 
a will, some at the Afghans round the Arsenal and others at those who had 
again entered the cavalry lines and were leading away or, out of sheer 
savagery, killing the horses. The party on the roof of the barracks, firing 
as they were from behind cover, must have taken heavy toll of their 
adversaries, the Arsenal itself being so close and the cavalry lines still 

“To deal with Lieutenant Hamilton’s party more effectively some of 
the mutineers, covered by fire from the Arsenal, advanced and secured a 
position closer still to the barracks and completely commanding them. This 
appears to have been some sort of enclosure north of the wall of the Bala 
Hissar, which is also on higher ground than the Residency. 

32 The Guides in the 2nd Afghan War—The Defence of the Residency, Kabul 

The Sorties 

“If the fire of his party was not to be silenced these Afghans had to be 
dislodged, and Lieutenant Hamilton decided to do it. It was not likely that 
a mere passive defence would suit him. 

“An eyewitness stated: ‘At about 9 a.m., while the fighting was going 
on, I myself saw four European officers charge out at the head of some 
twenty-five of the garrison; they drove away a party that was holding some 
broken ground. When charged, the Afghan soldiers ran like sheep before 
a wolf. About a quarter of an hour after this another sally was made with 
three officers at their head with the same result.’ Cavagnari was not with 
them this time (apparently he was the first time, although wounded early 
in the morning). ‘A third sally was made with two British officers, Jenkyns 
and Hamilton, leading.’ (One can imagine Dr. Kelly having to stay behind 
to attend to the wounded.) ‘A fourth sally was made with a Sikh jemadar, 
Jewan Singh, bravely leading. After this no further sally was made, the 
defenders appearing to go up to the upper part of the house and firing from 

“The eyewitness in question was Risaldar-Major Nakshband Khan, 
above mentioned. On hearing of the mutiny he had made his way at once 
to the Residency, but was recognized and roughly handled by the crowd. 
eventually being forced to take refuge in a house. From the upper storey of 
this house, two hundred yards away, he watched the attack on the 

“On his return from the third sally, Lieutenant Hamilton was met 
with the news that the mutineers were trying to force the small door in the 
eastern wall of the Residency. He hurried off to this new danger point 
and arranged for its defence by four men. 

“Sir Louis must now have realized the full gravity of the situation— 
that the affair was more than a mere demonstration of hate by dissatisfied 
soldiery—for he wrote a letter to the Amir asking for help. This was sent 
by the hands of a Kabuli, Ghulam Nabi, who had previously served with 
the Guides and had been engaged as a Chuprassi in Kabul. It was a perilous 
mission, but although he succeeded in delivering the letter, he was unable 
to bring back an answer. The Amir’s answer actually was, ‘God willing, 
1 am just making arrangements.’ As a matter of fact, he did nothing, 
although none of his cavalry and only a few artillerymen had joined the 

“To return to the fighting. A continuous and heavy fire was directed 
on the defence from the west and from houses on the east which practically 
adjoined the Residency wall. On this side, too, the Afghans had resorted to 
more active measures and by about 11 a.m. had succeeded in sapping 
through the wall. Covered by fire from the neighbouring roofs and by that 

Ladder S&S fom 
contiquous VKrToo?s, 

waste plol 
used for 



(2) f sft 

Pe ee 


A Residency H 1 Breach made 

8 Guides Barracks MN Courtyard Wall 

C Cavetry Lines ARSENAL ST Graveinwhich 
bodies were thrown 

D Small Door 

E Geteway on Sep #* 

Ff Storied House COURT TARO C1) 15° Position of Guns 
G2 - . (2) 20 e 7 

Not to Scale 


34 The Guides in the 2nd Afghan War—The Defence of the Residency, Kabul 

of the men who had penetrated into the courtyard, the Afghans placed 
ladders across from adjacent roofs onto the Residency roof and attempted 
to cross them. Time and again they attacked, only to be repulsed by fire 
and hand-to-hand fighting in which Jenkyns and about nine men took the 

chief share. 

“It was not until midday, however, that they obtained a footing on the 
roof, by which time many of the gallant defenders had been killed. Driven 
from the roof, the brave remnant only retired to the storey below, from 
which they fired with such good effect that they prevented the Afghans 

from advancing further. 

“It was about midday, too, that Cavagnari was wounded again, and 
this time seriously, by a bullet in the head. ‘He was lying on his bed with 
his knees doubled up. Dr. Kelly was attending him.’ This was the last 
mention of Sir Louis Cavagnari, who up till now had taken as gallant a 

part as any in the defence. 

“Another danger more deadly than the Afghans now threatened the 
defence—fire. The wall had been sapped through in many places, and the 
Afghans, creeping through, had set fire to the woodwork on the ground 
floor. To make things worse, two guns had been brought up and were 

battering the wall of the barracks. 

“The position was now desperate, and Jenkyns dictated another letter 
to the Amir and sent it out by a Hindu servant. Somehow or other this 
loyal man found his way out of the Residency but was caught and cut to 
pieces by the Afghans before the eyes of the defenders. By 2 p.m. the fire 
had got such a hold that its heat made one building untenable. Parched 
with thirst, scorched and blinded with smoke the survivors of this heroic 
band leaped across on to a narrow parapet round the roof of the barracks, 

from which they continued to fight. 
The Final Sally and End of the Disaster 

“Those still in the main building were fighting with the same grim 
determination and courage. From the roof of this building, Lieutenant 
Hamilton wrote out and sent the third and final appeal to the Amir. Sowar 
Taimus, Guides Cavalry, took it, but was captured in the Residency itself, 
thrown from its walls onto the roof of an adjoining house, soundly beaten 
and taken more dead than alive, before General Karim Khan. Even then 
he tried to save his comrades by putting before Karim Khan Lieutenant 
Hamilton’s message in which he promised the Afghan soldiers six months’ 
pay. Karim Khan replied, ‘I am powerless to stop the mutineers.’ Taimus 
was detained, but eventually escaped with the connivance of a wounded 
havildar of the Afghan Army, from whose back he removed a bullet, and 

lived to tell his very gallant story. 

The Guides in the 2nd Afghan War—The End of the Disaster 35 

“Shortly before 3 p.m. one of the guns was moved from its first 
position to within seventy paces of and opposite to an archway through 
which it could fire point blank at the door separating the courtyard from 
the Residency. The door was finally blown in at about 3 p.m. and opened a 
way for the Afghans to attack, or perhaps set fire to, the Guides’ barracks 
from the east. What actually now passed through Lieutenant Hamilton’s 
mind can never be known, but it was then that he collected the few men 
who remained alive and, putting himself at the head of his beloved Guides 
for the last time, charged the gun. Some accounts say three charges were 
made. Lieutenant Hamilton shot three men with his revolver, cut down two 
more with his sword and reached the gun, where he was hacked to pieces. 
Jenkyns fell some twenty yards behind him, while Kelly was killed as he 
came through the archway. Of those that made the final ines sortie 
all were killed. 

“There is no record of Sir Louis Cavagnari’s ultimate end, but it seems 
that he perished in the flames of the building where he was last seen being 
attended to by Dr. Kelly. In any case his body was never found. The bodies 
of Hamilton, Jenkyns and Kelly were reported to have been buried in a 
garden about a hundred yards from where they fell. Their bodies, though 
stripped and hacked to pieces, are said not to have been dishonoured. 

“All their officers had now been killed, but no thought of surrender 
entered the heads of those still holding out in the Residency. It was not 
until between 8 and 9 p.m. that all firing ceased with the death of the last 
of the escort, and a terrible silence fell over the smouldering ruins of what 
twelve hours before had been the British Embassy in Kabul.”* 

Of the eighty all ranks of the Guides who formed the escort to the Embassy, 
seventy-one fell in defence of their trust: 1 British officer, 2 Indian officers, 68 
sowars and sepoys, with | hospital assistant; only nine escaped the massacre. 
Of these nine, three were with the grass-cutters referred to above as out with 
Lieutenant Hamilton in the morning, three escaped during the fighting (one was 
Taimus, the bearer of the third and final appeal for help), one was away on 
leave, one was shopping in the bazaar, and one died the day before the tragedy. 

_Of the many tributes paid to the heroic little party, perhaps the most 
striking was that of the President of the Court of Enquiry assembled by General 
(afterwards Lord) Roberts: 

“The conduct of the escort of the Queen’s Own Guides does not form 
part of the enquiry entrusted to the Commission, but they have in the 
course of these enquiries had the extreme gallantry of these men so forcibly 

“* Some idea of ‘the. ‘loss | inflicted < on the mutineers may be gathered from the 
statements heard next day by a survivor that the Herati Regiment alone had lost 
300 killed. 

36 The 2nd Afghan War—The Guides in the Second Phase 

brought to their notice that they cannot refrain from placing on record 

their humble tribute of admiration. They do not give their opinion hastily, 

but they believe that the annals of no Army and no Regiment can show a 

brighter record of devoted bravery than has been achieved by this small 

band of Guides. By their deeds they have conferred undying honour not 
only on the Regiment to which they belong, but on the whole British 


Lord Roberts recommended that the Indian Order of Merit should be 
posthumously conferred on all members of the escort and that the Corps of 
Guides should bear “Residency, Kabul” on their colours as a battle honour. 

In regard to this, however, honours and decorations were not posthumously 
awarded in those days, and no correspondence is traceable in regard to the 
award of a battle honour. It seems probable that the proposal was negatived 
when it came before higher authority, primarily by reason of the old ruling in 
such matters that “a Battle Honour shall not be awarded for the services of any 
smaller unit than the wing of a Regiment.” Moreover, it was also against all 
precedent of the day to record a disaster as a battle honour (with gushing official 
phraseology) “notwithstanding its admittedly meritorious character.” 

The Guides in the Second Phase of the Second Afghan War 

The greater portion of the troops composing the Peshawar Valley Field 
Force were withdrawn from the neighbourhood of the Afghan border during 
June and July 1879, and the Kurram Valley Field Force was not only the 
nearest available body of troops when news of the attack on the Kabui 
Residency reached India, but practically the only one at the time ready and ina 
position to act. 

Major-General Roberts was temporarily absent from his command, at 
Simla, where the news of the happenings at Kabul arrived on the night of 
4th/Sth September. On the Sth a council was held, and as a preliminary 
measure Brigadier-General Massey, then commanding in Kurram, was 
directed to move a small force to the crest of the Shutur Gardan Pass and there 
entrench. In addition, a division of one cavalry brigade and two infantry 
brigades, to be known as the Kabul Field Force, was to be got ready for an 
immediate advance on Kabul, another division was to hold Jalalabad, and 
Kandahar was to be re-occupied and Ghazni threatened. A force of some 6,000 
men had been collected at Ali Khel on 12th September, on which date General 
Roberts resumed command of the force in the Kurram valley, where was 
available the division composing the Kabul Field Force and a third and a 
fourth infantry brigade for the protection of the line of communications. 

Meanwhile, on the Khyber line, steps had been taken to strengthen the 
weak garrisons of Landi Kotal, Ali Masjid and Jamrud, and a plan was drawn 
up to support General Roberts’s advance from Kurram by a forward movement 

The Guides in the 2nd Afghan War—The Occupation of Kabul 37 

by way of the Khyber, creating depots along the route and increasing the 
posts as fresh troops arrived. The Guides were allotted to this latter line and 
were the first to move forward and occupy Dakka at the earliest possible 

At this time (the end of September 1879) the Amir forbade any 
Opposition being offered to the advance of the British-Indian forces, and the 
advance along the route to Kabul through Jalalabad and Gandamak continued 
without opposition. 

Occupation of Kabul 

In the meantime, however, General Roberts’s column had encountered 
fanatical opposition on the heights above Charasiah on the approaches to 
Kabul. In the ensuing battle the enemy were heavily defeated, and General 
Roberts entered Kabul on 8th October. For the next six weeks the Guides 
carried out protective duties in the Pezwan—Jagdalak area, during which time 
the Amir Yakub Khan, now deposed, passed through for internment in India. 

But trouble was brewing round the capital, and on 7th December an order 
was received from General Roberts that the Guides Corps was to march at 
once with all speed to Kabul. 

Colonel Jenkins left Jagdalak with the bulk of the Corps on 9th December, 
and on the 11th marched from Seh Baba to Lataband, on reaching which place 
a helio message was received that reinforcements were urgently needed at 
Kabul. Leaving all baggage behind in charge of one company, the remainder, 
taking only ammunition with them, pushed on and marched that night into 
Sherpur Cantonment, a distance of thirty-six miles. On the days previous to the 
arrival of the Guides in Sherpur Cantonment the forces under General Roberts, 
organized in three columns for offensive operations against the tribal hordes 
that were now threatening, had been roughly handled. Moreover, on the days 
following their arrival a column sent out to clear the Takht-i-Shah, overlooking 
Kabul city had been only partially successful, and reinforced masses of tribes- 
men now occupied villages between Beni Hissar and Bala Hissar. There now 
followed three days of heavy fighting. On the 13th a force which included the 
Guides Infantry and 3rd Sikhs* was ordered to attack through this area and 
clear the Takht-i-Shah. The attack was completely successful, the Guides 
Infantry and 92nd Highlanders leading the assault with great dash, while the 
3rd Sikhs drove a threatening enemy concentration back on the left flank 
(towards Siah Sung). 

The withdrawal was not followed up and the night passed quietly. Next 
morning, however, the tribesmen were seen to be massing to the north on the 
Asmai heights, and they were joined also by hordes from the city and Chardeh 

> Eight guns, one squadron 9th Lancers, Sth Punjab Cavalry, six companies 92nd 
Highlanders, 300 3rd Sikhs, 150 5th Punjab Infantry, and seven companies of the Guides. 

38 The Guides in the 2nd Afghan War—The Asmai Heights 

valley. Roberts immediately decided to attack them. In his own words: 
“Foiled in their attempt to close in upon us from the south and west, the 
tribesmen had concentrated to the north, and it was evident they were pre- 
paring to deliver an attack in great strength from that quarter. I quickly 
decided to drive the enemy off the Asmai heights, to cut their communication 
with Kohistan, and to operate towards the north, much as I had operated the 
previous day to the south of Sherpur. 

“At 9 a.m. I despatched Brigadier-General Baker to the east slope of the 
Asmai range with the following troops: 4 guns R.F.A.; 4 guns Mountain 
Artillery; 14th Bengal Lancers; 72nd Highlanders (192 rifles); 92nd Highlanders 
(100 rifles); Guides Infantry (460 rifles); and 5th Punjab Infantry (470 rifles).”’* 

The advance, composed of the 72nd, 92nd and Guides Infantry, was under 
the orders of Colonel Jenkins, C.B. 

Battle of the Asmai Heights 

After crossing some deep ditches and marshy ground under enemy fire, a 
conical hill west of the Asmai heights was reached and occupied, and here 
Colonel Jenkins was ordered to leave a sufficient force to hold the hill, taking 
on the remainder to storm the main Afghan position on the heights. Accord- 
ingly, two mountain guns were left here with sixty men of the 72nd Highlanders 
and sixty rifles of “A” Company of the Guides Infantry. 

The first position held by the enemy was a very strong one, the ascent to 
it was both precipitous and rocky, and the enemy fought with great determina- 
tion. The Guides worked round on the right, and the position was finally 
captured by a simultaneous rush of the Highlanders and Guides, the Afghans 
being driven out with severe loss. The enemy was pursued and driven along the 
Asmai heights towards Kabul city, suffering severely, but at the same time they 
inflicted no small loss upon their pursuers. The last and highest point, above the 
city, was very stubbornly held by a body of the enemy and was finally cleared 
by parties working round on both flanks—that on the right under Colonel 
Jenkins—and ending with a charge from front and flanks by the Highlanders 
and Guides, executed with the greatest dash and resolution. Meanwhile, General 
Macpherson had been directed to give all the assistance in his power to General 
Baker’s attack, and accordingly the whole of the 67th Foot moved across the 
gorge at Deh Mazang and worked towards the enemy’s rear, arriving just as 
the summit was finally stormed by the Highlanders and Guides. 

The work had been very hard and everybody would have been glad of a 
rest, but heavy firing was now heard in the direction of the conical hill, and it 
was seen that the detachment left there was being attacked by large masses of 
Afghans arriving from the direction of Kohistan. 

“*Forty-one Years in India, Vol. Il, pp. 287-88. 

The Guides in the 2nd Afghan War—The Asmai Heights 39 

Colonel Jenkins ordered ammunition pouches to be replenished and the 
force to march back to the relief of the isolated party on the hill, the 67th Foot, 
then arriving from Brigadier-General Macpherson’s brigade, being left in charge 
of the high peak just captured. On arrival on the high ground overlooking the 
conical hill it was seen that the force there had been overpowered by numbers 
and forced to retire. Volleys fired by the Highlanders and Guides checked the 
pursuing enemy, but caused them to turn back right handed, swarm up the 
Asmai heights and attack their fresh assailants. At this moment, while the 
troops were actually engaged with the enemy, orders were received to fall back 
on Sherpur. 

It was no easy matter to bring off a force from such a hill as Asmai in the 
face of an exulting foe, but it was done, and with remarkably small loss. A party 
of the Guides, under Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell and Captain Hammond, was 
the last to leave the crest of the Asmai under the covering fire of two companies 
of the 67th Foot holding the highest sangar; these men then retired down the 
hill under the shelter of the Bala Hissar walls. But the two guns of the mountain 
battery on the conical hill, which maintained a fire up to the last, could not be 
brought away and fell temporarily into the hands of the enemy. 

During the withdrawal Captain Hammond won the Victoria Cross for a 
signal act of gallantry. General Roberts described it in his despatch as follows: 

“Captain Hammond had been very forward during the storming of 
the Asmai heights, and now, when the enemy was crowding up the 
northern slopes, he remained with a few men on the ridge until the Afghans 
were within thirty yards of them. During the retirement one of the men of 
the Guides was shot and Captain Hammond stopped and assisted in carry- 
ing him away, though the enemy were at the time close by and firing 

Eight non-commissioned officers and four men of the Guides received the 
Order of Merit (Third Class) for gallantry in action this day, and there were a 
considerable number of casualties: killed or died of wounds, 2 J.C.Os. and 14 
men; wounded, Captain F. D. Battye and 26 men. 

As a result of this day’s action, the determination shown by the enemy and 
his ever-increasing numbers, General Roberts came to a weighty decision. 

The Winter in Sherpur Cantonment 

“I was determined,” he writes,* “to withdraw from all isolated positions 
and concentrate my force at Sherpur, thereby securing the safety of the canton- 
ment and avoiding what had now become a useless sacrifice of life.” The 
necessary orders for withdrawal were sent to Generals Macpherson and Baker. 

The critical events of 12th, 13th and 14th December were followed by a 
period of some ten days’ comparative calm, and attention was now devoted to 

*Forty-one Years in India, Vol. Il, p. 292. peer 

40 The Guides in the 2nd Afghan War—Winter in Sherpur Cantonment 

strengthening the defences of the very extended entrenched cantonment of 
Sherpur, pending the arrival of reinforcements from Gandamak for which 
General Roberts had asked. 

The period of calm ended with an attack in force by the Afghans on 
23rd December. It was launched in the early mists of dawn and the main 
assault fell on the sector held by the Guides Infantry and the 28th Punjab 
Infantry. To the flank were the two British battalions, the 67th and 92nd. Fire 
was reserved till the advancing masses could be clearly distinguished, and it was 
so outstandingly effective that the attack collapsed and General Roberts 
unleashed his cavalry and horse artillery through the gorge in the Bemaru Ridge 
on the enemy’s flank. They effected terrible execution with sword and lance, and 
the rout was complete. 

Next morning reinforcements amounting to six guns, two squadrons of 
cavalry and 2,000 infantry reached Sherpur. 

Four days later Brigadier-General Baker marched through deep snow into 
the heart of the Koh-i-Daman to punish Mir Bacha, the leader of the Kohistanis 
in the fighting. General Baker had under his command four guns, the Guides 
Cavalry, 200 sabres and some 1,700 infantry, including 400 rifles of the Guides 
Infantry. Mir Bacha’s fortified village of Baba Kushkar was burnt and razed 
to the ground, as were many other small forts belonging to him and his people, 
and the force was back in Sherpur on 31st December, having experienced no 
opposition, but all having suffered severely from the extreme cold. 

The Corps of Guides passed the winter in tents within Sherpur Canton- 
ment and was the only regiment in the force which was not provided with 
quarters; but the men kept very fit and healthy. 

After this no further hostility was evinced on the part of the Afghans or 
tribes round Kabul, and at the end of March negotiations commenced to place 
Abdur Rahman, a nephew of Sher Ali and reputed to be able and influential, 
on the throne as Amir. 

At the same time General Stewart’s division marched from Kandahar for 
Kabul to help in the final pacifying of northern Afghanistan. The 2nd Sikhs 
were part of the 2nd Brigade of this division, and the story of the march and 
the battle of Ahmed Khel is given in the narrative of that Battalion that follows 
later in this chapter. 

As General Stewart’s division approached Kabul from the south a force 
marched out of Kabul under General Ross to meet the Kandahar column and 
take it some needed supplies. A few days later it seemed likely to General 
Roberts that the people from Wardak and Logar might attack General Ross’s 
column, and on 20th April a force was sent towards Charasiah under Colonel 
Jenkins, consisting of two Royal Horse Artillery guns, two squadrons (250 
sabres) of the Guides Cavalry, 266 rifles of the 92nd Highlanders and 600 of 
the Guides Infantry. 

(Indva OL AVMVHSAd) 

42 The Ist Sikhs in the 2nd Afghan War 

A lashkar of some 2,000 well-armed tribesmen had in fact started out to 
attack General Ross’s column of supplies, but on hearing of the approach of 
Colonel Jenkins’s small force they turned to meet it. As this Jashkar approached, 
its numbers swelled as, in traditional manner, local tribes flocked to its 
standards. Colonel Jenkins received warning of the impending attack and sent 
word of it to General Roberts, who sent further reinforcements of a battalion, 
a battery Royal Horse Artillery and the Guides Cavalry. These arrived during 
the battle, enabling the whole force to counter-attack and drive off the tribesmen, 
inflicting very severe losses. The Guides lost eight killed and twenty wounded in 
this action. 

The force returned to Sherpur Cantonment and the Guides were thereafter 
no more engaged in fighting round Kabul. 

The negotiations which had already been opened with Abdur Rahman 
Khan proceeded during May and June, and news having been received that he 
was on his way to Kabul, where he was to be proclaimed Amir, General Stewart 
was directed, at the beginning of July, to proceed with the arrangements which 
had already been made for the withdrawal of the British troops from northern 
Afghanistan by the Khyber route. Now, however, news reached Kabul of the 
defeat of the British troops at Maiwand by the forces of Ayub Khan from Herat, 
and that General Stewart’s successor in command, General Primrose, was 
closely besieged in Kandahar. 

The epic march of Roberts’s army from Kabul to Kandahar, which 
followed the receipt of this news, is a story which does not belong here, as the 
Guides Infantry had no part in it. As the spearhead of the attack, whenever 
present, they had won the highest honours throughout the campaign in North 
Afghanistan, and now they returned to India with the forces evacuating Kabul. 

The story of Lord Roberts’s famous march, followed by his defeat and 
destruction of Ayub Khan’s army before the walls of Kandahar, is told in the 
narrative of the 2nd Sikhs. 

The Ist Sikhs in the Second Afghan War 

At the outbreak the Ist Sikhs were in Kohat when sudden and urgent 
orders to march to Peshawar, ready for field service, were received. The orders 
arrived on 3rd October at 7.30a.m. and directed the Battalion to reach Peshawar 
by the next day. Camel transport had to be collected as well as all other normal 
preparations made, but the Battalion moved the same day and arrived at 
Peshawar the next afternoon at 4 p.m. The record mentions that the transport 
arrived one to four hours afterwards and, other than some bruised feet from the 
stony tracks, no casualties were reported. When it is remembered that no road 
existed in those days over the Kohat Pass and that the distance is thirty-nine 
miles, this was no mean performance. One is tempted to wonder what would 
happen if similar orders for a move with camel transport by march route, to be 

The 2nd Sikhs in the 2nd Afghan War 43 

completed within thirty-six hours at F.S. scale, were issued to a battalion in our 
modern times of mechanical transport and equipment! All honour to our fore- 
tathers, who took such things in their stride. 

The 1st Sikhs were allotted to the 2nd Brigade, Ist Division, Peshawar 
Valley Field Force and formed part of the flank column that made the night 
march on 20th November to turn the north flank of the Afghan position on the 
Khyber Pass. The story of this has been told in the Guides’ narrative above. It 
is of interest here to notice the scale at which units moved in the Second Afghan 
War. The Ist Sikhs marched, strength as follows: 7 British officers, 8 J.C.Os., 
25 havildars, 10 buglers and 394 rank and file; and for this strength they 
had: ammunition, 5 mules; officers, 2 mules; hospital trunks, 1 mule; cooking- 
pots, 8 mules; greatcoats, 16 bullocks; provisions, 26 bullocks; grain, 3 bullocks, 
pakhals, 7 mules. 

The record remarks that “The bullocks given by the Commissariat were a 
great evil.” It can well be imagined. 

For the rest of the year and during the subsequent advance to Jellalabad 
the Battalion were not called on to fight, but suffered severely from the cold and 
a pneumonic fever that ensued. Winter clothing was not received till 23rd 
December. Admissions to hospital averaged one-third of unit strength, and of 
these thirty to fifty per cent. died. 

The Battalion remained in Jellalabad till June 1879, performing protective 
and punitive duties. It then returned to Kohat, arriving on 21st June. This 
ended the Ist Sikhs’ part in the Second Afghan War. 

The 2nd Sikhs in the Second Afghan War 

In November 1878, the 2nd Sikhs were at Dera Ghazi Khan and were 
allotted a role of covering troops while General Biddulph’s force concentrated 
for the advance on Kandahar. 

They were moved forward to Kandahar in February 1880, and now formed 
part of General Stewart’s Division, styled the Kandahar Field Force and con- 
sisting of one cavalry and two infantry brigades. It is interesting to note that 
the transport of this force, which had to live on locally foraged supplies, 
consisted of 1,942 horses, 714 ponies, 1,113 mules, 547 bullocks, 6,881 camels 
and 13 elephants. Of this, the transport of the 2nd Sikhs alone consisted of 259 
camels and 45 mules. 

Ahmed Khel 

General Stewart’s Division marched for Kabul at the end of March 1880, 
and on 19th April encountered an enemy force of 15,000 (about three times 
its own strength) near Ahmed Khel. The 2nd Brigade were leading, when 
hordes of fanatical tribesmen and Afghan cavalry charged the three Battalions 
and the 19th Bengal Lancers. outflanking these four units on both sides. The 

44 The 2nd Afghan War—The March from Kabul to Kandahar 

3rd Gurkhas on the left, the 2nd Sikhs in the centre and the 17th Foot (Royal 
Leicestershire Regiment) were compelled to form squares when the cavalry 
were forced back, and the steadiness of the above, and in particular of the first 
two, held off all attempts to turn the left flank, while a charge by the 2nd Punjab 
Cavalry, F.F., restored the situation on the left. The arrival of the guns and the 
Ist Brigade on the scene turned the enemy withdrawal into a rout, leaving 
over 1,000 dead scattered along the front of the line—296 bodies were counted 
on the ground swept by the fire of the 2nd Sikhs. The Battalion lost one man 
killed and ten wounded, of whom one subsequently died. It is perhaps of interest 
to compare this battle with the similar encounter at Maiwand three months 
later. Then also, enemy swordsmen in swarms, together with Afghan cavalry, 
charged in the same way, and with fanatical zeal, an advancing brigade of all 
arms. The infantry failed to maintain steadiness and fire discipline after the 
cavalry withdrew on the flank, and the entire brigade, being without support of 
any kind was completely annihilated. Forces penetrating deep into tribal 
territory have always to face this hazard, and it is fair to record that while 
constantly operating under such conditions the units of the Punjab Frontier 
Force have never failed. 

General Stewart’s Division reached Ghazni, 223 miles from Kandahar, on 
21st April. Continuing its march on 25th April the Division arrived in the Zalar 
valley, south of Kabul, on 8th May. The Battalion was moved on to Kabul in 
July and quartered in the Bala Hissar. Three days after its arrival, and just as 
preparations for peace were under way, news of the disaster at Maiwand 
mentioned above, was received. 

The March from Kabul to Kandahar 

A brigade of the Kandahar Field Force had in fact been destroyed by an 
Afghan force under Sardar Ayub Khan, a son of the late Amir Sher Ali, and 
Kandahar itself was in danger of investment. 

A force of picked regiments was at once organized, under the command of 
Lieutenant-General Sir F. Roberts, to march to the relief of Kandahar. The 2nd 
Sikhs were detailed to form part of this force, now designated the Kabul- 
Kandahar Field Force. The Field Force was organized into one cavalry and 
three infantry brigades, the 2nd Sikhs forming the 2nd Brigade with the 72nd 
Highlanders, 3rd Sikhs and 5th Gurkhas. The strength of the Force was just 
under 10,000 fighting ranks, the 2nd Sikhs mustering 7 officers and 612 Indian 

It is difficult in these days of mechanical transport, air supply, etc., to 
realize the criticism which was universally evoked by the projected expedition. 
The following extracts, taken from a paper prepared in 1881 by Lieutenant- 
Colonel E. F. Chapman, who was Chief of Staff to Sir Frederick Roberts during 

The 2nd Afghan War—The March from Kabul to Kandahar 45 

the march to Kandahar, throw an interesting contemporary light on what has 
become an almost legendary feat of arms. 

“A march conducted without a base of operations or communications 
of any kind, through a hostile country, and towards a point presumably in 
possession of an enemy who had been recently successful, could only be 
warranted by such necessity as had arisen. 

“The result justified the conception, and the march from Kabul to 
Kandahar has been recognized as a great achievement. But at the time it 
was undertaken, and until a crushing defeat had been inflicted upon Ayub 
Khan at Kandahar itself, the movement was condemned in no measured 
terms by military critics, its originators being judged to have acted in 
complete disregard of the principles of military science. 

“With troops however, trained and equipped as were those selected 
for the undertaking, a commander may, humanly speaking, anticipate 
success in any enterprise. It is important to draw attention to the quality 
of the troops constituting the corps d’armée from which Sir Frederick 
Roberts’s force was drawn, to lay stress on their superior physique, and to 
recall the fact that officers and men had gone through together the training 
of a lengthened period of active service. It is not too much to say that, in 
fighting power and intelligence, the troops in question could not be sur- 
passed, whilst their equipment was in the very highest order.”* 

The celebrated march commenced on 9th August, and in view of the fact 
that two Battalions of the Regiment took part (the other was the 3rd Battalion) 
and not many contemporary accounts are available, a short description of it 
is merited here. Four days brought the Force to the end of the Logar valley, a 
distance of forty-six miles. Local supplies were plentiful and short marches had 
been carried out to harden the troops. 

The normal daily routine during the march was as follows. The rouse 
sounded at 2.45 a.m. and the march commenced at 4 a.m. A halt of ten minutes 
was made at the end of each hour, the halt at eight o’clock being prolonged to 
twenty minutes for breakfast. 

The daily work fell heavily on infantry units. Large fatigue parties had to 
be found daily to load Ordnance and Commissariat stores. Grass parties, 
foraging parties and other duties kept the troops employed throughout the day, 
and it was seldom that the men obtained more than four hours’ sleep during the 
night. The variation of temperature was very trying to all ranks. On occasions 
this ranged between freezing-point at dawn and 110° at noon. Water was scarce 
and sandstorms and dust added to the intense discomfort. 

Each British officer was allowed one mule-load of kit, each Indian officer 
30 1b., each Indian other rank 20 Ib., and each follower 10 1b. This kit included 
a greatcoat and waterproof sheet. 

* The Official Account of the Second Afghan War. 

46 The 2nd Afghan War—The March from Kabul to Kandahar 

Normally the cavalry acted as protective screen with two regiments forward 
and one on each flank. One infantry brigade with a mountain battery and a 
small detachment of cavalry in turn found the rear-guard, a difficult duty 
increased considerably by the necessity of dealing with straggling followers and 
sick animals. 

On 12th August the cavalry and the 2nd Brigade passed over the Zamburak 
Kotal (8,100 ft.), the remainder of the Force following the next day. The baggage 
of the Brigade did not arrive up that night, and the 2nd Sikhs had to bivouac 
without tents or baggage at Saidabad, a very cold night being spent. 

Ghazni, ninety-eight miles from Kabul, was reached on 15th August. The 
next march, of twenty miles to Yarghati, passed over the battlefield of Ahmed 
Khel, where the graves of the dead of Sir Donald Stewart’s force were found 
to have been desecrated and the bones exposed to view. The Force arrived at 
Chardeh the following day, where reliable information was received that 
Kandahar, though now closely invested, was still holding out. 

On 21st August heliographic communication was established with Kalat-i- 
Ghilzai, where Colonel Tanner, in local command, passed the news of a 
disastrous sortie from Kandahar on the 16th in which General Brooke and eight 
other British officers had been killed. Kalat-i-Ghilzai, 225 miles from Kabul, 
was reached on the 23rd, where a day’s halt was made. This place was then 
evacuated, Colonel Tanner’s detachment accompanying the Force towards 

On the 25th the column marched seventeen miles to Jaldak, and the same 
distance the next day to Tirandez. Here the reassuring news was received from 
General Primrose, commanding at Kandahar, that Ayub Khan had raised the 
siege on the 23rd and was entrenching to the north of the city. On 28th August 
the Force arrived at Robat, twenty miles from Kandahar. Here a day’s halt 
was made in view of the likelihood of an action on arrival at Kandahar. For 
the same reason Kandahar was approached in two short marches of ten miles, 
the Force camping at Momund on the 30th. 

At 3.30 a.m. on 3lst August the Force left its camp and swung into 
Kandahar at 8.30 a.m., where it received a hearty welcome from the garrison. 
A camp site was selected to the west of the city. with its right on the canton- 
ments and its left touching old Kandahar. 

The distance of just over 313 miles from Kabul to Kandahar had been 
covered in twenty-three days, including two days’ halt. Beyond some sniping. 
no opposition had been met with, but the privations of the march had taken 
their toll of the Force, six men and six followers having died en route and 
four men and five followers being reported missing. The latter were stragglers 
and can only have been murdered by the tribesmen. It is satisfactory to notice 
that of this total the 2nd Sikhs lost only one man dead and not one was 
reported missing. There were 940 sick men admitted to hospital at Kandahar 

The 2nd Afghan War—The Battle of Kandahar 47 

on arrival, but there appears to be no record of what proportion of these came 
from the 2nd Sikhs. 

The casualties amongst the transport animals were very heavy. Of nearly 
3,000 pack ponies accompanying the column, over 1,000 were non-effective on 
arrival. Of 4,500 mules, 1,100 were sick or dead, and 160 casualties had 
occurred amongst the 1,100 donkeys. Amongst this welter of useless animals, 
those of the 2nd Sikhs obtained a special report in the official account of the 
campaign. The Regiment marched into Kandahar with three only of its total 
transport animals in an ineffective condition. Of these. no case was due to a 
sore back. 

Following an immediate reconnaissance, General Roberts decided to 
attack Ayub Khan’s army. now in a prepared position to the north of the city. 

The Battle of Kandahar 
The guns opened at about 9.30 a.m.. and the Ist and 2nd Brigades began 
their advance. The enemy were encountered almost at once in the walled 
gardens, houses, orchards and enclosures in the villages of Abbasabad and 
Gundigan, north of Kandahar. 
General Roberts’ s acest referred to the advance of the 2nd Naira as 
follows : 

: “Meanwhile the 2nd ‘Brigade had been aeaditig its way atl 
- the lanes and walled enclosures, which lay in the line of its attack. The 
resistance it encountered was most stubborn, the enemy being well- 
" protected by high walls, which ‘they had carefully loopholed. The loss 
sufferéd in clearing these enclosures was necessarily severe. 
oa “Of the Regiments of this Brigade, the 72nd Highlanders and the 
2nd Sikhs had the chief share of the fighting. They were the two leading. 
battalions, and frequently had to fix bayonets to carry positions, or to 
check the determined rushes of the. enemy. Brigadier-Genera]l Baker speaks 
in high terms of the gallant behaviour of these two regiments, and notices 
especially the manner in which a charge of the enemy was repulsed by the 
2nd Sikhs.” 

The charge referred to by General Roberts took place in the neighbour- 
hood of Gundigan. about.a mile and a half from the starting-line. Here the 
enemy was in great force and kept up a heavy fire. The charge was made by a 
strong body of the enemy which, aided by the excellent cover afforded by 
garden walls, was only stopped when it had got to within thirty yards of our 
forward troops. A spirited counter-attack was then made on this body by two 
companies of the reserve. The Afghans were driven back and by about 11 a.m. 
Gundigan was occupied. 

48 The 2nd Afghan War—tThe Battle of Kandahar 

The Ist Brigade now came up on the right and the entrance to the 
Argandab valley fell into the hands of the British. Organized resistance was 
virtually at an end. The Ist and 2nd Brigades commenced the right wheel 
preparatory to the advance up the valley on Ayub Khan’s camp. The forward 
troops of the 2nd Brigade were now relieved by the 3rd Sikhs and the 2nd 
Baluch Regiment. 

Ayub Khan’s army had broken and fled. By 1 p.m. the deserted camp 
and all Ayub Khan’s artillery, consisting of thirty pieces, were captured. The 
cavalry pursued the scattered remnants of his force until nightfall. 

The casualties in the battle of Kandahar were 35 killed and 213 wounded. 
The casualties of the Battalion were 3 sepoys killed and 1 officer (Major 
Slater), 23 Indian other ranks and 2 followers wounded. One wounded sepoy 
subsequently died of wounds. Four of the casualties were caused by sword- 
cuts, the remainder being from gunshot. The strength of the 2nd Sikhs actually 
engaged in the battle was 512. 

The bodies of 600 of the enemy were found between Kandahar and the 
Pir Paimal gap and it is probable that his total of killed amounted to at least 
double that number. 

Two large drums and two side-drums captured from the Afghans at 
Kandahar are still in the possession of the Battalion. 

The 2nd Brigade returned to camp outside the city the same evening. 

The rout of Ayub Khan was complete and the campaign was now at an 
end. Abdur Rahman had already been established at Kabul as Amir, and 
General Stewart’s force was withdrawing from Kabul to India. The evacuation 
of Kandahar now followed. 

Before concluding the account of the exploits of the Kabul-Kandahar 
Field Force it is of interest to note the impression this march and battle had 
upon the world. The news of Maiwand and the siege of Kandahar had been 
gravely disquieting, and universal relief greeted the news of the result of 
General Roberts’s expedition. General Roberts refers to “the glamour of 
romance thrown round an army of 10,000 men lost to view, as it were, for 
nearly a month, about the fate of which uninformed opinion was rife, and 
pessimistic rumours were spread, until tension became extreme, and the 
corresponding relief proportionately great, when that army reappeared to 
dispose at once of Ayub and his hitherto victorious troops.”’* 

The Battalion returned to India by way of Quetta, being called on to 
assist in some minor punitive duties against local tribes en route. It arrived at 
Dera Ghazi Khan via Sibi, and rail to Multan, on 11th December 1880. It 
had thus returned to the post whence it had started after two years and two 
months of active service, during which no man had leave. 

The casualties to the Battalion during the campaign were as follows: 

* Lord Roberts, Forty-one Years in India. : - oe —_ 

The 3rd Sikhs in the 2nd Afghan War 49 

killed in action, 8 Indian ranks; wounded, 1 officer, 31 Indian ranks; died, 2 
J.C.Os. and 161 Indian ranks. 

The 3rd Sikhs in the Second Afghan War 

On the outbreak of the Second Afghan War the 3rd Sikhs were at 
Edwardesabad (Bannu), engaged in watch-and-ward duties. It was not until 
September 1879, when the murder of Sir Louis Cavagnari and his escort called 
for the rapid concentration of a force in Kohat to advance via the Kurram on 
Kabul, that the 3rd Sikhs were ordered to move on field service. 

While the 2nd Sikhs, as described above, moved on Kabul later with Sir 
Donald Stewart’s Division from Kandahar, the 3rd Sikhs were assigned to the 
force under Major-General Sir Frederick Roberts, which advanced on Kabul 
via the Kurram. In the initial advance, the chief danger spot on the route to 
Kabul that required to be kept open was the Shutur Gardan Kotal—a 
picturesque name which means “Pass of the Camel’s Neck.” The defence of 
this pass, which led into the Logar valley and was some forty-five miles from 
Kabul, was entrusted to the 3rd Sikhs, the 21st Punjab Infantry and the Ist 
Mountain Battery. It was of vital importance, as its loss would have endangered 
the entire Force advancing on Kabul, besides cutting off its supplies. This small 
force held the pass against repeated enemy interference and was threatened by 
overwhelming numbers (at one time by as many as 17,000) from 29th September 
till 20th October. 

It was then relieved by a brigade from India and moved on to Kabul. 
As described above, this capital city had since been taken by Roberts’s Force 
after that Force had inflicted a decisive defeat on the Afghans at the battle of 
Charasiah, and his force was in occupation of it. 

On its arrival at Kabul the Battalion was paraded for Sir Frederick 
Roberts to offer his congratulations on the Battalion’s feat at the Shutar 
Gardan Pass. Further congratulations were also received from the Commander- 
in-Chief in India and the Viceroy. The Battalion was accommodated in Sherpur 
Cantonment, Kabul. 

Now followed the heavy fighting around Kabul undertaken by the troops 
of Roberts’s Force, which finally defeated and subdued the enemy in the 
northern half of Afghanistan. The 3rd Sikhs were actively engaged in this till 
the end of the year, when it culminated in the Afghan attack on the Sherpur 
Cantonment, which was beaten off with heavy losses. Throughout these 
operations the Battalion never failed in any task assigned to it. In the Kabul 
campaign it suffered the following casualties: 3 officers wounded (two severely), 
3 J.C.Os. wounded (two severely), 11 men killed in action, 73 died of disease, 
and 36 wounded. 

The first half of 1880 was uneventful in Kabul for the 3rd Sikhs. Only 

50 The 3rd Sikhs in the 2nd Afghan War 

occasional punitive columns were ordered, and not till 3rd August, when the 
news of Maiwand was received, was it again involved in major operations, 
commencing with the great march to Kandahar. 

Of this march and the battle of Kandahar there is little to record other 
than has been written above in the narrative of the 2nd Sikhs. The Battalion 
had three deaths on the march and reached Kandahar 509 strong, with fifty- 
eight men sick. 



The P.F.F. placed under the Commander-in-Chief—The Relief of Chitral, 1895—The 
Great Frontier Revolt of 1897—Tirah, 1897—The Edwardian Decade—Tonnochy’s 
Raid—The Ist Sikhs in China, 1900-01—The 2nd Sikhs in Somaliland, 1903-04— 
iso8 Disaster of Gumburru—The Battle of Jidballi—Zakka Khel and Mohmand, 

The P.F.F. placed under the Commander-in-Chief 

FoR some years after the Second Afghan War there was peace on and beyond 
the Border, and all Battalions were occupied in watch-and-ward duties. These 
were their normal life in peace, and though they gave rise to occasional 
“incidents” and small punitive columns periodically went out, only the more 
important expeditions merit inclusion in this volume. 

All the Battalions of the Regiment were involved in one or other of these, 
so that it is convenient now to leave for a while the individual stories of each 
of the Battalions and take the sequence of events on the Frontier instead. A 
short account of each of these minor wars is given in this chapter with an 
outline of the role played in it by such Battalions as participated, and of any 
happenings of particular interest connected with them. 

The first event of importance was the bringing of the Punjab Frontier 
Force under the Commander-in-Chief. This happened in 1886. Previously, it 
will be recollected, it was a specialized force under the Punjab Government. 
The transfer was at the time regarded with doubt by many senior officers, and 
some, such as General Sir Henry Daly (an ex-commandant of the Guides) and 
General Lumsden, definitely deprecated it. The latter’s opinion, as recorded 
by his biographers, was that “theoretically, there was reason for such a measure 
when great mobilization schemes were considered paramount, but in practice 
he considered it was detrimental to the interests of Government, unless some 
other like body were created on the Frontier.” The last clause of this sentence 
is interesting in view of the fact that later, when the Battalions of the old Punjab 
Frontier Force were long established as regulars in the Indian Army, “other 
like bodies” were in fact created on the Frontier in the shape of the various 
Frontier Militias that exist to this day. Their task has been very much akin to 
that for which the old P.F.F. was originally created. 

In regard to the Guides in particular. a change in regard to officers was 


52 Minor Operations and Small Wars, 1881-1914 

also made whereby Lumsden’s system of making all officers in the Corps inter- 
changeable, whether Cavalry or Infantry, was abandoned. From about 1890 
Officers in the Cavalry of the Corps henceforward remained Cavalry and the 
Infantry officers remained Infantry, but this was still a matter purely for the 
decision of the Commandant. 

In 1888 a small punitive expedition was sent against the tribes of the 
Black Mountain. In this the 3rd Sikhs took part, but did not experience fighting 
that merits description here in detail. The column carried out punitive 
destruction of hostile towns and villages of the Hassanzai tribe. and the 
Battalion was chiefly employed in protective duties. 

In 1890, in view of the continued unrest in the Black Mountain area, 
the Government ordered the construction of several roads leading from Agror 
up to the crest of the Black Mountain, following upon which it was decided, 
in the autumn, to send a small body of troops to march peaceably along the 
crest of the range. The Akazai, Hassanzai and other clans immediately collected 
to offer opposition and it was decided to send a force into the territories of 
these tribes in order to assert the right of the Government to move along the 
crest of the Black Mountain without molestation. 

A Brigade group which included the Guides Infantry and the 4th Sikhs, 
together with the Seaforth Highlanders and two supporting mountain batteries, 
concentrated at Darband and Oghi and moved forward in two columns in 
March 1891. Very heavy gatherings of tribesmen were encountered, but there 
was no severe fighting and the tribes submitted unconditionally. 

The Relief of Chitral, 1895 

In 1895 trouble arose in Chitral which resulted in the investment of the 
garrison there and the despatch of a relief force. This became one of the major 
Frontier expeditions of the latter part of the nineteenth century, and two of the 
Battalions of the Regiment formed part of the Chitral Relief Force—the Guides 
Infantry and the 4th Sikhs. 

The trouble was due to intrigues by certain tribal chiefs, which culminated 
in March 1895, in the murder of the Mehtar of Chitral. These chiefs then 
joined forces with the Chitralis in besieging the fort at Chitral, which, however, 
was relieved by a column from Gilgit by 20th April after considerable fighting. 

In the meantime, however, on 14th March, the Government mobilized 
a division to advance into Chitral from Nowshera and punish the offenders. 
This campaign entailed an exceptionally arduous advance across four ranges 
of mountains (the Lowarai Pass has an altitude of 12,250 feet). Three large 
rivers and numerous smaller, though often dangerous streams had also to be 
crossed. All this was through (at that time) little-known and probably hostile 
country, the only reliable map being a sketch map previously made by a sepoy 

Minor Operations and Small Wars, 1881-1914—The Chitral Relief, 1895 53 

of the Guides Infantry, for which he had been awarded the MacGregor 
Memorial Medal. 

The Chitral Relief Force consisted of a division of three infantry brigades. 
divisional troops, reserve brigades and line-of-communication troops. 

The Guides Infantry and 4th Sikhs were in the 2nd Infantry Brigade with 
the King’s Own Scottish Borderers and the Gordon Highlanders, and this 
Brigade formed the spearhead of the advance. The tribes collected to offer 
opposition from the start, and the forcing of the Malakand Pass occasioned 
quite a stiff fight, in which the Guides and the 4th Battalion were the two 
leading battalions in the attack. While the advance up the Swat valley to the 
ext Mountain range was led by the cavalry, the 4th Sikhs and Guides Infantry 
remained on the Malakand ridge while the large column of camel transport 
crossed the Pass. In those days there was only a rough track where the present 
road runs, and the sappers took two days to make it passable for pack animals. 

It was not until the 9th April that the 4th Sikhs and Guides Infantry once 
more led the advance over the next mountain range, the Kamrani Pass, while 
the cavalry followed the line of the Panjkora river. The Intelligence Officer 
with this advance was a Captain Robertson, Jater Field-Marshal Sir William 
Robertson of the First World War and father of General Sir Brian Robertson, 
Commander-in-Chief of the post-Second World War Commonwealth Forces in 

As the further advance continued, punitive destruction of villages of the 
hostile Utman Khel was carried out, but all withdrawals were now vigorously 
followed up by the tribes, and the Guides had some hard fighting. A hampering 
factor in the advance was the Panjkora river, which was now a raging torrent 
from the melting snow and made crossing a problem. In this phase the Guides 
lost their Commandant, Lieutenant-Colonel F. D. Battye, who was killed while 
conducting a retirement across the river. He was the fourth of the brothers to 
be killed and the third to lose his life on active service with the Guides. For 
their staunchness in this fighting the Guides Infantry received many tributes 
in despatches and subsequent accounts of the campaign. 

Between the 13th and 16th April the difficulties of the Force were increased 
by the weather breaking just when the troops were distributed on both sides 
of the river and a suspension bridge was being constructed. However, the 
weather improved before the bridge was washed away, and the further advance 
to Chitral met with little difficulty or opposition. This completed the expedi- 
tion. The troops withdrew to their cantonments after the hostile tribal leaders 
had made their submission. 

Peace, however, did not continue long on the Frontier; and in 1897 unrest 
again showed itself, this time more widespread than ever before (or, indeed, 
since), for tribal hostility broke out from Buner in the north to Waziristan in 





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Minor Operations and Small Wars—The Great Frontier Revolt, 1897 55 

the south-west, and the whole of the powerful Afridi tribes in the Tirah were 
up in arms. 

Before continuing to an account of the campaign which followed, the 
death at this time has to be recorded of Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Lumsden, 
the “father” of the Guides. As this record bears witness, his early and far-sighted 
wisdom and brilliance placed the Guides, and indeed all the Frontier Force 
Regiments, eternally in his debt. His death came just before the Guides were 
due to celebrate their first jubilee after fifty years. It had been hoped that 
General Sir Harry Lumsden, who some years previously had retired from 
service and was living at home in Scotland, might have been able to attend, 
but for him the end had come on 12th August 1896. “‘On the morning before his 
death he talked cheerfully to his brother of the plan he had long cherished 
of revisiting Mardan during the approaching cold season and of spending the 
fiftieth anniversary of their creation with the Guides. But it was not to be. 
Attended to the last by his devoted wife, he passed away in the early hours 
of 12th August, and all who knew him, rich and poor, lost a friend whom to 
know was to love.”* 

The Great Frontier Revolt, 1897 

To return to the story, the causes of the trouble which now spread so 
rapidly over the Frontier appear to have been somewhat obscure. An historian 
of the period has described them as follows: “I venture to submit that for the 
fons et origo mali we must hark back to the year 1893, when Sir Mortimer 
Durand returned from Kabul with the Boundary Agreement signed by the 
Amir of Afghanistan in his hand; and that that document was the outward and 
visible sign of all our subsequent troubles on the North-West Frontier. . . . (a) 
The Boundary Agreement was most distasteful to the Amir; and a fortiori to 
all his subjects. (b) The tribes on the border were thoroughly alarmed by the 
demarcation of the boundary; their fears were accentuated by our establish- 
ment of military posts in Wana, in the Tochi and Kurram valleys, in Chitral. 
on the Malakand and on the Samana Range, and in spite of our assurances 
they trembled for their independence.” 

Whether these things were indeed responsible or not, the fact remains 
that very soon, following a treacherous and unprovoked attack in the Tochi 
on a Political Officer, the tribes farther north in Swat and Buner were attacking 
the forts at Chakdara and Malakand; some 5,000 Mohmands were raiding the 
Peshawar plain around Shabkadr; and the Afridis and Orakzais in Tirah were 
on the war-path. 

The attack in the Tochi, on 10th June 1897, led to a fierce battle and 
involved a detachment of the Ist Battalion. 

~ * Lumsden of the Guides, page 289. 

56 Minor Operations and Small Wars—The Great Frontier Revolt, 1897 

Lieutenant-Colonel Bunny, the Commandant, and 22 rank and file were 
killed, and 2 officers and 20 rank and file were wounded. As the anniversary 
of the action is celebrated annually to this day by the Ist Battalion, an account 
of it is merited here and is as follows: 

On the 10th June 1897, an escort of 12 sabres 1st Punjab Cavalry, 2 moun- 
tain artillery guns, 200 rifles Ist Sikhs, and 100 rifles 1st Punjab Infantry, under 
Lieutenant-Colonel A. C. Bunny, Ist Sikhs, escorted the Political Officer to one 
of the Maizar villages to site a levy post. The force reached the Maizar group of 
villages at 9.30 a.m. and was met by maliks who were believed by the Political 
Officer to be friendly and loyal. After a reconnaissance to a village farther up 
the Tochi a meal for the Mohammadan sepoys was provided by the villagers 
about midday. About 2 p.m., on a preconcerted signal, the villagers who were 
with the troops cleared off and fire was opened from the nearest village, the 
second shot wounding Lieutenant Seton Browne in the thigh. The fire was 
directed on the officers, and Colonel Bunny was mortally wounded almost at 

The two guns immediately opened on the villagers at only a hundred yards 
range, but having only sixteen rounds per gun their ammunition was soon 
expended. Both artillery officers were wounded, one fatally, and there was a 
general stampede of mules (this caused much loss of property). 

A fighting withdrawal now commenced, abandoning all equipment, etc., 

that was carried on transport, and it was fought out deliberately and with 
the greatest gallantry. All officers were wounded (two fatally), but they 
continued to lead their men. 
_ The enemy now appeared on all sides in great numbers and a determined 
stand was made by the wall of a garden, two subadars and a jemadar of the 
Ist Sikhs behaving most bravely and with great determination. Under cover 
of this stand the guns were withdrawn, the wounded carried or helped away, 
and a fresh position 300 yards in rear taken up. The retirement thus continued. 
successive positions being taken up with complete steadiness until the 
Sheranni plain (two miles) was reached. All this time the enemy was constantly 
enveloping the flanks. 

Eventually, about 5.30 p.m., a good position was held about a mile back 
on the plain, and reinforcements appearing in sight the enemy was beaten off. 

The retreat, covering three miles, had taken three and a half hours—an 
indication of the stubbornness of the fighting and the steadiness of the 

At the start there were about 500 tribesmen, but their numbers swelled 
to over 1,000 during the afternoon. They lost ninety killed and many 

Two brigades from Kohat and Bannu concentrated immediately and 
advanced in July up the Tochi. They met but small opposition and destroyed 

Minor Operations and Small Wars—The Great Frontier Revolt, 1897 57 

the villages of the murderers. The 3rd Sikhs took part in this operation. 

This ended the trouble in Waziristan. The measures to meet the hostility 
farther north, however, which blazed for several more months, called on the 
maximum military resources of the Government. The Guides were immediately 
called on to march to the help of the fort at Malakand, which was heavily 
attacked, while a force of two brigades under Sir Bindon Blood was collected 
to advance into Buner. Furthermore, a division under Sir William Lockhart 
was mobilized at Kohat and Thal to advance into Tirah and subdue the Afridi 
tribes. With the latter went the 3rd Sikhs. The stories of these two campaigns 
will be followed separately, commencing with the Malakand Field Force, as 
the force under Sir Bindon Blood was named. 

First of all must be recorded the rapid action of the Guides at Mardan 
on receipt of news of the attack at Malakand. 

At nine o’clock on the evening of 26th July a telegram reached the 
Commandant of the Guides from the Officer Commanding at Malakand, 
stating that the presence of the Corps was urgently needed there by reason of a 
serious outbreak of disturbance in the Swat valley and asking that the Cavalry 
might, if possible, arrive at daybreak for employment in keeping open the road 
between the Malakand and Thana for a force which was about to move out 
against the enemy. The Corps was rapidly mobilized and marched from 
Mardan, the Cavalry at 12.15 a.m. on the 27th, the Infantry starting an hour 
and a half later. The Cavalry, halting for three-quarters of an hour at Dargai, 
reached the Malakand Kotal at 8.30 a.m.; the Guides Infantry arrived at the 
Malakand Kotal at 5.45 p.m., having accomplished the thirty-two-mile march 
from Mardan in exactly sixteen hours. 

Of this march of the Guides Infantry a writer tells us that “this wonderful 
feat was accomplished without impairing the efficiency of the soldiers, who 
were sent into the piquet line and became engaged as soon as they arrived. An 
officer who commanded the Dargai post told me that as they passed the guard 
there they shouldered arms with a parade precision, to show that twenty-six 
miles under the hottest sun in the world could not take the polish off the Guides. 
Then they breasted the long ascent to the top of the pass, encouraged by the 
sound of firing which grew louder at every step.” 

Not the least interesting feature of this account is that it was written 
by a young cavalry officer who was embarking on his first venture as a 
journalist. Although his regiment was in southern India he had managed to get 
himself attached to Sir Bindon Blood’s staff, and his name was Winston 
Churchill.* Some further extracts from his vivid accounts of this campaign will 

Attacks on the garrison of Malakand, now reinforced by the Guides, 

* The Right Honourable Sir Winston S. Churchill, K.G., O.M., Prime Minister of 
England and great leader of the Second World War. 

58 Minor Operations and Small Wars—The Great Frontier Revolt, 1897 

continued till 31st July, when they slackened. In the meantime Sir Bindon 
Blood’s force of two brigades began to assemble, the Ist Brigade absorbing the 
garrison at Malakand. On 2nd August it commenced to advance up the Swat 
valley to relieve Chakdara as the tribal gatherings had begun to withdraw. 
Large numbers of them were nevertheless encountered and the 11th Lancers 
and Guides Cavalry were able to launch a mounted attack in the valley that 
did great execution with sword and lance. 

By 9th August the whole Malakand Field Force had been assembled 
and organized, and the Guides Infantry now joined the 2nd Infantry Brigade 
at Khar. On the 16th the advance of the 1st Brigade to mete out retribution 
to the aggressor tribes commenced, the 2nd Brigade remaining the while at 

The Ist Brigade during the remainder of the month penetrated 
through Charbagh to the Kotke Pass, leading to Kohistan, without serious 

While the Guides Cavalry and the Ist Brigade had been absent in Upper 
Swat the 2nd Brigade had remained camped about Khar. On his return from 
Upper Swat General Blood intended to visit and punish in turn each of the 
several tribes which had been concerned in attacks on our posts, beginning 
with the Utman Khel. Having dealt with the latter he proposed then to visit 
Buner and in the course of a ten days’ march to overrun and thoroughly 
subdue the country. But by this time the condition of the Frontier had assumed 
a very serious aspect; the fanatical rising had now spread to the Afridis and 
Orakzais, who had attacked the British force and posts in the Khyber Pass 
and on the Samana range. Government therefore rejected General Blood’s 
scheme for visiting Buner and ordered him to proceed only with the punishment 
of the Utman Khel, provided he still considered such action desirable and 
timely; but news now reached Sir Bindon Blood that the Hadda Mulla, an 
implacable hostile leader, had raised a large body of men and was marching 
through Bajaur to invade the territory of the Nawab of Dir in retaliation for 
the assistance that ruler had afforded the Government. Sir Bindon Blood was 
therefore ordered to advance by Sado and Nawagai to Kamali in the Mohmand 
country. The object of this was to destroy the Hadda Mulla’s power and 
disperse his following, to clear Mohmand country of any enemy forces, and 
to give support to the Nawab of Dir and the Khan of Nawagai against any 
threatened attack by the Hadda Mulla. The punishment of the Utman Khel, 
as also of the Bunerwals, had thus to be postponed sine die. 

The reason why the fever of insurrection had spread to the Mohmands 
is somewhat obscure, but two firebrands, called at the time the Mad Fakir 
and the Hadda Mulla, were busy inciting the tribes to raid the Peshawar plain 
and villages in administered territory. The presence and activities of fanatical 
firebrands of this type are a feature of all the major campaigns on the North- 

Minor Operations and Small Wars—The Great Frontier Revolt, 1897 59 

West Frontier during the past hundred years, the last of them being the 
well-remembered Fagir of Ipi in Waziristan. 

The Ist Brigade was now ordered to hold Malakand while the 2nd and 
3rd Brigades advanced into Mohmand and Bajaur early in September. 

On the night of 14th September the 2nd Brigade camp at Markhanai, at 
the foot of the Rambat Pass, was heavily attacked and the Guides Infantry 
were the only ones to escape casualties by entrenching before dark—a time- 
honoured lesson in Frontier perimeter camps. 

The next day a squadron of cavalry issued from the camp in pursuit of 
the withdrawing tribesmen and, coming up with the enemy in Mamund country, 
killed twenty-one of them. The Guides Infantry, two guns and some Sappers 
and Miners, all under Major Campbell of the Guides, followed in support of 
the cavalry, destroyed certain villages north of Inayat Kila and collected some 

The 2nd Brigade were now ordered to move against the Mamunds, a 
pugnacious Bajauri tribe that urgently needed punishment for participating 
in the recent fighting. The action which followed is worth describing as an 
example of the success of resolute counter-attack when in difficulties with a 
tribal enemy. 

The Mamund villages were in the little-known Watalai valley and the 
Brigade were ordered to move in three columns to destroy them. We are 
concerned with No. 3 Column, under Major Campbell of the Guides Infantry, 
which consisted of two companies of the Buffs, five companies of the Guides 
Infantry, and some Sappers. 

After carrying out as far as possible the destruction of the villages named 
in the orders to his party, Major Campbell received an order about 9 a.m. 
from the Brigadier, with the centre column, to march his force across the west 
side of the valley, a distance of about five miles, and protect the left flank of 
the centre column from the enemy then collecting to oppose it. This was done, 
and about 3 p.m. a general retirement towards camp was ordered and dis- 
positions made to carry it out. But it had not long begun when Major Campbell 
received word that a company of the 35th Sikhs was in difficulties on the hills 
to the east, i.e., farthest from the flank of the column on which the Guides 
Infantry were operating. They reported that they had many killed and wounded, 
were hard pressed by the enemy and could not retire without assistance. The 
Guides were ordered to proceed forthwith to their relief. The Battalion was at 
once collected and about 4.20 p.m. moved off towards the hill. 

Of the services of the Guides Infantry this day, Winston Churchill gives 
the following account*: 

“At about 3.30, the Brigadier had ordered the Guides to proceed to 
the 35th’s assistance and endeavour to extricate their company. He 

© The Story of the Malakand Field Force, pages 192 et seq. 


Minor Operations and Small Wars—The Great Frontier Revolt, 1897 

directed Major Campbell to use his own discretion. It was a difficult 
problem, but the Guides and their leader were equal to it. They had 
begun the day on the extreme left. They had hurried to the centre. Now 
they were ordered to the extreme right. They had already marched sixteen 
miles, but they were still fresh. We watched them defiling across the 
front with admiration. Meanwhile, the retirement of the Brigade was 
delayed. It was necessary that all units should support each other, and 
the troops had to wait until the Guides had succeeded in extricating the 
35th. The enemy now came on in great strength from the north-west end 
of the valley... . 

“The Guides arrived at the foot of the hill down which the 35th men 
were retiring. The Sikhs, utterly exhausted by the exertions of the day, 
were in disorder, and in many cases unable from extreme fatigue even to 
use their weapons. The tribesmen hung in a crowd on the flanks and rear 
of the struggling company, firing incessantly and even dashing in and 
cutting down individual soldiers. 

“Both officers were wounded. Lieutenant Gunning staggered down 
the hill unaided, struck in three places by bullets and with two deep 
sword cuts besides. Weary, outnumbered, surrounded on three sides, 
without unwounded officers or cartridges, the end was only a matter of 
moments. All must have been cut to pieces. But help was now at hand. 
The Guides formed line, fixed bayonets and advanced at the double 
towards the hill. At a short distance from its foot they halted and opened 
a terrible and crushing fire upon the exulting enemy. The loud detonations 
of their company volleys were heard and the smoke seen all over the field, 
and on the left we wondered what was happening. The tribesmen, sharply 
checked, wavered. The company continued its retreat. Many brave deeds 
were done as the night closed in. Havildar Ali Gul* of the Afridi Company 
of the Guides, seized a canvas cartridge carrier, filled it with ammunition 
from his men’s pouches, and rushing across the fire-swept space which 
separated the regiment from the Sikhs, distributed the precious packets to 
the struggling men. Returning, he carried a wounded J.C.O. on his back. 
Seeing this, several Afridis in the Guides ran forward shouting and 
cheering to the rescue, and other wounded Sikhs were saved by their 
gallantry from a fearful fate. At last Ryder’s company reached the bottom 
of the hill and the survivors re-formed under cover of the Guides. 

“These, thrown on their own resources, separated from the rest of 
the brigade by darkness and distance and assailed on three sides by the 
enemy, calmly proceeded to fight their way back to camp. Though 
encumbered with many wounded and amid broken ground, they repulsed 

* He had already been awarded the Indian Order of Merit (Third Class) for gallantry 

at the Panjkora, when Colonel Battye was killed. 

Minor Operations and Small Wars—The Great Frontier Revolt, 1897 61 

every attack, and bore down all the efforts which the tribesmen made to 

intercept their line of retreat. They reached camp at 9.30 in safety, and 

not without honour. The skill and experience of their officers, the 
endurance and spirit of the men, had enabled them to accomplish a task 
which many had believed impossible, and their conduct in the action in the 

Mamund Valley fills a brilliant page in the history of the finest and most 

famous frontier reziment.” 

During the next few days the Guides Infantry took part with the 
remaining troops of the 2nd Brigade in further operations in the Mamund 

On 30th September, after punitive measures had been in progress for some 
days, the Guides were again involved in severe fighting when the destruction 
of the villages of Gat and Agra was carried out. This again received a glowing 
tribute in The Story of the Malakand Field Force, when a rapid and vigorous 
assault by the Guides drove the tribesmen with heavy loss from their position 
overlooking the villages. The tribesmen now began to make submission and by 
20th October the Malakand Field Force was on its way back to the Peshawar 

It will be remembered that large numbers of the Utman Khel had taken the attacks on the Malakand, and that punitive operations had been 
proposed against them, which had, however, to be postponed when the 
Malakand Field Force was ordered to advance into Bajaur and co-operate 
with the Mohmand Field Force. Up to 21st November only a few isolated 
sections of the Utman Khel had made their submission, and consequently a 
small force, of which the Guides Infantry formed part, was now sent into their 
country and succeeded in enforcing the demands of the Indian Government 
without a shot being fired. The force was back in Mardan by 20th January. 

It is perhaps fitting here to record two congratulatory messages that were 
now received by the Corps of Guides and, as will be seen, are of unusual 

The Commandant of the Corps received the following letter from Field- 
Marshal Earl Roberts, V.C., K.P., G.C.B., G.C.S.I., G.C.LE. : 

“T write a line . . . to tell you with what interest and admiration I 
have watched the conduct of your splendid Corps during the recent 
operations in Swat, etc. It delighted me to see the rapidity with which they 
started off on receipt of the call for help from the Malakand, and the 
keenness they displayed to come into contact with the enemy. I know 
no regiment with a grander esprit de corps. . . . Please remember me to 
all your officers with whom I am acquainted, and tell the native officers 
and men that I always remember with pride and pleasure, their services 
at Delhi and under my command in Afghanistan.” 

Then the following very gratifying and greatly prized letter was received 

62 Minor Operations and Small Wars—Tirah, 1897 

by the Commanding Officer from General Sir Dighton Probyn, V.C., G.C.V.O., 
K.C.B., K.C.S.I., Equerry to H.R.H. The Prince of Wales (later King Edward 

“TI am desired by the Prince of Wales to request you will make it 
known to the British and native officers, as well as to the non-commissioned 
officers and men (both Cavalry and Infantry) of the Queen’s Own Corps 
of Guides with what great satisfaction His Royal Highness has heard and 
read of the loyalty, devotion and gallantry displayed by the regiment in 
the late campaign on the North-West Frontier of India. The Guides Corps 
in this very trying campaign, has not only kept the great name it has 
always borne for loyalty and gallantry, but the Prince of Wales says it has 
gained fresh laurels and further distinction, and His Royal Highness wishes 
all ranks to know how proud he is to be the Honorary Colonel of 
this distinguished Corps.” 

Tirah, 1897 

Let us now turn to the operations in Tirah, which commenced in October 
1897, and for which a force of two divisions under the command of Sir 
William Lockhart was assembled in the Miranzai valley for the purpose of 
advancing into Tirah over the Chagru Kotal. 

The plan was for these divisions and attached troops and transport (named 
the Tirah Expeditionary Force) to penetrate to the heart of the Afridi country 
at Maidan and emerge to the north-east into the Peshawar plain. During the 
course of this movement destructive measures against selected villages and 
other suitable objectives were to be carried out. It was hoped, also, that the 
tribal lashkars would concentrate to oppose the advance, thereby offering 
chances to inflict punishment. In accordance with tradition and because they 
were trained and experienced specifically for the work, the task of protection. 
both in the role of advanced and rear-guards as well as of flank piquets, was 
given to the two Frontier Force battalions with the Force—the 3rd Sikhs and 
2nd Punjab Infantry. Thus the 3rd Sikhs (later the 3rd Royal Battalion) led the 
attack on the Chagru Kotal as part of the 3rd Brigade during the initial 
advance on 18th October 1897, and two days later was shoulder to shoulder 
with the Ist Bn. Gordon Highlanders in the famous assault on Dargai, that 
was the most spectacular action in the campaign and attracted much attention 
at the time. As the operation had certain peculiar features, and the 3rd Sikhs 
suffered fairly severely, a further description is worth while. 

The Dargai position had in fact been occupied the day before by a 
reconnoitring force from the 4th Brigade; and one company of the 3rd Sikhs. 
with the scouts of the 2nd and 5th Gurkhas, had also reached it. All, however, 
withdrew to camp for the night. The next day, 20th October, the same heights 
were found to be occupied by Afridis in large numbers to oppose the expedition. 
The Battalion Record describes what happened as follows: 

Minor Operations and Small Wars—Tirah, 1897 63 

“The Battalion was on the Kotal on the east of the Chagru valley. 
Behind the Regiment rose the precipitous heights of the Samana Suk. 

“On the Kotal on our left and near the batteries, General Westmacott 
and staff were standing with a helio station. Below them in the dip of the 
valley were the 15th Sikhs in reserve, and the 21st Madras Pioneers 
making the road. Beyond them the hills rose again fairly steeply up to a 
village which at 3 p.m. the Gordons were holding. Beyond them again 
was a short level piece and then another rise up a spur leading to preci- 
pitous heights, on which the enemy were posted in strength. This spur, 
steep on the south side, on the north was sloped more gradually, and 
above the level piece mentioned the north side formed a sort of shallow 
cup. In this were assembled three battalions—the Sherwood Foresters, 
the Dorsets, and the Ist Bn. 2nd Gurkhas. Above them on the upper 
part of the cup were rocks and trees which barred the road except at 
the left side near the edge of the spur, where an opening, about twenty 
or thirty yards wide, gave entrance to a flatter part of the spur, sinc< 
generally known as the Fatal Ridge, which was the only way (as far as 
then known) up to the enemy’s position and which was fully exposed to 
his deadly fire, the troops in the hollow below being fairly well sheltered. 
As we watched from the far side of the Chagru valley, we could see that 
isolated rushes were being made over this ridge, in which all, or most of 
the men, fell killed or wounded, and that in consequence the attack had 
failed so far. 

“At 3 p.m. an order for the Battalion to advance to the village held 
by the Gordons was received. On this, the Battalion at once went down 
into the dip at a rapid pace, and across the valley. It arrived at the village 
as half the Gordons had moved out and at once was ordered to send up 
six companies* with the Gordons and leave one in the village. Word was 
passed for ‘A’ Company to remain behind. The others hurried on. 
Shortly after leaving the village General Kempster was met, and he 
stopped Lieutenant-Colonel Tonnochy, as the head of the Regiment 
came up, and said that there had been great delay in taking the hill, that 
it must be taken and that the Gordons and the 3rd Sikhs were to take it. 
He said that message was to be given to Colonel Mathias, of the Gordons. 

“Colonel Tonnochy delivered the message on reaching the sheltered 
ground before mentioned, and asked Colonel Mathias how he would like 
the advance to be made. The latter said it should be made in rushes of 
sections of Gordons and 3rd Sikhs mixed together. This order was passed 
to the Regiment. A pencilled message was now received from General 
Kempster that the attack was to be made with Gordons and 3rd Sikhs 

“* Still eight companies in a Battalion. The four-company organization was introduced 
during the First World War. 

64 Minor Operations and Small Wars—Tirah, 1897 

in the first line, Foresters and Gurkhas in the second line, and Dorsets 

in the third line. 

“Colonel Mathias addressed his men, saying that the heights must 
be taken and the Gordons and the 3rd Sikhs were to take them. The 
men cheered and called for the pipers. A tremendous fire began from the 
batteries and the maxims. Bayonets were fixed and an advance was made 
with the pipers leading. The first lot of men rushed at the opening, a 
large number to be at once shot down. Section after section, led by their 
Officers, went across, though with many losses, and with the exception 
of Lieutenant White, who fell wounded on the ridge, all the officers of 
the 3rd Sikhs were soon across and under cover on the enemy’s side. 
In the few minutes that the rush lasted there were twenty-two casualties 
in the 3rd Sikhs. The enemy, seeing that the Gordons and 3rd Sikhs (there 
were also fragments of the other regiments) were not to be denied, 
slackened their fire and began to make off. The heights were soon crowned 
and volleys fired at the retreating enemy. 

“The casualties were as follows: Killed, Subadar Malu Singh (died 
of his wounds in hospital shortly after) and three sepoys; Wounded, 
Lieutenant G. E. White, Subadar Lehna Singh, Jemadar Beli Ram (all 
severely), three Havildars, two naiks and eleven sepoys.” 

During the next week the Battalion was in the van of the advance and 
took part in the attacks on the Sampagha and Arhanga Passes. In each case it 
was allotted a role on the flank. At night there was constant firing into camp, 
but the Battalion did not suffer. On 31st October the Force reached Maidan, 
the main centre of Tirah, with Bagh, its chief village, and the Battalion went 
into camp there. From this time till the 18th the Battalion was out almost 
every day in contact with the enemy, either foraging or on some other 
expedition. On the night of the 10th, ““H’’ Company was sent out some distance 
west of camp to bring in the rear of General Westmacott’s brigade, in which 
the retirement from the pass enabled the Afridis to bring heavy fire from 
This was an instance where the premature withdrawal of a key piquet during 
the retirement from the pass enabled the Afridis to bring heavy fire from 
commanding heights onto the column of the Northamptons in a defile below. 
They paid for the error with grievous losses. A company was annihilated. 

On 18th November the first part of the force moved to Bagh with an 
advanced guard of four companies of the Queen’s and the 3rd Sikhs, all under 
command of Lieutenant-Colonel Tonnochy. Firing by enemy commenced as 
soon as Bagh was entered. Two companies, with a company of the Queen’s 
and a battery supporting, attacked and took a hill commanding the camping- 
ground with the loss of one man severely wounded. These two companies with 
the battery were heavily fired into from high ground all round all that day. 
The battery was withdrawn at night. The remaining companies piqueted 

Minor Operations and Small Wars—Tirah, 1897 65 

various villages about the new camp and lost one man killed. The rest of the 
Force came in next day. 

From this time up to 26th November the Battalion was engaged in 
foraging and other small expeditions. The resistance offered was slight and 
the night firing by the enemy was less. On the 26th the Battalion started on 
the expedition over the Kahu Pass up to the head of the Khanki valley. It 
left Bagh as rear-guard at 7 a.m. Camp was reached, about five miles off, at 
5 p.m. The road was bad and the baggage constantly obstructed. The camp was 
at the mouth of a narrow valley which turned to the left and was quite hidden 
beyond. Somewhere in this hidden part was the pass to be crossed. At 5 a.m. 
on the 27th, the Gurkha Scouts and the 3rd Sikhs started, and passing in the 
darkness two villages of the enemy, ascended the Kahu Hill, a high hill over- 
looking the valley mentioned. The enemy were taken by surprise, and in 
attempting to get on the hills to block the march of the brigade were fired 
into and many killed. The Kahu Pass was reached at 10 a.m. After a very 
hard climb “H” Company and half “D” Company were left on the first peak. 
“A” Company had been left in camp. The Battalion piqueted the east side of 
the pass. This operation was carried out with the loss of one man killed. A 
very cold night was passed without food or bedding. On the 28th the Battalion 
marched to the village of Dargai without opposition, “A’’ Company and half 
of “D” rejoining by the evening. On the 29th the Battalion halted to allow the 
remainder of the Brigade to come in, and on the 30th the Brigade marched to 

On Ist December four companies of the Battalion formed part of a force 
to reconnoitre the Lozakha Nullah. On this day Colonel Hill’s force from the 
Kurram valley had gone to punish the Chamkanni tribe by burning their 
villages. It returned in the evening pressed by the enemy, and his force had as 
many as thirty casualties. Next day, part of General Gaselee’s brigade was 
lent to Colonel Hill to complete the work which had not been altogether 
satisfactorily done the day before. Four companies under Lieutenant-Colonel 
Tonnochy formed part of the force. After a march of about five miles the force 
halted under slight fire from the enemy at the mouth of a nullah in the worst 
bit of country yet seen. After a halt of an hour and a half to let the Gurkhas 
reach the hill which commanded the village in the valley, the 3rd Sikhs moved 
forward into the valley, but as the enemy were on their left flank and above 
them, they had finally to wait and join hands with the Gurkhas. In this advance 
two men were badly wounded. As soon as the enemy had been driven off the 
hill the villages were set on fire by the Battalion. The total casualties of this 
force were seven. On the 3rd the Brigade marched to Dargai; on the 4th to 
Khanki Bazaar; 5th, to the foot of Shingakh Nullah; 6th, over the Shingakh 
Pass to Bagh, reaching it at 8.30 p.m.; 7th, it halted at Bagh; 8th, marched 
to Mastura; 9th, to Camp Haidar Khel; 10th, to Turkosain; 11th, it halted; 


66 Minor Operations and Small Wars—The Edwardian Decade 

12th, Burand Khel; 13th, halt; 14th, it marched to Sapri (this was a difficult 
pass, but not held by the enemy, who fired only a few shots half-way at Khwaja 
Kiddar); 15th, it moved to Mamanai; 16th, Hamgudar; 17th, Bara; 18th, halt; 
and 19th to 23rd December was spent at Jamrud. 

On the 24th the Battalion marched with the Brigade to Ali Masjid. A 4th 
Sikh company under Lieutenant Storr, with Subadar Sham Singh and Jemadar 
Kaka Singh, joined the Battalion on the 22nd and accompanied it on the small 
expedition which followed. On the 25th the Battalion marched to Chura, 
unopposed, with the Brigade. On the 26th the Battalion marched to China. 
when a few shots were fired by the enemy, who caused some casualties in 
piquets that evening. On the 27th the Brigade retired to Chura, the Regiment 
being on rear-guard. The enemy followed up closely, but the Battalion suffered 
only two casualties, the Queen’s who relieved them as rear-guard about half- 
way, having five or six. 

Next day the Brigade marched to Ali Masjid and the day after to Jamrud. 
This virtually finished the Tirah Expedition. 

The work of the 3rd Sikhs, under Colonel Tonnochy, during this expedi- 
tion had been a model of efficient Frontier campaigning—swift in movement, 
dashing and courageous in attack, safe in all protection work and never 
allowing the tribal enemy the opportunity to inflict losses. 

The Edwardian Decade 

For ten years after the campaigns of 1897-98 the Frontier remained 
substantially quiet. The South African War against the Boers gave opportunity 
to a few officers of the Indian Army to serve in the field with the British Forces, 
and, among these, one who enlisted in the Corps of Tasmanian Bushmen and 
afterwards joined the Guides, was G. G. E. Wylly, V.C. He received the 
Victoria Cross as a corporal in that war for gallantry in an ambush. Severely 
wounded, he kept the Boers at bay single-handed by quick and accurate shoot- 
ing from behind a rock; and as a result all the wounded in the party were 
brought in. He served his entire career as an officer in the Corps of Guides. 
graduated at the Staff College, attained the rank of Colonel, and was decorated 
with the C.B. and D.S.O. 

Concurrently with or shortly after the South African War, two or three 
minor campaigns that had nothing to do with the North-West Frontier 
demanded the services of the Battalions of the Regiment. 

The first was the Boxer Expedition to China in 1900 to 1901. The Ist 
Battalion formed part of the Ist Brigade of the Expeditionary Force and took 
part in the action of Peytan-Yangstan against the Boxers and in the subsequent 
advance to and relief of Pekin. The second was the Somaliland Campaign of 
1902-04, in which the 2nd Battalion served in both phases and took part in the 
battle of Jidballi and the pursuit of the Mad Mulla to the Italian border. 

Minor Operations and Small Wars—Tonnochy's Raid 67 

In 1905 an expedition was sent into Tibet in which twenty-five rank and 
file of the Guides Infantry took part. There was insignificant fighting, but two 
of the Guides party distinguished themselves by swimming the Sanpu river 
when it was in flood and gained the Indian Order of Merit. They were Sepoy 
Muhammad Nasim and Naik Sohbat, but the latter lost his life in the act. His 
widow, however, benefited by his award. 

Further accounts of the Boxer Expedition to China and the Somaliland 
Campaign are given in the pages which follow, but first a small punitive 
expedition in Waziristan merits attention for its extraordinary success and the 
lessons it affords. 

Tonnochy’s Raid 

There were, during this decade, several minor affairs on the Frontier 
besides one or two clear-cut punitive expeditions that were carried out with little 
expenditure of time, blood or money. 

Among these minor affairs, one in particular merits special attention for 
the astonishing success it achieved with a very small force. This indeed was 
against tribesmen who twenty to forty years later proved themselves the most 
formidable on the Frontier and cost the Government heavily in blood and 
treasure, i.e., the Mahsuds and Wazirs in the uplands of Waziristan. 
The incident has been called Tonnochy’s Raid (from the name of the 
commander of the 3rd Battalion, who led the Force) and is instructive as a 
model Frontier operation in the excellence of its planning and execution. For 
though the many campaigns with varying success that have since been fought 
in Waziristan have, by comparison, endowed this exploit with almost legendary 
fame, its success was due in fact, to no more than the efficiency with which it 
was prepared and carried out. 

In 1901 repeated tribal raids into administered territory and a truculent 
attitude on the part of the Mahsuds had caused the Government to institute a 
blockade of their territory. As the tribe’s habitat is barren and infertile, this 
measure, it was hoped, would bring about their submission, but it failed to have 
any visible effect. The Government therefore resolved to take active measures 
against them by sending in light raiding columns to do as much damage as 
possible. One of these was ordered out from Datta Khel, advantage being 
taken of the arrival there of the 2nd Punjab Infantry (later 2nd Bn. Frontier 
Force Rifles) in relief of the 3rd Sikhs. Thus both Battalions were concentrated 
at Datta Khel on 22nd November, when the 2nd Punjab Infantry marched into 
the fort. Deceptive orders were now issued for a march on the 24th, which was 
given as en route to Bannu. On the night of the 23rd. however, at 9 p.m. the 
following column marched out of the fort and headed for the Mahsud strong- 
hold of Makin via the Spinapunga and Shuidar Narais: 

68 Minor Operations and Small Wars—Tonnochy's Raid 

2 guns Derajat Mountain Battery, under Lieutenant Hill; 
500 men 2nd Punjab Infantry under  Lieutenant-Colonel 
E. H. Rodwell; 

500 men 3rd Sikhs under Major Taylor. 
The whole force was under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Tonnochy. Of 
the 500 3rd Sikhs, thirty mounted infantry on mules formed part. Two days’ 
cooked rations were taken in haversacks; 100 rounds per man in pouches; 
and | |b. atta per man for 1,200 men was taken by porters in bags of 30 lb. No 
doolies were taken, but all available stretchers. Four followers were allowed to 
each regiment, and two hospital assistants and eighty-two porters accompanied. 
The Battery supplied one mule for the Officers’ Mess and one mule for 
officers’ great-coats. No mules except those of the Battery and the mounted 
infantry were taken. The infantrymen wore the field-service warm-coat with 
braces over it and carried a great-coat. The weather on the hills was very cold. 

The following officers were with the 3rd Battalion: 

Major F. H. Taylor, in command, 

Captain C. de L. Solbe, 

Captain G. E. White, 

Lieutenant J. R. Broun, 

Lieutenant C. A. Milward,* 

Lieutenant F. T. Thompson, Medical Officer. 

The moon was almost full, the track steep and broken. At 3 a.m. on the 
24th, as the moon sank behind the hills, the column rested at about 1,000 feet 
below the Spinapunga Narai (9,400 feet), which was reached by the rearguard 
at 10.30. Here a halt was made and piquets sent out. Much time was then lost 
owing to the misinformation of one of the guides. The men were much 
exhausted, but the march was unopposed. The Mahsuds had seen the column 
but, being surprised and unready, they were unable to concentrate in order 
to resist. 

The column next bivouacked in a village at the head of the Shuvan Algad. 
One company on piquet missed the march of the column and stayed out all 
night, but rejoined on the march next day. On the 25th ten towers in the 
Shuvan Algad were destroyed by the explosive party under Captain Sheppard, 
R.E., and thirteen villages were burnt. There was resistance, but not of a 
formidable nature. By evening the force issued from the Algad about four miles 
from Makin, but it was too late to do more than seek night quarters. At a 
rapid pace, therefore, a retirement was made on the Mahsud village of Bitt 
Malik Shahi (Bitt’s village) in the direction of the Razmak plain, and this 
became the column’s base of operations for the next two days. Next day, food 
having been almost exhausted, Captain Down, the Political Officer, with 200 

* The late Lieutenant: General Sir Charles Milward, K.C.T. E.. C.B., C.B. E. D. S. O. 

Minor Operations and Small Wars—Tonnochy's Raid 69 

men, requisitioned supplies from a Waziri village in the Razmak Narai, while 
a small reconnaissance went out towards the Shaktu, with intent to deceive. 
On the 27th 160 men, including all sick and footsore (among the former 
Captain White, who had got a slight touch of pneumonia) were left in Bitt’s 
village, and the rest of the column marched for Makin. Again the deception 
succeeded, for this advance was evidently unexpected and slight opposition 
only was offered. Three towers were blown up (explosives having failed for 
more) and about three-quarters of the villages of Makin were set on fire. The 
work began at twelve and the retirement began under thick clouds of smoke 
at about 2 p.m. The enemy followed up, but did little damage. Night was 
passed in Bitt’s village, and next day (28th November) the column retired down 
the difficult and wooded defile of Razmak. The 2nd Punjab Infantry were 
on rearguard and suffered some loss, for the Mahsuds, having had time to 
collect, now followed up in strength. The total casualties, however, in the 
whole raid were only 1 British Officer, 1 J.C.O. and 13 men wounded, and 3 
men killed, of which loss that of the Battalion was | man killed and 1 wounded. 
The pursuit by the Mahsuds stopped soon after their border was crossed. The 
column made a short halt at Mami Rogha and then came late at night into 
Datta Khel, having marched and fought twenty-two miles since dawn, an 
amazing performance in such country. Congratulatory telegrams were received 
at Datta Khel from Sir Bindon Blood, Commanding the Punjab Army; from 
General Denning, Commanding the District; and from Mr. Merk, Commis- 
sioner on Special Duty; also from the Viceroy. 

The Battalion then completed its move to Bannu.* 

When the story is told in the later chapters of this volume (as well as that 
recorded in the History of the Frontier Force Rifles) of the fighting in 
Waziristan in 1919-20 and 1936-40, during which Makin was twice destroyed 
at great cost, the extraordinary success of this raid will be appreciated. The 
factors that contributed to it were the measures for deception that repeatedly 
misled the enemy and caught them unprepared and unable to concentrate, 
the rapidity of movement, and above all the fitness, strength and efficiency of 
the men, which made them capable of remarkable endurance. It is sad to relate 
that Lieutenant-Colonel Tonnochy, the brilliant planner and leader of this raid, 
lost his life a few months later in a small action near Bannu. A handful of 
outlaws were surrounded by the Bannu Column in a fortified enclosure and 
refused to surrender. Colonel Tonnochy, who was in command, went forward 
to reconnoitre the application of fire to the fort from a battery that was in 
support, when he was mortally wounded by a bullet from one of the outlaws. 
His death was a sad loss, not only to the Battalion but to the Frontier Force 

* See also pages 23-26 of the History of the Frontier Force Rifles for a personal 
account of this expedition by Lieutenant-General Sir Bertrand Moberly, who was then 
a subaltern in the 2nd Punjab Infantry in Colonel Tonnochy’s force. 

70 Minor Operations and Small Wars—The Ist Sikhs in China, 1900-01 

and the Indian Army, for had he lived he must have attained high rank and 
might well have been a great leader in the First World War. 

The Ist Sikhs in China, 1900-01 

In 1899 and early 1900 trouble threatened in China which culminated in 
violence to the persons and properties of internationals in the Pekin region. 
This was the work of a secret society known as Boxers, whom the Chinese 
Government in Pekin appeared to be unable to control or check, and an 
expedition was organized to preserve the interests of the Powers concerned 
and ensure the safety of their nationals. 

The Powers included British India, the U.S.A., Russia, Japan, and to a 
lesser extent France. Germany, Austria and Italy were also represented. 

The Expedition numbered: 

10,000 Japanese with 24 guns, 
4,000 Russians with 16 guns, 
2,000 U.S.A. with 6 guns, 
800 French with 12 guns, 
and a British-Indian Brigade of all arms (about 3,000 men with 12 
There were also 300 German, Austrian and Italian troops. 

The objective of the Expedition was to crush the Boxers, who were active 
in the Tientsin-Pekin area, and to occupy the capital, thus restoring the 
authority of the Chinese Government and securing the safety of the inter- 
national Legations. 

The British-Indian Brigade included the Ist Sikhs, who embarked for 
China on 6th July 1900, and arrived at Taku anchorage in the Gulf of Pechili, 
seventy miles south-east of Pekin, on 26th July. Here a vast fleet of Allied 
ships was assembled while the Force was concentrating at Tientsin, twenty 
miles up the railway to Pekin. 

The Chinese Boxers with some Imperial troops were opposing the Allied 
advance at Peytsang, about ten miles west of Tientsin on the Pei-Ho river, 
and an attack was launched on them on Sth August in which the Japanese 
took the leading part, the British-Indian Brigade, with the 1st Sikhs under 
Lieutenant-Colonel Pollock, being in the second line. The Chinese were driven 
back and retired to Yangstan, twelve miles north-west towards Pekin, where 
they again held a defended position. This was attacked by the Allied Force 
on 6th August, with the Ist Sikhs and the 14th Regiment of the U.S.A. leading 
and the 24th Punjabis and Royal Welsh Fusiliers in support. The advance 
was rapid and was supported by a British battery and, later, two Russian 
batteries. The Chinese had eighteen guns in action, but did not wait for the 
final bayonet charge, which was launched by the Ist Sikhs and the U.S.A. 

Minor Operations and Small Wars—The Ist Sikhs in China, 1900-01 71 

Regiment together; they again retired towards Pekin. The Battalion, which 
bore the brunt of the fighting at Yangstan, lost 4 men killed, 1 officer (Lieuten. 
ant Costello) and 3 men dangerously wounded, and 17 wounded. 

The advance continued to Tangchow, fifteen miles from Pekin, without 
further opposition (the British-Indian Brigade now bringing up the rear), and 
this place was occupied on 12th August. 

The final attack on Pekin itself was launched on 15th August 1900, with 
the Japanese, Russians and Americans in order from the right, and the British- 
Indian Brigade on the left. In this action the Ist Sikhs at the outset were in 
reserve, and the Japanese and Russians having driven the Chinese north to the 
wall of the Tartar City, the Battalion entered the city without opposition. The 
other Battalions were now given assignments to protect the right flank and 
secure the Temple of Heaven, while the Ist Sikhs became leading battalion 
and effected the relief of the Legations in Pekin which had been invested by 
the Chinese. 

An incident on this day is of great interest and concerns one Lieutenant 
R. N. Keyes* of the Royal Navy. He noticed that our units never had flags 
to hoist on captured positions, whereas the Russians and Japanese were 
liberally supplied with them.t He therefore brought a Union Jack and a White 
Ensign with him when he came to be attached to the staff of the British-Indian 
Force. He carried them attached to the “D’s” of his saddle. When Pekin was 
attacked he left the Union Jack on a Chinese spear with the guard at the City 
Gate and still had the White Ensign with him when he joined the Ist Sikhs 
for the advance to the relief of the Legations. It was the first flag of the 
relieving force to fly on the Legation buildings, and Keyes later presented it 
to the Battalion as a memento of the campaign. He had a silver truck made 
for it with “Ist Sikhs” embossed thereon with a naval crown, and wrote of 
it as follows: “I have a letter from Colonel Pollock thanking me for the gift 
and telling me that the flag would be placed in the Station Mess at Kohat, 
which delighted me as my father commanded the Punjab Frontier Force for 
eight years and I was born there.” 

The flag is in fact with the Ist Battalion to this day. 

The capture of Pekin and the clearing of the area of hostile elements of 
Chinese completed the campaign, and on 27th August 1900, detachments from 
all contingents of the International Force carried out a flag march through the 
“Forbidden City” of Pekin. 

On 14th September an explosion of gunpowder occurred at Tangchow— 

*Later Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, the great naval leader of the First World War 
and born in Kohat the son of General Sir Charles Keyes, a Commandant of the 
Punjab Frontier Force. 

+ This was also true of the Japanese forty years later in the Second World War, 
and many of their unit flags were captured as trophies in the later stages when the 
Japanese were defeated. 

72 Minor Operations and Small Wars—The 2nd Sikhs in Somaliland, 1903-04 

an accident in which ten men of the Battalion were killed; a tragedy which cost 
it more lives than all the fighting in the campaign. 

The Ist Sikhs spent the winter (a severe one) in North China and returned 
to Kohat the following summer, arriving on 4th August 1901. The C.O. 
received a complimentary message from the Commander of the China Field 
Force, thanking the Battalion for its loyal and efficient services and recording 
that every man could look back on his stay in China with pride. 

Fuller details of this successful campaign, with rewards gained by the 
Battalion, are to be found in the Battalion Record. 

The 2nd Sikhs in Somaliland, 1903-04 

This was one of the few campaigns that, excepting the two Great Wars, 
have taken Indian Forces overseas. Somaliland, being followed not long after- 
wards by the First World War, has received little notice in modern times, but 
in fact it was the scene of a major tragedy and during its course demanded 
courage and endurance of the highest order from the troops taking part. 

The need for the campaign arose as the result of the revolt and raids into 
British territory committed by the Mulla Mohammed Abdullah (the “Mad 
Mulla”) and his dervish followers. In 1901-02 the local forces, under Colonel 
Swayne, had proved inadequate in numbers to deal with the Mulla’s adherents, 
and the King’s African Rifles, with the local levies, had suffered a reverse. 

The 2nd Sikhs, in Kohat, having mobilized for active service, sailed from 
Bombay on 2nd January 1903, and reached Obbia on 8th January. Here the 
Battalion joined a column that was forming for an advance into the interior. 
The strength on embarkation was as follows: 11 British officers, 17 J.C.Os., 
722 Indian other ranks and 94 followers. 

The Obbia column consisted of 2,000 Indian and East African troops 
with two mountain guns, and a similar column operated from Berbera. 
The two columns converged on Bohotele with the object of driving the 
Mulla and his followers from Italian into British Somaliland. Obbia, having 
no safe anchorage, was useless in the monsoon, and both forces were based on 
Berbera. While communications in this primitive and waterless region were 
being built up, the Battalion was given many arduous tasks, one being to 
improve the water supply by cleaning out wells and storing water. The filth in 
the wells was indescribable and included corpses and decaying matter of every 
description. The water was impregnated with salts, and the gaseous fumes 
often rendered men working in the wells insensible. Four Royal Humane 
Society Medals were awarded to the Battalion during this period for acts of 
gallantry in rescuing men from the wells when they were overcome by the 

The 2nd Sikhs in Somaliland, 1903-04—The Disaster of Gumburru 73 

The Disaster of Gumburru 

On 6th March the main column marched from Obbia under Lieutenant- 
Colonel Fasken* and halted at Galkayu on the 29th, no encounter having 
taken place with the dervishes. Many of the marches were through thick 
jungle in intense heat. 

On 8th April Captain Vesey, with a party of two J.C.Os. and forty- 
seven other ranks, went forward with a convoy to the vicinity of Gumburru, 
forty-five miles farther west, where a small detached force under Colonel A. S. 
Cobbe, V.C., was operating. The convoy arrived at Colonel Cobbe’s zariba on 
16th April 1903. 

On the following morning a report was received from a company of the 
King’s African Rifles patrolling to the west that the enemy had been 
encountered in force and that this company was withdrawing on the zariba. 
Colonel Plunkett, of the King’s African Rifles, was accordingly dispatched with 
a small column to cover the retirement. By special request, Captain Vesey and 
forty-nine ranks of the 2nd Sikhs formed part of this column, which left the 
zariba at about 9 a.m. No officer or man of Captain Vesey’s detachment was 
again seen alive by the Battalion. 

At about 11.45 a.m. firing was heard at the zariba from the direction the 
column had taken. During the afternoon thirty-eight of the King’s African 
Rifles, most of them wounded, straggled into camp with the news that the 
column had been destroyed. With the exception of one wounded Somali 
subsequently picked up, they were the only survivors of the fight. 

It appears that Colonel Plunkett’s column had met the retiring company 
of the King’s African Rifles about one and a half miles from camp. In his 
eagerness to engage the enemy, Colonel Plunkett had taken this company 
with him, which made the total strength of his column up to 224 all ranks. 
The column apparently advanced forming three sides of a square with the 
2nd Sikhs on the front face. Afterwards a half-company was thrown across 
the rear face. 

Colonel Plunkett moved to a distance of three miles from the zariba to a 
spot about one and a half miles south-east of the feature known as Gumburru 
Hill, where there was a comparatively open space some 500 yards in extent, 
partly surrounded by thick bush. Here he was attacked by the whole of the 
Mulla’s forces estimated at 2,000 riflemen and 6,000 spearmen. 

On the repulse of the first attack this tiny column appears to have 
advanced against the vast assembly to the middle of the open space, for some 
of the wounded survivors owed their escape to having been left on the ground 
in rear of the scene of the main action. 

The first assault, which was made by horsemen, was followed by further 

* Later Major-General C. G. M. Fasken, C.B. 

74 The 2nd Sikhs in Somaliland, 1903-04—The Disaster of Gumburru 

attacks from all sides by riflemen on foot supported by masses of spearmen. 
All attacks were repelled until the ammunition gave out. There was no reserve 
ammunition. The 2nd Sikhs carried 100 rounds per man, the remainder 150. 
Captain Vesey is believed to have been killed early in the action. Colonel 
Plunkett, one of the remaining officers, now gave the order to charge through 
the enemy and make for camp. He was immediately afterwards shot through 
the head. 

It seems probable that the action began at about 10.45, reached its climax 
at 11.45, and was all over soon after noon, when the final attacks overwhelmed 
the square. “The few who escaped to tell the tale, related how the dead bodies 
of the enemy lay in heaps before the square, a monument to the determined 
valour of the devoted band of defenders who composed it.”* There can be no 
Joubt that the heavy losses inflicted on the enemy deterred him from following 
up his success by an attack on Colonel Cobbe’s zariba and from subsequently 
harassing Cobbe’s column in its withdrawal. Deserters from the enemy esti- 
mated their losses at about 1,000. The total casualties to the column were: 
killed, 9 British officers (including Captain Vesey), 176 other ranks (including 
2 J.C.Os.t and 47 1.0.Rs. of the 2nd Sikhs); wounded, 28 (all Africans). 
Eleven, therefore (all Africans), escaped unscathed. 

The staunch behaviour of the detachment of the Regiment on this 
occasion was universally commended. A British officer attached to the 
Abyssinians, who visited the battlefield after the action, reported that the 
bodies of the men of the 2nd Sikhs lay in an unbroken line and that their 
portion of the square had been preserved intact. 

Tributes to the magnificent behaviour of the men of the 2nd Sikhs at 
Gumburru were received from both Lord Kitchener, Commander-in-Chief in 
India, and General Manning, Commanding the Force. The latter wrote: 
“Their valour is the talk of all who have reported to me on the action. They 
fought and died where they stood, and we who remain should be proud to have 
been their comrades. Their death should be an example to us all.” 

That this disaster was due to ammunition running out has been com- 
mented on as a military lesson in connection with warfare against savages. 
The inference is that in such actions fire-discipline is all important.t 

By June the strategy of the campaign had succeeded in driving the Mad 
Mulla and his dervishes into British Somaliland, where it was possible to 
strike at him again. 

Major-General Sir Charles Egerton, K.C.B., D.S.O.,§ landed at Berbera 
on 4th July and took over command of the Field Force. A long pause in the 

* The Official History of the Campaign. 

+ Subadar Naurang Singh and Jemadar Mohammed. 
t Small Wars, Calwell, page 394. 

§ Field-Marshal Sir Charles Egerton. 

The 2nd Sikhs in Somaliland, 1903-04—The Battle of Jidballi 75 

operations ensued while the Force was augmented and reorganized and supply 
and transport improved. 

The 2nd Sikhs marched in fierce heat, between 16th June and 12th July, 
a distance of 317 miles in nineteen marches. Captain Prissick’s detachment, 
between 8th June and 12th July, marched 460 miles in twenty-seven marches. 

On the arrival of the Battalion at Sheikh most of the men were in rags 
and a number were beginning to show signs of the hard work, poor food and 
bad water. An outbreak of scurvy marked the first period spent there, but 
during their stay all ranks recuperated and were in first-rate fettle when they 

The Battalion, having been re-equipped, remained at Sheikh and was 
employed on road-making on the Berbera—Sheikh road from the end of July 
till the end of December. 

On 2nd October 1903, India Army Order 181 was brought into effect, and 
the Battalion changed its name. The 2nd (or Hill) Sikh Infantry, Punjab 
Frontier Force, became the 52nd Sikhs, Frontier Force, and it will be so 
referred to in this record till the end of the First World War and the 
reorganization of 1922.* 

The Battle of Jidballi 

On 10th January 1904 two brigades were concentrated near Jidballi, 
where the Mulla and his force was located, and moved out to the attack. 
Both brigades, under Sir Charles Egerton, left camp at 4.30 a.m. in echelon 
from the centre, the 52nd Sikhs leading. Echeloned back on the right flank 
marched the Ist Brigade. Echeloned back on the left came the wing of the 
ist Hampshires, 100 men of the 27th Punjabis, and the King’s African Rifles. 
The staff, battery, hospital and transport were in the centre. In this formation 
the force was ready to attack or to form square for defence, the Battalion 
forming the forward line in each case. 

Just after 8 a.m. the square was closed up and halted for the issue of 
thirty rounds of ammunition per rifle from the reserve. Reports began to come 
in that the enemy was in strength. The force then moved forward to within 
1,000 yards of Jidballi, and the mounted troops moved out to envelop the 
enemy’s right. The ground consisted of a wide, open plain covered with clumps 
of dry grass and no bush. 

A line of heads now became visible about 800 yards ahead. At first these 
were taken to be our own Somali Mounted Infantry, but it was soon discovered 
that they were the Mulla’s troops. The enemy fired a few shots and our men lay 
down. A heavy fire was then opened on the enemy from the maxims and rifles. 
As the dervishes were well extended and used cover well, the fire was checked 

* See Chapter X and Appendix 5 X which shows the changes of names of all Battalions 
in 1903. 

76 Minor Operations and Small Wars—Zakka Khel and Mohmand, 1908 

after about ten minutes. The Lahore Mountain Battery now came into action 
in front of ‘““H’”’ Company and did much execution. 

However, the enemy came on in parties for short distances, advancing 
from cover to cover. Finally, they made a very determined rush on the front 
face of the square, but were met by a terrific fire. At the same time our 
mounted troops came down on the right flank, and the enemy broke and fled. 
The action was short, sharp and decisive, lasting, as far as the infantry was con- 
cerned, about half an hour. By 10 a.m. the enemy was in full flight, effectively 
pursued by the Mounted Infantry, who inflicted heavy casualties. 

The Mulla’s army was estimated to be 6,000 strong, of whom 666 bodies 
were afterwards counted on the battlefield and many more were disposed of by 
the Mounted Infantry. Their casualties were estimated at over 1,000 killed. A 
large number of prisoners and 360 rifles were captured, amongst them being 
two Lee-Enfields belonging to the Battalion, which had been lost at Gumburru. 

The total casualties to the British force were: killed, 3 officers and 16 
other ranks; wounded, 9 officers and 27 other ranks. 

In spite of the prominent position the Battalion had occupied in the 
action, only one casualty was sustained, a bugler being severely wounded in 
the thigh. 

The action of Jidballi disposed of the pick of the Mulla’s forces and he 
could not be induced to stand for battle again. 

The Battalion remained in Somaliland till May and covered great 
distances on the march with columns mopping up parties of insurgents. It 
finally embarked for India on 27th May 1904, and arrived back in Kohat 
early in June. From June 1904 till the outbreak of the First World War the 
52nd remained in Kohat, Malakand, Peshawar and Bannu without being 
engaged in any operations. 

Zakka Khel and Mohmand, 1908 

The Zakka Khel rising in February 1908, caused a force to be mobilized 
against them in which the Guides and the 53rd and 54th Sikhs were 
included. The Guides also sent detachments to Shabkadr and Abazai to 
release other units. The expedition only lasted about a fortnight and very little 
fighting occurred. The Zakka Khel had barely come to terms, however, when 
trouble once more arose farther north in the adjacent Mohmand country. This 
appeared to be serious, as large lashkars were gathering around Matta 
Mughal Khel, Hafiz Kor and Shahbaz Khan Kor, and overt acts of hostility 
had been committed. With the concentration and advance of a Brigade Group, 
however, and a minor clash during punitive measures, in which the 4th Sikhs 
and the Guides were the spearhead, the Mohmands thought better of it and 
returned to their homes. A threat of trouble in the Khyber meanwhile arose 
and the Guides were called in to make a forced march to Ali Masjid. This they 

Zakka Khel and Mohmand, 1908 77 

did in blazing heat, leaving Abazai after 2 p.m. and arriving at Ali Masjid at 
6 p.m. next day; but again the tribesmen submitted without fighting. The troops 
were back in peace stations by early June. 

After this, beyond minor incidents that were inseparable, in those days, 
from watch-and-ward duties on the North-West Frontier, nothing of note 
occurred till the outbreak in 1914 of the First World War. 



France, 1914-15 and the Guides Company with Wilde’s Rifles—Colonel Blacker’s Account 
of his Experiences in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle—The Guides in Operations on 
the North-West Frontier, 1915-16—The Platoon Organization—Mesopotamia, 
1917-18—Palestine, 1918—The Final Offensive—Syria and Egypt, 1919-20—Return 
to India and Resettlement. 

France, 1914-15, and the Guides Company with Wilde’s Rifles 

None of the Battalions of the Regiment formed part of I.E.F. ““A”—the code 
name that was given to the force that was sent from India to fight in France in 
1914—but three battalions of the sister regiment, the Frontier Force Rifles, did 
(57th Wilde’s Rifles, 58th Vaughan’s Rifles and the 59th Scinde Rifles). 
They covered themselves with glory; moreover, some of the honour 
and glory (and these words are used in their deepest and most respected 
significance) can rightly be shared by men of the Frontier Force Regiment, 
since the latter was heavily drawn on for reinforcements as soon as the 
devastating toll of casualties and war wastage was felt. In only one instance, 
however, was any body of reinforcements from a Battalion of the F.F. Regiment 
incorporated into any of the above three Battalions as a complete detachment 
with its own officers and N.C.Os. This was the Guides Infantry Company with 
Wilde’s Rifles; and this volume is fortunate in being able to chronicle its story 
with much interesting colour and anecdote provided by Colonel L. V. S. 
Blacker* who fought with it through much of that desperate campaign of war- 
fare in trenches, with barbed wire, mud, bitter cold and wet. 

Such conditions, especially against an enemy comprising the most highly 
trained, armed and organized modern army of its time, were anything but 
what the Indian Army of 1914 was designed to tackle. Indeed, while trained, 
equipped and organized for the defence of India and well suited to any task 
that could be envisaged in eastern theatres, the idea that any formation of the 
Indian Army might be called on to take part in a European war was regarded 
as completely fantastic. The author recollects hearing a distinguished 
battalion commander of a British unit in India remark in September 1914. 
very soon after it became known that Indian Expeditionary Forces were to 

* Colonel L. V. S. Blacker, O.B.E., T.D. 

The First World War—Early Developments 79 

go overseas to secret destinations: “I have come to the conclusion that these 
I.E.Fs. are going to mop up the various German colonies—they could never 
stand up to the fighting in France under modern shell fire.” Poor chap!—he 
was later killed in France himself, and the extent to which he erred in his 
opinion of the fighting qualities of the soldiers that are now the men of 
Pakistan and India, you who read this record shall judge from the pages 
that follow. 

Let us then recall the circumstances under which Indian forces were sent 
to France in 1914, to succour the hard-pressed British, French and Belgian 
Armies in their struggle against the greatly superior German-Austrian enemy. 

The European picture—indeed, the world picture—in 1914 was superfici- 
ally peaceful in the extreme. The so-called “Concert of Europe” was a balance 
of power with Britain, France and Russia in one alliance, and Germany, 
Austria-Hungary and Italy in another. The U.S.A. was not concerned with 
European politics and adhered to its own (Monroe) doctrine of isolation from 
the Western World. Peace under these conditions had lasted substantially for 
nearly a hundred years. Such wars as those in the Crimea, the Balkans, and 
even that in 1870-71 between Prussia and France, were localized struggles, 
and most of Europe and the world were spectators. Up to this time the sea 
was all-important, aeroplanes were in their infancy and motor transport 
insufficiently developed to replace the horse for military purposes. 

In its peaceful somnolence Europe failed to notice the growth of 
Germany and how her increasing wealth, industry and manpower were being 
devoted to militarism on land and sea. Lone voices like that of the great Lord 
Roberts (whose achievements we have already recorded), who warned England 
on lecture platforms and in the Press of the impending storm, went unheeded. 
He was disregarded as a senile scaremonger. He died within earshot of the 
guns of the Indian Corps in France in 1914. 

By 1914 the German leaders had forged a huge war machine—a vast 
army with plans prepared to overrun Belgium and France before either they 
could stem the attack or their allies could come to the rescue. They had built, 
also, a navy equipped with large numbers of submarines of design and 
capacity in advance of anything built up to that time. These were instruments 
that were calculated to make Germany world leaders. if not world masters, 
in 1914. 

On a trivial pretext she struck with her army (rejecting all diplomatic 
parley) and rapidly overran Belgium, while Britain, true to her treaty obliga- 
tions, mobilized her small expeditionary force and sent it to the aid of the 
French Army. That the British Fleet had been able to mobilize with great 
speed and gain command of the sea, which enabled the British Forces. and 
later the Indian Expeditionary Forces, to reach their overseas destinations in 
safety, was a saving factor. 

80 The First World War—Early Developments 

But it was soon seen what was in fact the nature of the German onslaught. 
Before the Germans, who were prepared in every detail of plan, training, 
equipment and supplies, the wholly unprepared French Forces gave way all 
along the front, and the small British Force on their left flank, though inflicting 
heavy losses at Mons, Landrecies and Le Cateau, fell back with them to 
escape isolation and investment. The need for fresh forces was foreseen at 
once, and the most that Indian military resources of trained troops and 
equipment could offer was two divisions—the 3rd Lahore and the 7th Meerut 
Divisions. They were mobilized as quickly as possible and organized as an Army 
Corps. They were placed under the command of General Sir James Willcocks 
(then commanding the Northern Army in India at Rawalpindi), but it was 
some time before they could leave for France. Apart from recalling thousands 
of personnel from leave, making up equipment and all the purely military 
tasks involved in a sudden and unexpected mobilization, a huge and compli- 
cated programme of rail movement was necessary and an enormous armada 
of shipping had to be collected, prepared as troopships and organized in 
convoys with the necessary protection. In spite of all, the Indian Corps reached 
France by the end of September 1914 (albeit with nothing warmer than drill 
uniform!), and were hurried north to the battle front. 

In the meantime the fortunes of war, in quite miraculous fashion, had 
stemmed the German advance after it had reached almost the outskirts of 
Paris itself. Partly owing to the ineptitude of the German Command, which 
had in fact proved incapable of controlling its huge war machine once the 
fog of war descended, and partly owing to the opportunism and initiative of 
the French General Gallieni, a counter-attack at the battle of the Marne 
threw back the German Armies to the River Aisne. The German advance 
having thus lost its momentum, a stalemate ensued. Moreover, the Germans 
were now handicapped by the need to meet the Russians, whose slow-moving 
forces were at last advancing on East Prussia. While this gave the Allies 
breathing-space in France by drawing off the German forces, the latter were, 
fortunately for them, as well handled in dealing with the Russians as they 
were badly directed in their campaign against the French. In the battle of 
Tannenberg in September 1914, a hastily collected German army completely 
destroyed the flower of the Russian Imperial forces, driving their leader to 
suicide on the field. 

But the respite in the West had enabled reinforcements to reach both 
the British and the French Armies, and in a series of outflanking movements 
to the north-west both sides had extended their lines till they rested on the sea 
at Nieuport. As this development took place so also did both sides dig in and 
protect themselves with barbed wire. Very soon both armies were below ground 
in complicated wire and trench systems that had practically paralysed all 
warfare of movement. Such was the picture in the World War in 1914 when, 

The First World War—Early Developments 81 

with winter looming ahead, the Indian Corps arrived in the trenches in khaki- 
drill clothing. 

In writing the record of the Regiment in the First World War it is 
desirable to revert once again to the individual narratives of each Battalion 
and tell them separately, for each has a shining story to tell of activities of 
different formations and often in different theatres. For reasons which will be 
obvious to the reader, the Guides Infantry narrative is convenient to relate 
first since they were the only Battalion of the Regiment to send a self. 
contained unit (albeit only a company) to the main theatre of war in France. 

To return now to the North-West Frontier for a moment. The generat 
picture there, when the First World War broke out, was as peaceful as in 
Europe. It found the Guides Infantry in the normal hot-weather condition of 
all units, i.e. one of depleted strength due to absence on annual leave of both 
officers and rank and file. 

Although, like all other Battalions of the Regiment, it was not in either 
the Lahore or Meerut Divisions, and therefore could not anticipate immediate 
mobilization for active service overseas, the situation clearly demanded a state 
of readiness for war. All those on leave or furlough therefore were at once 
recalled and all further steps to ensure instant preparedness were at once taken. 

As has already been noted. the security of the North-West Frontier as well 
as that of India as a whole was as important a consideration towards prose- 
cuting what was clearly to be a world war as that of sending troops to fight. 
Indeed it was not long before the Frontier tribes began to be insurgent once 
more and were being incited to attack India by firebrands with stories of the 
weakness of the Government and the departure (so it was rumoured) of all the 
troops to the war theatre. 

Indeed, the Frontier during those years, as this story will show, was no 
sinecure. As always, the Guides Infantry gave their loyal and devoted services, 
but now it was under the handicap of having to provide trained reinforcements 
for other Frontier Force Battalions in the field overseas. Moreover, though they 
would be the last to notice it, all publicity was now on the theatres of war, and 
the Guides were for the time being “out of the limelight.” Nevertheless, their 
traditions and efficiency went with the drafts they sent to the other units in the 
field, and as will be seen in due course they have cause to be proud indeed of 
their men and their record from 1914 to 1919. 

The first to be called on for active service were the officers, particularly 
those on Jeave or furlough in the United Kingdom. Thus Major Buist, M.V.O.,* 
Captains Clementi and Trail, and Lieutenant Murray were detained in England 
for duty, and all went to France, Captain Trail being killed there while serving 
with the Jodhpur Lancers. Major Boglet was called to Simla to take up an 

* Major Buist was actually staying with friends in Germany at the outbreak of war. 
+ Major Bogle later went to Egypt with Indian States’ Forces. 


82 Guides Officers in the First World War 

appointment, and Captain McLeod went to France with the Lahore Division, 
while Lieutenant Blacker, who was away in Yarkand when war broke out. 
intending to walk over the Pamirs to Constantinople, made his way home by 
way of Russia and Finland, and on arrival in England was posted to the Royal 
Flying Corps. 

Other calls also were speedily made upon the Corps. Captain H. Campbell. 
M.V.O., was summoned to Patiala to do duty with the States Forces 
proceeding overseas. Captain Wylly, V.C., had barely rejoined from the Staff 
College at Quetta when he left again to take up the appointment of Staff 
Captain, 5th Cavalry Brigade, in France; and Captain Browne,* Lieutenant 
Hankin, Jemadar Natha Khan and forty-eight rank and file left as a reinforce- 
ment. Lieutenant Hankin was later attached to the Royal Flying Corps and 
was shot down in combat with two enemy planes, remaining for two and a 
half years a prisoner in Germany. 

On 16th January 1915, Lieutenant-Colonel Eliott-Lockhart, D.S.O., was 
appointed to command the 59th Scinde Rifles, F.F., and left to join his new 
unit in France, where he was killed in action within two months of sailing 
from India. 

In January 1915, the first large draft of the Guides, 211, with four 
J.C.Os., under Captain P. D. A. Banks, was sent overseas. It went to France 
as a reinforcement to Wilde’s Rifles (4th Battalion F.F. Rifles). 

On the day after the arrival of the Guides the Battalion moved forward 
to Vieille Chapelle and the Richebourg St. Vaast section of the front line and 
relieved the 2nd/3rd Gurkhas in the Rue du Bois. 

Wilde’s Rifles remained in these parts during February, but in the early 
days of March was moved about a good deal in preparation for the battle of 
Neuve Chapelle,t in which the main attack was to be carried out by the 8th 
(British) and Meerut Divisions supported by the 7th (British) and Lahore 
Divisions respectively. ““During the battle,” writes Sir James Willcocks, “I had 
ridden into the village of Richebourg St. Vaast, and came on a company of my 
old friends the Guides, just arrived as a reinforcement from India. The village 
was at the time being shelled, but our meeting was all the more opportune. I 
spoke to the men and had a handshake with the Indian officers. One of the 
sepoys, who had once served as my orderly in the Peshawar Division, said as I 
rode down the ranks ‘General Sahib, if you are in need of an orderly I am with 
you, but I must just see one pukka larai (real fight) first, then I am ready to 

The role of the Ferozepore Brigade was to consolidate any success gained 
by the leading brigades. On 14th March Wilde’s Rifles took over a section of 
- * Killed in France with the 15th Lancers. Se Anak ee 

+ See later in this chapter for Colonel Blacker’s description of this battle. 

t With the Indian Corps in France, by General Sir J. Willcocks, G.C.M.G., K.C.B.. 
K.C.S.I., D.S.O., LL.D. 

The First World War—The Guides Company with Wilde's Rifles 83 

the front line on the edge of the Bois du Biez, and here they remained under 
heavy shell fire until the 22nd. 

It will be remembered that the battle of Neuve Chapelle was the first 
offensive action undertaken by the Allied Forces in France since the above- 
mentioned battle of the Marne. It was a blood-bath and served only to 
show how ineffective the offensive weapons and tactics of those days were 
against entrenched positions protected by barbed wire and well supported 
by artillery. 

In the Bois du Biez the Guides suffered their first serious casualties, two 
men being killed and eleven wounded, including Subadar Afzal, who was very 
severely hit in the thigh by a large fragment of shell but remained on duty till 
he was able to hand over command of his platoon to his successor. 

After a brief rest, orders were received on the 23rd April for the Lahore 
Division to hold itself in readiness to move to the north into the line about four 
miles north-west of Ypres. It arrived at noon on the 25th, the men footsore and 
tired after plodding in heavy rain for about thirty miles over pavé roads.* The 
Germans had made their first gast attack three days previously and portions 
of the Allied line had given way, so that all fresh units as they came up from 
the south had to be put straight into the firing line, unprotected as they were 
by any form of respirator. 

The Lahore Division had now come under the orders of the Second Army, 
by whom an attack was ordered for the afternoon of the 26th, and at 5.30 a.m. 
on this day the Ferozepore Brigade moved by way of Vlamertinghe to St. Jean. 
They came, en route, under heavy shell fire which caused many casualties. The 
position of the assembly for the attack was reached at 1.15 p.m. and was four 
hundred yards from La Bricque, a village three-quarters of a mile north of 
Ypres. Only a very short time was available for giving hurried instructions to 
the commanders and for the issue of tools and bombs, and the Battalion was 
then formed up in column of platoons, the Guides Company being on the right 
of the front line. 

The ground to be advanced over was devoid of all cover and was com- 
pletely commanded from the enemy trenches on the Grafenstafel ridge, 1.500 
yards in front, while the British artillery support was practically negligible. 

During the 750 yards of the advance the casualties were considerable, but 
after crossing the ridge just north of the road the attack was met by a perfect 
hail of rifle, machine-gun and gas-shell fire, and the losses rapidly mounted. 
The advance, however, continued to within a few yards of the German line, the 

* i.e. cobblestones. 

+ The use of asphyxiating gas released with the wind or incorporated in shells 
was started by the Germans in 1915 to break up the stalemate of trench warfare. It was 
never used in the Second World War. 

84 The First World War—The Guides Company with Wilde's Rifles 

Guides Company getting so close to it that several men, including Captain 
Banks, who was at the head of his men, were killed by German hand grenades. 
Finally, the attack was checked by the sudden discharge of phosgene and 
chlorine gases, carried obliquely across the front from left to right and causing 
many casualties. Some of the men actually reached the German trenches, where 
the Connaught Rangers and men of the 47th Sikhs and Wilde’s Rifles were inter- 
mingled. Among these were some of the Yusafzais and Sikhs of the Guides 
Company, of whom Havildar (later Subadar) Sirdar Khan and reservist (later 
Colour-Havildar) Shamatai of Toru particularly distinguished themselves, the 
latter, an old soldier of fine character and massive physique, being responsible 
for bringing in Captain Fellowes of the 47th Sikhs, who was lying wounded 
under the German parapet. 

The commander of the Indian Army Corps makes special mention of the 
Guides Company in the following words: “Here, too, fell Captain P. d’A. Banks 
of the Guides, attached Wilde’s Rifles, an officer of particular and varied 
attainments, and one who was marked out for distinction. His orderly, not- 
withstanding a severe wound he had received, carried Banks through a storm 
of bullets until he fell from overstrain; but some mark of his officer he must 
retain, and being unable to do more, he took off his accoutrements and brought 
them back.”* The casualties suffered by the Guides Company in this action 
amounted to 13 killed, 2 missing and 54 wounded. 

Lieutenant L. V. S. Blacker of the Guides now joined Wilde’s Rifles and 
took over the command of the Guides Company and also, for a time, of the 
Battalion, which had lost, in this action, seven British and ten Indian officers 
killed and wounded. Wilde’s Rifles remained two days longer in the open in 
front of the enemy line, heavily shelled and without blankets, and was then with- 
drawn and sent to the rear, meeting while on the southward march to Estaires 
and St. Quentin, a draft of the Guides under Subadar Bahadur Khan. The new 
draft, which now brought men from three more Guides Companies, and the 
battered remains of the Regiment it was to reinforce came suddenly upon one 
another at a turning ina country Jane. 

Wilde’s Rifles, which now consisted of men from six different battalions, 
was reorganized, and while the Guides Company no longer existed henceforth 
as a separate unit, the bulk of it remained in No. 3 Company. 

During the attack on the 9th May on Aubers Ridge in the battle of 
Festubert, Wilde’s Rifles remained in support in the old German trench, 
captured in March, immediately in the rear of the village of Neuve Chapelle; 
but No. 3 Company was detailed to support the 4th Suffolk Regiment and the 
40th Pathans, and during the night was brought up into the front line to repel 
a German counter-attack. The shelling was heavy and casualties considerable. 
attacks being continually made and bloodily repulsed. Wilde’s Rifles remained 

* With the Indian Corps in France, page 271. 

The First World War—The Guides Company with Wilde’s Rifles 85 

in trenches in front till they were sent back to billets at Riez Bailleul. This 
respite only lasted a brief twenty-four hours, however, since on the 31st May the 
Battalion was ordered up to take over a new section of the line in the Rue du 
Bois. There were no trenches here, only breastworks. The enemy were between 
seventy and 150 yards distant, and the intervening no-man’s-land was piled up 
with corpses, mostly of Highlanders and Gurkhas, left from the recent attacks, 
the Riviére des Layes being choked with them. Here the first four days of June 
were passed. 

In this sector the men of the Guides held a small post, within forty yards of 
the enemy’s parapet, known as the “Pope’s Nose.” It was an object of special 
attention to the German gunners, and here Havildars Mangtu and Ditta greatly 
distinguished themselves by the stubbornness of their defence. The position was 
three times captured and recaptured, being finally handed over intact to the 
Ist/4th Gurkhas on the 29th June 1915. 

During June the Guides had suffered some twenty casualties, and in the 
next few weeks Captain Blacker and six Indian other ranks were wounded. 

In September Wilde’s Rifles were back again in the Rue du Bois, where 
between the 22nd and 25th feint attacks were made in order to assist the Meerut 
Division in a subsidiary attack made by it in connection with the battle of Loos. 
In these operations the Guides had five men killed, twelve wounded (one for the 
third time) and a few men gassed. 

After forty-two consecutive days in the line the Battalion went back to rest 
on the 4th October. On returning to the line it was engaged in another feint 
attack, to which the German retaliation was sharp and effective, causing some 
twenty casualties among the Guides, including four killed. This practically 
concluded the active participation of Wilde’s Rifles in the operations in the 
Western Theatre, as it was now decided to withdraw the Indian Corps from 

However, before leaving the narrative of the exploits of drafts of the Guides 
sent to France in the early days of the First World War, the following notes by 
Colonel Blacker of his experiences, and in particular of the conditions under 
which our forces fought during that terrible campaign of 1914-15, are of unique 

Colonel Blacker’s Account of his Experiences in the Battle of 
Neuve Chapelle 

“T was in Yarkand when the Kaiser war broke out, so hurried across Russia 
to get to France. After a tremendous party in Kashgar as a guest of the 4th 
Orenburg Cossacks, I joined up with the machine-gun company of the 3rd 
Turkistan Rifles. This was a four-battalion regiment whose light Maxim guns 
on Sokolov mountings were organized into a sixteen-gun company. The excel- 

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The First World War—Colonel Blacker’s Account 87 

lence of their armament and equipment was very marked. (Our forces in France 
in 1914 had only two old and heavy Maxim guns per battalion, and no machine- 
gun companies at all.) Moreover, the Russians had high-velocity ammunition 
with pointed bullets, which did not reach the Army of India until years later. 
The divisional artillery had fifty-four guns, all of which could fire H.E. shell 
(of which they seemed to have plenty), whereas the British 18-pounder was the 
only field gun in Europe which could not fire H.E. In fact, it had hardly any 
ammunition at all. The French called it caustically, ‘L’artillerie de deux coups 
par piece’ (the artillery with two rounds per gun). 

“When we (in the Lahore Division) suffered very dreadful casualties in the 
second battle of Ypres on 15th April (described above), I do not remember 
having any supporting fire from British artillery. However, I saw a couple of 
field batteries of the Belgian Army putting over some stuff for us, and have a 
vivid mental picture of the piles of brass cases alongside the guns, a sight not 
seen in British batteries until well on in 1916. 

“For the first few months of 1915 I was in the Royal Flying Corps and saw 
little of the Indian Corps except for paying a quick visit in February. In the 
battles of Hill 60 and St. Eloi we flew for medium and heavy artillery, so had 
nothing to do with Indian gunners and the mountain batteries engaged there 
with British divisions. 

“Neuve Chapelle however, was as it turned out, very much an Indian 
Corps battle. It was planned with the notion of capturing Aubers Ridge, which 
commanded the low ground held by the Indian Corps, so as to give us ‘observa- 
tion.” Lance-Corporal (‘Gefreiter’) Adolf Schickelgruber* was in Aubers village 
with a Bavarian reserve regiment. I well remember, on being ‘briefed’ by ‘Stuffy’ 
Dowdingt on the evening before, being told that we were on no account to go 
beyond Lille next day. He might equally well have told us to mark time on the 
left bank of the Rhine. The battle was to be fought by the Indian Corps on the 
right, under Sir James Willcocks, and by the IV Corps on their left. The dividing 
line was in Neuve Chapelle village. The whole battle was commanded by Sir 
D. Haig as G.O.C. First Army. He borrowed guns and ammunition from here, 
there and everywhere, and a cavalry brigade to exploit the hoped-for break- 
through. The guns were a very scratch lot, many of them being black-powder 
shooters. For instance, the borrowed Territorial medium batteries had only 
worn-out 4.7’s, which often could not spin their black-powder shells because 
their rifling had expired. Later, the 59th (6th Royal Battalion Frontier Force 
Rifles) suffered considerable casualties from this, just at the moment when they 
had to beat off a German counter-attack. This ‘scratch’ lot of guns, fired for (I 
think) ninety minutes, making a thick bank of smoke, but not doing much real 
harm. My aircraft was assigned to doing what is nowadays called a ‘tactical 

* Later known as Adolf Hitler. . 
+ Later Marshal of the R.A.F. Lord Dowding. 

88 The First World War—Colonel Blacker’s Account 

patrol,’ and was to fly over behind the German front and to report any move- 
ment of their reserves. A second task was to look out for any of our medium 
or heavy shells bursting wide of obvious targets and to put them on to the correct 
ones by means of our very rudimentary spark wireless. 

“We flew over low, about 4,000 feet, because our 80-h.p. engine could not 
1aise our ‘mechanical cow’ any higher. I went over Aubers and neighbouring 
enemy-held localities at this height, and it was just right to catch all the small- 
arms fire which was going. So it was that numerous holes appeared in both 
wings from machine guns, rifles and the unpleasant double 77-mm. shell. These, 
in fact, were too much for our poor little engine, which in due course stopped. 
This was about 3,000 or 4,000 yards behind ‘Jerry’s’ front trenches, and 
4,000 feet of height very rapidly became much less. I found myself pointing 
towards the precise junction between the 8th Division (of the IV Corps) and 7th 
Meerut Division of the Indian Corps. The wind at this height was about 40 
m.p.h. from the west, so we had no hope of reaching our own forward troops, 
and therefore made a quick decision to crash land in the undergrowth of the 
Bois du Biez and to hide in it until the Meerut boys came through. I remember 
thinking that as I was wearing the pre-war Guides serge of a grey-green, with 
silver buttons, I might with luck be mistaken for a stray Bavarian light dragoon. 
However, during our rather rapid descent the engine almost miraculously re- 
started itself. Then it stopped again, and again restarted. Then again, for a 
third time, it started, which one could only ascribe to supernatural agency or 
to a fairy godmother. These bouts just lifted us fifty feet over the heads of the 
German infantry, and through the white smoke of our own shrapnel, which was 
still bursting in front of the 8th Division. To our right the German soldiery were 
crowding four deep in their front trench to get away from our shrapnel, and 
since in those days there were no steel helmets, we could see their saucer blue 
eyes and red cap bands. 

“The aeroplane, or rather its tattered remains (it had 300 holes!) eventu- 
ally put me down in front of the guns of the Chestnut Troop, Royal Horse 
Artillery, commanded by ‘Wattie’ Winter,* who was soon giving us cocoa in 
his headquarters shelter. A few minutes later a bombardier looked in to say, 
‘Sir, there’s an aeroplane down in the next field.’ So we hurried across several 
hundred yards, just behind the attacking infantry of the Meerut Division, to 
find a B.E. of our own flight which had received a direct hit from a shell and 
was deep in the soft ground. Soon an ambulance appeared to take away the 
two bodies, and as we looked about us there was a complete Infantry Brigade 
of British regular troops, all sitting down by the side of the road and obviously 
quite ‘flummoxed’ to know what was happening. The officers of a battalion of 
Scots Guards and of the Border Regiment asked us, so I told them what I had 
seen. They had no orders, and I believe got none all day. 

* Later G.S.O.1 to General Herdon in Waziristan. 

The First World War—Colonel Blacker's Account 89 

“Our artillery ammunition then, for the most part, gave out. The 8th 
Division had made no progress, being stopped by a concreted machine-gun 
post in the Moulin de Pietre, but the Meerut Division had done wonders. On 
the left the 39th Garhwal Rifles, on the right the 59th, led the advance, the 
latter commanded by Percy Eliott-Lockhart, who was killed during their attack. 
The advance penetrated beyond Neuve Chapelle village and the vital strong- 
point of ‘Port Arthur.’ The 59th (and the Garhwalis) got through to the Bois 
du Biez in great style, but with shocking casualties. In fact, the 59th must have 
got very near to Lance-Corporal Adolf Schickelgruber at his Regimental head- 
quarters in Aubers village, on the top of the ridge. I did not see what the 58th 
(Sth Battalion 13th Frontier Force Rifles) had been doing, but I know they also 
took a good slice of ground. The 57th (with the Guides Company) were in corps 
reserve that day. 

“That evening, I was sent to Merville, where Trenchard* and Sir D. Haig 
were, to report what I had seen. I was quite horrified to find that Haig had been 
back at Merville all the time and had no idea what was happening in the battle. 
All telephone cables had been cut by fire, and no runner could expect to survive. 
Therefore, no use whatever (so far as I am aware) had been made of that British 
Infantry Brigade with which we conversed, or of a Cavalry Brigade which was 
there. Had they been thrown into the attack when the 59th had got well forward, 
there might have been no limit to the results. Had the Army Commander him- 
self been forward in one of the still fairly intact cottages at Rouge Croix or 
Croix Barbée, on the La Bassée road, he could have seen the battle with the 
naked eye (as the morning was clear) and controlled his reserves by means of 
runners, cyclists or gallopers. He remained miles back and continued this 
method of command also during the May battles for Aubers Ridge. In point of 
stark fact, however, the 7th Meerut Division achieved most creditable success. 
They and troops of the Lahore Division captured (and held) the only bit of 
territory which we took from the enemy during the year the Indian (Infantry) 
Corps functioned in France. 

“The horror that I experienced over those two unused brigades in the battle 
made me feel that I was not helping on with the war in the Royal Flying Corps, 
especially in its ridiculous stick-and-string aircraft, so I determined to betake 
myself to the 57th, where our Guides Company now was.” 

The Guides in Operations on the North-West Frontier, 1915-16 
We have seen above the part played by men of the Guides Infantry in the 
early stages of the First World War when feeding other Frontier Force 

Battalions in the field overseas with reinforcements. 
For the next two years the Battalion remained on the North-West Frontier 

*The late Marshal of the R.A.F. Lord Trenchard. 

90 The First World War—The Guides in Frontier Operations, 1915-16 

before being called on itself to go overseas to take part in the Mesopotamian 
campaign. During this period the tribes were far from quiet, and a short account 
must be given of the Battalion’s activities in dealing with them. 

Moreover, as the war effort in the First World War increased, the Guides 
Infantry were called on to expand, and two more Battalions were raised at 
Mardan—the 2nd Battalion in January 1917, and the 3rd Battalion nine 
months later. The stories of these two Battalions and the permanent retention 
of the 2nd Battalion as the Training Battalion of the Frontier Force Regiment, 
follow in later chapters, but first let us return to the 1st Battalion and its doings 
in 1915 and 1916. 

In April 1915, trouble once more arose in Mohmand country, fomented 
by a fanatical mullah, and the Khyber Moveable Column was ordered out to 
Shabkadr. The Guides made a rapid forced march from Mardan to join it, but 
the Mohmands dispersed and the Battalion returned to Mardan. 

In August 1915, however, further trouble arose in Buner, and a lashkar 
gathered including a number of Hindustani Fanatics. A column under Major 
A. H. Buist, M.V.O., consisting of 430 Guides Infantry (three companies), with 
cavalry, reached Rustam on 16th August to find a huge gathering with twenty- 
five standards. In the meantime General Crocker arrived, took command and 
decided to attack with the three companies, sending the cavalry on both flanks. 
As the attack went in, a field battery of artillery opened covering fire. The 
enemy fled, but a number of Ghazis hid in the nullahs and undergrowth and 
made suicide assaults on individuals at a few yards’ distance. Eighteen of these 
Ghazis were killed for the loss of four men, but Lieutenant Macnamara and his 
orderly were killed by a rush of seven Ghazis from a nullah—a tragic loss 
of a fine officer. The Ghazis were all killed, and the Record remarks that a 
blanket would have covered Macnamara, his dog, his orderly and the seven 
fanatics. Macnamara’s revolver had two fired cartridges. Lieutenant Mac- 
namara’s son followed him into the Guides Infantry and attained distinction* 
in the Second World War. 

The column remained in the Rustam area till mid-September, an operation 
to destroy two villages being very successfully carried out on the 30th and 31st 

The Guides received most appreciative messages from the Divisional 
Commander after these operations, and indeed they deserved them. 

In October 1915, the Battalion took part in an operation by the 3rd 
Brigade from Peshawar against a Mohmand lashkar near Shabkadr. They were 
given the task of taking an eminence known as Tower Hill, and during the 
advance were ambushed from a nullah, losing a J.C.O. and six men killed and 
Major Battye and twelve rank and file wounded. Major Battye was, in fact, 
severely wounded in the stomach, but let no one know till he collapsed. He 

* Brigadier P. R. Macnamara, D.S.O. — 

The Guides in the First World War 91 

was awarded the D.S.O., and in addition, for gallantry on this day, Subadar- 
Major Alam Khan was promoted to the first-class of the I.O.M. and two other 
ranks were awarded the I.D.S.M. 

The Mohmands continued to give trouble (thinking that the Government 
had sent all its forces to the war), and it was decided towards the end of 1916, 

to blockade them along their frontier from Abazai to Michni with a chain of 
blockhouses connected with barbed wire. 

On 26th October 1916, the Guides Infantry, with a machine-gun troop of 
Guides Cavalry, a wing of the 81st Pioneers and the 24th Mountain Battery, 
moved secretly to take up a covering position to enable the work of construction 
to commence. The Mohmands were taken completely by surprise, and beyond 
some sniping there was no interference till a lashkar collected four weeks later. 

This was dealt with by artillery and air bombardment, and the Guides’ covering 
screen was not involved. 

Introduction of the Platoon Organization 

In November 1916, the Platoon organization was introduced into the 
Guides Infantry, the whole Indian Army being now organized on this system 
instead of the old “double companies.” The new organization replaced the four 
double companies* with four companies, each of four platoons. Each platoon 
was under a J.C.O. and the Company Commander was a British officer. As 
will be seen in later chapters, this basic organization was varied during the next 
thirty years as the needs of more modern firepower dictated. At this time the 
distribution of classes under the platoon organization in the Guides Infantry 
was as follows: 

“A” Company: two platoons Dogras and two platoons Yusafzais and 
Riverine Akora Khattaks; 

“B” Company: two platoons P.Ms. and Cis-Indus Khattaks and two 
platoons Gurkhas; 

“C” Company: two platoons P.Ms., one platoon Dogras and one 
platoon Sikhs; 

“1D” Company: two platoons Trans-Indus Khattaks and two platoons 

Incidentally, the above change in the Indian Army brought a slight 
linguistic confusion in its train, since the word “platoon” was really none other 
than the original of the Urdu word “paltan” (battalion), both indeed being 
derived from the French “peloton” (body of troops). 

* A double company was two companies, each about 100 strong under a J.C.0.; 
the whole under a British officer. 

92 The Guides in the First World War—Mesopotamia, 1917-18 

The Guides in Mesopotamia, 1917-18 

Three months after the construction of the Mohmand Blockade Line, the 
lst Guides were mobilized and sent on service overseas to Mesopotamia. 
It was the first time in their history that they had gone overseas, and the 
Battalion embarked at Karachi on the 27th February 1917. The following 
officers accompanied: 

Lieutenant-Colonel A. H. Buist, M.V.O. 
Major I. U. Battye, D.S.O. 

Captain D. Sandeman 

Captain C. E. T. Erskine 

Captain J. V. C. Anderson 
Lieutenant H. H. Fagnani 
Lieutenant C. Doncaster 

Lieutenant J. C. Coates 

Lieutenant H. Grose-Hodge 
Lieutenant E. A. Cave-Penny 
Second-Lieutenant W. R. P. Spurway. 

The Depot was left under Lieutenant P. Grant.* 

When the Battalion arrived in Basra our forces were nearing Baghdad in 
their campaign against the Turks,f and there was disappointment that the 
Battalion was not sent to the front immediately but assigned to the line of 
communication at Azizieh, where however it carried out intensive training. 

Early in May it moved to Samara and joined the 21st Brigade of the 7th 
Meerut Division, which was to be its formation for the rest of the First World 

The Battalion’s first contact with the Turks was not till September 1917, 
when the enemy made a demonstration against the Battalion’s position, but no 
fighting occurred. 

On the Ist November the 7th Division began an advance on Tekrit, which 
was occupied on the 6th, but without the Guides being involved in the fighting. 
Lieutenant Roseveare, sad to relate, was killed while serving with the 59th 
Scinde Rifles, Frontier Force, at this time. 

Early in December the 3rd and 7th Indian Divisions were moved to 
Palestine. The war situation that demanded this strategic transfer arose from 
the need to reinforce the Allied front in France with British divisions from 
Palestine and is described in Chapter VI. 

En route to the Palestine front the Battalion met the Guides Cavalry at 
Hinaidi. They had just arrived from India and a short reunion was possible. 

* Twenty years later killed in Waziristan while commanding the Battalion (see 
page 191). 

+ For the war situation at this time and the events leading up to it in Mesopotamia, 
see Chapter VI. 

The Guides in the First World War—Palestine, 1918 93 

On arrival in Egypt the Battalion spent two and a half months training at 
Moascar and finally reached the front line at Jelil in the coastal sector north of 
Jaffa at the end of March 1918. Here the 7th Division formed part of XXI 
Corps with the 3rd Indian Division and the 54th and 75th British Divisions. 
which were holding the left flank of General Allenby’s army in Palestine.* 

Palestine, 1918 

The trench system here consisted of a chain of strong-points connected 
by communication trenches where the configuration of the ground did not 
allow of a covered approach. When the Battalion took over, the average 
width of no-man’s-land was 2,500-5,000 yards of open rolling downs without 
any cover. 

For two months there was only static warfare with patrol activity, but at 
the end of May the line was pushed up to within 600-800 yards of the Turkish 
position. At this time the Battalion lost a company which, with Captain 
Fagnani, Lieutenant Wainwright and two J.C.Os., was transferred complete to 
form the nucleus of the 3rd/151st Infantry. This company later received a 
most eulogistic report for its work in Palestine and Waziristan from the com- 
mander of that Battalion. 

As a result of the move forward, the line now held by the 7th Division 
was overlooked by the enemy from a ridge held in strength and from which 
all the Battalion’s movements could be observed by day. It was therefore 
decided to capture this ridge, and the Ist Guides Infantry and 2nd Black Watch 
were detailed for the operation. 

The attack was made at 3.30 a.m. on the 8th June behind a creeping 
barrage, “D” Company leading, followed by “A” with “C” in reserve. It was 
completely successful, the ridge being consolidated and held against an enemy 
counter-attack at 6.40 a.m. Tragically, however, both Captain Doncaster and 
Captain Anderson, the Company Commanders of “A” and “D” Companies, 
to whose gallantry and good leadership the success was due, were killed during 
the attacks, and Lieutenant Cave-Penny, the remaining Company Commander, 
was killed during the Turkish counter-attack. Heavy fighting continued for three 
days, during which the depleted companies repulsed all enemy attacks but 
suffered severely from shelling. On the 11th June the Battalion was relieved by 
the Ist/8th Gurkhas and withdrawn into reserve. In the three days’ fighting it 
had lost 3 officers and 33 rank and file killed, and 1 officer, 6 J.C.Os. and 147 
rank and file wounded, and 19 men were reported missing. The casualties 
amounted to forty per cent. of the men engaged. 

Well-deserved congratulatory messages were received from the Divisional 
and Corps Commanders, and Captain C. E. T. Erskine and Lieutenant J. C. 

“For further details of the situation of General Allenby’s army see pages 117-120. 

94 The Guides in the First World War—The Final Battle in Palestine 

Coates were awarded Military Crosses. In addition, Subadar-Major Man Bir 
received the I.O.M. and Subadar Saida Khan and three rank and file the 

The summer passed with no further activity beyond that of normal static 
warfare, though one well-executed raid on two enemy strong-points was note- 
worthy. It was carried out on the 13th July by Lieutenant C. A. Winton and 
twenty Gurkha volunteers. They cleared the two strong-points, killing fifteen 
and capturing fifteen Turks, and returned across 150 yards of no-man’s-land in 
the space of twelve minutes. Only three Guides were wounded, and the Gurkhas 
used their kukris to great effect, the head of one Turk leaping from his shoulders 
just as he was attacking Lieutenant Winton! 

The latter received a Military Cross, and a havildar the I.D.S.M. 

The Final Offensive in Palestine 

The preparations that were now being made for the final blow, on the 
19th September 1918, that knocked Turkey out of the First World War, are 
described in Chapter VI. For this, the Ist Guides were attached to the 19th 
Brigade, which comprised the main 7th Division column of attack on a 400-yard 
front near Tabsor. The Battalion formed up for the assault behind the Seaforth 
Highlanders in four lines of platoons at fifty yards’ interval and distance. The 
advance began at 4.25 a.m. behind a shattering barrage; and on the Seaforths 
reaching their first objectives the 1st Guides went through, meeting practically 
no opposition other than shelling, and occupied their own objectives. The ad- 
vance continued to the main El Tireh position, which was cleared without much 
opposition, the whole Turkish Army being taken completely by surprise. The 
break-through was complete, and at 9.30 a.m. the Desert Mounted Corps 
passed through on the left, while naval bombardment and air attack of the 
Turkish back areas continued. 

Early on the 20th the advance was resumed, now eastward into the Judean 
hills with the 1st Guides (once again with the 21st Brigade) leading. The day 
was hot, the men heavily laden, the hills stony. steep and waterless. At 5.30 
p.m. they were held up by enemy fire from a defended village, Beit Lid, which 
was defended by Turks with fourteen machine guns. The 19th Brigade, who 
were now in the van, suffered many casualties and the men of other units of the 
two Brigades were very exhausted, but Colonel Buist volunteered to outflank 
the enemy position. This meant a long and arduous climb by men already 
fagged, but they succeeded. It was a fine effort at the cost of only twenty 
casualties, and enabled the Guides to close with the enemy, who bolted forth- 
with. The Brigade bivouacked that night behind an outpost line. 

On the 21st September the advance continued along the Nablus—Tulkeram 
road to Messudie, where animals were watered for the first time for forty-eight 

The Guides in Syria and Egypt, 1919-20 95 

The fighting was now over. The Battalion’s casualties were Lieutenant 
Arnott and three rank and file killed; Colonel Buist slightly wounded, and 

Captain Hodgins, Lieutenant Lee, one J.C.O. and fifty-nine men wounded. 
Three were missing. 

Syria and Egypt, 1919-20 

The 7th Division now marched northwards via the coast road to Beirut 
and Tripoli. The Turkish Army had been completely broken and the roads 
behind its front were littered with destroyed transport, dead horses and wreck- 
age—all the result of air attack. The 2lst Brigade reached Beirut on 10th 
October and Tripoli on the 30th, and the armistice with Turkey was declared 
next day. The Battalion had covered 270 miles in twenty-two marching days. 

It now remained in Syria till November 1919, providing guard duties, and 
working parties for supply and ordnance dumps, improving roads and doing 
such training as was possible. Finally, after spending a fortnight in Beirut it 
embarked for Port Said on 14th December. 

At this time Egypt was seething with unrest, which had broken out in 
1919, and on New Year’s Day 1920 the Ist Guides were sent to Tantah to the 
10th Division in an internal-security role. After spending three uneventful 
months distributed in towns in that area the Battalion was moved to Mex, near 
Alexandria, on the 19th March with one company detached at Famagusta in 
Cyprus. At Mex the Battalion provided guards over the main Base Ammunition 
Depot (a heavy duty), while the Cyprus company guarded Russian refugees 
till it rejoined the Battalion at Mex in November. 

During the winter of 1919-20 a number of awards to Indian ranks were 
published which included Jangi Inams of Rs. 600 annually to Subadar-Major 
Man Bir and Subadar Afzal and twenty-five Meritorious Service Medals. 

In December 1920, the time came at last for the Ist Guides to return to 
India, but a final incident in November at Mex must first be recorded in which 
courage and presence of mind were shown by a J.C.O. and some men. 

A truck-load of Very lights caught fire near an ammunition dump where 
there were 20,000 tons of explosives, and the working party of another unit 
who were unloading the truck all fled. Subadar Mohammed Khan, seeing the 
danger, called up the guard of the Guides, who ran to the spot and at great 
risk managed to extinguish the fire. 

Return to India and Resettlement 

The Battalion embarked at Suez on 9th December 1920, in the Franz 
Ferdinand—the same steamer that had brought it to Basra four years before 
—and reached Karachi on the 19th. Colonel! Buist received letters from both 
Lord Allenby in Egypt and Lord Rawlinson in India congratulating the 
Battalion on the services it had performed, and the latter welcoming it back to 
its own country. 

96 The Guides Return to India, 1920 

On arrival in Mardan the Depot was absorbed and the Battalion was 
visited by Lord Rawlinson, the Commander-in-Chief, who complimented the 
men on their bearing and turn-out. 

In the new year demobilization and leave for those returned from over- 
seas commenced, and Lieutenant-Colonel Buist himself, the last Commandant 
of the Corps of Guides, who had commanded the Ist Guides throughout its 
service in the First World War, decided to retire on pension. He was indeed 
the only officer who left India with the Battalion and returned with it. The 
Battalion Record says: “He had served uninterruptedly with the Battalion 
except for very brief periods, and was in command in every action in the Great 
War in which the Battalion took part—a fine sportsman and good comrade...” 
He was succeeded for six months by Lieutenant-Colonel Hector Campbell, 
D.S.O., M.V.O., who then went to command the 2nd Guides, then still in 
Egypt and later to be reconstituted as the Training Battalion of the Frontier 
Force Regiment.* In August Lieutenant-Colonel I. U. Battye, D.S.O., assumed 

Finally, it remains in this chapter to record two events. First, the introduc- 
tion of the Regimental System, into which the British-Indian Army was 
reorganized after the First World War, and second, the departure from the 
Guides, as a result of the reorganization, of the Gurkhas. 

The former event, whereby the Ist Guides became the 5th Battalion of 
the Frontier Force Regiment, and the 2nd Guides the Training Battalion of the 
Regiment, is dealt with in Chapter X. Of the latter it must be said that the 
loss of the Gurkhas was deeply felt. Up to this time the Guides were the only 
regular battalion in the Indian Army (other than Gurkha Regiments) to have 
Gurkhas permanently in their ranks. They were liked and respected by all 
ranks and had proved themselves to be second to none as fighters. 

* See Chapter X: “The Regimental Centre.” 


(Incorporating the Story of the 28th Frontier Force Brigade) 

The 28th F.F. Brigade—The Suez Canal, 1914-15—Aden, 1915—Mesopotamia, 1914-15— 
ee ae a ue ee Battle - Dujailah and the Fall of Kut—The 
ance to Bagh and the Conquest of Mesopotamia, 1917—The Ca f 
Baghdad—Operations North of Baghdad in 1917—Palestine, 1918. ee 

The 28th Frontier Force Brigade 

WHEN they went overseas on active service in the First World War, the above 
two Battalions of the Regiment (then still called the 51st and 53rd Sikhs) joined 
the 28th Frontier Force Brigade. Although other battalions joined and left the 
Brigade at various times during the war, these two, together with the 56th 
Rifles, Frontier Force (later the 2nd Battalion Frontier Force Rifles), remained 
with it throughout. They served in the war theatres of Egypt, Aden, Meso- 
potamia and Palestine from November 1914, till the final rout and destruction 
of the Turco-German Armies under Liman von Sanders, in Palestine in 
September-October 1918. 

The clearest and most coherent way of recording the deeds of these two 
Battalions, therefore, in the First World War is to tell the story primarily of the 
28th Frontier Force Brigade and give the roles and activities of the Battalions 
individually as and when the occasion demands. That, then, is how the reader 
will find the narrative set out below. He will find it no less inspiring than either 
the stories of earlier campaigns that are recorded above or of those of the 
Second World War that follow later. How highly His Majesty the King and his 
Government rated the achievements of these two Battalions may be estimated 
from the fact that the 51st was rewarded by being designated “Prince of Wales’s 
Own,” and the 53rd (at a later date) was given the title of “Royal Battalion.” 

The circumstances under which the First World War burst on Europe 
and the civilized world have been outlined in Chapter V, together with a 
description of the mobilization and despatch to France in September 1914, of 
the Indian Corps, consisting of the Meerut and Lahore Divisions. This was 
called Indian Expeditionary Force “A,” or in short, I-E.F.A. 

In addition, India sent forces to other overseas destinations to deal with 
enemy threats or centres of resistance, and with LE.F. “F” went the 51st and 
53rd Sikhs. This force was of the strength of a Division of three Brigades—the 

H 97 

98 The SIst and 53rd in the First World War—The 28th F.F. Brigade 

28th, 29th and 30th—the 28th Brigade being composed entirely of Frontier 
Force Battalions, i.e., the above two Battalions of the Regiment, the Ist 
Battalion Sth Gurkhas, Frontier Force, and the 56th Rifles, Frontier Force. The 
Brigade was under the command of Major-General Sir George Younghusband, 
an ex-Commandant of the Guides. 

Although believed to have been, at Lord Kitchener’s special request, 
originally destined for France, the task of LE.F. “F” was in the first instance 
to safeguard the Suez Canal area, because that waterway was of vital impor- 
tance to the Allies, not only as the overseas line of communication of the Indian 
Corps and other forces being mobilized from Australia and New Zealand, but 
as a general supply route from the East for the Allies. In this connection it will 
be remembered that while the original war-makers were Germany and Austria 
(Italy remained out of the alliance), it was not long before German influence 
(in the form of the cruisers Goeben and Breslau at Istanbul) brought the Turkish 
Empire in on her side, thus rendering the whole of the Near East up to the 
Canal itself hostile to us, or potentially so. 

Moreover, up to this time the Khilafate was vested in the Sultan of Turkey, 
who was regarded as the religious head of Moslems the world over. This 
caused no small embarrassment to the Government of India, nearly half of 
whose fighting men belonged to the Moslem faith. It is as well, therefore, that 
this fact should be kept in mind when reading the story of the Regiment in the 
First World War, and noting the loyalty and devotion that practically all the 
Moslem soldiers of the Regiment, and indeed of the Indian Army, showed 
to their leaders and the cause of freedom throughout the war. Contemporary 
reports were silent regarding the continual attempts made by the Turkish leaders 
to exploit the position and influence of the Sultan of Turkey as Khalifa and 
subvert from their allegiance Moslem soldiers in the Allied Armies. The 
Turkish leaders spared no effort to do this, but where our men were concerned 
it was a waste of time and money on the part of the enemy. However, in saying, 
above, “practically all’ Moslem soldiers, mention must again be made 
of the Afridis of the Guides Infantry, whose intentions were suspect from the 
first and were put to the test.* It was only the defection of a few ill-informed and 
misguided individuals that had prevented the staunch loyalty to their oaths of 
all Moslem soldiers being recorded in the First World War as universal 
and without exception. 

To return, however, to the I.E.F. “F” and the 28th Frontier Force Brigade: 
the orders for field service reached the Battalions in October 1914, and the 
51st were at Dargai and Chakdara (Malakand frontier) when orders to mobilize 
arrived on 11th October 1914. 

* Suspicions of the Afridis’ reliability were aroused by some men deserting when 
on leave or recruiting duty. To test them, batches of 25 at a time were warned for the 

draft and sent on leave. Of four such batches only the two J.C.Os. and two or three 
old soldiers returned. 

The SIst and S3rd Sikhs in the First World War at its Outbreak 99 

Proceeding via Jullundur (the Group Centre), the Battalion first concen- 
trated at Lahore with the rest of the 28th Frontier Force Brigade. It then em- 
barked at Karachi in a convoy for Suez on 17th November. The Battalion was 
at full strength plus the normal ten per cent. first reinforcement, and the follow- 
ing officers accompanied it: 

Lieutenant-Colonel W. Beadon, Commanding 
Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel W. F. Bainbridge, D.S.O. 
Major P. E. Knapp 

Captain P. L. Beddy 

Captain F. E. Koebel 

Captain R. C. G. Pollock 

Captain A. de T. Mouillot 

Lieutenant H. Forbes 

Lieutenant C. N. Buist 

Lieutenant W. H. L. O’Neill 
Second-Lieutenant R. M. M. Lockhart* 

Captain R. M. Adams and Second-Lieutenant K. A. Garrett remained at the 
Depot in Jullundur. 

Turning now to the 53rd, this Battalion was in Jullundur in 1913, and 
during the summer of that year was honoured by being ordered to provide the 
detachment annually furnished by a selected Indian battalion for the duty in 
Simla of guards for Their Excellencies the Viceroy and the Commander-in- 
Chief. In October the Battalion marched to Kohat on transfer, the above Simla 
Detachment following by rail. 

It was therefore stationed in Kohat, with a proportion of officers and men 
on their annual leave, when war broke out in August of the following year. Two 
months later, in October, orders to embark at Karachi as part of LE.F. “F” 
were received, and the Battalion left Kohat on 15th November by rail. Its 
strength was : 10 officers, 18 J.C.Os., 808 rank and file, i.e., field-service strength 
plus ten per cent. first reinforcement. The following officers accompanied the 
Regiment : 

Lieutenant-Colonel C. H. Davies, D.S.O., Commanding 
Major J. F. Finnis 

Captain G. Tomes, Adjutant 

Captain G. H. Chapman 

Lieutenant C. A. Proudfoot 

Lieutenant H. Finnist 

Lieutenant V. W. K. Mackinnon 

Sm acto I ns a ee ee 
* General Sir Rob Lockhart, K.C.B., C.LE., M.C. 
+ The late Lieutenant-General Sir H. Finnis, K.C.B. 

100 The SIst and 53rd Sikhs in the First World War—The Suez Canal, 1914-15 

Lieutenant G. C. Southern 
Lieutenant C. W. E. Arbuthnott, I.LA.R.O. 
Captain H. K. Rountree, I.M.S. 

The Suez Canal, 1914-15 

The 28th Brigade having embarked, the convoy sailed from Karachi on 
20th November and arrived at Suez on 2nd December. Proceeding thence by 
rail to Moascar camp, just outside Ismailia, the Brigade took over part of the 
Suez Canal defences on 3rd December. 

From then till the beginning of February it remained at work strengthen- 
ing the Canal defences, but by then it was known that a Turkish force from 
Palestine had advanced across the Sinai Desert and was threatening the Canal. 
On 2nd February, therefore, the 53rd was moved to Bench Mark Post and 
Ferry Post (where the 51st was already in position), as these areas were most 
likely to be attacked by the enemy. 

On the next day the Turkish attack was in fact launched on Ferry Post and 
the two Battalions’ camp was shelled all day, but there were no casualties. The 
action was brought to an end by a terrific sandstorm, and the Turkish attack 
achieved no tactical success. Their force (which was in fact no more than a 
brigade group) retired on the 4th February. No further actual attack on the 
Canal came from this direction, but in the light of post-war examination, this 
Turkish enterprise was of interest and may even be accounted a strategic 
success for the enemy. Indeed, it was a considerable feat to organize a force 
capable of crossing 150 miles of waterless desert without supply and carrying 
pontoons for the Canal crossing, and with a somewhat suicidal task to tackle 
in the end against a superior entrenched enemy. That the Turkish force actually 
traversed the desert, launched its pontoons, and crossed the Canal at one point 
in the face of prepared defences, was no mean performance; but the real object 
of the enterprise was not to cut the Canal, but to cause the Allied Command to 
tie up as many forces as possible in Egypt. In this it cannot be denied that they 
were successful, for none of the British, Colonial or Indian Forces in Egypt 
went to the main battle theatre in France as reinforcements in the critical early 
days of the war. 

In regard to life on the Suez Canal defences at this time, a description with 
anecdotes of interest is to be found in the story of the 2nd Battalion Frontier 
Force Rifles in the History of that Regiment—the companion volume. 

In January while on the Canal, the 51st received the sad news of the 
death in action under very gallant circumstances of one of its officers, Captain 
E. Jotham, who was serving on the Frontier with the North Waziristan Militia 
(now called the Tochi Scouts). In an action against Khostwal tribesmen near 
Miranshah, he sacrificed his life attempting the rescue of one of his men who 

The 5lst and S3rd Sikhs in the First World War—Aden, 1915 101 

had lost his horse. He was posthumousl ictori 
(See Appendix DO) Pp y awarded the Victoria Cross. 

The Brigade remained on the Canal till 8th July, when it embarked for 
Aden. During this period there is little of interest to record. It had only one day 
in the field as part of a column to engage enemy in the desert on 23rd March. 
The task was successfully accomplished, and the enemy fled, leaving behind 
equipment and ammunition. The 51st lost 3 killed and 8 wounded, and the 53rd 
| killed and 5 wounded, in what is described as a “very trying day’s marching 
and fighting over the desert.” These were the Battalions’ first casualties in the 
First World War. 

In addition to this, on Ist June Major Cowan (74th Punjabis, attached 
53rd) was shot dead in Suez by a disgruntled Dogra sepoy. Major Cowan had 
reason to apostrophise him and called him ‘a damned fool,” or some such 
epithet. The Commandant afterwards told the man that he had often called him 
that himself, whereupon the man pointed out that the Commandant was an old 
officer of the Regiment, but that Cowan Sahib was new! 

Aden, 1915 

It is to be remembered that at this time the whole of the Arabian Peninsula, 
up to the borders of the British Colony at Aden, was part of the Turkish Empire, 
and it was not long before this important harbour and coaling station was 

The despatch there from Egypt of the 28th Frontier Force Brigade was in 
order to meet this threat. 

Aden at this time was garrisoned weakly by a small force of all arms barely 
enough to hold the rocky peninsula on which the town and harbour stand, 
which was well fortified, and to provide a movable column of battalion strength 
with a troop of cavalry and two 10-pounder guns. 

The Turkish threat came from a portion of their 39th Division under the 
Governor of Yemen, who, after an abortive attempt on the Island of Perim, 
invaded the Aden Protectorate with a force several thousand strong, with twenty 
guns, He was also supported by a horde of armed Arabs. 

The Aden movable column, which was ordered out when intelligence 
sources reported the approach of a Turkish force, was badly mauled in an 
action at Lahej in which the Sultan of Lahej (a strong British supporter) was 
killed. The column nearly lost its guns and only got back with difficulty. The 
Turks, following up, occupied Sheikh Othman and advanced right up to the 
approaches to Aden itself. This reverse and the death of the Sultan had indeed 
been a blow to British and Allied prestige all along the Arabian coast from 
Hadramut to Muscat in the Persian Gulf. 

Such was the situation when the 28th Brigade disembarked at Aden on 
20th July 1915, and marched out to Khor Maksar and bivouacked. On the 

102 The SlIst and 53rd Sikhs in the First World War—Aden, 1915 


e & M hom 
Lahej = ope 

Scale of Miles 
9 10 30 

jo §$ 

Sketch Map t illustrate 28” Brigade Opns 
(51°£53"™ Sikhs,at ADEN July-September 1915. 

2\st, at 3 a.m., the Brigade advanced to attack the Turks in Sheikh Othman. 
The 53rd was on the left, with the 56th on the right, the 51st in support, and 
the 62nd (who had replaced the 5th Gurkhas) were in reserve at Khor Maksar. 
Arrived at the place of deployment, the 53rd was deployed, but failed to gain 
touch in the dark with the 56th, so, as time was passing, the Commanding 
Officer decided to advance to the attack. When the leading lines had got within 
a few hundred yards of Sheikh Othman (by which time it was getting light) a 
brisk fire was opened on them from the houses and walls. The advance, how- 
ever, continued, and after a short resistance the Turks retired and were followed 
up by the force through Sheikh Othman and for some miles to the north of it 
as far as Bir Mahomed. The force then returned to Sheikh Othman and bivou- 
acked after a hard day’s marching and fighting over heavy sand. During the 
attack Lieutenant Mackinnon and Lieutenant Southern were killed. Other 
casualties in the 53rd were : killed 3 Indian other ranks; wounded 22. 

After this the Turkish force retired right back to Lahej. Sheikh Othman 
was occupied by the 28th Brigade, a battery and the Aden Troop. 

The next engagement was on 28th August, when the 53rd, supported by 
two companies of the 5ist, marched by night to surround some anti-British 
Arabs at Waht. But it was found that Waht had been reinforced by some 2,000 
Turkish infantry with fourteen guns and 100 Arab horsemen, so the column 
withdrew. The withdrawal, in great heat over soft sand, was harassed by the 
enemy and proved very trying. The 53rd suffered the following casualties: 
officers—wounded, Second-Lieutenant P. F. Durand, I1.A.R. (severely) and 
Major J. F. Finnis (slightly); Indian other ranks—killed 2, wounded 18, 
missing 3. 

The 51st and 53rd Sikhs in Mesopotamia, 1915 103 

The short and arduous campaign at Aden came to an end for the Brigade 
on 7th September, when it embarked again for Suez, which was reached on 
the 13th.* But it was warned that it was to leave for an unknown destination 
overseas before long, and orders were received on 7th November to be ready 
to embark for Basra. 

In the meantime, however, the sad news was received by the 53rd that 
Captain H. S. Smart, who had left the Khyber Rifles on leave soon after the 
outbreak of war and had not returned, had been killed in France. The story 
of this headstrong and gallant officer’s departure to England without authority, 
his enlistment under an assumed name in the Queen’s Regiment as a private and 
his death in action is too long to be recorded here. 

Mesopotamia, 1914-15 

The situation that developed in Mesopotamia after the outbreak of the 
First World War must be made clear if the reader is to understand why a 
Brigade like the 28th should be sent there during 1915, when the war in the 
main theatre in France was still so critical. 

After the outbreak of war with Germany in 1914 the pro-German 
sympathies of the Turkish leaders made war with Turkey probable, and the 
Indian Government prepared a force to land in Mesopotamia. This was the 
6th Poona Division under General Townshend, and its object in the first 
instance was no more than to safeguard the Anglo-Persian oilfields at Abadan. 
To do this it was decided to capture Basra and its vilayet by a surprise invasion. 
As a secondary aim it was designed to keep the Middle East and Persia from 
following Turkey into the arms of the Central Powers, for this would further 
ageravate the situation on the North-West Frontier of India. The landing 
occurred in November 1914, and the following developments ensued. 

1. A force was sent up the Karun to guard the right flank, drive the enemy 
off the pipeline from the oil wells, and to mend and safeguard it. 

2. In the beginning of April a force, under Major-General Melliss, V.C. 
(who had just arrived from Egypt with his 30th Brigade), moved out to Shaiba 
(south-west of Basra) and engaged a Turkish force which had come across 
from Nasiriyah on the Euphrates, and threatened our left flank. The Turks were 
defeated after a hard-fought action, and with heavy casualties retired back to 
the Euphrates, abandoning their camp at Burjisiyah. 

3. The main force pressed on up the Tigris and occupied Amara. 

4. A force was then sent up the Euphrates, and after driving back the 
Turks occupied Nasiriyah. 

The main force then continued up the Tigris from Amara, and three 

= Actually en route for the Dardanelles, but the evacuation took place and the 
Brigade got no farther than Port Said. 

104 The 51st and 53rd Sikhs in Mesopotamia, 1915 

months later, on 29th September, after a two days’ battle occupied Kut al 
Amara.* In the meantime, a further reinforcement had arrived from India, 
bringing the total force in Mesopotamia to a strength of about two Divisions 
and a Cavalry Brigade, the whole under General Sir John Nixon. 

The greater portion of this force was up the Tigris at Kut, only small forces 
having been left on the Euphrates at Nasiriyah to guard the left, and up the 
Karun to guard the right, with small detachments in posts on the line of 
communication at Amara, Ali-Gharbi, etc. 

The operations so far had been uniformly successful. The objects of the 
expedition had been achieved with the minimum of cost, and at this juncture 
the advice of the Chiefs of Staff in both the United Kingdom and India, as well 
as of the Government of India, was to call a halt and avoid further commit- 
ments in this theatre. It was, after all, not a decisive field of operations (as the 
Dardanelles might have been), and Turkey could not be eliminated by defeating 
her here. 

It was also difficult to supply and reinforce troops at the Persian Gulf, 
and the climatic conditions in that region were the worst possible. However, the 
politicians in Whitehall thought otherwise. The Cabinet badly wanted a 
spectacular success that would have a resounding political effect on neutrals, 
particularly in the Middle East. Such a success now seemed easy to achieve by 
the capture of Baghdadt—a religious and political centre revered by 
Moslems in the East even more than Istanbul. The temptation was too great, 
and the misgivings of the military leaders, who saw too clearly the dangers of 
sending forward a spearhead force that could not be supported into an enemy 
country where reinforcements could in fact be quickly concentrated against 
it, were not considered. The order to advance on Baghdad was given, and after 
forming an advanced base at Kut the main Tigris force pressed on upstream in 
early November. It consisted of the 6th Poona Division, one Cavalry Brigade, 
and part of the 30th Brigade, the whole under Major-General C. Townshend. 

Unfortunately, the misgivings of the General Staff were to prove only too 
well founded, and Townshend’s gallant and efficient force soon ran into trouble. 
The abortive Gallipoli Campaign had only a month earlier ended in stalemate, 
and our own forces had been withdrawn from the Peninsula. This enabled the 
Turks to move two divisions with artillery hastily to Mesopotamia for the 
defence of Baghdad. Moreover, the two divisions were seasoned Turkish first- 
line veterans that had fought through the Gallipoli Campaign—very different 
adversaries from the local Turkish forces hitherto encountered by General 
Townshend and the Poona Division in Mesopotamia. 

Thus the victorious British force advancing up the Tigris with high morale 
and little experience of strong enemy opposition, found a Turkish force holding 

* To be called “Kut” in the future, for brevity and clearness. 
+ History of the Great War, Buchan. 

The 51st and 53rd Sikhs in Mesopotamia, 1915 105 


Si” & 53™ Sikhs (28™ F.F. Brigade) 

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a defensive position in strength at the Arch of Ctesiphon. In the ensuing battle 
General Townshend’s forces achieved the astounding feat of driving the Turks 
from their positions, but reinforcements were still reaching the enemy, while 
there were none for General Townshend, who had in fact suffered heavily in his 
victory. He was forced to withdraw on Kut. During the retirement he soundly 
thrashed a Turkish following force in a rear-guard action and thus reached Kut 
unmolested. Here, somewhat ill-advisedly, he elected to stand, on the under- 
standing that relieving forces reached him within six weeks. It was ill-advised 

106 The 51st and 53rd Sikhs in Mesopotamia—The Battle of Sheikh Saad 

because Kut is situated on a U-bend of the River Tigris. The Turkish 
commander was thus able to hold the neck of land joining the U-shaped arms 
of the river—thereby containing General Townshend’s force with a fraction of 
his own army—and use the bulk of it, with other reinforcements, to move down 
the Tigris and oppose the British-Indian forces advancing to the relief of Kut. 

This was the situation when the 28th Brigade from Egypt arrived at Basra 
and moved up to join the relieving forces. The convoy carrying the Brigade 
berthed on 4th December 1915, and transhipping into river steamers with 
barges lashed on each side, began arriving on 8th December at Ali-Gharbi. 
The Cavalry Brigade, sent back from Kut before it was invested at the begin- 
ning of the month, had arrived at Ali-Gharbi a few days before. 

The 28th Brigade was employed during the rest of the month in digging a 
perimeter and unloading barges, while the force was concentrating for the 
advance on Kut. All the time fresh units were arriving every few days, mostly 
of the 7th Division from France. 

The Battle of Sheikh Saad 

By 3rd January the leading force had concentrated at Ali-Gharbi and 
commenced to advance. The 28th Brigade, with one Brigade Field Artillery 
and the Cavalry Brigade, moved up the right bank while two Infantry Brigades 
and supporting howitzer artillery advanced up the left bank of the Tigris. 

On approaching Sheikh Saad on 6th January (about twenty-five miles), 
orders were issued for an attack on the Turkish position which had been 
entrenched here on both sides of the river. The 53rd and 56th led the attack 
at 1.30 p.m. with the 51st on their left, and came under heavy fire almost at 
once, advancing over a dead level plain absolutely devoid of cover. They 
advanced by rushes to within about 250 yards of the Turkish trenches, losing 
fairly heavily, and dug in behind slight cover afforded by a small dry water-cut. 

The night was spent digging and improving the line, getting up food and 
water after dark, and sending back wounded. The Leicesters were dug in on 
a line a little to the left rear of the 53rd, with the 51st in line with them. During 
the night their line was reorganized so that the 51st came between the 53rd and 
Leicesters. The next day the artillery bombarded the enemy trenches all the 
morning, and attack orders were received at 1.10 p.m. for the whole line to 
assault the positions on a given signal. The men never actually got in with the 
bayonet, for as soon as the assault started the enemy opposite had had enough 
and came out and threw their arms down (4 p.m.). 

The position was consolidated during the night, while rain fell, making 
it very cold. Next morning a cavalry reconnaissance that was sent forward came 
under heavy fire, and news was now received that the attack on the left bank 
had suffered severely and failed to make headway. However, on 10th January 

The 51st and 53rd Sikhs in the Battle of Sheikh Saad—January, 1916 107 

the Turks evacuated their positions and retired to another strong one about 
seven miles up river from Sheikh Saad. 

The casualties at Sheikh Saad were: 

Slst: officers—killed 1, died of wounds 1, wounded 3; J.C.Os.— 
killed 2, wounded 9; other ranks—killed 28, wounded 193 (of 
whom 4 died). 

53rd: _officers—wounded 6 (including the Commanding Officer, 
Lieutenant-Colonel C. H. Davies (slightly); J.C.Os.—killed 4 
and wounded 2, besides an unrecorded number of rank and file 
killed and wounded. 

The advance to relieve Kut was now dogged by the worst imaginable 
weather conditions, reducing the level open plain to a quagmire and making 
movement extremely difficult. Under such circumstances the defending Turks 
had a great advantage and the relief of Kut began to assume a graver aspect. 
General Townshend was informed of the situation and fortunately discovered 
supplies in the town of Kut that enabled him to hold out. 

On 12th January, after a further slow advance of five miles, the Brigade 
faced another strong enemy position known as Wadi, to which the Turks had 
retired after the operations of the 10th. 

On the 13th orders were received to attack this position, which was now 
reported to be weakly held, and after capturing it the Brigade was to push on 
and join up with the left of the Meerut Division, which was advancing parallel 
to it. The 53rd advanced with the 56th, as directing battalion on the right, and 
the Leicesters on the left. The 51st were in reserve. The advance was over 
a mile of dead level plain with no cover whatsoever, and in face, almost from 
the start, of very heavy field-gun, machine-gun and rifle fire. This caused heavy 
casualties before a line was dug 200-300 yards from the Wadi (which is at 
this point a very considerable obstacle ten to fifteen yards wide with sheer 
banks about ten feet high). Immediately in rear of this were the Turkish trenches. 
During the advance, owing to casualties and the extent of line to be attacked, 
the force had become somewhat scattered, and the attack could not be pressed 
home. The position remained one of stalemate till night fell, and orders were 
then received to withdraw and dig in on a line some distance back. Thus ended 
another day of toil, exhaustion, loss and disappointment. 

The casualties in this action were heavy: 

51st: officers—killed 1 (the Commanding Officer, Colonel Beadon— 
a great loss); other ranks—killed 7, wounded 64. 

53rd: killed and died of wounds, 3 officers, including Lieutenant- 
Colonel J. F. Finnis, 3 J.C.Os. and 13 other ranks; wounded— 
1 officer, 5 J.C.Os. and 168 other ranks. 

The Turks now once more retired to a prepared position in rear, this time 

108 The 51st and 53rd Sikhs in Mesopotamia.—January-March, 1916 

about four miles distant. It was known as the Hanna position and was to prove 
one of the main obstacles to the relief of Kut. 

While the Brigade rested on 15th January, the weather again became very 
bad and turned to rain with cold and wind, hampering clearance of the battle- 
field, reorganization, and preparations for further advance. These conditions 
continued till the 19th, when it became fine again, but the country was by now 
a quagmire. The Brigade moved forward to a camp across the Wadi, and the 
remains of the 53rd were reorganized in two wings. 

On the 21st the Brigade marched at 4.30 a.m. to a position in rear of the 
artillery, as Corps reserve for an attack on the Hanna position. Intense bombard- 
ment started at 7.45, after fifteen minutes of which the 7th Division assaulted. 
At about noon the Brigade advanced up to a supporting position in rear of 19th 
Brigade, and at 3.30 the 53rd and the 51st pushed on as far as the 19th Brigade 
support trenches. The advance was over water-logged ground in heavy rain and 
wind and under fire. But for the covering fire, during its advance, of the Seaforth 
Highlanders, the 53rd must have lost far more heavily. They stayed in a trench 
in rear of the Seaforths till after dark, it having been decided that in the 
present state of the ground and weather the enemy were too strong to be 
dislodged. In the meantime the 51st had suffered severely during the advance, 
losing three of its four surviving officers. The additional casualties during the 
day was 2 J.C.Os. wounded, 9 rank and file killed, 4 missing and 91 wounded. 

Shortly after dark, orders were received from the 19th Brigade for the 
Seaforths and the 53rd to withdraw the line about half a mile to the rear, 
having first cleared the battlefield and sent back wounded—a very difficult and 
trying job with the men drenched to the skin and the ground waterlogged and 
very slippery. It was eventually completed and the Brigade spent the night 
about 1,000 yards from the Turkish line. Rain was continuous throughout the 
night and the next morning. 

The Brigade was now rested, and none too soon. The Battalions had 
marched and fought most gallantly and in the most difficult conditions against 
a staunch and resolute enemy until only a fraction of their initial strength 
remained. Indeed, whole battalions totalled little more than a company at full 
strength, and all were near exhaustion. 

On 3rd February, after twelve days’ rest, the Brigade moved up and relieved 
the 19th Brigade in the line, but for the time being the front remained quiet 
and on 10th February the Brigade was again withdrawn to a standing camp 
in rear. Reinforcements of both officers and men were now received by the 
53rd, bringing its strength up to 11 officers, 15 J.C.Os. and 591 rank and file. 
The SIst were similarly reinforced. 

For the next four weeks the Brigade engaged in sapping when in the front 
line, but no active operations were undertaken. It was clear that concentration 

51st and 53rd Sikhs in Mesopotamia—Battle of Dujailah and the Fall of Kut 109 

of force for a decisive blow to open the way to relieve General Townshend’s 
now weak and hungry force in Kut, was being prepared. 

This blow was, in fact, delivered on 8th March at the Turkish right flank 
which was holding an entrenched position called Es Sinn, with its flank resting 
on a fortification called the Dujailah Redoubt. This flank offered the nearest 
and most direct approach to Kut, which lay only five miles behind the Redoubt 
itself, and the way to it would be open if the Redoubt were captured and secured. 

The Battle of Dujailah and the Fall of Kut 

The story of this tragic action, which sealed the fate of Townshend’s force, 
is one from which the military student can learn much, for it is one of a plan 
that aimed at surprise, was brilliantly conceived, carefully prepared, efficiently 
carried out by the troops up to their arrival, unobserved, at the very ramparts 
of the Redoubt itself. But from then on it tells of indecision by the commander, 
resulting in failure to reap the success that was already in his grasp. The results 
were dire. A heavy defeat with grievous losses was inflicted on the relieving 
force, which thereafter was unable to resume the offensive effectively till the 
following year. Although repeated piecemeal attacks were in fact made on the 
Turkish defences during the next seven weeks, all were unsuccessful and heavy 
losses were incurred. 

In the battle of Dujailah the 28th Brigade were part of the spearhead of 
assault and suffered severely. The story therefore merits telling in full. 

The plan consisted of a night march through the desert on the right bank 
of the Tigris by an attacking force consisting of six Brigades and one Cavalry 
Brigade (this comprised the whole Tigris Force except the 19th and 21st 
Brigades). It was divided into three columns—“A,” “B” and “C”—and the 28th 
Brigade formed part of “B” Column, under Major-General Kemball. 

At 9.25 p.m. the march started. It was slow going with continual halts. 
Shortly before dawn the Force arrived at the Dujailah depression (in front of 
the enemy position), at which point it split up, two columns proceeding south- 
west along the depression, while a third column turned north to take up position 
facing the Dujailah Redoubt from the east. The first two columns continued 
along the depression as far as a bend where it turns north to the Redoubt 
(subsequently known as Kemball’s Corner), where they formed up in the 
depression for attack. Here the 36th Brigade was detailed for an enveloping 
move against the enemy’s right. By this time it was nearly sunrise, but the 
enemy had given no sign of having spotted the Force. This was in fact the case, 
and a reconnoitring patrol with an Intelligence Officer actually went forward, 
entered the Redoubt and ascertained that it was unoccupied. Unfortunately, the 
prearranged programme included an artillery bombardment before the assault 
was to be launched. Still more unfortunately, the occasion produced no leader 
with the vision to seize the opportunity and say the one word “Advance” and 

110 Sst and 53rd Sikhs in Mesopotamia, 1917—Battle of Dujailah and Fall of Kut 

let the H.Q. in rear take care of the artillery. Instead, word was telephoned 
back to the Force H.Q. with a request for orders, and the fatal reply came back, 
“Stick to programme.” It was unquestionable that had the Dujailah Redoubt 
been taken at dawn on the 8th March, not only would Kut have been relieved, 
but the safety of the whole Turkish Army on the left bank would have been 

At 10 a.m. the advance started (by this time the artillery had carried out 
their bombardment on the Turkish camp and there was no longer any hope of 
a surprise) and almost simultaneously large bodies of the enemy infantry were 
seen advancing, some from even the Turkish reserve areas on the left bank. 
These were unharmed by our gun fire and advanced to a line of well-concealed 
trenches south of the Dujailah Redoubt, where they disappeared from view. 
Our line, after advancing about 250 yards, was met by heavy rifle and machine- 
gun fire from a range of about 700 yards, but the advance continued, the 
Brigade sustaining considerable casualties. By noon a firing line had been 
established about 500 yards from the enemy, the men digging with their 
“Sirhind’’* tools. At 12.45 p.m. orders were received to continue the advance 
and assault the Redoubt. The advance was continued and further heavy 
casualties were suffered. The assault of the Redoubt was now out of the 
guestion, it being still a mile away with strongly held enemy trenches barring 
the way. However, the advance was carried forward about 150 yards, but at 
2.30 p.m. the Commanding Officer of the 53rd sent a message to Brigade Head- 
quarters saying that he considered further advance with the existing force im- 
possible and that it would entail its practical annihilation. 

At 4.30 p.m. a message was received that the Lahore Division was about to 
assault the Dujailah Redoubt from the east and that the 29th and 28th Brigades 
were to co-operate, but this assault was postponed till 5.15 p.m. The only 
co-operation that the 28th and 29th Brigades could make was by fire, advance 
being out of the question. At 6.35 p.m. orders were received to consolidate the 
line and hold it for the night. 

The assault during the afternoon from the east by the Lahore Division was 
in fact carried out with great gallantry, and the Redoubt was penetrated by the 
59th Scinde Rifles, F.F., of the 8th Brigade, but they could not be supported 
and were driven out again. t 

During the night the Brigade withdrew to Kemball’s Corner and the next 
morning the entire Force retired to its original position. During this retirement 
the Brigade provided the rear and left flank guards (the S5lst and 53rd 
respectively), but the Turks only followed up with a small force of all arms 
which made no attempt to attack. 

* The “Sirhind” tool was a small portable entrenching tool carried as part of his 
field equipment by the soldier. 
+ The History of the Frontier Force Rifles, Chapter VII. 

The 51st and 53rd Sikhs in the Conquest of Mesopotamia, 1917 Ml 

The following casualties were sustained : 
dist: 4 killed, 2 missing, 54 wounded of rank and file. 
53rd: officers—killed 4 (including Captain G. H. Chapman, 
Officiating Brigade Major, 28th (F.F.) Brigade); J.C.Os.—killed 
4, officers wounded 2 (1 J.C.O. was badly wounded and subse- 
quently died); rank and file—killed 28, wounded 136, missing 19. 
Total of 53rd killed 36; wounded 139; missing 19. 

From the 10th March till the 29th April, when General Townshend capitu- 
lated in Kut, repeated attempts were made to force the Turkish lines on the left 
bank of the river. These were situated with both flanks protected by water— 
the right flank by the river and the left by the Suwaikieh Marsh, now heavily 
swollen by rain. Only frontal assaults were therefore possible, supported by 
artillery barrages. As has been remarked, these attacks all failed. The 28th 
Brigade took part in the following attempts to break through the Turkish lines. 

On 6th and 7th April an attack on the Turkish Sannaiyat position round 
the enemy left flank was held up with severe losses. 

On 10th April a night advance from the position reached after the above 
operation was stopped by an adverse wind causing the Suwaikieh Marsh to flood 
the ground and make entrenching impossible. 

On 19th April the Brigade was ordered to support a further attack on the 
Sannaiyat position, but the weather and flooding caused a postponement till 
the 22nd. When it eventually took place it became bogged down and ended in a 
truce to recover casualties and bury dead. The truce was indeed unofficial and 
quite spontaneous on both sides. 

Before the end of April, General Townshend and his gallant Division, 
having exhausted their supplies, surrendered with the honours of war and went 
into captivity. 

This ended the operations for the relief of Kut in 1916. The losses of the 
51st in the first four and a half months of this campaign up to the 22nd April 
1916, were as follows: 

Officers J.C.Os. Rank and file 
Killed or died of wounds . . 6 6 134 
Wounded .. = a 14 23 698 
Missing .. = tt — — 33 
Died of disease .. ae — — 13 
Total 20 29 828 

The losses of the 53rd for the same period are not recorded, but must have 
been similar. 

The Advance to Baghdad and the Conquest of Mesopotamia, 1917 
After the surrender of General Townshend’s Force in Kut, the British- 
Indian Forces on the Tigris opened no further offensive operations that year. 

112 The SIst and 53rd Sikhs in the Conquest of Mesopotamia, 1917, 

Their war-worn units required rebuilding, their newly arrived officers needed 
(raining and knowledge of their men. Many of the elderly leaders of higher 
formations were replaced and a thorough overhaul of the Army on the Tigris, 
with measures to restore morale, was undertaken. Indeed, the Army felt very 
keenly the blows that had been suffered, the privations endured, and the losses 
—that all should have ended in disaster could only be due to mishandling by 

The bitter feeling that had been engendered among the officers by the 
disastrous campaign that had taken place, was exemplified by a cynical 
“alphabet” that circulated about this time. Two of the stanzas may be quoted, 
en passant, as a matter of interest. 

“V’s for the Victory won at Dujailah— 
I know it is true, I was told by a sailor 
Who said he had heard it on board a Mahela* 
On the Tigris in Mesopotamia.” 

and also 

““W stands for the wonder and pain 
With which we regard our infirm and insane 
Old aged Generals who run this campaign 
We are waging in Mesopotamia.” 

With the passing of the hot weather, during which units alternated between 
holding portions in the front line and resting and training in rear, Battalions 
recovered their strength, fitness and efficiency. Reports by both the Commander- 
in-Chief India, and the Commander of the Army on the Tigris, who made visits 
of inspection later in the summer, remarked on the smartness and bearing of all 
the Frontier Force Battalions. 

From an operational point of view nothing occurred during the rest of 
the year to break the monotony of trench warfare—that form of war-stagnation 
that looking back, we now recognize as perhaps more than anything else the 
characteristic of the First World War. 

Early in 1917 (on 9th January) a raid on a fairly large scale was under- 
taken by the 53rd and 56th, each sending out a raiding party of two British 
officers and thirty men to raid three separate objectives in the enemy’s first line. 
They were protected by a barrage which lifted for ten minutes, allowing them 
to do their work in the enemy trench. “All the raids were boldly and success- 
fully carried out and the parties returned at 5.14 a.m.”—so say the Regimental 
Records, but the casualty list of the 53rd makes the reader wonder. . . . It was 
as follows: killed Second-Lieutenant W. J. Arbuthnot, I.A.R.O.; missing, 
believed killed, Second-Lieutenant R. B. Webb, I.A.R.O. and 4 men; died of 

* The Arab river craft known as the “Mahela” was extensively used for waterway 
transport by both sides in this campaign. 

The 51st and 53rd Sikhs in the Conquest of Mesopotamia, 1917 113 

wounds 1 man; wounded 10 men. Second-Lieutenant Arbuthnot was shot 
through the head and fell into the Turkish trenches after the raiding party had 
been in the enemy’s trench for five minutes. From observations made in the 
daytime, there was little doubt that the body of Second-Lieutenant Webb, with 
those of two sepoys, was lying on the parapet of the Turkish trench. Second- 
Lieutenant Arbuthnot was Adjutant of the 53rd and Second-Lieutenant Webb 
was Transport Officer. Raids have been better planned than this! 

The Capture of Baghdad 

By the autumn the process of reinforcing, training and re-munitioning the 
Army on the Tigris was completed. The line of communication was also built 
up with the railway, and supply and hospital arrangements were perfected. 

The strategic position was now ripe for an advance on Baghdad, the capture 
of which would relieve pressure in the Middle East and Persia.* Moreover, an 
offensive against the Turkish Army in this theatre would prevent the enemy 
concentrating against our forces that were advancing from Egypt on Palestine, 
where decisive results were possible. The decision was therefore taken to resume 
the offensive against the Turkish Army with the object of capturing Baghdad 
and consolidating our hold on the whole Turkish province of Mesopotamia. 
The task was entrusted to General Maude, who now became Commander-in- 
Chief in succession to Sir Percy Lake. With this in view, offensive operations on 
the Tigris were opened early in January. The first phase was to push back the 
Turkish right wing that lay on the right bank of the Tigris and held a trench 
position astride the Hai river running east and west with the bend of the Tigris 
in its rear. Success here would menace the Turkish communications and jeopar- 
dize their entire army. This plan was in fact successfully achieved, after des- 
perate fighting, by the 13th (British) and 14th Divisions by the end of January. 

By the 10th February the only remaining enemy positions on the right bank 
of the Tigris were across the loop of the river north-west of Kut, known as the 
Dahra Bend. 

Preparations were now made for an attack on the Sannaiyat position, and 
on 22nd February the 28th Brigade attacked in conjunction with the 19th 
Srigade under concentrated artillery support. The attack succeeded and all 
objectives were captured, but at great cost. 

The 51st lost 1 officer killed and 1 died of wounds, and 32 rank and file 
killed: also 4 officers and 226 rank and file were wounded. The 53rd lost 3 
officers, 2 J.C.Os. and 30 rank and file killed, and 4 officers and 193 rank and 
tile wounded. 

After this action the Brigade was withdrawn to rest, but on 24th February 
the Turks were found to have evacuated their position and were in full retreat 

towards Baghdad. 
—_ History of the Great War, John Buchan, Vol. III, page 368. 

114 The SIst and 53rd Sikhs in the Conquest of Mesopotamia, 1917 

The Turkish Army was, in fact, now broken and had abandoned vast quan- 
tities of ammunition and war material of all kinds. The way to Baghdad lay open 
with only opposition by comparatively weak forces to overcome. The only stand 
made by these was at the confluence of the Diala river with the Tigris, and the 
28th Brigade, after crossing to the right bank, attacked the enemy protecting 
Baghdad from the south-west at Shawa Khan. In this action the enemy held on 
to their position in face of the attack, but withdrew during the night, leaving the 
way open to Baghdad. In the meantime, the Diala crossing had been forced 
with great gallantry by the 13th Division in face of stubborn enemy opposition. 

Losses at Shawa Khan were again considerable. The Commanding Officers 
of both Battalions, Lieutenant-Colonels Grattan, 53rd, and Magrath, 51st, were 
wounded, while 37 Indian ranks were killed and 127 wounded in the two 
Battalions. Baghdad was occupied on 11th March and the Brigade rested in 
camp two miles west of the city. 

Operations North of Baghdad in 1917 

The repose of the 28th Brigade was shortlived, for it was detailed as 
advanced guard to the force to pursue the withdrawing Turks. Contact was 
made at Mushaidie on 14th March, where the enemy rear-guard put up an 
obstinate fight before withdrawing. The 53rd led the attack with the 56th, and 
the 51st were in reserve. 

The Brigade now withdrew again to the Baghdad area, where it was 
employed on protective duties while the 13th Division and Cavalry Brigade 
carried out operations to trap a Turkish corps that had moved up the road from 
Baghdad north-east towards Persia. Eventually these Turks escaped to the north, 
and on 9th April a move in force northwards along the Baghdad Railway was 
planned. The 7th Division concentrated at Harbah for the purpose. 

The Turks were now known to be holding a strong position at Istabulat 
(some eighty miles north of Baghdad), and cur attack on this was led by the 
21st Brigade (to which the 51st were temporarily attached) with the 28th 
Brigade in Divisional reserve. By the evening of 21st April the main Turkish 
positions had been captured, and the 28th Brigade passed through to attack 
their supporting line at 4 a.m. on the 22nd. The Leicestershire Regiment and the 
56th led the attack, but the advance went too far and was thrown back by a 
strong enemy counter-attack supported by murderous close-range fire from an 
embankment on the left flank. This attack also exposed the left flank of the 
51st, who, with the 56th, suffered severely. Eventually, the 53rd, aided by a 
machine-gun company (one of whose officers won the Victoria Cross for 
gallantry on this occasion), held up the counter-attack, and the captured position 
was consolidated. The losses in the 51st were heavy: 1 officer and 25 rank and 
file were killed, and 2 J.C.Os. died of wounds; 2 officers (including the acting 


Page 115, line 25.—For “Was Deputy Commander-in-Chief in 
India during 1944-46 in the Second World War,” read “Became 
Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army on Partition.” 

The 51st and 53rd Sikhs in the Conquest of Mesopotamia, 1917 115 

Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Barrett), 4 J.C.Os. and 166 rank and 
file were wounded. 

The 53rd losses were not so severe, but Lieutenant-Colonel Grattan was 
again wounded and died afterwards. In addition, 4 other officers (of whom | 
died), and 65 rank and file were wounded; and 2 J.C.Os. and 7 rank and 
file were killed.* 

After Istabulat the Turkish Army retreated, and the Brigade formed part 
of a defensive piquet line covering Samara railway station (the northern 
terminus of the Baghdad Railway). This completed operations for the hot 
weather, during which reinforcements were received and the battalions were 
again brought up to strength. Among the officers to join the 53rd, two names 
are of interest. On 25th May Major C. A. Milward is recorded as arriving from 
France (where he was in Staff employ) and taking over command of the 
Battalion. He became Major-General Sir Clement Milward, K.C.IE., C.B., 
C.B.E., D.S.O., and died in retirement in 1952. 

The other name is that of Lieutenant A. E. Cumming, who is shown as 
joining the 53rd at Samara on 21st August 1917. Nearly twenty-five years later, 
in the tragic Malayan retreat before the Japanese in 1942, Lieutenant-Colonel 
Arthur Cumming, then commanding the 2nd Battalion of the Regiment, won 
the Victoria Cross in circumstances that for both gallantry and endurance have 
been seldom equalled. (See Chapter XIX and Appendix IX). 

At the same period (the summer of 1917), in the Record of the 51st, on 
22nd August, at Samara, a distribution of officers in Battalion appointments 
shows Captain R. M. M. Lockhart as Adjutant. General Sir Rob Lockhart, 
K.C.B., C.LE., M.C., was Deputy Commander-in-Chief in India during 1944-46 
in the Second World War. 

Also recorded by the 51st was the immediate award, after the battle of 
Istabulat, of the D.S.O. to Major F. E. Koebel for conspicuous gallantry and 
resource in meeting the Turkish counter-attack on the Battalion’s left flank (see 

In October operations were resumed. Although the situation in Mesopo- 
tamia was now secure, the operations undertaken were doubtless part of a 
concerted plan to prevent the Turkish command reinforcing its Palestine front, 
against which a successful offensive by General Allenby at Gaza was 

The three Brigades of the 7th Division were detailed to attack an enemy 
position at Daur which was an outpost covering his main position at Tekrit, 
some thirty miles upstream. The 28th Brigade were advanced guard and the 
56th were vanguard in the advance. The action was notable for being conducted 
(on somewhat elastic orders) with a determination to avoid repetition of set- 

ee to ne nee Nae NS Ne ce ee 
* For an account of the 56th’s share in this battle see The History of the Frontier 
Force Rifles, page 47. 

116 S5ist and 53rd Sikhs in Palestine, 1918 

piece battles after the pattern of Dujailah. The Brigade did a remarkably fast 
night march of eighteen to twenty miles, followed by an attack at dawn on the 
flank of the Turkish position. Everything was staked on the speed of the 
advance; the enemy flank outposts were overrun and the Turks fled. Losses 
caused by the enemy fire were not allowed to check the attack, which went in at 
a tremendous pace. Some three hundred prisoners were taken by the Brigade 
and also a quantity of stores. The 51st suffered fairly heavily, Captains Garrett 
and Lushington and Lieutenants Scotland and Perry being wounded. In 
addition, 1 J.C.O. and 73 rank and file were wounded and 4 killed. 

This was the Brigade’s last action in Mesopotamia, and on 7th December 
orders were received for the 7th Division to leave the country for an unknown 

Palestine, 1918 

The Brigade embarked at Basra at the end of December, and it was soon 
known that the destination was Palestine, where Allenby’s victorious army had 
driven the Turks out of their positions on the Gaza—Beersheba line and 
captured Jerusalem. The Brigade was now to take part, with the 7th Division, 
in the final drama on the plain of Sharon which witnessed the destruction of the 
Turco-German armies there. This forced the capitulation of Turkey and brought 
that country’s participation in the First World War to a close. 

The officers now with the two Battalions of the Regiment on their 
way to Palestine were as follows: 

51st Sikhs: 
Lieutenant-Colonel P. L. Beddy 
Acting Major G. E. Bruce, M.C., 53rd Sikhs (attached) 
Captain E. P. Watts, M.C., 53rd Sikhs (attached) 
Acting Captain K. A. Garrett, M.C. 
Acting Captain A. W. Harris, I.A.R.O. 
Lieutenant E. L. Macgregor, I.A.R.O. 
Lieutenant F. V. R. Woodhouse, 55th Coke’s Rifles (attached) 
Lieutenant A. G. Scotland 
Lieutenant E. G. Perry 
Second-Lieutenant J. G. Elliot, 55th Coke’s Rifles (attached) 
Second-Lieutenant P. T. Clarke, 59th Scinde Rifles (attached) 
Second-Lieutenant E. H. S. Shuttleworth, 53rd Sikhs (attached) 
Lieutenant E. R. Daboo, M.C., I.MLS. 

53rd_ Sikhs: 
Lieutenant-Colonel R. Gardiner, Commanding 
Major C. I. Shepherd, D.S.O., Second-in-Command 
Captain St. J. A. Brown, commanding “D” Company 

SIst and 53rd Sikhs in Palestine, 1918 117 

Captain R. D. Crew, 52nd Sikhs (attached), commanding “B” 

Captain D. M. Newitt, acting Adjutant 

Lieutenant C. E. Fieldsend, M.C., commanding “C” Company 

Lieutenant A. E. Cumming commanding “A” Company 

Lieutenant G. B. Mould, Quartermaster 

Lieutenant W. E. Dean* 

Lieutenant A. S. Cruickshank 

Lieutenant C. N. Heathcote 

Captain T. R. Fulton, R.A.M.C., Medical Officer 

Both Battalions had been greatly reinforced and were now each over 1,000 
strong. This was later to enable some fruitful reorganization to be effected in 
preparation for the final attack to be delivered on the Turks. 

The First World War was now entering on its fifth calendar year, and 
though the Turks had been driven back in both Palestine and Mesopotamia, 
the deadlock in trench warfare in the main theatre in France continued. Indeed, 
owing to the defeat and disintegration of the Imperial Russian Army on the 
eastern front, the Germans were able to concentrate in France in greatly 
increased strength. On the 21st March 1918, the German Army struck at the 
junction of the British and French Armies in France on a frontage of forty 
miles and achieved great initial success. The British Fifth Army front and the 
adjoining French defences were breached and the enemy drive forward was 
held only after the loss of some twenty miles of territory, a number of prisoners 
and guns, and quantities of equipment and supplies. After this disaster to the 
Fifth Army in France, the 52nd Lowland Division, with other British forma- 
tions, was recalled from Palestine and replaced by the 3rd and 7th Indian 

General Allenby’s Army was now holding a line from the sea 
coast eleven miles north of Jaffa south-eastward, astride the Jerusalem— 
Nablus road, to the Jordan valley. The 7th Division remained in Egypt 
for training till early April, when it went up to Palestine into the line on 
the left, the 28th Brigade being in reserve near Tel el] Rekkait. The 19th and 21st 
Brigades were in the front line, the 19th Brigade on the left with its flank on the 
sea and the 21st Brigade on the right. 

Except for minor limited operations undertaken in order to improve the 
front line of the 7th Division, the next five months passed under conditions of 
static warfare. A major reorganization took place in May which has been 
referred to above and which provided the Army Commander with several new 
battalions. This was done by withdrawing from each existing Indian battalion 
one company at full strength, complete with officers. Thus the 2/151st Infantry 

* Later Lieutenant-Colonel W. E. Dean, Commander of the 3rd Sikhs in Abyssinia 
and the Western Desert, in the Second World War (Chapter XVI). 

118 The 51st and 53rd Sikhs in the Final Battle in Palestine, September 1918 

were formed with four companies taken one from each of the Ist Guides 
(see Chapter V), 51st, 53rd and 56th. The battalions so raised were for the 
duration of the war only, and as it proved, the end of hostilities was now not 
far off. 

In September the offensive by General Allenby’s Army that was to force 
Turkey out of the war was prepared. First, the striking force was transferred 
from the right flank of the Army and concentrated in the coastal sector where 
the break-through was planned. This concentration was concealed from the 
enemy by various ruses which were completely successful, and he was kept 
absolutely in the dark. One of these ruses, laid on for the benefit of enemy air 
observation, was a series of troop columns whose task was to march from west 
to east (i.e. away from the concentration area) by day, returning by night to the 
place from which they had started. By repeating the process for several days, 
a convincing picture was presented of large bodies of our troops being moved 
to the Army’s right wing. The real concentration on the left wing was kept care- 
fully hidden. Five Infantry Divisions were concentrated in this manner in the 
coastal area unobserved. After these had broken through they were to wheel to 
the right while the Cavalry galloped through the gap, heading due north to cut 
the Turkish line of communication. 

The battle opened on the 19th September and the attack was completely 
successful, the enemy’s line being driven back all along the front. The 28th 
Brigade, which was in divisional reserve, took up the pursuit, with the 56th as 
advanced guard. The advance of the Brigade across the rear of the recent 
Turkish front from west to east, led through Tireh, Tayibieh, Kefr Sur and Beit 
Lid into the Judean hills, where enemy rear-guards were holding the 
high ground protecting Samaria. This was attacked simultaneously by the 51st 
from the south and the 53rd from the north-west. The enemy surrendered after 
a short resistance, and this ended the fighting of the Ist and 3rd Battalions of 
the Regiment in the First World War. 

For a few days they were employed partly on outpost duty and partly 
salvaging the area round Samaria, where the Turks had abandoned quantities 
of rifles, ammunition and equipment of all sorts. The Mesudieh plain was dotted 
all over with shell dumps. Thereafter the 28th Brigade marched northward 
through Haifa, Tyre and Sidon, till by the end of November it reached northern 
Syria in the Tripoli—Homs—Aleppo area. Meanwhile, the Armistice of 11th 
November 1918, had brought the war to an end. From now on the Slst and 
53rd were employed on separate peacetime tasks, and remained for a time as 
units in an Army of Occupation. In this volume, therefore, we must revert once 
more to the individual stories of these two Battalions, whose fortunes in the 28th 
Frontier Force Brigade we have followed through the First World War. 

Their stories will be resumed in later chapters describing the Battalion’s 
lives in the *tween-wars period from 1919 to 1939. 



Formation of the 2nd Guides—Palestine, 1918—Post-war Services of the 2nd Guides 
in Syria, Egypt and Palestine—The 3rd Battalion, Formation and Early Days— 
The Third Afghan War—Waziristan, 1919-20—Return to Mardan and Disbandment. 

The Formation of the 2nd Guides 

THE 2nd Battalion Guides Infantry was raised at Mardan as a War Battalion 
on 15th January 1917 as follows: 
“A” Company.—Two platoons Dogras from Ist Guides and 55th 
Coke’s Rifles, one platoon Yuzufzais from Ist Guides; one 
platoon P.Ms. from the 52nd Sikhs. 
“B” Company.—Two platoons P.Ms. from Ist Guides, 52nd 
Sikhs F.F., 54th Sikhs and 55th Rifles; two platoons Gurkhas 
from 1st Guides and 2/5th Gurkha Rifles. 
“C” Company.—Two platoons P.Ms. from Ist Guides, 52nd 
Sikhs F.F., 54th Sikhs and 55th Rifles; two platoons Gurkhas 
from 2/5th Gurkha Rifles. 
‘“‘D”” Company.—Two platoons Khattaks from lst Guides; two 
platoons Sikhs from Ist Guides, 52nd Sikhs and 55th Coke’s 
Rifles F.F. 

The Battalion moved to Malakand two months later, where its first Com- 
mandant, Lieutenant-Colonel J. S. Bogle, assumed command. The next eleven 
months were spent training, and on 10th February the Battalion mobilized for 
active service. It did not leave however, till 28th May 1918, when it sailed 
from Bombay for Egypt. 

The following officers accompanied it: Lieutenant-Colonel J. S. Bogle; 
Major F. K. Hensley; Captains C. W. Molony and A. L. W. Neave; Lieutenants 
L. V. Dart, M.C., C. R. Hughes and A. H. Kemm; Second-Lieutenants C. H. 
Mitchell, V. Fox-Strangways, W. H. Goulstone, S. G. S. Rose and I. A. Thew. 
Lieutenant Sher Singh, I.M.S., was Medical Officer. 

Major R. C. G. Pollock, 52nd Sikhs, was left in command of the Depot. 


120 The 2nd Guides in Palestine, 1918 

Palestine, 1918 

On arrival in Egypt the Battalion spent a month training and equipping 
at Tel-el-Kebir before moving to the front to join the 180th Brigade of the 
60th (London) Division of General Allenby’s Army on 3rd July 1918. 

The Army was holding a line east and west across Palestine from the sea 
north of Jaffa to the Jordan Valley; and the situation with the events that had 
led up to it have been described in Chapters V and VI.* 

Between 17th and 25th July the Battalion took over a sector of the front 
from the 38th Battalion Royal Fusiliers near Jiljilieh at the western edge of the 
Judaean hills, and for some time life was uneventful. But preparations for the 
big offensive, which was to end the war with Turkey, were now in hand; and 
between 13th and 15th August the battalion sector was handed over to the 
2nd/30th Punjabis. The 60th Division was withdrawn a month later and moved 
with great secrecy to the extreme left on the coast, the 180th Brigade being 
hidden in the olive groves of Sarona. 

The 60th Division’s role in the big attack of 19th September was to break 
through on the coast with the 7th Division (led by the 1st Guides) on its right, 
thus clearing the way for the Desert Mounted Corps to gallop through and 
disrupt the enemy’s rear and communications. On 17th September the Battalion 
took over the extreme left of the line (its flank on the seashore) from the 56th 
Rifles, F.F., and made reconnaissances preparatory to the attack. 

The Battalion’s objectives were three lines of Turkish trenches on sandy 
hillocks falling almost sheer to the sea. The barrage opened at 4.30 a.m., and 
“B” and “D” Companies led the assault on the first objective. 

The Turks appeared quite aware that an attack was impending and put 
down an immediate artillery concentration on the very nullah where Battalion 
Headquarters was located. This caused the sides of the nullah to collapse on to 
the crowd of mules and personnel there, killing seven mules, destroying much 
equipment and causing a number of casualties. 

As the attack commenced, “DD” Company suffered severely, losing 56 men 
during the initial advance. ““C’” Company, under Captain Molony, coming up 
filled the gaps, and together with “B’ Company, closely followed by “A,” 
charged through the wire into the Turkish trenches. The first objective was 
quickly captured by Zero + 10. 

On the right ‘“‘D” and “C”” Companies now went on to the second objective 
without a pause, but “B” and “A” Companies were momentarily checked by 
a deep ravine and enemy wire. Approaching the second objective, Captain 
Kemm was wounded in the neck, but refused to give up. Here also poor Captain 
Neave was killed in a gallant bayonet charge. His death was a great loss to the 

* See page 117. 
+ The successful hoodwinking of the Turks in regard to this concentration and the 
point of attack are described on page 118. 

dlusTrating iy 
1%2™ Guides 454” Sikhs NS 48.5 Cov Div 



Divs in Attack Pig” S r 

Advance of Battalions 19121" Sept.- -+> 
Turkish fine 18” Sepl.igi8 nnann 
Beersheba © : ” 

is 20 
Scale in Miles 


122 The 2nd Guides in Syria, Egypt and Palestine, 1919-22 

Battalion, having been its keen and popular adjutant ever since it was raised. 

“C” and “A” Companies now taking the lead, the third (and final) 
battalion objective was taken by Zero +70 minutes, and the 2/19th London 
Regiment passed through to carry on the advance. Little or no further oppo- 
sition was now met, and the 179th Brigade, followed by the cavalry, went 
through into the open country. 

The 2nd Guides captured 250 prisoners during the battle (including 30 
Germans), also five machine-guns and three trench mortars. Their losses were 
Captain A. L. W. Neave and 17 rank and file killed; 6 died of wounds; Captain 
A. H. Kemm, 3 J.C.Os. and 109 rank and file wounded; and 10 men missing. 

On the 20th the Brigade moved towards Tul Keram and on the 2lst 
marched up a valley strewn with dead Turks and animals, the result of an air 
attack. Next day the Battalion paraded for an inspection by the Divisional 
Commander, who offered his hearty congratulations, saying that it was the 
capture of the first three positions without a check that enabled the cavalry to 
pass through and prevent the Turks forming a rear-guard. This indeed was no 
less than the truth, and the 2nd Guides had good reason to be proud of their 
share in the achievement. 

Post-war services of the 2nd Guides in Syria, Egypt and Palestine, 1919-22 

The Division did not take part in the long pursuit to Syria described above 
in the narrative of the 1st Guides, but moved south again, and on the 26th 
camped near El Jebil, ten miles north of Jaffa. Here it remained doing salvage 
work till 16th November, when it moved to Alexandria. 

On 20th November 1918, the following well-deserved awards were 
announced : 

Lieutenant-Colonel J. S. Bogle, the D.S.O. 

Captains C. W. Molony and A. H. Kemm, the M.C. 

Subadar Fauja Singh, a bar to the I.D.S.M., and the same decoration 
to five rank and file. 

The Battalion remained at Alexandria for the next four months. At the 
end of March 1919, unrest in Egypt involved the Battalion in Internal Security 
duties, and four detachments varying from 50 to 135 were sent off in aid of 
the civil power. 

This however did not last long, and on 2nd April the Battalion moved to 
Syria by sea and was brigaded with the Ist Guides in a summer camp near 
Tripoli. They were now in the 21st Brigade of the 7th Division, about whom 
much has been written earlier in this volume, and the two Battalions were able 
to see a good deal of each other, for they were located at camps only ten 
miles apart. 

The summer and autumn passed uneventfully, and on 13th December the 
Battalion moved by sea back to Egypt, remaining there on garrison duty in 

3rd Guides raised October 1917 123 

detachments up the Nile till April 1920, when it was moved back to Cairo and 
remained there till the spring of 1921. It then moved back to Palestine and was 
located at Roshpina, north of the Sea of Galilee, with detachments at Nazareth, 
Beisan and Semakh. 

Lieutenant-Colonel Bogle now went on leave pending retirement. He had 
served 27 years in the Guides and had trained and commanded the 2nd 
Battalion throughout its active service. The best wishes of all ranks went 
with him. 

On 8th August 1921, Lieutenant-Colonel Hector Campbell, D.S.O., 
M.V.O., arrived from the Ist Guides where he had been in temporary com- 
mand and assumed command of the 2nd Guides. He was to be the first Com- 
mandant of the 10th Training Battalion when the 2nd Guides assumed that 
role under the new organization.* 

In the meantime however, the Battalion had a further eight months to 
spend overseas, the last four being served in the Cairo area, as disturbances had 
once more broken out in Egypt. 

Finally, in April 1922, the 2nd Guides at last returned to Mardan, and on 
10th May the Battalion assumed its new role as Training Battalion of the 
Frontier Force Regiment. 

It had won golden opinions from all during its service overseas and many 
were the appreciative messages it received. 

It had well earned the privilege of permanent retention as a Regular unit 
in the Indian Army under the new organization, and its story is continued in 
Chapter X. 

The 3rd Battalion Guides Infantry, Formation and Early Days 

The 3rd Guides was raised at Mardan on 22nd October 1917, by 
Lieutenant-Colonel W. Villiers-Stuart of the 1/5th Gurkha Rifles. The nucleus 
was 7 J.C.Os. and 30 rank and file from the Ist Guides Depot and 6 
J.C.Os. and 30 other ranks from the 2nd Battalion depot. Thirty more old 
soldiers returned from overseas were added later. 

The composition was a half-company each of Sikhs and Dogras and one 
company each of Gurkhas, Pathans and P.Ms. 

On 15th March 1918, Major J. Clementi arrived from the Guides Cavalry 
and took over command from Lieutenant-Colonel Villiers-Stuart. The Bat- 
talion remained in Mardan training for the next twelve months. Thus it was 
never given a chance to fight in the First World War, but its opportunities came 
in the Third Afghan War, which broke out in the following year, and later in 
the severe fighting of the Waziristan campaign of 1920. 

The Third Afghan War arose after the murder in Afghanistan on 22nd 

* See Chapter X, The Regimental Centre. 

124 3rd Guides in the 3rd Afghan War 

February 1919, of the Amir Habibullah. He had been a firm friend of the 
Government of British India. His son Amanullah, who had made himself un- 
popular by his attempts to introduce Western customs, sought to divert 
attention and pander to the war party in Afghanistan (who had placed him on 
the throne) by an invasion of India. Here he hoped to find support from political 
malcontents in the country and turbulent border tribesmen whose leaders he 
summoned to Kabul. 

On Sth May 1919, the Field Army, organized in two forces, the North- 
West Frontier Force and the Baluchistan Force, was mobilized; and within 
forty-eight hours of receiving orders on the 6th the 3rd Guides entrained for 
Kohat. The following officers accompanied it: Lieutenant-Colonel J. Clementi, 
commanding; Major D. Bainbridge, second-in-command; Captain C. W. Free, 
adjutant; Lieutenant H. R. M. Jeffries, quartermaster; Captain Pritchard and 
Lieutenant Robins (“A” Company), Captain Jameson and Lieutenant Bourke 
(“B” Company), Captain Knight and Lieutenant Fraser (““C” Company), and 
Captain Ferguson and Lieutenant Harrison (““D”’ Company). 

From Kohat the Battalion moved on to Thal (Kurram) on 15th May, and 
after three days spent in making the perimeter camp there marched on to Para- 
chinar, where it formed part of the 60th Mobile Brigade. 

The Third Afghan War 

The general situation now was that while our main forces were advancing 
via the Khyber on Dakka, the Brigade in Parachinar was given the task of 
dealing with any Afghan concentrations in the Peiwar Kotal area. These 
amounted to two enemy battalions on the Kotal and three more with artillery 
in support at Ali Khel. While the Kurram Militia watched these from Ali 
Mangal at the foot of the pass, the main threat to the Kurram developed from 
another direction. 

The Afghan Commander in Khost, General Nadir Khan,* advanced from 
Matun down the Kaitu on Spinwam and Thal, thereby intercepting the com- 
munications of the Brigade in Parachinar. By 27th May his force of a brigade 
of Afghan regulars with two 3.8-inch German howitzers (brought on elephants) 
and a large following of tribesmen reached Thal city and besieged the fort. 
Nadir Khan’s guns outranged the mountain artillery in the fort and set fire 
to the buildings, but the Afghans launched no attack. 

The Kohat Brigade under Brigadier-General Dyer, advancing meanwhile, 
arrived on Ist June, attacked and defeated Nadir Khan and relieved the garrison 
of Thal. The Afghan force retired to Matun and remained there. 

While this was happening, the Battalion in Parachinar took part in a highly 
successful raid on the Afghan post of Amir Thana on the border. Operating 

* He became Amir of Afghanistan in 1929. 

3rd Guides in Waziristan, 1919-20 125 

on the flank of the attack, “A” Company and the Kurram Militia put to flight 
a band of 150 tribesmen, inflicting 20 casualties without loss. The Afghan 
post surrendered. 

June was now spent in reconnaissances with a view to the capture of the 
Peiwar and an advance into Afghanistan, but air attack on Jellalabad and Kabul 
brought about an Afghan capitulation early in July 1919, and the war came 
to an end. The unrest, however, stirred up among the tribes by the war per- 
sisted for a while in Kurram, and the Battalion went out on 29th July with a 
column to deal with an Orakzai lashkar near Sadda and salvage an aeroplane 
that had forced-landed in the area. This was successfully accomplished in 
intense heat, the enemy retiring without fighting when shelled by the artillery. 

Waziristan, 1919-20 

In September the 3rd Guides were moved to Tank, via Darya Khan and 
Dera Ismail Khan, arriving at the end of the month. Here the insubordination 
of the tribes of Waziristan caused by the Afghan War was the forerunner of the 
major campaign of 1920 and the ultimate occupation of the country by the 
establishment of cantonments at Razmak and Mirali. 

The Battalion was soon in action. A mixed company was called out to 
intercept some raiders on Ist October, and six days later another under Captain 
Ferguson joined a column sent out to Kaur Bridge to bury dead and rescue 
wounded from an action there the previous day. When this task was complete 
and the withdrawal began, the flank and rear-guards composed of Bhopal 
Lancers and 109th Infantry were ambushed, causing heavy casualties. The 
Lancers retired, leaving the flank of the column exposed, and Captain Fer- 
guson’s company had to hold off the enemy and cover the withdrawal of the 
column. Captain Ferguson, leading the company very gallantly, was twice 
wounded and finally killed in this action, bayonets having to be used at one 
stage of the fight. 

The 3rd Guides suffered heavily in this savage encounter, losing Captain 
Ferguson and two men killed, 22 wounded and 26 missing believed killed. 

Operations were now for some days prevented by a series of severe dust 
storms, but on 24th October a column under Colonel Clementi, with the whole 
Battalion, the 2/102nd Grenadiers and two mountain guns, returned to Kaur 
Bridge and recovered and buried the bodies of all who had been killed in 
the above action. A jirgah was now held, at which the Battalion furnished 
the customary guard of honour; but the Mahsuds continued obdurate and large- 
scale operations had to be undertaken. 

Accordingly, by 13th December 1919, the Derajat Column of the strength 
of a Division was concentrated in the Tank-Jandola area preparatory to the 
advance up the Tank Zam. Meanwhile, the Battalion was not again engaged 
in operations until 11th December, when, as part of a column to protect road 

126 3rd Guides in Waziristan, 1919-20 

building for the projected advance, it became involved in a sharp rear-guard 
action when the withdrawal was closely followed up by Mahsuds. The retiring 
rear party at one stage became outflanked, and Second-Lieutenant N. D. 
Douglas and one sepoy were killed; whereupon Captain Knight immediately 
counter-attacked with such men as he could collect and recovered Douglas’s 

Further, a piquet was also ambushed while withdrawing and the J.C.O. 
in command and four sepoys were killed. Eventually, with assistance from two 
companies of the 2/76th Punjabis, the rear-guard finally reached camp by 
6 p.m. The Battalion lost Second-Lieutenant Douglas, one J.C.O. and five men 
killed, eight men wounded and one missing. 

The 3rd Guides were again called out the next day to accompany the 
68th Brigade with two mountain guns in the task of securing the Sarkai Ridge 
as a site for a permanent piquet. The Battalioa, however, was not seriously 
involved on this occasion. 

In January the advance of the Derajat Column commenced. The capture 
of the Ahnai Tangi* and the battle of Asa Khan with the severe fighting that 
now took place broke the tribal resistance, but at the very heavy cost of 382 
casualties. It was a severe campaign with continuous sniping, fought in difficult 
country in severe weather conditions. 

The 3rd Battalion rejoined the Derajat Column on 28th January and took 
part in the capture and piqueting of the Berari Tangi, but serious resistance 
was not offered here and the Battalion suffered only five men wounded by 
rifle fire. 

The Battalion now took its share of the protective tasks, but the Derajat 
Column had no further major engagements. It reached Piazha Raghza early in 
February, where a further jirgah was held and the Mahsuds were told that Makin 
and Kaniguram would be destroyed and punitive measures would continue 
until all fines had been paid and rifles handed in. 

On 15th February the 43rd Brigade group commenced operations leading 
up to the destruction of Makin, the 3rd Guides being employed with the rear- 
guard to piquet the large village of Marobi. The work continued till the 29th, 
by when 51 fortified towers and 450 important houses had been destroyed. 

The next move was on Kaniguram from camp at Dwa Toi, where the 
Brigade had withdrawn; and on 2nd March the 3rd Guides and 3/11th Sikhs. 
supported by mountain artillery, moved out with Pioneers and Sappers and 
Miners to establish permanent piquets on the Kaniguram road. The operations 
were heavily interfered with by continuous sniping, but the piquets were suc- 
cessfully established. The Battalion lost 15 (killed and wounded) on this day. 

The advance to Ladha en route to Kaniguram was successfully com- 

-*These actions are described in ‘The History of the Frontier Force Rifles. the 
companion volume to this History. 

3rd Guides disbanded 1920 127 

pleted, the Battalion doing advanced guard most efficiently but losing eight men 

The Battalion remained at Ladha doing the very dangerous task of pro- 
viding the road and camp piquets throughout April, and on 3rd May left the 
Derajat Column. On its departure General Skeen, the commander, personally 
bade farewell in a speech complimenting the Battalion on its work with 
the Column. 

Return to Mardan and Disbandment 

The 3rd Guides did not at once leave Waziristan, but were engaged in 
convoy and other protective tasks in the Jandola area til! 14th August 1920, 
when it left for Mardan, arriving there on the 24th. 

Of the Battalion’s last days there is little to record. The Battalion was 
allowed to waste away as men were demobilized or transferred to other 
battalions, and finally disbandment took place on 2nd August 1921. 

Although the 3rd Guides came into existence too late to take part in the 
First World War, they fought with valour and efficiency in the severe post-war 
campaign in Waziristan. worthily upholding the traditions of their Corps and 
the Frontier Force. 


Drafts to maintain Linked Battalions—Action on the Dande Plain, Waziristan— 
Mesopotamia, 1918—Kurdistan and Iraqg—The Mazurkha Gorge. 

Drafts to maintain Linked Battalions 

On the outbreak of the First World War, to the intense disappointment of all 
ranks, the 52nd Sikhs were detailed for the protection of the North-West 

As in the case of the Guides and the 54th (see Chapters V and IX) it soon 
became apparent that the Battalion would be called upon to keep up to strength 
its linked battalions, the 59th Scinde Rifles, F.F., which had proceeded to 
France with the Lahore Division, and the 56th, which went to Egypt in Novem- 
ber 1914. The first draft for the 59th Rifles left the Battalion on 24th October 
1914. It consisted of Captain F. S. Hore and Jemadar Mangal Singh, with four 
sepoys as orderlies. Neither of these officers survived the war. Captain Hore 
was mentioned in despatches for gallantry in the field, and was killed in action 
in France on 12th March 1915. Jemadar Mangal Singh received the Indian Dis- 
tinguished Service Medal and promotion to Subadar. He was wounded on 26th 
April 1915, and died at his home on 8th June 1916 as a result of his wound. Of 
the four sepoys comprising this draft, Sunder Singh was killed in 1917 with the 
59th Rifles, having gained the Indian Distinguished Service Medal and pro- 
motion to naik, and Shibbu was killed in France with the 59th Rifles in 1915. 
This draft was followed by one 75 strong, under Subadar Chattar Singh. 

Between October 1914 and the end of 1917, the cream of the Battalion 
had been sent away overseas to reinforce these linked battalions, a very large 
majority going to the 59th. 

The narrative of these two Battalions in the First World War are fully 
recorded in The History of the Frontier Force Rifles; and since in no case did 
a sub-unit of the Battalion become incorporated in either of them intact, as did 
the Guides Company in the 57th Wilde’s Rifles, no portion of the story of these 
reinforcements finds a place here. 

The extent, however, to which the Battalion contributed merits recording 
and the following figures are of interest. 

The drafts dispatched between 24th October 1914 and December 1917 
when the Battalion at last received orders for active service, were as follows: 


The 52nd Sikhs in the First World War 129 

Officers a oe das he in aye 14 
J.C.Os. ss ie nee ei i a 10 
Non-Commissioned Officers oe he ES 49 

Sepoys bs =% et si 
Of these nearly 50 per cent. became casualties : 

Officers Killed: Captain P. S. Hore, with 59th Rifles; Lieutenant 
L. B. Burgess, I1.A.R.O., with 59th Rifles; Lieutenant G. D. 
Mackay, I.A.R.O., with 56th Rifles; Lieutenant R. M. 
D’Ombrain, I.A.R.O., with 53rd Sikhs; Lieutenant L. G. Owen, 
I.A.R.O., with 116th Mahrattas. Wounded: Major C. G. Ames, 
with Imperial Service Troops; Captain J. R. Wynter, with 59th 
Rifles; Captain J. G. B. Gordon, with 59th Rifles; Lieutenant 
W. I. P. Feltham, with 56th Rifles; Lieutenant H. D’A. Banner- 
man, with 129th Baluchis; Lieutenant St. J. A. Shelverton, 
LA.R.O., with 59th Rifles. 

J.C.Os. (all with 59th Rifles)—Killed: Subadar Rakam Din. 
Wounded: Subadar Chattar Singh; Subadar Bachittar Singh; 
Subadar Bahadur Shah (twice); Jemadar Mangal Singh; Jemadar 
Sahnu (shell-shock). 

Other Ranks.—Killed 78, died 8; wounded 227. 

Needless to say, since no form of National Service or conscription was 
introduced into British India (in either World War) and all military service 
was voluntary, the most intense and comprehensive recruiting campaign was 
instituted and the Battalion pursued this most energetically. A measure of its 
success may be gathered from the following message from the Adjutant-General 
in July 1915: “I am directed to request that you will convey to the 52nd Sikhs, 
F.F., His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief’s great appreciation of the 
manner in which it has responded to the calls made upon it for drafts to its 
linked battalions. With wide conception of the true situation, which necessarily 
‘entails sacrifices by individual units for the good of the whole army, this 
battalion has given of its best, notwithstanding the fact that by doing so, it has 
possibly lessened for a period its own efficiency.” 

At the same time the strain on the Battalion and the difficulties to be over- 
come increased and are well described thus in its records: “Towards the end 
of 1915, less than 300 men, out of a total strength of 1,200, had between three 
and ten years’ service. The flower of the Battalion had gone, and what remained 
was composed largely of old soldiers and recruits. Continuous service in posts 
and on columns made any form of training difficult, indeed for considerable 
periods impossible. The standard of the recruits began in time to deteriorate, 
as the drain on manpower increased. Outpost and guard duties were severe. 
The insanitary condition of posts, the bad water and scarcity of fresh meat and 
vegetables affected the health of the men, and malaria was prevalent. The heavy 



130 The 52nd Sikhs in Waziristan, 1914-15 

demands for non-commissioned officers overseas entailed the promotion of 
immature and inexperienced men in every rank.” 

This in fact was the picture in all Battalions that remained in India, and 
was even more marked in the Second World War, when training became more 
complicated with the arrival of universal mechanization and a multiplicity of 

To return to the story of the Battalion’s doings, it suffered severely in 
August and September 1914, in a cholera epidemic in Bannu and the Tochi, 
losing two officers who died of the disease—Captain A. Marjoribanks and 
Lieutenant L. B. Irwin. 

Action on the Dande Plain, Waziristan 

As has been remarked in an earlier chapter, the outbreak of war and the 
withdrawal of troops from India gravely impaired the peace of tribal territory. 
The Battalion was now in Bannu and the Tochi, and on 9th December a 
lashkar of Zadrans, joined by the tribes living to the north of Miranshah, 
attacked that station, the headquarters of the North Waziristan Militia (now 
called the Tochi Scouts). 

The Bannu Movable Column, which included 200 rifles of the 52nd Sikhs, 
was dispatched to the scene, and arrived on 14th December 1914, to find that 
the tribesmen had withdrawn. The Battalion was immediately concentrated 
at Miranshah, where it joined the Emergency Column. A depot was left at 

During January there was continual unrest, and lashkars of various 
strength were on the move over the Macha Madda Khel country, Southern Khost 
and the tract between Khost and the Tochi Road, west of Miranshah. The 
North Waziristan Militia encountered one of these lashkars in the neighbour- 
hood of Spina Khaisora, and in the action which followed Captain Jotham 
of the S5lst Sikhs was killed, afterwards being awarded posthumously the 
Victoria Cross for extreme gallantry.* 

The Battalion, as part of the Bannu Movable Column, was constantly 
moving out from Miranshah, but as the political intelligence was generally 
faulty and always belated, the Column failed to encounter any tribal concen- 
tration during these excursions. 

On 26th March 1915, however, the Battalion took part in a very successful 
engagement with a tribal lashkar of Khostwals, Zadrans and Wazirs on the hills 
skirting the Dande Plain (north of Miranshah). This resulted in the total rout of 
the enemy. What happened was as follows. On the morning of 25th March. 
whilst the Battalion was on parade near camp, a report was received from a 
piquet, about 2,000 yards north of camp, that a lashkar was collecting on all 

*See Appendix IX. 

The 52nd Sikhs in Waziristan, 1914-15 131 

sides and was engaged in building sangars. A detachment of the 10th Jats was 
sent out to withdraw this piquet, and this was successfully accomplished. 
Throughout the day the tribesmen, emboldened by this withdrawal, collected 
and increased in numbers on the hills around the Dande plain, and the con- 
struction of the sangars continued. At nightfall their fires, which in one direc- 
tion were as close as 1,000 yards from the camp, illuminated the country around 
and disclosed a semi-circular position stretching around the northern portion 
of the plain. 

The Force at Miranshah now mustered the 25th Cavalry, F.F., two infantry 
Battalions—the 52nd Sikhs and the 10th Jats—the 29th Mountain Battery and 
the North Waziristan Militia, the whole under Brigadier-General V. B. Fane. 
He decided to attack the lashkar the next day and divided the force into three 

Column “A.”’—One section 29th Mountain Battery; 100 rifles 52nd Sikhs, 
F.F. (escort to guns); North Waziristan Militia. This Column assembled in the 
Militia Fort and moved out the same night (25th/26th) to a position in the hills 
about two and a half miles north of the road Miranshah-Datta Khel, in rear 
of the lashkar, thus getting astride of the enemy’s line of retreat without being 
observed by them. 

Column “B.”—One section 29th Mountain Battery; Headquarters and two 
companies 10th Jats; three companies 52nd Sikhs, F.F. (less the escort found 
for Column “A”). This Column was detailed to carry out the frontal attack on 
the enemy position. 

Column “‘C” (in Reserve).—One section 29th Mountain Battery; two 
companies 10th Jats, Headquarters and one company 52nd Sikhs, F-F. 

The following morning, 26th March, Column “B” advanced to the attack. 
The 52nd Sikhs moved against the enemy’s main sangars to the north-west 
of the camp. The 10th Jats were on the left of the 52nd Sikhs, whilst the Cavalry 
operated wide on the right. Under cover of an accurate fire from the mountain 
guns, Column “B” advanced rapidly and seized the first objective without loss. 
The 10th Jats remained in possession of the hill to the west and covered the 
further advance of the 52nd Sikhs, who pressed on in close touch with the 
retiring tribesmen and inflicted heavy casualties on them. This pursuit by the 
Battalion drove the enemy on to the concealed position held by Column “‘A,” 
which opened heavy fire from close range. 

The combined pressure of Column “A,” the three companies of 
the 52nd in Column “B” and the 25th Cavalry turned the retreat of the enemy 
into a disorderly rout, and they only escaped complete annihilation by taking 
refuge in deep nalas and broken country across the border. 

The strength of the tribesmen was estimated at 5,000. Their loss amounted 
to about 1,000, of which between 200 and 300 were killed. The total casualties 
to the force were one officer 25th Cavalry, killed and two sepoys wounded. 

132 The 52nd Sikhs in Waziristan, 1914-15 

Some first-line transport animals were also hit. The Battalion sustained no loss. 

The success of the action was mainly attributed to the rapid and vigorous 
advance and untiring pursuit of the three companies of the Battalion 
in Column “B,” which drove the enemy in disorder against the position held 
by Column “A.” Two tribal standards which were captured during the day 
are now in the Officers’ Mess of the 2nd Sikhs (now 4th Battalion). 

This action is a good example of a well-planned and vigorously executed 
Frontier operation, the salutary effects of which lasted throughout the rest of 
the First World War, as these particular tribes gave no further trouble during 
that time. When their turbulence both before and afterwards, particularly in 
the days of Faqir of Ipi and the early period of the Second World War, is 
remembered, this was no mean achievement. 

The Battalion remained at Miranshah until October 1915, being occupied 
during April and May in the construction of a new entrenched camp, which 
was then somewhat sardonically styled “Profaneabad,” after its originator, 
Major-General Fane. The Battalion received the thanks of this officer for the 
hard work it had carried out on the construction of this camp in intense heat 
and discomfort. 

The 52nd remained in the Bannu area till the summer of 1917, when it 
moved to Peshawar. Shortly before the move it had to deal (as part of the Mov- 
able Column) on two occasions with small gangs of Mahsud raiders. Bannu had 
for some time been harassed by such parties, who had always escaped. On 13th 
January 1917, the Movable Column was called out with Captain Grylls in 
command. It consisted of a squadron 25th Cavalry, F.F., one section 30th 
Mountain Battery, one company 52nd Sikhs, and 100 Frontier Constabulary. 

Seven Mahsud raiders were located in a cave on the left bank of the Kurram 
river, opposite Kurram Garhi. Observation was difficult, as the cave could only 
be seen from the edge of the right bank of the river, where observers came under 
accurate fire from the trapped but unseen Mahsuds in the cave. The mouth of 
the cave was shelled and engaged by rifle fire, but without effect on the desper- 
ate men at bay within. Finally, a large head of dry jowar was placed in the 
mouth of the cave and ignited, and the raiders were smoked out like ferrets. 
All were shot down as they rushed out. No raider escaped. 

One sepoy in the Battalion was slightly wounded during the day. 

A similar successful action against a gang of nineteen Mahsud raiders took 
place on 15th March. The composition of the Movable Column was similar to 
that on the first occasion. Major C. R. Wilkinson, 52nd Sikhs, was in command. 
Once again the raiders were located in caves near Bannu. A lesson was learnt 
from the last affair, and bombs were carried. The raiders were successfully 
bombed out of the caves, and all were captured. 

Five months after the Battalion’s arrival in Peshawar, it received orders 
for active service overseas. 

The 52nd Sikhs in Mesopotamia in 1918 133 

Mesopotamia, 1918 

The 52nd sailed for Basra from Karachi on 14th December 1917, and 
arrived there on the 2Ist, with a strength of 13 officers, 18 J.C.Os., 1,04) 
rank and file and 75 followers. 

The following officers accompanied the Battalion: 

Lieutenant-Colonel C. P. Wynter 
Major C. R. Wilkinson 
Captain W. M. Grylls 

*Captain P. Grant (Guides) 
Captain H. C. S. Minchin 
Captain C. E. Stuart-Prince (59th Rifles) 
Lieutenant W. F. Campbell 
Lieutenant A. M. Lewis 
Lieutenant H. C. S. Heath 
Lieutenant W. A. Lyon 
Lieutenant C. W. G. Thorpe 
Lieutenant T. T. Scott, I.A.R.O. (I.C.S.) 
Lieutenant N. Maitra, I.M.S. 

The Battalion arrived at Basra on the early morning of 21st December, 
where it transferred to barges and was towed upstream to Nahr Umar, which 
was reached the following day. Chapter VI has told the story of the 
Mesopotamian Campaign up to the end of 1917, when the Meerut and Lahore 
Divisions left that theatre for Palestine after the Turks had been driven north 
of Tekrit and our position consolidated. 

The victorious British Indian forces in their advance from Kut to Baghdad 
and beyond had been commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Stanley Maude, 
but this able leader was struck down with cholera and died in Baghdad during 
November 1917, after drinking a cup of native milk that he was too courteous 
to refuse.t He was succeeded by Lieutenant-General Sir W. Marshall, the com- 
mander of the 13th Division. 

The 52nd joined the 54th Indian Infantry Brigade in the 10th Indian Divi- 
sion which was then forming under the command of Major-General Fanshawe. 
It was put to work at Azizieh on construction of the Kut-Baghdad railway, a task 
it performed till mid-February 1918. During this period it suffered greatly from 
cold and lack of the ‘ghi’ ration. 

On 15th February the Battalion moved to Baghdad for training till 9th 
March, when the Division moved to Baled. Here the Battalion was on outpost 
duty. The Division had relieved the 3rd Lahore Division (which went to Pales- 
tine) in the Ist Corps. 

The forces in Mesopotamia were now organized in two Army Corps, the 
Ist and the 3rd. 

* Killed when commanding the Guides in Waziristan in 1937 (Chapter XI). 
+ History of the Great War, Buchan, p. 72. 

134 The 52nd Sikhs in Mesopotamia in 1918 

At the beginning of May 1918 the 3rd Corps commenced its advance from 
Kizil Robat on Kirkuk. The 18th Division was ordered to neutralize the 
Turkish forces on the Tigris, and to prevent them sending reinforcements 
to the Kirkuk area. The 54th Brigade constituted Column “C,” which was 
ordered to concentrate on the right bank of the River Adhaim to advance 
up the Tigris. 

On 2nd May the Battalion (less “D’’ Company which had been detached 
for road work) joined Column “C.” “D” Company rejoined the following 
morning at 4.30 a.m. after a march of twenty miles. An hour later they moved 
off with the Column to Mifragi, a distance of fifteen miles. They completed the 
day in excellent spirits, having marched thirty-five miles without an appreciable 
halt. On the 4th the Column reached Samara. 

The 52nd Sikhs, together with the 106th Hazara Pioneers and No. 2 Com- 
pany, Sappers and Miners, were now ordered to push ahead to Mohammed el 
Hassan, north of Tekrit. Leaving early on the morning of the 5th, they reached 
this place the following day, halting at Qantara for the night 5th/6th. On 
the 7th a defensive position was taken up at Mohammed el Hassan, covering 
Tekrit, and reconnoitring patrols were sent out. Column “C” arrived the 
same day. Heavy rain had fallen during the advance, and the men were on 
half rations. 

The combined advance of the 17th and 18th Divisions up the Tigris had 
the desired effect of distracting the attention of the Turks from the operations of 
the 3rd Corps. On 15th May, its mission being accomplished, Column “C” 
withdrew to Daur, and reached Samara on the 17th. 

Operations were now suspended for the hot weather. The Battalion moved 
into an excellent hot weather camp at Samara on 2nd May. It was well situated 
on a ridge high above the river-bed, open to the breeze and generally cool and 
free from dust. This camp was occupied until the beginning of October 1918. 
Whilst there, in spite of heavy duties, convoys, working parties and detachments, 
much valuable training was carried on. 

Early in October, preparations were made for an advance on Mosul, and 
it was necessary first to drive the Turks from the strong position they held in 
the Fatha Gorge, thirty-five miles north of the British railhead at Tekrit. 

This position was one of great natural strength on a range of hills through 
which the Tigris cuts a gap. The Battalion was the spear point of a flank attack 
by the 54th Brigade, along the hills on to the Turkish left, while the 53rd Brigade 
made a frontal assault. 

The enemy, however, evacuated the position and it was found unoccupied 
by the advancing troops. 

Plans were now completed for the round-up of the shaken Turkish forces, 
the majority of which were located on the right bank of the Tigris, in the Humr- 
Ain Dibs-Balalij area, whilst to the east of the Tigris a small hostile force held 

The 52nd Sikhs in Mesopotamia in 1918 135 

the north bank of the Lesser Zab river. The 17th Division now moved up the 
right bank of the Tigris against the bulk of the Turkish Army. On the 25th 
October the 7th Cavalry Brigade crossed the Lesser Zab, the enemy having 
withdrawn. On the same day the 53rd Brigade advanced to the Lesser Zab and 
established a bridgehead. 

At 8 a.m. on the 25th the 52nd Sikhs left Fatha with the 54th Brigade, and 
bivouacked near the Artillery, about six miles south of the Lesser Zab, on the 
left bank of the Tigris, when the operations of the 17th Division on the right 
bank were clearly discernible, the troops being observed to be under a heavy 
and accurate fire. 

On the 26th the Battalion in Brigade crossed the Lesser Zab. Several shells 
fell among “D” Company, two platoons of which formed the advanced guard, 
but no casualties were sustained. 

On the same day, the 11th Cavalry Brigade, under Brigadier-General R. A. 
Cassells,* crossed the Tigris and established itself facing south at Huwaish, thus 
effectively cutting off the Turkish force from Mosul. 

By the following morning the Turks opposing the 17th Division had with- 
drawn north to the vicinity of Shergat. On the afternoon of the 28th October 
the 17th Division drove the enemy out of a position south of Sherqat, and 
continued the pursuit during the night. 

At midnight 29th/30th the Battalion, with the 54th Brigade, marched at 
very short notice a distance of twenty-three miles, from the bridgehead on the 
Lesser Zab to a point on the left bank of the Tigris opposite Sherqat, which was 
reached at 10 a.m. 

The end had come. The enemy on the right bank, pursued by the 17th 
Division was in a hopeless situation. The passage across the Tigris was barred 
by the 53rd Brigade, with the 54th Brigade in reserve, while two Cavalry 
Brigades blocked the road back to Mosul. To the west lay the desert. 

At 6.30 a.m. on the 30th October 1918, a flag of truce was sent in by the 
enemy, and during the morning information was received that the Turks had 

The 54th Brigade was now to form the infantry of a flying column with two 
Cavalry Brigades to capture Mosul, but on Ist November the news of the 
armistice with Turkey was received and the column advanced by easy stages and 
occupied Mosul, which the Turks had evacuated on the 9th and 10th. 

As the Battalion moved into billets in the Mosul school, the news of the 
Armistice with Germany was received. 

In addition to the officers who embarked with the Battalion, the following 
also saw service with the 52nd Sikhs during the campaign: 

* Later General Sir Robert Cassells, K.C.B., Commander-in-Chief in India. 

136 The 52nd Sikhs in Kurdistan and Iraq, 1919 

Major F. H. James, M.C. (104th Rifles) 
Captain F. M. Moore* 

Captain R. G. Woodward, M.C. 

Captain H. D’A. Bannerman 

Lieutenant O. Andersson 

Lieutenant E. St. M. Brett (51st Sikhs, F.F.) 
Lieutenant J. Watson 

Kurdistan and Iraq 

The Battalion soon settled comfortably in Mosul. During November 1918, 
a good river-side billet had been allotted as an Officers’ Mess and quarters, which 
were retained throughout the lengthy stay of the Battalion in Mosul.f Electric 
lights and fans were installed. In January 1919, the men moved into the old 
Turkish barracks. 

During the winter the Battalion provided a number of detachments at 
important towns and on the line of communication. 

In March Major-General Fanshawe, on handing over command, issued 
an order thanking all ranks for their continuous good work, and congratulating 
them on the part they had taken in the brilliant finish of the campaign. 

Meanwhile, unrest amongst the Kurds along the Mesopotamian frontier, 
fostered by Turkish propaganda, became acute, and aimed at Kurdish indepen- 
dence. In April 1919, Captain Pearson, the Assistant Political Officer at Zakho, 
was murdered and a small convoy was attacked, suffering some loss. In July the 
situation deteriorated, and on the night of 14th/15th July the gendarmes at 
Amadia, in Kurdistan, about sixty miles north of Mosul, mutinied. They 
massacred their Commanding Officer (Captain McDonald), the Assistant 
Political agent (Captain Wylly), the Political Clerk (Sergeant Troup) and an 
Indian signaller, and looted the Treasury and all Government stores. On the 
16th Lieutenant-Colonel Leachman, the Political Officer, on approaching 
Amadia with an escort of the 1/39th Garhwalis, was attacked and forced to 
withdraw with some casualties fighting a rearguard action. Christian villages 
in the Amadia valley were then looted, and the line of communication was also 

A column under Brigadier-General Nightingale was at once formed to 
undertake punitive measures against the recalcitrant Kurdish tribes inhabiting 
the country between the Greater Zab and the Khabur rivers. This column, 
designated “Nightcol,” concentrated at Suwara, and by the 30th July consisted 
of : 

* Major-General F. M. Moore, C.S.I., C.LE. (See Chapter XXIII and Appendix 
+ The street leading out of the main thoroughfare, Cassels Street, to this billet was 
named Sikh Street after the 52nd Sikhs. 

™ yy 


Miles 10 5 0 




Sin, 52nd & 53rd Sikhs) 
1918 - 


2 TIN ‘ 
“ny nn \is 



ola, typhi 


My, ‘ 




oO SS 
‘“}! Mw’ 



nt "yyy 






138 The 52nd Sikhs in S. Kurdistan 

34th Mountain Battery (less one section): 

Two sections No. 8 Company, Sappers and Miners; 
Two companies 1 /39th Garhwal Rifles; 

52nd Sikhs, F.F.; 

1/7th Gurkha Rifles; 

No. 238 Machine Gun Company (less one section); 
Ancillary detachments. 

A similar column, termed ‘“‘Lumbcol,” under Lieutenant-Colonel F. G. E. 
Lumb, D.S.O., M.C., 1/39th Garhwal Rifles, concentrated at Zakho for 
operations in that neighbourhood. 

Before continuing with the description of the operations which now fol- 
lowed, and in which the Battalion suffered heavy losses, the reader should 
understand the nature of the country. About sixty miles north of Mosul, the bare 
plains of Mesopotamia give way to the mountain ranges of Kurdistan, which 
rise from 5,000 to 9,000 feet. The foothills are covered with vines and the higher 
slopes with dense mountain oak as far as the snow line. Snow remains in many 
places throughout the summer. Between these tangled masses of hills lie fertile 
valleys where water is plentiful, crops are abundant and fruit grows almost wild. 
Roads are non-existent, and all operations were consequently based on pack 
mule transport. Villages are usually situated in gorges, tucked under high hills, 
which had to be piqueted before the villages could be occupied. Even the posting 
of piquets failed to prevent the incessant sniping from the jungle of mountain 
oak on the hillsides, where the ideal cover afforded ample protection. 

On 31st July 1919, at 9 p.m., the column left camp for a night march against 
a village in the Amadia hills which was the home of two notables, Sheikh 
Bahaddin and Raof, his brother, and was considered the centre of all hostile 
propaganda in the district. The night match was a trying one. Owing to the 
thickly wooded broken hilly country, each unit became separated in the dark 
which caused much delay. Some hours late, the column concentrated at the 
appointed place at about 5 a.m. The Battalion was the first to deploy for the 
attack, which was done on arrival without any halt for rest or preparation. “A” 
Company, under Lieutenant Beckerson, moving at great speed, climbed to the 
top of the Sher Amadia Range, north-east of Amadia, and cut off the villagers’ 
line of retreat, while “B’” Company, under Captain Lewis, closed the tracks 
through the lower foothills to the east. The 1/7th Gurkha Rifles ringed the 
village to the west. In spite of the initial delay, the village was completely sur- 
prised, and Sheikh Bahaddin was captured, though Raof was found to have left 
the previous day. Their residences were demolished, and 50 rifles, 900 head of 
sheep and goats, and 50 mule-loads of grain were confiscated. Sixteen Kurdish 
snipers were killed among the rocks, where they were firing on our troops. 
Nightcol sustained no loss. 

The 52nd Sikhs in S. Kurdistan—T he Mazurkha Gorge 139 

After an abortive expedition on 2nd August, the result of incorrect reports 
by local intelligence personnel, the column moved to Bebadi, which was reached 
on the 6th, and here a halt was made. Bebadi lies about two miles from Amadia 
town, at the mouth of a gorge in the Sher Amadia Range. 

The Mazurkha Gorge 

Throughout the neighbourhood all was reported quiet. The 1 /7th Gurkhas 
had moved along the Sher Amadia range on the 6th and had seen nothing. On 
the 7th the Brigade Intelligence Officer had reconnoitred up the Bebadi Gorge 
to the top of the Sher Amadia, without incident. On 8th August the following 
column left camp before day-break to make a reconnaissance of the Mazurkha 
Gorge farther to the north-east. 

Commander: Major J. D. Shepherd, M.C., R.E. 

Troops: One section, Sappers and Miners; one section 34th Mountain 
Battery (Captain Sims and Lieutenant Dobbs); “B” Company,* 
52nd Sikhs, F.F. (Captain A. M. Lewis); Medical Detachment 
(Captain Matthewson, R.A.M.C.). 

~The Mazurkha Gorge is a narrow, precipitous, winding cleft in the Sher 
Amadia hills, opposite Amadia town, commanded on each side by almost 
inaccessible hills rising to about 2,000 feet. The bed of the gorge consists of a 
very steep, rough surface, strewn with huge boulders and, in places, barely 
a hundred yards wide. It ascends sharply for about 1,300 feet to its northern 
extremity, where the gorge opens out into steep, grassy slopes, partially covered 
with scrub, which rise for another 1,300 feet to the crest of the Sher Amadia 
Range, two miles away. The cliffs on each side of the gorge are honeycombed 
with caves, which form ideal cover for snipers. The ascent of the gorge takes 
about forty-five minutes, and the climb to the crest of the Sher Amadia about 
two hours. 

Owing to the political reports that Rashid Beg and his gang were away in 
another area, the strength of the small column sent out made no 
provision for the piqueting of the precipitous heights above the gorge—a 
liberty which any Frontier Force commander would surely have regarded 
with horror. And he would have been justified, for at about 7 a.m. (so much 
for the political reports), Rashid Beg and his followers ambushed Major 
Shepherd’s force within the gorge. The two leading platoons, Nos. 5 and 6, 
were shot down by large bodies of Kurds from the front and from both flanks. 
Major Shepherd, Captain Lewis, Lieutenant Dobbs and Jemadar Abdulla 
were killed with this party. Captain Matthewson saved himself by remaining 
hidden in a cave till rescued at dusk. 

* This company was composed half of Dogras and half of Pathans. 

140 The 52nd Sikhs in S. Kurdistan—The Mazurkha Gorge 

The two rear platoons, Nos. 7 and 8, under Jemadar Sahnu, and the guns, 
under Captain Sims, R.A., managed to extricate themselves from the gorge with 
loss, and occupied a covering position immediately commanding the entrance 
to the defile. Owing to casualties amongst the mules and the resultant loss of 
parts, neither of the guns could be brought into action.* 

The firing was heard by General Nightingale in Amadia town and he 
advised Lieutenant-Colonel Wynter to proceed to the Mazurkha Gorge with 
all speed with one company 52nd Sikhs, one section 34th Mountain Battery 
and two guns of No. 238 Machine-Gun Company. This force left camp forth- 
with, and arrived at the position held by Jemadar Sahnu at about 10 a.m. 
The remainder of Major Shepherd’s column was not visible, and there was 
complete silence from the gorge. 

Reinforcements followed and the western heights were piqueted, but 
those on the eastern side proved inaccessible and enemy snipers there were 
partially subdued by artillery fire. 

At about 4.30 p.m. “D” Company, under Captain Heath, rushed the 
mouth of the gorge and advanced to a spot where the bodies of Major Shepherd, 
Captain Lewis, Lieutenant Dobbs, Jemadar Abdulla and many men of Nos. 
5 and 6 Platoons were found. Owing to the lateness of the hour and the return 
of the Kurds to the scene, the company then withdrew with some difficulty, 
on account of the heavy sniping from the eastern heights. The company 
suffered some casualties in the withdrawal, including Subadar Sansar Chand, 
who was twice wounded but behaved with great gallantry and refused to be 
attended to. The last bounds of the withdrawal were made under cover of 
darkness, a few severely wounded men having to be left in the gorge as they 
could not be evacuated. 

The force remained in observation throughout the night. The following 
morning two platoons of “D” Company under Captain Heath, with Lieu- 
tenants Wilder and Bayliss, again moved up the gorge, and found that the 
enemy had disappeared. By evening the place was cleared of wounded and 
dead, and the force withdrew to Bebadi Camp, leaving a strong piquet on 
the heights commanding the gorge. 

The Battalion sustained the following casaalties in this action: 
Killed.— Officers : Captain A. M. Lewis. J.C.Os.: Jemadar Abdulla. 
Indian other ranks, 28. Animals, 3. 
Wounded.—J.C.Os.: Subadar Sansar Chand (twice); Jemadar Rasila. 
Indian other ranks, 42. 
As might be expected, a success like this was followed up by the enemy, 
and Suwara, where the hospital with our wounded was located, was now 
suddenly attacked on 14th August by a force of about 1,000 Kurds. H.Q. and 

* One gun was temporarily out of action for some days, but its lost parts were all 
subsequently found in the Sher Amadia hills. 

The 52nd Sikhs in S. Kurdistan, 1919 141 

two companies of the Battalion were dispatched post-haste to its assistance, 
and left at 10 a.m. The distance of seventeen miles had to be covered cross- 
country in fighting formation as the ground was broken and offered much cover 
to snipers. However, no enemy were encountered, and by evening, when the 
Battalion arrived, the Kurds had withdrawn. 

During the attack on Suwara the Kurds had occupied two important camp 
piquets and had penetrated the camp up to the guns of a Mountain Battery, 
causing 89 casualties, of whom 19 were killed. The men wounded in the action 
in the Mazurkha Gorge were under a heavy fire in the hospital tents, and nine 
were again wounded whilst lying helpless. The column returned to Bebadi 
Camp on the 18th August 1919. 

From this time on until the end of the year the Battalion was engaged as 
part of one or other column of all arms, in punitive operations against the hostile 
Kurdish leaders. These small expeditions were conducted much after the 
fashion of similar affairs on the North-West Frontier of India, and were uni- 
formly successful with only very few casualties. The villages and houses of the 
chief hostile leaders were destroyed and by the end of the year their submission 
was enforced. 

On 14th September Major-General R. A. Cassels, now commanding the 
18th Division, visited the Battalion and congratulated it on its share in the 
recent operations. 

Active operations ended early in December, and the Battalion withdrew to 
Mosul by New Year’s Day, 1920. 

Thus ended a somewhat arduous tour in South Kurdistan, which had lasted 
for five months. During this period officers had been allowed a kit of only 
20 Ib., J.C.Os. 10 1b., and other ranks 6 lb. Short rations were a common 
occurrence, but these were supplemented by local supplies in the form of fine 
grapes and other fruit and vegetables, which were plentiful, and fish bombed 
in the Kurdistan rivers. The health of all ranks was excellent. 

During the campaign over 500 rifles and guns, over 1,000 sheep and 
goats, and over 3} tons of grain had been confiscated by Nightcol. Order had 
been re-established, and the arrest or flight of the hostile Kurdish leaders had 
been effected. 

The Battalion had sustained the following casualties: 

Killed.—Officer, 1; J.C.O., 1; Indian other ranks, 28. 

Drowned.—Indian other rank, 1. 

W ounded.—J.C.Os., 2; Indian other ranks, 46 (including one attached 
mule leader). 

In this wild and inhospitable region, many expeditions have met with 
disaster. The two Turkish attempts to occupy Kurdistan had on each occasion 
ended with the annihilation of the invaders, whilst a Russian force which had 

142 52nd Sikhs Return to Jullundur, 1921 

entered Kurdistan from the direction of Lake Van had been destroyed in the 
Amadia area. In such circumstances, the successful outcome of these opera- 
tions in Kurdistan, and the first safe return of an expedition from that country, 
may justly be considered a matter of great credit to the commanders and 
troops concerned. The fact that the enterprise did not attract the public atten- 
tion it deserved can only be attributed to the lack of interest displayed at that 
time in fighting of any kind by a war-weary world. The First World War, just 
ended, had sickened everybody of it. 

The Battalion remained in Iraq and took part in occasional further active 
duties till April 1921. It was not affected by the Iraqi Rebellion of 1920. 

In April 1921, the 52nd Sikhs concentrated at Mosul and entrained for 
Baghdad, where the Genera] Officer Commanding-in-Chief in Iraq inspected 
the Battalion and congratulated all ranks on their work and record during 
their service in the country. 

The Battalion eventually embarked at Basra on 16th June for Karachi, and 
arrived at the Depot at Jullundur on 6th July 1921. 



Waziristan, 1917—Palestine, 1918—The 54th in the Final Battle, 1918—The 54th in 
the Near East and Black Sea, 1919-21—Egypt and the Return to India. 

Waziristan, 1917 

DurinG the first three years of the First World War the 54th were kept, like 
the other Battalions of the Regiment (except the 5Ist and 53rd), doing watch 
and ward on the North-West Frontier. The Battalion was on the Samana in 
1914 and 1915, and was back in Kohat in March 1916. Here it carried out the 
usual very necessary training that all Battalions did after being split up into 
detachments in outposts such as those on the Samana. 

Moreover, during those early years of the First World War the Battalion, 
like all others left in India, was called on continually for reinforcements. It 
sent of its best to maintain up to strength the Frontier Force Battalions that 
were fighting in the field overseas. 

Early in 1917 the first serious trouble for many years began to show itself 
in Waziristan—trouble that was to increase only two years later into a major 
campaign* that cost the Government of India dear in lives and treasure. The 
54th Sikhs received orders for Waziristan in May 1917, and arrived at Tank on 
6th May. They were assigned to L. of C. protection in conditions of extreme 
heat and discomfort without alleviations of any kind. To quote a slogan of the 
time, ““There is a war on,” and that meant that nothing except overseas war 
theatres received much consideration, including Waziristan! 

Before long however, the Battalion acted as advanced guard to a column 
of brigade strength advancing on Wana. After reaching Dargai Oba in late 
May, the Battalion was again employed on protective duties, piqueting various 
sections of the route to Wana, till 19th June. 

On this date a piquet at Barwand of No. 3 Company was attacked most of 
the night by about 100 Mahsuds, who used dead ground to get to close quar- 
ters before the piquet had time to build their sangar. It lost its commander, 
Subadar Hukm Dad, wounded and Naik Feroze Khan, the Regimental big 
drummer, killed, but drove off the Mahsuds. 

~~ * See Chapter VII: Story of the 3rd Bn. Guides Infantry. = ae 

144 The 54th Sikhs in the First World War—Palestine, 1918 

This fight became famous in the Punjab, as the men were P.Ms., and the 
Governor, Sir Michael O’Dwyer, who toured the Province to help recruiting, 
held up the incident as an example to all in his speeches. 

Except for this very creditable affair, and a few casualties incurred on 
Brigade Columns, the next three weeks were uneventful. 

On 12th July a Mahsud jirgah agreed to terms, and hostilities ended. The 
Battalion remained in Southern Waziristan till 8th September 1917, when it 
moved to Mardan. 

The following December it mobilized, and on 17th February 1918, 
embarked on H.T. Jeddah for Egypt. 

Palestine, 1918 

On arrival there the 54th spent a month at Tel-el-Kebir training, while 
Colonel Woodward and Major Ruck made periodical visits to the front in 

On 17th March the Battalion moved up and joined the 29th Brigade, 10th 
Division, at Nebi Saleh below Mount Ephraim.* The 10th Divisional line here 
lay through the uplands of Judea—a very different country to the flat and un- 
dulating coastal plain farther west-—where the other Frontier Force Battalions 
were in the 3rd, 7th and 60th Divisions. (See Chapters V, VI and VII.) 

The Judean uplands are a series of low rocky hills covered with olive trees 
and scrub; and here the defence had every advantage. Moreover, in this area the 
enemy commander, Liman von Sanders, had located the German and Austrian 
units under his command. 

A period of static warfare for the Battalion now ensued, but on 12th August 
the Battalion took part in an operation with the Leinster Regiment and the 
101st Grenadiers that, although called a raid, was in fact an attack with limited 
objectives to take the commanding position known as the Gharabeh Ridge, 
withdrawing again thereafter. It was completely successful and the whole of the 
Turkish 33rd Regiment was identified. 

The action was as follows. The attack was in two wings: the 54th and 
two companies of the Leinsters formed the right attack, while the 101st Grena- 
diers and the other two companies of the Leinsters carried out the left attack. 
The 60th Division on the right flank co-operated by a demonstration to attract 
the enemy’s attention. 

The Divisional Artillery provided support to such good purpose that the 
enemy on most of the front of attack were demoralized, and casualties were 
comparatively light as a result. 

The Battalion’s role amounted to the post of honour, in that it was detailed 
to attack a feature known as El] Burj (significantly called “the Tower,” as it 

* See p. 117 for the general situation in Palestine at this time. 

The 54th Sikhs in Palestine, 1918 145 

towered over and commanded the entire Gharabeh Ridge). The plan was for 
the 54th to capture this feature and strong-point, and pass two companies of 
the Leinsters through the gap they had made in the wire. The 54th were then to 
move to the left and mop up any enemy in the trenches on that flank. 

In the event the pace of the Battalion’s advance was too fast for the 
Leinsters to keep up, and the latter had afterwards to be sought and redirected 
on to their objective. This was done by Captain L. E. Dennys,* the Adjutant— 
a difficult and very courageous performance. 

It was a pitch-dark night, and the Battalion advance was over unknown 
ground to a distance of 1,500 yards. It then had to assault a position 800 yards 
in extent, which was strongly wired and entrenched. 

Three companies led: left, Sikhs under Captain Taylor; centre, Pathans 
and Dogras under Lieutenant Beauchamp; right, P.Ms. under Captain 
Matheson. One company P.Ms. under Captain Weeks was in reserve. Moving 
rapidly, close under our own bombardment, the men charged across the 
enemy wire (which the guns had effectively cut) almost without a halt, and 
before our bombardment lifted. 

Zero was at 9.50 p.m., and fifteen minutes after the advance commenced 
the enemy put down ten rounds of 5.9-inch howitzer fire and opened a cross- 
barrage with machine-guns from Gharabeh Ridge itself. Fortunately, however, 
this went high for the most part, and caused only two or three casualties. 

All objectives were taken by the Battalion by 10.30 p.m.—i.e., forty 
minutes after the advance started. Casualties were light except in the right 
company, which lost a platoon commander (Jemadar Nur Ahmed) killed and 
14 rank and file killed and wounded. This was thought to be because the 
enemy on this flank had suffered less from our shell fire and were thus able 
to put up more of a fight. 

The Battalion withdrew at midnight, bringing in all casualties (except one 
dead), and were unmolested. The total of losses was one J.C.O. and three other 
ranks killed and 38 wounded. 

Some interesting remarks were made on the lessons gleaned from this 
operation. These commented on such things as the value of rope-soled boots 
in rocky country, which enabled deployment at night without being heard; 
the satisfactory pattern of ladder used for crossing the enemy wire; the use- 
fulness of white tapes for marking out of roads; and the fact that the stars and 
the bursts of our own shells were better guides of direction at night than compass 
bearings. This last-named method of using artillery fire as direction guide had 
been evolved in France and was very effectively utilized in the offensive battles 

* Major-General L. E. Dennys, M.C., who tragically lost his life in a plane crash at 

Chungking while Liaison Officer with the Chinese General Chiang Kai-Shek in the Second 
World War. 


146 The 54th Sikhs in the Final Battle in Palestine, 1918 

during the closing stages of the war. The success of the inter-communication 
arrangements forward of attack headquarters was also noted. Equally their 
absence between Battalion Headquarters and attack headquarters (till very 
late), owing to the speed at which attack headquarters moved forward, was a 
serious shortcoming. 

Among many awards for this operation, Captains Dennys and Matheson 
both received the Military Cross, Havildar Maida Khan was awarded the 
1.0.M., 2nd Class, and I.D.S.Ms. were given to Subadar-Major Janus Khan, 
Subadar Bhikham Singh and Sepoy Lachman. 

In their report on this raid the 10th Division remarked that “the 54th Sikhs 
deployed with great speed and precision, and advanced with great determina- 
tion and dash.” 

The 54th in the Final Battle, 1918 

After this operation the Battalion took its turn in the front line, eking 
out the tedium of static warfare for a further six weeks. During this period, 
except for a company raid by Dennys’s company on 7th September (which 
the Turks did not wait to see), nothing of importance occurred till 19th Sep- 
tember, when the final battle in Palestine in 1918 finished the war with Turkey. 

The strategic situation leading up to this battle, and the measures taken 
by General Allenby to prepare for the attack on a grand scale, followed by 
the break-through by his cavalry, have already been described (Chapter V, 
p. 118). The role assigned to the 20th Corps of 10th and 53rd Division in the 
plan was to hold down the enemy in the uplands of Judea and close the roads 
leading to the Jordan Valley* while the decisive blow was struck in the coastal 
sector, thus trapping the Turkish Seventh and Eighth Armies. 

The 10th Division was accordingly directed on Nablus, and as might be 
expected, its attack was met with strong opposition from the Turkish Seventh 
Army, which had a considerable proportion of German units. 

On Zero day, 19th September 1918, the 54th concentrated at Mezrah 
and was to climb over Furka (Mount Ephraim) by a track leading up the 
Wadi Deir. This however was found to be barraged by the enemy, and was 
in addition both a difficult climb in the dark and impracticable for laden 
camels (which formed the transport). The Commanding Officer therefore, 
having obtained permission, took the Battalion up the western shoulder of 
Mount Ephraim by Karawa. Arriving at Ain Badran by daylight on the 20th, 
it was found that the Brigade had been stopped by a resolute rear-guard of 
German and Austrian machine-gun units who were holding a position on the 
Sejarah Ridge. 

At 11.15 a.m. the situation was explained to the Commanding Officer 
by the Brigade Major, who added that the Division was anxious to push on. 

* History of the Great War, Buchan, Vol. IV, p. 356. - 

The 54th Sikhs in Palestine, 1918—The Battle of Mt. Ephraim 147 


Diagram (Nof to Scale) illustrating illustrating 

Attack of the 34° Sikhs 19? Sepr 1918 

ull! G MWYy 7 My / 
\ Auth PR ROACEE ie jes a Wage 
1/1 ty i RES ~ thy \ Aagirian 
7 oy Sy ww ee “PB Wyn 
in tot 277 MSS 

Ss rs 
"ile Fire Mh is = 

\\ \\NS Leinsters & 
Bombay Grenadiers 

(held up) 

SN Nien Ln 

QUI) ws 

Ne 4 Coy. Bn Reserve 

The Battalion went in straightway to the attack and seized the position without 
a check, although 110 men were hit in fifteen minutes during the advance. 
Among these was Captain Dennys, who was badly wounded in the thigh, also 
a Subadar, Bhikham Singh, who refused to go back until his company had 
secured the position. He was awarded a Military Cross and Dennys a bar to 
his M.C. 

The latter was carried out of action by his orderly Sharif under heavy 
machine-gun fire, while Bhikham Singh was hit in the arm and leg and also 
lost an eye. He wrote from Cairo imploring the Commanding Officer to get 
him back to the Battalion, saying “one eye and one arm are enough for me 
to serve the Sirkar with.” 

After the capture of the Sejarah Ridge, the Battalion moved on at mid- 
night, reaching Nablus at 2 p.m. on the 21st. 

The German and Austrian machine-gunners who had opposed the Batta- 
lion were captured at Nablus, and paid an unsolicited tribute to the Battalion’s 
performance the day before. They claimed to have used their machine-guns 

148 The 54th Sikhs in the Near East and Black Sea, 1919-21 

with great effect, but said that nothing would have stopped the last attack 
made against them—which was in fact the Battalion’s onslaught. 

The Divisional Commander, General Longley, now rode up with his con- 
gratulations on the Battalion’s performance, and they were well enough de- 
served. The men had been under arms consecutively for forty-three hours and 
had moved between twenty-five to thirty miles, much of it in the dark, includ- 
ing a 1,500 ft. climb over Mount Ephraim, followed by a stiff attack on an 
enemy position. They were carrying a heavy load of ammunition and kit, had 
had no sleep, and not a single man fell out. Many of the last draft which had 
joined the Battalion only three weeks earlier were young lads between seventeen 
and twenty. 

The 54thin the Near East and Black Sea, 1919-21 

Thus ended the 54th Sikhs’ career in the First World War. Albeit short, 
its achievements speak for themselves. They fully maintained the great tradi- 
tions set for them by their predecessors (in both the leaders and rank and file 
of the Battalion) and by their sister Battalions of the Frontier Force who had 
gone earlier into the field. 

The defeat and destruction of the Turco-German forces in Palestine was 
so complete that fighting in respect of those units not actually engaged in 
the pursuit and round-up (which were mostly cavalry) ceased. While other 
Battalions, as we have seen, made long marches up into Syria, the 54th was 
withdrawn to Egypt, where for a time it was in camp at Cairo. Here the only 
event of interest during 1919 was a big ceremonial parade for General Allenby 
in January. Egypt. it will be remembered, was unsettled at that time, with 
rioting and general internal unrest. The Battalion divided its time between 
internal garrison and security duties and guarding prisoners of war, of which 
tens of thousands had been brought to Egypt after the final surrender in 
Palestine. Training in mountain warfare was also carried out when opportunity 
offered during this period. 

In March 1920, the Battalion was still at Maadi, twelve miles from Cairo, 
when it received orders to join the Black Sea Force. Embarking at Alexandria 
on 15th March in the s.s. Answald, they passed Rhodes on the 17th, the Dar- 
danelles and Sea of Marmora on the 18th, and arrived in Constantinople on 
the 19th. On the 20th the Battalion went into billets in the Palace of Justice 
at Scutari. Three days later two companies of the Battalion were ordered to 
join “Bates’s Force” at Broken Bridge, Lefksh, fifty miles south of Ismid. The 
companies entrained at Haider Pasha at 4 p.m. on the 24th, arrived at Ismid 
at 9 p.m. and Broken Bridge at 4 a.m. After only one day, during which there 
was some sniping from the Turks, the Lefksh Bridge was blown up and the 
two companies returned to Scutari. 

The 54th Sikhs in the Near East, 1920-21 149 

The occasion will be remembered as one when a clash between Allied 
forces and the Turks organized by Mustafa Kemal was narrowly averted by 
the tact of the British Commander, General Harington. 

On 13th May the Battalion was ordered to Batoum, on the east coast 
of the Black Sea, and arrived there on the 16th after a quiet sea voyage in 
the s.s. Rio Pardo. The reason was a crisis in Georgia, which, however, came 
to nothing, and the Battalion came back to Scutari by 30th May. The return 
voyage was done in H.M.S. Royal Sovereign; and as a result of the Battalion’s 
time in the Black Sea a strong entente grew up between it and the men of the 
battleship. At one time or another nearly every man in the Battalion went on 

Between 10th and 18th June two companies were sent to Shile by sea 
(it was forty-five miles away overland), and on the latter date moved to Dodulu, 
where a defensive line (the Record says “of a comic opera sort”) was being 
held against Mustafa Kemal]’s Nationalist Turks. 

For the next six weeks there was little to record other than minor incidents, 
such as the dispatch of Captain Carter to find a missing patrol of Gunners 
up the Bosphorus, the rescue of one Captain Galpin when his Circassian In- 
fantry deserted en masse, and a search in the Mayor’s house in Scutari (once 
the Turkish headquarters in the war) for arms and ammunition: 200 rifles 
and 50,000 rounds of ammunition were found and dumped in the Bosphorus 
on this occasion. 

An unusual and interesting experience for officers and J.C.Os. was on 
30th July 1920 when they went out with the Mediterranean Fleet on gunnery 
practice in the Black Sea. Capital ships were out, and the Battalion was 
distributed among H.M.Ss. Empress of India, Marlborough, Ajax and 
Benbow. Double salvoes of 13.5-inch guns were fired, Marlborough doing the 
best shooting. 

From this time till October only local amenities such as sports and rifle 
meetings are recorded, and in these the Battalion gave of its best, winning more 
than its share of the prizes. 

On 21st October 1920 the Battalion embarked for Egypt, where it arrived 
at Beni Suef on the 27th and took over local guards and duties from the Guides 

Egypt and the Return to India 

After a further six weeks that were quite uneventful in Egypt, the Battalion 
at last left to return to India. Spending Christmas Day 1920 at Suez, it em- 
barked on 11th January on the Answald for Bombay—the same steamer that 
had taken the Battalion to the Black Sea nine months earlier. 

During the night of the 21st in the Indian Ocean the ship passed through 
a belt of snow-white sea—a rare phenomenon which scientists say is caused 

150 The 54th Sikhs Return to Jullundur, 1921 

by large masses of “‘minutiz.” It was an entertaining reflection that the Bat- 
talion, having passed through the Red Sea and the Black Sea, now on its final 
voyage home passed through a white sea that it took two or three hours to clear! 

Arriving at Bombay on 23rd January 1921, the Battalion reached Jullun- 
dur, the Group Centre, on the 27th at 4 p.m., and received a joyous welcome 



The Inception of the Training Battalion—The Reorganization of the Indian Army, 1922— 
The Frontier Force Memorial at Kohat—The Training Battalion at the Outbreak 
of the Second World War—Expansion as a Regimental Centre—The Raising of 
War Battalions and the Development of Training with Modern Equipment—Some 
Administrative Stories—Demobilization after the Second World War and Resettle- 
ment in Civil Life. 

The Inception of the Training Battalion 

It has been remarked in earlier chapters how in the First World War the 
problem of maintaining active battalions in the field showed up the weakness 
of the basic organization of the regiments of the Indian Army once they were 
called on to fight in a modern full-scale war. First, sister battalions, and 
then any battalions with the same classes of men, were drained to provide rein- 
forcements until they themselves were “bled white,” and a general lowering 
of standards resulted. If anything was required to convince the Government 
and its military advisers of this, the Waziristan operations of 1919 and 1920 
provided it, and by 1922 a scheme of reorganization was introduced. 

Its chief innovation was the creation of a training battalion to serve each 
group of three, four or five active battalions. These groups were then termed 
“Regiments,” and each whole group was thus welded together to bring into 
being a new regimental spirit and tradition for the future. 

The function of the training battalion was, shortly, to serve the active 
battalions of its regiment, provide recruits trained up to a certain minimum 
standard, and co-ordinate all matters pertaining to the regiment such as uni- 
form, badges, reunions, etc. That it should be elastic and capable of expansion 
in war was a fundamental object of the scheme, and how magnificently it 
succeeded in this respect was one of the major lessons of the Second World 
War. At the start, however, all was not plain sailing. How, indeed, could such 
a thing be expected? The idea itself was in a great measure revolutionary, and 
involved the building up of a regimental spirit into which the battalions had to 
merge their individual outlook and to some extent their traditions. 

In the cases of many regiments one of the regular battalions had to sacri- 
fice all future prospects for itself of service in the field in order to assume 
the role of training battalion, but in the two “Piffer” Regiments this at least 


152 The Regimental Centre—The Reorganization of 1922 

was spared to the Battalions that had won such grand names and records for 
themselves on the North-West Frontier and in the First World War. Two war- 
raised Battalions, the 2nd Battalion the Guides Infantry and the 2nd Battalion 
56th Rifles, were available and filled the posts of Training Battalions to the 
two Regiments. The story of the latter in its role of Training Battalion, and 
ultimately Regimental Centre, of the Frontier Force Rifles has been told in 
Chapter VIII and Appendix IX of the History of that Regiment. The history 
of the former during and up to the end of the First World War has been 
recorded in Chapter VII above. It was indeed a matter of pride and satisfaction 
that this war-raised Battalion of the Guides that had acquitted itself so well 
in the field under conditions of modern warfare should after all be retained 
permanently and not suffer disbandment and disappearance, in company with 
so many other similar formations, with the coming of peace in 1920. 

At first the Training Battalion was located at Mardan with the rest of the 
Corps of Guides, and for five years after assuming the role of Training Battalion 
to the Group it retained in its title the style (“OQ.V.O. Corps of Guides”), but 
this was dropped in 1927. 

The Reorganization of the Indian Army, 1922 

As with all other training battalions introduced into the Indian Army in 
the reorganization of 1922, its title was the 10th Battalion of the Regiment, 
and the Regular Battalions were given the titles of Ist, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and Sth 
Battalions. The Regiment itself received the title 12th Frontier Force Regi- 
ment, and the blank numbers left between the 5th and 10th Battalions were 
for allocating, in the event of war, to war-raised battalions as the Army ex- 
panded.* The first numbers above the 10th Battalion—i.e., the 11th, 12th, etc., 
Battalions—were earmarked for Territorial Battalions on the lines of the part- 
time Territorial formations of Britain. Chapter XXVI tells the story of the 
Territorial Battalion of the Frontier Force Regiment. 

Little did anyone then implementing the scheme (and many indeed were 
the misgivings felt and expressed!) guess how soon it would be put to the 
supreme test of another World War, or how triumphantly it would stand up to it. 

The allocation of titles to Battalions in the Regiment came easily. Only 
in the case of the Guides Infantry was the new order regarded somewhat 
askance, and could one be surprised? Anyone reading their story in this volume 
so far cannot fail to appreciate how such a corps as the Guides treasured its 
name and traditions and how sensitive it would be in regard to any innovation 
that theatened to cut across them. But fears, if any, were groundless. The 
Guides Infantry have never been asked to part with either their traditions as 
a Corps or their association with the Guides Cavalry. They themselves have 
fully entered into and fostered the Regimental spirit of the Frontier Force 

* This in due course happened in 1940-42, vide Chapters XXII to XXV. 

The Inception of the Training Battalion, 1922 153 

Regiment into which they were incorporated as the Sth Battalion (Q.V.O. 
Corps of Guides) in 1922. In this the Guides Infantry offered to accept the 
number and title of Sth Battalion in the Regiment in order that the other 
four Battalions could resume the original numbers that had been theirs almost 
from birth—viz., Ist, 2nd, 3rd and 4th (Sikhs) Frontier Force Regiment. 

The Training Battalion had five training companies, one for each active 
battalion, and each with its own cadre of officers, J.C.Os. and instructional 
staff provided by the active battalion concerned. There was close liaison be- 
tween the active unit and the affiliated training company, and this did much 
to keep alive battalion tradition. 

As has been remarked, the Training Battalion, while taking its shape 
and losing its identity as the 2nd Battalion Guides Infantry, was located in 
Mardan, but on 29th April 1929, it moved to Sialkot. This became its home 
for some twenty years; and here in the Second World War it expanded into a 
Regimental Centre with battalions instead of companies affiliated to the active 
battalions of the Regiment and training their reinforcements. The title has 
been retained, and after the inception of the State of Pakistan the Regimental 
Centre moved to Abbottabad, which became the Centre for both “‘Piffer” 

With the reorganization of the Pakistan Army in 1956, all Piffer Battalions 
were organized in one Regiment, “The Frontier Force Regiment,” and are now 
served by the one Regimental Centre in Abbotabad. The Battalions were re- 
numbered, and details are given in the fina] Chapter of this Volume and in 
Appendix XI. 

The work of the 10th Battalion in 1940-43 and its expansion into a Regi- 
mental Centre in the Second World War were its greatest achievements, but 
before telling that story the doings of the years from 1922 to 1939 require to 
be outlined, though they contain little of interest. 

One of the earliest measures to be instituted which tended to breed a 
Regimental spirit was the Annual Commanding Officers’ Conference, attended 
by all active battalion commanders and presided over by Colonel Hector 
Campbell,* the first Commandant. The agenda dealt with such matters as 
organization of recruiting, transfers between active battalions and their training 
companies, and the strength of trained personnel in the latter. The Training 
Battalion was feeling its way and soon such matters were established routine. As 
the years went on these conferences dealt with purely family matters, such as 
fixtures for competitions, reunions, etc., and adjustments of items of uniform. 

For the rest, the Training Battalion’s life had little to record beyond 
alterations in training, visits by general officers, etc., measures to improve 
amenities in the lines and other matters, all of which were common to all 

* Brigadier Hector Campbell, C.B., D.S.O., M.V.O. 

154 The Frontier Force Memorial at Kohat 

training battalions and would be a wearisome recital] even if there was room 
for them in a volume such as this. 

The Frontier Force Memorial at Kohat 

There was an outstanding event, however, common indeed to all “Piffer” 
units, which took place in 1924. The War Memorial of the Frontier Force was 
unveiled in Kohat, and the familiar obelisk with its surrounding tablets has been 
a shrine where parade services have been held annually on Remembrance Day 
ever since. 

Two unveiling ceremonies have been performed. The first, to com- 
memorate the fallen in the First World War, was by General Sir William 
Birdwood, acting Commander-in-Chief in India, on 23rd October 1924. 
Speaking in Urdu and English, he said that units of the Punjab Frontier Force 
had fought in every theatre of the First World War and lost 171 officers, 122 
non-commissioned officers and 3,425 men. He added: “These figures speak 
for themselves, and no eloquence of mine or of anyone else can do justice to 
what they tell us. We know that it was not strategy nor tactics nor leadership 
‘that gained us the victory, but the spirit of sacrifice; and it is to that spirit 
of sacrifice which inspired these officers and men of the Frontier Force to pay 
the supreme price that this monument is raised.” 

General Birdwood also unveiled in St. Augustine’s Church, Kohat, 
memorial tablets bearing the names of the British officers of the Frontier Force 
who had given their lives for their country. After the fire which destroyed St. 
Augustine’s Church, and the closing of most of the Christian churches in 
North-West India and Pakistan in 1947, these memorials were brought to 
England and placed in a chapel in St. Luke’s Church, Chelsea, dedicated to 
the P.F.F. 

The second unveiling was on 14th April 1955, when plaques commemorat- 
ing the fallen in the Second World War* were unveiled, nearly ten years after 
the war’s conclusion. It was carried out by General Nasir Ali Khan, the Chief 
of Staff of the Pakistan Army, who was deputising for the Commander-in-Chief. 
The latter had been called away suddenly to Karachi. 

The day was perfect and the ceremony conformed as far as possible to that 
of the first unveiling in 1924. Arriving by jeep with motor-cyclist outriders, 
the Chief of Staff was received by Major-General M. Hayaud Din, H.J., M.B.E., 
M.C., the Colonel of the Frontier Force Regiment. After receiving a General 
Salute and inspecting the guards of honour, the Chief of Staff took up a position 
facing the memorial, and Major-General Hayaud Din gave an address which 
included the following: 

“.. . They fought and fell wherever duty took them, away from their 
homes and people. They lie in three continents, in the deserts of Africa, moun- 

* For comparison with the First World War figures given above see Appendix VII. 

The Training Battalion at the Outbreak of the Second World War 155 

tains and valleys of Europe, plains of Iraq and Iran, hills of the North-West 
Frontier, and the jungles of Burma and Malaya. Some even have no graves. 

“The object of a memorial like this is to remind everyone of the spirit of 
sacrifice which these men possessed. If we follow their example, I am sure 
no problem will be too difficult to solve and no obstacle too high to over- 
come. . . . I hope and pray that this memorial will perpetuate for all time 
to come the spirit of the Frontier Force, which is service and sacrifice for the 

The Chief of Staff made a brief speech in which he said: “Those who gave 
their lives may be physically dead, but spiritually they will never die. They will 
live as long as we follow their example.” 

He then pulled a cord bringing down the Pakistan flag which was covering 
the memorial. The inscription facing the Mall has the following words added 
toit: “World War IT, 1939-45.” 

The parade ended with a march past along the Mall. The ceremony was 
attended by a large number of spectators, “‘Piffers” and others, who had arrived 
the day before. Unfortunately, representatives of the Sth Royal Gurkhas and 
Indian “Piffer” Batteries who had been invited through the Governments of 
Pakistan and India were prevented at the last minute from coming. 

- The Training Battalion at the Outbreak of the Second World War 
and its First Expansion 

The actual outbreak of war in 1939 caused little change, and the surprise 
felt at no immediate measures being taken for expansion (or even to prepare 
for it) was universal. It was not till the fierce German onslaught in Europe in 
1940, and the disasters that followed it, had galvanized into activity the Allied 
Governments who for nine precious months had shut their eyes to the danger, 
that the inevitable and belated rush to expand and train began. 

It is perhaps idle to speculate how much could have been done, and how 
improvisation, money and even lives could have been saved had those lost 
nine months been utilized in an all-out drive to expand, equip and train. The 
lesson however is clear, and since because of its implications for those re- 
sponsible it will not be recorded in official histories, let those who read this 
volume mark it well. Si vis pacem para bellum. 

Every kind of difficulty was now met as a result of the procrastination. 
The first stage of expansion raised the strength of the 10th Battalion from 700 
Indian rank and file to over 1,500, but with no increase in the officer estab- 
lishment. A number of officers, however, began to arrive from the Indian Army 
Reserve and United Kingdom. Few of the former and none of the latter had 
any knowledge of the language. 

At the same time drafts of instructors began to be received from active 
battalions to cope with the expansion. Here it seems that a difference has to 

156 The Training Battalion Expands to become a Regimental Centre, 194] 

be recorded from the experience of the Training Battalion of the Frontier 
Force Rifles at the same period. While in the latter it was said that the active 
battalions “generously” resisted the natural inclination to retain their best 
N.C.Os. and J.C.Os., in the 10th/12th the drafts of instructors varied con- 
siderably, few being really suitable. The point surely merits comment here 
since it is fundamental to the success of the whole Army organization, and 
the adverb “generously” was surely misapplied. Indeed, an active battalion 
was doing no more than serve its own best interests by sending good men to 
train its recruits—particularly in war time! 

The Training Centre (as it was now called) of the 12th Frontier Force 
Regiment met the emergency in the only way it could—by “getting down” to 
training its own selected recruits and making “recruit instructors” of them. 
They did a three months’ instructor’s course, followed by a year as a recruit 
instructor. The plan* was a success and paid handsome dividends, both to the 
Centre and ultimately to active battalions, since they received a steady stream 
of young potential N.C.Os. It was copied by other centres. 

Expansion as a Regimental Centre 

A second stage of expansion was ordered on 15th September 1941. This 
entailed the doubling of each existing company and the addition of a duty 
company to Centre Headquarters. The five double companies thus formed 
had each an authorized strength of about 550 I.O.Rs. and the duty company 
about 200. 

The establishment of Officers and Junior Commissioned Officers was: 

Officers J.C.Os. 

Commandant (Lieutenant-Colonel) .. ere | 
Second-in-Command (Major) 1 
Adjutant (Captain) : hes ok 
Quartermaster (Lieutenant or Captain) ear dk 
P.T. Officer (Lieutenant) iss 1 
Records and Accounts Officer (Captain) 1 
Subadar-Major ye ba 
Head Clerk (Jemadar) 
Four Platoon Commanders, Duty Company 

Total .. 6 

ad | ae 

* Albeit it was nothing new, as it was practised in Depots in the First World War, to 
the author’s personal experience. 

The Regimental Centre, 1942-46 157 

Officers J.C.Os. 

Double Company Commander (Captain) .. 1 
Adjutant and Quartermaster (Lieutenant) .. 1 
Company Commanders (Captains) .. su 2 
Jemadar-Adjutant 1 
Platoon Commanders (Subadar or Jemadar) 8 
Total (4 x 5) 20 
Total (9 x 5) 45 
Grand Total 26 52 

The actual average monthly strength in the Centre from the start of the 
second stage expansion until the end of the war with Japan was: 

Officers (including J.C.Os.) . : . 53g 73 
Indian other ranks (excluding followers) . .. 4,811 
The peak strength of 5,959 Indian other ranks was reached in September 
1942, and that of 113 officers and J.C.Os. in January 1943. 
The Commandants of the Training Centre during the period of the war 
and the demobilization period were: 

Up to April 1943: Lieutenant-Colonel E. A. Stead, M.C. 
From April 1943, to January 1946: Colonel J. E. Redding. 
From January 1946, to August 1947: Colonel P. T. Clarke, C.B.E. 

In 1942 the appointment of double-company commander was upgraded 
to Major’s rank and two new appointments were sanctioned in Training Centre 
Headquarters, that of Training Adjutant and Assistant Quartermaster. In filling 
these appointments the existing adjutant became Training Adjutant, the Jema- 
dar Head Clerk (Nand Lall) became Office Adjutant with the rank of Captain, 
and the Quartermaster Clerk (Khadim Hussain) became Assistant Quarter- 
master with the rank of Lieutenant. 

The appointment of Commandant was not upgraded to the rank of Colonel 
until May 1943, and that of Second-in-Command to Lieutenant-Colonel not 
until August 1943. 

Apart from those officers filling appointments in Training Centre Head- 
quarters and the five double-company commanders, all officers were available 
for draft and their posting was carried out by the Centre to fill demands in 
numbers from General Headquarters. 

The actual period that these officers remained with the Centre averaged 
about three months, and only about 50 per cent. were posted to Battalions 
of the Regiment. 

158 The Regimental Centre and the Raising of War Battalions 

The Raising of War Battalions and the Development of Training 
with Modern Equipment 

The Training Centre now became responsible for the initial start of some 
new Battalions of the Regiment raised during the war, the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th 
and Machine-Gun Battalions. The Afridi Battalion and 25th Garrison Batta- 
lion were raised independently, the Afridi Battalion’s Training Company being 
added to the Centre in 1942. 

The stories of all these Battalions are to be found elsewhere in this volume. 
They provide inspiring reading, particularly when it is remembered that the 
Training Centre had no framework on which to raise them and had to im- 
provise everything—even (as recorded above) the instructors to train the recruits. 

The facilities for the training of recruits were now gradually improved, 
until by the end of 1942 the assault courses, obstacle courses and battle training 
grounds were probably better than those in any other Centre. Likewise the 
driving tracks were progressively improved and eventually were a real test of 
skill in driving over hilly and rough ground. 

The Pipe Band was expanded to a strength of 100, until it became not only 
a centre of attraction, but a source of pride to all ranks and played its part in 
fostering esprit de corps. 

The Pipe and Brass Band beat “Retreat” every Saturday evening and 
the vast majority of the strength of over 4,000 turned out as spectators. It was 
always a thrilling event. 

Incidentally, a “Dhol” and “Surnai” Band was also formed. 

One of the objects of expanding the Pipe Band and forming the Dhol 
and Surnai Band was to provide a nucleus (or reinforcements) for active batta- 
lions, of trained musicians. 

The Training Centre not only supplied its own Battalions with reinforce- 
ments, but began to send large drafts to the Supply and Mechanical Transport 
and other Corps. Besides this it was called upon to train large numbers of 
Madrassis (about 200-300) for the Madras Regiment, and men for the Ajmer 
Regiment. The Madrassis presented an entirely novel administrative problem 
on arrival. It was decreed by General Headquarters that they should be weaned 
from their normal rice diet, but at the same time the Training Centre was in- 
formed that this had often been tried in the past without success. It had to be 
essayed and it is no small tribute to the Centre to record that success was 
achieved. The start was made with a little less than the daily ration of rice 
plus half a chupatti each. The hard work made the Madrassis hungry, and the 
chupatti was devoured. By degrees the proportion of rice was gradually 
eliminated, and in the end they confessed to liking the atta diet and found it 
more sustaining. 

Incidentally, the tale might have been different had they not been so 
far from their homes and amidst an alien population. They distinguished them- 

The Regimental Centre—Administrative Problems 1941-46 159 

selves on arrival by knocking out a Pathan havildar with the leg of a charpoy. 
He had been a little rude to one of them, and they set about him like a swarm 
of bees. 

The powers-that-be were not always as helpful as they might have been, 
and a peace-time mentality seemed to exist in some quarters until late in 1942. 
For instance: from the start of the first major expansion in 1940 until early in 
1942 the disciplinary powers of the Commandant and of Company Com- 
manders remained exactly as they were in peace time. When the peace-time 
companies became double companies, the powers of double-company com- 
manders were no higher than those of a company commander, and all cases 
considered worthy of rigorous imprisonment or summary court-martial had to 
be brought before the Commandant for disposal. 

It was not unusual for up to seven summary courts-martial to be held in 
a week and for even three to be held on the same day. When this was repre- 
sented to the Deputy Adjutant-General in October 1941, at a Training Centre 
Commanding Officers’ Conference in New Delhi, it was stated by a law officer 
that the appointment of double-company commander did not exist as far as 
the Indian Army Act was concerned and that therefore double-company com- 
manders possessed no powers at all, and that it would take at least six months 
for a Bill amending the Act to be passed through the Legislative Assembly. 
It was not until early in 1942 that the difficulty was overcome by calling the 
existing double companies battalions and promoting their commanders to the 
rank of Major. 

With the vast expansion that took place it was obviously impracticable 
to continue to maintain the peace-time system under which each active batta- 
lion had an affiliated company in the Training Battalion, from which it got its 
drafts and with which all its trained personnel at the Centre served. 

Now all drafts when called for had to be sent from the double company / 
battalion which could supply sufficient quantities of the finished article, and 
officers and V.C.Os. had of necessity to be pooled. The case was put up to 
General Headquarters and an Indian Army Order was almost immediately 
published abolishing affiliated companies for the duration of the war. Within 
a month, however, this order was cancelled, no doubt on the representation 
of individuals who did not themselves have to deal with the problem. In actual 
practice the affiliated company system was never resumed. It was, as has 
been shown, wholly impracticable. 

Some Administrative Stories 

The Centre always had a flourishing vegetable garden. With difficulty 
permission was obtained to increase it by taking up about half an acre of can- 
tonment waste land. Almost nightly this was extended by ploughing and 
fencing in a few more square yards, until the acreage of the new garden was 

160 The Regimental Centre Administration and Demobilization 

greater than that of the old peace-time one, and a sufficient supply of vegetables 
obtained for over 4,000 men. The encroachment was never officially noticed. 

In 1941 an enemy threat from the direction of the Caucasus was seriously 
anticipated, and it was ordered that all newly built lines were to be staggered 
and spread over a vast area of country in view of possible air attack. The fact 
that in open country it was impossible to conceal barracks for over 4,000 men, 
and that administrative problems and training efficiency would be impaired 
considerably, at first seemed to matter little. After some pleading the Centre 
was allowed to design the layout of its new lines to suit itself. 

The old and new lines completely surrounded the old Cavalry Brigade 
parade ground, and that, together with two polo grounds (they were in fact 
the famed polo grounds of the Sialkot Cavalry Brigade), was used for all 
training other than field work. With this layout only two quarter guards were 
Necessary, and in consequence duties for the duty company could be kept 
comparatively light. The Bells of Arms of four Battalions were located on 
either flank of the new quarter guard with their stores immediately in rear. 
Other training centres, including that of the 16th Punjab Regiment in the 
same station, were not so lucky, and our Centre’s layout was much envied. 

In 1942 a somewhat unusual psychological problem arose to affect the 
Centre. An Artificial Limb Centre was formed in Sialkot and was attached 
to the Indian Military Hospital adjacent to the Training Centre lines. A con- 
stant stream of limbless men passed through this centre, and it took some time 
and correspondence before the High Command could be made to realize that 
such a centre could have a bad effect on the morale of young recruits, and that 
its close proximity to a training centre was the worst possible place for its loca- 
tion. The fact that the Artificial Limb Centre (the only one of its kind in India) 
was doing outstandingly good work seemed to blind the authorities to all other 
aspects of its existence. Ultimately the Artificial Limb Centre was moved 
to Poona. 

Demobilization and Resettlement 

The end of the Second World War came with the capitulation of Japan 
on 15th August 1945, and with it the work of the Regimental Centre went into 
reverse. Demobilization and a return to a peace-time footing became the work 
of the day, and a special reorganization had to be undertaken in the Centre to 
deal with it. An “‘Attached Section” was formed to which came all men for 
dispatch to the Demobilization Centre, which was organized as a subsidiary 
unit of the Regimental Centre. Much work was necessary in classifying the 
men, inspecting and completing their kits, and paying them. Those suffering 
from wounds, disease or other disabilities had to be examined and classified 
before going on toa Medical Board. 


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The Regimental Centre—Its Achievement 161 

The first to be released were recruits, then re-employed pensioners and 
fow-category men, and finally came the general release and disbandment of 
Battalions to bring the Regiment to its interim post-war establishment. 

The total number who passed through the Demobilization Centre, in- 
cluding officers, J.C.Os. and N.C.Os., by Ist April 1947 (a period of one year 
and seven and a half months), exceeded 14,000. The credit for this achievement 
and the smoothness with which it was carried out must go to the Commandant 
of the Demobilization Centre and his staff; and also to the efforts of the civil 
Resettlement Officer, who worked in conjunction with the Employment Ex- 
changes to get the men employment in civil life. 

These activities in fact concluded the task of the Regimental Centre in 
the Second World War. The problems that arose with the coming of inde- 
pendence and the division of the Indian continent into the separate countries 
of Pakistan and India are outside the scope of this volume. Suffice it to place 
on record that the system evolved from the lessons of the First World War 
that has been described above came triumphantly through the administratively 
even greater ordeal of the Second. For not only did the Training Battalion 
serve the needs of the Regiment in peace, but coped with the enormous demands 
of its more numerous active battalions in war, while at the same time expand- 
ing itself into a huge organization of the strength of several battalions. 

As has been remarked above the two Regimental Centres of the Frontier 
Force Rifles and Frontier Force Regiment amalgamated in 1956 and the active 
battalions of both have been organized into one Regiment—the Frontier Force 
Regiment, with one Regimental Centre. Details of this reorganization and the 
new titles of battalions, together with their old ones, are given in Chapter XXX, 
and Appendix X. 




The Reorganization of 1922—The Guides in the Red Shirt Disturbances—The Chitral 
Relief, 1932, and the Loe Agra and Mohmand Expeditions, 1933 and 1935—Wucha 
Jawar—The Khaisora, November 1936—The Shahur Tangi, April 1937—The 
Sherawangi Narai and Death of Lieutenant-Colonel Grant—Last Days at Razmak 
—Last years in Mardan. 

The Reorganization of 1922 

THE Ist Guides returned to Mardan from Syria in December 1920, and 
thereafter for three years they remained peacefully in their old home. Even the 
turbulent spirits of Mohmand Swat and Buner did not disturb them during 
this period, but not so the powers-that-be. They inflicted a disturbance on the 
Guides that was hardly unexpected, quite unavoidable, and the logical out- 
come of the lessons learnt in the First World War. 

Chapter X above has described the inauguration of the Training Battalion 
system in the Indian Army, and with it the absorption of the 2nd Battalion 
of the Guides Infantry into the role of Training Battalion of the Frontier 
Force Regiment. It meant also the absorption of the original Infantry of the 
Corps of Guides into the Frontier Force Regiment as one of its Battalions, 
while the Cavalry of the Corps became a separate Regiment of the Indian 
Cavalry with a number—the 10th (Q.V.O. Corps of Guides) Cavalry, F.F. 

That this was a shattering upheaval to the Corps could not be denied by 
anyone then serving with it, and its impact can readily be imagined by anyone 
who has read the chapters of this volume that have been written above. Need- 
less to say, all was accepted loyally. It was an inevitable outcome of the march 
of events and the demands of modern war. “The old order changeth, yielding 
place to new,” had once more to be accepted, and a new future carved out to 
match the past. 

In the renumbering of Battalions that took place under the reorganization, 
the Guides Infantry offered to take the Sth Battalion title—i.e., the number five 
—so as to allow the Ist, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Sikhs to retain their old numbers. 
Thus they became the Sth Battalion 12th Frontier Force Regiment (Q.V.O. 
Corps of Guides). 

By the end of !923 the changes had come fully into effect. and the new 


The Guides 1919-39—Aden, 1924-26 163 

organization was working smoothly—all “corners” having been rubbed off. It 
is fair to repeat here that this organization stood the even greater test of the 
Second World War with the huge problems of expansion that it brought. As 
the Administrative Staff Officer chiefly responsible in 1940 and 1941 for assist- 
ing the Training Battalion to deal with these problems in the Frontier Force 
Regiment, the writer can pay an unreserved tribute to the organization, its 
sound foundations and flexible components. It exists to this day in Pakistan 
and India. 

In February 1924, the Sth Battalion (as for the moment we will call them, 
though the writer prefers hereafter to adhere to the Guides as their best-known 
and treasured name) was ordered to Aden. 

It was a “peace” station which Indian battalions were assigned to in 
rotation, but the hinterland of Yemen was in a somewhat disturbed state at 
this time. One of the units there with British officers was a battalion recruited 
from the loca] Arabs, called the Yemen Infantry. A detachment of this battalion 
formed the garrison of Perim Island (at the entrance to the Red Sea). 

On 3rd September 1924, Lieutenant Lawrence, commanding this detach- 
ment, was stabbed to death by the guard of his unit. 

As a result of this outrage, the Guides took over the garrison of Perim 
and also of Kamaran, an island 150 miles to the north, on the coast of Yemen. 
The Yemen battalion was disbanded, five of the eight murderers being brought 
to justice. 

The Guides Infantry left Aden in February 1926, and arrived back in 
Mardan twelve days later. 

That summer the Battalion once more acted as protective troops for the 
“Chitral Relief’—the biennial change-over of the garrison of Chitral. This 
garrison had been maintained ever since the murder of the ruler in 1895 and the 
resultant expedition described in Chapter IV. 

The relief went off without incident and the Battalion, having left Mardan 
on 10th September, were back in Dargai by 12th October. Here, before the relief 
started Lieutenant Godfrey Meynell joined the Battalion. Nine years later he 
was to gain the Victoria Cross (see p. 179). 

The Guides in the Red Shirt Disturbances 

Three years after this, peaceful times in the Peshawar plain and Yusafzai 
came to an end once more with the outbreak of what were known as the “Red 
Shirt” disturbances. As more than one Battalion of the Regiment were involved 
in the fighting that followed, the reader must understand how they came about. 

In Chapter V above mention has been made of the effect on Muslims 
generally of Turkey’s participation on the wrong side in the First World War. 
particularly as the head of the Ottoman Empire was revered as the Khilafat ul 
Islam—the religious leader of all Muslims. When the end of that war left 

164 The Guides in the Red Shirt Disturbances, 1929-31 

Mustafa Kemal with modern ideas and outlook in charge of a reduced Turkey 
and he made disavowal of all claims to the Khilafat, the situation all over the 
Muslim world became ripe for intrigue and trouble. Nowhere was this more 
so than in India, where various religious societies were formed and where there 
were plenty of agitators, by no means all Muslim, ready to use any political 
situation to embarrass the Government. The first manifestation of trouble was 
the rebellion by Muslim Moplahs in Madras which resulted in a campaign to 
restore order, and later the introduction of the Sarda Act (sponsored by Indians 
to ameliorate marriage customs) was the signal for a campaign of misrepresen- 
tation. When this resulted in the story being circulated that the Act was 
designed to enable both Hindu and Muslim girls to be examined by white 
doctors, the effect can be imagined. 

When agitators found their schemes to foment trouble were allowed to go 
unchecked they began to act openly, and so it was that in 1930 a movement 
started in Northern India called the Khuda-i-Khitmatgaran (Servants of God). 
Professing at first to be purely religious and public-spirited, they soon found 
themselves able to declare openly their rebellious nature. They dyed their 
clothing red (hence the name Red Shirts), and it was not till their leaders started 
touring the Frontier Province, organizing meetings and arming their followers, 
that belated action was taken by the Government. The leaders were simul- 
taneously arrested, and immediately trouble broke out, with rioting, in the chief 
cities of the Frontier. The outbreak at Peshawar, with bloodshed and open 
rebellion, resulted in the city being in the hands of the Red Shirts for a con- 
siderable time. An invasion of the Peshawar Valley by Afridis from Tirah also 
occurred—an absolutely unprecedented piece of daring insolence! The flame 
of rebellion spread like a forest fire over the Frontier Province, aided by the 
presence of a superfluity of unemployed young men with military tastes, but for 
whom there was no room in the armed forces. It was not till 1931, with the firmer 
hand of Lord Willingdon at the wheel of the ship of state, that the trouble was 
finally stamped out. In the meantime troops had been called on to carry out the 
most unpopular task that can fall to the lot of a soldier—that of dealing with dis- 
orders among an armed population (among whom friend and foe were indistin- 
guishable), aided by an armed hostile tribal influx looking for adventure and 

Such was the stage and character of the drama of 1930-31 known as the 
Red Shirt Disturbances. In the pages that follow, the part played by the Guides 
(the only Battalion of the Regiment at all involved) is described. 

Before the Red Shirt troubles became acute, the Guides Infantry in 
December 1929, were in Mardan and received orders to go to the Khyber. 
They did not move till January 1930, when they went by train to Shagai and 
took over the Khyber posts from the 3rd Battalion Bombay Grenadiers. In- 
cidents of unrest were now occurring. On the night of 25th February Lieutenant 

The Afridi Incursions of 1931 165 

Hawkes, R.E., the Assistant Garrison Engineer, was murdered at Landi Kotal. 
On 9th April the Guides Infantry were moved there, and on 20th April a 
further outrage occurred in the Khyber when the Manager of the Imperial Bank 
in Peshawar and an assistant, who were visiting the Khyber, were shot dead by 
a Mohmand Khassadar. The latter himself was shot by Shinwari Khassadars, 
so the motive for this murder was never established; but only three days later 
the serious outbreak referred to above occurred in Peshawar city, and the 
Red Shirt movement began to raise its head in the Khyber area also. 

Afridis now attacked some of the Khassadar posts, and reports of a lashkar 
advancing on the military posts in the Khyber were received. This, however, 
never eventuated. Possibly the Afridis realized that more fruitful results from 
their point of view were on offer in the Peshawar plain! At all events a second 
Afridi inroad on Peshawar was made on 9th and 10th August, but the Guides 
Infantry were not involved. 

While the Battalion was in the Khyber in 1930 and 1931, the rebellion 
in Peshawar and other cities, the two invasions by Afridis and the final cam- 
paign in the Khajuri and Aka Khel plains west of Peshawar were all tackled 
by the Peshawar, Risalpur and reinforced Nowshera Brigades. 

In these operations the only Frontier Force Battalion involved was the 
2nd Battalion Frontier Force Rifles. A full account, therefore, of the circum- 
stances under which the invasions were undertaken—and indeed so rashly pur- 
sued—by the Afridis and the manner in which they were defeated and counter- 
measures inflicted is given in the History of the Frontier Force Rifles, 
Chapter XI. 

It is necessary, however, here to make clear the changes in the administra- 
tive situation that were imposed on the Afridis at the final jirgah where they 
made their submission, because they introduced a new Frontier bordering on 
Afridi territory with new posts to guard it, and the Guides Infantry from the 
Khyber and Jamrud were the first Battalion to take over and hold these posts 
after peace had been made. 

Before the Red Shirt disturbances and the Afridi invasions that followed, 
the administrative border verging on Afridi territory did not include the large 
expanse of grazing ground a few miles west of Peshawar and east of the Afridi 
mountain fastnesses of Tirah. This grazing area was known as the Khajuri 
and Aka Khel plains, and had from time immemorial been the winter resort 
of Afridis and their families escaping from the severe winter snows of Tirah. 
Unlike Ghilzais and other nomad tribes who, depositing their arms at the 
Frontier, moved miles into India with their flocks, the Afridis had been able 
to rest on their own soil with arms intact a few miles from a great Indian city. 

The peace terms now imposed on the Afridi jirgahs for their treachery 
brought the Khajuri and Aka Khel plains under the Government’s administra- 
tion and placed the frontier along the foothills with a line of posts to guard it. 

166 The Chitral Relief of 1932 

The terms were not only effectively punitive, but rendered a repetition of Afridi 
aggression impossible. The jirgahs objected, but had no alternative but to 
acquiesce or keep out of their winter camping grounds to sojourn in the snow. 

When the Guides Infantry marched into the Khajuri plain on 15th April 
1931, posts there were already under construction. The Guides were only there 
for three months, during which nothing more eventful than occasional sniping 
by malcontents occurred to break the monotony of life in the fierce heat of 
May, June and July in that region. 

On 16th July the Battalion returned to the Khyber for the rest of the 
year, and on 16th February 1932, orders came to return to Mardan. The two 
years away had been years of hard work with few of the excitements experi- 
enced by others in the Peshawar plain. 

The Chitral Relief of 1932, the Loe Agra 1933, and Mohmand Expeditions, 
1933 and 1935 

The years 1932-35 were restless in the tribal] mountains north of the Pesha- 
war plain, and the Mohmand campaign in the summer of 1935 was to give the 
Guides Infantry a day of fighting that in ferocity and the odds encountered 
equalled anything in the history of the Corps. But of that more anon. 

When the biennial Chitral Relief came round in 1932, the wave of restless- 
ness that the Red Shirt and Afridi disturbances had caused had hardly died 
out. It was anticipated that trouble, particularly from the Bajauris, would occur 
during the relief, and, if not actual attacks on the column, certainly sniping and 
attempts to ambush or harass protective troops were to be expected. 

Accordingly in September 1932, the three Battalions of the Nowshera 
Brigade—i.e., the Guides Infantry, 2/9th Gurkhas and 1/11th Sikh Regiment 
—were all ordered out as protective troops with two extra Battalions, the 
5/10th Baluch Regiment and the 3/14th Punjab Regiment, as reinforcements. 

When the columns reached the danger zone of Bajaur at Bandagai on 13th 
September, the Bajauris maintained a considerable fire from across the Panj- 
kora River and the camp had to be securely piqueted. One of the piquets of the 
t/11th Sikhs was heavily attacked that night. On the 14th, in order to counter 
these activities, Lieutenant Meynell (later to die winning the V.C. in Mohmand 
in 1935) took out a party to lay a Chapao (ambush) and “bagged” five Bajauris 
who were on their way to snipe the camp. For this he received the Military Cross. 

By the 16th the outward-bound column was clear, and the Brigade, who 
had piqueted them through on their way, withdrew to camp to wait for the 
returning column from Chitral. “A” Company of the Guides, however, who 
remained for camp piquets, had some severe fighting that night. Captain 
Barlow was in command of it, and drove off all the attacks. The story is as 

Chitral Relief 1932—Fighting round Guides’ Piquets 167 

That night at about eleven o’clock, lured on by an “idiot boy” act, there 
was a sudden fierce attack by a force of some 120 tribesmen. A party of 25 
rushed No. 1 Platoon, who were in low cover, from the scrub bush near by. 
After killing seven men at point-blank range and another with the bayonet, the 
platoon then withdrew to the main sangar twenty-five yards away, having two 
of their number killed and three wounded outside the entrance. Constant 
enemy rushes now followed from the scrub, which was so close that on more 
than one occasion the attackers got within five yards of the sangar wall. No. 4 
Platoon was also attacked and all of them fought practically hand-to-hand with 
rifle, bayonet and grenade. It was 2.45 a.m. before the frustrated enemy with- 
drew. At dawn a strong patrol discovered in front of the position a standard, 
twenty-six corpses, a sword and several rounds of ammunition. A prisoner was 
also taken who proved to be a “wanted” Bunerwal murderer who was later 
duly hanged. 

While all this was going on in “A” Company’s post, the Brigade camp was 
heavily fired into and “‘Guides’ piquet” was attacked several times The next 
day was a day of rest and cleaning up, but “Guides’ piquet” with No. 7 Platoon 
was again repeatedly attacked on the night of the 17th, and No. 2 Platoon, who 
then took over, were also attacked on the night of the 18th. 

Three immediate awards—one bar to the Military Cross, one I.O.M. and 
one I.D.S.M. were won asa result of this action. 

In this fighting the Guides’ casualties were five killed and eleven wounded, 
one of whom died later. In addition to the twenty-six dead tribesmen found in 
front of the position, the Political Agent reported that at least seven more had 
been killed and fifty wounded, many of them by hand grenades. 

The Brigade Commander had, in view of the night sniping, selected a site 
for a new camp in which nullahs would give some cover to the animals, and 
the Brigade moved to this on the 19th. The tribesmen had had their élan con- 
siderably damped, and the new camp was quieter. The Brigade made various 
exploratory tours, returning to the camp at night. On 11th October the relief 
column returned with the relieved Battalion and were duly piqueted and pro- 
tected as they marched through the edge of the disturbed area. There was some 
firing, but there were women and children to be seen in the villages, which 
meant that no large-scale attack was likely. Everything was now closed down 
and the troops back by the 16th October. 

Mohmand, 1933 

As the story concerns almost exclusively the Mohmand tribes for the next 
three years, the reader must now understand the somewhat peculiar geographi- 
cal and political conditions that at this time (and for the rest of the period 
of British rule) obtained among the tribes grouped under the above name. 

When the Durand Line was delimited between the Indian tribal areas and 

168 The Guides on the Mohmand Expedition, 1933 

Afghanistan in 1892, the portion north of the Kabul river that would mark 
out the frontier between the Mohmand tribal areas and Afghan territory was, 
for various reasons, left unfinished. Instead, only a “Presumptive Line” was 
agreed between the Indian and Afghan Governments; and this was all that 
divided the Mohmand clans that lived on the Afghan side from those on the 
Indian side of the border. This situation, as may easily be imagined, made it 
easy for elements hostile to the Government of India (with or without Afghan 
encouragement) to cause trouble. They frequently did so. 

Moreover, the Mohmands in Indian tribal territory between Bajaur and 
the Afghan border were subdivided into numerous clans, and these again 
into two main groups, the northern and southern. Of these two groups, the 
southern (called the “‘assured” tribes) were granted Government allowances 
and provided Khassadars to keep the peace near the Indian borders of tribal 
territory. It is not surprising that the northern clans were jealous, and much 
of the trouble in the years we are about to record arose from this cause and 
the corollary that these clans were also fertile ground for agitators and fire- 

In 1933 the northern and southern tribes were in a state of disagreement, 
the direct outcome of Khilafat and Red Shirt troubles. The Nahakki range 
far up the Gandab valley was the general dividing line between the two fac- 
tions. A firebrand of long standing, the Haji of Turangzai, and his sons were 
the principal disturbers of the peace, the grievance being mainly that the 
“lower” Mohmands furnished Khassadars to keep the peace. To support the 
Red Shirts, the Haji and his supporters commenced to raid the Halimzai (one 
of the assured tribes) in March 1932. 

The existence of only a “Presumptive Border” (and not a real one) ham- 
pered any Air Force reprisal; but in July 1932, the Halimzai appealed for 
protection, and the Indian Government issued, with some effect, a proclamation 
that they would support the Halimzai against any invasion of their territory. 
But in July 1933, an “upper” Mohmand was murdered by a “lower” Mohmand. 
This was an excellent excuse to invade the Halimzai and to try to detach the 
“lower” Mohmands from the Government. The Halimzai eventually expelled 
the invaders, but had several villages burnt. The “upper” Mohmands now 
collected considerable lashkars. The Indian Government decided to send a 
force and to make a motor road to the Halimzai territory, but stated that they 
had no intention of permanently occupying any trans-border territory. 

The Peshawar Brigade under Brigadier C. Auchinleck* headed the ex- 
pedition, with the Nowshera Brigade following up to protect the line of com- 
munication. The former reached Ghalanai on Ist August, having been joined 
by the Guides Infantry at Pir Qila on 27th July. There was practically no 
fighting, but a certain amount of sniping occurred. 

* Field-Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, G.C.B., G.C.LE., C.S.L, D.S.0., O.BE. 

Loe Agra—Mohmand, 1933 169 


Seola in Miles 


Water Courses and 
Irrigation Canats 

Jamal Gor! 

¢Utmanzai MARDAN 

The principal operation so far as the Guides were concerned was the 
occupation of the Khazana Sar Ridge. Lashkars were reported to be thereon 
and behind it. This operation involved a climb of 2,300 feet, but only a few 
shots were fired and the tribesmen had evidently thought better of it. 

The Afghan Government now agreed to air action on and beyond the 
“Presumptive Border” against recalcitrant Mohmands, and the northern tribes 

The Guides Infantry accordingly remained on the work of making the road 
that the terms dictated to the Mohmands had stipulated should be built through 
their territory. Moreover, reconnaissances farther north became also possible 
as far as and over the Nahakki Pass—all of which, with the road most im- 
portant of all, became vital factors in pursuing the severe campaign of 1935 in 
which the Guides met with such desperate fighting. 

By 5th October the Guides Infantry had completed their work on the 
road and were back in Mardan. 

170 Loe Agra, 1934-35 

Loe Agra, 1934-35 

Trouble, however, was not at an end, and in August next year it broke 
out in Loe Agra, a valley near the head works of the Upper Swat Canal. As 
the canal water was of vital importance to thousands of cultivators in the 
Peshawar plain, any sort of trouble in this area had to be dealt with forthwith. 
The originator of it was once more a Khilafatist firebrand from Bajaur called 
the Faqir of Alingar, and he came pretending that his business was partly 
religious but he brought a lashkar of Bajauris and started fomenting anti- 
Government feeling. The Government of India were slow in moving, but 
eventually early in 1935 took the matter in hand. In February 1935, the 
Nowshera Brigade under Brigadier the Hon. H. R. L. G. Alexander* was 
ordered out and moved on Loe Agra with the Guides Infantry as advanced 
guard. Little opposition was encountered from the Bajauris, and though they 
held a commanding height above Loe Agra, on which a piquet had to be 
established, the Guides took this with the loss of only one man killed and two 
wounded. A post was established at Agra village, sixty local levies were in- 
stalled, and the Brigade returned to Nowshera by the beginning of March. 

A recrudescence of trouble, however, was foreseen, and a flying column 
from the Brigade was earmarked to be ready, but the Guides were not part 
of it. The trouble was not long in coming, for the Faqir was reported to be 
returning to Loe Agra on Sth March, and the column went out. Again, without 
any fighting of note and only a successful night ambush of snipers to record, 
Loe Agra was occupied and the Faqir driven off north of the Swat river. 

The Brigade, without its British Battaliont (the 2nd Battalion The Duke 
of Wellington’s Regiment), now remained in the area, and in April some fierce 
fighting occurred round the main piquet, called Qila Hari held by a Company of 
the 3/2nd Punjab Regiment. By Sth April a strong Bajauri lashkar had concen- 
trated, and determined attacks on this company and its strong piquet were made 
which at times resulted in hand-to-hand fighting. All attacks were beaten off, 
however, with the loss of two killed (including a Subadar died of wounds) and 
seven wounded. The confirmed enemy casualties were 28 killed and a number 
wounded. On 8th April the Guides took over Qila Hari piquet and preparations 
were made for a full-scale attack by the Brigade to drive off the lashkar. This was 
launched on 11th April, with the Guides (less the piquet company) leading the 
left column of attack. It was completely successful, and was followed next day 
by operations to clear the remains of the lashkar from the passes to the north, 
the Guides again leading the left wing of the advance. 

After this the Bajauri jirgah submitted and the lashkar dispersed, though 

* Field-Marshal Earl Alexander of Tunis, K.G., P.C., G.C.B., G.C.M.G., C.S.L, 

D.S.O., M.C. 
+ Brigades in British India consisted of one British and three Indian Battalions. 

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Mohmand, 1935 171 

the Faqir continued to intrigue and impede negotiations as much as he could. 

It was now decided to bring the Loe Agra area under full political con- 
trol, with a fortified Levy post built there to hold eight platoons of Frontier 
Constabulary. In addition, a metalled road would be built to Loe Agra from 
Kot, the nearest road head. 

Thus ended the Loe Agra episode of 1935, and the troops were back in 
cantonments by 5th May, except the Guides who remained in Loe Agra till! 
12th June. 

Mohmand, 1935 

While the above events were taking place in Loe Agra, unrest was once 
more being stirred up farther west in the Gandab valley of the Lower Mohmand 
Territory by the Haji of Turangzai and his sons. 

Matters did not take a serious turn till 14th August, when, after a full 
jirgah among themselves of Mohmand tribesmen, they decided to destroy the 
road that had been built as part of the terms imposed after the uprising in 1933. 
The work of destruction was commenced the same night, and the Peshawar 
Mobile Column was immediately ordered out. 

By the next day 2,000 tribesmen were at work damaging the road far down 
near the Indian border, and the proceedings were being covered by a strong 
tribal body sent out to oppose any advance of troops from Peshawar. The 
Peshawar Column arrived at Michni on the 15th. The next day it moved to Pir 
Qila, half-way between Michni and Shabkadr, in case an incursion into British 
India was intended. In the meantime many lashkars were joining the intruders, 
basing themselves on the Pindiali country. The various lashkars were now 
heavily bombed and warning notices dropped on all concerned. This continued 
for four days while the military arrangements were being developed. The Now- 
shera Brigade was next called up and arrived at Subhan Khwar, north-east of 
Pir Qila, on the 21st. It was now known that not only the “upper” and “lower” 
Mohmands were in the lashkars, but also numbers of the Afghan Mohmands. 
On the 18th and 20th the camp at Pir Qila was fired into. As the operations now 
promised to be considerable, the force was styled ‘““Mohforce,” and Brigadier 
Auchinleck, temporarily commanding the Peshawar district, assumed 

The campaign that followed would probably never have been necessary 
had the operations in this tribal area in 1933 dealt the Mohmands an exemplary 
lesson. It has often been said that tribesmen on the North-West Frontier 
have to be shown corpses before they really understand. In 1933 they saw 
none among their number. and were ready to take liberties as a result in 
1935. While the expedition in most respects followed traditional patterns with- 
out unduly severe fighting, it concluded with an episode in which the Guides 
Infantry, much depleted in numbers, met alone and unsupported the full 

172 The Guides in the Mohmand Operations 1935 

strength of the Mohmand lashkars. In a battle displaying gallantry and devotion 
up to the Corps’ highest traditions, the Battalion fought the tribesmen to a stand- 
still, inflicting terrible slaughter while carrying out the task demanded of them. 
The story of the campaign is as follows: 

The advance up the road was opposed by the tribesmen without much 
effect other than to delay the Brigade’s arrival in camp. As far as Dand, the 
Guides, who had their share of the fighting to do, lost one I.O.R. killed and 
Lieutenant A. C. S. Moore and seven I.0.Rs. wounded; the enemy lost 40 killed 
and 54 wounded. Here on 23rd August a pleasing incident is related of a 
company of the Duke of Wellington’s who were holding a piquet above 
Dand, and who could not withdraw two of their sections. A company of Guides 
under Lieutenant Rendall* was sent to their aid, and when leaving gave up all 
their ammunition save five rounds per man, carried the British wounded down, 
and then came up again with more ammunition, an act of camaraderie hand- 
somely acclaimed in a letter from the O.C. the Duke’s. 

The advance to Ghalanai on 25th August was not seriously interfered with, 
the tribesmen having been severely handled so far; and for some days repair 
by troops of the damaged road went on while targets of hostile Mohmand 
villages were bombed from the air. The Guides Infantry had remained at Dand, 
but were brought up to Ghalanai on 3rd September. They received one I.O.M. 
and three I.D.S.Ms. as immediate awards for fighting on 23rd August. 

A proclamation was now issued to the tribes that how far the troops would 
advance depended on the tribes’ behaviour, but it produced no result. Accord- 
ingly, plans for proceeding over the Nahakki Pass and extending the road now 
went ahead. The Air Force and the political control were now put under the 
military authorities and what might be a major campaign catered for. Moreover, 
Mohforce was separated from the Peshawar divisional command. 

The Nowshera Brigade advanced to Katsai, some four miles beyond Gha- 
lanai in the Gandab valley, on 11th September without any special incident 
save that the camp at Katsai was heavily fired into that night. The 2nd Brigade 
from Rawalpindi and the 3rd from Jhelum were on their way up now to provide 
defence for the daily lengthening line of communication. From the 12th to the 
14th the troops carried out reconnaissances with no particular incidents. 

The next few days were also spent in local reconnaissances while the water 
supply by pipe line (no small undertaking) was brought up to the camp. 

On 17th September the advance over the Nahakki Pass was made, the 
Guides and 3rd Battalion 2nd Punjab Regiment securing the high ground on 
both sides of the pass. There was no opposition, and that evening the Peshawar 
Brigade were encamped on the north side of the Nahakki Ridge, with the 
Nowshera Brigade in Wucha Jawar camp on the south side. 

* Who had been awarded a M.C. in the Loe Agra operations. 

The Guides’ Desperate Action, 29th September 1935 173 

The Desperate Action of the Guides Infantry, 29th September 1935 

For ten days hard work was done on road-building over the Nahakki 
Pass—a road which finally broke into the country of the Upper Mohmands 
and rendered them vulnerable to swift punishment. The criterion of its effect 
is seen in the fact that for twenty years afterwards the need for such punish- 
ment never arose. 

But to return to the story. The immediate need was now to deliver a 
forthright blow to the lashkars of Upper Mohmands (some of whom had come 
from Afghanistan) and the Bajauris that were known to be somewhere to the 
north-west. It had been surprising, if not in fact disappointing, that the tribes- 
men had not rallied to the defence of the Nahakki Pass, for that would have 
afforded opportunity to strike effectively. 

However, the plan now was as follows. The object given was to inflict the 
maximum loss on the enemy in the area between Pt. 2450 and Muzi Kor, 
and in the valley west of Wucha Jawar. To this end the Peshawar Brigade was to 
clear up the area in the Kamalai plain in the neighbourhood of Muzi Kor, whilst 
the Nowshera Brigade assisted this operation by holding the ridge south of, 
and the spur west of Muzi Kor. The Nowshera Brigade was also to occupy 
the heights south of the main Wucha Jawar valley, its left being protected by the 
3rd Infantry Brigade, which was to hold a line across the valley leading to the 
Khapak Kandao. They had followed up the advance and were now at Ghalanai. 
The nature of these orders should be noted, as they led to the weak handling 
of the Nowshera Brigade which resulted in the Guides’ desperate single-handed 
battle. They will be discussed later. 

Moreover, it may also be remarked en passant that the Government 
omitted to compile for the information of (and study by) officers any history of 
Frontier operations (except that of the second Afghan War of 1879-80) prior to 
1919. As a result, the experience in this area of the Mohmand Expedition of 
1908 was probably not recalled by anyone at the Headquarters of the force at this 
time. This experience was that the tribesmen collected in strength in the area 
immediately west of Pt. 4080, in numerous caves, but refused battle when 
threatened from the north-east. Had this been remembered, it is improbable 
that the Peshawar Brigade would have been directed wide out on the Kamalai 
plain or that the advance on and capture of Pt. 4080 would have been entrusted 
to one weak battalion with inadequate support. That Battalion was in fact 
the Guides Infantry at a total strength of 370—or little more than the equivalent 
of two companies. 

They were with the Nowshera Brigade at Wucha Jawar camp, and just at 
this juncture Brigadier Alexander went down with fever and had to hand over 
command of the Brigade to the senior Battalion Commander, who happened 
to be the C.O. of the 1st Battalion The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. 

The detailed task that now fell to the Nowshera Brigade was as follows: 

174 The Guides’ Desperate Action, 29th September 1935 

With the 3rd Light Battery R.A., and the 2nd Light Tank Company (less 
two sections) under its command, it was to secure Pt. 3838, the spur to the north 
of it, Pt. 4080, and a hill 600 yards to the south-west by 6 a.m., and to be 
responsible for protecting the left flank of the Peshawar Brigade. 

The Brigade moved at 2 a.m. so as to be in their positions by 6 a.m.; 
their right battalion, the 2/15th Punjabis, were to hold Pt. 3838, a mile 
and a half west of the Nahakki Pass, and to work along the spur already referred 
to that ran north towards Muzi Kor. The Guides were to move up the valley 
and climb on to the ridge west of Pt. 3838 and then seize Pt. 4080. 

The 3/2nd Punjabis were to hold a line across the Wucha Jawar valley, 
a mile and a half west of the camp, thus forming a strong support in rear of the 
Guides and 2/ 15th. 

Nowshera Brigade Headquarters, however, made the mistake of taking 
up its position on top of the Nahakki Ridge near Force Headquarters, thus 
taking the risk of not being able to keep touch with their units operating along 
the same ridge should any rocky features intervene. In point of fact, this 
precisely is what happened, and it had the result (as we shall see) of leaving 
the Guides isolated to fight alone a gallant but hopeless battle against the entire 
enemy lashkar. The following is what occurred. In view of its importance and the 
fact that the tribes were so hard hit that they submitted immediately afterwards, 
it is worth while giving it in some detail. 

The task given to the Guides Infantry was that the Battalion, less three 
machine-gun sections, should move westward up the Wucha Jawar valley 
and secure the high ground at and east of Pt. 4080 by 5.40 a.m. They were 
then to protect the left flank of the 2nd Battalion 15th Punjab Regiment and 
prevent any enemy movement northwards from Pt. 4203. 

The advance to Pt. 4080 was to be carried out in four phases. The first 
covered the approach march from camp to the foot of the spur leading to the 
high ground. To simplify the narrative, identification names given on the day 
of action to certain prominent places on the hills in this area will now be used 
in the account which follows. These were (see sketch map): High ground 
above-mentioned, “Teeth”; a rocky pinnacle east of Pt. 4080, “Nipple”; a 
small rocky feature about 300 yards west of “Nipple,” “Pimple.” The second 
phase was the capture of “Teeth,” the third capture of “Nipple,” and last the 
capture of Pt. 4080. 

The Battalion, commanded by Major S. B. Good, left camp at 2 a.m. 
and the foot of the spur was reached at 4 a.m. From this point all auto- 
matic weapons and ammunition had to be man-handled. 

“Teeth” was seized by “B” Company under Lieutenant G. J. Hamilton at 
5.20 a.m. without opposition. The remainder of the Battalion then moved 
round in the valley to the west of this spur and, with “C” Company as advanced 
guard, moved up a spur leading direct to “Nipple.” “Nipple” was reached at 


Hand Sketch showing _the attack of The Guides Infantry on Hill 4080 
Sept. 29%/935 reached by Platoons 344 but subsequently driven off. 

tong Spur occupied 
by 2/15 th. P 
Pimple Nipple " Teeth”. 

142 Plat, 
AB 11412 Plat. 

Scale 3 = i Pith 
4  furtongs, o Pe bi ile 
8.4.8. Original advance of B Coy 
AAA. Advance of A&C Coys (C leading) 

The Operations of Mohforce on 29th Oct, 55 

@ Muzikkor ‘a 


Scale. finch»! File 
oO : 

’ 2 3 Mies 
et eee 
(1) Area of Peshawar brigade 
(2) Area of Nowshere brigade 
duke of Wellingtons Regt 
3/2nd Punjeb Regt. 
S/iZth FF Regt (Guides tnfantry) 
2/15th Puryad Regt. 
(3) Area held by the 3rd Infantry Brigade 

176 The Guides’ Desperate Action, 29th September 1935 

5.45 a.m., one enemy who succeeded in firing one shot being surprised and 

On arrival, Major Good halted the Battalion temporarily to make his 
final plan and to allow companies, which had strung out owing to the difficulties 
of the ascent (which in many places had allowed an advance in single file only), 
to close up. 

The approach to Pt. 4080 from “Teeth” was along a narrow ridge over- 
looked by Pt. 4080. That point itself was very rugged and its sides dropped 
steeply, particularly on the east and west, thus providing a great deal of dead 
ground. To the south there were clumps of rocks affording cover to enemy 
creeping up to the point from that direction. On the hillside on the west of the 
point were a number of caves. 

The plan formed was to leave two platoons (Nos. 9 and 10) of “C’”” Company 
and one section of machine guns to hold “Nipple” and to give supporting fire, 
whilst ““C” Company, less two platoons, closely followed by “A” Company 
under Lieutenant A. P. S. Rendall, advanced to capture Pt. 4080. The Regi- 
mental Aid Post was to be established at “‘Nipple.” 

The troops moved forward at 5.50 a.m., when it was just beginning to get 
light, and almost immediately were fired on from a small eminence immediately 
south of Pt. 4080 and from the northern slopes of that point. After advancing 
about 300 yards, “‘C’’ Company (less two platoons) was halted and ordered to 
take up positions to give additional covering fire on to the final objective. “A” 
Company, less two platoons, was ordered to push on to Pt. 4080. 

At this point the enemy fire was not excessive and gave little indication 
that the objective was held in strength. 

The route from “Nipple” to Pt. 4080 consisted of a long col, which for 
the most part was so narrow that men could move in single file only. As 
daylight increased, the fire of the enemy, whose numbers swelled rapidly as 
parties came up from caves on the western face of the hill where they had 
been sleeping, grew in intensity and accuracy. 

The two platoons of “A” Company pressed forward and with great 
difficulty reached the highest point of the eastern face of Pt. 4080. Here they 
were held up at 6.15 a.m. by the fire of enemy occupying several small spurs 
on the top of the feature. They consolidated what they had won and gave 
what covering support they could to the remaining two platoons (Nos. 1 and 
2) of the company which were following up with Major Good. When the 
two rear platoons reached the west side of the col, about 7 a.m., they 
were ordered into a position just to the south and in rear of the leading ones, 
to try to keep down the fire from the small eminence south of Pt. 4080, which 

was getting hotter every moment. 
Battalion Headquarters had now established themselves on the east face 

The Guides’ Desperate Action, 29th September 1935 177 

of Pt. 4080, and Captain G. Meynell, the Adjutant, went forward to the leading 
two platoons to ascertain the situation. 

It was now much lighter, and the enemy fire was increasing and causing 

Seeing that he could not get forward to gain the crest with his present 
strength, Major Good now sent for the two platoons of “C” Company (Nos. 11 
and 12) which had been halted on the col to give covering fire. These platoons 
advanced and reached the foot of Pt. 4080, but they were unable to get up to 
the front position owing to the heavy and accurate fire, which prevented them 
from scaling the cliff face now that it was broad daylight. They took up a 
position on the left of Nos. 1 and 2 Platoons, facing south-west. 

In the meantime Captain Meynell had reached the two forward platoons. 
Lieutenant Rendall had been killed, and the platoons were engaged in a 
terrific struggle. Captain Meynell took command of these two platoons. To 
all intents and purposes they were isolated and almost surrounded by large 
numbers of tribesmen who, owing to the broken nature of the hill-top, had 
been able to creep up to within a few yards of the troops unseen. 

Major Good, realizing the serious situation of his Battalion, tried to get 
in touch with the artillery forward observer, Lieutenant J. N. D. Tyler, of the 
3rd Light Battery. Lieutenant Tyler and several of his men had been wounded, 
and the remainder could not get into communication with their battery. Second- 
Lieutenant R. E. T. Keelan, artillery forward observer, 15th Medium Battery, 
had also been wounded. Battalion Headquarters then tried to get in touch 
with 3rd Light Battery by using a helio which had no stand, but this was a 
failure. Owing to the configuration of the ground, visual signalling to any 
formation headquarters was an impossibility. Brigade Headquarters were at 
a point farther back along the same ridge with mountain features intervening. 
However, a signaller with a shutter got into communication with “B” Company 
on “Teeth,” and two platoons were ordered forward. Lieutenant Hamilton 
received this message at 7.30 a.m. and immediately set out with Nos. 6 and 8 
Platoons for “Nipple.” 

Communication was also established with the 2nd Battalion 15th Punjab 
Regiment, and a message stating that the Battalion was heavily engaged, had 
twenty-five casualties and wanted help, was started. Only the first few words 
were actually sent as the signaller was shot almost immediately. 

Lieutenant Hamilton was with his leading platoon, No. 6, as it reached 
“Nipple”; the other platoon, No. 8, which had farther to go, being still behind. 
Hastily getting from Captain F. J. Doherty, I-M.S., the Medical Officer with 
the Battalion Regimental Aid Post, a rough idea of what was happening in 
front, and realizing that the position on Pt. 4080 was desperate, he decided to 
push forward at once with No. 6 Platoon. Shortly after leaving the south side 
of “Nipple,” he and five of his men were hit, but his platoon managed to reach 


178 The Guides’ Desperate Action, 29th September 1935 

“Pimple,” from which position they at once commenced a heavy fire on the 
enemy. Lieutenant Hamilton succeeded in joining them there. 

All this time Captain Meynell and the forward platoons were engaged in 
a desperate struggle on Pt. 4080. They were practically surrounded. Major 
Good with the four platoons not far behind were holding their own with the 
greatest difficulty. The enemy in considerably increased numbers were closing 
in and hand grenades and stones were being thrown freely. 

Owing to the numbers and determination of the enemy the result was 
inevitable. At about 8 a.m. the enemy rushed over and round the hill-top, 
and after a few minutes of most severe hand-to-hand fighting the remnants 
of the two leading platoons were overwhelmed. Only a few wounded succeeded 
in getting back to Major Good’s position. 

The enemy were now directly overlooking the four rearward platoons 
and the troops on the col. Major Good, himself wounded, realizing that his 
position was hopeless, collected everyone he could and ordered a withdrawal 
down the nullah running south to the Wucha Jawar valley. 

In the meantime Lieutenant Hamilton’s small party on “Pimple” had 
been reinforced by another platoon (No. 5) of “B’? Company and by a platoon 
of the 2nd Battalion 15th Punjab Regiment which had come up from that 
Battalion. The two remaining platoons, Nos. 7 and 8, which had originally 
been on and near “Teeth,” had come forward to “Nipple.” From their positions 
they poured out a fierce covering fire which, with the fire of machine guns and 
rifles from “Nipple,” prevented the enemy from following up the troops in 
front, and greatly assisted their withdrawal. 

Lieutenant Hamilton decided to consolidate and hold his position, and sent 
two messages to “Nipple” to be transmitted, one by signal and the other by 
runner, to Brigade Headquarters, asking for more men and ammunition. 
Neither of these messages reached its destination. 

At 9.15 a.m. another artillery forward observer arrived at “Nipple” and 
an hour later shelling and air bombing of Pt. 4080 commenced. The forward 
platoons at “Pimple” were then withdrawn to “Nipple” until all the wounded 
had been safely evacuated. 

Lieutenant Hamilton, who had carried on for two and a half hours after 
being severely wounded, was evacuated at 10 a.m. As he was going down 
the hill he was met by Lieutenant C. G. Campbell of the Battalion who had 
arrived at Wucha Jawar camp two hours before, and was able to explain the 
position to him. Lieutenant Campbell took command of the remainder of the 
Battalion and carried out its withdrawal. The withdrawal was not seriously 
followed up. This was partly owing to the effective artillery fire on the ridges 
from Pt. 4080 to Pt. 4203, and to the fire from light tanks in the valley which 
had now arrived at the foot of the spur below Pt. 4080; but it was also due to 

. 5 heer ia 
. ; ce i ’ Pie ; ar a 
: 7 ae 



1— Hill 4080 

The Attack of the Guides on Hill 4080, 29 September 1935 

Face page 178 

The Guides’ Desperate Action, 29th September 1935 179 

the severe handling and heavy losses the tribesmen had sustained at the hands of 
the Battalion. 

The six platoons most heavily engaged in this desperate fight against over- 
whelming odds lost heavily. Of four British officers, five J.C.Os. and 130 other 
ranks, only one J.C.O. and 32 other ranks came out unharmed. 

The total] casualties were 2 British officers killed and 2 wounded, 2 J.C.Os. 
killed and 2 wounded, and 19 Indian ranks killed, 37 wounded and 38 injured, 
and 8 missing. The injuries were chiefly due to falls on the precipitous rocks. 

Of the total verified enemy losses on 29th September, amounting to 144, 
of which about half were killed, the bulk were sustained in this action. 

For gallantry on this day Captain G. Meynell, M.C., was awarded the V.C. 
(posthumously), Lieutenant G. J. Hamilton received the Distinguished Service 
Order, one Jemadar was granted the Indian Order of Merit, 2nd Class, and five 
awards of the Indian Distinguished Service Medal were made to Indian other 
ranks of the Battalion. In addition there were several mentioned in despatches. 
Lieutenant J. N. D. Tyler, R.A., was awarded the Military Cross, and Captain 
F. J. Doherty, I.M.S., the Distinguished Service Order. 

The reader will doubtless ask how it came about that although messages 
could not be sent back, Brigade Headquarters failed to help the Guides. Why, 

when the firing was heard, was no reinforcement rushed to the sound of the 

The story at Nowshera Brigade and Mohmand Force Headquarters (they 
were close together) is as follows: They were both established on the ridge a 
little distance to the west of Pt. 3838 at about 6.40 a.m. Brigade Headquarters 
immediately got into communication with three of its battalions, 2nd Battalion 
15th Punjab Regiment, 3rd Battalion 2nd Punjab Regiment, and 2nd Battalion 
The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, but all attempts to communicate with the 
Guides failed. The sound of firing from the direction of Pt. 4080 was heard for a 
few minutes at about 8 a.m. Shortly afterwards a report was received from 
the Commander, Royal Artillery, which had emanated from the O.C. 3rd 
Light Battery, that the latter officer was not sure whether Pt. 4080 was held by 
the Guides or by the enemy. It was therefore impossible to open artillery fire on 
Pt. 4080 until the situation was clear. The Brigade Commander went forward 
to the Headquarters, 2nd Battalion 15th Punjab Regiment, where he was told 
that it was believed that the Guides had gained their objective, Pt. 4080, but 
had been driven off it again. After sending a message to the Battalion asking 
them to report the situation and instructing them to make no attempt to recap- 
ture Pt. 4080, he returned to his own Headquarters. Here a message timed 9.39 
a.m. was received from the Battalion saying that Pt. 4080 was held by the 
enemy. This was reported to the Force Commander. Arrangements were then 
made to bring the fire of the field and medium batteries on to the hill and heavy 

180 The Guides’ Desperate Action, 29th September 1935 

shelling commenced. Under cover of this, the remnants of the Guides on the 
col were able to withdraw from their forward position. 

In the meantime the Peshawar Brigade had completed its task in the 
Kamalai plain, and orders had been issued for the withdrawal of the Brigade to 
commence at 10 a.m. 

At 9.50 a.m. the Nowshera Brigade Commander asked Mohmand Force 
Headquarters to make the whole of the 2nd Battalion 15th Punjab Regiment 
available to extricate the Guides. It will be recollected that the 2nd Battalion 
15th Punjab Regiment was allotted a role to protect the left of Peshawar 
Brigade. Peshawar Brigade was therefore informed of what was known and was 
told that the company of the 2nd Battalion 15th Punjab Regiment on the spur 
protecting the left flank of the Ist Battalion 4th Bombay Grenadiers would be 
withdrawn, and the spur neutralized as far as possible by fire. The Peshawar 
Brigade Commander accelerated the withdrawal of his forward infantry, thereby 
removing one commitment of Nowshera Brigade and enabling that Brigade to 
focus all its attention and energies on the withdrawal of the Guides. In addition 
to this, to help in covering the withdrawal of the rest of the Guides, the Nowshera 
Brigade Commander ordered up a company and a machine-gun section of the 
2nd Battalion The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. Owing to the intense 
artillery fire which had now started on to Pts. 4080 and 4203, assisted by the 
bombing of the reverse slopes by the R.A.F. reconnaissance sortie, the Guides 
were able to commence their withdrawal without further assistance other than 
that of the light tanks above mentioned. 

‘The situation was now well in hand and the withdrawal was not pressed. 
Though several attempts to follow up were made, these were rapidly checked 
by artillery fire. All units of the Nowshera Brigade were back in camp by 
4.30 p.m. 

The casualties incurred by Mohmand Force during 29th September were 
as follows. 

British Officers.—Killed (2): Captain G. Meynell, M.C.., 5th Battalion 
12th Frontier Force Regiment (Q.V.O. Corps of Guides); Lieuten- 
ant A. P. S. Rendall, M.C., 5th Battalion 12th Frontier Force 
Regiment (Q.V.O. Corps of Guides). Wounded (4): Lieutenant 
J.N.D. Tyler, R.A.; Lieutenant R. E. T. Keelan, R.A.; Major S. B. 
Good, O.B.E.. 5th Battalion 12th Frontier Force Regiment 
(Q.V.O. Corps of Guides); Lieutenant G. J. Hamilton, 5th Bat- 
talion 12th Frontier Force Regiment (Q.V.O. Corps of Guides). 

J.C.Os.—Killed, 2; wounded, 2. All of the Sth Battalion 12th 
Frontier Force Regiment (Q.V.O. Corps of Guides). 

British Other Ranks.—Killed, 1; wounded, 1. 3rd Light Battery, R.A. 

Indian Other Ranks.—Killed: 19 5th Battalion 12th Frontier Force 
Regiment (Q.V.O. Corps of Guides); 1 3rd Light Battery. R.A. 


Face page 180 

Casualties and Lessons of the Action on 29th.September 1935 18} 

Missing: 8 5th Battalion 12th Frontier Force Regiment (Q.V.O. 

Corps of Guides). Wounded: | 3rd Light Battery, R.A.; 1 18th 

Cavalry Regiment; 39 Sth Battalion 12 Frontier Force Regiment 

(Q.V.0. Corps of Guides); 1 2nd Battalion 15th Punjab Regiment. 

: ak addition, one J.C.O. and 38 Indian other ranks were injured, mainly 
y falls. 

As already remarked, enemy losses to the number of 144, of whom about 
half were killed, were definitely confirmed. 

End of the Mohmand Campaign of 1935 and Some Reflections on the 
Fighting of 29th September 

It had not been possible on 29th September to bring in the bodies of the 
officers and men who had been killed in the foremost position on Pt. 4080, and 
a certain number of men of the Guides were, it was known, alive in the hands 
of the tribesmen. It was necessary therefore to take steps to procure their release 
and to bring in any dead or wounded. 

Previously, on 28th September some Halimzai Maliks had gone to Lakai 
to meet the jirgah which had collected there on its way to see the political 
authorities. Urgent messages were now sent to these Halimzai Maliks and to the 
Musa Khel Maliks who were bringing in the jirgah that, instead of coming 
to Nahakki, they should go at once to the Khwaezai country and arrange to 
bring in any dead or wounded and secure the release of any prisoners who had 
fallen into the hands of the lashkar. 

They set out from Lakai immediately, and on the morning of 30th 
September a message was received that their efforts had been successful and 
that the lashkar had agreed to the removal of the dead and wounded. 

With the help of these Maliks and of Khassadars, during the next three 
days one wounded and five other men and the bodies of Captain Meynell, 
Lieutenant Rendall, one British other rank and twenty-one Indian other ranks 
were brought in. 

On Ist October a fully representative jirgah of all Mohmand tribes came 
in and was given the following (fairly lenient) terms by the Political Agent: 

(a) That lashkars were to be dispersed without delay and that all 
tribal hostilities were to cease; 

(b) That the military road to the camp in Kamalai was to be com- 
pleted without interference or molestation; 

(c) That the tribes were to undertake to maintain friendly relations 
with the Government and with the friends of the Government 
and to be responsible for unlawful actions of outlaws, bad 
characters and their accomplices against the Government or the 
friends of the Government; and 

182 The Aftermath of the 29th September 1935 

(d) That Government would be freed from the restrictions on its 
liberty of action imposed by the Ghalanai agreement. At the 
same time, in view of the punishment already inflicted on the 
rebellious tribes by land and air action, the Government would 
not demand any fine or any hostages, provided that these terms 
were fully carried out by the tribes. 

The jirgah asked several questions about the road and suggested that the 
work on it should stop at once. The Political Agent made it quite clear that 
Government intended to complete the road to such specifications as were 
considered necessary, and that if resistance was offered force would be used. 

The jirgah then accepted these conditions, and on the morning of 3rd 
October the members dispersed to their various villages to take steps to put 
them into effect. 

For some time the tribesmen had been showing definite signs of wishing 
to come in and tender their submission. The action of 29th September un- 
doubtedly caused the Upper Mohmands to make up their minds. In the course 
of it they had suffered many casualties, and they feared further retaliation from 
the troops together with the bombing of their villages. Other reasons which 
combined to bring a desire for peace were that they had received the Proclama- 
tion of His Excellency the Governor and had seen the road being made to 
Nahakki. They were afraid that the next move would be a road in the direction 
of the Khapak Pass or to Zanawar China. They were tired of the Haji and his 
sons, and they did not want to be deprived of the privilege of using the territory 
beyond the administrative border as they liked. 

The Force remained on in the Nahakki area till the road was completed, 
carrying out reconnaissances to the north. There was no interference. Late in 
October a retirement to the Peshawar plain was carried out, the Brigades 
“leap-frogging” each other through Ghalanai and down the Gandab valley. 
On 4th November the Force dispersed and the Guides Infantry returned to 

Thus ended the Mohmand campaign of 1935, but before leaving it, the 
extraordinary circumstances that led to the exposure of the Guides Infantry 
to the fight described above are worth considering as they have lessons for 
those who may engage in future campaigns on the North-West Frontier. 

The following remarks are taken from the Official History. They were 
written by Field-Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck seven years later when he was 
Commander-in-Chief in India. 

The blow aimed on 29th September 1935, was a direct one, and drew 
opposition accordingly; but it might have administered heavier punishment 
than it did at far less cost had the importance of the high ground at Pt. 4080 
been realized and this been singled out as an objective. The full strength and 
fire power of the Nowshera Brigade might have been brought to bear on the 

The Lessons of the 29th September 1935 183 

enemy at the head of the Wucha Jawar valley and on Pt. 4080. 

The object of the operation was defined as twofold, i.e. the destruction of 
a village, and the infliction of maximum losses on hostiles between Pt. 2450 
and Muzi Kor, and also in the valley west of Wucha Jawar. 

In the Mohmand Force pian, the Nowshera Brigade was given the role 
of securing the high ground north and south of the Wucha Jawar valley and a 
spur running north from the former, thereby protecting the left flank of the 
Peshawar Brigade. 

In giving effect to this plan the Nowshera Brigade Commander dispatched 
his units in divergent directions from the start, and moved his own Head- 
quarters separately to Pt. 3838. Touch was lost from the outset owing to the 
fact that units and Headquarters followed divergent routes instead of moving 
concentrated up to the last possible moment, and then diverging. 

Moreover, the result of this divergence of routes was seen not only in the 
loss of touch between units, but in the lack of mutual support on the critical 
ridge. An alternative method for the Nowshera Brigade to have adopted in 
carrying out their task would have been to leap-frog two of its Battalions 
along the ridge. This would have greatly increased the force of the blow at 
Pt. 4080, where opposition might have been expected and the feature recog- 
nized as a likely one for tribesmen in that area to hold in strength. 

Additionally, it would seem that an underestimate was made of the 
difficult nature of the ground on the Pt. 4080 ridge, and the fact was ignored 
that, leave and furlough being open, battalions were not working at full 
strength. Under such circumstances the task given to the Sth Battalion 12th 
Frontier Force Regiment (The Guides) was beyond its powers to carry out. 
It had to fight the action with depleted numbers from the start; and as the 
battle developed, found itself involved without adequate support or com- 
munications against a numerically much superior enemy, on very difficult 

In this crisis the question may be asked as to what if any assistance could 
have been rendered by the Peshawar Brigade from the north as soon as the 
true nature of the enemy opposition at Pt. 4080 became apparent. It is quite 
likely that successful intervention from this quarter might have been staged, 
but here the loss of touch and consequent lack of knowledge of the situation 
at Mohmand Force Headquarters had an adverse effect. Any orders for such 
intervention would have to be given by the Force Commander, and he did not 
know what was happening. 

The above analysis of the operations of 29th September 1935, goes to 
show how the development of an operation may rest on the clear and full 
understanding by subordinate commanders of the object to be attained. If the 
tole of the Nowshera Brigade on 29th September 1935, had been given as a 
purely protective one on the left of the Peshawar Brigade (and nothing said 

184 The Guides are moved to Waziristan, 1936 

about inflicting loss on the enemy in the Wucha Jawar valley), the securing of 
the ridges west of Wucha Jawar need not have involved an advance to Pt. 4080. 
In this case the tribesmen’s strength on this feature would still have been dis- 
covered, and with a better chance of striking at them advantageously and 
with maximum strength and fire support. 

If, on the other hand, a definite role had been laid down in advance on 
the left flank of the Peshawar Brigade and to strike the enemy wherever met 
up to the limit of Pt. 4080, the Nowshera Brigade might have been handled 
differently and been moved concentrated. In this case also there would have 
been better prospects of dealing the enemy heavier punishment at far less cost. 

The Guides in Waziristan, 1936-38 

The transfer of the Guides Infantry to Razmak early in 1936 was to break 
new ground for them on the North-West Frontier. 

This volume has already given the reader some idea, from the part played 
by other Battalions of the Regiment in the various past campaigns against 
Mahsuds and Wazirs, of the nature of the Waziristan countryside and its in- 

The operations there of 1922-23, however, have not been described, since 
no Battalion of the Regiment was employed. Moreover, before the reader can 
understand fully the situation that existed in Waziristan when the Guides 
Infantry went there in 1936, some outline of these operations should be under- 
stood. They were undertaken with the specific object of driving a semi-circular 
metalled road right through the heart of Waziristan from the Tochi to the Tank 
Zam, and of establishing on the 7,000 ft. plateau of Razmak on the Mahsud- 
Wazir boundary a fortified camp to accommodate a Brigade Group. 

Thus, it was confidently hoped, would this turbulent corner of tribal terri- 
tory be permanently kept in order if not actually pacified. Indeed, the policy 
presented both the advantages of offering to tribesmen increased peaceful em- 
ployment either on the road (in guarding or upkeep) or in the many openings 
for supply to Razmak, and then of holding an overwhelming threat of retribu- 
tion ready at the very heart of the country. Indeed Makin, the one well- 
populated and fertile centre of the Mahsud tribes, was brought within comfort- 
able range of 6-inch howitzers from Razmak Post itself. 

Such was the plan and the policy, and in 1922, with the severe fighting 
of the “Derajat Column” (see Chapter VII) still recent, the tribes were hardly 
quiescent, and numerous posts in the Tochi and South Waziristan were still 
held by troops. The announcement of the above policy and plans, as may be 
imagined, was not hailed with joy by the tribes. The Mahsuds in particular 
flew to arms and in characteristic fashion signified their displeasure by am- 
bushing (in another tribe’s area) and murdering an officer—Lieutenant 
Dickson, R.E.—who was engaged on road work. 

Plans for Waziristan, 1936 185 

The putting through of the road and establishing of Razmak had now 
to be combined with punishment of the Mahsuds. The Razmak Force consisted 
of a full-scale Divisional Group of three Brigades, with two Gurkha Battalions 
as reserve. Road construction commenced in July 1922, from the Tochi, and 
by 4th January 1923, reached Razani without opposition. It was all Wazir 
country. The forcing of the Razmak Narai in a blinding snowstorm with little 
Mahsud opposition on 23rd January brought the Force on to the plateau. 
The decision had already been taken to destroy Makin (the Government were 
in no mood to placate and the Mahsuds needed a lesson), and this was carried 
out in February. After this the Mahsuds submitted unconditionally and 
accepted terms at a full jirgah. It remained now to complete the road pro- 
gramme and build Razmak and other smaller protective posts on road routes. 
The road programme included, besides the main semi-circular metalled road, 
various fair-weather subsidiary roads—notably Jandola-Sarwekai and Mirali- 
Spinwam-Thal (Kurram); and ultimately Razmak was also linked with Wana 
by a fair-weather road through Ladha, Kaniguram and the Sherawangi Pass. 

In the end the Waziristan picture settled down with posts and communi- 
cations as shown in the map. It became a Military District with three Brigades 
—Bannu, Wana and Razmak itself—and though these Brigades had outposts 
to protect (i.e., important points such as Mir Ali, Damdil and Manzai), most 
of the security was in the hands of the Militias. These Frontier Corps, Pathan 
bodies themselves, had large and well-equipped headquarters—the Tochi 
Scouts at Miranshah and the South Waziristan Scouts at Jandola—and small 
posts scattered everywhere. They co-operated as scouts or indeed as mobile 
troops in mountain country whenever columns went out from any of the 
Brigades, as they regularly did. 

In this state Waziristan gradually settled down and except for very minor 
troubles, even during the Red Shirt period, became more and more peaceful. 
Mahsuds were enlisted as lorry-drivers in the R.I.A.S.C., and a company of 
them was formed in the 4th Battalion Frontier Force Rifles (Wildes). By 1933 
movement with safety was possible almost anywhere. Promotion examina- 
tions and Brigade manceuvres were held unmolested in the tribal territory. 
The writer even recollects when, in command of his Battalion (the 5th Frontier 
Force Rifles) going out on a final exercise before the Battalion left Waziristan 
on relief, the local tribesmen in the villages spread tables with the inevitable 
tea and hard-boiled eggs for the officers as a farewell gesture! And these were 
Wazirs of the Daur tribe. It may fairly be claimed that the policy had suc- 
ceeded to a remarkable degree. Nevertheless, only three years later, Waziristan 
was once more plunged in strife and ruthless anti-Government rebellion at the 
bidding of one more implacably hostile fanatic—the later famous Fagir of Ipi. 
And so it remained till the onset of the Second World War, and the problems 

186 Unrest in Waziristan and the Fagir of Ipi 

of independence which followed it pushed Waziristan and the problems of its 
pacification once again into the background. 

In early 1936 then, when the Guides Infantry came to Razmak, Waziristan 
was peaceful, but the germs of discord were already in being, and it required 
only mishandling of a civil problem, followed by misdirection of a military 
measure that was instituted as a result, to give the Faqir his chance, and he took 
it with both hands. 

In the initial operation and the fighting that followed, the Guides were 
involved during their whole tour of duty in the District. The story is as follows: 

The civil problem referred to above was the abduction of a Hindu girl 
in Bannu and was known as the “Islam Bibi Case.” The girl was taken away 
by a young Muslim student, but was recovered. She was stated in the meantime 
to have become a Muslim and given the name of Islam Bibi. This raised the 
question as to which community should have the custody of her, and com- 
munal excitement arose in Bannu. The courts decided first that the girl should 
be given to the Muslim community, but on appeal this was reversed and she 
was handed over to the Hindus. 

Excitement at once spread to the tribal areas, and the Daurs of the Tochi 
threatened to march on Bannu, but under political pressure they dispersed and 
it was thought that the trouble was over. Their leader, however, Mirza Ali 
Khan, a Fagqir from the village of Ipi in the Tochi valley, removed himself to 
Sham in the Shaktu area, laying at the same time a curse on the Daurs and 
their neighbours the Tori Khel for their defection. However, in May 1936, he 
returned to Biche Kashkai in the Khaisora valley, built a mosque and com- 
menced to foment trouble. 

In early autumn he openly assumed the role of champion of Islam, claim- 
ing miraculous powers and calling on the neighbouring tribes to rally round 
him. In this he was assisted by fortuitous renewal of interest in the Islam 
Bibi case. Political pressure was again exerted, particularly on the Daurs and 
Tori Khel, to control the Faqir’s activities. 

The Maliks admitted their responsibility, but professed themselves unable 
to control the Faqir and the malcontents who had now flocked to him. They 
asked for Government help under existing agreements and the despatch of a 
column into the Khaisora was suggested. The Maliks, however, could not give 
any assurance that the column would be entirely unopposed. 

The Khaisora, November 1936 

Finally it was decided that on 25th November the Razmak and Bannu 
Columns (the latter called Tocol, short for Tochi Column) should march 
through the Khaisora valley. Razcol was to start from Damdil and Tocol from 
Mir Ali, meeting at Biche Kashkai that night, and both returning to their 
starting-points the next day. Razcol was to move along the Khaisora valley, 


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Face Page 186 " 


The Khaisora—November 1936 187 

while Tocol advanced south from Mir Ali through Hassu Khel, Imar de Kila 
and the Jaler Algad. The columns concentrated at Damdil and Mir Ali respec- 
tively on 24th November. 

Real fighting had not occurred in Waziristan for years. The Tori Khel 
did not appear hostile, and serious opposition was not expected. Indeed, it was 
felt that a march in such strength through the disturbed area might strengthen 
the hands of the local Maliks and check hostile propaganda altogether. 

Nevertheless, the plan, even regarded as a peaceful demonstration, took 
unjustifiable liberties, and the price to be paid continued for many years after- 
wards. For the disaster that followed placed on a pedestal an implacably 
hostile anti-Government fanatic who never ceased to foment trouble and profit 
by it—the Fagir of Ipi. Let us follow the story. 

The only Battalion of the Regiment* involved in the operation was the 
Guides Infantry in the Razmak Brigade. It was new country for them, and 
the beginning of a tour of duty punctuated by constant fighting columns that 
lasted all the time the Battalion remained in Razmak. 

On 25th November the route followed by the Brigade led down the 
Khaisora valley—a boulder-strewn river-bed of the roughest kind, overlooked 
on both sides by high scrub-covered hills. These formed a tangi at Zerpezai, 
about half-way to Biche Kashkai, where the river-bed was only fifty yards wide 
and the exits commanded by dominating features. 

For the first hour the advanced guard and piqueting troops were provided 
by the 6th Royal Battalion Frontier Force Rifles with six platoons of Tochi 
Scouts on the flanks. On approaching the above tangi, however, the Guides 
took over advanced guard and it was at the same time reported that the tangi 
was occupied. This proved to be true and hostile fire was encountered from the 
high ground overlooking it. Supported by their machine-gun company and a 
mountain battery, the Guides gained their objectives, driving off the opposition 
with little loss; but it was now clear that it was to be no peace-time promenade, 
and with fighting to do the task set and the distance to be covered to camp at 
Biche Kashkai were too great. The Guides were not seriously engaged when 
withdrawing during the later stages of the day, but it was dark before all the 
Brigade reached camp, and casualties were suffered as a result—notably Major 
Jack Seccombe of the 6th Royal Battalion Frontier Force Rifles, who with 
two of his men was cut off in the darkness and all three killed. 

If the Razmak Brigade (Razcol) had a struggle to reach Biche Kashkai 
that night, the column from Mir Ali (Tocol) was in still greater trouble. A 
weaker force both in strength and fire power (it had no artillery), and allotted 
an even greater distance to cover, the enemy opposition inflicted losses and 
delayed its advance so much that the column was forced to halt and bivouac 
at dusk four miles short of Biche Kashkai. Even so, had the commander been 

* The 6th Royal Battalion Frontier Force Rifles also participated. 

188 The Khaisora—November 1936 

content to remain there that night, serious consequences would doubtless have 
been avoided. As it was, however, he attempted to reach Biche Kashkai by re- 
newing the advance after dark. Enemy parties were vigilant and opened fire, 
throwing the column into confusion and stampeding the animals. Numbers of 
these made off in the darkness and their valuable loads were not only lost to 
the troops, but fell into the hands of the Faqir’s following, thus enormously 
raising that firebrand’s prestige. 

However, none of the Frontier Force Regiment was involved in this re- 
grettable affair, and the story is only told to show how the spark was ignited 
that set Waziristan aflame for the remaining years before the Second World 
War burst on the world. It made the remainder of the Guides’ period in 
Waziristan a strenuous one, and was to cost the Battalion its Commanding 
Officer, killed in action by a sniper’s bullet. 

Tocol were helped into Biche Kashkai on the morning of 26th November 
by the Guides, 1/9th Gurkhas and a mountain battery, the two former piquet- 
ing the heights for the remainder of the way. The plan, however, had been 
merely for a two days’ “column march,” and only rations for two days were 
carried. Air supply had not yet been developed, and though the R.A.F. had 
helped Tocol with air action and ammunition “drops,” the columns could 
not be maintained, and they both moved to Mir Ali next day. The march was 
harassed by tribesmen and the Guides were rear-guard during the difficult 
opening phase of the march. It was completed without further difficulty, but 
the whole affair had been a severe shock to the Army, the Politicals and the 
Government. Two officers and 19 rank and file had been killed, and 4 officers 
and 87 rank and file wounded. Further, the Tochi Scouts had lost 7 killed and 
16 wounded. The Fagir’s prestige had been enhanced and some 200 Mahsuds 
now joined him. 

In this connection an effort to try and detach his following and restore 
the Maliks’ prestige by leaflets dropped from the air was very astutely turned 
to his own advantage by the Fagir of Ipi’s foresight. Having some previous 
knowledge of this type of propaganda, he explained to his followers that they 
need not fear the advent of planes as his magical powers would now turn their 
high explosive bombs to harmless paper. As few tribesmen could read, the ruse 
paid him handsome dividends. 

The Government now took prompt action. The Tori Khel and other 
participants were to be punished and the Faqir expelled. General Sir John 
Coleridge, commanding the Northern Army, was given both military and politi- 
cal control, and reinforcements of two mountain batteries, the 2nd Rawalpindi 
Infantry Brigade, two Sapper companies and a wing of the R.A.F. were placed 
at his disposal. 

A motor road from Mir Ali through the Khaisora was to be made and 
definite action taken to prevent the trouble spreading. Razcol (plus two batta- 

The Khaisora—November 1936 189 

lions) was to be a striking force, with the 2nd Brigade in support at Mir Ali 
and the Bannu Brigade guarding the line of communication to Bannu. 

The weather delayed road-making, but work started (and the new organiza- 
tion came into being) on Sth December. Destruction of towers and dwellings 
of hostile Wazirs was carried out at the same time, but the Faqir and his followers 
failed to concentrate and oppose the troops, so that no really punishing blow 
could be dealt. All this time the Guides, except for taking their share of pro- 
tective duties to cover the road-making, experienced no particular incident. 
Sporadic fighting, however, occurred as the tribesmen, thanks to the 25th 
November’s mule stampede, had now plenty of ammunition. 

They did not, however, escape these operations without loss, some twenty 
being reported killed. 

For a short time action against the Faqir was confined to ineffectual air 
bombing of a mosque and dwelling where he was reported to be hiding, but 
on 8th January 1937, Razcol again entered the Khaisora to deal with some 
villages harbouring recalcitrants by night bombardment. This enterprise (which 
brought the Guides no fighting) was successful in that the Tori Khel submitted 
and, with political control reverting to the Frontier Government, it was hoped 
that normal conditions would now supervene. 

It was however a vain hope, and this time the Mahsuds also joined in. 
The attempt to return to what had come to be regarded as “normal conditions,” 
with road protection entrusted to Khassadars and dealings with tribal Maliks 
through political agents relied on to ensure good behaviour, broke down. 
Muhammad Aslam Wazir and Muhammad Aslam Mahsud, the respective 
Assistant Political Agents (known as “Grand Slam” and “Small Slam”), began 
to lose their hold and Ipi started a campaign of murder and sabotage on the 
roads. In February 1937, Captain J. C. Keogh, 1st Sikhs (serving with the South 
Waziristan Scouts), was ambushed between Ladha and Jandola, and Lieuten- 
ant R. N. Beatty of Hodson’s Horse, acting as Political Officer, was attacked in 
the Tochi. Both were mortally wounded and their orderlies killed. The latter was 
robbed of Rs.32,000 of political funds that he was taking to Razmak. Sporadic 
attacks and hostilities became widespread, roads, telegraphs and bridges being 
interfered with and posts sniped at night. On the night of 20th March a piquet 
of the 2nd Battalion 5th Royal Gurkhas, F.F., was heavily attacked, but after 
desperate fighting was held. When rescued only four of the eight men could 
stand and 31 enemy lay dead around the post. 

Towards the end of March political negotiations with the Faqir of Ipi 
obtained agreement to cease hostilities, and it was now hoped that under 
pressure from the air he and his followers had had enough, but this under- 
taking was merely a ruse to cover stil] more treachery. Only a few days later, 
on 29th March, the up convoy of lorries to Razmak that was being protected 

190 The Shahur Tangi, April 1937 

by the Abbottabad Brigade at Damdil on its way through that area was attacked 
in strength and an all-day battle ensued. The attack on the convoy failed and 
no lorries were lost, but heavy casualties were suffered on both sides. The 
Gurkhas lost 34 killed and 44 wounded and the tribesmen’s reported dead 
amounted to 94, with numerous wounded. 

The Shahur Tangi, 9th A pril 1937 

This, however, proved no deterrent, and only eleven days later, on 9th 
April, another lorry convoy (bound for Wana) was attacked in Mahsud country 
in the infamous Shahur Tangi—the scene twenty years earlier of the ambush 
of a camel convoy and a savage fight that followed. But whereas the camel 
convoy in 1917, moving along the river-bed before the road had been built, 
was well handled and the protecting troops dealt faithfully with the marauders, 
the lorry convoy in April 1937, trusting on political advice to Khassadar 
protection on the heights, carried in vehicles only a covering party of a half- 
company of infantry and an escort of a section of armoured cars. 

Disaster followed. The lorries moved in three blocks, one armoured car 
leading, two in the intervals and one in the rear. The infantry was similarly 
spaced out and placed in lorries near the armoured cars. 

A tragic feature of the convoy was that it carried, besides 72 leave details, 
a number of officers, some returning from leave and others from attending a 
promotion examination, all on their way to Wana from Manzai. 

A detailed and vivid account of what happened is given in The Official 
History of Operations on the North-West Frontier, and is well worth reading. 
Suffice it here to say that as the convoy of 49 lorries and two private cars was 
on its way through the defile at 7.45 a.m., with the rearmost vehicles just en- 
tering the gorge at the eastern end, fire was opened on it simultaneously by 
Mahsuds hidden in gullies and behind rocks overlooking the road along its 
entire length through the tangi. Drivers were the first to be killed and their 
lorries splayed all over the road, blocking it completely. The road was so 
covered by fire at short range that very soon any movement by those still alive 
was impossible. The armoured cars were useless as their machine guns could 
not be elevated sufficiently to fire at the attackers high above them. Although 
help, from light tanks followed by scouts and infantry from Sarwekai 
began to arrive the same afternoon, it was too weak to dislodge the Mahsuds, 
who were still in position at dusk. 

By next morning further reinforcement, including a Battalion from Bannu 
(the 2/11th), arrived, and by noon the enemy had made off, leaving the tragic 
scene to be cleared up. Needless to say, many lorries had been “looted” (one 
was burnt out), and though the tribesmen suffered several casualties they 
seized a quantity of stores, etc., that were doubtless of great value to them. 

The Sherawangi Narai and Death of Colonel Grant 191 

The casualties in the convoy were: killed, 7 officers, 45 British and Indian 
ranks and civilian drivers; wounded, 5 officers, 2 J.C.Os., 43 British and Indian 
ranks and civilian drivers. Among the killed was Second-Lieutenant G. N. 
Scott of the 3rd Battalion of the Regiment, and among the wounded the com- 
mander of the convoy, who was hit three times. The figures show that few 

indeed escaped, and some of the officers lying wounded were murdered after 

The ambush had been organized by a Mahsud outlaw and lieutenant of 

the Faqir’s, by name Khonia Khel—readily translated by the troops into 
“Bloody Bill.” 

This tragic affair caused a wave of excitement to spread through the tribes 
of Waziristan, and the Government once more took strong action, placing 
both military and political control in the hands of Sir John Coleridge. 

The policy now was to penetrate every doubtful valley, making roads 
where necessary, and above all to seize the Faqir himself or, failing that, to 
drive him out of Waziristan. The new operations were to bring back the Guides 
Infantry on to the scene. 

The first steps were to clear up the situation in the Khaisora, and strong 
reinforcements from India were brought up with several air squadrons. No 
Battalion of the Regiment was however included, and the Razmak Brigade 
with the Guides were not involved. No description, therefore, will be given 
here. The Official History provides it in full, including the subsequent surprise 
attack on and destruction of the Fagir’s stronghold, Arsal Kot, from which it 
was said the Faqir himself only escaped in a burka.* 

During these operations, which lasted throughout May, the Guides were 
not included as part of the striking or raiding forces, but formed part of a 
brigade of three battalions and a mountain battery, called “Grant Col.” This 
formation under Colonel Pat Grant of the Guides Infantry was employed in 
protecting the line of communication. 

The Sherawangi Narai and Death of Lieutenant-Colonel Grant 

The next major enterprise on which the Battalion was engaged was a 
tragic one, for in the course of it the commandant, Colonel Grant, was killed. 
It started with the setting out of Razcol and Tocol from Razmak on 7th June 
on an expedition through Mahsud country through Ladha to join hands with 
the Wana Brigade Column (Wanacol) at Torwam. On 23rd June the column 
was opposed by a Mahsud lashkar on the heavily wooded Sherawangi Narai, 
and the Guides were leading as advanced guard. Colonel Grant ordered two 

* Female garment veiling the whole head and body. 

192 The Guides last days at Razmak 

companies to take a big spur some 300 yards ahead, and himself went forward 
on to a wooded ridge to watch their progress. What happened is best described 
by Major Redding, who was Second-in-Command with the Battalion. 

“Having given out his orders Pat Grant, together with Jemadar Arjan 
Singh (O.C. Machine-guns) and their runners, stood on the slope of a tree- 
covered spur to watch the progress of the attack. A good deal of enemy fire 
was concentrated on the spur, and at about 1000 hours an orderly came running 
to Major Redding to say that the Colonel had been hit. Redding and his orderly 
ran down the slope about fifty yards and found Jemadar Arjan Singh and 
his orderly carrying Pat to the reverse side of the slope. The M.O. was sent 
for and Pat, still conscious. was made as comfortable as possible. He asked 
only for a drink of water. Redding stayed with him till the M.O. and a stretcher 
arrived, and it was obvious by then that Pat was dying. He was taken down 
the road to an ambulance, but passed away shortly afterwards.” 

One bullet had hit Colonel Grant in the chest and another had slightly 
wounded Jemadar Arjan Singh. The R.A.F. flew Pat Grant’s body to Mardan, 
where he rests with many other Guides in the little cemetery by the church. 

The opposition on the Sherawangi Narai was soon overcome, and by 24th 
June both Tocol and Razcol were in perimeter camp at Torwam. On 28th June 
Wanacol arrived, completing the division of three brigades. 

After a punitive excursion next day in which the Guides saw no fighting, 
the brigades split up. Razcol moving to Asman Manza, near Kaniguram, a 
magnificent camp on an elevated plateau requiring only two piquets for pro- 

Last Days at Razmak 

Razcol remained at Asman Manza (which might be translated “the plateau 
in the sky”) till 8th August, when it set out to return to Razmak. On the last 
march into the camp the Guides formed the advanced guard and had to drive 
hostile Mahsuds off a commanding feature known as Crag Piquet. This was 
done efficiently and without loss, two of the companies employed being com- 
manded by Captain Eliott Lockhart of the Guides Cavalry. This incident is 
perhaps of interest as being the last occasion on which an officer of the Guides 
Cavalry served with the Infantry on active service. He was attached at his 
own request and spent several months with the Battalion. 

On 28th August General Marshall, who had commanded the Razmak 
Brigade during the Khaisora and subsequent operations, left for England and 
wrote the Officer Commanding the Guides a farewell letter : 

“Before leaving the Razmak Brigade, I must send you this line to 
say how very proud and pleased I am to have the privilege of having your 


battalion in my command. You have throughout all these operations fully 
lived up to your great reputation, and I need hardly tell you that I had 
nothing but the fullest confidence that whatever you were called upon 
to do would be well and truly done and in the most efficient manner. 

“In saying good-bye to you, I feel I am doing so to personal friends, 
whose friendship I value most highly. I would like you to let your British 
and Indian officers and all ranks know how very grateful I am to them, 
and how much I appreciate the very fine work they have done whilst 
with me here. 

“The very best of luck to you all, and may you soon have a rest from 
many years of war. 


The Guides’ time with Wazirforce was now drawing to a close, but before 
their return to Mardan, which was due in November, they were called on for 
one more task. Once again it was carried out in characteristically efficient 
fashion and earned the congratulations of the Divisional Commander. It is of 
interest also as an example of an operation commenced at night to forestall 
the vigilance of the tribal enemy. 

Towards the end of September a Mahsud lashkar collected in the area 
of the Sirdar Algar to the north-west of Razmak and commenced damaging 
the Razmak water supply. The Bannu Brigade, reinforced by the Guides and 
1/3rd Gurkhas, were ordered to deal with this, and the Brigadier decided on 
an advance by night to surprise the enemy if possible. 

The Guides at this time had one company holding Alexandra Ridge post 
(protecting Razmak on the east), so that a company of the 2nd Battalion 14th 
Punjab Regiment (20th Brownlow’s Punjabis, and old friends) was attached 
for the operation. 

The Battalion led the night advance, commencing at 1 a.m. on 27th 
September, with the 1/3rd Gurkhas on their right. The enemy were vigilant 
and opened a heavy fire in the dark from a commanding feature known as 
Ridgeway. As it was clear that there was no hope of surprise and that further 
advance in the dark would mean heavy casualties, an attack at dawn was 
ordered, supported by artillery and machine guns. A concerted plan was made, 
and the attack, which the Mahsuds opposed strongly, went in at 7.30 a.m. 

With the support of artillery and the Battalion’s own machine guns, the 
whole ridge was captured in twenty minutes, and the running tribesmen were 
heavily punished by the machine guns of both the Guides and the Gurkhas. 
The enemy’s casualties were later reported to be twenty-five killed and a 
number wounded. The Guides had five slightly wounded. 


194 The Guides last years in Mardan 

This successful affair effectively discouraged further interference with Raz- 
mak’s water supply. It was the last operation for the Guides in Waziristan. 

The remainder of the time in Razmak was uneventful. On 5th October 
Major K. A. Garrett of the Ist Battalion arrived as the new Commandant in 
succession to Colonel Grant, and in November the Battalion left Waziristan, 
arriving back in Mardan on 27th November 1937. 

Last Years in Mardan 

Though they did not know it, the return of the Guides Infantry to Mardan 
in November, 1937, was to herald their final period there before it was aban- 
doned as their home, shortly before the coming of the Second World War. It 
was fitting that both the cavalry and infantry should be there together at this 
time in the old home of the Corps, and that it should also be a period when they 
could indulge for a while in the traditional hospitality of “weeks,” sports meet- 
ings and other peace-time activities. 

When this has been said, exigencies of space forbid detailed record of 
such matters, which are nevertheless to be found in the Guides’ own History. 

One or two administrative changes, however, need to be mentioned. One 
was the decision to give up the brass band and replace it with a full-strength 
pipe band. Although the Battalion already had a small pipe band, in 
this the Battalion did no more than follow what, one after another, 
other battalions of the Indian Army had done under pressure of the 
ever-mounting cost of maintenance of a brass band. Moreover, the pipes were 
agreed to be universally more to the taste of the rank and file, particularly 
as the sarnai, their own instrument, is reminiscent (pace all Scots!) of the note 
of the bagpipe, while the brass instrument is not. The institution of a full-scale 
pipe band required a suitable scale and style of uniform, and this was evolved 
after careful consideration. It included two points of interest. First, the facings 
and buttons as witness of the history of the Corps; and second, the adoption 
of a tartan, as had become the practice in many other Indian regiments. In 
this respect the Guides asked for and obtained (after some years) sanction to 
wear the Royal Stuart tartan—a concession which, by an Order issued in 1923, 
had been reserved to the special permission of the King. 

In 1938 the Battalion reorganized its companies to conform to the new 
organization introduced for infantry battalions in both British and Indian 
Armies—i.e., a headquarters company and four rifle companies of three 
platoons each, instead of a headquarters company and three rifle companies 
of four platoons each. As has been recorded elsewhere, some battalions re- 
organized into ciass companies, but in the case of the Guides the organization 
adopted was one of class platoons. The total strength of the Battalion remained 
the same. 

Reorganization in the Guides 195 

Following on this the Battalion suffered a loss that it could not help 
feeling very much. The Khattaks were largely eliminated from the Battalion 
and transferred to the 4th Battalion. It is not necessary to dwell on the effect 
of such a decision on a unit of an army that depends on voluntary recruitment 
and for a hundred years has established connections with certain clans, not 
to say certain villages and even families. Many other units were similarly 
affected, but the feelings engendered at the time were soon to be swamped by 
the far greater recruiting upheaval that came soon after with the Second World 
War. All ranks, however, felt them very acutely at the time. 

The immediate cause of the change affecting the Khattaks was the limited 
field of their recruitment and the requirements of the Militias as well as of the 
Frontier regiments of the Indian Army. The attempt to use Mahsuds and 
Wazirs in Militias had not proved a success. They were liable to fits of mis- 
demeanour, desertion and dangerous insubordination, and more reliable clans 
had to be found from among the Pashtoo-speaking population of the Frontier. 
Thus the Khattak in his limited numbers had to meet the needs of the Militias 
as well as the Regular Army, and as a result a revised distribution of the 
manpower of the clan for the latter was inevitable. 

It was a party of 50 Khattaks under Jemadar Spin Gul with a havildar 
and two naiks that marched out on transfer to the 4th Sikhs, and the Guides 
received from them a like number of Yusufzais. 

At this time also certain minor changes of interest were introduced in 
the matter of uniform, the chief being the reintroduction of the old Review 
Order uniform with the red kammarband worn under the belt, with the end 
hanging down level with the coat just under the bayonet. 

Finally in May 1939, came at last the order that Mardan was to be 
given up. Ever since the Indian Army reorganization of 1922, when the 
Guides Infantry had become the Sth Battalion of the Frontier Force Regi- 
ment,* and the Guides Cavalry had been given a number (10th Guides Cavalry) 
and a place among the regular Cavalry regiments, one had wondered how 
long the Commander-in-Chief would find it possible to retain Mardan as a 
regular active unit’s station, since it had long outworm its usefulness as a Frontier 
post. The fact that the order was delayed for over sixteen years is the measure 
of consideration shown to a famous Corps. The Guides’ own volume remarks 
that the rest of the Indian Army chuckled at the final demise of Mardan as 
the home of the Guides. I venture to deprecate any such statement. The feeling 
was universally one of sympathy for an inevitable break with the past and 
the loss of a unique monument thereto. 

Private property and buildings were suitably disposed of and proper 
arrangements made for care of the church and immovable memorials. For the 

* See Chapter X. The RegimentalCentre. : 

196 The Guides leave Mardan, 1940 

rest, it became after the Second World War the home of the P.A.S.C. School, 

who have kept it in the best possible order. 

The Guides Infantry were transferred in March 1940 to the posts on the 
Khajuri plain (Peshawar border) and the Cavalry to Quetta. In September 
came the Second World War. 


REGIMENT), 1919-39 

In Occupation of Enemy Territory, 1919-20—Jerusalem, 1920—Return to India; Peace- 
time Duties in India and Service in Waziristan, 1920-39. 

In Occupation of Enemy Territory, 1919-20 

WHEN the fighting in Palestine ceased with the destruction of the Turkish 
armies and the subsequent surrender in Turkey, the Battalion marched north 
with the 7th Division through Haifa, Tyre, Sidon and Beirout to Homs and 
Hama. From Hama it was railed on to Jerablus, arriving on 19th January 1919. 

The battalions and formations of General Allenby’s army that were now 
given the task of occupying enemy territory became split up, and the story 
of the 28th Frontier Force Brigade therefore ceases at this point, and the 
narrative of the 51st Sikhs (as it then still was called) will now be resumed 

Various awards for the recent campaign were published in 1919, among 
which were a bar to the I.D.S.M. for Subadar Akbar Khan; the Military Cross 
to Lieutenant A. G. Scotland; the Distinguished Service Order and C.M.G. 
to Lieutenant-Colonel P. L. Beddy. 

On 20th March the Battalion was moved by rail from Jerablus to Tel 
Abiad and marched on (three miles) to Urfa. 

The Mutessarif (local Turkish Governor of Urfa: 166,000 Kurds, Arabs 
and Armenians) had denounced the “unwarranted occupation” by the British 
so the welcome of the Regiment was not a cordial one. 

This official from the start was determined to obstruct the “occupation” 
as much as possible, denying all knowledge of the additional Armistice terms. 
He was a staunch member of the Young Turk Party and famous as the per- 
petrator of Armenian massacres and deportations. 

The removal] of the Turkish troops on the Battalion’s arrival, therefore 
proved a difficulty. This had on previous occasions provided ‘“Gilbertian” 
incidents. At each place occupied, the local Turkish commander was faced 


198 The 5Ist Sikhs in Syria, 1919-20 

with the necessity of protesting against our occupation or getting into trouble 
with his own higher authorities. At Jerablus his protest had been backed by 
the plea that his men were not soldiers but only gendarmes. A field gun and 
eleven machine guns were then confiscated from his command as unnecessary 
encumbrances for policemen, after which he sorrowfully removed his detach- 
ment lest a worse thing might befall them! 

Later, when Colonel Beddy was taking “C’? Company to occupy Arab 
Punar, the approach of the train had been checked by the removal of a rail 
close to Seruj station. The local Turkish commander at that place advanced 
with outstretched hand to meet Colonel Beddy when the train—after the rail 
had been replaced—arrived in the station. Greatly to his surprise, the hand 
was ignored, and he himself was sent back to Aleppo for trial. 

Now once again at Urfa, the Battalion was met by a Turkish Bimbashi 
of Cavalry, who refused to remove his 500 Cavalry without orders from Con- 
stantinople. He was given twenty-four hours to quit, and next morning his 
Cavalry camp was deserted, except for a rear-guard of about twenty men. Four 
days later the Turkish subaltern of this rear-guard was warned that if he did not 
go he would be put in the regimental quarter-guard. He then removed his party. 

The Battalion, however, received a very real welcome from the little 
Roman Catholic community. Priests and nuns of the French Latin Church and 
the Assyrian Catholic Church had worked together for the destitute of Urfa 
throughout the war. 

Armenian panics in the city were a common occurrence for some time 
and often necessitated the dispatch of piquets and patrols of the Regiment 
through the streets before confidence was restored. Utterly groundless rumours 
were sufficient to start these panics in an already terror-stricken Christian com- 
munity. Subsequent careful inquiry into the cause of one such panic revealed 
the fact that two Armenian women, on seeing a covered cart entering the city, 
spread the rumour that the Mussalmans were bringing arms into the city and 
that a massacre was imminent. 

During the month Colonel Beddy urgently represented to H.Q. Desert 
Mounted Corps at Aleppo the necessity for the removal of Nurset Bey, the 
Mutessariff of Urfa, on the grounds that the lawlessness and unsettled state 
of the province were largely due to him, that he was pursuing a steady policy 
of obstruction to the British, and that he had a black reputation for massacres 
of Armenians. He was duly removed and, with the establishment of better 
relations with the local government, confidence was gradually restored. 

In June 1919, the Battalion was engaged in a brush with tribal raiders 
of the Siyara tribe from the east, and a mobile detachment went out in lorries, 
supported by a light armoured motor patrol]. The raiders were reported to be 
attacking and looting a village eight miles south of Urfa, and the detachment 
made a detour to cut off the raiders. In an action which followed, the tribe 

51st Sikhs move to Jerusalem, 1920 199 

suffered severely, while the only casualty to the detachment was one man 
slightly wounded. The leader of the tribe subsequently gave himself up. 

The effect of the affair was immediate. Tribal warfare ceased, brigandage 
largely diminished, traffic was opened along all roads, and market prices fell 
by 30 per cent. 

Our recent enemies abstained from giving further trouble, and chiefs of 
many neighbouring Kurdish tribes came in to pay their respects to the British 
at Urfa. Even the local Turkish government swallowed its jealousy and made 
a show of gratitude. 

On 3rd July the following representatives of the Battalion left for England 
to take part in the peace celebrations: Subadar-Major Kesar Singh; Havildar 
Khan Khel, I.0.M., I.D.S.M.; Sepoy Mangat Ram; Sweeper Budhu. 

On arrival in England all representatives were camped in the India Peace 
Contingent Camp at Hampton Court, which was under the command of 
Brigadier-General Costello, V.C., with Major Mackenzie, D.S.O., of the Bat- 
talion as his principal staff officer. 

On 2nd August, the whole contingent marched through the streets of 
London, where it had an enthusiastic reception, to Buckingham Palace. It was 
then reviewed and addressed by His Majesty King George V on the lawn in the 
rear of the Palace, and the ceremony ended with a march past, after which 
officers and men broke off and had tea in the gardens before marching back to 
Waterloo Station. 

The Battalion remained on in Urfa till the beginning of December, during 
which time the local Turkish authorities were in a very difficult position. The 
population were chafing at the delay in announcing the decision of the Peace 
Conference. Disturbing rumours reached them that Syria was to be handed 
over to the French, Palestine to the Jews, and Smyrna to the Greeks (all in fact 
true). Meanwhile the national movement under Mustapha Kemal was spread- 
ing in the unoccupied districts. However, in October the limits of the different 
mandated territories were settled by the peace conference and arrangements 
were made during the month for the Battalion to hand over to French troops 
at the end of the month, and on Ist November Urfa was evacuated and taken 
over by French Infantry and Algerian Tirailleurs. The disaster that later befell 
these unfortunate French troops is no part of this story, but is nevertheless some 
criterion of the tact and efficiency with which the Battalion comported itself 
in a difficult and highly inflammable area. 

On being relieved at Urfa, the Battalion moved by rail to Rayak and 
thence by road and sea via Port Said to Kantara, where it arrived on 4th Decem- 
ber. Early in January 1920, while daily expecting orders to embark for India, 
it was suddenly ordered to Jerusalem, where it arrived by rail to relieve the 
59th Scinde Rifles, F.F., on 8th January. 

200 The 51st Sikhs in Jerusalem, 1920 

Jerusalem, 1920 

Very severe weather was experienced in Jerusalem in February 1920, and 
during the second week a blizzard unprecedented in severity swept over the 
Judean hills, accompanied by heavy falls of snow which blocked the railway 
for many days. 

The inhabitants of Jerusalem shut themselves up in their houses and made 
no attempts to clear the streets, which were covered to a depth of 39 inches. 

During this time the Battalion’s camp became impossible. A French con- 
vent was found between the camp and the city which had an empty wing in 
which British troops had at one time been billeted. The nuns expressed willing- 
ness to allow the Battalion to occupy this wing pending the decision of certain 
city dignitaries, and the Regiment moved in. A few days later, however, on 
emerging from the snow the Roman Catholic authorities in Jerusalem came 
to the conclusion that a dreadful sacrilege had been perpetrated, and while 
representations were made to Cairo, Paris and Rome, the Battalion was 
ordered out at two hours’ notice. It moved to an unoccupied convent (the Greek 
Convent of the Cross), about two miles south-west of the city. Here the Bat- 
talion was very overcrowded, so as soon as the weather improved two com- 
panies moved back to the original camp. 

The next two months passed without incident, but at the beginning of 
April the terms of the Balfour Declaration were published, whereby Britain 
accepted the mandate for Palestine with the definite intention of making it a 
home for the Jews. It will be recollected that this was the result of an official 
bargain with Weizmann, the Zionist leader, in return for his formula for the 
high explosive, T.N.T. The modern state of Israel is the present-day outcome 
of that decision, and the fact that the 51st Sikhs were called on to handle the 
immediate trouble that arose is an item of unusual interest in their history. The 
story is told in the Battalion Records as follows: 

On 4th April, Easter Sunday, serious rioting broke out in Jerusalem 
City, starting with an attack on the Jews by a procession of Hebron Muslims 
on their annual pilgrimage through Jerusalem to Ain Musa in the Jordan 

The Internal Security Scheme was at once put into operation, the 51st 
Sikhs being placed at the disposal of the civil authorities to reinforce the police 
and keep order inside the city. 

The work of restoring order was considerably hampered by the panic 
among the Zionists, who started groundless rumours, made incoherent and 
misleading complaints, and whose guides were totally unreliable. 

The police also proved to be untrustworthy, and the situation was further 
complicated by the presence in Jerusalem of numerous demobilized Jewish 

The 51st Sikhs in Jerusalem, 1920 201 

soldiers in uniform who, where possible, retaliated on the Muslims. In the even- 
ing ““D” Company went into the city and was quartered in David’s Tower. 

About 180 casualties had occurred among Jews and Muslims during the 

Both “A” and “D” Companies sent out patrols through the city through- 
out the night, which passed quietly. 

Early on Sth April (Easter Monday), at the request of the Military 
Governor, all troops were withdrawn from the city with the exception of two 
platoons which were left at David’s Tower in case of trouble. 

At 8.30 a.m. the Battalion was requested by the Military Governor’s 
Staff to provide an escort for the Hebronites from the police barracks to the 
Mosque of Omar, where they were to be allowed to pray before departure to 
Ain Musa. This request was granted and the procession started through the 
narrow streets, shouting, chanting and waving banners. 

The streets were very narrow and, with shops open and normal business 
in progress, it was impossible to move more than two or three abreast. 

Arrived at the cross-roads in the centre of the city, the procession broke up 
in all directions down the numerous alleyways and the Jew hunt started again. 
The escort of the Regiment did all it could to keep the situation in hand. A 
number of arrests were made, the previous piquets were established, and 
patrols were sent round to stop fighting. Three men of the Regiment were 
stabbed while escorting a wounded Jew. 

Martial law was then proclaimed and the police were withdrawn from 
the city and disarmed, as were also numerous Jews in British uniforms. 

The Brigade Commander, Colonel Beddy, then issued proclamations that 
all inhabitants must be within doors between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., that the carry- 
ing of sticks and arms was prohibited, as also the assembly in the streets of 
more than four people. 

“B” and “C” Companies were marched to the city and placed on duty 
there to keep order. Complaints of murder, rape, loot and incendiarism poured 
into Battalion Headquarters from Jews, Muslims and shopkeepers, but the 
disturbances gradually subsided. 

On the 8th the returning Hebronites were disarmed on the Jericho Road, 
and on the 9th their standard was escorted from the Mosque round to the 
Bethlehem Road and they were sent on their way. 

The Greek Easter comes some days after the Christian one, and the Ad- 
ministration asked the Brigade Commander to cancel the curfew order for 
that night for the vigil of the Holy Fire. 

The Greek quarter was accordingly isolated by troops. All went well till 
3 a.m. on the 11th, when the police reported an uproar in the Church of the 
Holy Sepulchre. A patrol was sent to the spot, where Copt and Syriac priests 
were found belabouring one another with chairs. Order was restored. This fight 

202 The 51st Sikhs in Jerusalem, 1920 

is an annual occurrence over the custody of a certain cross in the Church and 
has gone on for centuries. 
It is probably, however, the only occasion when troops from the Punjab 
Frontier have been called on to stop a fight in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre! 
The remainder of the Battalion’s time in Palestine was uneventful, and 
in the following August the Battalion was ordered back to India. arriving in 
Jullundur on 1st September 1920. 

Return to India; Peace-time Duties in India and Service in Waziristan, 1920-39 

On its return to India from Palestine in 1920 the Ist Sikhs were stationed 
in Kohat, whence they proceeded to Waziristan shortly after the operations 
for the establishment of Razmak in 1923 had been completed. 

No operations took place during the Battalion’s stay in Waziristan, though 
much discomfort, and even hardship, was experienced due to a very severe 
winter. Snow many feet deep lay on the Razmak Narai. 

On leaving Waziristan the Battalion went to Jhansi in Central India, 
where it was commanded by Colonel “Alf? Mahon, formerly of Coke’s Rifles. 
Its stay in Jhansi was unmarked by any event of major importance and fol- 
lowed the usual routine familiar in cantonment life. 

In 1926 Subadar-Major Chanda Singh was selected as one of the King’s 
Indian Orderly officers and was on duty in England during the summer of 
that year. 

In 1927 the Battalion was again ordered to Razmak and remained there 
till the spring of 1929, now under the command of Colonel “Breezy” Bruce, 
late of the 3rd Sikhs. Though it was several years since the Battalion had served 
in tribal territory and a large percentage of its strength had been enlisted during 
its period in Jhansi, its skill and special efficiency for Frontier service had 
not been allowed to rust, and it achieved a deservedly high reputation during 
this tour of duty in Waziristan. 

The two years spent there did not include any active operations other 
than the normal road-opening and protective duties. There were also the periodi- 
cal Razmak Brigade columns, lasting from three to ten days and covering the 
country in both Mahsud and Wazir territory. 

From Razmak the Battalion went to Lahore and remained there till early 
1933. Here Lieutenant-Colonel Burrows was appointed Commandant and took 
over on the Battalion’s arrival. The tour of duty in Lahore was uneventful, the 
only occasion of importance being the presentation of colours by the Com- 
mander-in-Chief, Field-Marshal Sir William Birdwood, in 1930. At this parade, 
and indeed during its whole tour of duty at the Punjab capital, the Battalion’s 
bearing was noticed for its smartness. 

During this period the former class company organization was changed 
to one which comprised class platoons in the rifle companies. Battalion Head- 

The Ist Sikhs in Waziristan and Saugor, 1933-36 203 

quarter and the Machine-Gun Company remained with a mixed class com- 
position. The change was found necessary for the purposes of the Battalion’s 
role at this time, which was one of Internal Security. As at that time there 
were four platoons in each company, the allotment of one platoon to each 
class was simple, and the reorganization presented no difficulty. 

In the spring of 1933 the Battalion returned to the Frontier, this time 
to Wana in South Waziristan, the two years spent there following the same 
pattern as the period in Razmak in 1927-29. Here, however, the columns in 
more than one instance met with opposition. 

Shah Alam Raghza, the scene of a brisk action by the Ist Sikhs in 1881, 
was visited by the Battalion on one of these columns, and on this occasion the 
Adjutant, Captain A. Lawrenson, picked up on the hillside the pouch-belt 
ornament of a J.C.O. of the Ist Sikhs, which was evidently lost on the 1881 
operation. It is now in the Mess silver of the Battalion. 

The Battalion left Wana for Saugor (once more in Central India) on 3rd 
November 1934. 

During its period in Wana Lieutenant-Colonel A. H. A. Empson had been 
Commandant. He completed his tour in the appointment at Saugor on 7th 
July 1936, when he was succeeded by Lieutenant-Colonel R. M. M. Lockhart, 
M.C., who had been Military Attaché to the Embassy at Kabul since Decem- 
ber 1933. 

The year 1935 passed uneventfully at Saugor, the usual inspections by 
the General officers of the District and Command being made, and compli- 
mentary messages on the turn-out and bearing of the Battalion being received. 
Another item of interest during this year was the appointment of Lieutenant 
C. W. Pearson of the Battalion to duty with a company of the 5/14th Punjab 
Regiment, who had been ordered as Legation Guard to Addis Ababa during 
the Italian-Abyssinian War. 

Some sharp fighting took place, and the company was mainly responsible 
for the safeguarding of the Legation personnel and refugees. During one of 
these actions, Lieutenant Pearson rendered conspicuously good service and was 
awarded the Military Cross. 

In January 1936, King George V died, and was succeeded by Edward 
Prince of Wales, who became Edward VIII. As he was in fact Colonel-in-Chief 
of the Battalion, a revised procedure for drinking the Royal Toast in the Mess 
was adopted as follows: 

The President: “Mr. Vice, the King Emperor.” 
Mr. Vice: “Gentleman, our Colonel-in-Chief, the King.” 

In 1937 the Battalion was selected to provide the guards in Simla for 
Their Excellencies the Viceroy and Commander-in-Chief; and a party of 
2 officers, 3 J.C.Os. and 115 rank and file left for Simla in April. 

204 The Ist Sikks in Waziristan and India, 1937-39 

This party carried out the above duty to the great satisfaction of all con- 
cerned and in particular that of the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow. So much so, 
indeed, that in October 1937, on the conclusion of the duty, the Viceroy pre- 
sented the Battalion with a very fine Pipe Banner in Viceregal blue with His 
Excellency’s arms emblazoned on it. It has ever since been carried by the 
Pipe-Major on all ceremonial occasions and guest nights. From April to Octo- 
ber of this year Lieutenant-Colonel Lockhart temporarily commanded the Jub- 
bulpore Brigade, with the rank of Brigadier. Major L. E. MacGregor, O.B.E., 
commanded the Battalion in his absence. 

In March 1938, the Battalion was ordered back to Waziristan and en- 
trained for Manzai, whence they had come three and a half to four years 
earlier. But it was a different Waziristan from the one they had left in 1934. 
The Fagir of Ipi had raised both the Wazir and Mahsud against the Govern- 
ment, and fighting to restore order and security was still going on. 

The Battalion arrived at Manzai on 26th March 1938, and its mobile 
column was called out (six rifle platoons and one machine-gun platoon) to 
assist the South Waziristan Scouts, who were in difficulties on Dargai Sar, 
near Splitoi. The column successfully extricated them. 

No further operations took place during the summer of 1938, but the 
Battalion Mobile Column was again called out near Murtaza from 9th to 11th 
September. An appreciative letter was received from the Brigade Commander 
after this affair. 

On 4th November the Battalion was moved from Manzai to Bannu, where 
it provided detachments at Saidgi and Gambila and was responsible for guard- 
ing trains on the narrow-gauge railway between Mari Indus and Bannu. 

The rest of the year was uneventful. 

On Ist January 1939, Lieutenant-Colonel Lockhart was promoted 
Colonel and four weeks later was appointed Deputy Director of Staff Duties 
at Army Headquarters at New Delhi. Major MacGregor assumed command 
of the Battalion. 

In February a new organization for infantry was introduced and the Bat- 
talion was reorganized to conform. It provided for four rifle companies of three 
platoons each, instead of the old three rifle companies of four platoons with 
a medium machine-gun company. The rifle companies were given increased 
fire power with light machine-guns, and the former medium machine-gun com- 
pany was incorporated as a platoon in the H.Q. company. 

This enabled the rifle companies to become class companies again, 
which was a change welcomed by all. Under the new organization, “A” 
Company were Sikhs, “B” Company Punjabi Muslims, “C” Company 
Pathans and “D” Company Dogras. In the H.Q. Company there were 25 per 
cent. of each class. 

The Ist Sikhs in Waziristan, 1939 205 

In August 1939, the Battalion undertook the melancholy duty of pro- 
viding the firing party at the funeral of Lieutenant-Colonel C. W. May of the 
2nd Battalion, who was murdered by tribesmen on the road between Dera 
Ismail Khan and Bannu. Colonel May was an outstanding officer, beloved 
by all, and a great loss to the Regiment. 

On 3rd September came the outbreak of the Second World War. 


FORCE REGIMENT) 1919-1939 

Jullundur and Waziristan, 1921-24—Kohat District, 1925-32—Jubbulpore, 1932-35— 
Baluchistan, 1935-37—-Lansdowne, 1937-39—Waziristan, 1939. 

Jullundur and Waziristan, 1921-24 

THE Indian Army reorganization which took place a year after the Battalion 
returned from Iraq changed its title to “The 2nd Battalion 12th Frontier Force 
Regiment (Sikhs).”* In this record it will therefore now be referred to 
accordingly as the 2nd Battalion of the Regiment or 2nd Sikhs. 

It remained in Jullundur till 1924. During that interval it provided some 
detachments in aid of the civil power in 1923; but nothing happened, and the 
time was usefully spent in reorganization and training. 

On 18th March 1924, the Battalion left Jullundur for Razmak where it was 
posted to the 7th Brigade. 

During the summer of 1924, part of the Razmak garrison was camped at 
Tauda China during work on the circular road, Bannu-Razmak-Jandola, 
and the whole time of the garrisons there and at Razmak was taken up on 
security duties. On 17th July, whilst employed on convoy protective duties 
between Razmak and Tauda China, a piquet of the 2nd Sikhs was fired on 
by a party of Mahsuds. The piquet and the remainder of the company 
supporting it immediately attacked and cleared the enemy from his position. 
In doing so, Subadar Waryam Singh and two men were wounded, the former 
severely. For his fine leadership on this occasion, Subadar Waryam Singh 
received the Indian Distinguished Service Medal. 

It will be recollected that at this time the plan for the pacification of 
Waziristan, described in Chapter XI, was being implemented, and the 
construction of roads was the main object of all military activities. Thus the 
Battalion spent from July to September 1924, at Tauda China, protecting 
the construction of the main Razmak-Jandola road; and again, after two 
months back in Razmak, it went to Aka Khel in November while the 
Sorarogha-Piazha road was being built. The Battalion remained engaged on 
these protective duties until 29th March 1925, when it returned to Razmak. 
On 16th October 1925, the Battalion moved to Kohat. 

* See Chapter X. 


The 2nd Sikhs in Kohat and Jubbulpore, 1925-35 207 

Kohat District, 1925-32 

The Battalion remained in the Kohat District from October 1925, to 
March 1932. During this period the effect of the Red Shirt activities was felt 
in the Kurram, and in such an inflammable area it was clearly necessary to 
nip them in the bud. Accordingly on 17th May, the Thal detachment, 
reinforced by one company of the 5th Frontier Force Rifles from Kohat, all 
under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel W. M. Grylls, surrounded the 
village of Thal. The attitude of the villagers was truculent. A procession headed 
by a Congress flag was led out of the village in defiance of orders. This, 
however, was speedily broken up and there was no further trouble in the 

The situation elsewhere on the Frontier generally now deteriorated and 
was at its worst on the Peshawar plain. It has been described in Chapter XI. 
Although the measures described above kept Thal in order, the tribes from 
Tirah to the north became restless and a prolonged affair occurred in the 
vicinity of Kharlachi, which spread to the Peiwar Kotal area. 

The 2nd Battalion, with artillery, two armoured cars, Kurram Militia 
and local chighas, was sent out under Lieutenant-Colonel Grylls to meet the 

But the tribesmen, who were in occupation of the hills flanking the 
Peiwar Kotal, lost heart at this display of force and rapidly dispersed. 

Troops were withdrawn on 24th September, and the Battalion marched 
back to Parachinar. On 5th October the 2nd Sikhs left Parachinar and 
marched back to Thal. 

The Battalion now moved to Hangu and the Samana Ridge posts. It helped 
to deal with a final Red Shirt demonstration at Hangu on Christmas morning 
1931; and three days later, when a mob approached the city from the west, 
the Battalion advanced to deal with it and the mob threw down their red 
uniforms and belts which were burned at once. 

Jubbulpore, 1932-35 

In March 1932, the Battalion was transferred to Jubbulpore. This was 
the first occasion the Battalion had served in India south of the Punjab since 
its stay at Moradabad near Delhi just after the Mutiny. The move was an 
unpopular one, as the men found themselves in a foreign country, a thousand 
miles from their homes. The expense of the railway journey rendered leave 
almost prohibitive. 

In March 1932, Subadar-Major Sansar Chand, I.D.S.M., sailed for 
England, having had the honour to be selected as one of His Majesty’s Indian 
Orderly Officers. This was the first occasion that an Indian Officer of the 2nd 
Sikhs had received this distinction. He returned in August, having been awarded 
the medal of the Royal Victorian Order by His Majesty. 

208 The 2nd Sikhs in Waziristan and Baluchistan, 1935-37 

The Battalion had not been in Jubbulpore a year when trouble in Southern 
Afghanistan began to attract tribesmen from Waziristan to go in search of loot. 
Measures were taken to intercept them and reinforcements were required in 
Waziristan for the purpose. On 2nd March 1933, the Battalion was ordered 
to go at a moment’s notice. It was an awkward moment as one-third of the 
Battalion was away on annual leave. Lieutenant-Colonel Grylls was on his 
way to attend a Commanding Officers’ Conference at the Training Battalion 
at Sialkot, the Adjutant was in Mhow on duty, and the Quartermaster had just 
gone to the United Kingdom on furlough. Moreover, the whole of the Brigade 
Staff was at Secunderabad on a Staff Exercise. However, the move was made 
without incident, the C.O. arriving back in time to accompany the Battalion. 

In Waziristan the Battalion formed part of a cordon from Arawali in the 
Kurram, through Thal and Spinwam to Datta Khel in the Tochi. This proved 
a sufficient deterrent. Political pressure was also exerted and the tribal move- 
ment ceased without troops going into action. The 2nd Battalion were back in 
Jubbulpore by 10th April. 

Until November 1935, the Battalion remained in Jubbulpore, Lieutenant- 
Colonel H. G. A. Pearson succeeding Lieutenant-Colonel W. M. Grylls as 
Commandant when the latter retired on 20th February 1934. On 2nd 
November the Battalion moved to Chaman, where it arrived on the 5th, and 
where it was to stay for the next two years. 

Baluchistan, 1935-37 

During these years the 2nd Sikhs took part in no warlike activities, but, 
as at Jubbulpore, were able to concentrate on training and sports to good effect, 
so that on leaving the command both the Baluchistan Hockey and Athletic 
Cups and Western Command Hockey Cup had to be handed back. 

During the stay of the Battalion at Chaman, Subadar-Major and Honorary 
Lieutenant Makhmad Jan, S.B., O.B.I., represented the 2nd Sikhs at the 
coronation of King George VI. Makhmad Jan’s son, Sepoy Sakhi Jan, accom- 
panied him as orderly. 

In April 1937, the 2nd Sikhs received a visit from the Colonel of the 
Battalion, Major-General Sir Arthur W. H. M. Moens, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O. 
This was to be his last contact with the Battalion, as shortly after his visit he 
contracted the illness from which he was soon to die. His successor as Colonel 
of the Battalion, Lieutenant-General Sir Bertrand R. Moberly, K.C.LE., C.B., 
D.S.O., was appointed on 9th June 1939. 

Captain H. W. D. McDonald succeeded Captain C. P. Murray as 
Adjutant on 17th July 1937. 

On 8th November 1937, the Battalion left Chaman for Lansdowne in 
Garhwal, and not, as had been hoped, for Waziristan to take part in the war 
against the Faqir of Ipi, which had started in the previous November. 

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The 2nd Sikhs in Lansdowne, 1937-39 209 

Though the Battalion left Chaman in November it was not to reach 
Lansdowne till the following March, two months being spent in a brigade 
training camp at Fatehpur, below the Sewaliks, and the remainder of the 
cold weather in camp at Roorkee. Lieutenant-Colonel H. C. S. Minchin 
succeeded Lieutenant-Colonel H. G. A. Pearson as Commandant on 20th 
February 1938, while the Battalion was in the latter place. 

Lansdowne, 1937-39 

The time spent en route was not begrudged as Lansdowne turned out to 
be a tiny station perched on top of a high ridge in heavy pinewoods. It was so 
unpopular with other ranks that, though family quarters were provided, no 
family would stay for more than a few weeks. 

While in Lansdowne, like all the other battalions, the 2nd Sikhs adopted the 
new organization of four rifle companies of three platoons each. The former “D” 
(Support) Company was equipped with eight Vickers machine guns and became 
the Support Platoon of H.Q. Company. Rifle companies again became one 
class companies, i.e. “A” Company Dogras, “B’ Company P.Ms., “C” 
Company Pathans, and “D” Company Sikhs. 

On 2nd October 1938, the 2nd Sikhs left Lansdowne to spend the cold 
weather training in the plains, and marched into Bareilly, arriving just before 
Christmas. Here on 7th February 1939, His Excellency The Marquess of 
Linlithgow, Viceroy and Governor-General of India, dined in the Officers’ Mess, 
and was entertained to a Khattak dance. 

The parade itself was undoubtedly of a very high standard, the Military 
Secretary to the Viceroy stating that it was “outstandingly the best” of the 
seventeen similar parades he had witnessed. The following letter was received 
by the Commander-in-Chief. 


I must tell you how greatly I was impressed by the parade which I 
recently witnessed in Bareilly. It was on the occasion when I presented 
New Colours to the 2nd Battalion 12th Frontier Force Regiment on the 
7th February. The parade was excellent in every way, and I am pleased 
to have been able to make the presentation to this Battalion in person, 
having had the request sent to me from the late Colonel of the Regiment, 
General Sir Arthur Moens. 

I would like you to pass a message of appreciation from me to the 
appropriate quarters please. 

* The Marquess of Linlithgow, besides serving in the First World War, was a 

Territorial Soldier of great keenness—his remarks were, therefore, not entirely “routine.” 

210 The 2nd Sikhs in Waziristan, 1939 

Waziristan, 1939 

By special permission the old Colours were retained by the Battalion 
and are now framed and to be seen in the Mess alongside the original Colours 
of the 2nd Sikhs. 

A few days before the presentation parade the Battalion received warning 
orders that it would not return to Lansdowne but would proceed to Waziristan 
as an independent battalion. It arrived in Bannu on 3rd April 1939, and was 
lorried up to Dosalli. Considerable discomfort was caused by the Battalion 
having been ordered to move on field service summer scale, whereas on arrival 
Dosalli was found to be under snow; but warm clothing was soon forthcoming 
and the Battalion settled down to a period of dull if arduous duties. 

By this time the situation in North Waziristan had become quieter. Fol- 
lowing his successful attack on Tocol in November 1936,* in which he had 
gained considerable loot, the Faqir of Ipi had managed to raise all the tribes 
of Waziristan, both Mahsud and Wazir, and severe fighting had taken place 
throughout 1937. 

There was still an active division in Waziristan in addition to the per- 
manent garrisons, and the almost daily convoys required for the maintenance 
of these troops were regularly attacked and interfered with. 

The year before, a new road had been built, branching off from the 
main Bannu-Razmak road at Dosalli and running up over the Iblanke Narai 
to Gariom on the Sham plain. 

The Battalion duties were to piquet and protect a sector of the main 
Bannu-Razmak road and also, whenever snow conditions permitted, to run 
mulepack supply convoys over the Narai to Gariom. 

After about six weeks of these duties the 2nd Sikhs marched down to 
join the 2nd (Rawalpindi) Brigade at Damdil. With this Brigade the Battalion 
marched to Mirali, acting as rear-guard to the column. Little serious opposition 
was encountered, but two most uncomfortable nights were spent at Thal, 
where the camp was heavily and continuously sniped, though the 2nd Sikhs 
sustained no casualties. During the halt at Thal (in Tochi) a composite com- 
pany of P.Ms. and Pathans under Lieutenant Grimwood was established in the 
village of Spulga, some four miles down the Tochi valley, this company being 
left in occupation of the village to blockade certain prominent hostiles from 
their houses and to seize their crops and cattle. This company eventually 
rejoined the Battalion in Mirali a month later, having had little to contend with 
other than light sniping and the regular planting of cigarette-tin bombs. 

From Mirali the 2nd Sikhs accompanied the 2nd Brigade on a column 
along the Spinwam road, the chief purpose of which was to repair or bypass 
the bridges destroyed by hostiles (mainly by the use of dud aeroplane bombs). 

* See Chapter XI. 

The 2nd Sikhs on the Frontier, 1939-40 211 

On returning to Mirali the 2nd Brigade was withdrawn to Rawalpindi 
and the 2nd Sikhs was left there alone with the Ist Battalion Mahratta 
Light Infantry, whom they relieved of outpost duties. The work was gruelling 
and unexciting and continued throughout the hot weather with duties so heavy 
that other ranks were only getting one night in five in bed. 

On 10th August the tragic death of Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel C. W. May 
occurred. At this period he was D.A.Q.M.G., Waziristan District, and while 
motoring from Dera Ismail Khan to Bannu his car was ambushed not far from 
Naurang Serai and he, his orderly, and his bearer were killed. 

The outbreak of the Second World War on 3rd September 1939, found the 
Battalion in the same area as it had been in in 1914, having taken over the same 
posts from the same battalion. This was a curious coincidence indeed, and many 
were the gloomy forecasts that history would repeat itself and that for a further 
three years no move could be expected and no chance would occur to take part 
in the major war. 

In late September orders were received to relieve the 4th Sikhs in Fort 
Salop, and though the move did not appear to bring the Battalion any nearer 
to joining an overseas formation it was welcomed by all. 

Accordingly the Battalion left Mirali on 4th October, arriving in Fort 
Salop three days later, having been royally entertained by the Ist Sikhs in Bannu 
en route. 



Minor Frontier Tasks, 1921-27—-Kohat: the Bosti Khel Outlaws and Kidnapping of Miss 
Molly Ellis, 1923—Calcutta, 1927-30—The Frontier, 1930-38; Wana, 1936-38— 
Baroda and Secunderabad, 1939-40. 

Minor Frontier Tasks, 1921-27 

AFTER their return from the Middle East, the 53rd Sikhs arrived in Jullundur 
on 26th August 1920, and were received with an address of welcome from the 
Deputy Commissioner. 

After absorbing the Depot all ranks went on two months’ leave, and there- 
after the task of demobilizing and mustering out surplus personnel occupied 
a further six weeks before the Battalion was ready to return to the Frontier. 
In all, some 360 surplus Indian ranks were either mustered out or transferred 
to other units. Among the transfer was a complete platoon of forty-three 
Yusufzais, with a J.C.O., sent to the Guides Infantry. 

The Battalion marched to Kohat on 7th December 1920, and in April 
went to Parchinar, where it remained till October. In the meantime, on February 
1st Lieutenant-Colonel C. A. Milward* was appointed Commandant, but was 
to remain seconded while General Staff Officer, Ist Grade, of the 17th Indian 
Division in Mesopotamia. He joined and took over command of the Battalion 
on Ilth January 1921. As the Battalion’s most distinguished officer of the 
First World War era, he had unusually wide and varied experience in the field. 
He died in retirement in December 1951. 

While the Battalion was in Parachinar, the reorganization of the Indian 
Army came into effect (see Chapter X), and it became the 3rd Battalion 
(Sikhs) of the 12th Frontier Force Regiment, reverting in fact to its title of the 
early days of the Punjab Frontier Force, 3rd Sikhs. 

The 3rd Sikhs fell into line with this reorganization easily enough and 
the records give no hint of trouble or difficulty. The Battalion was constituted as 

* The late Major-General Sir Clement Milward, K.C.LE., C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O. 

The 3rd Sikhs on the Frontier, 1921-23 213 

H.Q. Company .. A proportion of all classes enlisted by the 

“A” Company .. Sikhs. 

“B” Company .. Khattaks. 

“C” Company .. Dogras. 

“D” Company .. P.Ms. 

The Battalion returned to Kohat in October 1921 but at Thal, while on 
the way, was called on to assist in a minor operation to surround the villages 
of Biland Khel and Char Khel, to round up outlaws and destroy the latter 
village. The affair was satisfactorily carried out by a mixed force in which 300 
Kurram Militia, 150 of the 29th Punjabis, the Ist Battalion 6th Gurkha Rifles, 
one company of the Ist Sikhs, a pack battery, a company of Sappers and 
Miners and two companies of the 3rd Sikhs were included. So satisfactorily, 
indeed, that congratulatory messages were received from the Divisional and 
Army Commanders and from the Commander-in-Chief (Lord Rawlinson) him- 
self. The Battalion had four men wounded. 

Soon after arrival in Kohat in December 1921 the Battalion’s services 
were suddenly required in the Tochi, and it was moved to Datta Khel in M.T. 
Here during the winter the Battalion carried out protective duties, but no 
fighting ensued. 

At the end of February 1922 a settlement was made with the Madda Khel 
Wazirs, and regular forces were withdrawn from the Tochi Valley after instal- 
ling Tochi Scouts in the Fort at Datta Khel. Although large numbers of 
Ahmedzai Wazirs collected to follow up the withdrawal, it was in fact achieved 
without a shot being fired—a tribute to the efficient work of the Battalion as 

Before returning to Kohat, one more minor assignment was carried out 
by the Battalion. It formed part of a column of all arms sent on 11th March 
into the Bhitanni country south-west of Bannu to exact punishment from 
various Bhitanni outlaws who had attacked and routed a force of Constabulary 
in the preceding autumn near the villages of Kotabagh and Bazdi Khel. The 
work was done without incident after arduous piqueting and marching for four 
days. During this time the Battalion covered seventy-five miles across country- 
side that was difficult and often precipitous. No men fell out, but a few that 
were footsore had to be sent on by train from Naurang. 

The Battalion returned to Kohat in M.T. on 16th March 1921. 

Kohat : the Bosti Khel Outlaws and Kidnapping of Miss Molly Ellis, 1923 
The year 1922 passed in Kohat without incident; but early in 1923 the 
Battalion was called on to help the Frontier Constabulary in a raid on the 
Bosti Khel section of the Kohat Pass Afridis. These, under the leadership of 
one Ajab, had been implicated in the theft one month earlier of forty-six police 

214 The 3rd Sikhs in Kohat and the Kidnapping of Molly Ellis 

rifles from the Kohat city Thana. The hidden rifles were located in three villages 
in the pass one mile west of the Kotal post. 

The raid was a complete surprise and success; thirty-three of the stolen 
rifles were found and a lot of other stolen property, including clothes of the late 
Colonel Foulkes, R.A.M.C., who, with his wife, was murdered in Kohat in 1921. 

Unfortunately Ajab and his gang had been absent from the villages when 
the raid took place and avoided capture. They realized, however, that the dis- 
covery of Colonel Foulkes’s incriminating clothes established their guilt in that 
peculiarly cruel and savage murder, and that unless they moved quickly they 
would very soon be captured and delivered to justice. They resolved on another 
raid on Kohat, the residential quarter of which was still unprotected by wire. 
This time the object was to kidnap a sufficiently valuable hostage with which 
to bargain for their lives. They chanced on the bungalow of Colonel Ellis, 
G.S.O., Ist Grade, of the Kohat District. He was away on tour, and his wife 
and daughter were asleep in the same bedroom when the gang entered at dead 
of night. They murdered Mrs. Ellis with knives and carried off her daughter 
Molly as she was, without even shoes on her feet. 

On the alarm next morning, the Battalion with the rest of the Kohat 
garrison (and local village chighas*) dashed out, scouring the country towards 
the Kohat Pass and the mountains of Tirah. The gang, however, evaded all 
interception and pursuit and, moving by night while lying up by day, reached 
the refuge of a hostile Mullah in central Tirah. From here, outrageous terms 
were demanded by Ajab for Molly Ellis’s release. Fortunately, however, a 
mission sent by the Governor and led by another lady whose husband had 
been murdered by an outlaw, and who was a Medical Missionary (Mrs. Starr), 
succeeded in causing the gang to quarrel with the Mullah, who immediately 
secured the release of Miss Ellis. 

As a result of this affair, reprisals were undertaken against certain villages 
in the Kohat Pass, and on 22nd May the Battalion formed part of a force 
holding a position east and west of the Kohat Pass Kotal, while the villages 
were burnt under tribal arrangements. Miss Ellis was brought to safety and 
the gang fled to Ningrahar. All through the hot weather of 1923 extra pre- 
cautions had to be taken in Kohat, involving heavy duties. T 

The end of the Ajab gang did not come till 1924. When taking refuge 
in Afghanistan they resisted Afghan troops sent to arrest them. They were all 
killed in the affray that followed. 

* Armed emergency parties. 

t Ajab and his gang attempted a furtber abduction at Parachinar in the following 
November, and tried to carry off Mrs. Watts, wife of Captain Watts, Ist Battalion of 
the Regiment, who was then serving with the Kurram Militia. The attempt failed, but 
both Captain Watts and his wife were murdered, to the great sorrow of the Regiment, 
as he was a fine officer and universally popular. 

The 3rd Sikhs in Kohat 1923-24—The Sannaiyat Memorial Banner 215 

On 13th April 1923, the Battalion Brass Memorial Tablet to officers who 
gave their lives in the Great War was unveiled by the Lord Bishop of Lahore 
in Kohat Church. All officers of the garrison were present. 

The Battalion War Memorial in memory of 20 British officers, 16 J.C.Os. 
and 241 Indian rank and file, which was subscribed for by all ranks, was 

unveiled on parade on 23rd March, and was thereafter installed in the quarter 
guard of the Battalion. 

On the same day the first presentation of the “Sannaiyat Memorial Banner” 
for the champion platoon of the Battalion took place. This banner was pre- 
sented for annual competition by Major C. I. Shepherd, D.S.O. 

The following were the privileges given to the winning platoon of the 
Sannaiyat banner: 

(a) The holder of the Sannaiyat banner would be regarded as best 
platoon of the year. 

(b) Members of the platoon would wear the best platoon badge in 

(c) On guards of honour or on battalion ceremonial parades the best 

platoon would furnish the guard for the Regimental Colour. 

(d) The banner would be carried on regimental ceremonial parades 
by the platoon. 

(e) On return to Cantonments from service manceuvres, the platoon 
would march in at the head of the Battalion. 

(f) Guards for high personages, such as H.E. the Commander-in-Chief, 
the G.O.C.-in-Chief, Northern Command, etc., would be provided 
by this platoon. 

(g) From its ranks would be chosen men for specially sought-after 

(h) From 15th April to 15th September, five days’ extra leave would 
be given to each member of the platoon in addition to the normal 

On 12th October Colonel C. A. Milward, C.I-E., D.S.O., relinquished 
command of the Battalion on appointment as G.S.O.1, Waziristan Force. 

On 13th October, Lieut.-Colonel C. Kirkpatrick, C.B.E., formerly Guides 
Infantry, joined the Battalion on appointment as Commandant Colonel 
Kirkpatrick later commanded the Kohat Brigade and as Major-General retired 
after commanding the Sind District. 

On 9th September 1924, serious communal riots suddenly broke out in 
Kohat City. Tension which had existed for some time between Hindus and 
Muslims resulted in street fighting. 

Combined with this, fires, the result of incendiarism, started in various 
parts of the city. For five days the 3rd Sikhs sent daily parties to the assistance 

216 The 3rd Sikhs in Kohat and Calcutta, 1925-30 

of the civil power in the city, whilst maintaining extra guards and precautions 
in Kohat Cantonment itself. These were of company strength or more. 

The civil casualties during the riots amounted to: 

Policemen, 6 injured. 
Hindus, 20 killed, 24 seriously wounded, 62 minor injuries. 
Muslims, 11 killed, 6 seriously wounded, 17 minor injuries. 

About a quarter of the main city was destroyed by fire. The troops had 
no casualties. 

The behaviour of the men of the 3rd Sikhs was excellent under most trying 
circumstances, and the C.O. received a letter of thanks from the G.O.C., Kohat 

On 23rd October, shortly after the return of conditions in Kohat to normal, 
the Frontier Force Memorial was unveiled there, and the Battalion, together 
with Wilde’s Rifles (4th Battalion, Frontier Force Rifles, the other Frontier 
Force Battalion in Kohat), paraded at full strength. These two Battalions 
formed two sides of a hollow square, the third side facing the Memorial being 
filled by the Colour parties and representative parties of other Frontier Force 

The ceremony was most impressive and worthy of the occasion. It is 
described, with extracts from the speech of Sir William Birdwood, the acting 
Commander-in-Chief in India, in the narrative of the Regimental Centre 
(Chapter X). 

This brought the tour of the Battalion in the Kohat District on this occasion 
to an end, and on 29th October the Battalion was transferred to Fort Sandeman 
in Baluchistan (Zhob), arriving on 14th November 1924. 

The period spent in the Zhob was uneventful, and in 1926 the Battalion 
received orders for Alipore (Calcutta), with detachments at Gyantse and Yatung 
in Tibet. The move was carried out in February 1927, and the Battalion arrived 
in Alipore on the 21st. 

Calcutta, 1927-30 

Service in East India was an entirely novel experience for the men, and 
came as the result of a roster scheme for the Indian Army, whereby every 
battalion was called on to take its share of watch and ward on the North-West 
Frontier. The scheme brought each battalion to one or other Frontier station 
for two years, with a period of four years in India intervening between each 
visit to the Frontier. Such places as Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu and Quetta were 
not, however, regarded as Frontier locations for the purposes of the scheme. 

In Calcutta the Battalion found itself called on for guard and escort duties 
of the somewhat spectacular type, and the first of these took place very soon 
after its arrival. 

The 3rd Sikhs in Calcutta, 1928-29 217 

One platoon of “A” Company, under Subadar Mangal Singh, I.D.S.M., 
was detailed as escort to the Political Agent at the installation of the Maharajah 
of Bhutan during March and April. 

The fact that in such duties the Battalion rose to the occasion suitably 
was evidenced by the record of the District and Army Commanders’ remarks 
for the year in its Review Report. Both of these Generals commented on the 
Battalion’s smartness and excellence of turn-out. 

In September 1928, the Battalion received orders to reduce the peace 
strength to 20 J.C.Os. and 715 Indian ranks in anticipation of a new organization 
to be introduced in 1929. This organization was the result of a policy, doubtless 
dictated by financial stringency, whereby machine-gun units were incorporated 
in battalions and not maintained as separate units. Each battalion was accord- 
ingly to have three rifle companies and one machine-gun company. 

Needless to say, this gave rise to various internal problems of training, pro- 
motion among Indian ranks and class organization. Of these only the last 
was susceptible of being dealt with in more than one fundamental way, and 
since the solution adopted in the 3rd Sikhs was somewhat original it is worth 
recording. The reader will realize that as there were four classes in the Battalion 
and (now) only three rifle companies, the organization by class companies 
could no longer be adhered to. 

The allotment decided on was: 

“A” Company: 
No. 1 Platoon .. Manjha Jat Sikhs. 
No. 2 Platoon .. Malwa Jat Sikhs. 
No. 3Platoon .. Malwa Jat Sikhs. 
No. 4 Platoon .. Dogras. 

“B” Company: 
No. 5 Platoon .. Dogras. 
No. 6 Platoon .. Dogras. 
No. 7 Platoon .. P.Ms. 
No. 8 Platoon .. P.Ms. 

“C” Company: 
No. 9Platoon .. P.Ms. 
No. 10Platoon .. Khattaks (Bangi Khels). 
No. 11 Platoon .. Khattaks (Others). 
No. 12 Platoon .. Orakzais. 

The machine-gun company was to consist of all classes in the same pro- 
portion as above except they had no Orakzais. 

No reasons for this somewhat unusual allotment appear in the Battalion 
records, but doubtless the small number of Orakzais in the Battalion accounted 
for the Pathan machine-gun section not including any of them. For the rest, 

218 The 3rd Sikhs Return to the Frontier, 1930 

an alternative allotment and one that was followed in many other Frontier Force 
battalions (and regiments with similar class composition) was to include in each 
rifle company one platoon of each of the four classes. Similarly, the four sections 
of the machine-gun company were each manned by one of the four classes. 

During the visit of His Excellency the Viceroy to Calcutta in December 
1928, the Battalion furnished daily guards on his residence at Belvedere. At 
the conclusion of his visit His Excellency sent for Lieutenant-Colonel C. I. 
Shepherd, D.S.O., and Honorary Lieutenant (Subadar-Major) Fateh Mahomed, 
1.0.M., Bahadur. After complimenting them on the smartness of the Battalion, 
he presented to the former an inscribed silver cigarette box for the Officers’ 
Mess, and to the latter a silver-mounted malacca walking-stick. 

Calcutta has an unsavoury reputation for rioting, and during the hot 
weather the Battalion remained in a continuous state of readiness to turn out in 
aid of the civil power; detachments from the Battalion were stationed for short 
periods at Howrah Station, Kharakpur and Barisal. No detachment, however, 
was involved in any clash with rioters. 

Return to the Frontier, 1930-38 

It was with no regrets that the Battalion bade farewell to Alipore on 15th 
October 1930, and entrained for Thal in the Kohat District. It arrived in 
Kohat on the 19th and Thal on 21st October. 

The behaviour of all ranks of the Battalion had indeed been exemplary 
throughout its time at Calcutta, and there was probably more than a touch of 
ordinary sincerity in the farewell message sent by Sir John Shea, the Army 
Commander, on its departure. It read as follows: 

“Will you please tell the Battalion how deeply I regret that they are 
leaving my command and that I shall always remember with pride and pleasure 
the fact of how thoroughly they maintained their high reputation while serving 
under me in that very difficult place, Alipore.” 

The Battalion now occupied the new Fort in Thal, relieving the 2nd 
Sikhs there, and on 6th November His Excellency Field-Marshal Sir William 
Birdwood presented new Colours to the Battalion on the Thal landing ground. 

These Colours replaced those presented to the Battalion by Lord 
Kitchener at Bannu in January 1903, and the new Regimental Colour was 
for the first time white, in accordance with the new facings of the 12th Frontier 
Force Regiment. 

The site chosen for the parade was appropriate, as from his position at 
the saluting base His Excellency could see the heights above Dargai, where 
the Battalion had so distinguished itself in 1897 (see Chapter IV). 

The next nine months in Thal were uneventful, and the Battalion record 
remarks that the first half of 1931 was spent “in training and recovering 
from the enervating effects of four years in Calcutta.” 

The 3rd Sikhs on the Frontier Receive Royal Title, 1935 219 

In September 1931 the Battalion moved to Kohat in relief of the 6th 
Royal Battalion, Frontier Force Rifles, who took its place in Thal. At this time 
the effects of the Red Shirt* activities were being felt in the Kohat District, and 
on 29th December 1931 the Battalion “flag marched” through the Khattak 
(Barak) country, visiting Banda Daud Shah, Karak and Latambar. It was “at 
call” to aid the civil power in that area in arresting Red Shirt leaders. The march, 
however, passed off without incident. 

In December Lieutenant-Colonel C. I. Shepherd, D.S.O., retired and was 
succeeded in command by Lieutenant-Colonel H. Macartney. 

The year 1932 was spent in Kohat uneventfully, but in February 1933 
the Battalion took part in the Wazir cordont established to prevent tribal 
incursions into Afghanistan. There was a small engagement with Wazirs, but 
the cordon had the desired effect without entailing any fighting of consequence. 

In November 1934 Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Finnis,t M.C., succeeded 
Lieutenant-Colonel Macartney on the latter’s retirement, as Commandant. In 
the same month Brigadier-General C. H. Davies, C.B., D.S.O., became 
Colonel of the Battalion in succession to Major-General Sir Charles Melliss, 
V.C., G.C.M.G., K.C.B. The latter only survived another eighteen months and, 
to the great regret of all ranks, news of his death was received in 1936. He had 
been Commandant of the Battalion from 1906 to 1910, and Colonel from 1921 
to 1934. 

The years 1934-35 were uneventful, though the latter will always be 
remembered as the year in which His Majesty King George V was pleased 
to confer on the Battalion the title of Royal. It will be so designated in this 
History although such titles were dropped by the Government of Pakistan. 

Wana, 1936-38 

In 1936 the Battalion was transferred to Wana where, with the disturbed 
conditions that followed the uprising of the Faqir of Ipi,§ it was to become 
involved for the next two years in a series of minor columns in South Waziristan. 

Before these commenced, however, a further change in Commandants took 
place, Lieutenant-Colonel Finnis being promoted Colonel and appointed 
Instructor at the Senior Officers’ School. He was succeeded by Lieutenant- 
Colonel P. A. Meade, O.B.E., M.C. 

A further note of interest concerning an officer at this time was the appoint- 
ment of Major E. N. Goddard,|| O.B.E., M.C., as a Member of the Royal 

* See Chapter XI. 
ft See Chapter XIII. 

+ The late Lieutenant-General Sir H. Finnis, K.C.B., M.C., G.O.C.-in-Chief, Northern 
Command, in India, during the Second World War. 

§ See Chapter X1. 
|| Lieutenant-General Sir Eric Goddard, K.B.E., C.B., C.LE., M.V.O., M.C. 

220 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in Wana and Baroda, 1937-39 

Victorian Order. This officer’s achievements in the retreat from Burma in the 
Second World War are recorded in Chapter XX. 

In April of 1937 the Battalion lost a young officer, Second-Lieutenant 
G. L. Scott (who had recently joined), in the tragic ambush of the Wana convoy 
in the Shahur Tangi.* 

The first of the columns above mentioned, in the period 1937-39, t occurred 
in June 1937, when the Battalion accompanied the Wana Column to destroy 
the Kote of Shere Ali, a prominent lieutenant of the Faqir of Ipi, near Tiarza. 
The task was very thoroughly accomplished without opposition, and the Wana 
Column later joined the Razmak and Tochi Columns at Torwam. It returned 
to Wana next month. The Battalion records remark that, in spite of intense heat 
and trying conditions throughout, no man of the Battalion fell out. 

In September 1937 a lashkar damaged telegraph poles and attacked a 
Khassadar post near Karab Kot. A small mobile column of all arms with “C” 
Company went out, and moving very fast, attacked the lashkar before they 
could form, killing 18 and wounding 20 without loss. The lashkar scattered to 
their homes. 

Other columns took place during the Battalion’s tour in Wana, and the 
Battalion was generally given the exacting role of rear-guard on threatening 
occasions. No important actions however developed and the Mahsuds and 
Wazirs were afforded no chance to give trouble. 

The Battalion left Wana for Baroda in February 1938 and received warmly 
appreciative messages on its departure for its work in Waziristan. The follow- 
ing were mentioned in despatches by His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief 
for services rendered during the Waziristan operations, 1936-37: 

Lieutenant-Colonel P. A. Meade, O.B.E., M.C. 

Major N. Hugh Jones, M.C. 

Major H. R. Officer (D.A.A. & Q.M.G., Wazir Force). 
Lieutenant E. G. D. Heard. 

Subadar-Major and Honorary Lieutenant Gurdial Singh, I.D.S.M. 
Subadar-Major Ali Khan. 

Baroda and Secunderabad, 1939-40 

Baroda was quiet and uneventful and there was very little scope for train- 
ing. Early in 1939, however, modernization of equipment commenced and ten 
selected N.C.Os. were sent to Kirkee to be trained as instructors in M.T. driving 
and maintenance. By December, the Second World War having meanwhile 
broken out, seventy sepoys were trained as drivers. 

* See Chapter XI. 

+ A general account of these operations and the situation in Waziristan that gave rise 
to them is given in Chapter XI. 

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: ‘ IZ S——— “ANS SeNIS-spseMpy “fF “y "] “Nery /7 [YysuIg Wesg “Wor (419; peo) YEN ueser -woar—moy pay] 

“wer WO] “wes Hy “ans furnsep-3ury “f ‘inary /zZ 
— MHA UeYy “Wor Sueyy pewyy [ND “wos tyuRYg PyoR “Wor 'pyo-; Joys “wor !——"moy yuunoy 


The 3rd Royal Sikhs move to Secunderabad on the Outbreak of War, 1939 221 

In July of this year Major J. A. Blood was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel 
and appointed Commandant in succession to Lieutenant-Colonel Meade, who 
went to command the Kitchener College, Nowgong. 

On the outbreak of war all ranks were recalled from leave and furlough, 
and on 20th September 1939, the Battalion moved to Secunderabad to join 
the 9th Infantry Brigade under Brigadier A. G. O. M. Mayne, D.S.O.* Under 
him the Battalion was later to fight the victorious campaign in Sudan, Eritrea 
and Abyssinia that is described in Chapter XVI. 

Collective training started at once and was continued until Christmas, 
companies going to camp for ten days each. A reorganization to a provisional 
war establishment was now carried out. Every section was armed with the 
L.M.G., the support platoon (Vickers Guns) was motorized, a pioneer section 
was formed, and all motor transport drivers were transferred to H.Q. Company. 
The first-line transport was to consist of 40 15-cwt. and 30-cwt. trucks, but up to 
the end of 1939 only a quarter of these had been received. In December orders 
were received to send 50 per cent. of the Battalion on leave and furlough 
immediately after battalion training. 

The 9th Infantry Brigade was now clearly earmarked for an early assign- 
ment overseas, and during the first month of 1940, the Battalion continued 
training intensively on its new organization and with its new equipment 
and M.T. 

In September 1940,the call came and the Battalion embarked for the Sudan. 
It was the beginning of a campaign that was to last for five years in Africa. 
Middle East and Europe, and bring in its train every experience known to war 
from victory to disaster and ultimately to final triumph. The story is told in 
the pages that follow (Chapters XVI and XVID. 

* The late General Sir Mosley Mayne, G.C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O. 


REGIMENT), 1919-40 

Return from the Black Sea and First Post-War Years—Mardan and Ambala, 1924-28— 
Waziristan and the Red Shirt Disturbances, 1929-31—Nationalization—The 
Ahmedzai Salient, 1940. 

Return from the Black Sea and First Post-War Y ears 

The 54th Sikhs disembarked at Bombay on 23rd January 1921, over 
1,000 strong with six officers. The following landed with the Battalion: 
Lieutenant-Colonel O. L. Ruck, D.S.O. 
Major A. Lethbridge. 
Captain F. S. Meeks. 
Captain H. C. Elphick. 
Captain W. D. Edward. 
Lieutenant F. E. Fear. 

After railing to Jullundur, where it arrived on 27th January, it absorbed 
the Depot—a further 304 all ranks, with four officers. The Battalion’s 
immediate task was the demobilization (or disposal elsewhere) of surplus 
personnel, and on 27th April 177 men with four J.C.Os.—all P.Ms.—were 
transferred to the 47th D.C.O. Sikhs. By the end of May 390 of all ranks had 
been demobilized. 

The final stages of this demobilization were complicated by a fire which 
broke out in the Record Office and burnt some of the personnel ledgers. As a 
result the detailed movements throughout the war of the men whose accounts 
had been destroyed had to be reconstructed from their date of mobilization; 
but in the end the task was satisfactorily completed and final payments made. 

In the meantime, the role of the Battalion was internal security and it 
provided detachments at Hoshiarpur and Amritsar—the latter a storm centre 
of Sikh political intrigue that had culminated in the outbreak at the 
Jallianwalla Bagh the previous year. 

The year 1921 however was uneventful, and the Battalion was moved by 
train on 2nd November to Jamrud. Here the aftermath of the Third Afghan 
War had left the Khyber Pass area with many commitments compared with the 
days before the First World War. The broad-gauge railway had been extended 
through the Pass to Landi Kotal, and to facilitate supplies an overhead rope- 


The 4th Sikhs in the Peshawar District, 1921-23 223 

way (with winding stations) had been constructed. The task of the Battalion 
at Jamrud therefore, was watch and ward over the sector of the Khyber Pass 
communications between Peshawar and Shagai at the entrance to the Pass. 
The following outposts were taken over by the Battalion: The winding stations 
at Changi and Bagiari, and Fort Maude and Guides Piquet. 

A familiar sight in these days early in the morning or in the late afternoon 
was the Commanding Officer, Colonel Ruck, standing up in the back of an 
ancient Model T Ford as it bumped along one of the tracks, having a shot 
at partridges etc. which occasionally got up from the crops or bushes. 

On 4th March 1922, Lieutenant-Colonel W. F. C. Gilchrist, M.V.O., was 
appointed Commandant. Lieutenant-Colonel O. L. Ruck, whom he relieved, 
had led the Battalion through its magnificent campaign against the German 
enemy in the Judean hills of Palestine that has been described in Chapter IX 
He retired on pension later in the year, and the best wishes of all ranks in the 
Battalion went with him. 

On 24th April 1922, the Battalion was moved farther up the Pass. Jamrud 
being given up. It now had Headquarters at Ali Masjid and held posts at 
Zintara Winding Station, pill-box and pumping station, Ali Masjid Fort and 
pumping station, Kumar Ridge, Pinnacle Point, and Tower Hill. 

With the reorganization of the Indian Army at the end of 1922, which 
incorporated the Training Battalion system,* the Battalion was designated the 
4th Battalion (Sikhs) 12th Frontier Force Regiment, and this title was taken 
into use from Ist December. 

At the end of this year the first Inspection Report after the Battalion’s 
return from overseas recorded the Battalion’s complete grip of its traditional 
standards of efficiency. 

The Brigade Commander wrote: “A good and well-trained Battalion. 
Excellent tone and espirit de corps. Fit in all respects for full services. Ably 

The Peshawar District Commander, Major-General Sir Andrew Skeen, 
remarked: “A fine Battalion, well trained and ably commanded. Fit for service 
in all respects.” 

At the end of February 1923, with the continued reduction of forces in 
the Khyber Pass consequent on the stabilization of peaceful relations with 
Afghanistan, the Battalion took over the whole of the Ali Masjid sector of the 
Khyber Pass (including Shagai) and came under the Landi Kotal Brigade. 

The summer passed without incident, the only matter of note being the 
permission received from the 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders in September 
to adopt for the Battalion their march past, “Scotland For Ever.” 

* See Chapter X, The Regimental Centre. 

224 The 4th Sikhs at Mardan and Ambala, 1924-28 

Mardan and Ambala, 1924-28 

By this time the Khyber was beginning to pall, and everyone was looking 
forward to a change of station. On 20th December the Battalion was relieved 
by the 3rd Battalion 2nd Punjab Regiment, and marched to Mardan to take 
over from the Guides Infantry, who were moving to Aden. This was the first 
occasion in peace-time when the Guides had left their home of seventy-seven 
years’ standing and handed it over to another Battalion. It was indeed part 
of the inevitable and very necessary change to a “‘new order” that came as a 
sequel to the reorganization of 1922, and it was fitting that the Guides should 
be relieved by a sister battalion of the same newly constituted Regiment. 

The first half of 1924 was uneventful, the Battalion taking part in normal 
peace-time training activities which this year included inter-brigade manceuvres 
on the plain between Attock and Lawrencepur. The Battalion as part of the 
Nowshera Brigade opposed the Abbottabad Brigade (Gurkhas), and as the 
first fairly large scale manceuvres to be held in Northern India since the end 
of the First World War, the exercise proved instructive in the study of warfare 
with comparatively modern equipment and transport. 

The year 1924 was one in which the periodical relief of the Chitral 
Garrison took place. The Nowshera Brigade provided the normal escorting 
force for the relieving garrison on the way up, and for the relieved garrison on 
the way down. The column left Mardan on 9th September and reached Mir- 
kanni on 26th September, halting there till the downward column with the 
relieved battalion 4/14th Punjab Regiment arrived. The Battalion was 
employed in the usual protective role and the whole operation was completed 
without untoward incident other than a little camp sniping at Warai on both 

The Battalion was back in Mardan by 17th October. 

In February 1925, T.R.H. The Duke and Duchess of Connaught visited 
the North-West Frontier and lunched in the Officers’ Mess of the Battalion at 
Mardan. All the officers and their wives, and all the J.C.Os. were presented 
to them. 

On Ist February 1926, Lieutenant-Colonel B. G. Channer was transferred 
to command the 10th Battalion, and Lieutenant-Colonel G. H. Russell, C.I.E., 
D.S.O., from the 4/10th Baluch Regiment (attached Frontier Corps), took 
over Command. 

The Battalion remained in Mardan till February 1926, when it was trans- 
ferred to Ambala. After arrival, battalion training was carried out at Chandi- 
garh in the foothills below Simla—the site now of the new capital of the East 

Punjab Province of India. 
Ambala was the location of the Training Battalion and Headquarters of 

The $th Sikhs in Waziristan, 1929-31 225 

the 15th Punjab Regiment, and its Territorial Battalion* was embodied for 
training in the spring of 1927. The 4th Sikhs were asked to provide instructors 
for the period, and did so. The instructors carried out their duties with the 
efficiency that was expected of them, but also appear to have appreciated that 
teaching Territorials was not quite the same thing as teaching regular recruits 
and accorded them suitable handling. 

The result in the shape of a marked advance in the Territorial Battalion’s 
efficiency came to the notice of the Lahore District Commander, and the follow- 
ing letter was received : 

“T am directed by the G.O.C. to say how pleased he is with the instructors 
which the 4/ 12th F.F. Regiment placed at the disposal of the O.C. 11/15th P.R. 
for the period of their training. They are keen, smart and tactful in dealing with 
the squads. The G.O.C. considers that the great progress which the 11/15th 
P.R. have made this year is very largely due to the excellent instructors which 
it received from the 4/12th F.F. Regiment.” 

In January 1928, Major B. H. Matheson, M.C., was selected as an instruc- 
tor at the Staff College, Camberley, with the rank of local Lieutenant-Colonel. 
This was an unusual achievement in those days for an Indian Army officer. 

The Battalion remained in Ambala till the autumn of 1928, when it was 
due under the relief scheme for a return to the North-West Frontier. It left 
by train for Bannu on 26th October and from there marched up the Razmak 
road to Damdil, where it was stationed for road protection duties in relief of 
the Ist Battalion 11th Sikh Regiment. 

Waziristan and the Red Shirt Disturbances, 1929-3] 

Waziristan was gradually settling into the peaceful decade that preceded 
the uprising of the Faqir of Ipi, and in a year Damdil was given up as a station, 
road protection being taken over by khassadars. The Battalion moved to 
Razmak on 30th October 1929, and shortly afterwards Lieutenant-Colonel 
S. R. Shirley, M.C., took over command. 

However in 1930, the Red Shirt} disturbances of that year pervaded the 
North-West Province and caused some temporary unrest in Waziristan. The 
post of Datta Khel held by Tochi Scouts was besieged by a tribal lashkar. Air 
attack by the R.A.F. failed to disperse them, and on 14th May the Razmak 
Column with the 4th Battalion was called out. This threat was sufficient to 
disperse the lashkar and no fighting took place. 

Next month the trouble spread to the Mahsuds in South Waziristan, who 
stopped work on the new Tauda China—Ladha road which was to link Wana 
with Razmak over the Sherawangi Narai. They also besieged Sorarogha Post, 

* See Chapter XXVI, narrative of the 11/14th Battalion in the Second World War. 

+ See Chapter XI. 


226 The 4th Sikhs in Waziristan, 1931 

held by the South Waziristan Scouts. The R.A.F. again failed to deal with them 
and the Razmak Column moved out to Ladha at two hours’ notice on 10th 
July. The advance along the line of the new road directly threatened the villages 
of the Mahsuds attacking Sorarogha (the garrison of which had meanwhile 
beaten off all attacks) and caused their hurried return to fight the column. 

The advance was opposed on 12th July in the hills two miles south of Tauda 
China, and the Battalion was for a time sharply engaged. The enemy received 
a severe beating, thirty being reported killed, chiefly by the Battalion’s machine- 
gun fire which took them by surprise, but also in close combat with forward 
platoons of the Battalion, which acted with vigour in difficult, broken and 
scrub-covered country. 

The column moved to Ladha via Dwa Toi on 22nd July, and after visiting 
Kaniguram (the Mahsud religious centre) returned to Razmak. The Mahsuds 
surrendered on 10th August. Other than some ineffective camp sniping there 
was no further hostile activity, and this put an end to the trouble in Waziristan 
caused by Red Shirt propaganda. 

The Battalion’s casualties in the fighting on 12th July amounted to two 
rank and file killed and six wounded. 

For gallantry on this occasion Captain D. J. Bryceson was awarded the 
Military Cross, and Havildar Pahlwan Khan the I.D.S.M. 

On 6th December 1930, the 4th Sikhs left Waziristan on completion of 
their two years’ tour. They marched to Kohat by the new Mir Ali-Thal road 
and the Miranzai valley, arriving on 17th December. 

During 1931, while the Battalion was stationed in Kohat, the Red Shirts 
continued to affect the Peshawar and Kohat Districts, and on 26th December 
at the end of that year the 4th Sikhs were called out to deal with gangs of them 
advancing on Kohat by the Bannu road. A few rounds of ball had to be fired 
before a truculent crowd could be made to disperse. During this year the Order 
of British India, Ist Class, was awarded, with the title of Sardar Bahadur, to 
Subadar-Major and Honorary Captain Bhikham Singh, M.C., 1.D.S.M., A.D.C., 
to His Excellency the Viceroy. 

While all the annual reports on the Battalion for the years since the first 
Inspection Report after the First World War recorded above had been uni- 
formly appreciative of its efficiency and high standard, the report made in 
this year of its work during its Waziristan tour is worth recording. The Com- 
mander of the Razmak Brigade wrote: 

“A very fine battalion which I am sorry to lose out of the Brigade. It has 
a fine spirit and is well commanded and trained by Lieutenant-Colonel S. R. 
Shirley assisted by a capable body of B.Os. J.C.Os. are well trained and take 
their share of responsibility. The Battalion was put to the practical test on 

The 4th Sikhs are Nationalized, 1932 227 

12th July this year (1930) and came through it well. Steady on parade and 
quick on the hillside.” 

This was supported by the remarks of the Commanders of the Waziristan 
and Kohat Districts, and the Army Commander added: “I have read these 
excellent reports with much satisfaction. The Battalion is a very good one.” 


A change was now ordered that considerably affected the whole future 
of the Battalion. A further step towards nationalization of the Fighting Forces 
of the Indian Continent was taken, and one battalion in each Regiment was 
selected for complete nationalization. The 4th Sikhs was the battalion selected in 
the 12th Frontier Force Regiment. No more British officers would be posted to 
it. The existing ones would complete their service. All new officers posted to the 
Battalion would be Indians educated at Sandhurst, and after 1936, at the 
Indian Military Academy, Dehra Dun. All set themselves loyally to ensure 
that the Battalion’s old traditions and high standards would be maintained 
during this great change, which even then was recognized as a fundamental 
step forward on the road to national independence. 

From 22nd September to 17th October 1932, the Battalion was ordered 
to Peshawar for garrison duty to replace certain units of the Peshawar Infantry 
Brigade that were absent conducting the Chitral Relief that was taking place. 
Otherwise the year 1932 had nothing to record. 

On Ist January Major L. E. Dennys, M.C., was promoted Brevet 
Lieutenant-Colonel, and on 2nd April rejoined the Battalion from the appoint- 
ment of Liaison Officer, North-West Frontier Intelligence Bureau. 

On 6th March the first young officers from Sandhurst to be posted to the 
Battalion under the nationalization scheme arrived. They were Second- 
Lieutenants M. Hayaud Din, K. M. Sheikh and Sardar Har Narain Singh. All 
three achieved distinction and rose to high rank in their careers. Hayaud Din* 
and Sheikht commanded the 9th and 8th Battalions of the Regiment respectively 
in the Second World War, the former being decorated with H.J., M.B.E., the 
French Legion of Honour and M.C., and was mentioned three times in 
despatches. Both became General Officers in the Pakistan Army, and Sardar 
Har Narain Singh a Brigadier in the Indian Army. 

The year 1933 passed without incident till March, when trouble broke out 
in the tribal areas of Afghanistan in Khost.t The insurrection against the 
Afghanistan Government in Kabul attracted large numbers of Wazirs and 
Mahsuds across into Afghan territory in the hope of loot, and the Battalion 
took part in the operations to prevent this movement by the formation of a 

“See Chapter XXV. 

t See Chapter XXIV. 
$ See Chapter XIII, narrative of 2nd Sikhs. 

228 The 4th Sikhs in Kohat District, 1932-35 

cordon in the Kurram and Tochi valleys. The Battalion sent a detachment to 
Arawali in the Kurram which remained from October 1933 till March 1934. 
The whole Battalion then concentrated at Thal on 8th March and marched as 
part of the Kohat Brigade via Mir Ali to Degan in the Tochi. 

The cordon measures combined with the Royal Air Force proved a whole- 
some deterrent; the tribesmen returned to their homes and the Kohat Brigade 
marched back to Kohat, arriving on 3rd April. 

This year’s Inspection Report on the Battalion, being the first since com- 
plete nationalization was ordered, received the following endorsement by His 
Excellency the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Robert Cassels, “An excellent report 
and one that may be expected from a Battalion with such high standards.” 

In January 1934, Lieutenant-Colonel S. R. Shirley, M.C., was appointed 
A.A. and Q.M.G. of the Waziristan District, and Lieutenant-Colonel C. N. Buist 
from the 10th Battalion succeeded him as Commandant. Major P. A. Meade, 
M.B.E., M.C., from the 3rd Battalion joined him as Second-in-Command. 

One of the first results of the nationalization of battalions was the abolition 
of the Viceroy’s Commissioned Officers* (now known as the J.C.O. or Junior 
Commissioned Officer) in the nationalizing battalions. Platoons which were 
formerly commanded by J.C.Os. were to be commanded by officers direct— 
the establishment of the latter being increased to correspond, thus bringing their 
number to approximately the same as that of the officer ranks of British batta- 
lions. One result of this was that no promotion to J.C.Os. rank remained for 
the rank and file of nationalizing battalions—obviously a very serious matter 
and a great loss to the prospects of the men. To meet this situation the Com- 
manding Officers of the battalions of the Regiment decided at their Annual 
Conference at the 10th Battalion Headquarters in March 1934, that one out 
of every five vacancies for promotion in the other battalions of the Regiment 
should be given to the 4th Battalion. 

On 4th October the Battalion moved to Hangu and the Samana, providing 
the usual posts at Fort Lockhart (one rifle company), Gulistan (one platoon) 
and Sangar (18 rank and file). 

A year later on 7th October 1935, Hangu was given up as a station and 
the Samana and Arawali posts were provided by one of the battalions quartered 
in Thal. The 4th Battalion was the first to take over this responsibility, and 
during the winter months only Battalion Headquarters Wing, the Support Com- 
pany and one rifle company were in Thal Fort. 

During October of this year Captain A. H. Marshall and ten I.O.Rs. of 
the 4th Sikhs joined the 5th Battalion (Guides Infantry) in Mohmand as rein- 
POrcemeD es after that battalion’s desperate action at Wucha Jawar. t 

7 This policy was s later found to be unsuccessful and the J.C. O. was reintroduced. 
+ See Chapter XI, narrative of the Guides Infantry. 

The 4th Sikhs Move to Ferozepore, 1936 229 

In November of this year various changes in command took place. Major 
P. A. Meade, M.B.E., M.C., was transferred to command the 3rd Battalion, 
and Lieutenant-Colonel C. N. Buist to command the Training Battalion. 

Lieutenant-Colonel A. G. Ogilvy was transferred from command of the latter 
to command the 4th Sikhs. 

Further appointments and promotions in 1936 were as follows: 29th May, 
Colonel (Temporary Brigadier) S. R. Shirley, M.C., to be Colonel of the Bat- 
talion, and on Ist July Major F. Buckley * to be Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel. 

On 24th January 1936, the Battalion left the Kohat District on transfer and 
arrived in Ferozepore, where it spent the years 1936 and 1937. During this 
period it provided a detachment of one company at Fort Govindgarh, Amritsar. 
This company was always welcomed by the Sikhs. 

The process of nationalization proceeded satisfactorily, and this was evi- 
denced not only by the continued excellence of the reports of all who inspected 
it, but by the Battalion’s performance in the Second World War, the story of 
which follows hereafter. 

In November 1937, the Battalion returned to the Frontier and was quar- 
tered at Fort Salop on the Khajuri plain, with a company at Jamrud. It was 
back in its haunts of 1921-22. 

Lieutenant-Colonel Hugh-Jones now succeeded Lieutenant-Colonel Ogilvie 
as Commandant. 

In August 1938, with the war clouds of the Second World War now gather- 
ing on the horizon, yet another reorganization was ordered. This introduced 
four rifle companies each of three platoons, each of two rifle sections, and one 
light machine-gun section. This was in place of three rifle companies each of 
four platoons, each of three rifle sections and a light machine-gun section. 
The Support Company was abolished and the eight medium machine guns 
(Vickers .303) were organized into a “carrier platoon” incorporated in the 
H.Q. Wing. 

The new organization did not interfere with the class platoons in companies 
which were retained as before. At the same time, in order to equalize as far as 
possible the class composition of Pathans of all Battalions of the Regiment, an 
exchange was ordered with the Sth Battalion (Guides Infantry) of Yusufzais 
for Khattaks. The Yusufzai Platoon, 52 strong, under Subadar Farid Khan, 
was transferred to the Guides, while their Khattak Platoon, of like strength, 
under Subadar Spin Gul, came to the 4th Sikhs. However, all these adjustments 
of sub-classes of Pathans went by the board during and after the Second World 
War, as then Pathans were sent to battalions irrespective of their tribe or district. 
Moreover, this practice has been maintained in the Pakistan Army of today. 

* Major-General! F. Buckley, C.I-E. 

230 The 4th Sikhs in the Ahmedzai Salient Operations, 1940 

The Ahmedzai Salient, 1940 

Early in 1939 the Battalion moved to Rawalpindi, and had barely been 
there a year when it was called on in April 1940, to take part in the operations 
to deal with hostile gangs in the Ahmedzai salient.* 

The Battalion’s share in the proceedings was insignificant, and with the 
clearing of the salient it was ordered up the Tochi to Datta Khel, where a 
column with the code name of “Barcol” was out to deal with a gang of the Faqir 
of Ipi’s followers in that area. It only lasted a few days, the hostile gang dispers- 
ing to their homes. The Battalion was back in Rawalpindi at the end of May. 

The fighting in both these affairs had amounted to no more than long-range 
sniping, and the Battalion’s casualties had been one man and one mule wounded. 

By now the storm of the Second World War had burst in Europe in all its 
violence, and these skirmishes faded into insignificance. Expansion, the raising 
of new war battalions and training with modern equipment occupied the minds 
and absorbed the energies of everyone to the exclusion of all else. Not for long 
however, was the Battalion to be able to devote its energies to these preparations 
before the call came and it mobilized for active service. 

* For a description of these minor operations see the History of the Frontier Force 
Rifles, Chapter XII. 



Sudan and East Africa, 1940-41—Gazelle Force—The Advance on Eritrea—The Battle 
of Keren—Amba Alagi—Egypt, Iraq and Cyprus, July 1941, to April 1942—The 
Western Desert and After, 1942-43—The El Adem Box—"B” Echelon and the 
Reconstitution of the Battalion. 

The Sudan and East Africa, 1940-41 

THE Battalion sailed from Bombay in September 1940, in a convoy taking 
Indian units that were to form in the Sudan a new war unit—the Sth Indian 
Division. Their destination was Port Sudan, and they had their first experience 
of air bombardment (albeit a completely ineffective one) while still crossing 
the Indian Ocean. A flight of four or five Italian planes, based on Abyssinia, 
attacked the convoy with bombs, but anti-aircraft fire from the ships kept them 
at a height and they failed to score a hit or cause any damage. 

As the Battalion was about to take part in the first successful campaign 
of the Second World War, and one in which the lion’s share of the work was 
done by what are now Pakistani and Indian troops, but were then organized 
in the 4th and 5th (British) “Indian” Divisions, it is perhaps desirable to 
remind the reader of the general war picture in Egypt and East Africa at this 
time and the strategy and plan of campaign employed. 

Abyssinia had been conquered by the Italian dictator Mussolini’s forces 
in 1935, and the Negus, or Emperor, had fled into exile in England. Mussolini 
garrisoned Abyssinia strongly, and when Italy joined Germany in the Second 
World War the country was held by some 250,000 troops, Italian and native, 
well supported by artillery and equipped with up-to-date arms and accessories, 
including a few tanks. There was also a strong Italian Air Force (Regia Aero- 
nautica) which in the main held command of the air up to 1940. The entire 
enemy forces were under the command of the Duke of Aosta, a man of world- 
wide repute as an able leader and administrator and who had achieved fame 
also as a mountaineer. 

The British forces in the Middle East were under the command of General 
Sir Archibald Wavell,* a man who, for his handling of the campaigns that now 
followed, deserves of historians a name second to none among the great captains 
of the British Empire. 

* The late Earl Wavell of Winchester and Cyrenaica, G.C.B., GCS, G.C.LE,, 

232 The 3rd Royal Sikhs Move to the Sudan, 1940 

When war broke out with Italy he had, facing Marshal Graziani’s army 
of 215,000 in Libya, two armoured brigades of the 7th Armoured Division, 
the 4th Indian Division (less one brigade), one brigade and elements of the New 
Zealand Division and fourteen battalions of British infantry—a total of 36,000 
men. Defending the Sudan were three British battalions and the Sudan Defence 
Force, supplemented by Police and Levies, numbering some 9,000; and in 
Kenya, covering the tremendous arc of 850 miles from the Indian Ocean to 
Lake Rudolf, two brigades of the King’s African Rifles, approximately 8,500 
strong. In November he was reinforced by the 5th Indian Division in the Sudan, 
and in Kenya by approximately one division of West and South African troops. 
Meanwhile British Somaliland, with a garrison of little more than a brigade, 
had fallen in August to overwhelming enemy strength. 

Yet within six months (December 1940 to May 1941) General Wavell 
first attacked the leading Italian troops at Sidi Barrani. He followed this with 
the capture of Sollum, Bardia and Tobruk, overrunning the whole of Libya 
and Cyrenaica. He took 130,000 prisoners and 845 guns. After Sidi Barrani 
General Wavell took the bold step of transferring the 4th Indian Division to 
the Sudan, which with the 5th Indian Division defeated the Italians at Keren, 
resulting in the virtual eclipse of the Northern Italian Army. The surrender 
of Asmara and Eritrea soon followed, and six weeks later the Duke of Aosta 
capitulated at Amba Alagi. In the south General Cunningham began his spec- 
tacular advance which was to bring about the recapture of British Somaliland, 
the fall of Addis Ababa and the return of the Emperor to his own capital. 

Such is the outline of the campaign in which the 3rd Royal Battalion was 
about to take part. The Battalion was on its way to join the 9th Indian Infantry 
Brigade of the 5th Indian Division when this story opens. 

Landing at Port Sudan on 15th September 1940, the Battalion was railed 
to Gedaref, where it formed part of the defensive forces at that time protecting 
the western border of the Sudan against Italian advances from Abyssinia. 

Indeed, the military situation in the Sudan when the Sth Indian Division 
arrived there in September 1940, was not encouraging. Hitherto the defence 
of the vast empty interior of the country and the protection of its 1,200-mile 
frontier with Italian East Africa had been in the hands of only three British 
battalions and the Sudan Defence Force, who were outnumbered by the Italians 
by about five to one. In guns, in aircraft and in general military equipment the 
advantage was uniformly with the enemy. Two factors were in favour of the 
British: their sea power enabled them to isolate the Italians in this theatre 
from all other Axis territory; and there was a great potential “fifth column” 
of “patriots,” hostile to the Italians, inside Abyssinia. But it would be some 
time before the enemy, who had built up great stocks of war material before 
they declared war, began to feel the effects of the naval blockade; and the 

The War Situation in the Sudan, 1940 233 

Abyssinian “patriots” were still unorganized and cautious as long as Italian 
prestige remained high. The enemy’s morale was good, even among most of the 
native troops who made up two-thirds of his strength on this front. Since June, 
when Italy had entered the war, the fighting here had not unnaturally been in 
the enemy’s favour. Early in July light British forces had been forced to retire 
from their frontier posts in Kassala, Gallabat and Kurmuk by enemy troops 
who outnumbered them by ten to one. Campaigning in the Sudan had then 
been brought to a standstill by the rains rendering the rivers unfordable and 
the cotton soil roads only intermittently passable to vehicles, so the Italians 
had turned their attention to the successful conquest of British Somaliland. 
The campaigning season would not properly reopen until the end of the rains 
in October or November; but already, at the time of the Division’s arrival, 
the enemy were expected to attempt to establish bridgeheads cross the Atbara 
river in preparation for a full-scale offensive in the northern Sudan when the 
river fords became passable again. The situation was therefore sufficiently 
serious, but the morale of the Empire troops was high and the Sudan Defence 
Force had already wrested the initiative from the enemy in frontier patrolling. 

The Division was quickly deployed to meet the expected attack. The 9th 
Brigade* was given a front of 120 miles between Sofi and Sarsareib. This was 
along the line of the River Atbara, which here forms a natural frontier for the 
Sudan some forty or fifty miles behind the actual political boundary. The general 
role of the Brigade was to hold the river line and carry out offensive patrolling 
beyond it. There were two specially vulnerable points in the sector: to the 
north, the Butana bridge, by which the railway from Kassala crosses the Atbara; 
and to the south, the large native town of Gedaref, lying some thirty miles west 
of the river, to which the 3rd Sikhs were directed on disembarkation. They 
moved by train through the hot sandy wastes of the Upper Sudan. At Khartoum 
there was a short halt and the officers were introduced to General Wavell, 
Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East, who was on the platform: General 
Wavell had known the Battalion in Peshawar in 1908, and he still remembered 
them well. South of Khartoum the landscape changed from desert to savannah 
country, and on the evening of 15th September the Battalion arrived at Gedaref, 
their destination. 

The country round Gedaref is undulating, scrub-covered, cotton soil. At 
this time of year the waters of the Atbara ran deep and swift, but in the dry 
weather there was a ford at Showak. About fifty miles up from Showak as 
the crow flies is Um Hagar; and at Um Hagar there was a permanent Italian 
garrison of some 3,000 men which threatened both Gedaref and the vital railway 
to the Butana bridge which passed through Showak. 

* The 5th Indian Division was now in process of forming into three brigades (the 
9th. 10th and 29th): the new 9th Brigade consisted of the 2nd Battalion West Yorkshire 
Regiment, the 3rd / 5th Mahratta L.I. and the 3rd Sikhs. 

234 The 3rd Royal Sikhs and Gazelle Force, 1940 

Within a day or two of its arrival in Gedaref the Sikh Company moved 
forward under Major Moss to Showak to guard against this threat. The country 
here is a remote and inhospitable wilderness of spear-grass, thorn bushes and 
trees, becoming denser from west to east; but it is also some of the finest shooting 
country in the world. Elephants, giraffes, ostriches, large monkeys and every 
variety of big and small game live in the bush; while in the Atbara and its 
tributaries lurk crocodiles and hippopotami. Movement in the area was difficult 
even on foot: patrols discarded both hose-tops, which caught in the spear-grass, 
and pagris, which caught in the thorn bushes. 

For some weeks the Battalion remained in the Gedaref-Showak area, and 
had occasional brushes with enemy patrols. Life was rather monotonous: the 
weather was oppressively hot, and nobody received any private mail for two 
months. Mercifully there was some variety in diet: eggs and goats could be 
bought locally and the wilderness abounded in gazelle, guinea-fowl and duck. 
Many officers had sporting guns with them, but their use was restricted by 
authority. On one occasion Colonel Blood was surprised to receive a signal 
from Brigade that “Hippopotami may now be shot in the Atbara.” Before 
action could be taken, however, the correction, “for NOW read NOT repeat 
NOT,” came through. 

Gazelle Force 

The Italian High Command, by their exaggerated caution during October, 
had encouraged the British commanders to take the initiative. At first this took 
the form of long-range mobile patrolling to harass the enemy and raise British 
prestige, and it was for this purpose that Gazelle Force was brought into being. 
Gazelle Force at this time consisted of Skinner’s Horse, three motor machine- 
gun companies of the Sudan Defence Force, and artillery. The column was 
entirely motorized and under command of Colonel Messervy*—a Cavalry 
officer and previously G.S.O.1 of the Division, whose place was taken by 
Colonel D. Russell, Frontier Force Rifles, afterwards Commander of the 8th 
Indian Division. It was allotted as its special patrol area the broad expanses 
of hard, motorable desert from which the broken hills of the Sudanese frontier 
rise abruptly about thirty miles north-east of Kassala. By the end of October, 
Gazelle Force’s activities had enticed the Italian 101st Colonial Battalion and 
a pack battery across the border into the hilly area of Tehamiyam Wells, where 
it was now proposed to attack them. To this end “A’’ Company of the 3rd 
Sikhs were ordered on 4th November to join Gazelle Force at Jebel Haladeid. 
The 3rd Sikhs had been personally selected for this special task by the Divi- 
sional Commander. Ever since they had been in his Brigade at Wana in 1937, 

* General Sir Frank Messervy, K.C.S.1., K.B.E., CB. D.S.O. 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs and Gazelle Force, 1940 235 

General Heath had been a close friend of the Battalion, and he had been pleased 
to get his son into it. Subsequently, when an extra battalion was required for 
the 10th Brigade’s operations at Gallabat, the General again chose the 3rd 
Sikhs. Major Moss, Lieutenant Philips, “A” Company and detachments 
of signallers and machine-gunners moved north in motor transport 
on the same day and reached Gazelle Force Headquarters in the evening. On 
arrival, Major Moss was given command of a wing of the Force, which was to 
be known as Southern Force and which included the company of the 3rd Sikhs 
and “A” Squadron of Skinner’s Horse. 

Southern Force’s first raid on Tehamiyam Wells, on 5th November, failed 
to gain contact with the enemy. That night, however, Skinner's Horse stumbled 
across an enemy camel convoy in the area and drove its escort of about a 
hundred and fifty Colonial troops into the hills. Next morning, therefore, 
Southern Force, under the orders of Colonel Scott of Skinner’s Horse, sought 
out and attacked this large party at Jebel Tendelai. The enemy were ensconced 
in good positions on the rocky hillsides, and had been strongly reinforced during 
the night. Supported by machine guns, two platoons of Sikhs pushed forward 
soon after nine o’clock to attack them from the right flank. Hitherto unlocated 
enemy machine guns on the main Tendelai ridge came into action against this 
advance and the reserve platoon was thrown in to silence these. Italian aircraft 
attempted to intervene in the battle, but they dropped their bombs in the rear 
of their own troops. The main attack was pressed home with great determina- 
tion, and by one o’clock it had succeeded in securing the lower slopes of the 
hills and capturing a large number of enemy; but the reserve platoon was still 
hotly engaged among the rocks and bushes on Tendelai ridge. It was important 
that a decision should be forced before nightfall, so Subedar Bela Singh was 
sent forward to take charge there. Under his leadership the stubborn enemy 
resistance was broken and by half-past four the platoon had captured the ridge, 
taking nine more prisoners and putting the remainder of the enemy to flight. 
This was the first time in the war that any part of the 3rd Sikhs had been 
seriously engaged. For the loss of only three men wounded, “A” Company 
had killed twelve of the enemy, taken 263 prisoners and captured a considerable 
amount of equipment, including three heavy machine guns. Colonel Messervy 
signalled to Major Moss that it was “splendid work,” and the Sikhs thought 
so too. 

On 7th November Gazelle Force Headquarters was attacked three times 
by Italian aircraft and, although little damage was done, it was thought ad- 
visable to move next day to the vicinity of Khor Yodrud, eleven miles away. 
Here the enemy’s 101st Colonial Battalion was located. “A” Company were 
again called on to attack, and for this operation two companies of the 3rd Bat- 
talion 2nd Punjab Regiment were placed under Major Moss. The enemy, 
however, were too securely entrenched, and the operation was called off after 

236 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Sudan, 1940 

twelve hours’ fighting in intense heat. The Company lost two killed and six 
wounded. The latter were all brought back after successfully disengaging. 
The enemy withdrew next day, leaving many shallow graves and twenty- 
six boxes of ammunition. This ended the Battalion’s association with Gazelle 
Force, and Major Moss’s detachment rejoined the Battalion at Showak on 14th 
November. For these two actions with Gazelle Force Major Moss was men- 
tioned in despatches and Subedar Bela Singh was awarded the I.D.S.M. 

The Battalion’s two months’ stay in the Showak sector came to an end a 
fortnight after “A” Company’s return. Although there had been few stirring 
incidents, it had been valuable as a period of preparation. It had seen the forma- 
tion in the Battalion of two important new platoons, authorized by an interim 
war establishment in September: a Bren-gun carrier platoon and a three-inch 
mortar platoon. The first of these, consisting of four armoured carriers, had 
been formed by Lieutenant Scott and trained in Gedaref. The second, armed 
with two mortars, had been raised by the Adjutant and put under command 
of Jemadar Mohd Sharif: their training had been done, through the medium 
of interpreters, by an instructor from the West Yorkshire Regiment. To the 
Battalion in general the period had afforded an opportunity to become 
acclimatized and to complete its training under realistic conditions. Moreover, 
all ranks had learnt track discipline and camouflage to such effect that the 
large Showak camp was never discovered by the enemy although they had 
complete command of the air. 

While the above actions were being fought, the 10th Infantry Brigade, 
under Brigadier Slim,* supported by a field regiment of Artillery, a squadron 
of tanks and the R.A.F., launched the first British offensive of the Second 
World War. They attacked Gallabat and Metemma, surprising the enemy and 
driving him out of the former, but not the latter, place. The object was to open 
the caravan route to the Abyssinian patriots, and though this was not achieved, 
the news of the battle had a heartening effect on the Abyssinians. 

Throughout November and December 1940, the enemy was being harried 
and kept on his toes, and the Battalion was fully employed in these activities. 
Everything possible was also being done to undermine the enemy’s morale 
and to lower his prestige. Great emphasis was again laid on the patrolling 
which was carried out in the nullahs at night: a grim game of hide and seek, 
for which grenades were carried with the pins out. A safer, if less orthodox, 
method of making the Italians uncomfortable was the beating on drums of 
the Emperor of Abyssinia’s special call to his supporters behind the enemy 
lines; this was done every night from Jebel Um Zereiba, where the 3rd Sikhs 
had an outpost. A propaganda idea of even greater originality, the display 

* Field-Marshal Viscount Slim, K.G., G.C.B., G.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., later the only 
Indian Army officer ever to become Chief of the Imperial General Staff. 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs—The Advance on Eritrea 237 

of the Lion of Judah in neon lights, was only dropped because the forward 
troops deprecated the erection of such a tempting target for the Italian artillery. 
The gunners were active on both sides; but in the air the Italians were almost 
unopposed, and their bombers were very troublesome. 

Royal Air Force fighters were not available and anti-aircraft defences con- 
sisted of a few, constantly jamming, captured Breda guns. These were eked 
out with anti-tank rifles, Vickers machine guns and even some eighteen-pounder 
field guns, dug down to give them elevation. With such weapons nobody was 
successful in winning the five pounds reward which had been offered for 
shooting down one of the fat Caproni bombers. As a result of the bombing 
and shelling, two men were killed and Jemadar Karam Ilahi and eight men 
wounded. Just before the New Year the 3rd Sikhs were relieved by the Mah- 
rattas and brought back into reserve for a fortnight. It was a so-called rest 
period, during which everybody was kept busy with administration, training 
and casual operational] tasks. For the first time the Adjutant was faced with 
the problem of readjusting class composition—a problem which was to recur 
again and again during rest periods throughout the war. On this occasion it 
was not battle casualties which had to be replaced, but the ravages of an 
outbreak of scabies, brought on by the acute shortage of water for washing: 
this had reduced the Sikh Company’s strength by a third and the reinforce- 
ments available did not include enough Sikhs to replace them. 

The Advance on Eritrea 

While the 5th Indian Division was thus actively engaged on the Sudan 
border, the 4th Indian Division with the 7th Armoured Division (later world 
famous for its exploits throughout North Africa and Europe as “the Desert 
Rats”) carried out General Wavell’s offensive mentioned above and destroyed 
two Italian divisions that were threatening the western approaches to Egypt. 
Sidi Barrani was captured, the threat to Egypt removed, and the 4th Indian 
Division released for use against Abyssinia. 

This Division, with the “I” tanks of a Royal Tank Regiment and a 
battery of six-inch howitzers, was moved to the Sudan and began arriving 
opposite Kassala early in January 1941. Originally this advance on Eritrea 
was merely with a view to securing the safety of the Sudan, but the success 
achieved over the Italian forces in the Western Desert made a more ambitious 
plan feasible, with results we have now to record. The offensive was to com- 
mence against Kassala on 19th January and was expected to cause a general 
Italian retreat, including a withdrawal in the south from Gallabat to Gondar. 
The policy of very active patrolling on the Gallabat front aimed at gaining 
the earliest possible information of enemy preparations for such a withdrawal, 
and the Battalion found itself again extremely busy with patrols on this front. 

238 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Sudan—Prelude to Keren 

On the 20th, as expected, there were reports of the enemy withdrawing from 
Gallabat and Metemma, and that afternoon the 3rd Sikhs were ordered to 
advance immediately and cut the Gallabat-Gondar road, but it was then dis- 
covered that the reports of enemy withdrawal had been premature. The Brigade 
Commander therefore ordered Colonel Blood to retire to his original positions 
early next morning. By now on the Kassala front the enemy were already in 
full retreat and from the 22nd the 3rd Sikhs were placed at two hours’ notice 
to moved forward again. 

At last, after a trying ten days of enemy air-bombing, on 31st January 
the order to advance was given. But the enemy had slipped away. Lieutenant 
Scott and the 3rd Sikhs Carrier Platoon, with the Brigade Mobile Column, at 
once set off in pursuit, and for the next week it was they who were mainly 
engaged in following up the Italians along the narrow, third-class road which 
winds through the hills to Gondar. Administrative difficulties made the em- 
ployment of a larger force impossible and the rest of the Battalion remained 
at Metemma, salvaging enemy equipment and patrolling far to the north and 
south along the Frontier road. The progress of the mobile column was slow. 
The road was a Sapper’s nightmare of mines and demolitions, and it took four 
days to cover the fifty miles from Metemma to the outskirts of Wahni, despite 
the tireless efforts of all concerned and the Sappers in particular. The Sapper 
Commander, Lieutenant Bhagat, won the Victoria Cross for clearing no fewer 
than twenty-one minefields from this fifty-mile stretch of road. Both he and 
Lieutenant Scott had a narrow escape when the carrier in which they were 
leading the column was wrecked by a mine which killed the Dogra driver. 

On 4th February the advanced guard got to within three-quarters of a mile 
of Wahni, but finding further progress barred by a demolition which was under 
fire from pack guns and machine guns, they returned to their previous night’s 
camp, where the main body of the mobile column joined them the same day. 
Plans were now made for an attack on Wahni which took place at seven o’clock 
on the morning of the 7th, but the enemy had withdrawn the previous night 
and there was no opposition. After its capture there was a sudden alarm when 
it seemed as if an enemy counter-attack was developing against “DD” Company, 
but the “enemy” were discovered to be a number of large monkeys moving 
about in the Jong grass, and all was quiet at Wahni by the time Colonel Blood 
arrived there in the afternoon with a tactical Battalion Headquarters and “C” 

It had never been intended that the 9th Brigade should fight its way to 
Gondar. In the face of extreme administrative difficulties and the overriding 
strategic importance of the Eritrean offensive in the north, the Gondar road 
operations had only been undertaken in order to establish closer contact with 
the Abyssinian patriots. Now, with the capture of Wahni, this object was con- 
sidered to have been attained and the time had come for the Brigade to with- 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Sudan—Prelude to Keren 239 

draw, leaving only a battalion group as a holding force at Wahni. Orders were 
issued accordingly, and the 3rd Sikhs found themselves selected to remain at 
Wahni. Detachments of gunners, sappers, machine gunners, signal and medical 
were put under Colonel Blood’s command, and the whole force was given 
the name of Glum Group. On 8th February the mobile column handed over 
to the 3rd Sikhs at Wahni and withdrew to Metemma, and two days later the 
whole Brigade, less Glum Group, moved north to Gedaref for a short period 
of mountain warfare training prior to rejoining the Division in Eritrea. Glum 
Group, now under the direct orders of Headquarters, Troops in the Sudan, 
Khartoum, was left to itself for the next month with instructions to continue 
patrolling down the road and to hold Wahni as a rallying point for the 
Abyssinian patriots. 

The Wahni garrison continued the slow work of clearing the road east- 
wards. As many as 123 box mines were removed from the verges of one 
kilometre of the road. It took the Dogras until 17th February to progress only 
seventeen miles beyond Wahni, and it was not until early in March that a 
patrol reached kilo 74, thirty-five miles east of Wahni, and glimpsed the Chilga 
escarpment where a full Italian brigade was believed to be in position. One 
or two enemy stragglers were made prisoner, but the few Italian patrols en- 
countered withdrew before they could be brought to action. Patrolling was 
also carried out to the north and south of the road. One such patrol, from “B” 
Company, brought in fourteen sick and wounded Italians from Metiba, twenty 
miles to the south on the Gubba road; another discovered the burnt-out 
wreckage of a Caproni bomber in the hills north of the Gandwa crossing, and 
all units which had been at Gallabat at once claimed the five pounds reward 
for having shot it down. The records are silent as to whether it was paid and 
to whom. 

In other circumstances the 3rd Sikhs might have enjoyed their month as 
Glum Group. Brigadier Mayne, who visited the Battalion for the last time on 
20th February before handing over to Brigadier Messervy, wrote lyrically in 
an Official report, of the Amanit area. It “would make an ideal Brigade Camp 
or even Hill Station. Water facilities are excellent and there is a wooded plateau 
where one can picture golf being played on a sporting six-hole links. Moun- 
taineering, good small and big game shooting. and mixed bathing in a choice 
of two rivers would afford added attractions.” But such amenities had perforce 
to remain only potential, and the Battalion was not content to remain in such 
an operational backwater at a time when, at Keren in the north, the 4th and 
5th Divisions were preparing for decisive battle. Nevertheless it certainly looked, 
during the first week of March, as if this was to be their fate. The 9th Brigade 
moved up on to the Keren road. The 3rd Sikhs were ordered to send their 
machine-gun and mortar platoons to join them, and three officers were to be 
taken for Brigade Headquarters staff: the Battalion was being “bled” for the 

240 The 3rd Royal Sikhs—The Battle of Keren Opens March 1941 

Keren battle, but would not take part in it as a unit. At such a gloomy juncture 
the Battalion could ill afford to lose Colonel Blood, but he was required back in 
India to raise the new 9th Battalion of the Regiment and he left on 2nd March. 
He had occupied a very special place in the affections of his officers and men, 
and all felt at his going the loss of an old and trusted personal friend. Major 
Dean now became Commandant and Major Moss, having handed over the 
Sikh Company to Lieutenant Philips, took over as Second-in-Command. 

The 3rd Sikhs had already resigned themselves to an indefinite stay on the 
Gondar road when suddenly, on the night of 6th March, a signal arrived order- 
ing them to move north to Gedaref for onward despatch to rejoin the 9th 
Brigade. One company, however, was to be left at Wahni, and Lieutenant 
Philips was detailed to remain there with “A” Company and detachments of 
H.Q. Company. 

The Battalion was ordered at all costs to reach the Keren concentration 
area by the evening of the 13th, and a rush move by road and rail to cover 
the 300 miles to the Kassala area followed. 

On arrival at Tessenei the Colonel learnt that the battle was about to begin 
and that the other reconnaissance parties of the Brigade had already been 
up at Keren for two days; so he and the Adjutant pushed on at once, leaving 
instructions for Major Moss to bring forward the Battalion. By the evening 
of the 13th, as ordered, the 3rd Sikhs had arrived in the Keren bivouac area 
at kilo 113. After seven days of continuous travel they now found themselves 
with barely thirty-six hours in which to make all preparations for the great 
assault that was to begin at dawn on 15th March. 

The Battle of Keren, March 194] 

Some 140 miles into Eritrea an invader from the west is confronted with 
an escarpment of mountains (see illustration) defining the western extremities 
of the upland region in which Asmara, the capital, is situated. These natural 
ramparts are of great strength. The Dongolaas gorge provides the only gateway, 
and both road and railway come together here to worm their way up to the town 
of Keren, which lies on a high plateau immediately behind the mountain range. 
Two great bastions guard the entrance to the gorge: on the right stands Mount 
Dologorodoc, 1,500 feet above the valley bottom and crowned by a fort; on 
the left, Mount Sanchil towers another thousand feet higher and commands 
the whole area. Other peaks, varying in height between these two, stretch 
away in an unbroken line far to the north and south. The mountains are rocky, 
strewn with huge boulders and so precipitous that in many places both hands 
and feet are required for climbing. The advantages which such country offered 
to a defender had been improved in every possible way by the Italians. The 
road in the gorge had been effectively blocked by extensive demolitions. 






(An Operational Air Photograph) 

Face page 240 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Battle of Keren, March 194] 241 

Sangars and trenches had been constructed on the heights and barbed wire put 
down to protect them. Observation posts on the peaks enabled the defenders’ 
numerous pack artillery and 8l1-mm. mortars to cover all approaches with 
accurate fire. The positions were held by thirty-nine enemy battalions, com- 
prising the bulk of their Eritrean forces and the major portion of their central, 
strategic reserve. 

The Keren defences were confidently believed by the Italians to be im- 
pregnable, and so they had proved during the six weeks of desperate fighting 
that had preceded the 3rd Sikhs’ arrival, and in which the 4th Indian Division 
had obtained an insecure foothold on the lower slopes of Sanchil. Two major 
assaults had failed. The third, which had now been in preparation for a month, 
was to be launched with the combined strength of the 4th and 5th Indian 
Divisions, but the defenders still outnumbered them by more than two to one. 
Like its predecessors, the attack was to be frontal: indeed none other was 
possible; but even the area for frontal attack was restricted to the vicinity 
of the road by the lack of mule transport. The 4th Division was to attempt 
once more the capture of Sanchil: the Sth Division, on their right, were then 
to follow up with the seizure of Dologorodoc and the higher features behind it. 
The attackers enjoyed but one material advantage: the Royal Air Force had 
now been able to establish local air superiority over the battlefield. 

Early on 14th March the officers of the 3rd Sikhs collected round a huge 
sand-table on which the plan for the next day’s battle was explained to them. 
The massed guns of both divisions, firing sometimes at the rate of ten thousand 
shells an hour, were to soften the enemy defences for the 4th Division’s new 
attempt on Sanchil. As soon as Sanchil was secured, the 9th Brigade was to 
lead off the 5th Division’s attack with the capture of Dologorodoc by the High- 
land Light Infantry, who were on loan from the 10th Brigade. The Mahrattas, 
West Yorks and 3rd Sikhs would then go through to take Falestoh, Zeban and 
points 1501 and 1560. Finally, the break-through would be exploited by the 
remainder of the 5th Division. The 9th Brigade’s supplies would come forward 
by truck to kilo 102 and thence by Bren carrier to kilo 97, just under Dolo- 
gorodoc. Each battalion was to detail one company as porters to man-handle 
its supplies up from “Carrier Head”; the 3rd Sikhs, with “A” Company still on 
the Gondar road, would therefore enter the battle with only two rifle companies 
available for fighting. 

Operational and administrative preparations kept all ranks very busy for 
the remainder of that day, but by ten o’clock at night all was ready and the 
Battalion moved forward to the assembly area in bright moonlight. There were 
five hours to wait and the men tried to sleep. By five o’clock it was becoming 
light enough to see the enemy positions on Sanchil and Flat Top, away to the 
north-west of it. At six o’clock the whole artillery suddenly burst into life. The 
4th Division’s attack had started. 


242 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Battle of Keren, March 1941 

While they waited the men made tea and the officers ate a breakfast which 
was to be their last hot meal for thirteen days. But the plan of battle began 
to go wrong from the start. Perhaps too much had been expected from the 
artillery preparations: the gunners did not know exactly where the enemy’s 
positions were and the broken nature of the target area rendered any but direct 
hits largely ineffective. By half-past nine Sanchil was still uncaptured, but it 
was hoped that the enemy there would be too preoccupied to interfere with the 
H.L.I. attack on Dologorodoc, which was accordingly put into motion. Con- 
trary to expectations, this advance was met by heavy flanking fire from 
machine guns on Sanchil as soon as it reached the Dongolaas nullah, and 
within an hour all hope of further advance on the objective in daylight had 
had to be abandoned. Meanwhile, however, Captain Raw, in charge of twenty 
Bren carriers, was bringing forward the brigade supplies of water and am- 
munition from “Truck Head” to “Carrier Head.” He was unaware of the 
failure to capture Dologorodoc. The shelling and machine-gun fire which was 
directed on to his convoy from the hills surprised him, but it was not until he 
arrived at “Carrier Head” that he realized what had happened. There followed 
a frantic five minutes, with the carriers trying to turn round on a narrow strip 
of road while machine-gun fire plunged down on them from enemy positions 
only two hundred yards up the hillside. Standing up to shout instructions to 
the other carriers, and with his own carrier on fire, Captain Raw sped off back 
down the road. Only eight carriers arrived back with him at “Truck Head.” He 
collected a Bren gun—arms had not been taken by the convoy—and returned 
to extricate the remaining carriers. This he succeeded in doing, getting them 
away with the loss of only two men killed and four wounded. The enemy also 
suffered casualties: several of them were brought tumbling down the hillside 
by Captain Raw himself with the Bren gun.* Italian situation reports, which 
were subsequently captured, magnified this incident into a full-scale tank attack 
on their positions. 

There was now a long pause. The Brigadier made a new plan for the 
capture of Dologorodoc and fresh orders were given out that afternoon. Before 
the main feature could be attacked it was necessary to secure Pimple and 
Pinnacle, two lesser hills, each about a thousand feet high, which together 
formed an apron in front of Dologorodoc. The Mahrattas were to attack them, 
and their movement was timed so that they would begin their assault on 
Pinnacle and Pimple as darkness fell. The 3rd Sikhs were ordered to cross the 
Dongolaas nullah after dusk and to assist the Mahrattas in the final stages of 
their attack. Lieutenant-Colonel Dean now had only five platoons available: 
““A” Company was on the Gondar road, “D*” Company was portering for the 
Battalion, and one platoon of “B” Company was portering for the Commander, 
Royal Artillery. 
Te Captain Raw wasawardedtheMC. 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Battle of Keren, March 194] 243 

The Mahrattas came under shell fire even before crossing their starting 
line. The 3rd Sikhs were therefore ordered to cross the nullah to their assistance 
at six o’clock, before dusk. In doing so they reawakened the machine guns 
on Sanchil, but suffered no casualties. In the twilight at the bottom of the hill 
they joined the Mahrattas, who were advancing with their right forward com- 
pany directed on Pimple and their left forward company on Pinnacle. The 
guns had ceased firing. Silently all began to climb together and the gathering 
darkness swallowed them. The ascent was steep and it was some time before 
a sudden noise of battle announced to those below that the attackers had 
reached the enemy’s position. It was close-quarter fighting, with the Italians 
rolling grenades down the hillside and the sepoys making laborious progress 
with the bayonet. The left Mahratta company, supported by the Dogras of 
“C” Company, had captured Pinnacle by ten o’clock; but on the right the attack 
on Pimple was held up after reaching the saddle between the two hills. Colonel 
Reid* of the Mahrattas and Colonel Dean arrived on the saddle to find 
that the leading companies had already made two attacks on Pimple, but had 
been counter-attacked three times. 

After a moonlight reconnaissance it was decided to employ the five 
platoons of the 3rd Sikhs in an attack on Pimple, supported by artillery fire. 
The West Yorks were to come forward and be ready to seize the fort itself 
as soon as Pimple had been secured. At “Zero” hour, half-past two in the 
morning of the 16th, the artillery opened fire and the Dogras under Captain 
Curtis, followed by Major Macleod with his two Pathan platoons, began to 
climb again. They reached the summit just as the shelling stopped and, shouting 
their battle cries above the noise of the small-arms fire, rushed in to capture 
the positions and their occupants with the bayonet. At the same moment the 
head of the West Yorks arrived at the saddle and preparations were made for 
an immediate advance on the fort; but before this was ready the Italians threw 
in a fourth counter-attack on Pimple and Pinnacle. The enemy showed great 
determination and lost many men in this counter-attack, but did not succeed 
in recapturing either position. The West Yorks then attacked the fort at the 
same time as the enemy counter-attackers were withdrawing to it and, just as 
dawn was breaking, succeeded in capturing it. 

Brigadier Messervy, now in command of the Brigade, was very pleased 
with the night’s work: the capture of Dologorodoc was so far the only major 
success achieved by the Army’s attack. The enemy had also appreciated the 
tactical importance of the feature, for its defence had been entrusted to the 
11th Regiment of Savoy Grenadiers, flower of their East African Army, and 
their subsequent attempts at retaking it were made with a reckless disregard 
for casualties which proved a most important, if not decisive, factor in their 

* Major-General D. W. Reid, C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C. + 

244 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Battle of Keren, March 1941 

ultimate defeat at Keren. For the remainder of 16th March however, the 
Italians contented themselves with heavy concentrations of fire designed to 
hamper the Brigade’s consolidation of the ground gained. The forward com- 
panies were subjected to relentless artillery bombardment, while the lines 
of communication forward of “Truck Head,” and particularly the carrier un- 
loading point at kilo 98, were harassed by mortar, machine-gun and artillery 
fire directed from observation posts on Sanchil to the west and Sphinx to the 
east. This fire, and the nature of the ground over which supplies had to be 
portered from “Carrier Head,” made it impossible to bring forward anything 
but the most urgent necessities: blankets and greatcoats were a luxury which 
it was hard to do without, for in spite of the extreme heat in the daytime the 
rocks became uncomfortably cold as soon as the sun had gone down. The 
Battalion’s casualties during the first twenty-four hours of the battle had been 
seven killed and seven wounded. 

The 9th Brigade’s success was to be exploited on the 17th by a further 
advance to Falestoh Col and Zeban. The 29th Brigade, having passed through 
Dologorodoc during the night, launched this attack at dawn, but by the evening 
could only achieve positions in the low hills just north and north-east of the 
fort. Pimple was held on this day by “C” Company only; “D” Company was 
portering for the Battalion, while ““B’”’ Company was helping to carry the 29th 
Brigade’s supplies up the fifteen hundred feet to the fort. The enemy artillery 
and mortars were again very active and the Battalion lost six killed and eleven 
wounded. Among the former was Subadar Zaman Shah, a particularly fine 
Orakzai, who was killed while supervising the unloading of supplies, in the 
open under fire, at “Carrier Head.” The Italian Air Force also joined in the 
battle on this day, and Battalion Headquarters on Pinnacle and the Dogras 
on Pimple had a grand-stand view of a dog-fight between a Gladiator and an 
Italian C.R.42 fighter plane which took place very low in the valley to the 
south-east of Pimple, at about the same altitude as the spectators: the men 
cheered like a football crowd when the enemy plane eventually crashed in the 
valley below. 

There was little change in the situation during the 18th, but that night 
the Battalion was ordered to take over the positions in which the 3/2nd Punjab 
Regiment, 29th Brigade, were established to the north and east of the fort. 
These positions were completely overlooked by Sanchil and Falestoh, and 
were sniped by small-arms fire from three sides at a range of six hundred yards 
and upwards. The relief took place after dark; but the Italians seemed to be 
well aware of what was going on, and the Battalion was extraordinarily fortu- 
nate in having no more than four men hit. Captain Atal’s company of the 
6th Royal Battalion Frontier Force Rifles was in position on the Battalion’s 
left flank and came under command.* 

- * See History of the Frontier Force Rifles, Chapter XIX, pp. 290 and 291. 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Battle of Keren, March 1941 245 

With daylight on 20th March, the Battalion tried with some Italian shovels 
found on the ground to improve its position on the parched and stony wilderness 
which was to be its home for the next eight days. Every movement during 
daylight attracted enemy fire, generally at a range which made reply impossible 
except by artillery: Subadar Mohd Sharif’s mortar platoon did their best, 
but they were always under observation and almost always outranged. Yet, 
whatever the 3rd Sikhs may have thought of these positions, the enemy was soon 
to demonstrate very convincingly how much he coveted them. The first enemy 
attack came within a few hours and was driven back, but left parties in the 
broken ground on the left of the Battalion’s front, with some machine guns in 
advanced positions under cover. After dark fighting patrols were sent out to 
attack these outposts with grenades. Their attacks were successful. The enemy 
suffered casualties and thirteen men of the 4th Colonial Battalion were brought 
in as prisoners. 

Just before dawn on the 2Ist, after a preparatory shelling, the enemy 
attacked the 6th Royal Frontier Force Rifles on “Jayal’s Bump,” a small 
feature less than a hundred yards from Battalion Headquarters. The 59th stood 
fast, and as the light improved the raiders found themselves exposed to fire 
from Battalion Headquarters, ““C’ Company and part of “D” Company firing 
to their rear. During this fight the Commanding Officer controlled personally 
the fire of the companies by whistle. It was just before dawn and he was able 
to shout across to Captain Atal’s company the progress of the attackers who 
were concentrating against the 59th. This controlled fire forced the enemy to 
withdraw, leaving behind a medium machine gun which they had mounted 
only eighty yards from Colonel Dean’s Headquarters. A number of survivors 
of the raid surrendered immediately. All belonged to the “Tipo” Battalion, a 
unit with a good fighting reputation, which had been in support of the Savoy 
Grenadiers at Fort Dologorodoc. During the period covered by these two attacks 
the Battalion had one man killed and eleven wounded. 

Events during the following thirty-six hours were confined to routine 
shelling, sniping and patrolling. Then on the night of the 22nd the Italians 
launched a third and much more serious attack on the 3rd Sikhs’ defences. At 
ten o’clock, after a violent artillery bombardment lasting one and a half hours, 
four Italian medium tanks in complete darkness cut in along the road between 
“B” and “D” Companies, wheeled to their left, and opened fire on the Pathans’ 
positions from the rear. At the same time the enemy infantry, at least a battalion 
strong had come to grips with the forward sections in confused, close-quarter 
fighting along the whole front. “B” Company, sandwiched between the 
attacking infantry and the tanks which they were now meeting in action for 
the first time and at point-blank range, were in a desperate position. But they 
never wavered. Major Macleod himself killed two of the enemy in hand-to-hand 
fighting; Havildar Mir Hassan, in spite of two grenade wounds, was in his 

246 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Battle of Keren, March 1941 

element; Naik An Mir and Lance-Naik Abdul Qadir were outstanding; and 
one and all, the Pathans stood firm. 

The Dogras likewise were staunch, although a party of enemy got within 
five yards of one of their light machine-gun posts before Sepoys Chattar Singh 
and Jagat Ram in charge of the gun stopped them, killing or wounding ten 
of their number. All round and inside the defences fighting continued. The 
tanks were proving quite impervious to anti-tank rifle fire, and Colonel Dean 
therefore sent off Captain Raw with two sections to bomb their tracks; but 
they were forestalled by the Pathans and Havildar Chhaju Ram’s Dogra 
platoon, who now forced the tanks to withdraw hurriedly with one of their 
number on tow. Eventually, at a quarter to three in the morning, the enemy 
infantry also broke off the fight and retired. Someone raised a cheer and in 
a moment the whole Battalion had joined in: it went on for several minutes, 
each company giving its own cry. The enemy were afterwards identified from 
their dead as the 85th Colonial Battalion, fresh troops who had only arrived 
from Asmara the previous night; they had suffered heavily. An Italian report 
of the engagement which was subsequently captured admitted to having had 
two tanks damaged and about one hundred men put out of action, including 
one officer killed and several wounded. The 3rd Sikhs’ casualties were only 
three killed and eighteen wounded. The following awards were made for 
gallantry in this action: Major Macleod, the D.S.O. (to which he was later 
to add a bar in Burma); Havildar Chhaju Ram, who had already distinguished 
himself in long-range patrolling at Metemma, the I.O.M.; Havildar Mir Hassan, 
the I.0.M. Sepoy Chattar Singh, who here distinguished himself for the first 
time, remained with the Battalion to acquire a great fighting reputation in 
Italy in 1944; he is a good example of the man who repeatedly just fails to 
qualify for an immediate award and yet cannot be put in for a periodical one, 
because the quota of these is so small. 

The Dologorodoc sector now relapsed into position warfare until the night 
of the 24th and attention was focused on the Battalion’s lines of communica- 
tion. The Quartermaster had at his disposal trucks for the first stage, armoured 
carriers for the dangerous stage and mules for the final climb. But from “Mule 
Head” to the Battalion positions everything had to be carried up over five 
hundred yards of completely open ground and in full view of the enemy by those 
few men who could be spared at any one time from the defences. Every round 
of ammunition, every mouthful of food, every drop of water required during 
a hot and dusty eight days was man-handled forward in this way. Supplies 
were cut to the very minimum consistent with safety. In daylight the loaded 
men scrambled forward along a route of deep shale, keeping an interval of 
150 yards between each man. After dark, such a difficult route could not be 
used, and carrying parties ran the gauntlet of the much-shelled road which 
led directly from the fort to the front line. The responsibility for organizing 



Face page 246 

Brigs Peak 

LOD Sanchit 

—— . 

@ Road Blocks © 


J B,.|!, 
Yh tae 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Battle of Keren, March 1941 247 

these forward communications fell upon the Adjutant, Captain Heard, and his 
Jemadar Adjutant, Acting-Subadar Khan Mir: to their efficiency and their 
example under fire, no less than to the general high morale of the Battalion, 
must be attributed the cheerful fortitude with which the tired and thirsty 
men accepted the extra dangers and extra fatigue of this endless portering. 
Captain Heard was rewarded with the M.C. and Subadar Khan Mir with the 

For the night of the 24th a further large-scale advance had been planned. 
The 4th Division in their repeated frontal attacks on Sanchil had gained an 
enhanced fighting reputation, but very little else, in return for crippling losses. 
It had therefore been decided that the 9th and 10th Brigades of the Sth Division 
should capture the high ground on either side of the Dongolaas Gorge and 
thus enable the Sappers to repair the road demolition which had so far pre- 
vented the tanks from playing an active part in the battle. For the 9th Brigade, 
operating east of the gorge, this entailed an extension of the 3rd Sikhs’ salient, 
to the north by the Mahrattas and westwards by the West Yorks. The 3rd Sikhs 
were to remain in their old positions except for a short step forward by one 
platoon of “D” Company to secure a small feature on the extreme right flank 
of the general advance. 

This plan once more met determined resistance, chiefly owing to the 
attack falling on an enemy battalion that was itself about to take the offensive, 
but it succeeded nevertheless. The Mahrattas won their objectives with great 
bravery, and the “D” Company platoon under Havildar Khushal Khan, meeting 
fierce resistance, had to take their objective with the bayonet. The 3rd Sikhs 
had lost, in the previous night’s shelling and the P.M. platoon’s attack, five 
killed and fourteen wounded. Havildar Khushal Khan was outstanding through- 
out the Keren battle until he later received wounds from which he died in 
hospital on 2nd April. He was awarded a posthumous I.0.M. 

West of the gorge the 10th Brigade’s attack had been less costly but 
equally successful, so the Engineers could begin work on the road. The end 
of the battle was now in sight. Once the demolition had been repaired, Fletcher 
Force, consisting of tanks and carriers and including the 3rd Sikhs Carrier 
Platoon, would break through into the plain in front of Keren town. While 
the demolition was under repair the Battalion experienced some particularly 
heavy bombardment, and on the morning of the 26th they and the Mahrattas 
met and repulsed yet another counter-attack: it was the last at Keren. 

The Sappers had now completed their work. On the 27th Fletcher Force 
and the 29th Brigade attacked according to plan. But the enemy had retired 
the previous night, leaving only light patrols. White flags appeared on Sanchil 
the same morning and its garrison, after a magnificent thirteen days’ resistance, 
surrendered. The “invincible” Keren defences had been won. 

248 The Battle of Keren and its effect on the War Situation 

Of the Battle of Keren, and its effect on the precarious Allied situation 
in March 1941, the best appraisement is that of Sir Compton Mackenzie, who 
writes as follows: 

“It must be stressed that the Indian and British soldiers who won that 
tremendous victory against odds won it at a period in the war when equipment 
was at its lowest; and if the difficulties of the attackers are added to the vital 
results achieved by overcoming those difficulties at that date, the fall of Keren 
can claim to be considered one of the truly decisive battles of the world. 

“Although there was still some hard fighting before the Italian Empire 
in East Africa finally collapsed, the fall of Keren, followed almost immediately 
by the capture of Massawa, freed the Red Sea for the American ships bringing 
the precious munitions of war to aid the struggle for North Africa. ‘If’ is an 
arid conjecture and the speculation it prompts is usually fruitless. Nevertheless 
one can affirm that if Keren had held out, our position in 1941, desperate 
enough, would have been disastrous, and the sane world owes an inestimable 
debt to the men who thwarted that ominous contingency.”’* 

After spending the morning of the 27th in salvaging enemy equipment, 
including fourteen pack guns from in front of their own positions, the 3rd Sikhs 
moved in the afternoon to some wells on the main Keren road. An attack by 
Savoia bombers that evening passed almost unnoticed in the joy of having 
enough water to wash with, and more than enough to drink, for the first time for 
thirteen days. Next day found them bivouacked just outside Keren town, remov- 
ing a fortnight’s growth of beard. Among the officers, Major Macleod’s beard 
was the finest in size, but the Colonel’s neat, grey “torpedo” was unsurpassed for 
elegance and had drawn complimentary reference from the Divisional Com- 
mander himself. 

At 5 a.m.on the 30th the 3rd Sikhs began to move up to the front 
again, and on 31st March at a cost of only three casualties they captured 
White Rock Ridge, the key to Ad Teclesan. In this action they took 200 
prisoners and a complete pack battery. The enemy’s morale had now collapsed. 
At first light next morning, Ist April, the advance on Ad Teclesan was resumed 
and very soon met a white flag under which the Italian envoys were coming 
forward to offer the formal capitulation of Asmara. After a night in Ad 
Teclesan, the Battalion moved forward again, in captured Italian transport, 
and entered Asmara. It was 2nd April. One phase of the Abyssinian cam- 
paign had ended. 

Keren now ranks as a Battle Honour. No embroidery of the facts is 
necessary in asserting that it was a great feat of arms. It was recognized and 
welcomed as such at the time by an English-speaking world which was sorely 
in need of encouragement. 

* Eastern Epic, p. 64. 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs at Asmara, 1941 249 

The 3rd Royal Battalion were able to feel that the efforts they had made, 
the hardship they had endured and the casualties they had suffered, during 
fourteen memorable days, had not been in vain. The Battalion’s total casualties 
in the Battle of Keren had been: one J.C.O., twenty-three other ranks and 
one follower killed; one J.C.O., seventy-nine other ranks and one follower 
wounded. It was a misfortune that these casualties included a high proportion 
of former bandsmen: any possibility of re-raising the pipe band had now to 
be deferred until after the war. 

Amba Alagi 

With a population of more than 70,000 Italians, Asmara was a European 
city: large, up to date, sophisticated. The war had created a boom for its 
night clubs without yet draining the stocks of luxuries from its modern shops. 
Its climate was delightful. After months of campaigning and camp life in the 
wilds under a burning sun, the 3rd Royal Battalion had almost forgotten that 
such places existed. They moved into some comfortable Italian barracks, and 
for the next three weeks gave themselves up to the enjoyment of Asmara’s 
varied amenities. Of course, there were guards to be provided and duties to be 
performed; there was training to be done and reorganization to be completed 
after the losses at Keren. These tasks were done: but it was not of them that 
men talked in recalling, years afterwards, their experiences in Asmara. For a 
little while here the war seemed far away. News arrived of the capture of Addis 
Ababa by General Cunningham’s African Division; Massawa (the Ifalian port 
on the Red Sea) fell to a mixed force of the 4th and Sth Divisions; two hundred 
miles to the south the Italians were reported to have turned at last and to be 
standing at bay on the Amba Alagi heights. But, for the present, who cared? 

Yet Asmara was only one of many new and improbable experiences 
through which the 3rd Sikhs had passed since landing at Port Sudan. In the 
intervening six months so much had altered. The field force as a whole had 
left behind it the stage of uncertainty; of living from hand to mouth by guess 
and by God; of learning new lessons every day. Things were settling down, 
staff work was better; mail was coming through more regularly; even the 
N.A.A.F.I. was beginning to operate now. The Battalion had changed, too. 
Some of the most firmly held peace-time theories about training and ad- 
ministration had been quite discredited in battle, while others had been found 
to be of the utmost value. The Battalion had become a self-assured, efficient 
fighting machine; modified both in outlook and organization, yet retaining 
almost unimpaired its original personnel and its thorough peace-time ground- 
ing. The campaigning had brought about a new comradeship, not only between 
all ranks inside the Battalion but also with other units in the formation: the 
sepoys were particularly friendly with the “Jocks”; the 3rd Sikhs officers were 

250 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in Eritrea—Prelude to Amba Alagi 

always in and out of the Mahrattas’ Mess, and the Battalion as a whole had 
already established at Keren that complete trust in their supporting Gunners 
which is so often “half the battle.”* 

The rest period in Asmara ended abruptly on the evening of 23rd April 
with the simultaneous arrival of ““A” Company from Wahni and orders from 
Brigade for the Battalion to move at seven o’clock next morning. They were 
to come under command of the 29th Brigade and take over responsibility for 
the long lines of communication between Asmara and the Amba Alagi 
battle area. 

By the 26th the Battalion was stretched out over 240 miles of road and 
was now engaged simultaneously on mule-leading for the forward battalions, 
running two prisoner-of-war collecting posts, providing the personal escort for 
General Mayne,f operating a traffic control post and protecting the observation 
post of a battery of medium guns on the top of a hill which it took three hours 
to climb. As April drew to a close it appeared improbable that the 3rd Sikhs 
would take any active part in the impending attack on Amba Alagi. On the 
30th, however, “B’” Company were ordered to join Fletcher Force on the left 
flank of the battle which was about to begin. 

Here again for a moment the reader must understand the general strategic 
situation in the theatre of operations under General Wavell. This indeed had 
deteriorated, in spite of the conquest remarked above of Cyrenaica, owing to 
two factors. The first was the War Cabinet’s decision to withdraw vital forces 
from the Western Desert in the futile attempt to stem an enemy drive into 
Greece; and the second, the arrival in the Western Desert of a German Com- 
mander (with armoured German reinforcements) named General Erwin 

Of the latter we shall hear more, but in the meantime General Wavell was 
already hard pressed in Libya, and in dire need of the Indian and African 
Divisions still in Abyssinia. It was therefore no idle sacrifice for the Duke of 
Aosta to fight it out to the last ditch at Amba Alagi, and this is what he was now 
prepared to do. To General Mayne at the same time was given the task 
of dealing with Amba Alagi with the Sth Indian Division, while the 4th Indian 
Division were now moved post-haste to the Western Desert. 

Amba Alagi indeed had been well chosen by the Italians as the scene of 
their last stand. This eleven-thousand-foot mountain covering the Toselli Pass 
and the peaks on either side outdid even the heights of Keren in natural defen- 
sive strength. Held by a force of between 4,000 and 6,000 Italians and 2,000 

* Colonel Dean was responsible for the award of the M.C. to Captain Esmond 
White, R.A., for his outstanding work as F.O.O. with the Battalion during the Keren battle. 

+ General Mayne had assumed command of the Sth Indian Division in Asmara on the 
promotion and departure of General Heath. The 9th Brigade had also changed hands, 
Brigadier Fletcher replacing Brigadier Messervy. 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Battle of Amba Alagi 251 

native troops, plentifully supplied with provisions and all the materials of 
war, and commanded in person by the Duke of Aosta, Italian Viceroy of 
Abyssinia, Amba Alagi itself could be compared to a castle keep, which is 
easily defensible even after all other parts of the fortifications have been lost. 
It could be assailed only in two ways: either by frontal attack, up precipitous 
slopes in the teeth of machine-gun fire, or by advancing from other high 
ground along knife-edge ridges which were protected by barbed wire and 
covered by well-dug-in machine-gun posts. Faced with these alternatives, 
General Mayne, who (as remarked above) only had the 5th Indian Division at 
his disposal, had decided to use part of his scanty strength in creating a diver- 
sion on the left flank. That role was allotted to Fletcher Force. 

This Force, named after its commander, Brigadier Fletcher, consisted of 
Skinner’s Horse, 51st (Middle East) Commando, “B” Company of the 3rd 
Sikhs and detachments of artillery, engineers and the machine-gun company 
of the Sudan Defence Force. The intention was to seize the Falaga Pass 
in the hope that the enemy would be led to expect a full-scale attempt to 
turn the Amba Alagi defences on this flank. So far the force had met 
with no opposition except for shelling directed from enemy observation 
posts on Tongue, an eleven-thousand-foot peak which dominated the whole 
area and formed the hub of the Italian defences covering the Falaga Pass. The 
first stage was the capture by the Commandos, of Commando Hill unaided on 
the night of 30th April. and ‘““B” Company were called forward to strengthen 
the position next day. The view at the top of this perpendicular climb was 
anything but rewarding: fifteen hundred yards away enemy pack guns on 
Tongue looked down over open sights, and the slopes in the middle distance 
were occupied by very alert Italian machine gunners. An enemy counter- 
attack was not long in developing a few hours later, but was beaten off with 
small-arms fire by Jemadar Shandi Gul’s platoon. The enemy, however, was 
well placed to control Commando Hill by fire from Tongue, and “B” Company 
were forced to withdraw their forward posts some distance next morning, after 
having had four men killed and two wounded during twenty-four hours of steady 
shelling and mortaring. 

Fletcher Force had at all costs to maintain continuous pressure on the 
enemy, for the main attack on Amba Alagi was now impending. Brigadier 
Fletcher therefore decided that the Commandos should attempt the capture 
of the Falaga Pass itself that night (3rd/4th May). There were risks, but recent 
heavy desertions among the enemy’s Colonial troops held out hope that the 
defenders would be weak both in numbers and morale. 

“B” Company was to “secure Tongue” in order to protect the Com- 
mandos’ right flank and rear, but as the north face of Tongue was a vertical 
cliff which even Pathans would have found unscalable the Company only 
had to push forward on to a spur running up to Tongue. 

252 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Battle of Amba Alagi 

But there was no weakness in the enemy. “B” Company were subjected 
to intense mortaring and the position became untenable. An immediate with- 
drawal was ordered that night. But meanwhile the enemy, in the hope of cutting 
off the Commandos’ retreat, were pressing forward towards Commando Hill 
from the direction of Tongue. This was precisely the danger which had been 
foreseen when “B” Company had been ordered to “secure Tongue.” Major 
Mcleod could only spare Havildar Mir Hassan’s platoon to hold up the enemy 
thrust; but this platoon, heavily outnumbered and outflanked, held off the 
enemy ina night-long battle till the Commandos had reached safety. 

In the darkness no man could see what his neighbour did, but all did 
their duty. One sepoy who was killed was found next morning with six enemy 
dead in front of him. Havildar Mir Hassan, though shot through the arm early 
in the action, continued to command his men with skill and coolness. The final 
withdrawal, over five hundred yards of open ground, was carried out in perfect 
order. The platoon had lost two men killed and seven wounded, a third of 
their strength; but the threat of much greater loss had been averted. 

For this action Havildar Mir Hassan, a typical Pathan, was given the 
I.D.S.M., which was his second award for gallantry within six weeks. 

Fletcher Force’s activities were being successful in diverting some of the 
enemy’s strength to his right flank, so it was decided to maintain pressure on the 
Falaga Pass in order to keep the enemy divided during the main attack which 
had now been begun by the 29th Brigade on Amba Alagi, over the hills from 
the north-west. The remainder of the 3rd Sikhs was therefore ordered to rein- 
force “B” Company under Brigadier Fletcher’s command. “D” Company 
could not be spared from Decamere, but Battalion Headquarters and “A,” 
“C” and H.Q. Companies had arrived in the Falaga Pass area by the morning 
of 6th May, and that day was spent in redeploying the units there. Battalion 
Headquarters and “C” Company relieved two squadrons of Skinner’s Horse 
on Wireless Hill; “A”? Company took over Furze Hill, an advanced position 
which the cavalry had occupied without opposition the previous day; “B” 
Company was relieved on Commando Hill and brought into reserve at the 
bottom of Wireless Hill. 

The morning of the 8th was devoted by each side to harassing the other. 
British gunners, prevented by the nature of the ground from engaging the 
enemy on Tongue, also gave their undivided attention to Rump, a further 
small hillock covering the pass. By two o’clock that afternoon the Italians there 
had had enough. In fact, the pass itself was ripe to fall, and plans were made 
to attack it that night. After dark there was to be a combined assault on Pack 
Battery Ridge, key to the pass, by the 3rd Sikhs and the Commandos, who were 
already in an advanced position, then, at dawn on the following morning, the 
3rd Sikhs would attack Tongue from the south-west, the only direction from 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Battle of Amba Alagi 253 

which it could be climbed. “A” Company was to remain, as a firm base, in its 
present positions. 

By now the weather had broken, and when the advance began, at half 
past seven that night, an icy wind was driving rain into the men’s faces. By 
midnight the 3rd Sikhs and Commandos had occupied Pack Battery Ridge 
without opposition. The rain persisted until just before dawn and the Italians 
must have spent the night under shelter, on the assumption that nobody would 
be foolhardy enough to attack them in such weather. As dawn broke the 
Battalion were amazed to see a party of enemy calmly making coffee only 
two hundred yards away; these Italians surrendered without a murmur, only 
requesting that they might first be allowed to finish their coffee. Since they 
were surrounded by “C” Company and the Commandos, this was allowed, 
and shortly afterwards Colonel Dean and his Headquarters were approached 
with the offer of a warm drink. One hundred and twenty Italians then sur- 
rendered. Meanwhile “B” Company were climbing Tongue from the enemy’s 
rear. On all sides the Italians were emerging from their dug-outs to sun them- 
selves after the night’s rain; “B’’ Company’s advance seemed to cause no surprise 
and the Italians may have mistaken them for their own troops moving forward 
from what they still believed to be their own back areas; by the time that they 
discovered their mistake it was too late, for the Pathans had quietly occupied 
Tongue and taken prisoner all its defenders. Tongue had been completely taken 
over—it would be misleading to speak of its capture—by nine o'clock that 
morning (9th May). A slight delay had been caused through the courtesy of 
the Orakzai Platoon, who had found an Italian officer in bed and had waited 
for him to dress, pack his suitcase and have it loaded on to a mule, before march- 
ing him and his mule away. 

The capture of the pass was followed by a period of reconnaissances, 
during which parties of Italians surrendered and much valuable material was 
captured. But the Battalion had now been in action, with only three companies, 
for six days; they were due for a rest, and on the afternoon of the 10th they 
were relieved by a company of the 3rd Battalion Royal Garhwal Rifles. 

The Italians held out for another week, but the net was being drawn 
ever more tightly round Amba Alagi. To the north, units of the Sth Indian 
Division were still battering at the front gate of the Italian citadel. To the south, 
Pienaar’s South African Brigade and a large force of Abyssinian patriots 
were now only a few miles from the back gate. To the east, Fletcher Force 
was probing forward from Tongue. The 3rd Sikhs remained in reserve at 
Pack Battery Ridge for the next four days. Two other tasks which fell to the 
Battalion were to establish contact with Genera] Cunningham’s African forces 
and with Abyssinian patriots. The former was done successfully by a platoon of 
Sikhs under Lieutenant Philips, and the patrol, going on foot, was away for 
three days. Liaison with the Abyssinian patriots was less successful; the latter 

254 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Battle of Amba Alagi 

mistook the patrol for Italians, and one Sikh and several patriots were killed 
before the ensuing fight could be stopped. The platoon arrived back on the 13th, 
and “D” Company rejoined from Decamere on the same day. 

The whole Battalion, except for the Mortar Platoon which was in support 
of the Garhwalis, were now given two days’ real rest before being called forward 
again for the final attack. Some V.C.Os. and men took the opportunity to visit 
the artillery gun positions; they were allowed to fire the guns and claimed to 
have blown up an enemy ammunition dump on Amba Alagi. This proved to 
be the 3rd Sikhs’ parting shot in the battle, for although they were warned on 
the 16th to move forward again next day, the Italians were already asking 
for terms of surrender and an armistice was arranged. The negotiations were 
carried out by Colonel Russell, and a slight delay in final surrender was caused 
by patriots murdering the Italian envoys just below their own positions, but 
all hostilities ceased on the 17th. 

The enemy formally surrendered the next day. They were allowed “the 
honours of war” and marched out under arms. It was an interesting spectacle, 
and 10 per cent. of each unit were allowed to watch, while the remainder took 
over the Amba Alagi positions and kept off the patriots, who did not understand 
armistices. The Italians came marching down the road, to the tune “Flowers 
of the Forest” played by South African pipers, past General Mayne, who took 
the salute. Farther down the route were drawn up guards of honour from 
each unit which had been engaged, including one, of a J.C.O. and twenty-five 
mixed other ranks, from the 3rd Sikhs. Finally the Jong column entered the 
prisoner-of-war cage where the Pathans of “B” Company took over their arms. 
The whole Italian General Staff, and the Duke of Aosta himself, were among 
the prisoners. A few isolated pockets of enemy resistance remained, but the 
fall of Amba Alagi had virtually ended the East African campaign. The 
3rd Sikhs were specially thanked by the Divisional Commander for the part 
they had played in the battle; their total casualties had been six killed and 
thirty-four wounded, and they had captured 250 prisoners, thirty or forty 
machine guns and seven pack guns. 

The 5th Indian Division now returned to Asmara. On 20th May Colonel 
Dean and a small escort took five enemy generals up to Adi Ugri. The Duke 
of Aosta, escorted by General Platt, was in the same party, and his portable 
tadiogramophone remained in the 3rd Sikhs mess for years afterwards as a 
souvenir. By 27th May the whole Battalion, except for “A” Company, had 
concentrated in their former barracks at Asmara for five weeks of guards and 
duties, training and administration, while arrangements were being made to 
move the Division by sea to Egypt and the Western Desert. 

On 27th June 1941, the move to the port of Massawa began, and on 
4th July the Battalion moved down to the port and embarked on the Dutch 
ship Dempo. The sudden change from Asmara’s temperate climate to the hot- 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs Move to Egypt, June 1941 255 

house atmosphere of Massawa in July brought several men down with heat 

stroke during embarkation, and it was a relief when the ship put out to sea on 
6th July. 

Egypt, Iraq and Cyprus: July 1941 to April 1942 

The 3rd Sikhs disembarked at Suez on 10th July 1941 five days after 
General Auchinleck had taken over command in the Middle East from General 
Wavell. As has been remarked in the last chapter, the Allied situation in the 
Near East had deteriorated, and the reader should be reminded here for a 
moment of the position of the forces before continuing with the story of the 
3rd Sikhs. The capture by the enemy of Greece in April, and Crete in May, 
had given German air power bases from which to challenge British naval 
supremacy in the Mediterranean. In June Germany had invaded Russia and 
her armies were now rapidly advancing in a direction which would bring them 
ultimately to the Caucasus, northern gateway to the Middle East. German air 
and land forces under General Rommel had come to the assistance of the 
Italians in North Africa and had recently rolled back General Wavell’s army 
from Benghazi to the Egyptian frontier. Malta and Cyprus were threatened 
with the fate of Crete, and the whole of the Middle East was in a state of 
ferment which had already resulted in Rashid Ali’s attempt at a pro-German 
revolution in Iraq* and the outbreak of hostilities between the British and 
the Vichy French in Syria. With so many commitments, the inadequate strength 
of the British Commonwealth in the Middle East had to be continually 
regrouped so that none should be wasted. We shall see in this chapter how 
this affected the 3rd Sikhs. 

From Suezt the Battalion moved at once by train to Tahag and they re- 
mained there, first in Camp 36 Tahag, and later in Camp 24 Qassassin, for a 
month. Tahag and Qassassin, lying in the desert between Cairo and the Suez 
Canal, were adjoining areas in which huge tented camps had sprung up to accom- 
modate units and formations in transit to,from or within the Middle East theatre. 
They were a temporary resting-place, a training area and a base for re- 
equipment, and they now served the 3rd Sikhs and the 5th Indian Division in 
all these capacities. As soon as the men had provided themselves with slit 
trenches and settled into their tents. which were “dug-down” and pitched in 
irregular patterns fifty yards apart as a precaution against air attack, training 
in Desert Warfare began. There was much to learn about this specialized 

* See Chapter XXI, Story of the 5th Battalion (Guides) in the Second World War. 

+ The disembarkation at Suez was the first occasion on which the Dogras indulged in 
promiscuous tea drinking. The other classes had already overcome their scruples in this 
respect and on the voyage all J.C.Os. except the Dogras had taken afternoon tea prepared 
by the ship’s cooks. It took the dust and heat of Suez, coupled with the fatigue of 
man-handling baggage from ship to train by lighter and lorry, to persuade the Dogras 
that N.A.A.F.I. tea prepared by Egyptians was better than no tea at all. 

256 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in Egypt, August 194] 

subject. Colonel Dean and Major Macleod went off to the Western Desert to 
study the methods of the 4th Indian Division, already desert veterans. The 
rest of the Battalion concentrated on learning how to use the sun-compass 
for land navigation, how to manceuvre at night in the featureless sand, and how 
to move by day in the broad-flung vehicle formations of desert warfare. Equip- 
ment was drawn from the great base at Tel-el-Kebir, but supplies were still 
very short and the Battalion had not yet been fully equipped. 

In August the 5th Indian Division moved westwards to build the reserve 
defensive positions which later became famous as the Alamein Line, but the 
3rd Sikhs were not left for long on this duty. At three o’clock in the morning 
on 22nd August, urgent orders arrived for the Battalion to move at once to 
Burg-el-Arab, sixty miles away on the Mediterranean coast. The move began 
four hours later and had been completed before midnight that night. 

At Burg-el-Arab the reason for this sudden call at once became apparent. 
The Division, less the 29th Brigade, was concentrating there in preparation 
for an imminent move by road to Iraq, where they would be available as a 
reserve while the Russians and the British took joint action against pro-German 
elements in Persia. 

The journey commenced on 27th August and took thirteen days to complete. 
It was thirteen hundred miles. After staging at Mena the first night, their next 
halting-place was on the east bank of the Canal near Ferry Post. The 3rd Sikhs 
had occupied defences in this area during the First World War,* and Colonel 
Dean was able to point out on the journey places where the Battalion had 
campaigned and fought, both there and in Palestine in 1914-18. After crossing 
the desert by the pipe-line route through Rutba Wells there was a full day’s 
halt at Habbaniyah for vehicle maintenance and a much-needed oppor- 
tunity for bathing and washing clothes in the lake, and finally on again through 
Baghdad to the Kirkuk oil-fields, their destination. The long line of vehicles 
came in at a steady speed of twenty miles in the hour, evenly spaced at hundred 
yard intervals, as had been the order since the first day of the move. Road 
discipline had become excellent and there had been no accidents. 

But the reason for the Division’s journey had already been removed, before 
their arrival, by the installation of a new Shah and the conclusion of a treaty 
with Persia which insured the safety of the oil-fields and the southern supply 
route to Russia. The Battalion therefore settled into their camp near the oil- 
fields of Kirkuk for three weeks’ rest before retracing their steps back to Egypt. 
The camp area was barren desert, but the Little Zab river was only eighteen 
miles away and this provided bathing for all, and fishing for the Colonel, who 
landed a forty-one-poundt Tigris salmon from its waters. One of the units in 

 * See Chapter VI. 
+ An indignant note by Colonel Dean to the compiler avers that it was 42 lb. 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs in Middle East and Cyprus, 1941 257 

the area was the Ist Sikhs, with whom the 3rd Sikhs now had a cordial Regi- 
mental reunion. Captain Tasker’s company was stationed in Kirkuk itself and 
had prepared tea for the whole Battalion on the day of their arrival; but their 
Battalion Headquarters was only at Mosul, not too far away for an exchange 
of visits. 

The return journey to Egypt began on 27th September and was more 
leisurely. At Habbaniyah en route orders were received that the 9th Brigade’s 
destination in Egypt was to be the Combined Operations Training School at 
Kabrit, where they arrived on 14th October. 

Plans were now being made for General Auchinleck’s November offensive, 
which was to relieve Tobruk and drive the enemy back to Benghazi again. It 
was reasonably supposed that the 9th Brigade was training for a landing in 
rear of the retreating Afrika Korps, or for some diversionary assault elsewhere. 
But no. They were indeed to cross the sea, but only to land in the peaceful 
harbour of Famagusta in Cyprus. 

So on Ist November the Battalion was on the road again, this time by rail 
to Kantara and on to Haifa, arriving on the afternoon of 3rd November. Here 
battledress was issued. The men had never before worn anything like it and 
their problems were increased by the non-availability of braces, with the result 
that many of them presented anything but a military appearance next day as 
they filed on board the destroyers Jupiter, Jaguar and Jackal, which took them 
over to Cyprus. 

The 3rd Sikhs stayed in Cyprus throughout the winter of 1941 and thus took 
no part in the newly named Eighth Army’s advance westwards to Benghazi and 
subsequent rather helter-skelter retreat to the Gazala Line in January. Cyprus 
remained only a potential battlefield, and the Adjutant’s War Diary records 
little more interesting than officer postings. These, however, were of unusual 
importance, for they show that the Battalion during this period lost four battle- 
experienced regular officers, including two Company Commanders and an 
Adjutant who had held their appointments continuously for at least two years. 
Captain King-Martin was the first to go, to become Training Adjutant of the 
Regimental Centre at Sialkot. He was soon followed to India by Captain Heard, 
bound for the Quetta Staff College, and Major Macleod* and Lieutenant 
Scott, both of whom were to join the newly raised Machine-gun Battalion of the 
Regiment.t Captain Raw became the new commander of “D” Company, 
Lieutenant Philips took over as Adjutant, and “B” Company was given to Cap- 

*In 1944-45, as a Lieutenant-Colonel, the Commander of the 4th Battalion in its 
magnificent campaign in the reconquest of Burma. 

+ Twenty-five of the Battalion’s machine-gunners went with them to the Machine-guno 
Battalion. Since Kabrit the Machine-gun Platoon, under Lieutenant Stewart, had left the 
Battalion to form part of the new Brigade Machine-gun Company. 


258 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in Cyprus, 1941-42 

tain Finch, who had recently joined from the Ist Sikhs. The Carrier Platoon 
was taken over by Lieutenant Baird, and the overall strength of officers was 
made up by the arrival of Lieutenants Brouche and Oakes, E.C.Os. from Sial- 
kot, and Lieutenant Finnis who had been with the 6th Battalion since the 3rd 
Sikhs had been overseas. Among the J.C.Os. and men there was no comparable 
turn-over, but the Quartermaster lost his right-hand man, Subadar Prem Singh, 
who returned to India to become a Commissioned Officer. 

Tactically, the Battalion shared with the Mahrattas responsibility for the 
defence of Limassol from invasion by sea or air landing, and of this and normal 
training there is little to record.* 

The winter was cold, with frost, snow, rain and gales, but the hospitality of 
the people of Cyprus was warm enough and this extended to all ranks. The 
local Muslim communities of Mallia took the initiative by entertaining the 
Subadar-Major and a party of Mussulman other ranks just before Christmas. 
Later the Sikhs and Dogras were entertained in the same way by the Christian 
villagers. Some of the men learnt sufficient Greek to be able to maintain a corrte- 
spondence with friends in Cyprus long after the Battalion had left the island. 

With the spring came orders for the Sth Division to move from Cyprus as 
reinforcements for the Eighth Army in the North African desert. The 3rd Sikhs 
left Limassol on 18th March, after handing over to the 4th Rajputs, and on Ist 
April moved to Famagusta for embarkation on H.M.S. Antwerp and ss. 
Princess Marguerite. The ships sailed the following day and by the evening of 
3rd April the Battalion was back again under canvas in Qassassin. 

The Western Desert and After, April 1942-April 1943 

During the year that the 3rd Sikhs and the Sth Indian Division had been 
in Iraq and Cyprus, much had happened in the Western Desert and elsewhere. 
The low ebb to which Allied fortunes had sunk in May 1941 had improved 
but little, albeit the entry of Russia into the war in June 1941 had been 
followed in December by Pear] Harbour and the joining of the Central Powers 
by Japan, and the Allies by the U.S.A. While the immense strength of the latter 
was being developed, the tale of enemy successes had continued almost every- 
where—Russia had been driven back to the gates of Leningrad, Moscow and the 
Caucasus, and the Japanese had overrun Malaya, Burma, and the Dutch East 
Indies. Only in the Western Desert had the gloomy outlook been relieved by a 
degree of Allied success. 

Here General Auchinleck’s “Crusader” offensive in November 1941, had 
driven back Rommel’s Afrika Korps, relieved Tobruk after its gallant defence 

; * The Garrison, though composed only of two brigades of the 5th Indian Division, 
was known as the 25th Corps, for the benefit of a prospective invader. 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs join the battle in the Western Desert, April 1942 259 

and re-taken Benghazi. This feat, accomplished with inferior tank equipment 
and hardly adequate air support, had been largely due to the prowess of the 4th 
Indian Division,* but the success was short-lived. General Auchinleck’s forces, 
depleted by the demands of the Far East to stem the Japanese tidet now 
threatening Australia itself, had been counter-attacked by Rommel’s Afrika 
Korps in strength. While the true nature of the menace had yet to be appreciated, 
heavy fighting had been followed by a withdrawal (once more) from Benghazi. 

By April 1942 the battle had been temporarily stabilized on the Gazala 
Line while each side was hurriedly preparing to renew the offensive. It was as 
part of these preparations that the 5th Indian Division was being brought in to 
relieve the 4th Indian Division, but the former required time to train and equip 
themselves before moving into the battle area. The 3rd Sikhs left Qassassin on 
13th April and moved westwards to Halfaya Pass, just south of Sollum, where 
they remained for a month. The pass was a hundred miles behind the firing line, 
but was a very suitable place in which to become acclimatized to desert life. 
Nothing grew on the red cliffs of the Sollum escarpment or in the surrounding 
sand. Dust storms were frequent. Water was rationed to three-quarters of a gal- 
lon per man per day for all purposes. The tide of battle, passing and repassing 
over the area, had left the few buildings verminous and the whole locality strewn 
with booby-traps which caused seven or eight casualties in the Battalion. H.R.H. 
The Duke of Gloucester visited the Battalion here soon after their arrival, and 
the officers were presented to him; but for the most part they were left to them- 
selves, to train. A new Anti-tank Platoon was raised under Captain Finnis, and 
crews were trained for its eight two-pounder anti-tank guns. By 13th May the 
Battalion was ready to move to a special training area nearby for practice in co- 
operation with armour, but this was cut short next day by orders recalling them 
to Halfaya and putting them at six hours’ notice to move up to the battle area. 
The move took place on the night of the 16th: the long column of vehicles 
moved westwards without lights along the narrow strip of tarmac throughout 
the night and arrived early in the morning at the El Adem Box, some twelve 
miles south of Tobruk as the crow flies. 

The box. in which the 3rd Sikhs now at once relieved the 2nd Battalion of 
the Rifle Brigade, was a reserve position behind the main Gazala-Bir Hakeim 
line. It consisted of an extensive area of desert. protected on all four sides by 
barbed wire and mines against infantry and tank attack, and its garrison com- 
prised the Battalion, anti-tank. anti-aircraft and field artillery, amounting in 
all to about fifty guns, and a large number of service and supply troops, all under 
command of Colonel Dean. There were signs during the next ten days that the 
lull in the fighting was nearly at an end; the box was visited by General Ritchie, 
Commanding the Eighth Army, and General Gott, Commanding 13th Corps, 

+ Chapter 8, Fourth Indian Division, Stevens. 
+ See Chapter XIX, narrative of 2nd Battalion. 

260 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Western Desert, June 1942 

and by General Briggs, the new Divisional Commander, while the enemy’s 
aircraft became increasingly active over the area. Then, on the morning of 27th 
May, the box stood-to on a report of enemy land forces pushing round to the 
south of them. This report proved true the same evening by the appearance of a 
German armoured formation to the south, which opened ineffective fire on the 
box at a range of 1,200 yards. The British 4th Armoured Brigade came down 
from the north to engage the Germans, and the garrison had a good view of the 
tank battle as it moved over the desert like a great “dust devil.” The enemy 
disappeared and were not seen again during the further two days that the 3rd 
Sikhs remained in the box. On the 30th, the Brigade having been relieved by 
the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade, the Battalion moved into Tobruk and took 
over a sector on the south-east of the defensive perimeter.* 

Back in Tobruk it soon became evident from B.B.C. broadcasts that the 
German tanks seen by the Battalion on the 27th had been part of a new major 
offensive by the enemy, but at this time information from military sources was 
scarce. The British 50th Division was said to be in difficulties at Gazala, with 
one brigade being supplied by air. Then, on 2nd June, came more optimistic 
reports: the German armour was said to have been caught in the Knightsbridge 
“Cauldron,” on the east of the Gazala mine marsh, without oil, petrol, water or 
rations. They were to be “liquidated,” and this was to be done by the Sth Indian 
Division. The Colonel and Anti-tank Platoon Commander went forward to 
point 169 on the 3rd to reconnoitre the forming-up area for the attack, and the 
Battalion moved there next day. Operation orders were given out that night 
for an initial attack by the 10th Brigade with artillery support in the early hours 
of the following morning, and for the 9th Brigade to attack past the right of 
the position to be taken by the 10th Brigade. Each battalion had been 
strengthened into a battalion group by the addition of anti-tank and field 
artillery and an Engineer detachment, and each was supported by tanks of the 
8th Royal Tank Regiment. 

The 10th Brigade’s attack had already begun by the time that the Battalion, 
having left ““B’’ Echelon at point 169, moved on to their start line and formed 
up in four columns in their lorries. They were due to advance at 5.45 a.m.; 
but by that time the Divisional plan of attack had already gone so far wrong 
that they were ordered to remain where they were. During the morning the 
Anti-tank and Carrier Platoons were taken away for the protection of Divisional 
Headquarters, the remainder of the Battalion being left in position without 
further orders or information. Then at noon a warning came through to expect 
a possible attack by enemy tanks from the south, as a result of which Colonel 
Dean was ordered to move his men to a more defensible position two miles to 

* This was in fact the sector pierced by the Germans three weeks later after the 
Battalion had left, when they captured Tobruk by assault. 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Western Desert, June 1942 261 

the south, where they dug-in near point 615 on the Bir Hakeim track. A bat- 
talion of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry from the 10th Indian Division 
was already in position half a mile farther south. Shortly after this the Colonel 
handed the Battalion over to Captain Finch and left in his staff-car to find the 
Brigadier, to whom he had orders to report personally. Soon after his departure 
the Battalion positions were attacked by German dive-bombers, and at four 
o’clock these were followed up by enemy land forces approaching from the 
south. A great cloud of dust was seen to engulf the D.C.L.I.’s positions and 
some shells from that direction began to fall in the 3rd Sikh’s defences. Then 
a single Bren-gun carrier from the D.C.L.I. arrived in the Battalion’s positions. 
The driver reported that his battalion had been completely overrun by German 
tanks, and then disappeared in the direction of Tobruk, leaving Captain Finch 
trying to decide whether to believe this, in the absence of any other information. 

The Colonel had spent all this time searching for the Brigadier, who was 
not with his headquarters, and it was only after he had eventually found him 
that he received some sort of information about the general battle situation. 
The 10th Brigade’s attack in the early morning had at first been successful, but 
our armour had later fallen into an anti-tank trap and disaster had followed. 
What had happened was that the tanks covering the 9th Brigade’s attack had 
run into very heavy fire from well-dug-in anti-tank guns which had inflicted 
heavy losses and forced them to pull out to the north-east. The infantry, left 
without armoured protection, had then been counter-attacked in the open by the 
far from immobile enemy tanks, and the 10th Brigade, the West Yorks and the 
3/9th Jats (who had replaced the Mahrattas in the 9th Brigade) had been over- 
run. It was now intended to form a new brigade from the remnants of the 9th 
and 10th Brigades, and Colonel Dean was therefore ordered to retire with the 
3rd Sikhs to that morning’s concentration area. The Battalion’s Anti-tank 
Platoon would be collected by a liaison officer and sent to join them. 

This serious news was meanwhile being borne out by actual events at point 
615. Captain Finch had tried to get through to both Brigade and Divisional 
Headquarters by wireless, only to be told by the signallers that both were on the 
move and were closing down until next morning. A stream of vehicles from 
many different units was also visible in the surrounding desert, all moving 
eastwards at top speed, and the enemy armour was still sending over shells at 
long range. Captain Finch had therefore decided before Colonel Dean's return 
to withdraw to the previous night’s harbour area, and the Battalion had already 
moved back two miles by the time that the Colonel rejoined them. He was sur- 
prised to find them withdrawing before armour which Brigade Headquarters 
had just identified as friendly, but these same tanks now opened fire again, 
causing some casualties in “‘D” Company and demonstrating that they were in 
fact anything but friendly. Colonel Dean resumed command and the withdrawal 
continued, at a steady four miles per hour. so that discipline and control could 

262 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Western Desert, June 1942 

be properly maintained, until that morning’s concentration area was reached 
just as the sun was setting. 

According to the Brigadier’s orders, the Battalion should have halted here 
to form the new brigade, but this did not prove feasible. There was in fact a 
large concentration there already of soft-skinned “B” Echelon vehicles when 
the 3rd Sikhs arrived, and these were quickly put to flight by 75-mm. shells fired 
by the enemy armour out of the setting sun, so that the Battalion was soon left 
alone except for the stream of vehicles still retreating from the west, the drivers 
shouting that the Germans had broken through. The enemy shelling continued, 
and then infantry appeared in the west, moving towards the Battalion. These 
were identified, fortunately before fire was opened on them, as fifty men of the 
West Yorks who had lost their troop-carrying vehicles in the general confusion. 
The 3rd Sikhs therefore waited for them and put them on to their own vehicles. 
At the same time two of the Battalion’s anti-tank guns rejoined and a troop of 
Bofors light anti-aircraft guns arrived and put themselves under command of 
Colonel Dean, who placed them on his flanks and ordered them to engage the 
enemy armour. Their fire was not very effective as the enemy was practically 
invisible in the setting sun, and they continued to advance. Some armoured cars 
which had passed through had told Colonel Dean that the main enemy armour 
was moving east along the Trig Capuzzo (the coast road through Bardia), and 
the situation on which Colonel Dean had to make his decision was as follows 
in his own words: 

“The Battalion, mounted in its vehicles, was the only forward body of 
troops in the area. Complete darkness was about thirty minutes away. A few 
enemy tanks were coming toward us, firing, but were only to be seen when they 
fired; because they were moving in the dust with sunset after-glow behind them. 

“The Battalion was in line of company columns with fifty yards interval and 
fifty yards distance between vehicles. Thus they were vulnerable to shell fire; 
but, to let them open out under those conditions, was to lose effective control. 
Moreover, once that was lost, with darkness coming on, it could not have been 

“T therefore decided to keep them as they were—moving very slowly back, 
with the anti-aircraft Bofors firing from one flank (portée) and our two anti- 
tank two-pounders from the other. This was not in the hope of doing much 
damage, but to keep the men’s spirits up so that they could see that we were 
hitting back. After a mile or so like this, it became quite dark, and as expected 
the enemy armour halted. 

“It was then that I received a report that the Brigade wireless truck (manned 
by Brigade signallers and carrying our radio link with Brigade Headquarters) 
had disappeared. 

“My previous orders to rendezvous at point 169 had been cancelled by 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Western Desert, June 1942 263 

events—the enemy were there now! I could get no fresh orders or information 
by radio in the absence of the Brigade wireless truck. 

“There had obviously been a serious débacle in front. Most of the major 
units engaged had been overrun or had had serious casualties; and most of the 
rest—‘soft-skinned stuff,’ the Division and Brigade Headquarters, etc.—now 
seemed to be running a ‘Desert Derby’ eastwards. 

“The fighting part of the Battalion was almost complete, though the carrier 
platoon and six anti-tank two-pounder guns were still away under Brigade com- 
mand. It seemed that we should be needed somewhere in the morning, so I 
decided to take the whole lot back and report to the El Adem Box, where 
29th Brigade should still be holding a ‘firm base.’ ” 

The convoy, which by this time had grown to about 200 vehicles, moved 
off with the Bofors Troop Commander, who knew the ground, navigating. All 
the vehicles were heavily overloaded and there were numerous break-downs, 
but these were either taken in tow or their loads transferred to other vehicles, 
and at last the whole convoy reached the El Adem Box, coming up the Gubi 
Track, at half-past two in the morning of the 6th June. 

The Eighth Army was now being hastily regrouped in an attempt to hold 
the already highly successful German thrust. On arrival in the El Adem Box 
Colonel Dean reported to Brigadier Reid, commanding the 29th Brigade, and 
was ordered to take over Box 650, a defended locality five miles away to the 
north-west. This box was about a thousand yards square in area, and although 
it was surrounded by open ground it was not a good natural position because, 
firstly, it was overlooked by higher ground to the south and, secondly, the 
ground was so rocky that slit-trenches for the men and emplacements for the 
guns were mere scratches in the ground, improved only by low walls of stones. 
The perimeter was wired and protected by a thin line of the unsatisfactory, 
Egyptian-made anti-tank mines. The 3rd Sikhs relieved a company of the 3rd 
Battalion 2nd Punjab Regiment here early on the morning of the 6th and 
took up battle positions on the perimeter. A troop of the 8th Regiment of Field 
Artillery, two troops of light anti-aircraft guns and one troop—all that remained 
—of the 95th Anti-tank Regiment were already in the box and came under 
command. “B” Echelon, which had been forced by the enemy tanks to with- 
draw from point 169 to El Adem during the night, was now located four miles 
to the east of the box, on the edge of the El Adem landing ground. 

For the next four days the battle in the El Adem area remained fairly 
stable. All ranks were tired—the Colonel had had very little sleep during the 
past two weeks—but morale was good, largely as a result of the steady manner 
in which the trying withdrawal from the Cauldron had been conducted. There 
were some casualties from enemy air attack on the box, but the Bofors claimed 
to have shot down five German planes, and these raids did not seriously interfere 
with the work of improving the defences and laying in an adequate supply of 

264 3rd Royal Sikhs and the El Adem Box, 14th June 1942 

ammunition, water and rations. There were reports of the German 90th Light 
Division manceuvring in the desert to the south, and some distant tank battles 
were seen from the box, but for the present there was no direct attack by enemy 
land forces. On the 10th the Colonel wrote in a letter: “I think . . . that the 
Battalion and I are being specially looked after by Providence.” But at that 
time he was unaware of the real gravity of the general situation, which was 
to unfold itself during the next four days. 

The El Adem Box 

The first indication of direct enemy ground action came on the evening 
of 11th June with the information that a German armoured column was ad- 
vancing from the south-west to attack E] Adem. The Battalion stood-to, but 
nothing happened until next day. Then on the 12th, Lieutenant Broucke, the 
Liaison Officer, arrived in a great hurry in “B” Echelon to tell them to move. 
Indeed, shells were already dropping in the area before Major Moss could put 
these orders into effect. “B” Echelon moved back that day to kilo 70 on the 
Tobruk-Bardia road and halted there for the present with the rest of the 29th 
Brigade’s “B” Echelons. Enemy armour now appeared in force, but their objec- 
tive seemed to be El Adem and they paid little attention to Box 650, although 
they had almost surrounded it and leaguered near by for the night. Fighting 
patrols from the box went out to attack the enemy leaguers during the night 
and had the satisfaction of causing considerable confusion. Next day, the 13th, 
the enemy withdrew and appeared to be successfully engaged by British armour 
while doing so. Carrier patrols sent out from the Battalion reported no sign 
of the enemy, and the general impression that all was going well was reinforced 
by the Division and Brigade Commanders, who visited Box 650 later in the day. 
The 14th was comparatively uneventful. Three days’ rations, sent up by “B” 
Echelon, got through to the box; and a carrier patrol sent out under Lieutenant 
Baird took prisoner three German officers in a jeep, who were found to have 
Arab clothing with them. But the Brigadier visited the box again that morning 
and the Colonel now knew, although he was not allowed to pass it on to anyone, 
how serious the general situation had become. 

The French had been forced to abandon Bir Hakeim, the British armour 
had suffered severe losses on the previous day, and a general withdrawal to 
the Egyptian frontier, leaving Tobruk held, was now contemplated. It was not 
yet realized, however, that the actual situation had already deteriorated beyond 
the point at which the enemy could be either halted or evaded ‘according to 

During the night of the 14th, while the South African Division was 
streaming back past Box 650 from the Gazala Line, Colonel Dean was sum- 
moned to Brigade Headquarters in the El Adem Box and told the plan for a 

3rd Royal Sikhs and the El Adem Box, 14th June 1942 265 

3rd Royal Bottalion 942-43 




fale of Milge 


general withdrawal next day. He returned to the Battalion at three o’clock 
on the morning of the 15th and gave out his orders. “B” and “C’? Companies 
with part of the Battalion Group were to move straight back to a new defensive 
line at Halfaya, while “A” and “D” Companies with the remainder of the 
Battalion Group were to be formed into a mobile “Jock Column,” under his 
command, to operate with other similar columns in delaying the enemy’s 
advance to Halfaya. Tobruk would be left held. Troop-carrying vehicles from 
Brigade would arrive in the box later in the morning and company guides were 
to report to the Jemadar-Adjutant at Battalion Headquarters by eight o’clock 
to take the transport to their company areas. Dawn broke while preparations 
were being made. Elements of the Knightsbridge garrison were now passing 
through the box from the west, and not long afterwards German tanks and 
motor transport were seen moving past the box to the south. 

The morning wore on and there was still no sign of the troop-carrying 
vehicles from Brigade. The enemy had now halted in the desert south of the 
box, and at about eleven o’clock Colonel Dean ordered his artillery to engage 
them. This drew enemy artillery and tank fire down on to the box and the 
enemy armour advanced to reconnoitre. German dive-bombers then attacked 
the defences, throwing up great clouds of dust inside the box. Outside, the 
enemy tanks continued to circle round the perimeter, but were unsuccessful 

266 The German Attack on the El Adem Box, 15th June 1942 

in locating the Battalion’s anti-tank guns, which had been ordered to hold their 
fire until an actual attack was made. All this occupied several hours and it 
was obvious to those in the box that the troop-carrying vehicles could not now 
arrive. In fact great difficulty and delay had been experienced in collecting 
the transport at “B” Echelon, and by two o’clock in the afternoon, when it 
did move forward under the Staff Captain, the enemy were already astride its 
line of advance and it got no farther than Sidi Rezegh. In the box, meanwhile, 
the Colonel was trying to get fresh orders from Brigade by wireless. 

At four o’clock in the afternoon, after a preliminary bombardment by eight 
German batteries which had lasted for three hours, the enemy made their first 
attack. Tanks and infantry advanced from the south against the sector of the 
perimeter occupied by “A” Company, while covering fire was poured into the 
defences from the direction of the El Adem landing ground. The box’s anti- 
tanks guns now came into action for the first time and the attack was repulsed 
with the loss of some tanks to the enemy. Other enemy tanks, however, had 
remained “hull-down” during the action, noting the positions of the anti-tank 
guns inside the defences, and the enemy shelling had set on fire the few vehicles 
in the box, destroying much of the reserve ammunition. There was a lull after 
this attack, during which the Colonel managed to gain wireless contact with 
Brigade Headquarters and was instructed to remain where he was until further 
orders. Indeed, there was no alternative, as the enemy had by now infiltrated 
round on to “B” Company’s front in strength and cut off the only line of 
retreat. A break-out by night might still be possible, but darkness would not 
come for many hours yet, and it was still full light when the Germans threw 
in their second assault at seven o’clock that evening. 

The new enemy attack was again directed at the southern perimeter of 
the box, held by ‘“‘A” and “D” Companies, and this time they advanced in full 
force, supported by artillery and some thirty Mark III and Mark IV tanks in 
open formation. The box’s anti-tank guns, which had already revealed their 
positions in the first attack, were now silenced one after another and guns on 
other sectors were blinded by the smoke and dust inside the box. The enemy 
armour closed up to the perimeter mine-field on “A” and “D” Companies’ 
fronts and poured heavy machine-gun fire into their positions. There were now 
no weapons with which to drive enemy tanks back and only the mines pre- 
vented them from advancing. The check did not last long. The tanks began 
to infiltrate through the mine-field on the edge of the escarpment in front of 
“D” Company. The mines here may have been old and certainly now proved 
ineffective. The Carrier Platoon, which had been concealed in a near-by nullah, 
made a last attempt to prevent the penetration, but Lieutenant Baird, who led 
their sortie, was killed almost as soon as his carrier moved out of cover, and 
the carrier behind him was also destroyed by armour-piercing shells fired at 
point-blank range. The tanks broke in. Captain Raw, commanding “D” Com- 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs are captured at El Adem, 15th June 1942 267 

pany, seized a Bren gun from one of the carriers and was killed while firing it 
from the hip at the advancing tanks, which now overran his company’s positions. 
One of the enemy tanks then advanced on Battalion Headquarters and the 
Colonel was taken prisoner. “A” and “B” Companies’ defences were next 
covered from the rear by the tanks while their infantry advanced through the 
wire and made prisoners of the defenders in their shallow trenches. In the north 
of the box, “‘C” Company was still holding out and the last remaining twenty- 
five-pounder was still being fought by a wounded gunner, the sole survivor of 
his troop; but after Captain Curtis, the Company Commander, had been killed 
trying to hold back the tanks with “sticky bombs,” resistance here collapsed 
also. The fight was now over. Three officers, one J.C.O., Subadar Mohabat 
Khan, and about twenty-five other ranks of the Battalion had been killed, and 
there were another sixty wounded, to whom Captain Nayar, the Medical Officer, 
was attending. The remainder of the Battalion was collected by companies 
and marched off as prisoners* to a rendezvous some three miles west of the box. 
The Germans were very correct; they expressed admiration for the resistance 
which had been put up, and some of them tried to be friendly. 

“B” Echelon and the Reconstitution of the Battalion 

Major Moss and “B” Echelon knew nothing of the disaster which had 
overtaken the Battalion, and they heard no reliable news of them for another 
six days. “B” Echelon, leaving Captain Smith behind with the 29th Brigade 
Transport Company to administer the “Jock Columns,” had started a further 
two days’ withdrawal during the afternoon of the 15th to Hamra, but they 
were diverted on the 16th to Sofafi East. On the 17th they were ordered back 
to Hamra and moved there that night. At Hamra “B” Echelon found 29th 
Brigade Headquarters and learnt from Brigadier Reid that he had given the 
3rd Sikhs permission to withdraw on the 15th by wireless and he hoped they 
were now safe in Tobruk, although nothing had been heard of them.t The 
retreat continued. On the 19th “B” Echelon found themselves back at Sofafi 

* 3rd Sikhs officers taken prisoner were: Colonel Dean; Captains Finch, Phillips and 
Heath; Lieutenant Marshall; and Captain Broucke (who, as Liaison Officer, had come into 
the box and been unable to get out again). J.C.Os.: Subadars Dina Nath, Bela Singh, 
Rulia Ram, Man Singh and Khan Mir; Jemadars Shandi Gul, Sant Singh, Ghanam Rang, 
Tara Singh, Ali Khan, Bije Singh, Walayat Khan, Pur Dil, Farman Ali, Sardar Singh and 
Sarfaraz Khan. The other ranks numbered about 600. Glenn, driver of the American Field 
Service ambulance, was also taken prisoner—more will be heard of him in Chapter XVII. 

t+ On this Colonel Dean writes as follows: “Since the Brigadier said so, I have no 
doubt whatever that this message was sent; but I am completely definite that the last 
message I received (it was in Urdu) was that there would be no withdrawal until orders 
to that effect were received from higher authority. Another possibility is that the message 
arrived during the final stages of the battle, when any withdrawal had become impossible, 
and was thus ignored as irrelevant to existing conditions. However, I cannot remember 
this having happened.” 

268 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in German hands, June 1942 

East; on the 20th they moved to Bir Abu Sweir, and on the 21st to the Bagush 
Box. It was here that they heard of the fate which had overtaken the Battalion 
in Box 650. The news was announced at a roll-call parade of all ranks that 
evening. The 3rd Sikhs had been reduced to the number of men there present: 
Captain Finnis, Captain Smith, Lieutenant Oakes, Subadar-Major Ali Khan and 
some 120 other ranks, of whom most were administrative personnel. 

Before going on to relate how the nucleus of a new Battalion was formed 
from “B” Echelon and rejoined the 9th Brigade, we must finish the story of 
those who had been taken prisoner in Box 650. The prisoners had been divided 
into officers, J.C.Os. and other ranks on the 16th, and most of them had been 
taken away in lorries the next morning. The following incident then occurred 
and is given in Colonel Dean’s words: 

“During the second night after the fall of Box 650, while we were all still 
in German hands and had not yet been handed over to the Italians, I was 
woken by a German officer who asked me to detail a party of two or three 
J.C.Os. and 100 to 150 men, for whom he said transport had arrived. I did so. 

“T was later told by a Sikh N.C.O. who had been with the party that they 
had been taken to near the El Adem main box, which was to be attacked just 
before dawn. They were told that they were to go with the leading attacking 
troops, and shout in Urdu to the defenders of the box that they were friends 
and not to be fired on. My informant (Havildar Gurbux Singh, commonly 
known as “Gearbox’’) said that the party refused to do this in so vehement a 
manner that the Germans accepted the refusal and did not press the matter. 

“Otherwise, the Germans generally behaved correctly and well. For ex- 
ample: The day after our fight we were collected in the desert (about 12 officers 
and 800 men of various units). The officers were kept about 200 yards from the 
men and allowed no access to them. No food or water (except water for the 
wounded) had been issued, and as the day wore on it was very hot and the men 
became terribly thirsty and obviously restive. They were surging towards every 
vehicle that came near, and the guards had to keep them back by force, but 
behaved with restraint. There was at a distance what appeared to me to be a 
H.Q. of some kind. Fortunately Dick Finch spoke good German, so I asked 
him to call the Feldwebel (guard commander). When he came, I said I wanted 
to be taken to see an officer at the ‘H.Q. over there,’ and told him why. He agreed 
that the water situation was serious, and he and I went over to the H.Q., which 
was a Regimental H.Q. (i.e., Brigade H.Q.) and we saw two staff officers. They 
were polite and correct and gave us a most welcome cold drink; then with Dick 
Finch interpreting, I pointed out the dangerous situation which was arising 
as a result of the men’s thirst. I said that if nothing was done the men, especially 
the Indians, would become frantic and the guards would find themselves obliged 
to fire—which I was sure they would regret as much as we should. 

“The German officers agreed, but pointed out that they had a battle on 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs in German hands, June 1942 269 

their hands (El Adem was being attacked), and they had nothing they could give 
us till their supply columns arrived up that night. These would take our men 
back on their return journey to depots where rations, etc., would be available. 
I told them that while I saw their point, that would be too late. I then told them 
that at Box 650, three or four miles east of us, our water and reserve rations 
were dug in. I said that if they would produce transport I would send Finch 
and some men to bring some of this up. I added that I would give my personal 
word of honour that there would be no ‘funny business.’ They accepted the 
idea, and after some telephoning (the Commander was away) a 10-ton diesel 
truck with trailer arrived. Finch went off with some men, and returned with 
enough water to produce a ration of about a quart per man—with two biscuits 

The prisoners from the 29th Brigade were in due course taken away in 
lorries to the north-west, in the direction of Acroma. In passing Acroma, how- 
ever, they came under artillery and mortar fire from the South African defences 
in the area, which caused great confusion and enabled a large number of the 
prisoners to escape into the South African positions in Tobruk, bringing with 
them their German lorry drivers, who now in turn found themselves prisoners. 
Most of the party, however, were recaptured when Tobruk fell on 20th June, 
though the wounded had been evacuated by sea the previous day. They it was 
who told the tale, a month later in Cairo hospital, of how Box 650 had been 

All that remained of the Battalion in the Bagush Box was now reorganized. 
Captain Smith and the strictly administrative personnel were sent to the rear on 
25th June, and eventually arrived by easy stages in 11 Reinforcement Camp at 
Mena, near Cairo. The rest of the men, some seventy strong, were formed into a 
rifle company under Captain Finnis and Lieutenant Oakes, and came once more 
under command of Major Moss as part of the 3rd Jats. They remained in the 
Bagush Box until the 27th, when the whole of the 9th Brigade Group made a 
further hurried and rather loosely organized withdrawal to Alamein, arriving 
there on the 29th. The remnants of the 9th Brigade Group were now in very 
urgent need of a thorough reorganization and they were withdrawn out of the 
Alamein defences on Ist July to Khatatba. 

The rest of July was devoted to reorganization. Major Moss rejoined from 
the Jats at Khatatba on the 9th to take over command, and Lieutenants Sawhny* 
and Gordon arrived next day from the Reinforcement Camp with 220 other 
ranks. On the 17th the Battalion moved to Mena, where a further forty other- 
rank reinforcements were waiting, and where it became reunited with Captain 
Smith’s administrative party. Captain Finnis was now made Adjutant, Lieuten- 

* Lieutenant Sawhny, a Regular officer of the 4th Sikhs, had been posted to the 
Battalion some time previously but had meanwhile been on a signal course. He was the 
first Indian officer ever posted to the 3rd Sikhs for duty. 

270 Reconstitution of 3rd Royal Sikhs at Port Sudan 

ant Spalding returned to regimental duty from Divisional Headquarters, and 
Captain Sachdev was posted as Medical Officer. All available J.C.Os. were 
gathered in from extra-regimental employment and, together with Subadar- 
Major Ali Khan and the promotion of Havildar Mir Wali Khan* to Jemedar, 
made a total of eight. And so at the end of July the new 3rd Sikhs, having been 
detached from the Sth Indian Division, were posted to Port Sudan to complete 
their reorganization. They embarked on the s.s. Lancashire at Port Tewfik on 
the 29th and sailed the same day. Their strength was now 8 J.C.Os., 312 other 
ranks and 33 followers. Much hard work lay ahead for all of them. 

The next five months, spent partly in Port Sudan and later at Wadi Halfa, 
were uneventful. They were passed, once reorganization was complete in train- 
ing the reinforcements received from India together with 270 rank and file who 
had been captured at El Adem in the Western Desert and had now rejoined 
the Battalion. These had mainly been recovered from the enemy when Benghazi 
was retaken after the battle of El Alamein, but many had also escaped and 
walked to join our advancing forces in the desert. 

By December the Battalion, now re-formed, was once more back in 
Qassassin, and spent the opening months of 1943 in further training for cam- 
paigns which all knew must be fought before the Second World War could be 
brought to a victorious conclusion. Some of this training, however, was of a 
character and for a role entirely new to Indian troops. The 3rd Sikhs was indeed 
the only Frontier Force unit ever to have the experience which now followed 
of being part of a “Beach brick” in a modern combined operation. The story is 
told in the next chapter. 

* Havildar Mir Wali Khan had been among the “Left Out of Battle” Reserve in “B” 
Echelon and throughout the withdrawal had been an invaluable help to Captain Finnis, 
who now made him his Jemadar-Adjutant. Another N.C.O. deserving special mention was 
Havildar Ajaib Singh who had been mainly responsible for keeping the Battalion’s worn- 
out transport in motion during the long desert journey from El Adem back to Mena. 



Sicily and the “Beach bricks”"—The Landing in Italy—Italy, 1944—The Battle of Cam- 
priano—“B” Company’s Attack—“C’’ Company’s Advance—The Pathan Assauii— 
The Battle of Castel Nuovo—Montebello—Greece, 1944—Salonika, 1945-46. 

BEFORE proceeding with the Battalion story a brief reference is necessary to the 
developments that followed the withdrawal of the Eighth Army in 1942 and the 
events recorded in the last chapter. The decisive victory of Alamein in October 
and the drive along the North African coast to Tripoli, followed by the final 
capture of Tunis and the surrender of all enemy forces in Africa, are too well 
known to recapitulate here. 

Of British Indian forces, only the famous 4th Indian Division* took part 
in the Tunisian campaign, but no battalion of the Regiment was then with it. 
The 3rd Royal Battalion fought in the Italian campaign, however, as part of it, 
and the story follows below. 

The Tunisian campaign ended on 13th May 1943, when the Axis forces 
capitulated at Tunis, the commander, General Von Arnim, making his sur- 
render personally to the 4th Indian Division. 

The Allied Armies in Tunis, which then consisted of American as well as 
Canadian and British forces, immediately commenced organizing for the attack 
on Sicily and Italy; and the story once more returns to the 3rd Royal Battalion 
back in Qassassin Camp in Egypt. 

Sicily and the ‘‘Beach bricks” 

In time of war a fighting battalion has every reason to feel sorry for itself if 
relegated to the lines of communication. However, if the 3rd Sikhs were not to 
play any part in the final expulsion of the enemy from North Africa, at least 
they were to be given a place in the next phase of Allied strategy, but it meant 
the complete disruption of the Battalion for the time being and the use of its 

*“The fame of this Division will surely go down as one of the greatest fighting 
formations in military history; to be spoken of with such as the 10th Legion, the Light 
Division of the Peninsular War; Napoleon’s Old Guard”—Field-Marshal Ear! Wavell in 
his foreword to The Fourth Indian Division (Stevens). 


272 The 3rd Royal Sikhs train as part of Beach Bricks for the Sicily Landings 

personnel in an entirely new role for which they had to be specially organized 
and trained in 1943. The role consisted of operating, in company with two 
Scottish Battalions, the 2nd Highland Light Infantry and the Ist Argyll and 
Sutherland Highlanders, two so-called “Beach bricks” for the assault landing 
in Sicily. 

Plans for this landing were already in hand before the enemy surrender 
in Tunis, and on 20th April the Battalion moved to carry out specialized training 
at Givet Olga on the Palestine coast. Here it was split up into five companies, 
each about 110 strong, with two officers, three J.C.Os. and six followers. These 
were given numbers and allocated as follows: 65, 66 and 67 to the 2nd H.L.I. 
(32 Brick) and 68 and 69 to the Argylls (33 Brick)—the British battalions being 
the “nucleus” battalion of the “brick” in each case. 

Each “brick” was commanded by the Commandant of its nucleus battalion 
and was a military unit of all arms, with the special role of organizing and 
maintaining a beach-head in the early stages of an invasion by sea. The infantry 
element of the “brick” consisted of a number of rifle companies, one of which 
was a defence company and the remainder working companies. The task of 
these working companies was to unload military stores from landing-craft on 
the beach and build up dumps within the beach-head, from which the assault 
troops would be supplied. Our five companies were working companies, or more 
exactly, independent Indian working companies, under the orders of and 
administered by their respective “brick” headquarters. The only other Indian 
troops in the “bricks” were small Indian Army Medical Corps detachments with 
each. Perhaps everyone was a little disappointed to discover that they were to 
do nothing more than what the men called ‘“‘coolie” work; however, it was 
pointed out to them that fighting troops had been selected for this work because, 
firstly, the beaches would certainly be under aerial and possibly under artillery 
bombardment, and this must not interfere with the work of unloading; and 
secondly, they would form an immediate tactical reserve to be thrown into the 
battle in emergency. 

Training, which was to begin at once, amounted to teaching every man to 
swim, attaining a standard of physical fitness that would bear the strain of heavy 
and continuous manual labour, and learning the relevant parts of the theory 
and practice of assault landings. The first of these was easy, with the sea little 
more than a hundred yards away; the second came about almost automatically 
from the first in the exhilarating springtime weather; and the last was taken up 
with a keenness which surprised those officers of the “bricks” who had not 
before worked with Indian troops. The drill for the assembly and use of “roller 
runway” was mastered; the making of dumps by commodities was practised; 
the ‘“‘scrambling net,” the assault boat and the waterproofed vehicle became 
familiar objects to every sepoy; and on the purely military side, anti-aircraft 
action, aircraft recognition and mine-lifting were thoroughly revised. In addition 

3rd Royal Sikhs Preparation for the Sicily Landing, May 1943 273 

to this, most companies found time to do a short course at the Combined Opera- 
tions Training School at Kabrit. Here on 10th May they were joined by 74 and 
75 Companies, two further working companies which the Battalion had been 
ordered to raise. 74 Company had been formed from Dogras, P.Ms. and 
Pathans of H.Q. Company. It joined 33 Brick soon afterwards; 75 Company 
also consisted of Dogras, P.Ms., and Pathans. It was to join 34 Brick, which 
was made up of the Ist Battalion The Welch Regiment and a number of Indian 
working companies from the 3rd Battalion 10th Baluch Regiment. With the 
departure of these two companies there remained in Qassassin only Battalion 
Headquarters and the bare minimum of men necessary to maintain the trans- 
port, Bren carriers and anti-tank guns. By the end of May their strength had 
been even further depleted with the departure of Majors MacDonald and Heard 
to join 32 and 33 Bricks as their respective Indian Army Liaison Officers (in 
which capacity they proved of great value in championing any special admin- 
istrative arrangements necessary for Indian troops and generally acting as 
unofficial detachment commanders of their own troops in the “‘bricks’’). The 
disruption of the Battalion was completed on Ist June when Colonel Moss, 
accompanied by Lieutenant Borwick, left to take over temporary command of 
Port Said Sub-area. 

By the end of May preliminary training had been completed, and after 
a full-scale exercise the “bricks” were concentrated with the assault troops 
at El Shatt on the eastern bank of the canal and embarked. A final rehearsal now 
took place, under the eye of the High Command, at the head of the Gulf of 
Akaba. This appeared to be satisfactory, and the troops returned to El Shatt. 

On 27th June General Montgomery paid the “bricks” one of his informal 
visits; the men gathered round his car shouting their war cries. ““Monty” liked 
this informality, but he was even more pleased when Major Heard, asked 
what “Sat Siri Akal” meant, gave him the rather free translation,* “Three cheers 
for General Montgomery.” Two days later all re-eembarked and the convoy 
sailed on 30th June 1943. 

The 7th July found the fleet sailing along within sight of the North Africa 
coast. The excellence of the security in the Sicilian landings was surpassed only 
by the perfection of the staff work which had provided for every detail in 
spite of the fact that the plan and objective was not known to more than a 
handful of senior officers in each ship until after the fleet had sailed. Moreover, 
there was complete wireless silence between ship and ship, and ship and shore. 
Scale plaster models of the beaches, air photographs, defence overprint maps, 
up-to-date intelligence reports, information about the big plan, detailed orders 
for all units, and even a Soldiers’ Guide to Sicily were now produced and 
orders to sub-units given out. The plan in brief was for a force of American, 
Canadian and British troops, drawn from a large number of ports on the 
African and eastern coasts of the Mediterranean, to concentrate simultaneously 

~~“* A literal translation would be “Strike Holy Prophet!” 

274 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Sicily Landings, 10th July 1943 

on the south of Sicily, land and drive northwards to the Strait of Messina. 
32, 33 and 34 Bricks, which were supporting the British 5th Infantry Division 
in their landing south of Syracuse, were to establish themselves respectively 
on How beach, south of the mouth of the Cassibile river, George beach, 
directly opposite Cassibile village, and Jig beach in front of the town of Avola. 

The invasion of Sicily caught the enemy almost completely unawares in 
the early hours of 10th July 1943. The landing ships had taken station some 
miles from the coast during the night, with the working companies mustered 
on their decks, ready to climb into the assault craft and follow the assault 

The land battle had moved well north by the time that the working 
companies landed and only a distant noise of artillery could be heard. The 
beaches themselves showed little evidence of battle, although George beach 
was littered with wrecked gliders. The men went straight to their bivouac areas 
near the beaches and relieved themselves of the huge loads they were carrying 
on their backs. (The orders had been to the effect that a man could land with 
what he could carry leaving both hands free.) They then went straight back 
to the beaches and began the work of unloading stores. D Day for Sicily so 
far had been remarkably like a “wet shod” exercise. The first indication that 
anyone of the enemy objected to the “bricks” establishing themselves on the 
beaches was therefore an unpleasant surprise, unpleasant because of the cannon 
shells, a surprise because some of the enemy aircraft came in very low in dead 
ground and were not seen until they were already strafing. 

With the first air attack began a hectic period in which there was no day 
and no night and no meal times, and which cannot properly be measured in 
time though the calendar indicates that it lasted from 10th July (D Day) until 
about 15th July. The working companies spent most of this time on the beaches 
where the lJanding-craft were packed so close at the water’s edge that they 
almost touched one another. As soon as one was empty it was replaced by a 
loaded one. Most of the craft carried mixed loads which had to be sorted 
into separate dumps on the beaches so that lorry loads should be all of one 
commodity; someone had forgotten to send any roller runway and the physical 
labour in moving and sorting was very great; motor transport to clear stores 
to the beach-head dumps was in greater demand than supply, and the large 
quantities of petrol and explosives which accumulated on the beaches made 
the threat of an air attack particularly menacing. 

Actually, enemy air attack during daylight most often took the form of 
sneak raids by Me.109s and Fw.190s which came singly or in pairs very low 
or out of the sun to strafe and bomb. There was no warning of such attacks. 
Suddenly every multiple pom-pom and Oerlikon gun on the landing craft 
would open a simultaneous and ear-splitting fire, there would be a scream of 
engines overhead, and the raid was over almost before the men had had time 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs in Sicily, July to September 1943 275 

to throw themselves down where they had been working. Such raids caused 
little interruption to the work of unloading and, considering the size and con- 
centration of the targets, did very little damage. Ju.88 bombers also sometimes 
carried out daylight attacks of a more deliberate and more dangerous nature, 
but their usual time for attack was after dark. 

Meanwhile the Sth British Division’s drive north was going according to 
plan, and soon chaos had been reduced to order. From about 15th July until 
the end of that month conditions in every way improved. The working com- 
panies built rough jetties of stones on which the landing-craft could drop their 
ramps, and stores were thus no longer unloaded through the water. Even labour 
became more plentiful, for Italian prisoners of war were now helping in the 
unloading. These Italians worked well; our men saw to it that they never lacked 
drinking water and treated them with firmness in which there was no bullying. 
Many of the men had themselves been Ps.O.W. in Benghazi nine months pre- 
viously; they knew how to make Ps.O.W. work. 

Our fighter planes were now based on Sicily itself and enemy aircraft 
were rarely seen over the beaches in day time. With the better organization on 
the beaches life in general returned more to normal. Time was found for 
bathing in the sea, which was beautifully clear and most refreshing after the 
heat and dust of a working shift. But above all, the days in Sicily will be 
remembered for the food that the langars produced. The basic requirements— 
ghee, ata, dal and curry powder—were provided in adequate quantity and 
excellent quality by the Indian “Compo” ration which had been specially pre- 
pared for the use of the small number of Indian troops taking part in the 
Sicilian landing. This basis was supplemented and given variety by local produce 
—almonds, grapes, tomatoes, pumpkins, figs, brinjals and many other fruits 
and vegetables. Meat was not so plentiful, but any sheep or goat unwary enough 
to stray within two or three miles of the beaches generally found its way into 
the cooking-pots of either the British or Indian troops of the “bricks.” All this 
local produce was free; the farmers had fied inland. The men had never had 
such good appetites and never had them so well satisfied. The same cannot be 
said for the officers; 32 Brick companies in particular suffered much at the hands 
of their mess cook, a Madrassi called John, whose artistry was confined within 
the narrow limits of opening tins or producing curries which did permanent 
damage to the palates of any bold enough to eat them. Many officers preferred 
to eat from the langars. 

From Ist August the final phase on the Sicilian beaches began, and by 
the 15th they had closed down. In retrospect the men of the Battalion had 
done a good job—all, indeed, and more than all that was expected of them. 
Everyone was unstinting in praise of the keenness, energy and cheerfulness 
with which the sepoys invariably worked. 

There had been casualties, but these were few—one havildar and one man 
killed and twelve men wounded. 

276 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in the Landing in Italy, September 1943 

The Landing in Italy 

The “bricks” were now brought forward as preparations for a second 
assault landing across the Straits of Messina were made. For this landing 
Captains Chandler and Buta Singh were appointed Assistant Military Landing 
Officers, but for the rest there was nothing new. By Ist September all was ready 
and the two A.M.L.Os. went forward to join the assault troops. Intelligence 
reports stated that the enemy coastal defences were manned by Germans and 
surmised heavy mining of the beaches. There could be little hope of surprising 
the enemy and everything indicated a harder initial fight than in Sicily. To 
counterbalance this, General Montgomery had massed all the artillery of 
every type on the island of Sicily on the straits, and an artillery carpet of 150,000 
shells was to be put down as covering fire for the assault. H-hour was to be in 
the early morning of 3rd September. 

After dark on 2nd September the great artillery barrage began, many of 
the guns firing tracer as an aid to the assault-craft in maintaining direction. 
Vertical searchlights, arranged in parallels inland, served the same purpose. 
The assault troops embarked and set off across the straits. Large fires, however, 
had been started on the enemy coast-line and a great pall of smoke made the 
recognition of landmarks extremely difficult. As a result of this the assault 
troops who should have taken Gallico Maria had been landed five miles farther 
west and 33 Brick beach recce party, on landing, found themselves in fact the 
assault troops. Fortunately, the German troops spoken of in intelligence reports 
had been withdrawn north at the last moment, and the Italian defenders, having 
satisfied their honour by firing one burst of machine-gun fire into the landing- 
craft, retreated hastily to their billets in the village to avoid capture by changing 
into civilian clothes. Gallico Maria was thus casually captured by Captain 
Chandler, his three checkers, and a handful of military police in the course of 
their search in the village streets for the mines which happily proved as 
mythical as the Germans. 

The working companies landed on their proper beaches soon after dawn 
that morning and quickly settled down to the same routine that they had learnt 
in Sicily. From the very beginning, however, their work lacked much of the 
intensity and excitement of Sicily. A large proportion of the stores that came 
in were already loaded on vehicles, Italian prisoners were soon available to 
help, and enemy air attacks were kept completely in check by our “fighter 
umbrella,” which was very active and efficient. The Battalion suffered only one 
casualty in the Italian landing: Lieutenant Tomlinson, who had previously 
changed places with Lieutenant Ajaib Singh in 32 Brick, died from very severe 
burns caused by the explosion of a booby-trap in an Italian coastal defence 
gun position which he was inspecting. 

The assault troops now moved north with all possible speed to the 

3rd Royal Sikhs resume role as a Fighting Battalion, Italy, October 1943 277 

relief of the hard-pressed beach-head at Salerno, and Calabria very quickly 
became a backwater. Indeed, within seven days of the assault landing, Mr. 
George Formby and his wife were giving an entertainment on the beach at 
Gallico Maria. By the end of a fortnight both “bricks” had virtually closed down. 

In early October orders were received for the Indian working companies 
of both “bricks” to concentrate as a battalion at Taranto. They moved by train 
from Gallico, and the whole population of the village turned out to wave them 
good-bye at the railway station. It is not only the British private soldier who 
can claim to be a good ambassador! The people of Gallico had been terrified by 
the arrival of the sepoys, for Fascist propaganda had spread about the report 
that Indian troops ate small babies and, having exhausted supplies in Sicily, were 
about to invade Italy in search of more. Even educated men like the village 
doctor had believed this, and for some days after the sepoys’ arrival all the 
local children had been kept concealed indoors. After these unpromising begin- 
nings it was gratifying to have such a send-off. 

Soon after arrival in Taranto the “bricks” finally broke up and the Argylls 
and H.L.I. returned to Egypt. The Battalion was reconstituted under Major 
MacDonald with an officiating Battalion Headquarters, pending the arrival of 
Colonel Moss and the personnel still in Egypt. It had played its part in the land- 
ings with unqualified success and had gained much of value from the experience. 
Conditions had not been those of real battle, but there had been enough of 
danger and difficulty to give the many young soldiers who had joined the 
Battalion since the disaster in the Desert a taste of battle; there had been 
success enough to raise again the morale of those who had been shaken by 
the experience of being prisoners of war for six months the previous year; there 
had been common perils and privations enough to infuse officers, J.C.Os. 
and men with that mutual comradeship and trust which can only spring from 
such conditions. These things, and the very high standard of physical fitness 
attained, were to prove of the utmost value in the severer tests which lay ahead. 

Italy, 1944 

On 20th December 1943, the Battalion was located, less three companies, 
not far from Lecce. The detached companies were on guards and duties so 
little training was possible; but by 20th January 1944, the whole Battalion 
was concentrated and for two months intensive training was carried out. 

On 20th March, after a nerve-racking drive via Bari over the Apennines to 
Naples, the Battalion reached Venafro and joined the 4th Indian Division, 
which was now to be its fighting formation for the rest of the war. On its arrival 
the Battalion found the rest of the Division still fighting the Battle of Cassino, 
but was in fact in process of pulling out of the line. The Battalion therefore 
was not engaged in that battle, but went into the front line at Lanciano after 

278 The 3rd Royal Sikhs go into action in Italy, April 1944 

the Battalion had moved across to the East Coast. Here it met the Ist Battalion, 
who gave a dinner to all officers and J.C.Os. on 8th April. 

The enemy was now pursuing a policy of aggressive patrolling. During 
the night of 16th-17th April, “A” Company patrols of two sections went to 
inspect some houses on the company front to see whether they were occupied. 
Finding them empty, they left at 11.15 p.m. and on their return journey they 
bumped into an enemy ambush. The enemy’s strength was estimated at from 
thirty to forty, in three sections. The enemy threw grenades and fired at the 
leading sections and called on them to surrender in English and Urdu. The 
patrol returned the fire, and then charged the enemy with bayonets. A hand- 
to-hand fight ensued lasting about fifteen minutes. Considerable casualties were 
inflicted on the enemy, of whom three were definitely killed. Our casualties 
were two killed and ten wounded. Havildar Mehar Singh was awarded the 
I.D.S.M. for his fearless leadership in this action, and a congratulatory message 
was received from the Divisional Commander on the incident. During the 
next three weeks there was only patrolling, but enemy shelling caused a number 
of casualties. Lieutenant Cumming died of wounds on 19th April, and on 11th 
May a direct hit on “B” Company Headquarters killed Major Deakin and three 
men—a tragic loss. Eighteen men were also wounded during the period. 

On 14th May the enemy attacked the Battalion position strongly. At dawn 
the equivalent of a battalion, supported by tanks and preceded by an artillery 
box barrage to isolate the area, attacked and overran the two forward platoons 
of “C” Company. An immediate counter-attack was not possible as the enemy 
had the range and were engaging by fire all the forward and rear areas. At 
9.30 a.m., however, a deliberate counter-attack was launched with “A” 
Company supported by tanks from the 23rd Armoured Brigade to regain 
the lost positions. Soon after crossing the start line, “A” Company ran into 
severe enemy fire and suffered heavy casualties. The Cameron Highlanders 
were ordered to send one company to replace them, and at 8 p.m. the 
whole battalion of the Camerons, supported by the entire divisional artillery, 
advanced in three waves of a company each, drove on the lost positions and 
ejected the enemy. The Scottish casualties were 21, and the Battalion lost 
Jemadar Jaswant Singh and 12 men killed; Major R. Sawhny, Lieutenant Ajaib 
Singh, Subadar Mahinder Singh, Jemadars Gujjan Singh, Ruplal Chajju 
Ram and 70 rank and file were wounded; Jemadar Chajju Ram, I.O.M., 
and 42 rank and file of “D’ Company, and Lieutenant Faair Shah were 
reported missing. 

The assistance given by the Scotsmen to the Frontiersmen in this costly 
action started a very close and friendly association between the two units which 
lasted throughout the campaign. It eventually culminated in the 3rd Royal 
Battalion The Frontier Force Regiment being unofficially affiliated to the 2nd 
Battalion Cameron Highlanders—an affiliation which still stands. 




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41m Div with 3rd Royal Battalion 

naeces 8m. Div with Ist Battalion (Pwo) 


280 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in Italy, May to July 1944 

On 19th May the Battalion was relieved by the Camerons and moved to 
““B” Echelon for reorganization due to the heavy casualties sustained by “A” 
and “C” Companies. On reorganization, “A” Company under Captain Spalding 
had two platoons of Sikhs and one of Dogras; “B” Company under Captain 
Stuart, all Pathans; ‘““C’” Company under Captain Buta Singh, one platoon each 
of Dogras, P.Ms. and Pathans; and “D” Company under Major Finnis, alt 

Five days later the Battalion was back in the front line, and on the night 
of 25th/26th May one platoon of “A” Company under Captain I. L. Spalding 
and one platoon of “B” Company under Subadar Mir Wali Khan were ordered 
to attack with artillery support and capture two enemy localities on the front 
of the Cameron Highlanders. Both the platoons passed through the Camerons. 
““A” Company platoon ran into a mine-field a hundred yards from the objective 
and also came under heavy Spandau machine-gun fire laid on fixed lines. Poor 
Captain Spalding’s leg was blown off by a mine when kneeling to help a 
wounded man. He died of wounds in the regimental aid post. Jemadar Bhabi 
Khan and six men were also badly wounded. The “B” Company platoon 
reached one of the houses of its objective, but came under machine-gun cross 
fire which had not been subdued by our artillery, and retired to keep out of 
enemy fixed lines of fire. Subadar Mir Wali Khan lost a foot in this attack. The 
attack failed. 

On 8th June the Battalion advanced up the coast road and occupied first 
Francavilla and then on the 11th Pescara without opposition. Here the Division 
was relieved on the 15th by the Polish Carpathian Division, and the Battalion 
moved back to Sepino, near Campobasso. 

While this was happening on the east coast, the Allied forces on the 
Gari river at Cassino finally broke through on 14th May,* linked up with the 
Anzio beach-head and captured Rome. The Germans retired to the moun- 
tainous country of Northern Italy, being followed by the Eighth Army and the 
American forces. 

The Battalion now carried out a month’s mountain warfare training at 
Sepino, and moved up on 15th July to near Arezzo. It arrived in the record time 
of two days, having covered 390 miles. 

The Battle of Campriano 

The Battalion now took up a defensive position north of Arezzo and 
just south of Campriano, and from 18th to 23rd July did some successful 
probing with patrols to discover enemy strength and dispositions. 

On 24th July the Battalion was ordered to be prepared to attack and 
capture Campriano, a formidable feature five miles north of Arezzo, so as to 

* See Chapter XVIII, narrative of the Ist Battalion. 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs in ltaly—Battle of Campriano, 25th July 1944 281 

protect the left flank of the 5th Brigade, who were to advance from Antria 
eastwards. The 2/7th Gurkhas were also ordered to protect the left flank to 
enable the 3rd Royal Battalion to concentrate for the attack. Owing to the 
width of the front and the difficult nature of the ground to be traversed, 
Lieutenant-Colonel McDonald decided to put in a silent attack with three com- 
panies up: “B” Company under Captain Stewart, supported by tanks, was to 
advance on the right—objective point 547. “C’’ Company under Captain Buta 
Singh was to follow in rear of “B” and slightly echeloned to the left. Once “B” 
Company had taken its objective the latter was to move on to point 584, the 
highest ground on the feature, dominating all else. “A” Company under 
Lieutenant C. L. Lockyer was to go for point 430 just beyond and 600 yards to 
the left of Campriano. “D” Company under Subadar Pahlwan Khan in reserve 
was to move to L’Antecchia hamlet and be prepared to go into Campriano once 
the other companies had taken their objectives. 

The attack involved an advance of 2,000 yards from our front line and 
the country was very difficult. The advance therefore had to start by infiltration 
while it was still daylight, and was timed so that companies should be ready 
to go into the final assault at dusk. Intelligence reports said the feature was 
lightly held (thirty men at Campriano), and the whole attack was therefore to be 
silent. A F.O.0., Lieutenant Tyler of 11 Field Regiment, accompanied “C” 
Company to give support as required. 

“B’ Company's Attack 

On 25th July “B” Company by 6 p.m. had infiltrated forward to their 
start line without incident. They were due to cross it at 7 p.m., but the 
tanks had stuck in very difficult and broken ground, and Captain Stewart waited 
till 7.20 p.m. to allow them to come up before advancing. The tanks could 
get no farther forward than Ulleri and remained there for the rest of the action. 
At 7.20 p.m. “‘B” Company advanced, 4 Platoon under Havildar Jemadar Shah 
on the right on high ground, 6 Platoon under Jemadar Rahim Khan on the left 
moving up the line of a track. Company Headquarters was to move behind 
4 Platoon, with 5 Platoon under Jemadar Nauroze Khan in reserve behind 
Company Headquarters. 

At 100 yards beyond the start line, 4 Platoon came under machine-gun fire 
from high ground to the right of them. This increased in intensity as the com- 
pany came into view of enemy holding two copses on the right. 6 Platoon, 
though not under heavy machine-gun fire, had run into enemy artillery and 
mortar concentrations, but the advance continued in spite of the increasing fire 
from enemy machine guns in both copses and in the Lone House. Casualties 
were now being sustained, particularly by 4 platoon, but the Pathans never 
hesitated. “‘B” Company came steadily on up to a position only 300 yards from 

282 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in Italy—Battle of Campriano, 25th July 1944 

the objective (4 Platoon attacked one post at the point of the bayonet, driving 
the enemy before them as they went). Here the Company was in ground more or 
less defiladed from the enemy in the copse and in Lone House, seventy yards 
away to the flank. 

Nothing more now was possible till the machine gun in the house had 
been silenced. Two-inch mortars, PIATS and eventually tanks were used in the 
attempt to do this, but in spite of many direct hits the machine gun continued 
to hold up any attempt at further advance. “B’”’ Company was now running 
short of ammunition, and had had casualties. Also it was getting dark, so 
Captain Stewart decided to wait till dawn for the final assault. He reported 
by W/T to Battalion Headquarters that he had reached about 300 yards 
from the objective, was short of ammunition, and that the Company had dug 
itself in in an all-round defensive position. 

Meanwhile “A” Company on the left, lucky for the first time, was having 
no opposition and reported itself on its objective soon after dark. 

“C”’ Company's Advance 

“C” Company had not been so lucky as “A.” Crossing the start line soon 
after “B’’ Company, it had moved forward down a nullah with two platoons up 
and one back in reserve with Company Headquarters. It very soon came under 
heavy enemy mortar fire, the same that had also caused “B” Company losses. “C” 
Company at this time was composed of a large percentage of young recruits, 
many of whom were in action for the first time, and they made the mistake of 
going to ground. This caused them more casualties than if they had gone 
straight through. Eventually Captain Boota Singh succeeded in getting them 
through the fire-swept area into defiladed ground near two yellow houses and 
about 200 yards to the left of ““B’” Company. Captain Boota Singh now went 
forward to reconnoitre. It was ten o’clock and almost dark, but he was able 
to see his objective some 500 yards away. There was no fire coming from it, 
so Captain Boota Singh decided to advance up a nullah which led directly to it. 
He accordingly ordered 7 Platoon (Dogras) under Jemadar Diwan Chand to 
advance up the right-hand side of the nullah, below the sky line, and 8 Platoon 
(Dogras) under Havildar Shankar Singh to move up the left side in the same 
way. He, with his headquarters and 9 Platoon under Havildar Mohd Iqbal, 
followed up in the centre. The advance began, but had not gone far before being 
fired on by enemy machine guns from both sides of the nullah, and both forward 
platoons were pinned down. 

Captain Boota Singh, seeing that he had lost any chance of surprising 
the enemy, now altered his plan to a left hook, ignoring the right machine gun, 
and aimed at rushing the left machine-gun post. Once the two forward platoons 
had taken this post, they and the reserve platoon would go through to the 

Battle of Campriano, 24th to 25th July 1944 283 
Campriano 4 (Off Map) 
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objective. To help in this he arranged with his artillery F.O.O. for a twenty- 
minute artillery concentration on the objective. While this plan was being made, 
“C” Company was unavoidably under heavy mortar fire, but the broken ground 
saved them from many casualties. Captain Boota Singh collected the platoon 
commanders together and pointed out to them what great things ““B’’ Company 
had been doing and that ““C” Company must also take its objective and its bag 
of prisoners. When all was ready, under cover of the artillery concentration 
the two forward platoons withdrew a little, dropped down into the nullah and 
started to climb up to the enemy post on the left. It was very dark and the 

284 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in Italy—Battle of Campriano, 25th July 1944 

going was difficult. Captain Boota Singh, himself in the area of the two yellow 
houses with the reserve platoon, watched his platoons get about half-way up 
to their objective when suddenly two more machine-gun posts which had 
hitherto held their fire opened on them at point-blank range from either side 
of the nullah. The platoons went to ground. Then grenades from the enemy 
posts started bursting among them as well, and the cries of the wounded showed 
that they were suffering casualties. Captain Boota Singh was able to get through 
on his 38 set to his right-hand platoon commander, Jemadar Diwan Chand, 
and hear from him that his platoon was also in a sticky position and quite 
pinned down. Also he had no communication with 8 Platoon on his left. By 
this time the artillery concentration had finished, and Captain Boota Singh now 
got through to the Commanding Officer on his 38 set and told him what the 
situation was. With one platoon pinned down on the right, and another out of 
touch, he could not get forward by that route, but suggested moving round 
to “B” Company’s area and trying from that flank once more to get forward. 
To this the Commanding Officer agreed, and a ten-minute artillery concentra- 
tion was therefore arranged to help 7 Platoon to disengage. This was success- 
fully accomplished and “C” Company, less 8 Platoon, moved over and joined 
“B” Company at about 3 a.m. Before all this, “C’” Company Commander 
had been too busy to be able to report back to Battalion Headquarters. 
Battalion Headquarters therefore, working on the information that “A” Com- 
pany were on their objective and “B” Company only a short distance from 
theirs, had ordered ‘“‘D” Company to move forward from L’Antecchia to their 
objective, the church at Campriano. Battalion Headquarters itself had then 
started off to move forward with its long string of mules in the direction of 
L’Antecchia. They had advanced about 1,000 yards when they found from 
locating the sound of small-arms fire that the situation in front was anything 
but stabilized. Being without any local protection, therefore, they retired again 
to Laverna. Meanwhile Captain Boota Singh had found on joining “B” Com- 
pany that they, too, had had about thirty casualties, and were therefore reduced 
to a strength of only two weak platoons. “C” Company, of course, was likewise 
without 8 Platoon, and the two platoons that remained had also been much 
weakened by casualties. 

The Pathan Assault 

By five o’clock that morning dawn was breaking, and ““B” Company, still 
further reduced by mortar fire which had been falling among them off and on 
throughout the night, steeled themselves for a final attempt at capturing their 
objective—a well-sited enemy-defended locality of about thirty men with three 
machine guns. These were divided into two main positions fifteen yards from 
one another—one at Lone House and the other in some trees north-west of 

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The 3rd Royal Sikhs in Italy—Battle of Campriano, 25th July 1944 285 

Lone House. Captain Stewart’s plan of attack was for 5 Platoon to go in on 
the right-hand enemy post while 6 Platoon went in on the left. The enemy 
positions were too near to use artillery, but covering fire was to be given from 
the right flank by 4 Platoon, now reduced to only seven men under Jemadar 
Shah, but strengthened with 7 Platoon of “C” Company. Both platoons moved 
forward, one section up and two back. 

From the time the men left slit trenches, bayonets fixed, grenades in hands, 
a merciless fire was brought to bear on them, but there was no stopping these 
Pathans. By the time Shaista Khan’s leading section had covered seventy-five of 
the hundred yards to the objective, only he and Lance-Naik Khem Singh, a Sikh 
of the Battalion Sniper Section attached to his section, were unhit, but Jemadar 
Nauroze Khan with the rear section came up and they went in all together 
with grenades and the bayonet. This was too much for the enemy, who fled, 
closely followed up by the survivors of 5 Platoon. Shaista Khan and Khem 
Singh had also by this tme been wounded, but they nevertheless accounted 
for some of the fleeing enemy. 

On the left Naik Yar Khan’s section of 6 Platoon had been no less success- 
ful. Advancing in the teeth of heavy fire with his section and making good use of 
his grenades, he made three of the enemy prisoners on his way up to the objec- 
tive. Continuing to advance, he threw another grenade and then, seizing the 
section’s Bren gun, of which both numbers had become casualties, he himself 
emptied two magazines into the German post at point-blank range, killing four 
of the enemy and taking four more prisoners before they could join the remain- 
der of their post of sixteen men in flight. 

This attack won the objective and secured seventeen German prisoners, 
but the attacking force was so depleted by casualties by the time it got on 
to its objective that ten of them managed to escape while the position was 
being consolidated and before a reserve platoon could be used to bring the 
prisoners back. The objective having been taken, 5 Platoon moved over to the 
right and consolidated in a position from which it was better able to cover 
the right flank, whence the main threat of an enemy counter-attack was to be 

At 8.45 a.m., therefore, Brigadier Partridge ordered a company of the 
2/7th Gurkhas to push forward under the command of the 3rd Royal Battalion 
and capture the two woods (above-mentioned) immediately to the right of “B” 
and “C” Companies’ positions. This attack could not go in for some time, but 
by 2 p.m. the Gurkhas advanced, captured one of the woods and secured the 
right flank. 

In the meantime, after the break up of an enemy counter-attack at 10 a.m., 
8 Platoon of “(C” Company under Havildar Shanker Singh came into “B” and 
“C” Companies’ areas. They had taken advantage of the artillery fire brought 
down on the enemy at the time of their counter-attack. Now for a couple of 

286 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in Italy—Battle of Campriano, 25th July 1944 

hours while the enemy was licking his wounds, ““B” and “C” Companies had 
a chance to attend to the wounded, many of whom were still lying where they 
had fallen. The evacuation of these over 1,000 yards of difficult ground back 
to Ulleri was slow work, but the four stretcher-bearers were magnificent and 
all were ultimately brought in. 

Although “B” and “C” Companies were now more comfortable with 
their right protected, the enemy did not leave matters like that, and commenced 
a concentrated mortar bombardment on the Gurkhas. Now, a man in a well- 
dug slit trench is generally fairly safe from all but a direct hit by a mortar 
bomb, but where there are trees this is not so. The Gurkhas in the wood were 
suffering many casualties from mortar bombs which burst in the air as they 
hit trees and sent showers of lethal splinters down into their slit trenches. At 
about six o’clock, therefore, the Gurkhas were forced to withdraw a short dis- 
tance out of the wood, and the enemy at once took advantage of this to infiltrate 
forward once more on “B” and “C”’ Companies’ right flank. 

The intense mortar fire which had forced the Gurkhas to fall back had 
also killed some of the artillery F.O.O. party and smashed their wireless set. 
But it was not in the traditions of the 3rd and 5th Batteries 11th Field Regiment, 
Royal Artillery, to leave the infantry without artillery support in their hour of 
need. Lieutenant Tyler, the F.O.O., got through on the company 18 set and 
brought the fire of his guns down where it was needed. To do this meant 
making repeated journeys between his O.P. and the Company Headquarters, 
and the men held their breaths as this intrepid gunner again and again made the 
dash across the open mortared ground between the two slit trenches. By some 
magic he lived to receive the M.C. which he had earned so well. 

At five o’clock that evening His Majesty The King, who had come to pay 
a visit to the 4th Indian Division, was able to watch from an observation post 
at Arezzo a very heavy concentration shoot on Campriano by the Ist and 11th 
Field Regiments, the 5th Medium Regiment and the 32nd Heavy Regiment, and 
the tanks of the Royal Warwickshire Yeomanry. 

The company of 2/7th Gurkhas was now very short of ammunition. A 
further company of Gurkhas was therefore ordered to move forward to their 
assistance. With the second company of Gurkhas the last reserves of the Brigade 
had been committed, and as night approached it was obvious that the far- 
advanced salients at point 547 and point 430 could not be held against deter- 
mined enemy attack under cover of darkness. At 8.30 p.m., therefore, the 
Brigade Commander ordered a partial withdrawal]. In accordance with these 
orders, “A” Company was told to fall back to its original positions of the 
24th; while “B” and “C’ Companies were to amalgamate under Captain 
Stewart and come under command of Major Hook of 2/7th Gurkhas, whose 
company, assisted by them, was to hold on to the right salient which had been 
so dearly won. 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs in Italy, August 1944 287 

As “A” Company withdrew they were shelled by the enemy and 
Lieutenant Lockyer, after only a week’s service in the Battalion, was killed 
—a sad tragedy. “B” and “C’’ Companies now withdrew a short distance to 
meet the mules coming up with their rations. After a meal, replenishing their 
water-bottles for the first time in thirty hours, and a short rest on the track, 
the weary men trudged back to join the Gurkhas again and were put in position 
by Major Hook in the rear of the right copse as a reserve in the event of 
another enemy counter-attack developing. Here they stayed until 1.30 p.m. the 
next day (27th), being shelled and mortared at fairly frequent intervals more 
heavily even than before. 

On 29th July the Battalion was withdrawn, but the next day was moved 
forward five miles to cover the left flank of the 2/7th Gurkhas for their attack 
on Monte Castellaccio. It continued to probe forward with night patrols and 
following up during the day, until by 1st August it was in a position overlooking 
Subbiano and again being mercilessly shelled and mortared. 

On 2nd August the 2/7th Gurkhas attacked and captured Monte Castel- 
laccio, thus coming up on the right flank of the Battalion. The enemy had 
pulled out that night and retaliated by firing 800 shells, but it was into a valley 
between the two battalions without any effect. 

The Brigade was now up to the Arno river, and a further thrust forward 
on the night of the 7th August was made by the Gurkhas, supported by the 
Camerons, tanks of the Central India Horse and a heavy artillery barrage. The 
3rd Royal Battalion were meanwhile to put in a diversionary attack on Roccolo 
and Pianle, across the River Arno and overlooking it. In brilliant moonlight a 
two-company attack on Roccolo was halted within fifty yards of its objective 
by mortar and Spandau fire; and though a fresh attack was made in daylight 
on the 8th it was unsuccessful. A further fifty casualties, including a Company 
Commander killed (Major J. P. Oakes), were suffered by the Battalion in this ex- 
pensive affair. Shortly afterwards the Division was pulled out for a rest, and by 
12th August the Battalion was concentrated on the shores of Lake Trasimeno. 

The Battle of Castelnuovo 

The Battalion had a well-deserved rest, and nearly everyone had a few 
days’ leave in Rome—much to the consternation of the Indian Rest Camp there. 
The Battalion was, however, seven J.C.Os. and fifty-five rank and file under- 
strength from battle casualties. 

On 23rd August, the rest over, the 3rd Royal Battalion began, in great 
secrecy, the long approach to the Gothic Line, after receiving a hundred badly 
needed reinforcements. Movement by M.T. stopped after the first day, and from 
the 24th onwards the advance up the axis of the much-battered “Route 3” was 
mainly on foot. with all belongings carried on the man. The 150-odd miles were 

288 The 3rd Royal Sikhs—Battle of Castelnuovo, 5th September 1944 

covered in a week, and on 30th August Urbino, near the Adriatic coast, was 
reached. Here the Battalion was given 350 mules for transport in the mountain 
country and continued the advance, through gaunt Monte Calvo, to Calpichio. 

On the night of 5th/6th September the Brigade struck at Pian di Castello, 
thus starting the battle of Castelnuovo. The 3rd Royal Battalion attacked on the 
right and the 2nd Camerons on the left. The advance commenced at 11.15 that 
night, when “A” and “‘D” Companies crossed the start line to attack Castel- 
nuovo. “A” Company soon found that their line of approach was barred by 
impassable country, and were then ordered to by-pass Castelnuovo village 
and join “D” Company on their right flank. As the attack was proceeding 
favourably on the right flank, ““C’? Company was also ordered forward to 
support the leading companies. Soon after passing Battalion Headquarters, 
however, they very unluckily ran into some heavy enemy shelling and suffered 
thirty casualties. 

By first light “A” and “D” Companies under command of Major Finnis 
captured the village of Poggiale and held it against a German counter-attack 
which penetrated right into the village before being driven out. A firm base 
had now been established, and the attack on the main objectives was continued 
against determined enemy opposition, which was only finally overcome when 
a squadron of tanks from the 6th Royal Tank Regiment, at last finding a 
practicable route through Castelnuovo village, went forward. This advance 
of the tanks was a magnificent effort, as the route had not been reconnoitred, 
the going was difficult due to the heavy rain and it was a very steep ascent. 
On the arrival of the tanks a combined tank and infantry attack was launched, 
which was too much for the enemy, the hardy 5th German Mountain Division, 
who finally started to surrender. The objective, the high ground, and twenty- 
eight prisoners were taken by 3.30 in the afternoon. The enemy, however, were 
not yet done with. They launched a counter-attack with a full company, but 
this could be clearly seen from Battalion Tactical Headquarters. It was first 
halted by small-arms fire and then broken up by a prompt artillery concentra- 
tion from the 11th Field Regiment. 

This was indeed the first of four strong counter-attacks, supported by intense 
bombardment, which the enemy put in during the night. During these the men’s 
ammunition ran out, but fortunately the enemy had left a great deal of their 
own equipment behind, and no fewer than five Spandaus were used with 
devastating effect to drive the attacks off. 

At dusk on 6th September Battalion Tactical Headquarters received word 
from Brigade Headquarters that an enemy message had been intercepted stating 
that they were about to concentrate on the right flank to put in a strong counter- 
attack. This priceless information was almost immediately confirmed by ‘‘D” 
Company, who informed Battalion Tactical Headquarters that a large party 


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The 3rd Royal Sikhs—Battle of Castelnuovo, 6th and 7th September 1944 289 

of men, approximate strength 200, were collecting in the low ground to the 
east of Poggiale. 11th Field Regiment, R.A., were ordered to deal with this 
menace, which they did promptly and effectively. Now once more, owing to 
the heavy casualties suffered by the leading companies, the 2/7th Gurkhas 
were ordered to put one company under command of the 3rd Royal Battalion. 
This company was pushed forward on to the eastern slopes of Castelnuovo to 
hold the right flank. This was the prelude to the most astonishing incident that 
the Battalion witnessed throughout the campaign. Soon after dawn on 7th Sep- 
tember a whole company of German infantry were seen advancing unprotected 
and without covering fire across the open high ground from the north-east 
towards the 2/7th Gurkhas company. Almost immediately Bren and small-arms 
fire was opened on them by the leading companies and the enemy were seen to 
halt, falter and then go to ground. The 11th Field Regiment were ordered to 
stand by to open fire on the appropriate fixed lines if the opportunity offered. 
Shortly after this it happened. The enemy commenced to withdraw in full view, 
leaving their casualties on the ground. The artillery fire was brought down and 
the effect was devastating. It was the gravest blunder to advance across open 
high ground without any mortar or artillery support, and the Germans must 
have suffered very severely. 

Night fell with the Brigade firmly established on the right edge of Pian 
di Castello, but regrettably at a cost of substantial casualties. From this 
dominating position the Battalion were able to overlook Cemano, where the 
46th Division were fighting to capture this important height. It fell to them 
after a severe battle. 

During 7th September the 2/7th Gurkhas were ordered to put a second 
company under command of the Royal Battalion, but this affair was now at 
an end, and the Battalion was brought into reserve in the rear of Poggiale. 
On the 10th it was withdrawn for two days’ rest at Botticelli, but on the 13th 
the Brigade was again on the move. While a battle for Rimini was going on 
in the coastal plain, the Brigade moved forward during the next week over 
the hills through Montefiore. Montescubo and Le Ghotte to San Marino, ex- 
periencing much discomfort from the enemy’s accurate shelling of the roads 
and from the wet weather. 

On 21st September the whole area was blanketed in a thick mist which 
made it extremely difficult to identify any of the objectives. The Battalion, 
however, seized Monte Cerret, between San Marino and the wide, winding 
valley of the Marecchio, and in the process captured twenty prisoners. These 
in the majority of cases were tired out and sleeping. The enemy had not antici- 
pated such a quick advance. 


290 The 3rd Royal Sikhs’ Attack on Montebello, 22nd September 1944 

But the Battalion was now again to be called on for a strong attack against 
a well-prepared enemy position, and once more they were to win through 
against tremendous difficulties. On 22nd September the Brigadier ordered 
the 2/7th Gurkhas to advance and capture high ground slightly to the south- 
west of Scorticata, and the 3rd Royal Battalion to advance on their left and 
capture Montebello, a very formidable fortress-like village on the left of Scorti- 
cata. The advance entailed an approach march of 1,000 yards after dark, 
followed by an attack on Montebello. However, the troops were fit and in good 
heart, in spite of a drenching the night before. 

The attack started at 11 p.m. with “B” Company right and “C” Company 
left. First the Marecchio river, a formidable obstacle with the water rising, had 
to be crossed, but the troops got through somehow. Next they ran into heavy 
fire from Montebello and the high ground on the right. Then “C’? Company 
were almost immediately ambushed (or what amounted to that), but managed 
to extricate themselves. ““B’”? Company were also held up on an intermediate 
objective, and at daybreak both companies were running short of ammunition. 
Nevertheless the Battalion clung grimly to their gains, and a counter-attack 
against the indomitable Pathans of “B’” Company was thrown back. The 
ammunition shortage of the forward companies was now so acute that no 
further counter-attack by the enemy could possibly have been held. Mercifully, 
however, the Germans contented themselves with sniping and made no further 
counter-attacks. When darkness fell ammunition came up; “A” and “D” Com- 
panies went forward and, assisted by a heavy artillery barrage, captured Monte- 
bello. The position was thus stabilized and, although an S.P. gun continued to 
give trouble, the Battalion now settled down to a comparatively restful period. 
The only activity was patrolling, and our patrols, coupled with the local Italian 
“Resistance,” started bringing in deserters from the German “Todt” organiza- 
tion. This was a labour organization used by the enemy to carry out construc- 
tional and other work behind the front line and in back areas of countries they 
had overrun. It was called after its original German organizer and numbered 
hundreds of thousands of forced labourers taken from the various German- 
occupied countries. Thus the deserters that now came into the hands of the 
Battalion were of many nationalities, including Poles, Russians, Roumanians 
and French Alsatians. All had to be interrogated and they often furnished 
useful information. 

Montebello was the final action of the Battalion in Italy. 

On 23rd October 1944, the 3rd Royal Battalion was relieved by a battalion 
of the 10th Indian Division and withdrawn from the front line. 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs—Greece, 1944 291 
Greece, 1944 

In November 1944, the 4th Indian Division was withdrawn from the front 
line in Northern Italy and concentrated in the Taranto area. Its services were 
now required in Greece, where a new situation had arisen as a result of the 
German withdrawal; and the 3rd Royal! Battalion was thus to spend the remain- 
ing six months of the war, and several months afterwards, in that country. 

In order that the reader should understand the tasks that now faced the 
Battalion, a short summary of the situation in Greece is necessary, and the 
reasons why Allied troops were required for service there. It will be remembered 
that in the spring of 1941, when Axis forces were threatening the Balkans, an 
attempt was made by British forces to save Greece. The Greek army had con- 
ducted a successful defensive campaign against Mussolini’s Italian invasion of 
Albania, and Hitler had come to Mussolini’s aid with a powerful expeditionary 
force that advanced through the Balkans on Greece. 

A British force (ill spared from the Western Desert at the time) was too 
weak and too late to hold the German advance, which not only overran the 
Greek mainland, but by airborne assault captured Crete. By the end of May, 
to quote the official Indian History, “The British Expeditionary Force . . . to 
Greece . . . had been evacuated [and] the Balkans were a German province.”* 
Hitler’s forces established themselves in Greece and for three and a half years, 
till October 1944, that country could similarly be described as a German 

The turn of the tide against the Axis that commenced with Alamein and 
Stalingrad had by October 1944 carried the Allied armies in Western Europe 
to the Rhine, in Italy to the Gothic Line, and in Eastern Europe to Poland, 
Hungary and Roumania. With their victories in the latter theatres, the advanc- 
ing Russians rendered the position of the Germans in the Balkan peninsula 
precarious and threatened to cut off the latter’s units in Greece. Moreover, the 
Allied army in Italy was in a position to attack Austria by a seaborne advance 
across the Adriatic, which would also have intercepted German forces in Greece 
and the Balkan peninsula. While this latter strategy was never put into effect, 
it was strongly advocated by Winston Churchill and the British War Cabinet, 
and it was little wonder that by the autumn of 1944 Hitler found it advisable 
to withdraw from the Balkan peninsula altogether. 

At this time the Greek Government were in Italy. They had left Greece 
when the German occupation began, but had kept in touch with patriotic 
resistance groups in the country. Developments in Greece were being closely 
watched, and as signs of a German evacuation became clear, an Allied force 
to land in the country with the return of the Greek Government was organized. 
In order to arrange for a smooth and rapid return to normal conditions, a meet- 

* Eastern Epic (Compton Mackenzie), p. 82. 

292 The 3rd Royal Sikhs—Greece, 1944 

ing was held in Italy between General Wilson (the British Commander-in-Chief 
in Middle East), the leader of the Greek Government, and the leaders of three 
patriotic movements in occupied Greece, E.L.A.S., E.A.M. and E.D.E.S.* At 
this meeting an agreement was signed on 26th September, called the Caserta 
Agreement, laying down that all guerilla forces in Greece should place them- 
selves under the orders of the Greek Government. The latter in turn agreed to 
put them under General Scobie, who was appointed Commander of the British 
Force to accompany the Greek Government back into the country.+ Unfortu- 
nately, the patriotic guerilla forces were not reliable or obedient. They were 
Communist controlled, and though the post-war hostility of Communism to 
democratic government that bedevilled the world after the Second World War 
had not yet shown itself, here in Greece was to be its first appearance. The 4th 
Indian Division and with it the 3rd Roya] Battalion were to be among the first to 
find themselves involved in a campaign, not only to restore order in a disorgan- 
ized foreign country, but also to defeat well-armed Communist guerilla forces 
whose hostility was unexpected and attitude difficult to understand. 

Incidentally, as this development became clear after the first British and 
Indian troops arrived in Greece, the action of these forces in fighting the Greek 
guerillas on the orders of the British War Cabinet (and of Winston Churchill 
himself, who flew to Athens at Christmas 1944, in person) was largely mis- 
understood in England and the U.S.A., and condemned in the Press. It was 
not for many months that the true nature of post-war Communism was grasped 
in democratic countriesf. 

To return to the course of events. The Germans left Athens on 12th Octo- 
ber. By then British troops had already occupied Patras and were advancing 
on the capital. On the 13th and 14th a British airborne force landed on the 
airfield eight miles from Athens and occupied the capital. They were closely 
followed by Allied naval forces which occupied the Pirzus and landed General 
Scobie and the main British force. 

Of the next four weeks Sir Winston Churchill writes as follows: “We 
wished to hand over authority to a stable Greek Government without loss of 
time. But Greece was in ruins. The Germans destroyed roads and railways as 
they withdrew northward. E.L.A.S. armed bands filled the gap left by the 
departing invaders and their central command made little effort to enforce the 
solemn promises that had been given. Everywhere was want and dissension. 
Finances were disordered and food exhausted. . . . Our troops willingly went 

* E.L.A.S. were “The Greek People’s National Army of Liberation”; E.A.M. was 
the Greek ‘National Liberal Front”; E.D.E.S. were the Greek ‘National Democratic 

t The Second World War, Vol. VI (Winston Churchill), pp. 248 and 249. 

t To understand more fully the international complications that arose at the end of 
1944 with the Allied return to Greece, the reader should consult Chapter XVIII of Winston 
Churchill’s Second World War, Vol. VI. He will find it of the greatest interest. 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs arrive Missologni, 27th November 1944 293 

on half rations to increase the food supplies, and British sappers started to build 
emergency communications. . . . But the Government in Athens had not 
enough troops to control the country and compel E.L.A.S. to observe the 
Caserta Agreement. Disorder grew and spread.”* 

A revolt was imminent and Athens was declared a military area. Reinforce- 
ments were urgently needed, and at this juncture the 4th Indian Division was 
sent to Greece. By the beginning of November 1944, the 3rd Royal Battalion 
had come south from the Gothic Line and was in the Taranto area awaiting 
embarkation. Normal training was carried on as far as opportunity offered, 
while refitting and preparation proceeded. 

On November 13th Lieutenant-Colonel MacDonald left for sixty-one days’ 
leave, and command of the Battalion devolved on Major L. B. H. Reford, M.C. 

Orders were now received outlining the tasks before the Battalion in Greece 
as follows: They were to maintain law and order pending the formation of, and 
taking over of full control by, Greek National Troops and Police Forces. They 
were also to assist in restoring confidence and a normal way of life in the Greek 
people by the presence of orderly, well-disciplined troops, and by establishing 
friendly relations with the Greeks and promoting good will. 

As the Germans had left the country carrying out demolitions as they went, 
the troops were to help in restoring and improving essential communications. 
The Battalion, less ““A’’ Company, was sent to garrison Missologni with a field 
battery, a platoon of sappers and ancillary units of supply and transport. “A” 
Company was detached to garrison Agrinion. 

In view of the special nature of the task before them, the troops in Greece 
were reminded of the principles of duty in aid of the civil power, and all ranks 
were warned on the subject of good behaviour. 

The Battalion embarked at Taranto in landing-craft on 25th November, 
and arrived at Missologni on the 27th. Here it was given a noisy welcome from 
the inhabitants and an E.L.A.S. brass band played the column up to some 
barracks, where satisfactory accommodation was available. 

The next day a representative party marched under Lieutenant-Colonel 
Reford to the Town Hall for speeches by the Mayor (who belonged to the 
E.A.M.) and the commander of E.L.AS. 

On Ist December detailed instructions for the disarming of E.L.A.S. were 
received from Brigade, which made detachment commanders responsible for 
organizing collecting centres, protecting the arms handed in, and maintaining 
close liaison with the Greek Government local representatives. Meanwhile, at 
the higher command, the three Greek generals commanding E.L.A.S. in the 
Peloponnese and Salonika were to assemble at Corps Headquarters and receive 
details of the plan of disarmament. 

* Tbid., p. 249. 

294 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in Greece, November to December 1944 

While these preparations were proceeding a shocking sea disaster occurred 
which caused casualties to the Battalion. The Turkish Ferry Empire Dace, 
carrying vehicles, personnel and petrol, struck a mine, caught fire and ran 
aground, blocking the entrance to Missologni Harbour. Captain Langden was 
wounded and was the only survivor of a party of six (the others being rank 
and file) coming to join the Battalion. Many casualties were caused by the 
sea becoming covered with burning petrol, and the vessel was burnt out. A 
total of 328 were lost. 

The next day brought the first signs of the coming trouble. Demonstrations 
began in the towns with shouts of “We will not lay down our arms for our 
enemies,” and ‘‘We are not responsible for the civil war.” Coincident with this, 
clashes occurred in Athens, and on 3rd December “Communist supporters 
engaging in a banned demonstration collided with the police and civil war 
began.”* The next day, when General Scobie ordered E.L.A.S. to 
evacuate Athens and the Piraeus forthwith, their troops and armed civilians 
tried to seize the capital by force. A virtual siege of the British force in 
Athens ensued. 

The situation in the Battalion area also now deteriorated. Workers came 
out on strike and E.L.A.S. preparations to attack the government and police 
were in evidence. 

_ In the meantime on 5th December, another ship (a landing-craft) carrying 
vehicles and personnel for the garrison was blown up and sank close by the 
Empire Dace. Sixteen men of the Battalion were on board, of whom five sur- 
vived wounded and eleven were lost. Krioneri was now the supply line for the 
Battalion, and as the internal situation grew worse, the company at Agrinion 
was withdrawn to Battalion Headquarters, and “D” Company was sent to 
Krioneri. On 7th December a deputation from E.A.M. with a noisy mob 
arrived at the barracks in Missologni and tried to persuade Lieutenant-Colonel 
Reford to commit himself regarding British intervention in Greek politics. They 
were told to wait till eleven o’clock next day for a reply. Lieutenant-Colonel 
Reford then made a speech from the Mayor’s balcony urging cessation of war- 
fare by E.L.A.S. and stating that orders to disarm E.L.A.S. in the area would 
be carried out. 

The same evening (8th December) the barracks were put in a state of 
defence and some thirty refugees were accommodated, but it was now clear that 
the Battalion’s line of communication through Krioneri could not be protected, 
and on 10th December the Battalion evacuated Missologni. ““C’” Company went 
to Patras (Brigade Headquarters) and the Battalion made a tactical move in 
M.T. to Krioneri. There was no opposition. 

On 8th December 102 Italian prisoners of war from Agrinion had been 
handed over by E.L.A.S. and sent to Patras at once. These were now followed 

* The Second World War, Vol. VI (Winston Churchill), p. 251. 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs in Greece, November to December 1944 295 

Avy of Corén bb 9 

Patras %e : Za PLT’ ae 

lo Hustrate 

3rd Royal Bn ta Greece 1944-48. 
International Boundaries .«- + 

aunt e, mils sé 

by a further 95 German prisoners, all of whom were in a shocking physical 

During the next four days information of E.L.A.S. activity was obtained 
by listening in and intercepting telephone conversations. The signallers had 
tapped into the civil line with an instrument, and the interpreter was able to 
hear and report E.L.A.S. command conversations with their detachments. From 
this, on the 14th, it was learnt that E.L.A.S. expected us to start hostilities, 
which was far from being the intention. On the contrary, on the 15th E.L.A\S. 
commenced to mortar the jetty area (where loading was going on), gun posi- 
tions and Battalion Headquarters. This mortar fire came from high ground 

296 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in Greece—Adventures of Captain Glenn 

which overlooked the whole harbour area. The Battalion had one killed and 
twelve wounded. One gunner (R.A.) was also killed and three wounded. 

On the afternoon of 13th December, E.L.A.S. captured Peter Glenn, the 
Battalion Intelligence Officer, and nine ranks (including two R.A. officers, two 
British drivers and three Indians). Peter Glenn was, in fact, an American 
citizen of the U.S.A. who had joined the Indian Army with a temporary com- 
mission, and his adventures after his capture are worth a digression. Here is 
his story in his own words: 

“We were on our way back to Missologni when we were ambushed just 
before the entrance to the town. We were kept in the garrison there for several 
hours, and then hauled up to Agrinion in the back of a 15-cwt. truck. We were 
kept there for about three days under guard, during which time we learned of 
the attack at Krioneri, and the actions in Athens and elsewhere, mostly by 
being allowed to listen to the B.B.C. . 

“We were then packed up into the mountains on footlto a monastery 
about sixty miles north of Agrinion, where we were confined to one room. The 
place was filled with political prisoners of one sort or another. I protested 
violently, and produced a very flimsy excuse or proof of being an American.” 
(His captors, in fact, asked him why he was wearing British battledress if he 
was an American, to which he replied by asking them why they also were 
wearing British battledress.) 

‘““My protestations did produce results eventually, and I was allowed to 
leave on foot, with a guide, a loaf of bread and some honey, and made my 
way to Agrinion, complete with a pass. At Agrinion they put me up in a hotel, 
and the next day put me on a train that took me to Krioneri, where I spent the 
night before leaving the next day for Patras by caique. 

“By virtue of having been an E.L.A.S. prisoner, I was entitled to thirty 
days’ leave. The regulation said ‘in country of residence,’ and we duly applied 
for passage to U.S.A. This was something which the Headquarters in Athens 
would not authorize, but after a week of my being ‘in their hair,’ they said I 
could wait in Naples, near Allied Forces Headquarters. After a further week 
of waiting there, and daily trips to Caserta, I got permission to spend a week 
in Rome, on the assurance that I would call in to get word in case my passage 
came through from the War Office. 

“In Rome I met old college friends in the 10th American Mountain Divi- 
sion who invited me up; this was to be the last Italian push. I called up Allied 
Forces Headquarters and asked to go up to the Fifth Army, which they agreed 
to. I ended up in the Headquarters of the 3rd Battalion, 87th Regiment, and 
spent about ten days with them prior to the attack, and then went right up to 
the Po Valley. During this period I was with Battalion Headquarters mostly, 
doing whatever jobs I could find to do, which, as I remember, were quite a lot 
and included time with companies, helping the medics, etc. Once we broke 

The 3rd Royal Sikhs in Greece, December 1944 297 

through into the Po Valley and were just spearheading ahead, I was with a 
driver going back to pick up some men when the old ambush game was played 
again, and the two of us were again guests of the enemy—this time the Germans. 
We stayed with them for two days, and finished by racing across the Po Valley. 
In the midst of some confusion up in the hills near Verona I slipped away, and 
on foot made my way down to the American lines, ending up with the 3rd 
Battalion again. Two days later the message came through that my leave had 
been approved. 

“T flew into New York City on V.E. night and, for reasons best known to 
themselves, the Americans did give me a Bronze Star with some sort of ‘V’ 

To return to the story in Greece. The Battalion was now threatened and 
greatly outnumbered by well-armed hostile E.L.A.S. One outlying platoon of 
“A” Company was indeed surrounded by a whole battalion 700 strong. It was 
considered advisable to commence evacuation of stores and personnel, and 
caiques were sent by Brigade for the purpose. The attempt to load stores and 
casualties on them on the afternoon of the 15th had to be abandoned after both 
the jetty and caiques had been damaged and casualties caused by mortar fire. 

A plan was now made to withdraw after dark, man-handling stores to a 
beach that was under cover from observation where small caiques could be 
loaded. The mortar fire ceased at 3 p.m. and the plan was carried through that 
night. Only two carriers and three jeeps could be evacuated by a landing-craft 
from Patras. All lorries were destroyed and seven carriers were left on the jetty 
temporarily immobilized, so that they could be collected at first hght by another 

By 4.30 a.m. all troops of the Brigade were concentrated in Patras, the 3rd 
Royal Battalion sharing the German hospital building in very crowded fashion 
with the 2nd Battalion 7th Gurkhas. 

The international situation in Patras was now reported to be very tense, 
and the 16th December was spent in organizing tactically and administratively 
for any eventuality. The next ten days however passed without incident, and 
the Battalion was allotted the role of “Patforce” reserve with the German 
hospital building to itself. 

Christmas Day was observed as a holiday, and some relaxation of pre- 
cautions became possible, but on the 30th civilians reported that an E.L.A:S. 
attack was again impending. Guards were doubled and troops slept in their 
clothes that night. 

Meanwhile, British forces in Athens and the Piraeus had experienced heavy 
fighting against great numbers of E.L.A.S. troops—all in the congested city 
areas of streets and houses which favoured the guerillas. But the need for an 
early settlement and an end to the fighting was urgent and this was achieved 
by securing the King’s eventual agreement to the appointment of Archbishop 

298 The 3rd Royal Sikhs in Greece, January 1945 

Damaskinos* as Regent with full powers to form a Government free of Com- 
munists. Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden flew to Athens on Christmas 
Eve in person to see the Archbishop and secured his agreement to the plan, 
and also to seeing the E.L.A.S. leaders (if they would comply with the invita- 
tion). This was thought to be the quickest way to stop the fighting, which should 
never have started. To quote Field-Marshal Alexander (who was now in 
Supreme Command), “Greek troops should be fighting against the enemy in 
Italy and not against British troops in Greece.” ¢ 

By the end of December the insurgents were finally driven from the capital, 
and a truce was signed on 11th January 1945, by which all E.L.A.S. forces were 
to withdraw well clear of Athens, Salonika and Patras. Thus ended the six 
weeks’ struggle for Athens and for the freedom of Greece from Communist 
domination. Winston Churchill adds (lest one should fail to appreciate the 
importance of these events): “When three million men were fighting on either 
side on the Western Front and vast American forces were deployed against 
Japan in the Pacific, the spasms of Greece may seem petty; but nevertheless they 
stood at the nerve-centre of power, law, and freedom in the Western World.” 

To return to the Battalion’s story, during the early days of January more 
than one warning of impending E.L.A.S. attacks caused alerts, and men slept 
in their clothes. On the 11th operations were planned, should E.L.A.S. not 
accept the ultimatum, to drive them out of the Patras town area altogether. 
At 5 a.m. on the 12th, however, word was received that the ultimatum had been 
accepted and the men stood down. 

Early on the 13th the Battalion was ordered along the coast road to 
establish with naval support a firm base at Aiyion. Any E.L.A.S. met were to 
be disarmed and allowed to go free. The move was made by bounds with a com- 
pany and a troop of tanks as advance guard. This was wise as E.L.A.S. were not 
all tractable, although they had accepted the ultimatum, and opposition was 
encountered at midday. This resulted in an attack, supported by naval fire, being 
necessary before the insurgents were driven off. In this the Battalion lost one 
killed and four men wounded—the result of a mortar bomb which set a vehicle 
on fire. 

The Battalion entered Aiyion at 3 p.m. on the 14th and were given a great 
ovation by the population. The next day, the 15th, the news of the truce at 
3 p.m. was received, but without details of conditions. 

A return to stability in the area was now seen. Two battalions of the 
Greek National Guard arrived, thereby releasing the Battalion for more active 
duties. Accordingly, the companies were given independent missions to round 
up neighbouring towns and villages, searching for arms and disarming E.L.A.S. 

* The only person whose authority, it was thought, E.LAS. would accept. 
t [bid., p. 275. 
t Ibid., p. 283. 

The jrd Royal Sikhs at Salonika, 1945 299 

where necessary. Movement, however, was hampered by heavy rains which 
brought rivers down in spate and impeded crossings. A ceremonial march past 
was organized in Patras on 19th January to which the Battalion sent representa- 
tive detachments. 

Before leaving the story of 3rd Royal Battalion in the Patras area, a 
tribute is due to the work of its Medical Officer, Captain M. Nair, during this 
very difficult period. Besides showing great gallantry in attending to wounded 
under mortar fire, he saved a gunner and gave medical aid to wounded civilians 
in a caique at considerable risk to his own safety. He was awarded the Military 

Salonika, 1945-46 

The Battalion was now ordered to Salonika and was once more concen- 
trated in the German hospital at Patras by the 27th, preparing for embarkation. 
After several orders and counter-orders the Battalion finally embarked on the 
Princess Kathleen on 15th February in very crowded conditions. Cooking of 
chupatties was impossible and the men lived on dhall and rice till the ship’s 
arrival in Salonika at midday on the 17th. By the evening the Battalion was 
accommodated in good billets at the American Technical School, and on the 
19th took over guards in Salonika, requiring 14 N.C.Os. and 43 men. 

Shortly after its arrival the Archbishop Damaskinos, now head of the 
Greek Government, visited Salonika and the Battalion provided a guard of 
honour of 25 ranks of each class. The turn-out was excellent. The Battalion was 
not however long required for service in Salonika itself. 

The 11th Brigade had, in fact, been sent to Northern Greece as part of the 
4th Indian Division’s assignment to supervise the hand-over of arms and 
authority by E.L.A.S. to the Greek National Guards and Government, in 
accordance with the arrangements accepted by all parties. 

Accordingly, the 3rd Royal Battalion was now allotted a large area of the 
Salonika Province to the south and west of the town in which it was responsible 
for carrying out the above task. Its difficult nature may be judged from the 
instructions which stated that the troops’ role was to assist the Greek Govern- 
ment to regain control through the National Guard as soon as possible; but, 
while they could advise, they were not to become involved in affairs of local 

The Battalion moved out of Salonika on 2nd March, each company going 
by M.T. to its allotted area. Between the 6th and 9th March three battalions 
of Greek National Guard arrived and were also distributed over the area. The 
work of handing over now proceeded, and though demonstrations and re- 
grettable incidents occurred, the Battalion was not involved in any of these. 
Companies patrolled incessantly and helped in unearthing hidden arms dumps 
and supplies of all kinds. 

300 The 3rd Royal Sikhs return to India, January 1946 

On 7th March Colonel MacDonald returned from leave and resumed 
command of the Battalion, but was almost immediately required to take 
command of the Brigade as the Brigadier was going on leave. Major Nicholls, 
who had officiated in MacDonald’s absence, continued in command with acting 
rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. 

The Battalion now settled down to its role of promoting internal security, 
and as arms were gradually collected, E.L.A.S. units disbanded and insurgent 
groups broken up, the country gradually returned to a normal life under a 
stable government. 

At the end of March Lieutenant-General Scobie, C.B., C.B.E., M.C., 
Commander-in-Chief of troops in Greece, visited the Battalion, saw training 
and met officers. 

For the next eight months the Battalion remained in the Salonika area 
while the presence of the 4th Indian Division was still required in Greece. The 
end of the war in Europe and the surrender of Japan were duly celebrated. 

Eventually the return to India (and what is now Pakistan) commenced, 
and the 4th Indian Division, after six and a half years overseas, during which 
it had made itself world-famous, was warned for embarkation. 

During the 3rd Royal Battalion’s last fortnight in Salonika the Band gave 
many public programmes, and on 17th January beat “Retreat.” It had a great 
reception, and when the final time for departure came many were the demonstra- 
tions of friendship and good will on the part of the Greek populace. When, on 
28th January 1946 the Battalion embarked on H.T. Carthage, it could look 
back on a period of war service overseas that was surely unique in either 
World War. 

Commencing as it did in September 1940 at the very start of the first 
campaign in which the Indian Army was involved, its war service lasted five 
and one-third years. During that time it fought in the Sudan, Eritrea, Abyssinia, 
the Western Desert, Sicily, Italy and Greece. Although it was destroyed and 
its remnants captured by Rommel in the Western Desert, it was reconstituted 
and retrained without returning to India. Its period as part of a specialized 
“Beach brick” in Sicily, coming immediately after its reconstitution, was a novel 
experience only to be followed by the severe fighting of the Italian campaign. 
Its achievements there against some of the finest German troops showed that 
all that had gone before had served merely to raise the Battalion’s standards 
to even greater heights. Its final chapter in Greece was not the least trying, with 
its bewildering confusion of friends and foes. Covered with honours and decora- 
tions, the Battalion now returned to its homeland to its well-earned rest and 
reunion with friends and families. It had good reason to be proud indeed. 



The Ahmedzai Salient—The Middle East—The Mid-East Situation, 1941—Iraq, 1941-42 
—Iraq and Syria, 1942-43—The General War Situation, 1942-43—Italy, 1943-44— 
The Battle of the Gari River—The Advance into Northern Italy—1945 and the Final 
Victory in Italy—The 8th Indian Division—The Return to Sialkot. 

The Ahmedzai Salient 

THE Battalion was in Bannu when the Second World War broke out, and re- 
mained there till the autumn of 1940, when it was transferred to Delhi Canton- 
ment. Before its transfer it took part in minor operations in the Ahmedzai 
Salient (north of the road between Bannu and Kohat) from 12th February till 
7th March 1940. 

The Second World War was still in the quiescent stage while Hitler was 
preparing for his onslaught on Western Europe in April and May 1940, and 
on the North-West Frontier the Faqir of Ipi* was still fomenting trouble. One 
of his followers, Mehr Dil by name, had organized gangs to raid the Kohat- 
Bannu road from “hide-outs” in the inaccessible country known as the Ahmed- 
zai Salient, and it was decided to round up these gangs and establish control 
of the area by building roads and Frontier Constabulary posts there. 

The force detailed for the purpose consisted of the Kohat and Jhelum 
Brigades, and the Ist Sikhs were employed from Bannu in protecting the main 
road and commencing road construction at the south side of the salient. On 
13th February the Battalion was located in Gumatti Camp, protected by its 
own camp piquets, and employed on keeping open for convoys, etc., the sector 
of the main Kohat-Bannu road from Siti to Bannu. 

On 21st February the Battalion came under the 3rd Brigade (Jhelum) for 
the attack on the Gumatti defile, which was the entrance to the area which 
the hostile gangs were holding. It was about to advance on the heights over- 
looking the defile, where tribal banners were flying, when the C.O. of the 
Reserve Battalion (Gurkhas) obtained leave to attack instead. The Gurkhas 
captured the heights and banners without the enemy firing a shot. The Ist 

* For the Faqir of Ipi’s rise to prominence, see Chapter X1!. 


302 The Ist Sikhs move to the Middle East, June 194] 

Battalion, having regarded the banners as already “in the bag,” were somewhat 
disappointed! Road building commenced immediately and the Battalion re- 
mained on protective duties while the road into the salient was built. By 7th 
March, main road security being restored, the Battalion returned to Bannu.* 

The remainder of 1940 passed uneventfully, though the progress of the war 
from May onwards, and the disasters that attended the Allied armies, made 
it clear that an all-out national effort to train for and fight a major war was once 
more ahead. The Battalion accordingly devoted itself to the problems of 
training with newt equipment (as and when received) and learning the new 
techniques that the progress of the war was already producing. 

It was during this period that the Battalion passed from animal to mechani- 
cal first line transport, the initial training of drivers being carried out with 
the aid of civilian instructors and “bazaar” lorries and buses. During this 
period too, the Battalion received its first three-inch mortars, which were later 
to prove so valuable during the Italian campaign. The training of motor-cycle 
despatch riders presented a particularly difficult problem, as to change an 
Orakzai mule leader to a past-master in the use of B.S.A. motor-cycles 
was not an easy matter. However, after many spills and a few fractures, 
the motor-cycle was mastered. B.Os. and J.C.Os., who had to be proficient 
in all Battalion vehicles, were initially as terrified of the motor-cycle as any 
of the men! 

The Middle East 

The Ist Battalion mobilized in May 1941, and embarked in Bombay 
for Iraq on Ist June. A fact perhaps worthy of mention, portraying the spirit 
of the Battalion, was that not a single man was absent without leave or missed 
the boat. A Punjabi reservist who, when on ten days’ war leave, was cut off 
by a swollen river, arrived in Bombay under his own steam, and was received 
with a great “‘shahbash.” All prisoners in the Quarter Guard were released on 
board ship, and the Battalion entered the war with 100 per cent. clean sheet. 
The Battalion maintained this standard and, as this narrative will show, it 
returned to India having covered itself with glory. 

The convoy arrived at Basra and the Battalion disembarked on 9th June. 
The following officers accompanied the Battalion : 

Lieutenant-Colonel L. E. MacGregor, O.B.E., Commandant. 
Major P. T. Clarke, O.B.E., Second-in-Command. 
Captain G.S. Tasker, Adjutant. 
* For further details of these operations, see the History of the Frontier Force Rifles, 
Chapter XIJ, narrative of the 5th Battalion. 
+ See Chapter XIX, where the immense difficulties of expansion and training 
that were met in the earlv years of the Second World War are discussed. 

The Middle East Situation, 1941 303 

Second-Lieutenant P. B. Kirrage, Quartermaster. 

Captain H. S. Sandhu, O.C. H.Q. Company (one-fourth of each class). 
Second-Lieutenant Amar Singh, O.C. “A” Company (Sikhs). 
Captain J. D. Clark, O.C. “B” Company (P.Ms.). 
Second-Lieutenant F. N. Catto, “‘B” Company. 

Major H. E. Boulter, O.C. “C” Company (Pathans). 

Captain M. A. J. Cowan, O.C. “D’’ Company (Dogras). 

The Ist Sikhs were now to spend two and a half years in the Middle and 
Near East, moving hither and thither, hoping always that the next order would 
be for the longed-for move to the battle-front. It did not come till September 
1943, when the Battalion went to Italy and fought for the rest of the war in 
the campaign in that theatre. 

Nevertheless the intervening period spent in the Middle and Near Eust 
was of vital importance, for it was here that the spring-board for final Allied 
victory was laid, and had this area been Jost to German infiltration in the 
early days of the war—as it very nearly was—tt is difficult to see how the pattern 
of victory could have been forged. 

The Middle East Situation, 1941 

Before, therefore, proceeding with the story of the Ist Battalion’s doings 
in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East during 1941, 1942 and 1943, the 
reader should understand briefly the events that led up to the dispatch to those 
regions at this time of strong forces from India and Egypt, and the strategic 
situation that demanded it. For some time prior to 1941 Hitler’s Germany 
had pursued a policy of peaceful penetration in Iraq and Persia. In particular 
the fatter country had come markedly under German influence, and the Persian 
King, Reza Shah Pahlevi, although placed on the throne by British-Indian 
power after the First World War, had himself become a whole-hearted admirer 
of Germany. 

When Hitler’s victorious campaign in France in 1940 placed an enemy- 
controlled puppet government in power there. French colonies and mandated 
territories overseas followed German-inspired instructions and policy. This 
applied to Syria, where the “Vichy French”—so called because the French 
puppet government was located at Vichy—rapidly absorbed German tech- 
nicians on their airfields and elsewhere, and in fact made Syria into an enemy 
country. As for Iraq, in April 1941, a pro-German clique, under one Rashid 
Ali, seized power in Baghdad by a coup d'état. The danger to the entire Allied 
fighting forces was immediate. for Abadan was their main source of oil supply. 
and if this fell into enemy hands the entire war effort could be immobilized. 

A Brigade Group from India (20th) that was embarking for Malaya was 

304 The Ist Sikhs in Iraq, 1941 

hurriedly dispatched to Basra, and landed there on 18th April 1941. It was 
followed by further British Indian forces to complete an Indian Division, and 
it was as part of this Division that the 1st Battalion went to Iraq. 

In the meantime the only British force in Iraq—a Royal Air Force in- 
stallation at Habbaniyah on the Euphrates, forty miles west of Baghdad— 
was attacked by the Iraqi Army. Furthermore, Rashid Ali’s government signed 
a treaty with the enemy, by the terms of which Germany and Italy undertook 
to supply financial and military aid to the Iraqi government for a war against 
the British Commonwealth. * 

To supplement the defensive fighting and bombing power of the R.A.F. at 
Habbaniyah (which was only nine Gladiators and a Blenheim) there were seven 
companies of Iraqi levies, of whom only four Assyrian companies were reliable; 
and on 24th April half a British battalion was hurriedly flown there from India 
in obsolete aircraft. These forces, totalling but 2,200f fighting men, were all 
that we had in Iraq; but they succeeded in fighting off the attacks on Habbani- 
yah of the entire Iraqi army till the arrival of the above-mentioned Indian 
force in Basra and that of a mobile armoured column called “Kingcol’’t sent 
from Syria. It was a magnificent performance, but the Frontier Force Regiment 
had no hand in the fighting and the story has no place here. 

The situation in Iraq, therefore, was saved only in the nick of time. German 
armies that had overrun Greece were still attacking Crete with air-borne forces, 
but had not been able to reinforce Rashid Ali, nor had the Vichy French in 
Syria moved to his support. Rashid Ali and his friends fled, and ‘“‘Kingcol” 
entered Baghdad by the end of May. 

Such was the situation when the Ist Battalion landed in Basra on 9th 
June, and proceeded up-country on the 26th as part of the 17th Indian Infantry 
Brigade. The Battalion’s immediate destination was Mosul, where it arrived 
by train on 28th June. 

The evening before the departure of the Battalion to Mosul the Com- 
manding Officer paid his customary visit to the ration stand. The meat on 
hoof had been distributed, and among the P.M. rations stood a really magnifi- 
cent goat with four horns. The C.O. turned to the S.M. and said, “Subadar- 
Major Sahib! Such a magnificent creature cannot be ‘hallaled’; it should be the 
Battalion mascot.” The goat, immediately christened “Rohna,” was marched 
out of the stand and tethered outside the C.O.’s dug-out. ““Rohna,” rather smelly 
but the pet of the Battalion, accompanied it on its Syrian campaign, and died 
suddenly in the field from colic, the result of a surfeit of Delhi biscuits. 

The Battalion was dispatched to Mosul two weeks before the remainder 
of the Brigade as the situation there had deteriorated. On arrival the Battalion 

* Eastern Epic, Sir Compton Mackenzie, p. 93. 

+ The Grand Alliance, Winston Churchill, p. 226. 

t The Golden Carpet, Somerset de Chair. 

Developments in the War Situation, July 1941 305 

did not receive a civic reception, but was spat at by all ages and sexes of the 
population. It went into a camp in a plain on the banks of the Tigris overlooked 
by barracks occupied by a truculent Iraqi battalion commanded by a seemingly 
badly disposed C.O. As further evidence of its hate, M.M.G. emplacements 
and platoon localities were dug and occupied in front of the Battalion’s very 

The town of Mosul was placed out of bounds for the best part of a week 
to give time for contact to be made with both civil and military Iraqi notables. 
A few guest nights and challenges to football matches and sports meetings 
broke down the barrier, and a good time thereafter was had by all. The situation, 
indeed, to start with was really most unpleasant, and a slip by any of the men 
would have produced an ugly scene. The behaviour of the men was magnificent 
and received the approbation of our Consul in Mosul. 

But during this short period since the Battalion’s arrival in Iraq two 
further developments of importance had occurred. First the war as a whole 
had taken an unexpected major turn with the sudden and treacherous attack 
on Russia by Hitler’s armies on 22nd June. This astounded the world, for 
Hitler had indeed only recently concluded a pact of non-aggression and friend- 
ship with Russia. 

Such a vast change in the war outlook, indeed, more than ever emphasized 
the importance of the Middle-East countries, and particularly of Persia, since 
through her was the only possible way to link up with South Russia and (as 
later became so necessary) to send Russia vital munitions and supplies. Indeed, 
before long the German forces, driving all before them in Russia, were threaten- 
ing the Caucasus, defence measures in Iraq itself, as will later be seen in 
this history, became a priority work. 

The second development was the decision to deal drastically with the Vichy 
French in Syria and remove what amounted to a dangerous enemy “pocket” 
in Allied Near-East territories. An attempt was first made to induce the French 
forces in this area to join the Free French and fight with the Allies, but this 
having failed, an invasion of Syria was undertaken from Egypt with the 5th 
Indian Brigade Group, the 7th Australian Division (less one brigade), a ‘Free 
French” Division and sundry armoured formations and units of the Trans- 
Jordan Arab forces. The advance commenced on 8th June, and by 21st June 
Damascus was captured (after bitter fighting by the Sth Indian Brigade in 
which it was sacrificed at ““Mezze House”). The Vichy French forces retired to 
their bases at Aleppo. 

Thus when the Ist Battalion reached Mosul the enemy in this theatre were 
indeed the Vichy French, who were still resisting in northern Syria. Moreover, 
a combined campaign against them was being staged by both the Free French 
and Australians advancing north from Palestine and Damascus, and by forces 
of the 10th Indian Division from Iraq. 



Sketch Map of Iraq and Syria to illustrate operations, 1941 

=e =e indicates the advance of the 2tst Bngade 
tn two battahon columns, with one i reserve, 
against Deir ez Zor 

Tel Aloe 

punet Meyadin 

a a a a oo ae me ws 13.Falm Y"hidesRileg 



ef Kemal 
+= — 
oo « = 


H3 oo” 
woe eRutba 

- Z Mabbanya 


Scale in Miles 

The Ist Sikhs advance towards Syria, July 1941 307 

Iraq, 1941-42 

The Battalion was now to participate in this latter advance, but the Vichy 
French had no stomach for further fighting. It could do them no good and 
they retired without offering opposition. The Battalion’s story of this period 
is as follows: 

The day after the Battalion’s arrival by train at Mosul, its transport 
(mechanized), which had moved by road, also arrived, having suffered only one 
casualty among its vehicles—a fine achievement at that stage of the war and 
with the standard of vehicles then forming the Indian Army’s equipment. In 
the course of its journey the transport column had achieved the unusual dis- 
tinction of having captured a thief during the night of its stage at Baghdad. 
He had been unwise enough to try to steal a rifle from a tent occupied by 
members of the Pathan company. 

Orders were now received for a further advance along the road and rail 
axis towards Aleppo to Tel Kotchek. This was to be led by a mechanized 
column called “Cotswold,” and consisted of Bn. H.Q. and two companies Ist 
Sikhs with detachments from the Mortar Platoon and M.M.G. Platoon, a section 
of guns, a detachment of Sappers and Miners and ancillary services. On 2nd 
July “Cotswold” occupied Tel Kotchek without incident, and the remainder of 
the Battalion was ordered to follow. The next day reconnaissances to Tel Alo 
were carried out and enemy were seen on the roof of the post there, but no 
opposition was encountered. The day was spent interviewing local railway 
staff, sheikhs and informers who had come in from further French posts. All 
were very friendly and said no resistance would be met from French Syrian 
troops, though their officers had orders to oppose our advance. 

On the night of 4th/5th July three companies of the Battalion went for- 
ward in M.T. to occupy Tel Alo post, where a quantity of arms and equipment 
was captured and some French officers taken prisoner. This was a bloodless 
victory, but it was achieved after some very tense parleying between the C.O. 
and the French post commander, backed by a show of force by the supporting 
armoured cars and artillery. 

A brigade camp for the 17th Brigade was now formed at Tel Alo while 
the mobile column again went forward to reconnoitre Hassetche*—a post a 
hundred miles farther west. On the way at Tel Brak the column was met by 
local Arab sheikhs and representatives from Hassetche, who said that the 
French had left that morning at six o’clock and the fort was only occupied 
by Assyrian troops. They all appeared very friendly and requested that the 
column should move in that evening. The mobile column was now divided in 
two—a fast column (Battalion Headquarters, “C’’ Company and two armoured 
cars, R.A.F.) and a slow column comprising the remainder. 

* Capital town of the Vilayat. 

308 The Ist Sikhs in Syria, July 1941 

The fast column reached Hassetche at 6 p.m. the same day, 8th July, and 
was met outside the town by the governor, police and civil authorities, all 
dressed in well-laundered white drill uniforms with medals, rather a contrast 
to the Battalion’s begrimed drill bush-shirts and shorts. The keys of the town 
were handed to the C.O., who was also informed that Government House was 
available for him and that the barracks had been vacated and cleaned to receive 
the troops. The C.O. declined this invitation, much to the surprise of the 
Hassetche notables, and instead selected a suitable perimeter camp on the 
bank of the river. One platoon was sent into the town and occupied the French 
fort to reassure the local population, who feared looting by Kurds. On the 
morning of 10th July the governor and his staff escorted Colonel Macgregor 
and his staff to the town hall, signifying the official entry of the British into 
that part of Syria known as the “Duck’s Bill.” 

The gendarmerie provided a guard of honour. Colonel Macgregor assured 
the notables that the British Government wished the administration of the 
country to carry on as before, and the proceedings ended by the toasting of 
the new administration of Hassetche, 

Reports were now received that the main bridge over the river on the 
road to Deir ez Zor was mined, and the detachment of sappers and miners were 
sent to remove the mine. This took them thirty-six hours to do, as the mine was 
found to be at the end of a tunnel 36 feet long. The fort at Hassetche was also 
found to be in good condition, but certain unaccountable demolitions had been 
carried out by the French—e.g., the new aerodrome buildings and wireless 
station had been carefully broken up, in particular the officers’ quarters and 
mess were destroyed, including all mirrors, basins, baths, etc. On the other 
hand, large quantities of petrol, ammunition and stores had been left intact, 
as also was the main bridge which, as remarked above, was ready mined for 

The mobile column was ordered to leave one company in Hassetche 
(which was later relieved by the Sth Battalion Frontier Force Rifles*) and re- 
turned to Tel Kotchek on 10th July. 

Next day the Battalion returned to Mosul. The Vichy French commander 
in Syria had asked for an armistice, as indeed he had now no further hope of 
German or Italian support, and the war in Syria was at an end. 

The Battalion was now to spend the next ten months in Mosul and the 
neighbourhood, and the time, which was quite uneventful, was employed in 
training where possible and building up the men’s efficiency with up-to-date 
weapons and equipment. With the raising of fresh battalions of the Regiment 
in India, constant “milking” to provide trained nuclei took place, and fresh 
drafts of young soldiers were received from the Regimental Centre at Sialkot. 

* See History of the Frontier Force Rifles, Chapter XVIII. 

The Ist Sikhs in Syria, July 1941 309 

Locally the Battalion provided guards etc., for the security of airfields and 
other installations, and detachments on posts to safeguard oil pipelines from 
Arab marauders. 

On 25th July the Battalion suffered a tragic loss in the accidental death 
by drowning while bathing in the Tigris of Captain J. D. Clark. His body was 
recovered five miles downstream by Arab villagers, and was buried in Mosul 
Cemetery with military honours on the 27th. The 60th Rifles (K.R.R.C.) pro- 
vided the buglers and the Battalion the firing party. This in fact completed a 
tragic trio of accidents in the three battalions of the 17th Brigade since its arrival 
in Iraq, the Sth Royal Gurkha Rifles (F.F.) and Sth Battalion 13th Frontier Force 
Rifles having also each lost an officer, one through a motor-cycle crash and one 
through a shooting accident. 

On 13th September a party of one J.C.O. and forty rank and file of the 
3rd Royal Battalion visited the Battalion—the former Battalion having arrived 
in Iraq with the Sth Indian Division. This move had been occasioned by the 
menace to the Caucasus of the continued advance through South Russia 
of the German armies, and the need to show strength in the area should Turkey 
be attacked by the Central Powers. 

In November preparations were made for the actual construction of 
defences against a possible German advance on Iraq through the Caucasus, 
Mosul Fortress (on which work was done by the Battalion) being planned as a 
main bastion of the system. In the event these projects, as well as similar ones 
on the North-West Frontier of India, were later quite redundant. Stalingrad 
and Alamein in October, November and December 1942, removed all such 
enemy threats in the Second World War. 

A sudden and far more menacing threat, however, broke on the Allies from 
the opposite direction, when news from the Far East was received of the 
Japanese attack on Pear] Harbour, followed by others on Guam, Midway and 
Malaya. The diary records this news as causing a great reaction among men 
of the Battalion. That their feelings were to be borne out by events is witnessed 
by the stories that follow in this volume of the 2nd and 4th Sikhs and the war- 
raised battalions (particularly the 9th Battalion) in the fierce campaigns in 
Malaya and Burma. Indeed, the Japs proved to be probably the toughest fighters 
the Regiment had ever had to meet, an opinion confirmed by all who fought 
against them in the Second World War. 

The New Year (1942) brought a heavy fall of snow and intense cold at 
Mosul. and two results are perhaps of interest. The first was the cracking of 
water-jackets of M.T. vehicles—no fewer than sixteen being put out of action. 
Two of these were with the Mobile Workshop and had been empty of water for 
some days. The second was the arrival of masses of wild duck, Colonel Mac- 
gregor and Major Boulter obtaining a bag of thirty-three within a mile of camp 
on one afternoon alone. 

310 The Ist Sikhs in Mosul, January to April 1942 

On 13th January the Premier of the Punjab, Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan, 
visited Mosul and a parade was held of men from the Punjab to meet him. He 
gave an address to the men, assuring them that their families were well cared 
for. He also made known that a certain amount of land in the Punjab and 
some government appointments would be distributed as awards for specially 
deserving war service. The Subadar-Major replied, calling for three cheers, 
and the parade ended with tea in the Officers’ Mess for the Premier’s party, to 
which all J.C.Os. were invited. 

On 16th January 1942, Lieutenant-Colonel Macgregor left for India to 
attend a course at the Higher War School, and Major P. T. Clarke, O.B.E., took 
over officiating command of the Battalion. January and February were spent 
almost entirely on digging the defensive works of the Mosul bastion, which kept 
the men remarkably fit and improved their physique. In the latter part of 
February, however, it was possible to carry out some badly needed individual 
and section training. 

On 2nd March the Battalion was ordered to put a guard on the Field 
Supply Depot to try to stop the thieving. The installation had a perimeter of 
over four miles from which continual losses were occurring from theft. The 
Battalion was successful. Nothing was stolen during the week it was on guard, 
and the diary records with satisfaction that it secured a bag of two Arab thieves 
killed and three captured. 

News was received on 7th March that Colonel Macgregor had been 
appointed to command the 20th Indian Infantry Brigade. This was a loss to the 
Battalion and also a disappointment, since it was hoped that he might be given 
the 17th Brigade, which was soon to fall vacant on Brigadier Gracey’s* promo- 
tion to a divisional command. Brigadier Gracey visited the Battalion on 13th 
March to say good-bye. 

Colonel Macgregor had commanded the Battalion from February 1939, 
throughout its transformation from a Frontier Battalion, armed and trained 
primarily for operations against a tribal enemy and equipped only with mules, 
to a battalion organized and equipped for modern war with nearly a hundred 
vehicles. He had safely steered it through its initial teething troubles on moving 
overseas and had led it successfully on its first operational roles of the war. 
Many more months of training were still to follow before the Battalion was 
again to see action, but under him the foundations of its future successes had 
been very surely laid. 

Life continued uneventful for the Battalion during April and up to 27th 
May, and the diary at this point records that five out of the previous six months 
had been spent in digging. On this date the Battalion left for Habbaniyah and 

* General Sir Douglas Gracey, K.C.B., K.C.I.E., C.B.E., M.C., later Commander-in- 
Chief of the Pakistan Army. 

The Ist Sikhs on Oil Pipeline Protection, 1942 311 

moved on to K3, where for the first time for a year the men were accommodated 
in barracks and not in tents. 

Here, for a moment, it is necessary to digress in order that the reader shall 
understand the nomenclature K1, K2, K3, T1, T2, T3, etc., of places in the 
Arabian desert on the oil pipelines. 

Iraq and Syria, 1942-43 

The Iraq Petroleum Company had two famous pipelines to carry oil to 
the Mediterranean. They ran as one from the oilfield at Kirkuk to K3, but 
thence they diverged, the northern line running to Tripoli, with posts named 
T1, T2, etc., and the southern to Haifa, with posts named H1, H2, H3, etc. 
For much of their length they were exceedingly vulnerable, the pipes being 
covered with only a shallow depth of sand and their alignment clearly marked 
by a line of telegraph poles. They were accordingly the object of constant raids 
by the Arabs. This thieving of oil, though the Arabs naturally considered 
it beautiful in itself and would have pursued it for no other reason, had at this 
time considerable other justification on economic grounds. Irrigation of fertile 
lands on the Euphrates banks was carried out with pumps run on fuel oil. The 
French Socony-Vacuum Company’s organization for selling oil to the owners 
of the pumps had vanished with the Iraq and Syrian campaign, and without the 
oil the fields could not be wrigated and the people could not live. On the 
other hand, the oil was a war necessity to our forces in the Western Desert and 
elsewhere, and the Arab had a playful habit, after helping himself to his require- 
ments, of setting the broken pipeline on fire and admiring the blaze. 

It was little wonder, therefore, that the vital security of the pipelines 
constituted a priority claim on the services of the troops, and the 1st Sikhs had 
now to do their share (at the very hottest time of year) of this dull and wearisome 
duty. While Battalion Headquarters remained at K3, two companies were 
detached on 28th May to outlying posts at T1, H1 and another location known 
as LG5. However, the duty was not for long, and on 25th June the Battalion 
was ordered to Syria—news which was welcome indeed, for not only was Syria 
a far pleasanter country, but it was a step nearer the fighting in the Western 
Desert, where General Rommel’s drive against the Eighth Army* was reaching 
a critical stage. 

The Battalion left K3 on Ist July, Deir ez Zor on 2nd July, and arrived at 
Aleppo at 5.30 p.m. on 3rd July without incident or casualty to man or vehicle 
—an efficient performance, for the distance was upwards of 350 miles in the 
greatest heat. From Aleppo the Battalion moved to Tripoli by rail, leaving its 
vehicles behind at road-head. The change to Tripoli, remarks the diary, could 

* See 3rd Royal Battalion story, Chapter XVI. 

312 The Ist Sikhs in the Middle East, 1942-43 

not be greater, for the men found themselves in a camp by the sea in an olive 
grove with a cool breeze blowing and streams everywhere. 

The Battalion’s role in Tripoli was internal security, and on the 11th it 
received a visit from General Sir H. Maitland Wilson, the Commander of the 
Ninth Army in the Middle East. He had tea in the Mess and met all the officers. 

On 21st July Lieutenant-Colonel H. E. Cubitt-Smith arrived from India via 
Iraq and assumed command of the Battalion. The diary remarks that, arriving 
by rail, he was recognized by the Staff Captain at the station before Tripoli and 
taken by him direct to the Battalion camp. At the same time, the party from 
the Battalion to meet him were waiting at Tripoli Station—a wholly auspicious 
start for a new C.O.! 

During the months of August and September the Battalion, with its Head- 
quarters in Tripoli, was responsible for the over-all protection of the sea coast 
from Alexandretta in the north to Beirut in the south. Under Colonel Cubitt- 
Smith was also a force of several thousand Lebanese under Free French officers. 

On 29th September the Battalion left Tripoli again for Kirkuk in Iraq, 
where it was to rejoin its Brigade. This was a disappointment and caused hopes 
of an early move to the battle area to recede. The move was entirely by road in 
M.T. (121 vehicles), and the first night was spent at Damascus, the second on 
the road across the desert, and the third at Rutba Wells. On the fifth day Bagh- 
dad was reached, where there was a halt for maintenance, and two days later 
the Battalion arrived in Kirkuk, having completed the 850 miles from Tripoli 
on 6th October—i.e., in eight days (including the day’s halt at Baghdad)— 
without casualty. In Kirkuk the Battalion was employed on guard duties in the 
oilfields once more, and had little time for training. However, periodically com- 
panies were struck off complete, and were able to go to camp in a training area. 
On 9th November the whole Battalion went there for two and a half weeks’ 
collective training. 

On 1st December the Battalion moved into a winter camp at Kifri and 
shortly afterwards the weather broke. On 14th December “D” Company were 
sent on detachment to Kermanshah (in Persia) for guard duty. The rest of the 
year elapsed without incident. 

January 1943, was devoted to collective training schemes with higher for- 
mations, and this continued into February, when three days were devoted to 
battle inoculation. The remainder of this month and the whole of March passed 
without incident, but early in April the Battalion was warned for a move to an 
unknown destination. This time it was to be the first move on the road to active 
service at last. 

It was, indeed, the move of the 8th Indian Division to Syria, whence some 
months later it went to the Italian war theatre as a reinforcement to the Eighth 
Army. The Battalion moved once more across the Arabian desert as part of 
the third flight of this Division, and arrived at Baalbek in the valley of the 

The Ist Sikhs move to Egypt for War Training, June 1943 313 

Lebanon, after a journey of 813 miles, on 29th April. Here it continued train- 
ing, mostly in mountain warfare, and the C.O. was put in charge (in addition 
to the Battalion) of the 8th Division Mountain Warfare instructional team. The 
diary records that during May the companies carried out many long and arduous 
exercises by night and day. These were to pay handsome dividends later. This 
continued till 21st June, when “dry-shod” training on the “mock-ups” of 
landing-craft, already built in the area, commenced as a preparation for pos- 
sible landing operations. 

On 7th July the Battalion moved to Kabrit on the shore of the Bitter Lake 
on the Suez Canal for “wet shod” training. Here various schemes were carried 
out, including an assault landing by night, followed by the seizing of a beach- 
head position. This training was completed by the end of the month and the 
Battalion moved to Jebel Mazar, where the men were once more accommodated 
in huts for a while. Nine days later, on 9th August, the 17th Brigade received 
its first preliminary instruction for a move overseas to the fighting front, and by 
the 15th all heavy baggage had been placed in the Divisional dump and the 
Battalion was ready. At this time the objective was the island of Rhodes, which 
the 17th Brigade was assigned to attack. But after the defection of the Italians 
this somewhat useless expedition was called off at the last moment, although 
the advanced party of the Battalion had actually set sail. Perhaps for all con- 
cerned this abandonment of the attack on Rhodes was most fortunate from 
every point of view! In the end, it was not till 11th September that the move 
to the port of embarkation took place in two parties—main party by rail and a 
road party taking the M.T. direct to the port. The latter turned out to be Alex- 
andria and the theatre Italy. 

The General War Situation, 1942-43 

Before proceeding to the story of the Battalion’s exploits in the Italian 
Campaign of 1943-44, it is necessary again to digress for a moment, to remind 
the reader of the developments in the war that had led to the Allied Eighth Army 
fighting in Italy. 

After the elimination of the Vichy French and Axis forces from Syria in 
1941, an important change in the High Command took place. General 
Auchinleck, who was then Commander-in-Chief in India, was appointed to 
command the Allied forces in the Middle East, and General Wavell went to 
South-East Asia. In the Western Desert the latter had left Tobruk invested by 
the Axis forces under Rommel, while the Eighth Army on the Egyptian frontier 
was building up its strength to go to its relief. By November 1941, General 
Auchinleck was ready. He launched his “Crusader” offensive which relieved 
Tobruk and drove Rommel back once more to Tripolitania. But in the meantime 
Japan had struck on 7th December. Australia required her forces that were 

314 Developments in the War Situation, January to September 1943 

in the Western Desert back for her own defence, and the Eighth Army’s drive 
was paralysed. In January and February, while Japan (having secured a free 
hand by destroying the U.S. Fleet at Pearl Harbour) was overrunning the Far 
East, Rommel struck again in Cyrenaica and drove back the Eighth Army, 
capturing Tobruk by armoured assault. The story of the retreat that followed 
in the Western Desert is described in the 3rd Royal Battalion narrative 
(Chapter XVI). 

By the autumn of 1942, with Rommel at Alamein, German armies at 
the gates of Stalingrad, Moscow and Leningrad, and the Japanese armies 
threatening both India and Australia, Allied fortunes had reached their lowest 
ebb of the war. But the darkest hour precedes the dawn, and America was 
rapidly building her strength to intervene. A really satisfactory tank had now 
reached the Eighth Army and was being learnt by its armoured forces, and 
British sea power had enabled the Eighth Army to receive reinforcements from 
England and again to build up its strength in the Western Desert. 

In October 1942, the Eighth Army, now under General Montgomery,* 
attacked Rommel’s Axis forces at Alamein while the British Navy stopped 
the German oil supplies across the Mediterranean. The victory (in which the 
4th Indian Division participated) was complete and decisive. The Eighth Army 
advance which followed overran the whole of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and 
Tunisia, being joined in the spring of 1943, opposite Tunis itself, by the British 
First Army and American forces, all of which had landed in Morocco and 
Algeria. Meanwhile the Russians, largely supplied by the Allied railway 
through Persia, had counter-attacked at Stalingrad and the Germans in Russia 
were retreating with heavy losses. 

In May 1943, followed the surrender to the First and Eighth Armies of 
250,000 German and Italian forces trapped in the corner of Tunis. It was the 
result of a combined attack by the Allied armies, led by the 4th Indian Division 
and the 7th Armoured Division (the Desert Rats). Thus in the early summer 
of 1943 the way lay open for the invasion of Sicily and Italy, and with the 
conquest of the former and the landing in Italy, the Italian Government capitu- 
lated to the Allies, handing over the Italian fleet. The Allies, however, were 
slow to seize the opportunity to occupy Rome and gain control of the country; 
and German forces were rushed over the Brenner Pass into Italy to oppose 
the Allied armies now advancing in the south. There followed the campaign 
in Italy in which the Ist Battalion participated. 

Meanwhile, the German armies in Russia, after their disaster at Stalingrad, 
had continued to withdraw westward and the threat to Iraq and Persia had 
disappeared, thus releasing the 8th Indian Division. 

By September 1943, the Allied forces in Italy had reached a line across 

* Field-Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein. 

The Ist Sikhs in Italy, 1943 315 

the country from the Bifurno River in the east to Cassino and the Gari River 
on the west. The enemy line here, which was in fact defending Rome, was to 
hold firm with the epic struggle for the Cassino monastery continuing throughout 
the winter. There followed the costly Anzio landing to outflank the enemy, and 
the final break-through on the Gari in which the Battalion was one of the spear- 
heads of the 8th Division’s assault. 

Let us return, however, to the Battalion’s story from the time it landed in 
Italy in September. 

Italy, 1943-44 

The Battalion’s main party embarked on 20th September 1943, at 
Alexandria, and sailed in a convoy for Taranto the same day. The M.T. party 
followed in a second convoy via Alexandria and Malta. The main party 
arrived at Taranto on 24th September and the M.T. party on Ist October. Many 
surrendered Italian vessels were seen on the voyage under Royal Naval escort. 
After twelve days in the Taranto area on guards and fatigues, the Battalion 
moved, as part of the 17th Infantry Brigade, which consisted of the Ist Battalion 
Royal Fusiliers, Ist Sikhs and 1/5th Royal Gurkhas, to the battle area on the 
River Bifurno, halting for four days at Corato en route. 

On 22nd October the Battalion was ordered up into the forward area, 
moving up that night through the forward positions of the Ist Battalion The 
Royal Fusiliers. All companies reported arriving on their objectives without 
contacting the enemy, and it was not till 1.30 p.m. that leading elements of “C” 
Company exchanged small-arms fire with an enemy outpost. 

A dawn attack on Palata was ordered for next morning with the support 
of two artillery regiments of 25-pounders and one medium battery, and the 
companies advanced at 5 a.m. No opposition, however, was met, and the com- 
panies reorganized on their objectives, the rest of the day being spent in bringing 
up transport, road improvements and mine clearance. The 25th October to 
2nd November were spent in local protection and R.E. fatigues on roads and 
diversions, till on the latter date the 17th Brigade were warned for an immediate 
move to a new area, to come under the 78th British Division. This took place 
in troop-carrying transport on 4th November and the Battalion arrived at 
Petaciatto at 4.30 p.m. The 5th November was spent in reconnaissance of the 
new area, as the Battalion expected to make an attack through the Ist Battalion 
5th Royal Gurkhas on arriving there. However, information was received that 
no enemy were in the area, and the Gurkhas continued to advance almost 

The next town as an objective was Furci, and the Battalion entered on the 
6th to be greeted with enthusiasm by the populace. There was no fighting. On 
moving out to advance, however, “C” Company encountered mortar and 

316 The Ist Sikhs’ attack on Mozzagrogna, November 1943 

machine-gun fire, and the companies were pinned down. The Battalion lost 
two killed and fourteen wounded—its first battle casualties in the Second 
World War. 

On the 8th the Battalion moved through Castelanguida and companies 
took up position at the northern edge of the town. The bridge over the River 
Sinello being broken, supplies and ammunition had to go forward on local mules 
and donkeys. The next two days were spent consolidating the position and 
improving communications. 

On 12th November, patrol activity caused a few casualties, but next day 
the Battalion was relieved by the 1 / 5th Essex Regiment of the 19th Brigade, and 
the 17th Brigade moved to a new locality. The Battalion was now warned for an 
attack across the Sangro, which was the next river obstacle ahead. 

After two postponements the attack commenced on the night of 26th 
November, the Battalion going forward behind a barrage. By 11.40 p.m. the 
Battalion reported the first objective taken, with the loss of one J.C.O. and two 
men wounded. The loss in mules from shell fire, which the enemy brought down 
behind the Battalion, was heavy, twenty-six being killed. The loads had to be 
man-handled forward. 

At 1 p.m. on 28th November a successful move forward under a still 
more heavy artillery-cum-air barrage was accomplished without incident, to 
a position just south-west of Mozzagrogna from where the Battalion was to 
launch a night attack on the village that night. 

The attack on Mozzagrogna by the other two battalions of the Brigade, 
the 1 /Sth Royal Gurkhas and 1st Royal Fusiliers, resulted in bitter close fighting, 
and was the first occasion on which enemy flame-throwing tanks were 

At 9 a.m. on 29th November the Battalion received belated orders to 
occupy a forward position under cover of a very big barrage. In the event 
the late arrival of the orders was of no consequence, since the Battalion was 
already on the position. 

The one and only road leading into Mozzagrogna was heavily mined and 
covered with many dead bodies. The C.O. did not receive final orders for the 
attack until 4 p.m. and there was little time to enable further reconnaissance 
to be made. “A” and “B” Companies went forward and were gallantly assisted 
by a small party of officers from the Royal Fusiliers who had taken part in 
the previous night’s battle. Acting as guides they proved of great value (and 
suffered casualties). 

The morning of 29th November broke to find that hand-to-hand fighting 
had ensued without appreciable result one way or the other. On going forward 
from Battalion Headquarters, the C.O. found at the west end of Mozzagrogna 
a mass of tanks and men lying completely “bomb happy,” the tanks being 
unable to move. A general sweep of the town was then co-ordinated by the 

The Ist Sikhs in Italy, December 1943 317 

C.O. to include two companies of the Royal Fusiliers taking the south-east 
sector and the Battalion the north-west. This final sweep proved effective 
and the enemy were eventually forced to withdraw, leaving the first prisoners 
to be captured by the Battalion, for which event at 2 a.m. the following morning 
the C.O. received the personal congratulations of General Montgomery. 

Mozzagrogna was the Battalion’s first big test of battle in the Second World 
War, and their training and discipline stood the test well. The Battalion had 
suffered forty casualties. 

Clearing-up operations occupied the next twenty-four hours, and they were 
most unpleasant as hidden machine-gun posts and snipers were active through- 
out from the neighbouring houses and trees. Lieutenant Bird, in spite of being 
blasted by a bomb in Mozzagrogna and rendered almost deaf and certainly 
stunned, gallantly carried on with his signal duties. Lieutenant Morris rendered 
great service as Liaison Officer before being temporarily disabled by an 
accident to his jeep. 

On 1st December the Battalion was ordered to move to Romagnoli. Here 
it relieved the Royal West Kents in a reserve position, and the next day suffered 
a raid by bombers, causing six casualties. For the next few days the Battalion 
carried out physical training parades, training with enemy weapons, together 
with the unpleasant task of burying the many German dead, until on 
7th December it took over positions overlooking the Moro river from the 
3rd Battalion 15th Punjab Regiment of the 21st Brigade. Here there was con- 
siderable enemy shelling, but casualties were very few. The front was quiet and 
patrolling was the only activity till 18th December, when the Battalion moved 
forward at 1.30 a.m. across the Moro to attack the enemy position to the north. 
Moving behind a barrage with a squadron of tanks in support, the Battalion 
reached its first objective by 6 a.m. and remained there al] day. There was strong 
enemy opposition with tanks, some using flamethrowers. 

Next morning a further attack on essential enemy-held houses was launched 
at first light after thirty minutes’ intense bombardment and again with tank 
support. After severe fighting the objective was captured and a counter-attack 
beaten off. Several destroyed tanks were found on the position, and two anti- 
tank guns complete with a quantity of light machine guns, rifles, grenades and 
ammunition were taken. Captain Harnam Singh, unfortunately, was seriously 
wounded in this action. 

Patrol activity forward of the captured position continued till 21st 
December, when the Battalion was relieved by the Ist Battalion The Royal 
Fusiliers and moved to rest at Caldari. Bathing, maintenance and attention to 
administrative details occupied the next few days, and the Battalion enjoyed 
a good Christmas with the aid of much appreciated amenities from the 

However, all was not quiet at Caldari and the town was heavily shelled 

318 The Ist Sikhs winter in Italy, 1943-44 

on 26th, 27th and 28th December, causing a direct hit on a house occupied 
by a section of “D” Company, killing three and wounding four men. 

On the 29th the Battalion moved in jeeps and carriers to Villa Grande 
and relieved the 1 /Sth Essex Regiment, Battalion Headquarters being in cellars 
in the town. Here also enemy shelling continued, but the front was quiet. 

The year ended with the weather breaking, and the final entry in the diary 
records: “Activity on front nil—blizzard—‘A’ and ‘D’ Company trenches 
filled and collapsed.” 

The New Year came in with the continuance of a savage blizzard and 
one-third of each company was pulled back in turn to dry and “thaw out.” In 
the morning the snow turned to rain, and on 2nd January the weather improved 
and snow began to thaw. On the 5th there was a clash with a strong enemy 
patrol which was driven off, but in spite of further snow on the 6th, patrolling 
activity continued and there was much enemy shelling, including Nebelwerfer 
fire. This was a fearsome multiple weapon that fired a number of light shells 
simultaneously. On further acquaintance, however, its fearsomeness was found 
to be greater than its actual effect, owing to its lack of accuracy. 

On 10th January the Battalion was again pulled out to rest, this time in 
Roalti for three days—spent in general maintenance and cleaning. 

On the 16th the Battalion was back at the front, relieving once more the 
1/5th Essex Regiment in the north sector of the divisional front. The same 
evening a platoon of “A” Company were attacked by two platoons of enemy. 
They held their fire till the enemy were within thirty or forty yards, and then 
opened with grenades, 2-inch mortar and small-arms fire, inflicting heavy 
casualties. Documents were recovered from an enemy body left on the ground, 
and later the Battalion were congratulated by the Brigade Commander on this 
successful little affair. 

The Battalion remained in the front line till 26th January, when, being 
relieved, it was again withdrawn to rest in Roalti. While resting, the Battalion’s 
Medical Officer throughout its period overseas, Captain J. N. Ghosh, left for 
another appointment. The Battalion was sorry to lose him as he had done well 
and had been recommended for a Military Cross, which was in due course 
awarded to him. 

On 12th February the Battalion moved to Castelfrentano, arriving on the 
16th, and went forward to its position in the front line forthwith. The weather 
during the previous fortnight had been deplorable, and on this day the rain 
changed to snow and a blizzard developed. The River Moro had now become 
an icy torrent and it became a problem to get the mules across. Several poor 
creatures drowned in the attempt. Eventually the remainder got across, but 
were completely exhausted and had to be unloaded when over. 

During the time spent in the Castelfrentano area patrol activity and mortar- 

The Ist Sikhs in Italy, March to April 1944 319 

ing continued. Towards the end of February three awards for gallantry were 
received, and Lieutenant-Colone] Cubitt-Smith left for India on temporary 
duty, handing over the Battalion to Major Boulter. The awards were the I.O.M. 
to Havildars Bakhshi Ram and Karam Singh, and the I.D.S.M. to Naik 

On 8th March the Battalion was again withdrawn from the front line to 
the reserve area and accommodated in rather cramped and straggling billets on 
Taverno Ridge. For the next three weeks shelling and patrol activity were the 
only activities, but on the 30th the enemy opened a heavy bombardment, lasting 
an hour, on the area where Battalion Headquarters was located, but no attack 

On the 3rd April the Battalion was relieved by the 3/8th Punjab Regiment 
and moved to a new area for rest and refitting. The 4th Indian Division were 
due to take over the front in the Brigade area on 9th April, and details of the 
change-over were studied with officers of the 3rd Royal Battalion of the Regi- 
ment,* who were one of the 4th Indian Division battalions concerned. In 
celebration of the reunion of the two sister battalions it was found possible 
to hold a tea party which was attended by all officers and J.C.Os. 

Lieutenant-Colonel Cubitt-Smith returned from India on 11th April and 
resumed command. 

The Battalion now moved to Guglionesi, described as a dirty and unpre- 
possessing town on the Biferno, and carried out training in river crossings, since 
the future appeared to indicate that this would now be the type of fighting that 
might repeatedly have to be undertaken. Italy has in fact one river after another 
flowing down its North Eastern watersheds to the sea. 

On 24th April the Battalion moved across the Apennines to Dragoni in 
rear of Cassino, where similar training continued. This was in fact for the 
Battle of the Gari River which now followed. 

The Battle of the Gari River, 1 1th-14th May 1944 

Thus the preliminary training for this battle was carried out many miles 
behind the front line. Indeed, the Brigade as well as most of the Division, 
having some months previously undergone weeks of combined operation train- 
ing in Egypt, were the more easily able to understand the procedure followed 
in this night assault over an opposed river crossing. A Beachmaster’s staff and 
communications through whom the move of the Battalion on “D” night would 
be controlled was to be found from attached units and personnel outside the Bri- 
gade. Battle drill, including moves from the concentration area to the forming-up 
place, and from there to the river bank and across the river, was perfected as 

* See story of the 3rd Royal Battalion, Chapter XVII. 

320 The Ist Sikhs prepare for the Battle of the Gari, May 1944 

nearly as possible, and every detail of the preliminary arrangements was studied 
and practised in advance. 

The whole 8th Indian Division had now moved across the country 
to the west side of Italy, where the battle for Cassino (and Rome) had 
reached a stalemate, and the Allied force that had landed from the sea at Anzio 
had also been held up by strong German forces. The blow planned was an 
attack across the Gari with the object of breaking through, linking up with the 
Anzio beach-head, and capturing Rome. The general plan of attack was for 
the 4th (British) and the 8th Indian Divisions to attack together across the 
river on a front of about two miles from Cassino southwards; the 4th British 
Division on the right and the 8th Indian Division on the left, while at a given 
moment the Polish Corps would attack the famous monastery hill. 

The river separated the 8th Division from the enemy on its entire front 
and was a swift-flowing stream, some six to eight feet deep, with marshy 
meadows on both banks. Beyond the river on the right stood the little village 
of San Angelo. This and all the high ground along the front of attack had been 
well prepared in depth and fortified by the enemy with numerous strong-points 
manned by machine guns and mortars. The position was strongly held. It was 
a stiff proposition indeed, and little wonder that the Americans, who had taken 
a ‘“‘bloody nose” in a recent attempt to break through, were offering long odds 
with the British Eighth Army Headquarters against the attack of the 4th and 
8th Divisions succeeding. 

General Russell’s plan was for the 17th Brigade to attack on the right 
and the 19th Brigade on the left, and when the flanks were secure to drive 
forward on Pignataro, a village some three miles from the start, which was 
to be the Division’s immediate objective. 

The Battalion arrived at Tarvernole on 4th May, bringing with it the 
special boats for the river crossing, from Dragoni. The next morning it received 
a visit from Lieutenant-General Sir Oliver Leese, K.C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., the 
Eighth Army Commander. He met officers and saw the Battalion on parade. 

On the night of 9th May the Battalion dug in in a forward concentration 
area overlooked by the Cassino monastery and high ground on the far side of 
the Gari; and now the narrative of the battle itself is best given in the words 
of Colonel Cubitt-Smith, the Battalion’s Commanding Officer. 

The country east of the River Gari was in fact overlooked by the enemy 
nearly all along the line. A gigantic smoke screen, day in and day out, from 
beyond Monastery Hill to the hills above Sappolinaire blocked the enemy’s 
view for two or three weeks before the battle. The brigade sector, a very long 
one, for ten days preceding the battle was held by only one battalion, and in 
order that the “gaff” should not be blown, only a few small reconnoitring parties 
of the assaulting battalions were permitted to go down to the river at night. 
Enemy patrols, though active, were inclined to be careless. The Germans 

The Ist Sikhs prepare for the Battle of the Gari, May 1944 $21 

appeared to be over-confident. They were certainly in good spirits. On one 
occasion about ten o’clock at night, from a shell-hole by the water’s edge, we 
heard a gramophone being played in the very strong post 400 yards away which 
we were later to capture. A German was also singing with great feeling a song 
to the tune of “When will this ruddy war end?” 

From the 700 guns supporting the 4th British and 8th Indian Divisions 
some 56,000 shells were to fall on our brigade sector, in a fire plan that dealt 
successively with enemy artillery, mortar batteries, defended localities and 
suspected headquarters. 

Finally groups of not less than twenty-four field guns, concentrating on 
located enemy positions, would move at the rate of 100 yards in six minutes 
in front of the assaulting infantry advancing westward after crossing the Gari, 
with long pauses on each objective. 

A Bofors battery was to fire directional “tracer” from one gun on the axis 
of advance of each assaulting battalion at every lift of the barrage—i.e., every 
six minutes, and after every long pause on objectives. 

Two troops of Sherman tanks, having quietly slipped into a concentration 
area during the night of 10th May, were to rush forward to a previously recon- 
noitred fire position and blaze away at a strong-point called “Bank,” with 
the aid of their telescopic night sights (before the moon rose). Thereafter these 
tanks would concentrate on San Angelo and the strong-point immediately 
north of it, until the Brigade’s first objective was taken. 

In the air, superiority being complete, the strategic air support was to 
continue disrupting enemy communications. The Desert Air Force (tactical 
support), from first light on 12th May, was to have the somewhat unusual role 
of locating and destroying hostile guns and Nebelwerfers (multiple mortars). 
A percentage of aircraft were to be detailed to deal with anticipated enemy 
air attack on the river during the early morning of 12th May. Immediate close 
air support was to be given by one or two flights operating continually in the 
air, or very close at hand, and able to proceed direct on a target, on call from 
even a brigade headquarters at very short notice. Both at Sangro and other 
battles such assistance had arrived within fifteen to twenty minutes of call, and 
in time to break up enemy concentrations for counter-attack. The system was 
somewhat extravagant in the use of aircraft, but the “P.B.I.,” in spite of the 
extravagance, naturally prefer this form of support to any other. Conditions, 
however, rarely made it possible! 

The Sappers were to prepare and clear vehicle routes of mines, etc., and 
in addition were, of course, to construct a number of Bailey bridges. 

The brigade plan was to attack on a two-battalion front, two companies 
up; the third battalion to follow whichever assaulting battalion made most 
progress and capture San Angelo from the west. A squadron of tanks was to 


322 The Ist Sikhs—The Battle of the Gari, 11th to 14th May 1944 

be in immediate close support of each assaulting battalion and would be the 
first vehicles to cross over the first Bailey bridge constructed. The bridge-head 
final objectives extended to about 3,000 yards west of the River Gari. 

During the night of 9th/ 10th May the two assaulting battalions marched 
quietly into their concentration areas a mile or so from the river bank and 
there lay ‘“doggo”——‘‘very doggo”—during the hours of daylight of 10th and 
11th May. No other brigade in the Corps moved to its concentration area before 
the night of 10th/ 11th May, fearing that the presence of extra troops might be 
spotted by the enemy and the whole operation thereby be jeopardized (apart 
from the heavy punishment likely to be received from hostile guns !). 

The night of 11th/12th May was starlit but slightly cloudy. At 9.30 p.m., 
marking parties set about their tasks, preceded by small patrols, with the Beach- 
master’s staff. At 10 p.m. Battalion Tactical Headquarters left the con- 
centration area to take up positions in big shell-holes near the forming-up 
places, there to watch the assaulting companies pass through. It was fortunate 
that this procedure was adopted, for on arrival it was discovered that the entire 
Beachmaster’s communications had completely failed! With the arrival of the 
companies, the commanders were quickly told of the situation and plans 
made for the Battalion to do without these communications. Suddenly, at 11 
p.m., the whole sky was lit up by the guns opening fire. Assaulting companies, 
carrying their heavy Mark III assault boats, accompanied by selected men 
from another company who were to do all the ferrying, clambered down the 
steep bank to the meadow east of the river and from there slowly made their 
way forward to the river bank. Boats punctually slid into the river at 11.45 p.m., 
and some dozen casualties were very soon sustained as the result of our own air 
bursts above the river. The two leading companies were about to get across, with 
the third company following closely, when suddenly a very heavy mist, together 
with smoke, completely engulfed the countryside. Visibility was reduced to 
one yard. 

By dint of much shouting, joining of hands, and in spite of dozens of falls 
in dykes and shell-holes (which, incidentally, called forth the same exclamations 
in a remarkable number of languages), parties of men were organized in their 
boat-loads and very slowly led forward to the river bank. En route we met the 
Beachmaster. He had lost his river! Our irate adjutant in due course appro- 
priately showed him where it flowed. 

The river bank was now subject to machine-gun and light mortar fire 
but the Battalion, crossing on a very narrow front, managed to escape lightly, 
the fire being high and very dispersed. Eventually the entire Battalion got 
across, no company being free from casualties. At this juncture I may state 
that had it not been for the trouble taken previously to perfect the battle drill, 
coupled with the discipline shown by al! ranks, much of the Battalion, in the 

SKETCH MAP of Break Thr the GARI 
AT 14" 1044 1” Battalion PWG 
Cassino Mgnasfery 

Scale of Miles 

J % A Js o 1 Mile 
—____»—_» Initial Advance of Coys. mm May 
i FuP Forming up Place 
>» +» »—— Advance on [2"-[4% May 
—__ 5 Enemy Counter affack 
my Form lines showing configuration of ground 5 
Qe / 


324 The Ist Sikhs in the Battle of the Gari, May 1944 

absence of communications from the Beachmaster in the heavy mist, would 
never have got across and the attack might have failed. Eight boats had 
originally been put into the river and five remained in commission, three being 
damaged by artillery fire, while two were saved through N.C.Os. or sepoys 
jumping into the river to retrieve the drifting ropes. 

West of the river the enemy had laid low concealed trip wire over a 
large part of the front, and on this wire being cut or pulled smoke bombs were 
released, to be followed by machine guns opening up on fixed lines. The two 
forward companies, slowly advancing, succeeded in reaching the lateral road 
in the vicinity of the enemy strong-points at “Bank,” suffering considerable 
casualties from heavy rifle, grenade and machine-gun fire. From a previous 
scrutiny of air photographs and from reconnaissances, these companies, in 
accordance with orders and (to their credit) by the good use of the compass 
in the heavy mist, managed to attack this strong feature from the south, thus 
avoiding the enemy’s well-concealed frontal fire. His tunnelled communications 
to the rear enabled the enemy to withdraw a few yards in order to contest the 
advance of the companies along the top. Dug-outs and quarries favoured the 
defence, but a series of close, sharp encounters with grenade and bayonet 
eventually destroyed the enemy. One company commander was killed and the 
other wounded, all except one platoon commander of these two companies 
became casualties, but of the Germans only prisoners remained. Much the 
same experience was met by the rest of the Battalion. Visibility continued to 
be nil, and for one hour Battalion Headquarters formed with the reserve com- 
pany a small perimeter camp amongst the dykes, while the enemy were 
gradually cleared out by short charges, accompanied by much shouting to 
maintain touch. The enemy’s fire, including grenades, was comparatively wild. 
He could, of course, see no better than we, and by midday, just as the mist 
began to clear, the Battalion was firmly entrenched along the whole ridge 
running parallel to and some 600 yards west of the river. As visibility increased, 
however, so did enemy sniping and machine-gun fire, and a little later the whole 
ridge and the area east of it was subject to intense shell and mortar fire. 

By 7.45 a.m. the first Bailey bridge (““Oxford” Bridge) had been erected 
just behind us, a most magnificent piece of work on the part of the Sappers. 
Before a further fifteen minutes had elapsed, the first tanks came rumbling over 
and took up positions behind us and on the flanks. For the rest of the day 
the Battalion made good its position, being supported immediately east of it 
on the river bank by the third and reserve battalion of the Brigade which, 
having followed us earlier, had been forced to dig in very near the river bank. 
Early next morning (the 13th) San Angelo, after a most terrific bombardment, 
including shells from American and British 8-inch and 7.9-inch guns, was cap- 
tured at the third attempt by very gallant fighting on the part of the reserve 

The 8th Indian Division’s Achievement in the Battle of the Gari 325 

battalion—the 1/5th Royal Gurkhas. The key to further advance had now 
been secured, and our Battalion was ordered to move forward with close tank 
support, to the limit of the final objective, but during the morning the enemy 
counter-attacked with tanks. However, these were held with the aid of artillery 
concentrations brought down with good effect, and “‘A” and ‘“‘D” Companies 
were ordered to lay mines across their front. 

Thus ends the C.O.’s narrative. 

At midday on the 14th the enemy withdrew, followed by “‘D’” Company 
with “A” Company in support. The position on the final objective was now 
made secure. The remainder of the day was spent in reorganization and resting. 
Rations, which had been “man packed,” were cooked behind the captured 

The night was quiet, with little shelling, and the 15th and 16th May were 
spent in minor tasks. These were done with the aid of tanks to eliminate remain- 
ing enemy pockets of resistance, though substantially the whole area had by 
now been hastily evacuated by the Germans. 

On the 17th the Canadians and the 6th Armoured Division passed through 
and the Battalion marched back to the river. Here the Divisional Commander, 
Major-General “Pasha” Russell, watched them across and congratulated them 
on “an excellent job of work.” Indeed, this was less than an adequate descrip- 
tion of the 8th Indian Division’s achievement in this battle. Previously all 
attempts to take Cassino had failed, the Anzio beach-head was precarious, and 
D Day for the Normandy landings was approaching. The American forces in 
Italy had attempted to force the Gari without success and were openly offering 
odds against the British Indian attack succeeding. The victory on the Gari 
effected the link-up with Anzio, the capture of Rome and the advance up to 
North Italy, and so the landings in the South of France to support the Allied 
drive from Normandy were possible. It was the decisive battle of 1944 in Italy, 
and the Allied cause had reason to be grateful to the Ist Battalion Frontier 
Force Regiment and the 6th Royal Battalion of the Frontier Force Rifles* 
for their achievement in it, for they were part of the spearhead of the 8th Indian 
Division’s assault that effected the break-through. 

The Battalion moved back in vehicles to Dragoni on 18th May, and the 
same afternoon Lieutenant-Colonel Vosper arrived to relieve Lieutenant- 
Colonel Cubitt-Smith, who had been selected for a staff appointment and was 
to return to India. “Cubitt’s” departure was a loss to the Battalion that every- 
body regretted, for he had trained and led it through its hardest battles in the 
Second World War, maintaining a spirit and record up to the highest traditions 
of the Frontier Force. It was, however, advancement for him, and the good 
wishes of all ranks went with him. 

* See History of the Fronticr Force Rifles, Chapter XIX. 

326 The Ist Sikhs in the Advance into Northern Italy 

The Advance into Northern Italy 

The Battalion had eight days for rest and refittting and did some training 
in weapons and platoon fieldcraft. Unfortunately, ““A” Company, while en- 
gaged in this, had a tragic accident with a Hawkins mine which caused eleven 
casualties, including two killed—all rank and file. 

On the 27th the Battalion moved as part of the Brigade column to the 
Roccasecca area, where it went into action again in an attack on an enemy 
rear-guard position. Once again it was across a river (River Melfa), but the 
task proved simple as no resistance was met. The forward companies were held 
up next day, however, by enemy holding a dominating feature just off the main 
axis of advance. The depleted strength of “A” Company left them unable to 
advance until a troop of supporting New Zealand tanks had made their way 
painfully up the steep hillside and were able to join in a combined assault. This 
drove the enemy from their positions, leaving a number of dead and prisoners 
in the Battalion’s hands. 

The Ist Battalion Royal Fusiliers relieved the Battalion in the van of the 
advance on the 29th, and the next day the Brigade was withdrawn. The Division 
as well as other large formations were now pressing forward along the axis 
of the main road northward to Rome, the famous “Highway 5” as it was 
generally called. As a result the road became congested and the Brigade’s 
forward move was greatly hampered. 

By 2nd June, however, the Battalion was established in Pisci, and the 
entire Brigade was engaged in constructing a separate divisional axis road 
across difficult country. By now the whole Allied line was engaged in pursuit 
of the retreating German forces, a pursuit which carried them into and past 
Rome and forward over a distance of some 220 miles in twenty-t