125th Napier’s Rifles

Lineage: Raised as the 1st Extra Battalion in 1820 principally from soldiers who had served in the disbanded Dapuri Brigade (Peishwa’s service) and commanded by Major Ford. Then it became the 25th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry in 1826, the 25th Regiment of Bombay Native (Light) Infantry in 1858, the 25th Regiment of Bombay (Light) Infantry in 1885, and was unauthorisedly designated the 3rd Battalion, Bombay Rifle Regiment in 1889, and had its title corrected the same year to the 25th Regiment (3rd Battalion, Rifle Regiment) of Bombay Infantry. It became the 25th Bombay Rifles in 1901 and the 125th Napier’s Rifles in 1903.

Composition in 1914: 4 Companies of Rajputana Jats, 2 Companies of Rajputana Rajputs, and 2 Companies of Punjabi Musalmans. 1919: 2 Companies of Rajputana Jats, 1 Company of Rajputana Rajputs, and 1 Company of Punjabi Musalmans.

Location in July 1914: The 125th Napier’s Rifles was stationed at Mhow [Madhya Pradesh, India] having arrived from Bangalore [Bengaluru, Karnataka, India] on 21st December 1910.

War Diaries of the 125th Napier’s Rifles

  • Date: 08 August 1914 – 31 May 1915
  • 3rd Indian Division, 7th Ferozepore Infantry brigade, France
  • Reference: WO95/3924/2
  • Notes: An average war diary which has been digitized and is available to download from the National Archives’ website. A detailed account of the problems faced by the 125th Napier’s Rifles on mobilization is transcribed below.
  • Date: 01 June 1915 – 30 November 1915
  • Suez Canal
  • Reference: WO 95/4428
  • Notes: A short war diary for the 125th Napier’s Rifles which is only 10 pages in length. The majority of days do not have individual entries, and those which do are typically short.
  • Date: 01 December 1915 – 31 December 1917
  • 19th Indian Infantry Brigade, 7th Indian Division, Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5137
  • Notes: This war diary contains very detailed accounts when the 125th Napier’s Rifles is in action. It is a good war diary all round. Unfortunately, the only appendix is a sketch map, not to scale, of the position at Sheikh Sa’ad on 11 January 1916.
  • Date: 01 January 1919 -March 1919
  • 19th Indian Infantry Brigade, 7th (Meerut) Indian Division, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
  • Reference: WO 95/4712
  • Notes: A good war diary, which provides a detailed account of the activities of the 125th Napier’s Rifles. After January 1919, there are few entries. There are a large number of appendices, especially operational orders. There is a sketch map of Fejja, scale 1:40,000, and a typed 1 1/2 page report on a raid on enemy redoubts and communication trench on 19 August 1918. Also, a copy of the farewell address the 125th Napier’s Rifles received on 10 February 1919 at Beirut.
  • Date: 01 April 1919 – 29 February 1919
  • 30th Infantry Brigade, 10th Division, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
  • Reference: WO 95/4584
  • Notes: A poor war diary for the 125th Napier’s Rifles where very few days have entries. Appendices include operational orders.
  • Date: February 1922
  • 10 Indian Infantry Brigade, Waziristan Force
  • Reference: WO 95/5400
  • Notes: This is the shortest war diary of the 125th Napier’s Rifles, at just over a page in length.

Further Sources for the 125th Rifles

For information regarding British and Indian officers who served in the 125th Napier’s Rifles, the Indian Army List can be consulted.

There is a regimental history: The History of the 5th Battalion, 6th Rajputana Rifles [125th Napier’s Rifles] by H. G. Rawlinson

Extracts from War Diaries 

08 August 1914 – 31 May 1915, France, WO 95/3924/2

01 January 1915 – The Regiment was inspected by Field Marshal Sir John French. He remarked that the regiment looked a “remarkably fine body of men” and on the conclusion of the inspection General Sir J. Willcocks said that Sir J French had been glad to meet the regiment and wished to thank them for the work done.  He was quite aware that they were fighting in a foreign country and that they had been through great discomfort owing to the water in the trenches and to sickness. But he was sure that the regiment would continue to do their work in future as well as they had done in the past.

[Problems faced by the 125th Napier’s Rifles during Mobilization]

Difficulty was experienced during mobilization owing to the following causes. Equipment 1) Kirkee Arsenal and Reserve Centre did not act at once on receipt of our indents and telegrams, but questioned our authority for mobilizing and in some cases referred to higher authority.

Correspondence 2) Almost all the pending matter in mobilization regulations was ordered to come into force at once; with the result that certain manuals not in our possession were referred to. Of these mobilization store tables was received two days after mobilization had begun “List of books and stationary” was received on the day of entraining. AF.B. 103 and AF 122 M were received on detraining at Bombay on August 19. AF 64 was not received until the 26 September in Cairo having been printed locally. The result was that none of the information required in filling up these forms was available.

Orders to Mobilize 3) The reservists and men on furlough and short leave took a very long time to turn out. This was due to the non-delivery of the telegrams and mobilization envelopes to men in outlying villages.

Kit and Equipment 4) The greater portion of the reservists joined the Regiment at Bombay (the port of embarkation) without any advance of pay and very little kit. The reservists kits and accoutrements were in a very bad condition (particularly their boots). Very old and out of date articles being worn. This is due to the fact that Officer Commanding Reserve Centre do not condemn any article until they are absolutely unfit to wear.

Arms 5) New rifles and equipment for reservists were issued in Bombay. On joining the Regiment they were equipped with the 1888 pattern equipment and non-charger loading Lee-Enfield rifles. The order that none but Mk. III Short Lee-Enfield rifles were to be taken on service only reached the regiment on the 20 August. We experienced great difficulty in getting these in time. The arsenal could not supply them and on an urgent wire to deploy commander Mhow. The recruits were disarmed and their rifles forwarded under escort to Bombay reaching the stream half an hour before she sailed. It seems obviously advisable that the reserve should always be armed and equipped with the same rifles and equipment as that of their unit.

01 December 1915 – 31 December 1917, Mesopotamia, WO 95/5137

6 January 1916 – Battalion marched from camp as contact with enemy was expected at any time artillery formations were adopted. Battalion was formed in echelon of platoons in fours, on the right rear of 1st/Seaforths.

March continued up till 12 noon unmolested, when firing was heart in front. This was the 35th Brigade which had come upon enemy’s line East of Sheik Sa’ad. 19th Brigade of which Battalion formed part was not employed on this occasion but remained halted in artillery formation until 6 pm. The transport was then parked in a bend of the river and brigade retired towards it, the Battalion was detailed for outpost duty and remained out.

25 May 1916 – A Turkish white flag came out at about 10 am and handed over letters from Kut prisoners.

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