This article is about the 17th Cavalry and will help you research the Regiment and those who served with it during the First World War. I have written other articles about researching Indian soldiers and regiments which can be viewed by clicking on the link below:
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17th Cavalry (Indian Army) in the First World War
Lineage: Raised at Muttra (Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, India) in 1857 as the Muttra Horse and became the Muttra Police Corps the same year. Then the Rohilkhand Auxiliary Police Levy in 1858, Robart’s Horse the same year and the 17th Regiment of Bengal Cavalry in 1861 before being disbanded in 1882. The Regiment was re-raised at Mian Mir by Lieutenant-Colonel E. H. E. Kauntze in 1885 under its former designation of the 17th Bengal Regiment of Cavalry. In 1900 became the 17th Regiment of Bengal Lancers, then the 17th Bengal Lancers in 1901 and the 17th Cavalry in 1903. In 1921 the 17th Cavalry was amalgamated with the 37th Lancers (Baluch Horse) to form the 17th/37th Cavalry which became the 15th Lancers in 1922.
Composition in 1914: 2 Squadrons of Punjabi Musalmans and 2 of Pathans.
Location in July 1914: The 17th Cavalry was stationed at Allahabad having arrived from Bareilly on 4 January 1914. The Regiment had a detachment at Ballygunge (Calcutta).
The 17th Cavalry was stationed at Allahabad when the First World War broke out in August 1914. The 17th Cavalry was inspected by Major-General F. Macbean, Commanding Bareilly Brigade on 7 November 1913 who reported:
Discipline: Strictly maintained. Crime statistics show a distinct improvement on last year.
Interior economy: Satisfactory.
General efficiency: Everything appears to be in a thoroughly sound and satisfactory condition. The regiment is always well turned out and makes a fine appearance on parade.
Confidential review reports on Indian Army units for 1913-1914: IOR/L/MIL/7/17023
On the whole, the 17th Cavalry had rather an uneventful First World War. The Regiment remained in India apart from a squadron comprised of Pathans who served in East Africa between February 1915 and December 1916. There is a good war diary for this period which can be downloaded for a small fee from the National Archives (see below). The 17th Indian Cavalry sent drafts of men and horses to other regiments throughout the war including the 19th Lancers (Fane’s Horse) and 15th Lancers (Cureton’s Multanis). In June 1916, the 17th Cavalry left Allahabad for Jhansi where it remained until October 1917 when it moved to Lahore and Jullundur. Later that year, the Regiment was concentrated at Lahore where it was still stationed when the Armistice was signed on 11 November 1918.
While the Regiment saw no action as a whole during the war, it served in the Third Anglo-Afghan War and in Waziristan in the post-war period. There are war diaries available for this later period. In 1921, the Regiment began a process of amalgamation with the 37th Lancers (Baluch Horse) to form the 17th/37th Cavalry which became the 15th Lancers in 1922.
War Diaries of the 17th Cavalry
There are four war diaries for the Regiment but only the first covering East Africa had been digitized. To download this war diary for a small fee click on the first blue link below.
- Date: 25 July 1915 – 17 December 1916
- 1st East African Division Divisional Troops
- Reference: WO 95/5336/8
- Notes: A very good war diary which has been digitized and is available to download from the National Archives’ website.
- Date: July-October 1919
- Lahore Area
- Reference: WO 95/5403
- Date: 18 July- 26 October 1921
- Waziristan Force
- Reference: WO 95/5398
- Notes: An average war diary with repetitive entries. There is very little of interest to report in this war diary.
- Column Troops: D Squadron
- Reference: WO 95/5402
Further Sources of the 17th Cavalry
A good source of information concerning the 17th Cavalry and the British officers who served with it are its confidential reports held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. However, when the Regiment was abroad only its Depot and the British officers serving their were reported on. For information regarding the British and Indian officers who served with the 17th Cavalry, the Indian Army List can be consulted.
Regimental History: The Star And Crescent: Being The Story Of The 17th Cavalry From 1858 To 1922 by Major F. C. C. Yeates-Brown. A very good regimentally history which has been reprinted and is readily available online.
Extracts from War Diaries of the 17th Cavalry (Crown Copyright: National Archives)
25 July 1915 – 17 December 1916, 1st East African Division Divisional Troops, WO 95/5336/8
Special Report on the Capture of German patrol on August 2nd  at Longido West
At 7.30 am a single shot was heard from the south. Events proved it to have been fired by the advanced scout of a German patrol which had just arrived at the small rocky koppie east of and across the stream from the old 17th Cavalry Camp; whether the shot was fired at game or whether to discover if the camp was occupied cannot be said for certain. At any rate it was not fired at us.
Alarm posts were manned immediately and about a dozen men were seen to be moving about close to the stream with some ponies and mules near them. The morning was dull and cloudy and the light not good. I could not be certain that they were not our own people. We were watching them closely and waiting for the report of a man who had been sent off at once to investigate from closer range.
Suddenly a commotion was observed among them and a few shots rang out. These shots proved to have been fired by them at a night picquet of 17th Cavalry that had been posted at an immediate waterhole between Longido West and Longido South and was then returning to camp. This picket had reached to within 50 yards of the rocky koppie behind which the Germans were setting down after arrival and within the precincts of the camp itself. The result of this firing was that a Sowar was severely wounded in the arm (since died) and one horse was wounded as well.
Almost simultaneously with the above firing the order was given for the East African Mounted Rifles Maxim Gun, the Commander of which had been carefully watching the enemy’s movements with his gun aimed at them, to commence fire.
The dismounted men that could see the enemy were ordered to fire as well, but to be sparing of their ammunition. Distance 700 yards. The above order must have been given at about 7.40 am, and at or about the same time the EAMR picket on observation hill was strengthened by Lieutenant [?] and 10 men. At about 7.50 am Lieutenant Anstey 17th Cavalry was sent with an Indian officer and 12 men to cut off the enemy from the west with dismounted fire.
At 8 am, in a lull of firing the enemy were heard to be shouting out. The firing was stopped and they were seen to have hoisted a white flag. Captain Webb and about 15 men E.A.M.R. proceeded down the hill to take their surrender. Those surrendering proved to be one white officer, 3 white men and 2 askaris, another white man was captured in the bush by Lieutenant Anstry’s party, and 3 ponies and 5 mules were captured running away by Lieutenant [?] party that had come down the hill to cut off the enemy to the East. 3 ponies and 1 mule had been killed.
At 8.05 am a man or two of the enemy having been see disappearing into the bush on foot after the cease fire had been ordered and when Captain Webb was advancing in the opening to take the surrender, Lieutenant Gooch, EAMR, one Indian officer and 15 lancers 17th Cavalry were sent off south to endeavour to round them up. A similar party of EAMR under Lieutenant Selby was sent later on in a SW direction for the same purpose.
Both parties returned in course of time having proceeded 5 or 6 miles from camp without success. The country round camp lends itself readily to the seclusion of single dismounted men and is especially thick towards the south west. There were no casualties other than those mentioned.
The enemy gave the information that they had started out in strength as follows: 7 white men, including a Dutch guide, 4 askaris, 6 ponies, 6 mules.
From this it was discovered that a Dutchman, a German and 2 askaris had escaped on foot. I was particularly impressed by the excellent work and marksmanship of the EAMR maxim gun detachment. It was mainly owing to the moral effect of their well directed fire that the enemy were unable to make any vigorous effort to escape. Return of ammunition expended and list of saddles and captured will be forwarded later.