This article is about the 2nd Queen Victoria’s Own Rajput Light Infantry and will help you to research the Regiment and soldiers who served with it during the First World War. I have written separate articles for the 2nd and 3rd Battalions and a series of guides to researching soldiers who served in the Indian Army. To view these guides click on the blue links below:
- 1st Battalion 2nd Queen Victoria’s Own Rajput Light Infantry
- 2nd Battalion 2nd Queen Victoria’s Own Rajput Light Infantry
- Guides to Researching Soldiers who Served in the Indian Army during World War One
I also offer a First World War Soldier Research Service.
The 2nd Queen Victoria’s Own Rajput Light Infantry in WW1
Lineage: Raised at Sasseram (Sasaram, Bihar) in 1798 by Major G.S. Browne as the 2nd Battalion, 15th Regiment Bengal Native Infantry. Then the 31st Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry in 1824, the 31st Regiment of Bengal Native (Light) Infantry in 1858, the 2nd Regiment of Bengal Native (Light) Infantry in 1861, the 2nd (The Queen’s Own) Regiment of Bengal Native Native (Light) Infantry in 1876, the 2nd (The Queen’s Own) Regiment of Bengal (Light) Infantry in 1885, the 2nd (Queen’s Own) Rajput Regiment of Bengal (Light) Infantry in 1897 and the 2nd (Queen’s Own) Rajput Light Infantry in 1901. Then the 2nd (Queen’s Own) Rajput Light Infantry, in 1903, the 2nd Queen Victoria’s Own Rajput Light Infantry in 1911 and the 1st Battalion, 7th Rajput Regiment in 1922.
Class Composition of Battalion in 1914: 8 Companies of Rajputs. 1919: 4 Companies of Rajputs.
Location in August 1914: The 2nd Rajputs was stationed at Bombay (Mumbai, Maharashtra, India) having arrived from Bushire, Persian Gulf (Iran) on 3rd January 1914.
The 2nd Queen Victoria’s Own Rajput Light Infantry served in a variety of theatres during the First World War. When the First War began in August 1914 the Regiment was stationed at Bombay (Mumbai, India) where it was serving with the Bombay Brigade, 6th (Poona) Division. While the 6th (Poona) Division was sent to Mesopotamia (Iraq) in 1914, the Bombay Brigade stayed in India with the 6th Poona Divisional Area.
The 2nd Rajputs initially saw service in Egypt defending the Suez Canal. There is a war diary which starts on the 28 January 1915 when the Regiment was ordered to reinforce the 22nd Brigade at Serapeum, Egypt. The Regiment took part in the defence of the Suez Canal during the Turkish attack on 3-4 February 1915. However, after this attack very little occurred and in December 1915 the Regiment moved to Mesopotamia (Iraq) to join the 8th Indian Infantry Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division.
Captain Reinfred Tatton Arundell was the 2nd Queen Victoria’s Own Rajput Light Infantry first British officer casualty when he was killed in action on 3 February 1915 during the Turkish attack on the Suez Canal. The medal Arundell was wearing is the Tibet Medal awarded for service during the British Invasion of Tibet.
The 3rd (Lahore) Division had been one of the Indian divisions which had served in France as part of Indian Expeditionary Force A before the Division was withdrawn in 1915. The 2nd Rajputs took part in the attempts to relieve the 6th (Poona) Division besieged in Kut-al-Amara. The Regiment suffered minimal casualties during January and February as it was mainly kept in reserve. On the 8 March 1916, the Regiment took part in the Battle of Dujaila where it suffered over 50% casualties. Of the 11 British officers who took part in the attack, 10 became casualties, along with 12 of the 17 Indian officers and 305 other ranks out of 554. The British casualties were so severe that at the end of the day, Lieutenant Shaw, the Regiment’s Quartermaster, took over command. The Regiment served in and out of the trenches after the Battle of Dujailia to the end of April 1916.
Between May 1916 and August 1917, the Regiment served on the Lines of Communication in Mesopotamia. Very little of interest happened during this period. Then in September 1917, the Regiment joined the 51st Indian Infantry Brigade, 17th Indian Division in which it served until August 1918. The Regiment then joined the British Salonika Force and arrived at Salonika (Thessaloniki) on 24 October 1918. The Regiment served in Salonika with the 81st Infantry Brigade, 21st Division before it moved to the Black Sea and arrived at Batum (Batumi, Georgia) on 7 July 1919. The final war diary for the 2nd Rajputs concludes in November 1919 when the Regiment was serving at Eskisehir (northwestern, Turkey). In the April 1920 Indian Army List, the 2nd Rajputs was still listed as serving overseas with its Depot at Lucknow. In the July 1921 Indian Army List, the Regiment was stationed at Lucknow. In 1922 the 2nd Queen Victoria’s Own Rajput Light Infantry became the 1st Battalion, 7th Rajput Regiment.
War Diaries of the 2nd Queen Victoria’s Own Rajput Light Infantry
There are six war diaries for the 2nd Rajputs but only the three war diaries covering Mesopotamia have been digitized. To download these war diaries for a small fee click on the blue links below to be taken to the National Archives’ website. The other three war diaries can only be viewed at the National Archives. I have copies of all the war diaries and have transcribed some entries below.
- Date: 28 January 1915 – 30 November 1915
- 31st Indian Infantry Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division
- Reference: WO95/4422
- Notes: A good, detailed war diary which contains plenty of information. This diary includes a two-page appendix titled ‘Report on operations of 3rd and 4th February 1915’ with a list of officers present and a page of gallantry recommendations. There is also a three-page appendix written by 2nd Lieutenant Bayly ‘who took over Command of the 1st D Company in the counter attack when Captain Arundell was shot’ and another report from Major Skeen, 62nd Punjabis which can be read in the war diary extracts below. There are very few entries between May – November 1915.
- Date: 01 December 1915 – April 1916
- 8th Indian Infantry Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division, Mesopotamia
- Reference: WO95/5015/1
- Notes: A good war diary with a number of appendixes, orders, sketch maps etc. December 1915 only has a handful of entries while March and April are the most detailed. This war diary has been digitized and is available to download from the National Archives’ website.
- Date: 01 May 1916 – August 1917
- Tigris Defences and Communications, Mesopotamia
- Reference: WO95/5108/6
- Notes: Very little happens in this war diary and the majority of months consist of a single page (sometimes just a couple of sentences). This war diary has been digitized and is available to download from the National Archives’ website.
- Date: 01 September 1917 – 30 August 1918
- 51st Indian Infantry Brigade, 17th Indian Division, Mesopotamia
- Reference: WO95/5211/3
- Notes: A poor war diary where each month is summarised on a single page which has been digitized and is available to download.
- Date: 01 September 1918 – 12 June 1919
- 81st Infantry Brigade, 21st Division, Salonika
- Reference: WO95/4893
- Notes: A poor war diary with few entries where the majority of months are written on a single page.
- Date: 01 July – 30 November 1919
- Black Sea
- Reference: WO95/4953
- Notes: An average war diary for this period with brief entries though a few are a lot longer.
Further Sources for the 2nd Queen Victoria’s Own Rajput Light Infantry
A very good source of information for the Regiment and the British officers who served with it are its confidential reports held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. These reports also contain the annual confidential reports of the British officers who served with the Regiment. However, when the Regiment was abroad only its Depot and the British officers who served with it are reported on. For information regarding the British and Indian officers who served with the 2nd Rajputs, the Indian Army List should be consulted.
Extracts from War Diaries of the 2nd Rajputs (Crown Copyright: National Archives):
28 January 1915 – 30 November 1915, WO95/4422
Report called for from Major Skeen 62nd Punjabis who occupied a position on West Bank opposite the position reached by counterattack made by 1st Double Company 2nd Rajputs.
On the 3rd instant about 9 to 10 am it was passed down to me to be careful as there was a counter attack being made from Serapeum East, all troops near had already seen what looked like a Double Company on the Canal bank about 100 yards South of 48.4 I was opposite 48.4 and my command extended to 200 yards North of 48.3. We also saw some 92nd Punjabis in extended order who had advanced North East from Serapeum East.
This Double Company 2nd Rajputs was collected on the edge of the canal and were trying to attack due East. I saw this place after and the enemy’s main supporting trenches were about 350 yards due East of them. I was much concerned as just opposite me and not more than 200 yards to the North of this Double Company was a trench strongly held by infantry and at least one machine gun, this trench was some 30 yards east of the actual water and as long as this Double Company remained on the waters edge they were safe but as soon as any advanced forward to the East on the high bank towards the only enemy they knew of, they were bound to be badly enfiladed.
All that was possible was done to warn them, they were called to by me and by New Zealanders in English and by me and my men in Hindustani but naturally from the row going on they could not hear, rapid fire was opened on 2 or 3 occasions on this trench to draw their attention to it. I saw during the action a New Zealand private waving [?] the retire to them (this although unauthorised by anyone was not a bad thing to do as they had enemy who, were to the best of my belief from subsequent events much stronger than them both in front at 350 yards and to their left flank at 200 yards).
During the action about a dozen of the enemies shells coming from the North East seemed to burst over this double company. It was when they sent a firing line on the top of the high bank Eastwards that I saw casualties occur and in my opinion they were caused by the enemy on their left.
Also included a small sketch map. Major Skeen was killed in action on 21 January 1916 at the Battle of Hanna. He is buried in the Amara War Cemetery.
01 May 1916 – August 1917, Mesopotamia, WO95/5108
13 May 1917 – Rest Camp – General Officer Commanding Division General Keary, made a speech and presented medals for immediate distinction for bravery to the 8th Brigade. The Regiment received… [list of men and the medals they received]. The men were bitterly disappointed and refused to be consoled because they had not received more, and asked why other regiments whom they knew were not so dashing in the attack on 8th March or so steady on the 17th April, had yet got more medals. They feel they have been unfairly treated. They had lost more than other native regiments of the brigade, and it did not seem to have been officially recognised. They hope there are more to come from India.
01 September 1918 – 12 June 1919, Salonika, WO95/4893
4-5 October 1918 – Arrived at Muscat at 4.30 pm on 4th and started coaling. The boat crews practised rowing and all ranks bathed in lifebelts, a few rafts were also thrown overboard. Finished coaling and sailed at 12 noon, 5 October.
10 October 1918 – Aden – The ship coaled. 30% Indian officers and NCOs were allowed on shore. Sailed from Aden at 12.30 pm.
1 – 31 December 1918 – The Battalion was employed during the whole month in musketry and company training with exception of holidays on 25-26 December on account of Xmas.