47th Sikhs

This article is about the 47th Sikhs which saw extensive service during the First World War and will help you to research both the Regiment and those who served with it. I have also written a series of guides to help you research Indian soldiers who served in World War One which you can view by clicking the link below:

The 47th Sikhs in the First World War

Lineage: Raised at Sialkot by Major P. G. Walker in 1901 as the 47th (Sikh) Regiment of Bengal Infantry. It became the 47th Sikh Infantry in 1901 and the 47th Sikhs in 1903.

Class Composition in 1914: 8 Companies of Sikhs. 1919: 4 Companies of Sikhs.

Location in July 1914: The 47th Sikhs was stationed at Jullundur (Jalandhar, Punjab, India) having arrived from Dera Ismail Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan) on 4th November 1910.

War Diaries of the 47th Sikhs

There are three war diaries for the 47th Sikhs and the first two have been digitized by the National Archives. To download these two war diaries for a small fee click on the blue links below. The last war diary, as of February 2017, has not been digitized and can only be viewed at the National Archives. I have copies of all war diaries and have transcribed some of the entries below.

  • Date: 08 August 1914 – 31 December 1915
  • 8th Jullundur Infantry Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division, France
  • Reference: WO 95/3927/4
  • Notes: A good war diary containing plenty of information regarding the 47th Sikh’s activities which has been digitized and is available to download from the National Archives website. A two-page report by Major Davidson on “the action of half the Battalion under his Command at Neuve Chapelle on the 27 and 28 October 1914”. There is an interesting account of the recovery of a rifle which I have transcribed below (03 October 1915).
  • Date: 01 January 1916 – April 1918
  • 8th Indian Infantry Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division
  • Reference: WO 95/5109/1
  • Notes: This war diary has been digitized and is available to download from the National Archives’ website.
  • Date: 01 May 1918 – 31 March 1920
  • 8th Indian Infantry Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
  • Reference: WO 95/4702
  • Notes: An average war diary for the period up to Armistice and good after. There is a detailed entry concerning the role of the 47th Sikhs during the Battle of Megiddo in September 1918. There is a good account of the search of Matariya village in April 1919 including a sketch map. The following tables appear at the end of the war diary for April 1919: composition of the 47th Sikhs, listing the numbers of each caste in two tables; a table showing the number of years each man had served divided into Jats, Malwas and Manhas; and a table giving a breakdown of the Regiment’s casualties.

Further Sources for the 47th Sikhs

For information regarding British and Indian officers who served with the 47th Sikhs during the First World War the Indian Army List can be consulted. There is a regimental history: 47th Sikhs War Records: The Great War, 1914-18 by D. B. Picton-Philips .

Extracts from War Diaries of the 47th Sikhs

01 May 1918 – 31 March 1920, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, WO95/4702

2 February 1919 – Ludd – Orders re ”1914-15 Star” received – Captain A. V. Rooth, J. G. Beattie and F. D. S. Field, Lieutenants H. C. Elphick and F. D. Down. Indian officers 5, Other ranks Indian 154, followers 22, Assistant Surgeon J. E. Sweeny.

08 August 1914 – 31 December 1915, France, WO 95/3927/4

17 August 1914 – 84 Reservists joined at Jullunder. They were armed and accoutred from arms and accouterments of men left at depot. This was rendered necessary by the fact that the regiment was re-armed with the short rifle only a week previous to mobilisation being ordered.

20 August 1914 – Owing to two cases of suspected cholera among Supply and Transport subordinates, who has joined the train at Lahore Cantonment, one carriage had been cut off the train at Samasata. On arrival at Hyderabad the whole train was detained for 7 hours, but was then allowed to proceed, leaving at Hyderabad all individuals who had joined the train at Lahore Cantonment.

31 August 1914 – Some of the men’s rations – especially the atta and ghee – were found to be not of standard quality. The atta contains a variety of grains including a considerable proportion of millet, and the ghee has been adulterated with various ingredients, such as copra oil and a substance which looks like mashed potato.

26 October 1914 – Fauquissart- A verbal message was received through Lieutenant Beetham that the 34 Pioneers on the left of the 15 Sikhs were being driven in. Colonel Richardson therefore ordered No.3 Company under Captain Combe to move to the left and be prepared to counter attack the 34 trenches. On assembling outside the trenches this company was heavily sniped from a house in front of position and several casualties occurred including Captain S.B. Combe.

Captain Ralston was then ordered to take the company on. It moved along the Fauquissart – Dicantin road at the double and was halted in the rear of 34 Pioneers. On arrival it was found that the line had not been broken and the attack had been beaten off. The company accordingly returned to the trenches. 3 casualties occurred during this movement.

29 October 1914 – Fauquissart – Morning was quiet. Artillery fired commenced at 3 pm and at 3.30 pm the village of Fauquissart was heavily shelled y enemy. Either by means of spies or observation the enemy’s guns seemed to have located the position of ? reserve ammunition as the reserves of all regiments received special attention from the enemy’s guns. Several houses were searched and a number of suspects sent to Brigade Headquarters.

Orders were received that any civilians appearing in the vicinity of position were to be seized and sent to Headquarters… A number of houses in Fauquissart village were set on fire by the shells – notably a large house behind the 15 Sikhs.

03 October 1915 – Trenches – One recruit fell over the wire and injured his back and on returning it was found his rifle had been left behind. Three men – Havildar Lal Singh 35 Sikhs, Havildar Wir Singh 35 Sikhs, Lance Naik Buta Singh 47 Sikhs informed the Company Commander that they considered it a “Sharm Ki Bat” that the company should lose a rifle and asked if they could go out in daylight and bring it in.

The three went down a ditch and approached the listening post, which was situated in dead ground. They must have been seen as they were attacked suddenly by six Germans in front with pistols and bombs and 6 behind. Buta Singh was shot through the head, but the two Havildars drove the enemy off and started to bring Buta Sing’s body in. Finding they could not move it, Vir Sing returned for help and reported the matter to his company commander who decided not to risk further loss of life.

In the meantime Lal Singh had remained alone with Buta Singh’s body several hundred yards from and out of sight of our lines close to a large body of the enemy, who owing to the dead ground could move freely about in the open. Lance Naik Buta Singh had been awarded the Indian Distinguished Service Medal for gallantry at Neuve Chapelle October 26 1914 and was wounded at Ypres.

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