This article will look at the 50th Kumaon Rifles and will help you to research the Regiment and those who served with it during the First World War. I have written a separate article for the 2nd Battalion 50th Kumaon Rifles and a series of guides to help you research soldiers who served in the Indian Army during the First World War. To view these guides click on the links below:
I also offer a First World War Soldier Research Service.
The 50th Kumaon Rifles in the First World War
Lineage: The 50th Kumaon Rifles was formed at Ranikhet, a hill station in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, as the 4th Battalion, 39th Garhwal Rifles on 23 October 1917. It was redesignated as the 4th Battalion, 39th Kumaon on 15 November 1917, then the 1-50 Kumaon Rifles on 30 April 1918 and became the 1st Battalion Kumaon Rifles in 1922.
Composition in 1919: 4 Companies of Kumaonis. The Kumauni are from the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand.
The 50th Kumaon Rifles was a war-raised Indian infantry regiment formed in November 1917. When the Regiment was subjected to its first annual confidential report in 1918, it consisted of ‘nearly 2,000 men of whom over 1,200 are recruits, the balance being from numerous other units and more or less trained’. Brigadier General Glanville who inspected the Regiment reported:
The 1 Battalion Kumaon Rifles are a fine lot of men with the makings of a first class battalion. Very good progress has been made in the organisation and training of the unit and I was much struck by its steadiness and appearance.
Confidential review reports on Indian Army units, depots, British officers, etc. for 1917-1918: IOR/L/MIL/7/17029
The 1st Battalion 50th Kumaon Rifles left India in May 1918 and arrived at Port Tewfik, Egypt on 6 June 1918. The Battalion would see action at the Battle of Megiddo in September 1918 during the final stage of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign. There are two war diaries covering the period between May 1918 and March 1920. In 1922, following the reorganisation of the Indian Army, the Regiment joined the 19th Hyderabad Regiment (it had briefly been assigned to the Jat Regiment) and was renamed the 1st Kumaon Rifles.
A second Battalion was formed at Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, on 6 June 1918 and consisted of 2 Companies of Kumaonis and 2 Companies of Brahmans and was disbanded in 1922. I have written a separate article about this Battalion: 2nd Battalion 50th Kumaon Rifles.
War Diaries of the 1st Battalion 50th Kumaon Rifles
There are two war diaries for the 1st Battalion which are held at the National Archives in London. Neither war diary has been digitized and they can only be viewed by visiting the National Archives. I have copies of both war diaries and have transcribed some of the entries below.
- Date: 01 May 1918 – 30 April 1919
- 31st Infantry Brigade, 10th Irish Division
- Reference: WO95/4670
- Notes: This war diary contains nominal rolls of the British Officers who served with the Regiment during each month with a column noting how they were employed, transport officer, B Company Commander etc. There is a 5-page account of the role played by the Battalion in the Battle of Megiddo. After the Armistice is signed there is very little detail in the war diary until April 1919.
- Date: 01 May 1919 – 31 March 1920
- Reference: WO95/4586
- Notes: Very little of interest in this war diary. As in the previous war diary contains nominal rolls of British Officers each month, and a large number of appendices, operation/battalion orders etc.
Further Sources for the 1st Battalion 50th Kumaon Rifles
Unfortunately, there was no regimental history written and very few sources concerning the regiment. For British and Indian officers who served with the 1st Battalion 50th Kumaon Rifles, the Indian Army List can be consulted. A good source of information for Battalion are its confidential reports held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. These also contain the annual confidential reports for the British officers who served with the 1st Battalion 50th Kumaon Rifles. Though when the Regiment was abroad only the Depot and officers serving with it are reported on.
I would also recommend having a look at Handbooks for the Indian Army Kumaonis 1933. This small book gives an overview of the history and customs of the Kumaonis. You can buy a reprint very cheaply from Abebooks.
Extracts from War Diaries of the 1st Battalion 50th Kumaon Rifles (Crown Copyright: National Archives)
01 May 1918- 30 April 1919, 10th Irish Division, WO95/4670
22 May 1918- The Battalion left Bombay. Establishment: 6 British Officers, 10 Indian Officers, 1 Sub-Assistant-Surgeon,1057 Indian Other Ranks, 24 Public Followers and 8 Private Followers. 1 Charger.
6 June 1918- Battalion disembarked at Port Tewfik, now Port Suez, Egypt and entrained for Tel el Kebir.
19 August 1918- The Battalion sustained its first casualty at Tel Fit, when 2042 Rifleman Shiro Mani Purnetha (recorded as Shiu Ramani by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission), orderly to the commanding officer is ‘killed by chance 77mm field gun shrapnel between H.Q.[Head Quarters] Mess and Colonel’s tent’.
19 September 1918: The Battalion takes part in the Battle of Megiddo where it suffers: 10 killed, 117 wounded (including 4 British Officers), and 23 missing.
Battalion moved off to position of deployment at 02.15 and arrived at position and formed up by 03.40. At Zero -5 (0425 hours) the advance of the Battalion to attack commenced. Attack proceeded successfully according to plan and the final objective of the Battalion was captured exactly to programme at Zero +70 minutes (05.40).
April 1919: The Battalion are given orders to guard a section of the railway line from Kafr Zayat Brige to Benha Bridge. After months of short entries reporting training, the Battalion’s war diary becomes more detailed.
9 April 01.00 Hours. Patrol from Shubra-en-Namla dispersed natives on railway line, one native killed. 14.00 to 16.00 hours. At Kafr Zayat, large crowd of natives approached railway station. Crowd dispersed but returned shortly waving Turkish flags. Crowd dispersed when threatened by Lewis Gunners.
19 April Patrol at K10 dispersed natives on railway line. Natives retired to village of Kir [?] Diyama and sent up very lights.
16.00 to 1700 hours a ration limber with 2 drivers and 2 riflemen (guards) was attacked by mob in village of Abu Tor. One rifleman (no 374 Rifleman Bag Singh Negi, No8 Platoon) killed and 2 drivers 1 rifleman badly wounded.