This article on the 69th Punjabis aims to help you research either the Regiment or a soldier who served with it during the First World War. I have also written a separate article for the short-lived 2nd Battalion 69th Punjabis and have created a series of guides to help you research soldiers who served in the Indian Army during the war. The links below will take you to the guides:
- Guide to the 2nd Battalion 69th Punjabis
- Guides to Researching Soldiers who Served in the Indian Army
I also offer a First World War Soldier Research Service.
The 69th Punjabis in the First World War
Lineage: Raised between 1762 and 1765 at Madura as the 10th Battalion of Coast Sepoys. In 1769 it became the 10th Carnatic Battalion and then the 9th Carnatic Battalion in 1770. Then the 9th Madras Battalion in 1784 and the 1st Battalion, 9th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry in 1796. Then the 9th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry in 1824 and the 9th Regiment of Madras Infantry in 1885. The 9th Madras Infantry in 1901, then the 69th Punjabis in 1903 and 2nd Battalion 2nd Punjab Regiment in 1922.
Composition in 1914: 4 Companies of Punjabi Musalmans, 2 Companies of Sikhs, other than Jats and Mazbis) and 2 Companies of Punjabi Hindus. 1919: 2 Companies of Punjabi Musalmans, 1 Company of Sikhs (other than Jats and Mazbis) and 1 Company of Punjabi Hindus.
Location in July 1914: The 69th Punjabis was stationed at Jhelum (Punjab, Pakistan) having arrived from Malakand (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan) on 8th March 1914.
The 69th Punjabis was stationed at Jhelum when the First World War broke out in August 1914. The Regiment served first in Egypt as part of a force guarding the Suez Canal and landed at Suez on 16 November 1914. Apart from helping to repulse the Turkish attack on the Suez Canal in February 1915, the Regiment’s service in Egypt was uneventful. The extract below was taken from the October 1914 Indian Army List and recorded the British officers serving with the Regiment. The Indian Army List is a great resource for researching both British and Indian officers and I have a page to help you with its jargon: Indian Army Abbreviations and Acronyms.
In April 1915, the 69th Punjabis left Egypt for Gallipoli and the Regiment landed on the 1 May 1915. However, the Regiment was withdrawn with the rest of the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade over doubts about the loyalty of Muslim soldiers. There had been unrest and desertions amongst a small number of Muslim soldiers in 1914 and early 1915 due to their opposition to fighting the Ottoman Caliphate, which at the time controlled the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. So the Regiment was withdrawn the same month it landed on Gallipoli and sent to France where it joined the 21st Bareilly Brigade, 7th (Meerut) Division.
The 69th Punjabis landed at Marseilles on 29 May 1915 and spent the summer rotating in and out of the trenches. On the 25 September 1915, the 69th Punjabis suffered over 300 casualties during the opening day of the Battle of Loos. The Regiment was withdrawn from France in December 1915 and sent to Aden (Yemen) where the 69th Punjabis helped guard the port. Unfortunately, the only war diary covering the Regiment’s period of service in Aden ends in April 1916. The Regiment remained in Aden for the rest of the First World War before it returned to India in 1919. In 1922 the 69th Punjabis was redesignated as the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Punjab Regiment.
War Diaries of the 69th Punjabis
There are five war diaries for the 69th Punjabis but as of January 2018 only the war diary covering its service on the Western Front between May and November 1915 has been digitized and is available to download. To download this war diary for a small fee click on the third blue link below which will take you to the National Archives’ website. The short war diary for the Gallipoli Campaign can be downloaded from Ancestry. The rest of the war diaries are available to view at the National Archives. I have copies of all the war diaries and have transcribed some of the entries below.
- Date: 27 October 1914 – 25 April 1915
- 29th Indian Infantry Brigade, Suez Canal Defences, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
- Reference: WO95/4432
- Notes: A good war diary which contains a nominal roll of British officers on board various transports leaving for Egypt. There is a large number of appendices including, Timings of Special Troop Train, Operations at Sheikh Syed 10th and 11th November 1914, map of the Suez Canal, with small plan of Kantara Camp, operational orders dated 12 November 1914, Report by Lieutenant H. V. Gell “on combined operations of scouts 1/6th Gurkha Rifles and 69th Punjabis from 6th to 17th December 1914- from Port Said”,
- Date: 26 April- 19 May 1915
- 29th Indian Infantry Brigade, Gallipoli
- Reference: WO95/4272
- Notes: A good, though brief (7 pages and map), war diary of the 69th Punjabis brief stay on Gallipoli. Indian rank and file casualties are recorded by regimental number, rank and name. Includes a “Sketch showing South West end of Gallipoli Peninsula”.
- Date: 20 May – 30 November 1915
- 29th Bareilly Infantry Brigade, 7th (Meerut) Division, France
- Reference: WO95/3948/6
- Notes: A short war diary which has been digitized and is available to download from the National Archives’ website. There is a list of British and Indian officers of the 69th Punjabis who took part in the opening day of the Battle of Loos (25 September 1915) with their fates.
- Date: 01 January – 30 April 1916
- Aden Force
- Reference: WO95/5438
- Notes: A good war diary which contains an account of the state of the 69th Punjabis written on 3 March 1916 at Sheikh Othman, which details the reorganization of the regiment, training, clothing, intelligence, and health. The war diary contains a list of British officers who left Suez on 23 January 1916.
- Date: 01 May 1921 – 31 March 1923
- 9th Indian Infantry Brigade, Waziristan Force
- Reference: WO95/5400
Further Sources for the 69th Punjabis
A very important source of information for the 69th Punjabis is its regimental confidential reports which are held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. These reports also contain the annual reports of the British officers who were then serving with the Regiment and I have a complete set. However, when the Regiment is overseas only the Depot and the officers serving with it are reported on. For information regarding British and Indian officers who served with the 69th Punjabis, the Indian Army List can be consulted.
If you’d like to learn more about the Indian Army on the Western Front I can recommend Sepoys in the Trenches by Gordon Corrigan. If you are interested in the Indian Army’s role at Gallipoli I can recommend Die in Battle do Not Despair by Peter Stanley.
Extracts from War Diaries of the 69th Punjabis (Crown Copyright: National Archives)
20 May – 30 November 1915, France, WO95/3948/6
13 July 1915 – Summary General Court Martial on 1606 Sepoy Mohd Khan for shooting himself in the finger with intent to make himself unfit for service. Court acquitted him.
01 August 1915 – The trenches were found to be very dirty, and this day was spent to a large extent in filling in old latrines and digging new ones. But the work of filling in the dug outs under the parapet and the narrowing of the fire trench were put in hand. This work was hampered by shortage of sandbags, and buckets to carry earth. The Lonely Post communication trench was deepened for two hundred yards. A certain amount of grass was cut in front of the line and a further inspection of our wire was made…
23 September 1915 – 6 PM – Pont du Hem – Battalion moved into bivouac… position of concentration. Soon after arrival it commenced to rain and rained steadily all night and next day. The Battalion bivouacked in a field in four lines by (double) companies. The field was well covered by hedges and trees from balloon observation on the enemy’s side. A few shrapnel came and fell in the adjoining field… It was suspected that spies might have disclosed the position of concentration but later it was believed that they were only chance shots.
01 January – 30 April 1916, Aden, WO95/5438
12 February 1916 – At 9.30 pm a party consisting of No.3 Double Company 69th Punjabis under Major Hodding and 2nd Lieutenant Miller Stirling, about 40 Sappers and Miners and a few sowars of the 26th King George’s Own Light Cavalry, the whole commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Arnold 26th K.G.O Light Cavalry moved out from Halwan with the idea of demolishing four towers in the neighbourhood of Dar Hatum. 2nd Lieutenant Miller Stirling with about forty men rushed Uzaibi Tower, which was found occupied. The garrison opened fire but fled shortly afterwards, and the tower was held for forty minutes though under fire from the enemy who took up a fresh position.
Owing to difficulty in bringing up reserves and transport, 2nd Lieutenant Miller Stirling received orders to retire, and the party returned to Halwan, with one sepoy wounded slightly in the leg. The enemy’s casualties are believed to be two killed, wounded unknown.