74th Punjabis

This article on the 74th Punjabis aims to help you to either research the Regiment or a soldier who served with it during the First World War. I have guides to help you research soldiers of the Indian Army who served in the war:

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The 74th Punjabis in the First World War

Lineage: Formed at Vellore by Captain Donald Campbell in 1776 from drafts from the 5th, 9th and 10th Carnatic Battalions as the 14th Carnatic Battalion. Then the 14th Madras Battalion in 1784 and the 2nd Battalion, 6th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry in 1796. Then the 14th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry in 1824 and the 14th Regiment of Madras Infantry in 1885. Then the 14th Madras Infantry in 1901 and the 74th Punjabis in 1903. In 1922 the Regiment became the 4th Battalion 2nd Punjab Regiment.

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 74th Punjabis was stationed at Hong Kong (China) having arrived from Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh, India) on 13th June 1914.

The 74th Punjabis was an Indian infantry regiment which was stationed in Hong Kong when the First World War broke out in August 1914. The Regiment had been inspected by Major-General A. Wilson, Commanding Lucknow Brigade in 1914 who reported:

Turn-out: Very good.

Efficiency in drill: Satisfactory.

Manoeuvre: Satisfactory. Individuality and independence of action is encouraged and the discipline is good.

Musketry: Satisfactory. The improvement reported last year has been maintained.

Personnel: Very satisfactory. Officers both British and India, well up in the standard of rank in the practical handling of the men.

General efficiency: A well trained battalion, and fit for active service.

Confidential review reports on Indian Army units for 1913-1914IOR/L/MIL/7/17023

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 but full of military jargon and I have created a page to help you: Indian Army Abbreviations and Acronyms.

74th Punjabis British Officers 1914

The 74th Punjabis provided large drafts to other regiments, especially the 67th Punjabis, while it served in China and India, with a double company being sent abroad in 1915. The 74th Punjabis remained at Hong Kong until it returned to India and joined the 8th (Lucknow) Division in 1916. The 8th (Lucknow) Division remained in India on internal security duties for the duration of the war and it wasn’t until 1918 that the 74th Punjabis was sent to a theatre of war.

For the period between February 1918 and March 1920, there are two war diaries which are the best sources of information for the 74th Punjabis’ activities abroad. The 74th Punjabis completed its mobilization at Bannu between 1 and 7 February 1918 and embarked at Karachi on board Hired Transport Karagola on 16 February 1918. The 74th Punjabis arrived at Suez, Egypt on 25 February and moved to Tel-el-Kebir on 26 February 1918.

The 74th Punjabis served as part of the 31st Infantry Brigade, 10th (Irish) Division once it arrived in Egypt, though it spent March and most of April 1918 at Tel-el-Kebir. Over the next few months, the Battalion rotated in and out of the frontline and was constantly training for the coming offensive. The 74th Punjabis took part in the Battle of Megiddo which opened on 19 September 1918 and the war diary contains a very detailed account of its activities. When the Armistice with Germany came into effect on 11 November 1918, the 74th Punjabis were at Surafend Camp, Lod, south of present-day Tel-Aviv.

The 74th Punjabis moved to Mena Camp, near Cairo shortly afterwards where the Regiment remained until it moved back to Tel-el-Kebir in February 1919. In April 1919, the Battalion joined the 234th Infantry Brigade, 75th Division. The 74th Punjabis remained at Tel-el-Kebir until 1 February 1920 when the Regiment moved to Suez where it arrived the next day. When the war diary finished on 27 March 1920, the Regiment was at Port Tewfik (Suez Port). The 74th Punjabis returned to India either in late 1920 or early 1921 and in the July 1921 Indian Army List was stationed at Agra. In 1922 the 74th Punjabis became the 4th Battalion 2nd Punjab Regiment.

War Diaries of the 74th Punjabis

There are two war diaries for the 74th Punjabis, which at the time of writing (January 2018) haven’t been digitized and can only be viewed at the National Archives. I have transcribed some passages below.

  • Date: 01 February 1918 – 31 March 1919
  • 31st Infantry Brigade, 10th Irish Division, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
  • Reference: WO95/4586
  • Notes: The majority of months are written on a single page. There are a few good monthly summaries for the summer of 1918, one of which is transcribed below. There is a detailed account of the part played by the 74th Punjabis in the Battle of Megiddo. There is also a list of British and Indian officers of the 74th Punjabis who landed at Suez on 25th February 1918.
  • Date: 01 April 1919 – 27 March 1920
  • 234th Infantry Brigade, 75th Irish Division, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
  • Reference: WO95/4694
  • Notes: Only a single page for each month with very little information.

Further Sources for the 74th Punjabis

For information regarding the British and Indian officers who served with the 74th Punjabis, the Indian Army List can be consulted. A good source of information concerning 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 contain the annual confidential reports of the British officers who served with the 74th Punjabis, though when it was abroad only the Regiment’s Depot was reported on.

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Extracts from War Diaries of the 74th Punjabis (Crown Copyright: National Archives)

01 February 1918 – 31 March 1919, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, WO95/4586

20th June 1918 – The period under consideration has been uneventful. Enemy artillery activity was normal up till the 16th. From the 16th till the 23rd a marked increase was shewn, registering on the wire and sangars being carried out, with systematic shelling of the rear positions. During the last week activity has sunk to its normal level.

Enemy patrols have been conspicuously inactive. On only three occasions have they been reported as having crossed the Gharib. Enemy aeroplane activity coincided with the increase in artillery activity, and excepting the week 16th – 24th has remained normal.

The enemy’s front line and wire had been considerably strengthened during the month. Our patrols up till the 25th watched the Gharib from positions this side of it. On the remaining nights of the month offensive patrols were undertaken against advanced enemy posts: but the enemy, though sited several times showed no inclination to offer resistance, and no prisoners were taken.

Work during the month has consisted of strengthening sangars and wire, preparing and improving lateral communications, and constructing reserve positions. Battle casualties during the month were nil.

01 April 1919 – 31 March 1920, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, WO95/4694

01 April – 30 April 1919 – Guards and recreation. During the month provision had to be made for picquets and patrols to guards against any attempt on the part of the local inhabitants to effect the release of the Prisoners of War.

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