This article will look at the role of the 96th Infantry during the First World War and will help you research those who served with the Regiment. I have written a separate article for the war-raised 2nd Battalion 96th Berar Infantry and a series of guides to help you research those who served in the Indian Army during the war:
- Guide to the 2nd Battalion 96th Berar Infantry
- Guides to Researching Soldiers who Served in the Indian Army
I also offer a First World War Soldier Research Service.
The 96th Berar Infantry in the First World War
Lineage: Raised at Hyderabad in 1797 as the 2nd Battalion, Aurangabad Division and then the 2nd Battalion, Berar Infantry. In 1826 it became the 3rd Regiment of Infantry, Nizam’s Army and then the 3rd Infantry, Hyderabad Contingent in 1854. In 1903 it was designated the 96th Berar Infantry and became the 2nd Battalion 19th Hyderabad Regiment in 1922.
Composition in 1914: 3 Companies of Rajputs, 2 Companies of Jats and 3 Companies of Hindustani Musalmans. 1919: 1 1/2 Companies of Rajputs, 1 Company of Jats and 1 1/2 Companies of Hindustani Musalmans.
Location in July 1914: The 96th Berar Infantry was stationed at Mhow (Madhya Pradesh, India) having arrived from Bombay (Mumbai, Maharashtra, India) on 4th March 1912.
The 96th Berar Infantry was stationed at Mhow when the First World War began in August 1914. The Regiment remained in India for the first year of the war before it moved to Persia (Iran) and became part of Bushire Force in August 1915. The Regiment remained in the Middle East until 1921 and had a rather uneventful war. Apart from brief service with the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division between July and November 1916, the Regiment was used on the Lines of Communications. There are war diaries (discussed below) which record the exact location of the Regiment between August 1915 and March 1920.
The 96th Berar Infantry returned to India in 1921 and in the July 1921 Indian Army List was stationed at Rangoon (Yangon, Myanmar) with a detachment at Port Blair (Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India). In 1922, the 96th Berar Infantry was redesignated as the 2nd Battalion 19th Hyderabad Regiment. The extract below was taken from the October 1914 Indian Army List and recorded the British officers serving with the Regiment.
War Diaries of the 96th Berar Infantry
There are six war diaries for the 96th Berar Infantry and all have been digitized by the National Archives. To download the war diaries for a small fee click on the blue links below.
- Date: 01 August 1915 – 30 June 1916
- Bushire Force
- Reference: WO95/5010/4
- Notes: A good war diary with many long entries especially when the Regiment was in action.
- Date: 01 July – 30 November 1916
- 3rd (Lahore) Division, 7th Indian Infantry Brigade, Mesopotamia
- Reference: WO95/5107/6
- Notes: An average war diary which contains a couple of interesting entries (August 1916) regarding the court-martial of six soldiers from the 96th Berar Infantry who refused to eat the food provided to them in hospital.
- Date: 01 December 1916 – 31 December 1917
- Tigris Defences and Communications, Baghailah, Mesopotamia
- Reference: WO95/5020/8
- Notes: An average war diary for a unit serving on the Lines of Communication with brief entries, though there are a few longer passages. There are a handful of appendices relating to notes made by the commanding officer of a mobile column and work carried out by detachments. There is a list of British officers serving with the 96th Berar Infantry on 31 December 1917.
- Date: 01 January – 31 December 1918
- Base and Defence Troops, Mesopotamia
- Reference: WO95/5035/11
- Notes: A good war diary where British and Indian officers are mentioned throughout along with other ranks (regimental numbers are usually recorded). Appendices include nominal rolls of British officers serving with the 96th Berar Infantry on 24 February, 29 April and 14 July 1918. Also, the distribution of regiment on 21 March 1918.
- Date: 01 January – 30 April 1919
- Headquarters Troops, Qurnah, Mesopotamia
- Reference: WO95/5021/8
- Notes: Very little occurred and most entries are brief, though British and Indian officers are mentioned throughout.
- Date: 01 May 1919 – 31 March 1920
- Tigris Defences and Communications
- Reference: WO95/5018/10
- Notes: An average war diary which contains a roll of British officers serving with the Regiment in July 1919.
Further Sources for the 96th Berar Infantry
If you’re researching British or Indian officers who served with the 96th Berar Infantry, the Indian Army List can be consulted. A good resource are the annual confidential reports for the Regiment held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. These reports also contain the annual confidential reports of the British officers serving with it. Though, when the 96th Berar Infantry was abroad only its Depot and the officers serving with it are reported on.
There is also a regimental history: Regimental History of the 2/19th Hyderabad Regiment (Berar) by J. Coney. This is a small book based on regimental orders which recorded a history of the Regiment from its origins until 1922 in 32 pages. The book contains a list of Indian soldiers with their regimental number who received land grants for their service in the war. This is a difficult book to find as it hasn’t been reprinted and I looked at a copy at the British Library.
If you’d like to learn more about the Mesopotamia Campaign I can recommend When God Made Hell: The British Invasion of Mesopotamia and the Creation of Iraq, 1914-1921 by Charles Townshend.
Extracts from War Diaries of the 96th Berar (Crown Copyright: National Archives)
01 July – 30 November 1916, Mesopotamia, WO95/5107/6
21 July 1916 – Twin Canals- Early in the month names were submitted of men who proceeded on field service during first 9 months of war and who had not been invalided to India sick or wounded ever since. This with a view of giving them 1 months leave. Names of 3 British officers, 10 Indian officers, 22 Havildars, 19 Naiks and 231 men submitted.
6 August 1916 – Twin Canals- No. Sepoy Ibrahim, one of three men on guard at No.3 piquet (bridges) was fired on by a party of 10 Arabs at about 3 am while he was getting out of his trench after being relieved and was slightly wounded in the foot. Picquet fired at Arabs but with no apparent result.
3 November 1916 – Twin Canals- 5 am – No.2998 Sepoy Juglal while under punishment for feigning sickness while in hospital committed suicide.
A court of enquiry assembled with Major C. H. Jardine as president and 2/Lt Jefferies, Subadar Sukhram Singh as members to enquire how Sepoy Juglal met his death. Court dispersed with opinion that Sepoy Juglal committed suicide while temporary insane.
01 January – 31 December 1918, Mesopotamia, WO95/5035/11
04 January 1918 – Baghailah -A summary general court-martial assembled at the HQ of the 96th Infantry to try No. 3162 Sepoy Abdulla 96th Infantry on the following charge “attempting to commit an offence of an indecent kind and doing an act towards its commission”.
05 January 1918 – Baghailah – No. 3162 Sepoy Abdulla sentenced to “Rigorous imprisonment 1 year”.
25 February 1918 – Beled – Information received that Government have sanctioned formation of 2nd Battalion 96th Infantry. Following to be returned to India to form nucleus for new battalion. 1 Subadar as Subadar-Major. 6 Jemadars as Subadars. 6 Havildars as Jemadars. 20 Naiks as Havildars. 20 Lance Naiks as Naiks and 47 old soldiers.
01 April 1918 – Belad – Terrific gale and heavy rain throughout the day. Camp soaked and many tents flattened. Issue of rum sanctioned and made to all troops. Bad weather still continues.
18 April 1918 – Belad – No. 2716 Naik Ramsewak Singh appointed Lance Havildar with effect from this date for good work done in apprehending Arab thieves.
22 April 1918 – Belad – Priority wire received from O.C. Detachment Samarrah, states, that No. 1551 Lance Naik Nurunjan Swami shot himself at 5. am this morning.
24 September 1918 Belad – Epidemic of influenza broke out amongst men of detachment at Belad.
01 January – 30 April 1919, Mesopotamia, WO95/5021/18
01 January 1919 – Baghdad – Orders received from advanced defences to the effect that Regimental Headquarters and two companies will proceed downstream forthwith. Headquarters to be at Qurnah and detachments to be provided at the Central Control Station, Ezra’s Tomb and Hammar Lake; also remaining to companies will remain in Baghdad, shortly proceeding to advanced base for duty under advanced section.
04 March 1919 – Qurnah – Information received from Subadar Allaudin O.C. detachment Ezra’s Tomb that the ambulance train collided with no. 39 UP troop train at Ezra’s Tomb. 11 men killed and 37 injured. Accident occurring at 4.28 am this morning.