This article will provide you with an overview of the history of the 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry during the First World War and help you research those who served with the Regiment. I have written a separate article on the 2nd Battalion 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry and a series of guides to help you research those who served in the Indian Army during the war. These guides can be viewed by clicking on the links below:
- The 2nd Battalion 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry
- Guides to Researching Soldiers who Served in the Indian Army
103rd Mahratta Light Infantry in the First World War
Lineage: Raised in 1768 as the 2nd Battalion of Bombay Sepoys and became the 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry in 1796. Then the 3rd Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry in 1824 and the 3rd Regiment of Bombay Native (Light) Infantry in 1871. Then the 3rd Regiment of Bombay Light Infantry in 1885, the 3rd Bombay Light Infantry in 1901, 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry in 1903 and the 1st Battalion 5th Mahratta Light Infantry in 1922.
Composition in 1914: 4 Companies of Dekhani Mahrattas, 2 Companies of Konkani Mahrattas and 2 Companies of Dekhani Musalmans. 1919: 1 Company of Dekhani Mahrattas, 2 Companies of Konkani Mahrattas and 1 Company of Dekhani Musalmans.
Location in July 1914: The 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry was stationed at Ahmednagar (Maharashtra, India) from Belgaum (Belagavi, Karnataka, India) on 19th October 1910.
The 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry was stationed at Ahmednagar in August 1914 where it was serving as part of the 6th (Poona) Division. The Regiment had been inspected by Lieutenant-General Sir. Arthur Arnold Barrett, Commanding 6th (Poona) Division on 11 February 1914 who reported:
The physical fitness of all ranks is a special feature of the training of this battalion. The men show great endurance in the field, and move quickly and well. The general condition of efficiency is very creditable to Lieutenant-Colonel Brown and his officers, giving evidence of careful training on sound lines. The battalion is quite fit for service.
Confidential review reports on Indian Army units for 1913-1914: IOR/L/MIL/7/17023
The extract below was taken from the October 1914 Indian Army List which recorded the British officers serving with the Regiment.The 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry was ordered to mobilize at Ahmednagar on 9 September 1914 and embarked on board the Hired Transport Chenab at Bombay on 21 November 1914. The next day, the ship sailed for Mesopotamia (Iraq) where the 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry served as part of the 17th Indian Infantry Brigade, 6th (Poona) Division. The Regiment disembarked at Fao, a strategic port on the Shatt-al-Arab in what is the extreme southwest of present-day Iraq. I recommend looking at the Regiment’s war diary which covers the period between September 1914 and October 1915. The 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry took part in the Allied offensive to capture Baghdad including at the Battle of Ctesiphon (22-25 November 1915).
At the Battle of Ctesiphon, the 6th (Poona) Division suffered heavy casualties when it attacked a well-defended Turkish position. The Division withdrew to the town of Kut-al-Amara, where it was besieged between December 1915 and April 1916 before surrendering. There is a list at the British Library of Indian soldiers taken prisoner by the Turks up until 1917 and there are hundreds of names from the 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry. In 1922, the 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry became the 1st Battalion, 5th Mahratta Light Infantry. A 2nd Battalion was formed in 1916 from the surviving remnants of the Regiment which hadn’t been captured at Kut-al-Amara. I have written a separate article about the Battalion here: 2nd Battalion 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry.
War Diary of the 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry
There is only one war diary for the 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry which has been digitized. To download the war diary for a small fee click on the blue link below which will take you to the National Archives’ website.
- Date: 09 September 1914 – 31 October 1915
- 17th Indian Infantry Brigade, 6th (Poona) Division, Mesopotamia
- Reference: WO 95/5122/5
- Notes: A good detailed war diary, especially when the 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry was in action. Though, between June and August 1915, like many other Mesopotamia war diaries, entries become shorter and more repetitive e.g. ‘Parade as usual. Total sick…’. There is a list of British officers with the 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry on 17 November 1914. There are no appendices.
Further Sources for the 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry
For information regarding the British and Indian officers who served with the 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry, the Indian Army List should be consulted. A good resource for the Regiment is its annual confidential reports 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 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry was abroad only its Depot and the officers serving with it were reported on. There is also a regimental history: History of the 1st Battalion 5th Mahratta Light Infantry (Jangi Paltan).
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.
If you’d like to know more about the Siege of Kut I recommend Kut 1916: Courage and Failure in Iraq by Patrick Crowley.
Extracts from War Diary of the 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry
9 September 1914 – 31 October 1915, Mesopotamia, WO 95/5122/5
9 September 1914 – Ahmednagar – Regiment ordered to mobilize.
11 September 1914 – Ahmednagar – 77 Recruits were attested.
14 September 1914 – Ahmednagar – 173 Reservists at Headquarters (158 [?] arrived on September 1914) a large proportion are excellent material. Asked by the Divisional Supply Poona to arrange regimentally to make up and issue one flannel shirt, one warm vest, one pair warm drawers in addition to the winter scale of clothing.
22 November 1914 – The last man of the guard, which had been posted on the quay came on board at 6.10 am and we cast off at 6.15 am and were towed out of dock, however as it was low water we were not able to get away till 9 am. The instructions given to the captain of the boat were in a sealed envelope which was opened when we were about 12 miles out from Bombay the instructions were ”you are to proceed with despatch to the vicinity of the light buoy at the entrance to the Shatt-al-Arab River and report by signal to the senior naval officer there, the number and name of your ship and the troops on board. You will put yourself under his ordered and carry out any instructions you may receive from him”.
14 March 1915 – Kurna – Snipers fired at both Fort Winsloe and Fort Snipe during the night, they were however dispersed by fire from HMS Miner. A mine exploded on the right bank of the Tigris about 200 yards north of Fort Snipe without doing any damage.
2 April 1915 – Four men in a bellum fired at the picquet in front of Fort Winsloe the picquet returned the fire and the enemy drew off. Working parties as usual.
20 June 1915 – Amarah – No sniping. No parade. Total sick: 242. Followers 7.