105th Mahratta Light Infantry

This article will provide you with an overview of the history of the 105th Mahratta Light Infantry during the First World War and help you research those who served with the Regiment. I have also written 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 link below:

105th Mahratta Light Infantry in the First World War

Lineage: Raised in 1788 as the 3rd Battalion of Bombay Sepoys it became the 1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry in 1796. Then the 5th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry in 1824, the 5th Regiment of Bombay Native (Light) Infantry in 1841 and the 5th Regiment of Bombay (Light) Infantry in 1885. In 1901 the 5th Bombay Light Infantry, the 105th Mahratta Light Infantry in 1903 and the 2nd 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 Mussalmans. 1919: 2 Companies of Dekhani Mahrattas, 1 Company of Konkani Mahrattas and 1 Company of Dekhani Musalmans.

Location in July 1914: The 105th Mahratta Light Infantry was stationed at Poona (Pune, Maharashtra, India) having arrived from Hong Kong (China) on 13th March 1911.

The 105th Mahratta Light Infantry was stationed at Poona, now Pune when war broke out as part of the 6th (Poona) Division. The Regiment had been inspected by Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Arnold Barrett, Commanding 6th (Poona) Division on 4 March 1914 who reported:

The men are wiry and active and in very good condition. In the field they move quickly and show much endurance. Their welfare and comfort has been very well cared for by Lieutenant-Colonel Dann, the late commander. Tactical training has made good progress during the season.

I have reported unfavourably on some of the senior officers, but with these exceptions there is no fault to be found with the personnel. An excellent spirit prevails, and the Battalion is quite fit for active service.

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

The Regiment did not serve with the 6th (Poona) Division in Mesopotamia as it was replaced in the 16th (Poona) Brigade by the 104th Wellesley’s Rifles. While the 105th Mahratta Light Infantry remained in India until late 1916, it sent large drafts to the 103rd and 110th Mahratta Light Infantry, which were its linked battalions. In October 1915 a draft of over 200 men left the Regiment. The regimental history recorded that “The majority of these men, alas, died in the siege of Kut-el-Amara”. Between August 1914 and December 1916, the 105th Mahratta Light Infantry sent 889 Indian other ranks abroad. The Regiment moved to Dacca in March 1915 and subsequently Lahore in August. The extract below was taken from the October 1914 Indian Army List which recorded the British officers serving with the Regiment.105th Mahratta Light Infantry British Officers WW1The 105th Mahratta Light Infantry received orders to mobilize in July 1916 and absorbed 200 men from the 2nd Battalion, 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry which had been formed after the 1st Battalion capture at Kut-al-Amara. The Regiment arrived in Mesopotamia in August 1916 and moved to Sheikh Saad where it arrived on the 10. After an outbreak of cholera, in which ten men died including Subadar-Major Chanderao More, the Regiment joined the 9th (Sirhind) Brigade of the 3rd (Lahore) Division opposite the Sanniyat position in September 1916. Here the Regiment remained and took part in the Allied offensive towards Baghdad which began in December 1916. The Regiment took part in an attack on the Turkish position at the Abul Hassan Bend on 8 January 1917 which is covered in detail by both its war diary and regimental history. During this attack, the 105th Mahratta Light Infantry suffered over 200 casualties.

The 105th Mahratta Light Infantry arrived in Baghdad as part of the British offensive on 18 March 1917 and on 24 March attacked a Turkish position near the Jebel Hamrin Mountains. The attack was made by the 8th and 9th Brigades on a position which was believed to be lightly held. The position was actually strongly held and both Brigades suffered severe casualties. The 105th Mahratta Light Infantry’s commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Ernest Richard Inglis Chitty, was killed and the Regiment suffered over 250 casualties. After the battle, the Regiment was moved to the vicinity of Baghdad where it was used for garrison duties.

In September 1917, the 9th Brigade moved to Beled and fortified the position and subsequently on to Samarra where it remained until March 1918. The 105th Mahratta Light Infantry moved to Basra on 6 April 1918, where the Regiment boarded the Hired Transport Jeddah. The Regiment arrived off Suez on 30 April and had completed disembarkation by 2 May. The 105th Mahratta Light Infantry moved to the frontline, reaching El Mezeipah on 23 June 1918. The Regiment also provided a Company for the 3rd Battalion 153rd Infantry. Over the summer of 1918, the Regiment conducted numerous raids and reconnoissances. On the 19 September 1918, the Regiment took part in the Battle of Megiddo and I’d recommend looking at the chapters in the regimental history covering the battle.

The 105th Mahratta Light Infantry remained on the battlefield conducting salvage operations before it marched across Palestine in November 1918. The Regiment reached Damascus (Syria) on 13 November where it remained until 1919 when one half was sent to Amman (Jordan). The Regiment subsequently moved to Egypt and embarked on board the Dufferin on 25 April 1920 for India. The 105th Mahratta Light Infantry disembarked at Bombay on 6 May and left for Belgaum that evening. In 1922, the 105th Mahratta Light Infantry became the 2nd Battalion 5th Mahratta Light Infantry.

War Diaries of the 105th Mahratta Light Infantry

There are two war diaries for the 105th Mahratta Light Infantry and the first has been digitized and can be downloaded for a small fee by clicking the blue link below. As of January 2018, the war diary covering the Regiment’s service with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force has not been digitized and can only be viewed at the National Archives. I have copies of both war diaries and have transcribed some entries below.

  • Date: 01 September 1916 – 31 March 1918
  • 9th (Sirhind) Brigade, 3rd (Lahore Division), Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5111/5
  • Notes: Overall, a poor war diary with many months containing little detail. There is a three page ”Narrative of Operations 9th to 11th January 1917”, with two pages containing recommendations for gallantry. There is a nominal roll of British officers present with the 105th Mahrattas on the first of each month between January and April 1918.
  • Date: 01 April 1918 – 31 March 1920
  • 9th (Sirhind) Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
  • Reference: WO 95/4703
  • Notes: An average war diary where the majority of entries concern the number of ranks admitted to a field ambulance. There are some detailed entries, one on the 4 August 1918 describing a raid to capture 6 Turkish soldiers and the part the Regiment took in the Battle of Megiddo. There are nominal rolls of British officers serving with the 105th Mahratta Light Infantry at the end of each month. The following appendices appear, letter from the Office Commanding Troops Amman to Political Officer Amman regarding ”demands for a patrol with Lewis Guns etc. to reassure the priests and Christian community of Es-Salt. Telegram from General Kus to Officer Commanding Troops Amman dated November 1919 with a reply. Also, a letter from the Commanding Officer to 9th Infantry Brigade describing the courtesy shown to the marching out detachment of British troops by Rashid Pasha, the military governor of Amman District.

Further Sources 105th Mahratta Light Infantry

For information on the British and Indian officers who served with the 105th Mahratta Light Infantry, the Indian Army List can be consulted. A good resource is the 105th Mahratta Light Infantry’s confidential reports held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. These contain the reports of the British officers who served with the Regiment, though when it is abroad only those officers serving with the Depot are reported on.

There is also a regimental history which I would recommend looking at: A Famous Indian Regiment the Kali Panchwin 2/5th (formerly the 105th) Mahratta Light Infantry, 1768-1923 by Sir Reginald Hennell and Mary C Hennell. This volume has been digitised and can be viewed and downloaded for free by clicking on the blue link above.

Extracts from War Diaries of the 105th Mahratta Light Infantry

01 April 1918 – 31 March 1920, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, WO 95/4703

15 April 1918 – Nahr Umar – Two havildars and five naiks returned to India to form nucleus for end Battalion 105th Mahratta Light Infantry. One havildar, one naik, five lance naiks, 73 other ranks Indians, three bhistis, three cooks sent to No.2 Indian Base Depot for reinforcement to follow unit. Received orders to embark on 16th on H.T. Jeddah at Maqil and to proceed there by train. Entrained evening 15.

01 June 1918 – Haditheh – A Company, Captain Graveston and Lieutenant Priestley transferred to 3rd Battalion 153rd Infantry:- strength of Company as follows two British officers, four Indian officers, two hundred and twenty-three ranks, eight public followers, one private follower. On withdrawal of this company a new A Company was formed in the Regiment.

30 July 1918 – Near Mulebis – Subedar Shaikh Jamal with his sword orderly and eight O.R.I. evacuated to field ambulance.

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