107th Pioneers

This article will provide you with an overview of the history of the 107th Pioneers 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 107th Pioneers 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 link below:

107th Pioneers in the First World War

Lineage: Raised in 1788 as the 4th Battalion of Bombay Sepoys, it became the 1st Battalion, 4th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry in 1796, and then the 7th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry in 1824. Then the 7th Regiment of Bombay Infantry in 1885, the 7th Bombay Infantry (Pioneers) in 1900 and the 7th Bombay Pioneers in 1901. In 1903 it was designated the 107th Pioneers. In 1922 the Regiment became the 1st Battalion 2nd Bombay Pioneers.

Composition in 1914: 2 Companies of Pathans, 2 Companies of Rajputana Musalmans, 2 Companies of Sikhs and 2 Companies of Dekhani Mahrattas. 1919: 1 Company of Pathans, 1 Company of Rajputana Musalmans, 1 Company of Sikhs and 1 Company of Dekhani Mahrattas.

Location in July 1914: The 107th Pioneers was stationed at Meerut (Uttar Pradesh, India) having arrived from Jhansi (Uttar Pradesh, India) on 4th March 1914.

The 107th Pioneers was stationed at Meerut when the First World War began in August 1914. The Regiment had been inspected by Major-General Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend, Commanding Jhansi Brigade on 3 February 1914 who reported:

Turn-out: Very good.

Efficiency in drill: Good.

Manoeuvres: Battalion is supple in manoeuvres.

Musketry: Excellent.

General efficiency: Thoroughly fit for service; very efficient.

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

The 107th Pioneers received ordered to mobilize on 9 August 1914 and initially served as divisional troops for the 7th (Meerut) Division. However, this was changed and the Regiment joined the 9th (Sirhind) Brigade of the 3rd (Lahore) Division during its service in France. The 107th Pioneers left India at Bombay on board Hired Transport Barala on 2 September 1914 and disembarked at Marseilles on 26 September 1914. I’d recommend looking at the Regiment’s war diary which covers the period between August 1914 and December 1915 which I have discussed below. The extract below was taken from the October 1914 Indian Army List which recorded the British officers serving with the Regiment.107th Pioneers British Officers WW1The 107th Pioneers moved into camp at Orleans where they remained until the 3rd (Lahore) Division began to move north on 18 October 1914. The 107th Pioneers entered the trenches at Festubert where the Regiment suffered its first casualties. Though a pioneer regiment, the Regiment was used as infantry due to the possibility of a German breakthrough. From late November 1914, the Regiment reverted to its pioneer role and was frequently in the frontline improving trenches, digging reserve trenches, etc. During 1915, the 107th Pioneers took part in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle (10-13 March 1915) but most of the Regiment’s activities were typical pioneer work often conducted at night to improve trenches.

The 107th Pioneers left France in November 1915 and moved to Egypt where it disembarked at Port Said on 16 November and moved into camp at Tel-el-Kebir, 75km (46 miles) south of Cairo the next day. The Regiment did not remain in Egypt for long, as it moved to Mesopotamia (Iraq) where it disembarked at Basra on 4 December 1915. There are two war diaries covering the 107th Pioneers activities in Mesopotamia which I have discussed below. While in Mesopotamia the Regiment was involved in typical pioneer duties, digging and improving trenches, building breastworks etc. The 107th Pioneers remained in Mesopotamia until the 22nd September 1916, when it embarked on board the SS Bankura for India. The Regiment’s place in the 7th (Meerut) Division was taken by the 121st Pioneers which had remained in India for the first two years of the war.

Once back in India, the 107th Pioneers moved to Quetta where they remained until April 1917 when they were ordered to Southern Waziristan before returning to Quetta in November. The Regiment joined the Marris Field Force in 1918 and you can read more about this forgotten episode of the Great War here: Fighting the Marris and the Khetrans. The 107th Pioneers then served in the East Persian Cordon (Seistan Force) from October 1918 where they remained until the Regiment returned to Quetta on 7 November 1920. In 1922, the 107th Pioneers became the 1st Battalion 2nd Bombay Pioneers.

War Diaries of the 107th Pioneers

There are two war diaries for the 107th Pioneers and both have been digitized by the National Archives. To download the war diaries for a small fee click on the blue links below which will take you to the National Archives’ website.

  • Date: 09 August 1914 – 31 December 1915
  • France
  • Reference: WO 95/3938/4
  • Notes: A good war diary which has the benefit of being typed between August 1914 and September 1915. After January 1915 entries become shorter, though when the 107th Pioneers are in action are detailed (Battle of Neuve Chapelle).
  • Date: 01 January – 12 October 1916
  • 7th (Meerut) Division, Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5134/7
  • Notes: A very detailed war diary which is full of useful information. There is a map which has been painted with watercolours showing the “Situation on Tigris Front 12 December 1916”.

Further Sources for the 107th Pioneers

For information regarding British and Indian officers who served with the 107th Pioneers, the Indian Army List can be consulted. One of the best sources for information concerning the 107th Pioneers is the Regiment’s confidential reports held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etcThese reports also contain the annual confidential reports of the British officers who served with the 107th Pioneers though only the Depot and its officers are reported on when the Regiment is overseas.

I would also recommend looking at a History of the Bombay Pioneers 1777-1933 by Lieutenant-Colonel W. B. P. Tugwell. This is a very good book which also covers the history of the 12th, 48th, 121st and 128th Pioneers and has been reprinted by the Naval and Military Press. 

Extracts from War Diaries of the 107th Pioneers 

09 August 1914 – 31 December 1915, France, WO 95/3938/4

02 September 1914 – Bombay – Arrived at Alexandra at 2.30 pm and embarked in H.T. Barala and went out at 6.30 pm into the outer harbour. Fine weather. Very crowded ship.

09 September 1914 – At Sea – Men had got over seasickness and musketry parades held. Fatigues of 100 men transferred coal from hold to bunkers.

30 October 1914 – Croix Barbee – In accordance with order received. Right 1/2 Battalion marched to Essars… Later they were moved another 2 miles to Festubert and were employed all that night digging trenches for the reserve. They came under a desultory shell fire….

01 November 1914 – Centre Section Festubert Position – A strenuous day. The Germans had sapped in dead ground right up to the left of the trenches which were also exposed to enfilade fire. Here the Pathan Company lost 2 killed and 19 wounded. Frequent bomb fire from enemy’s mortar. At dusk enemy feinted an attack. Our guns supported us splendidly.

23 November 1914 – Centre Section – 2.30 pm sent stretcher bearers and working party of 20 men to dig out 1st aid posts of 57 Rifles and 129 Baluchs who has been buried in the fall of a house just East of crossroads Festubert by high explosive shell.

01 January – 12 October 1916, Mesopotamia, WO95/5134/7

06 January 1916 – 3 Miles West of Minthar near Musandaq Road – Marched at 8 am with 9 Brigade to a camp 3 miles West of Minthar. The transport allotted to regiment consisted of pack mules, cart A.T., limbered wagons and camels. The latter were in droves of 10 to one Arab driver and having no leading strings, were almost uncontrollable and caused great delay in loading. They were supposed to carry 4 maunds but actually carried three with difficulty, many were females.

07 January 1916 – Bridge 5 miles South East of Shaikh Sa’ad – Marched at 8.30 am with Brigade… Part of 51st Sikhs going to the front passed regiment. At 2 pm the regiment crossed bridge. The Brigade advanced northwards for 3 miles in reserve of our right attack. The regiment was in rear of 1/4 Hants, and did not come under fire. Just before dusk the regiment was withdrawn and all placed on outpost duty to cover transport, camp and hospital of 7 Division. A large number of wounded, British and Indian, came straggling into our camp after dark.

14 January 1916 – Junction of Wadi River and Tigris – 6.30 am. Ordered to advance to attack on right of 28 Brigade who had attacked yesterday evening and night and failed. 7.30 a regiment advanced and proceeded to dig trenches on right of 1/4 Hants on a front 500 yards… After about 1/2 hour’s digging regiment was ordered to clear the battlefield… about 50 dead of Leicester Regiment, 53rd and 56th Sikhs were buried and a few wounded sent to the field ambulance. A large number of rifles and equipment was collected…

Previous to the advance this morning. The men were issued with ammunition to complete 200 rounds per man. There was great difficulty in carrying this. Their haversacks were full of food including emergency ratio and the pockets of the khaki coat are too small. As it was a cold morning greatcoats were worn and the pockets were filled.

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