This article looks at the 109th Infantry and will help you research those who served with the Regiment during the First World War. I have written a separate article on the short-lived 2nd Battalion 109th Infantry and a series of guides to help you research soldiers who served in the Indian Army during the war:
The 109th Infantry in the First World War
Lineage: Raised in 1788 as the 5th Battalion of Bombay Sepoys, it became the 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry in 1796 and the 1st Battalion 5th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry in 1798. The 9th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry in 1824, the 9th Regiment of Bombay Infantry in 1885, and the 9th Bombay Infantry in 1901. In 1903 it was designated the 109th Infantry and became the 4th Battalion 4th Bombay Grenadiers in 1922.
Composition in 1914: 2 Companies of Dekhani Mahrattas, 2 Companies of Konkani Mahrattas, 2 Companies of Rajputana Musalmans and 2 Companies of Punjabi Musalmans. 1919: 1 Company of Dekhani Mahrattas, 1 Company of Konkani Mahrattas, 1 Company of Rajputana Musalmans and 1 Company of Punjabi Musalmans.
Location in July 1914: The 109th Infantry was stationed at Aden (Yemen) having arrived from Secunderabad (Telangana, India) on 7th October 1913.
The 109th Infantry was stationed at Aden where it was serving with the Aden Brigade when the First World War began in August 1914. Aden was a strategic coaling station for ships passing through the Suez Canal and on to India and had a large garrison. Unfortunately, Aden was one of the worst stations in the British Empire as there was very little to do to break the monotony of serving there along with a harsh climate. The Regiment remained in Aden until 1917 seeing action against Turkish forces and their Arab allies before returning to India. The extract below was taken from the October 1914 Indian Army ListThe 109th Infantry was mobilised during the Third Anglo-Afghan War (6 May – 8 August 1919) where it served with the 60th Infantry Brigade, Kohat-Kurram Force. The Regiment served with Waziristan Force after the war and in 1922 became the 4th Battalion 4th Bombay Pioneers. The 109th Infantry raised a second battalion during the war and I have written a separate article which can be viewed here: 2nd Battalion 109th Infantry.
War Diaries of the 109th Infantry
There are three war diaries for the 109th Infantry and unfortunately, as of January 2018, none of them have been digitized and they can only be viewed at the National Archives.
- Date: 10 November 1914 – 30 June 1916
- Aden Force
- Reference: WO 95/5438
- Notes: A good war diary for Aden, though there are months were very little happens. There are a handful of operation orders (one transcribed below) as appendices.
- Date: 04 May – 30 June 1919
- 60th Infantry Brigade, Kohat-Kurram Force
- Reference: WO 95/5392
- Notes: A very good war diary with plenty of information concerning the Regiment’s activities. There is a list of British officers who entrained at Kohat on 05 May 1919.
- Date: 01 August 1920 – 31 December 1921
- 9th Indian Infantry Brigade, Waziristan Force
- Reference: WO95/5400
Further Sources for the 109th Infantry
For information regarding British and Indian officers who served with the 109th Infantry, the Indian Army List can 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 109th Infantry was abroad only its Depot and the officers serving with it are reported on. You can read more about the British Campaign in Aden with this article: The British Campaign in Aden 1914-1918 by Mark Connelly.
Extracts from War Diaries of the 109th Infantry
10 November 1914 – 30 June 1916, Aden Force WO 95/5438
Operation Order No.1 Copy No. 2
Major-General G. D. Shaw, Commanding Aden Brigade,
Headquarters Steamer-Point 12-12-1914
Information: 1. A report from O. C. Perim dated 11th December 14 stated that 3500 hostile tribesmen had been reported in the scrub along the coast about 60 59 80 miles West of Aden. There were assumed here to be friendly Subhi tribesmen guarding our borders. Fuller information is awaited.
A report from the Political authorities states that fisherman from Little Aden report the prescence of hundreds of Arabs in the country west of Little Aden at 7-0 p.m. 11th December. It is still considered that these may be friendly tribesmen, though their approach is not expected.
2. As a precautionary measure the General Officer Commanding intends to support the outposts on our eastern border.
3. The Aden Troop (less 1 troop) will occupy the line Sheikh-Othman-Hiswa but will not cross the frontier. The 109th Infantry (less 4 Coys) will move to a central position in support in the vicinity of Khor Maksar. Lt-Colonel Woldridge 109th Infantry will command the above Troops, which will move out at once. Once Section 15 pr battery will move to Barrier Gate and be at Lt-Colonel Wooldridge’s disposal.
4. The remaining Troops detailed for the Moveable Column will be prepared to move out to attack if the tribesman prove to be really approaching with hostile intent. The Officer Commanding Royal Garrison Artillery will be prepared to cooperate.
5. Reports will be made to the Brigade Office.
Major C. R. Bradshaw, General Staff Officers. Issued verbally to Aden Troop, 109th Infantry by telephone at 3-0 p.m.
04 May – 30 June 1919, Kohat-Kurram Force, WO 95/5392
12 May 1919 – Thall – Morning, usual parades under Company Commanders… Sangar on Railway Picquet Hill repaired and strengthened. Occupied at night by 1 NCO and 12 sepoys and by day by 1 NCO, 3 sepoys and 2 signalers. Sangar for Bhoosa Stacks Guard repaired and strengthened. Work commenced on sandbagging and fortifying roof of Railway Station. Railway Station occupied at night by garrison of 1 Indian officer, 1 NCO, 19 sepoys and 1 Lewis gun. Cloudy in the evening interrupting heliographic communication with Spinwam. Situation normal…
16 May 1919 – Thall -A Waziri spy brought news that twelve thousand Afghan troops were coming to Khost on the 18th and that Mahsud and Waziri maliks were to hold a jirgah at Matun on the 20th.
27 May 1919 – Thall – 04.30 hours – Stood to on perimeter. 09.00 – Enemy observed advancing along bed of Kurram river from direction of Manduri. Piquets on Piquet Hill ordered to remain in position. 10.00 – Mountain Battery opened fire on enemy crossing Kurram. Enemy guns immediately replied. Artillery duel continued all day. 12.00 Enemy observed entering village of Thall from West and returning with loot. 17.00 Enemy observed from piquet hill crossing Kurram river from Biland Khel and proceeding along ridge South west of Iskhalai. During night enemy attacked Piquet Hill twice. Beaten off both times by rifle fire. Casualties in regiment during day. One sepoy wounded in piquet hill.