116th Mahrattas

This article on the 116th Mahrattas will give you an overview of the Regiment’s service during the First World War and help you research those who served with it. I have written a separate article on the war-raised 2nd Battalion 116th Mahrattas and a series of guides to help you research soldiers who served in the Indian Army during the war. To view the guides click on the links below:

116th Mahrattas in the First World War

Lineage: Raised by Major R. T. Heath at Mangalore (Mangaluru) as the 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry or Gore’s Regiment in 1800, and it became the 16th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry in 1824. Then the 16th Regiment of Bombay Infantry in 1885, the 16th Bombay Infantry in 1901, the 116th Mahrattas in 1903 and the 4th Battalion 5th Mahratta Light Infantry in 1922.

Composition in 1914: 4 Companies of Konkani Mahrattas, 2 Companies of Dekhani Mahrattas and 2 Companies of Dekhani Musalmans. 1919: 2 Companies of Konkani Mahrattas, 1 Company of Dekhani Mahrattas and 1 Company of Dekhani Musalmans.

Location in July 1914: The 116th Mahrattas was stationed at Jhansi (Uttar Pradesh, India) having arrived from Bombay (Mumbai, Maharashtra, India) on 22nd October 1910.

The 116th Mahrattas was stationed at Jhansi when the First World War broke out in August 1914. The Regiment had been inspected by Major-General Charles Vere Ferres Townshend, Commanding Jhansi Brigade on 4 February 1914 who reported:

Turn-out: Smart-exceptionally so.

Efficiency in drill: A well-drilled, efficient Regiment.

Manoeuvres: Handle their arms well and supple on manoeuvres.

Conduct: All that could be desired.

General efficiency: Fit for service in every particular.

Confidential review reports on Indian Army units for 1913-1914IOR/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.116th Mahrattas British Officers 1914On the 31 March 1917, while stationed at Bannu, North West Frontier Province (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan), the 116th Mahrattas received notification to prepare for service overseas. The Regiment left Bannu for Karachi on 5 April and arrived two days later. The 116th Mahrattas embarked on board Hired Transport Ekma on 9 April which sailed the next day for Basra, Mesopotamia (Iraq) where it arrived on 14 April. The Regiment remained at Basra until 4 June 1917 when it left for Baghdad where it arrived on 12 June. The 116th Mahrattas was at Baghdad until early January 1918 on base and defence duties. There is a war diary covering the Regiment’s mobilisation and service in Mesopotamia until the end of October 1917.

A second war diary covers the period between November 1917 and April 1921. The Regiment moved frequently during 1918 and the war diary should be consulted to find its exact location. The Regiment had a very uneventful war and in January 1919 moved to Kirkuk where it remained until late April 1919. The 116th Mahrattas took part in the suppression of the 1920 Iraqi Revolt and qualified for the General Service Medal with Iraq Clasp with some men of the regiment also qualifying for the Kurdistan Clasp as well. Surviving Medal Index Cards for the General Service Medal can be viewed on either Ancestry or the National Archives’ website. I’d recommend viewing the cards on Ancestry as they are free to view and in colour.

The 116th Mahrattas served in the Middle East until 1921 when the Regiment returned to India. In the July 1921 Indian Army List, the Regiment was stationed at Belgaum (Karnataka, India). In 1922 the 116th Mahrattas became the 4th Battalion 5th Mahratta Light Infantry. A 2nd Battalion 116th Mahrattas was raised at Poona in 1918 and I have written about the Battalion in a separate article: 2nd Battalion 116th Mahrattas.

War Diaries of the 116th Mahrattas

There are two war diaries for the 116th Mahrattas and both have been digitized by the National Archives. To download the war diaries for a small fee click on the blue links below. I have transcribed a few entries at the bottom of the page.

  • Date: 31 March – 30 October 1917
  • Base and Defence Troops, Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5035/11
  • Notes: There is good information on the mobilization of the 116th Mahrattas, however, once the Battalion arrived at Basra on 15 April the majority of entries consist of “Nil”. Actual entries are usually just listing the arrival and departure of British officers (there was a measles outbreak in the Regiment). There is a list of British officers departing Bannu on 05 April 1917.
  • Date: 01 November 1917 – 30 April 1921
  • 55th Indian Infantry Brigade, 18th Indian Division
  • Reference: WO 95/5230/6
  • Notes: An average war diary at best. There are a large number of appendices including a nominal roll of British officers serving with the 116th Mahrattas from December 1917

Further Sources for the 116th Mahrattas

One of the best sources of information concerning the 116th Mahrattas is its confidential reports held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. These reports also contain the annual reports of the British officers serving with the Regiment. Though, when the 116th Mahrattas was abroad only its Depot and those British officers serving with it were reported on. For information regarding British and Indian officers who served in the 116th Mahrattas, the Indian Army List can be consulted. The surviving Medal Index Cards for the General Service Medal Iraq and Kurdistan clasps can be viewed on either Ancestry or the National Archives’ website. I’d recommend viewing the cards on Ancestry as they are free to view and in colour.

If you’d like to learn more about the Mesopotamia Campaign I’d 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 116th Mahrattas 

31 March – 30 October 1917, Mesopotamia, WO95/5035/11

31 March 1917 – Bannu – Received telegrams saying that the battalion is to leave Bannu, North West Frontier Province for Kiamari in two trains on April 6 for service overseas.

08 March 1917 – Karachi – The whole Regiment entrained in open trucks at 9.30 am and proceed to Kiamari. A medical inspection was held in the troop shed on arrival. After loading up baggage the Regiment embarked on board the Transport Ekma ( British – India Line)… Weighed anchor at 6 pm and proceeded outside Karachi breakwater where we stayed for the night.

09 April 1917 – HMT Ekma – Remained outside the breakwater the whole day, A further case of measles was sent ashore with two contacts.

10th April 1917 – HMT Ekma – Sailed at 8.30 am in the direction of Bombay and were joined at 3.30 pm by the cruiser Juno and three transports from Bombay. Waited about in the open sea and eventually sailed for Basra headed by the above cruiser and following transports in two lines [list of transports].

10 July 1917 – Baghdad – Lieutenant Goddard goes to hospital with heat stroke.

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