This article is about the 18th King George’ Own Lancers and will help you research the Regiment and those who served with it during the First World War. I have written other articles about researching Indian soldiers and regiments which can be viewed by clicking on the link below:
The 18th King George’s Own Lancers in the First World War
Lineage: Raised by Captain F. H. Smith at Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh, India) as the 2nd Regiment of Mahratta Horse in 1858. In 1861 it became the 18th Regiment of Bengal Cavalry, then the 18th Regiment of Bengal Lancers in 1886. In 1901 the 18th Bengal Lancers, then the 18th Tiwana Lancers in 1903, the 18th Prince of Wales’s Own Tiwana Lancers in 1901 and the 18th King George’s Own Lancers in 1910. The Regiment was amalgamated with the 19th Lancers (Fane’s Horse) to form the 18th/19th Lancers in 1921 which became the 19th King George’s Own Lancers in 1922.
Composition in 1914: 3 Squadrons of Punjabi Musalmans and 1 of Sikhs.
Location in July 1914: The 18th King George’s Own Lancers was stationed at Meerut (Uttar Pradesh, India) having arrived from Delhi on 20 October 1909.
The 18th King George’s Own Lancers was stationed at Meerut when the First World War broke out in August 1914. The Regiment had been inspected by Brigadier-General Fitz J. M. Edwards, Commanding Meerut (Cavalry) Brigade on 16 January 1914 who reported:
Drill, manoeuvre, signalling and equitation are all satisfactory, but more use should be made of signallers to save horse-flesh. Musketry and fire discipline on the whole satisfactory but capable of improvement. Stable management is moderate and horses for the most part of a suitable stamp, but there are too many horses in poor condition. Arms, equipment and saddlery generally satisfactory, except perhaps transport saddles which are of an old pattern. Interior economy is satisfactory.
Interior economy is satisfactory.
A fine regiment and fit for service but rather conservative and disinclined to advance with the times, especially in matters of interior economy.
Confidential review reports on Indian Army units for 1913-1914: IOR/L/MIL/7/17023
The 18th Lancers was mobilized in October 1914 and left Bombay as part of a convoy bound for France on 19 November on board Hired Transports City of Birmingham and Tactician. The transports arrived at Marseilles on 15 December 1914 where the 18th Lancers disembarked. The Regiment’s service on the Western Front was for the most part uneventful and the regiment moved to billets at Estree Blance, six miles south of Aire, in early 1915. The 18th Lancer’s location can be followed by consulting the war diaries I have discussed below. The Regiment joined the Ambala Cavalry Brigade, 2nd Indian Division in June 1916 and then the 5th Cavalry Division in early 1917.
In March 1918, the 18th Lancers moved from France to Egypt and into camp at Tel-el-Kebir, 75km south of Port Said. The Regiment initially served with the 5th Mounted Brigade, Australian Mounted Division which became the 13th Cavalry Brigade, 5th Cavalry Division in July 1918. The 18th King George’s Own Lancers took part in the Palestine Campaign during 1918 and saw a lot more fighting than they had done in France. When the Armistice with Turkey was signed on 31 October 1918, the 18th Lancers were north of the present-day Syrian city of Aleppo. The Regiment served in the Middle East after the war, mainly in Egypt, before returning to India in November 1920 after six years service abroad. The Regiment’s final station was Ferozepore and in 1922 it was amalgamated with the 19th Lancers (Fane’s Horse) to form the 19th King George’s Own Lancers.
How do I research a soldier who served in the 18th King George’s Own Lancers during WW1?
For information regarding the war diaries of the 18th Lancers mentioned in the paragraphs below see further down the page.
British officers: The first step is to check for a service record at both the British Library and National Archives. Click on the blue text to be taken to my relevant articles on how to find a service record for both. The majority of British officers’ will not have service records but there will usually be annual confidential reports available at the British Library. I always use these when researching British officers who served in the Indian Army for clients. If you can’t find a service record, turn to the Indian Army List and London Gazette to find out basic information regarding the officer’s service. Then, have a look at the war diaries of the 18th King George’s Own Lancers and its excellent regimental history.
Indian officers: Researching Indian officers is a lot harder as their service and medal records have long been destroyed. You want to turn to the Indian Army List and in particular look at a few January supplements which list war services. The war diaries and regimental history, which contains a casualty list, should also be consulted.
Indian rank and file: Very difficult to research. If you have a service number you can work out an enlistment date. There is a list of casualties in the regimental history. For an overview of a soldier’s likely service, the regimental history and war diaries should be viewed. If you have a relative’s medals, my article on Indian Campaign Medals of WW1 will help you.
I would recommend anyone interested in the 18th King’s George Own Lancers to read a copy of its regimental history: History of the 19th King George’s Own Lancers 1858-1921 by General Sir H. Hudson. This is a great book and I have discussed the book in more detail below.
War Diaries of the 18th King George’s Own Lancers:
The first three war diaries below have been digitized and can be downloaded for a small fee from the National Archives’ website by clicking on the blue links below:
- Date: 24 January 1915 – 31 May 1916
- 2nd Indian Cavalry Division, Meerut Cavalry Brigade
- Reference: WO 95/1186/4
- Notes: A good war diary though the entries can be hard to read at times. Many months record how many men, horses and mules join and leave the Regiment.
- Date: 01 June – 31 December 1916
- 2nd Indian Cavalry Division, Ambala Cavalry Brigade
- Reference: WO 95/1185/4
- Notes: An average war diary with some months having summaries rather than daily entries. All months record how many men, horses and mules join and leave the Regiment.
- Date: 01 January 1917 – 30 March 1918
- 5th Cavalry Division, Ambala Cavalry Brigade
- Reference: WO 95/1164/4
- Notes: A very good war diary with many detailed entries. All months record how many men, horses and mules join and leave the Regiment.
- Date: 01 April – 30 June 1918
- Australian Mounted Division, 5th Mounted Brigade
- Reference: WO 95/4566
- Notes: A good war diary which contains monthly summaries and a map recording the positions at Rafa on 1 January 1917. All months record how many men, horses and mules join and leave the Regiment.
- Date: 01 July 1918 – March 1920
- 5th Cavalry Division, 13th Cavalry Brigade
- Reference: WO 95/4518
- Notes: A very good war diary until October 1918 after which entries become a lot shorter in common with other post-war diaries. Each month is ended by a monthly summary and there are a few appendices in this diary.
Further Sources for the 18th King George’s Own Lancers
The best source of information concerning the 18th King George’s Own Lancers and the British officers who served with it are its confidential reports held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. For information regarding the British and Indian officers who served with the 18th King George’s Own Lancers the Indian Army List can be consulted. The Indian Army List also records the location of the 18th Lancers prior to the outbreak of war.
Regimental History: History of the 19th King George’s Own Lancers 1858-1921 by General Sir H. Hudson. This book is one of the greatest regimental histories ever produced for an Indian army regiment and also covers the 19th Lancers (Fane’s Horse). Well written and entertaining, it is crammed full of useful information and has recently been reprinted by the Naval and Military Press.
Extracts from War Diaries of the 18th King George’s Own Lancers
01 January 1917 – 30 March 1918, 5th Cavalry Division, Ambala Cavalry Brigade, WO 95/1164/4
The entries below describe the 18th King George’s Own Lancers journey from Marseilles, France to Alexander, Egypt in 1918.
6 March 1918 – The following parties of the regiment embarked – 1st party commenced embarking on Hired Transport City of Benares at 8 am. Lt. Abercrombie. Ressaidar Mohd Inayat Khan, Jemadar Sultan Mohammed Khan, 70 other ranks Indian and 195 animals – including all transport and nearly the whole of A Squadron and a few details of HQ.
2nd Party- Commenced embarking on Hired Transport Ellenga at 9 am. The Commanding Officer and Captain Forbes, Jemadar Mohd. Khan (Woordie-Major), Jemadar Mohd. Amir, Jemadar Adalat Khan and Ressaldar Sultan Khan and 136 other ranks. No horses were on this boat. The Commanding officer commanded all troops on this ship.
The remainder of those who detrained at Marseilles on the morning of 5th instant remained behind in camp in Marseilles under Captain Brooke. 2 British officers (including medical officer) 4 Indian officers Ressaidar Sultan Ahmad, Ressaidar Mohd. Raza Khan and Jemadar Khuda Bux (1) – 103 other ranks and 287 animals (C and D). The convoy moved out from the docks in the evening but did not sail from Marseilles till 10 am 7th instant. On the evening of the 6th a minefield was reported just outside the harbour. This was swept before we sailed.
10 March 1918 – Malta – Arrived Malta and sailed again night of 11th instant.
15 March 1918 – Alexandria [Egypt] – Arrived Alexandria in the afternoon. The convoy was escorted to Malta by 2 British and 2 Japanese destroyers, from there on wards by 4 Japs.
16 March 1918 – Disembarked horses. men slept on board.
17 March 1918 – Entrained for Tel-el-Kebir arriving at 2.45 pm. A great contrast to France. No casualties on the voyage and no horses lost. On arrival found the parties that left Long on 23rd and 24th February had arrived on the 16th. No men were evacuated sick at Taranto, otherwise no casualties.
The remainder of the month was spent in gradually conditioning horses of A Squadron and HQ and transport animals. Horses rations changed from oats and hay (France) to grain barley and bran and very coarse hay supplemented with bhusa [broken straw and husks]. It is hardy expected that they will keep the same condition as in France. Weather very fine and dry and miles of desert for squadron training next month.