This article is about the 3rd Brahmans and will help you to research the Battalion and soldiers who served with it. I have written a separate article for the 2nd Battalion 3rd Gaur Brahmans and a series of guides to researching soldiers who served in the Indian Army during the First World War. To view these guides click on the blue links below:
The 3rd Brahmans in the First World War
Lineage: Raised at Jaunpur by Lieutenant Colonel J Guthrie in 1798 as 1st Battalion, 16th Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry. In 1824 became the 32nd Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry and in 1861 the 3rd Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry. Then in 1885 the 3rd Brahman Infantry and finally the 3rd Brahmans in 1903. The 3rd Brahmans was disbanded on 6 May 1922.
Class Composition of Battalion in 1914: 8 Companies Brahmans 1919: 4 Companies of Brahmans.
Location in August 1914: The 3rd Brahmans was stationed at Nowgong (Madhya Pradesh, India) having arrived from Singapore on 19th April 1914.
The 3rd Brahmans was an Indian infantry regiment which saw extensive service in the Middle East during the First World War. The 3rd Brahmans have left a good deal of material relating to their service during the war and is an easy regiment to research. The 3rd Brahmans final inspection before the outbreak of war was on the 19 December 1913 by Major-General E. Stephenson, Commanding Troops, Straits Settlement:
The battalion is well trained and in thoroughly good order in every way; a great deal of attention has been paid during the year to quickening the movement of the men at manoeuvres and to encouraging the initiative of all ranks, and they are now able to work with far greater freedom over the difficult country in the neighbourhood of Singapore… The Battalion is fit for service.
Confidential review reports on Indian Army units for 1913-1914: IOR/L/MIL/7/17023
The extract below is taken from the 3rd Brahman’s entry in the October 1914 Indian Army List which recorded the British officers serving with the Regiment. Indian Army Lists are very important sources of information for researching both officers and regiments of the Indian Army.The 3rd Brahmans was stationed at Nowgong (Madhya Pradesh, India) when the First World War began in August 1914 and initially served in Egypt with the 22nd Infantry Brigade defending the Suez Canal. In December 1915, the Regiment joined the 9th Indian Infantry Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division, which had been withdrawn from France. The Regiment served with the 35th Indian Infantry Brigade, 14th Indian Division between July and December 1917 before serving on the lines of communication. The Regiment’s war diaries are a very good source of information for these years.
In April 1917, after 100 men of the 3rd Brahmans refused to eat puris (an unleavened Indian flatbread), the Regiment was disarmed and a court-martial set up for the soldiers charged with ”mutinous conduct”. The 3rd Brahmans was recruited from Brahmans, who had strict dietary requirements and caste prejudices. This link will take you to the relevant Wikipedia page to learn more about the caste system: Caste System in India. The problem started when the men refused to eat puris cooked at the Regiment’s Headquarters. However, the war diary is very vague regarding the circumstances of just what the men objected to (it is possible that they objected to the cooks themselves and feared breaking caste).
The 3rd Brahmans was disarmed, 100 men were convicted by a court-martial and the Regiment was banished to Muscat (Oman) to replace the 108th Infantry. The war diary only mentions the sentences of two Non-commissioned officers and a sepoy who received transportation for life. In June 1918, the Regiment raised a second battalion at Deesa: 2nd Battalion 3rd Gaur Brahmans. The Regiment served at Muscat until February 1919 when it returned to India and was stationed at Barrackpore (North Kolkata/Calcutta, India). In the July 1921 Indian Army List, the 3rd Brahmans are stationed at Jamrud, North West Frontier Province, now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan and in the January 1922 edition was at Shagai, North West Frontier Province. The 3rd Brahmans was disbanded in 1922.
War Diaries of the 3rd Brahmans
There are four war diaries for the Regiment and all but the first have been digitized by the National Archives. To download these war diaries for a small fee click on the blue links below and you’ll be taken to the National Archives’ website. The first war diary covering Egypt hasn’t been digitized and can only be viewed at the National Archives.
- Date: 01 November 1914 – 30 November 1915
- 22nd Infantry Brigade, Suez Canal Defences
- Reference: WO 95/4428
- Notes: A more detailed war diary than is usually found for units serving in Egypt during 1914 – 15.
- Date: 01 December 1915 – 30 June 1916
- 9th Indian Infantry Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division, Mesopotamia
- Reference: WO 95/5111/3
- Notes: A war diary where there are enough detailed entries to give a good overview of the activities of the 3rd Brahmans. Each entry starts by listing the number of sick before describing the unit’s daily activities in two or three sentences. The daily entries for May and June are a lot briefer than the previous months.
- Date: 01 July 1916 – 31 December 1916
- Reference: WO 95/5175/4
- 35th Indian Infantry Brigade, 14th Indian Division, Mesopotamia
- Notes: A good, detailed war diary. It is unfortunate that very few names appear and there are no appendices.
- Date: 01 January 1917 – 31 May 1917
- Tigris Defences and Communications, Shaikh Saad, Mesopotamia
- Reference: WO 95/5022/9
- Notes: The war diary is primarily of interest due to the refusal of 100 men of the 3rd Brahmans to eat puris, a fried Indian bread, in April 1917. I have transcribed the relevant entries below.
Further Sources for the 3rd Brahmans
The Indian Army List should be consulted if you wish to learn more about the British and Indian officers who served with the 3rd Brahmans. The confidential reports for the Regiment are held at the British Library: Confidential Reports which also contain the annual confidential reports of the British officers who were serving with the Regiment. However, when the 3rd Brahmans was abroad only its Depot and the British officers serving with it were reported on.
Extracts from War Diaries of the 3rd Brahmans
01 December 1915 – 30 June 1916, Mesopotamia, WO 95/5111
5 December 1915 – El Ferdan – All clear reported. At 9 am an aeroplane had engine trouble and fell about 2 miles east of camp, pilot had bad cut on lip, otherwise both he and the observer were unhurt. Machine badly smashed up, placed a guard on machine and detailed a fatigue party to assist working party from aerodrome in dismantling and bringing parts into camp.
3 February 1916 – Amara – No. 404 Sepoy Shankar Sahai Pande H Company [?] committed suicide about 2.10 pm by shooting himself with his rifle. Court of Inquest held. Verdict temporary insanity.
12 February 1916 – Sheikh Saad – 5 rifles and 3 bandoleers reported stolen from Volunteer Batter.
17 February 1916 – Sheikh Saad – Interpreter Syed Fazl Ibn Syed discharged this day as undesirable. Confessed to taking 4 annas from 24 Arab shopkeepers in Sheikh Saad.
1 April 1916 – Sheikh Saad – About 4.30 in the evening exceptionally heavy rain fell – appeared to be cyclone. bridge broke and we were unable to send guards reinforcements to left bank of river. Telephone not working and unable to communicate with staff office.
24 April 1916 – Amarah – Late night – Stones were thrown by Arabs at coal wharf guard furnished by this regiment.
25 April 1916 – Amarah – Late night – Two picquets of 1 NCO and 6 men each were placed hidden near coal wharf to catch the Arabs who had been throwing stones at our sentries. Towards 2 am, the Arabs appeared, but fled. The picquet hotly pursued them and the Arabs fired three rounds at them and escaped into the thick undergrowth of a neighbouring palm grove. Our men were unable to retaliate by firing for fear of the neighbouring hospitals.
01 January 1917 – 31 May 1917, Mesopotamia, WO 95/5022
02 April 1917 – Sheikh Saad – Trouble with certain men re cooking puris at Regimental H.Q.
03 April 1917 – Sheikh Saad – Nothing special to report.
04 April 1917 – Sheikh Saad – Station court of enquiry held re refusal of certain men to eat puris [unleavened deep-fried bread] on 2 instant. 100 men placed under arrest for mutinous conduct on 4 instant and remainder disarmed… All men quiet and well disciplined with the exception of 100 under arrest who have been placed in charge British guards.
05 April 1917 – Sheikh Saad – Station court of enquiry held to enquire into events of 4 instant. Garrison Blockhouse Line 15 to 30 disarmed…
10 April 1917 – Sheikh Saad- Summary general court martial assembled for trial of 2 N.C.Os and 98 sepoys.
12 April 1917 – Sheik Saad – One sepoy awarded 30 lashes by S.G.C.M. for malingering and ? flogged in presence of Regiment. S.C.G.M. still sitting on trial of 2 N.C.Os and 98 sepoys.
13-17 April 1917 – Sheikh Saad – Summary general court martial still sitting.
18 April 1917 – Sheikh Saad – Nothing special to report. Regiment still disarmed pending orders from General Head Quarters.
21 April 1917 -Sheikh Saad – Garrison parade held to promulgate sentenced on 97 men of the Regiment.
23 April 1917 -Sheikh Saad – All Indian ranks of the Regiment ate “Puris” and “Hilwa” cooked by company cooks, thus establishing a messing system in the Regiment for use in the trenches etc where individual cooking is impossible.
03 May 1917 – Sheikh Saad – Nothing special to report. All Indian ranks ate puris and hilwa cooked by company cooks (fortnightly practice).
19 May 1917 – Margil – Orders received from Base Headquarters Indian Expeditionary Force D that the regiment is to embark on the 21 or 22 May or despatch to Muscat in exchange of 108 Infantry.
Orders were also received the 82 men of the regiment recently sentenced to 5 years rigorous imprisonment by S.G.C.M. would be placed in custody of the regiment on the transport conveying it to Muscat. A written protest sent to D.A.A.G Base I.E.F.D. against this ill advised arrangement.