This article is intended to give an overview of the service of the 20th Deccan Horse during the First World War. If you are researching a soldier who served in the 20th Deccan Horse during the First World War, you may be interested in the following guides:
I also offer a service researching British and Indian soldiers who served during the war: First World War Research Service.
20th Deccan Horse in the First World War
Lineage: Formed from Nawab Jalal-ud-daula’s, Captain Davis’ and Captain Clark’s risallahs of the Nizam’s Reformed Horse in 1826 as the 1st Regiment, Nizam’s Cavalry. In 1854 became the 1st Cavalry, Hyderabad Contingent, then the 1st Lancers, Hyderabad Contingent in 1890 and the 20th Deccan Horse in 1903. The Regiment was amalgamated with the 29th Lancers (Deccan Horse) in 1921 to form the 20th/29th Deccan Horse which became the 9th Royal Deccan Horse in 1922.
Composition in 1914: 1 Squadron of Sikhs, 1 of Jats, 2 of Dekhani Musalmans.
Location in July 1914: The 20th Deccan Horse was stationed at Bolarum having arrived from Bangalore on 16 November 1912.
The 20th Deccan Horse received orders to mobilize at Bolarum on 9 August 1914. The Regiment sailed from Bombay on board SS Ellora and Egra on 15 September 1914 as part of the Secunderabad Brigade, 2nd Indian Cavalry Division and landed at Marseilles, France on 12 October 1914. The 20th Deccan Horse remained in the vicinity of Marseilles until 23 October when it moved to Orleans. The Regiment moved to Vielle Chapelle in November and saw fierce fighting around Festubert in November and December 1914. This included the disastrous attack on Givenchy on 19 December by 200 men of the Regiment where 44% became casualties.
The year 1915 was in the words of the regimental historian ”uneventful and in consequence somewhat depressing for all cavalry soldiers” as the 20th Deccan Horse remained behind the lines apart from some trench work in the vicinity of Albert.
The Regiment landed in Egypt on 10 April 1918 and moved to Tel-el-Kebir where they arrived on 11 April 1918. The 20th Deccan Horse moved to Kantara on 25 April, and Belah on the 27 April where they joined the 7th Mounted Brigade. The 7th Mounted Brigade moved to Sarona on 4 May 1918 and before it moved to the Ghoraniyeh Bridgehead Sector on 8 July 1918.
In July 1918, the Regiment joined the 14th Cavalry Brigade, 5th Cavalry Division. During July and August 1918, the 20th Deccan Horse was involved in frequent encounters with Turkish forces in the Jordan Valley. On the 15 August 1918, the 7th Mounted Brigade was withdrawn from the Bridgehead and moved to Deiran where it began training for the coming offensive. While the 20th Deccan Horse took part in the
In July and August 1918, the 20th Deccan Horse was involved in frequent encounters with Turkish forces in the Jordan Valley. On the 15 August 1918, the 7th Mounted Brigade was withdrawn from the Bridgehead and moved to Deiran where it began training for the coming offensive. The 20th Deccan Horse was involved in the Battle of Megiddo (19-25 September 1918) where its main role was rounding up demoralized Turkish soldiers. The Regiment was involved in the subsequent advance towards Damascus. When the Armistice with Turkey came into effect on 1 November 1918 the 20th Deccan Horse was at Muslimie Junction, now Al-Muslimiyah approximately 10 miles north of Aleppo.
War Diaries of the 20th Deccan Horse
There are five war diaries for the 20th Deccan Horse but only the first two have been digitized. To download these war diaries for a small fee click on the first two links below. The other war diaries can only be viewed at the National Archives. I have transcribed some entries below.
- Date: 09 August 1914 – 27 December 1916
- 2nd Indian Cavalry Division, Secunderabad Cavalry Brigade
- Reference: WO 95/1187/3
- Date: 01 January 1917 – 15 February 1918
- 5th Cavalry Division, Secunderabad Cavalry Brigade
- Reference: WO 95/1165/4
- Notes: A poor war diary with very little detail where many of the months’ entries are written on a single page. The only exception is the month of June 1917 which also includes appendices covering the regiment’s activities including a large raid on Ascension Wood. I have transcribed one of these reports below.
- Date: 01 March – 30 June 1918
- General Headquarters Troops, 7th Mounted Brigade
- Reference: WO 95/4405
- Notes: A good war diary for what is an uneventful period for the Regiment.
- Date: 01 July 1918 – 20 December 1918
- 5th Cavalry Division, 14th Cavalry Brigade
- Reference: WO 95/4519
- Notes: An average war diary for most of the period covered except for September where there are a few detailed entries covering the Battle of Meggido and subsequent operations. The only appendix is a summary of the marches undertaken by the 20th Deccan Horse between 17 September and 30 October 1918 where the Regiment covered 571 miles.
- Date: 01 October 1919 – 27 March 1920
- 5th Cavalry Division, 13th Cavalry Brigade
- Reference: WO 95/4518
- Notes: A good war diary for the post-war period. There’s a 6-page typed appendix “Notes for history of Cavalry Operations. Unit Narrative. XX Deccan Horse” which gives an account of the Regiment’s service after it arrived in Egypt from France.
Further Sources for the 20th Deccan Horse
A good source of information concerning the 20th Deccan Horse and the British officers who served with it are its confidential reports held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. However, when the Regiment was abroad only its Depot and the British officers serving there were reported on. For information regarding the British and Indian officers who served with the 20th Deccan Horse the Indian Army List can be consulted.
Regimental History: The Royal Deccan Horse in the Great War by Lieutenant-Colonel E. Tennant. A good regimental history which also includes the services of the 29th Lancers (Deccan Horse). This book has been reprinted and is easily obtainable online.
Extracts from War Diaries of the 20th Deccan Horse
01 January 1917 – 15 February 1918, 5th Cavalry Division, Secunderabad Cavalry Brigade, WO 95/1165/4
Account of a raid on Ascension Wood by Captain Mulloy.
I left Graham’s post at 12.20 a.m 13.6.17 Lieut. Rayneau with 1 Troop leading followed by Lieut. Lawford with 1 Troop followed by myself with two troops in support followed by the covering party under Lieut. Barrow.
Lieut. Barrow accompanied Lieut. Rayneau in order to pick a position for his troop. Lieut. Glasspoole with a Power Buzzer accompanied me. As we left our wire the Regt. on our left was as I understand attacked by the enemy as they opened fire with Hotchkiss Rifles and sent up numerous Very lights as the bullets sound to be coming fairly close to my party they in conjunction with the lights seriously impeded my progress. When I got to my position of readiness about G.26.a.O.8. I found my rear troop and the covering troop missing, as it was near zero hour and the scheme had been very carefully explained to every man I decided not to further weaken my party by searching for them. We got to the wood at zero hour and went straight in.
We bombed and destroyed several Dugouts none of which were more than splinter proof and cut the small amount of wire there was. At zero – 15 the enemy were reported to be in the South East corner of the wood. I went there to reconnoitre with three men and found no one there but was heavily fired on by an Automatic rifle and about 10 men who were in the Sunken road at G.2.5 b.8.O.I. I retired to the wood at G.25.b.7.4. and waited for the signal rocket. As I had given orders for 1 Troop to return S of the Sunken Road. I collected two more troops as they came out and took them in a semicircle to about G.25.b.7.2. and succeeded in gaining the sunken road, being fired on and bombed as we came up we returned the enemy’s fire at very short range but could not see them in the bushes in order to attack with the bayonet. I did not see anything of the troop which should have gone South of the road.
While this was going on I found myself being fired on by single men lying about in the open about G.25 b.5.4. (i.e. from my rear) I took a troop back and killed seven of the enemy. We could take no prisoners as they bombed and fired until we were on to them. I here met Major Campbell Ross who told me he was wounded and that there were some of the enemy in the Sunken road about G.25.b.3.2.
I collected as many men as I could roughly a troop and a half and ordered Lieut. Glasspoole to go for the enemy. I sent in two of the German bodies for identification purposes as owing to Machine Gun and Rifle fire it was too unhealthy to stand still and search them on the spot as I saw I had a good many wounded men. I recalled Lieut. Glasspoole about zero plus 75 and gave the order for the wounded to be collected and for the party to retire as it was then getting light. I found Lieut. Rayneau with his troop at G.25.B.O.3.
Lieutenant Lawford I had no news of from the time he entered the wood when I last saw him. The two Troops missing at the commencement went together to the place detailed for the rear troop and carried on.
I know the enemy had an automatic rifle and I believe them to have had at least one more and a strength in my opinion of about 30-35 rifles. They used rifle fire and bombs.
I would like to add that all the men showed the greatest dash and gallantry mentioning the names of Kote Dafadars Lehri and Hira Singh.