This article is about the 25th Punjabis and will help you to research the Regiment and those who served with it during the First World War. I have also written a separate article for the short-lived 2nd Battalion 25th Punjabis and a series of guides to help you research soldiers who served in the Indian Army during the war:
The 25th Punjabis in the First World War
Lineage: Raised by Captain R. Larkins at Mian Mir in 1857 as the Lahore Punjab Battalion and designated the 17th Regiment of Punjab Infantry. Then in 1861, it became the 29th Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry and in the same year the 25th Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry. In 1864, the 25th (Punjab) Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry and then the 25th (Punjab) Regiment of Bengal Infantry in 1885. In 1901, the 25th Punjab Infantry, the 25th Punjabis in 1903 and the 1st Battalion 15th Punjab Regiment in 1922.
Class Composition in 1914: 3 Companies of Sikhs, 2 Companies of Dogras, 2 Companies of Punjabi Musalmans and 1 Company of Pathans. 1919: 1 1/2 Companies of Sikhs, 1 Company of Dogras, 1 Company of Punjabi Musalmans and 1/2 a Company of Pathans.
Location in August 1914: The 25th Punjabis was stationed at Hong Kong, having arrived from Multan (Punjab, Pakistan) on 7th February 1912.
When the First World War began in August 1914, the 25th Punjabis was stationed at Hong Kong. I have transcribed part of the Regiment’s confidential report for 1914-15 below when it was inspected by Major-General Francis Henry Kelly, Commanding Troops, China:
Turn-out: Satisfactory. Drill quite good considering the very little opportunity for practice. At manoeuvre the regiment is useful and well trained. There has been a great improvement in musketry since they got the new rifle. Signalling is distinctly good. Equipment and accoutrements are well cared for – no easy task in this climate.
British officers take great interest in their men and are very keen. The India officers, like the men generally, are a fine lot.
Confidential review reports on Indian Army units, British officers, etc. for 1914-1915: IOR/L/MIL/7/17024
The extract below was taken from the October 1914 Indian Army List which recorded the British officers serving with the 25th Punjabis. The Indian Army List is a great resource to use to research both Indian regiments and officers. However, it is full of military jargon and I have written a guide to help you: Indian Abbreviations and Acronyms.
The 25th Punjabis served at Hong Kong in the early stages of the war before the Regiment returned to India. The 25th Punjabis was stationed at Bannu, North West Frontier (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan) in December 1917. The Regiment left India on 21 December 1917 for Mesopotamia (Iraq) and disembarked at Basra on 27 of the same month. Once in Mesopotamia, the 25th Punjabis joined the 54th Indian Infantry Brigade, 18th Indian Division. The Regiment left Mesopotamia on 12 October 1918 for Salonika where the 25th Punjabis arrived on 20 November and joined the 85th Infantry Brigade, 28th Division. After serving in Salonika, the Regiment moved to Egypt and if you would like to learn more about this post-war period then I’d recommend reading the Regiment’s war diaries. In 1922, the 25th Punjabis became the 1st Battalion 15th Punjab Regiment. The 25th Punjabis raised a second battalion at Jhansi on 16th October 1917 which was disbanded on 21 March 1922. I have written a separate article about the Battalion here: 2nd Battalion 25th Punjabis.
War Diaries of the 25th Punjabis
There are four war diaries for the 25th Punjabis but only the first has been digitized. To download this war diary for a small fee click on the first blue link below which will take you to the National Archives’ website. The other war diaries can only be viewed at the National Archives. I have copies of all war diaries and have transcribed some entries below.
- Date: 01 December 1917 – 30 September 1918
- 54th Indian Infantry Brigade, 18th Indian Division, Mesopotamia
- Reference: WO 95/5227/6
- Notes: An average war diary with a wide variety of appendices. The Regiment’s mobilization is detailed at length and most months from March 1918 record the British officers serving with the Regiment.
- Date: 01 October 1918 – 28 February 1919
- 85th Infantry Brigade, 28th Division, Salonika
- Reference: WO 95/4922
- Notes: A good war diary with a large number of appendices. Appendices include a large number of regimental, embarkation, ship’s orders and parades (British and Indian officer dispositions appear in a couple). There is a list of British officers serving with the 25th Punjabis in October and then at the end of each month from December 1918 to February 1919.
- Date: 01 March – 30 September 1919
- 84th Infantry Brigade, 28th Division, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
- Reference: WO 95/4919
- Notes: Very little occurred during this war diary and most entries are short and describe the fatigues undertaken by various companies. There are a number of appendices, including nominal rolls of British officers serving with the 25th Punjabis each month, messages and ”Instructions in the event of disturbances in Constantinople area, May 1919″.
- Date: 01 October 1919 – 31 March 1920
- 83rd Infantry Brigade, 28th Division
- Reference: WO 95/4915
- Date: 05 March – 30 April 1920
- 242nd Infantry Brigade, 28th Division
- Reference: WO 95/4925
- Notes: A short typed war diary. There are a large number of typed appendices including Defence Scheme Derindje dated 7 April 1920 and orders for reconnaissance on 9 April 1920.
Further Sources for the 25th Punjabis
A good source of information for the Regiment are its confidential reports held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. These reports also contain the annual reports of the British officers who served with the Regiment. However, when the 25th Punjabis was on active service only the officers serving with the Depot were reported on. For information regarding the British and Indian officers who served with the 25th Punjabis, the Indian Army List should be consulted.
There is also a regimental history: A History of the 1st Battalion, 15th Punjab Regiment, 1857-1937 by Lieutenant-Colonel J. E. Shearer. Unfortunately, this book hasn’t been reprinted so is quite hard to find. I looked at a copy at the British Library.
Extracts from War Diaries of the 25th Punjabis
01 October 1918 – 28 February 1919, Salonika, WO 95/4922
15 October 1918 – HT Danube – Parades and inspection by Officer Commanding troops and master of ship at 11 am. In afternoon a lifeboat is lowered and teams of British Officers, Indian officers and one each from HQ, A company and B Company compete in race round ship. Representatives from Companies at 5 pm watch man in canvas tank demonstrating use of life belt.
17 October 1918 – HT Danube – Inspection of ship at 11 am. Parades from 7.30 am to 10.30 am and 12.30 to 1.30 and 3.30 to 5.30 pm. Parades, running and physical training, Lewis gun, musketry, lectures, cleaning of equipment and classes held for Havildars and for Naiks. Alarm parade at 5 pm.
22 October 1918 – HT Danube – No. 4982 Sepoy Ghulam Ali Shah dies of pneumonia a 4.20 am and is buried at 10.20 am, the ship stopping for a moment at burial.
22 February 1919 – HT Katoria – “Rounds” at 10.30 am. Men stand at boat stations whilst passing through swept minefield, until 2 pm. Arrive Chana 2 pm. Heavy fog, proceed slowly and anchor.