26th Punjabis

This article is about the 26th 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 war-raised 2nd Battalion 26th Punjabis and a series of guides to help you research soldiers who served in the Indian Army in the First World War.

The 26th Punjabis in the First World War

Lineage: Raised by Captain H. T. Barlett at Peshawar in 1857 as the 18th Regiment of Punjab Infantry. In 1861 it became the 30th Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry and then the 26th Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry in 1885. In 1901, the 26th Punjab Infantry and then the 26th Punjabis in 1903 and the 2nd Battalion, 15th Punjab Regiment in 1922.

Class Composition of Battalion in 1914: 4 Companies of Sikhs, 2 of Afridis and 2 of Punjabi Musalmans. 1919: 2 Companies of Sikhs, 1 Company of Afridis and 1 of Punjabi Musalmans.

Location in 1914: The 26th Punjabis was stationed at Hong Kong, having arrived from Samana (Punjab, India) on 13th February 1912.

The 26th Punjabis was stationed at Rennie’s Mill, Kowloon, Hong Kong when the First World War began in August 1914. The Regiment remained at Hong Kong until March 1915 when the 26th Punjabis returned to India. The 26th Punjabis moved to the North West Frontier where the Regiment remained until it moved to Mesopotamia (Iraq) in January 1916.

26th Punjabis 1914

The photograph above was taken at Kowloon, Hong Kong in 1914 and was printed in the regimental history. Fortunately, the officers were named:

  • Back Row: Jem. Sher Akhmad, Jem. Pala Singh, Capt. Hodge IMS, Jem. Firoz, Jem. Suraj Din, Jem. Tura Baz.
  • 2nd Row: Jem. Shamir Singh, Jem. Harnam Singh, Lieut. J. D. Fulton, Sub. Sham Singh, Lieut. J. E. Shearer, Sub. Jan Gul, Capt. H. T. C. Ivens.
  • 3rd Row: Sub. Mal Singh, Maj. I. F. R. Thompson, Sub. Yar Muhammad Khan, Lieut-Col L. B. Walton, Sub-Maj. Muhammad Akbar, Maj. O. H. Lawson, Sub. Harnam Singh.
  • 4th Row: Jem. Kesar Singh, Sub. Ishar Singh, Capt. I. M. Little.

Once in Mesopotamia, the Regiment served as part of the 36th Indian Infantry Brigade, 14th Indian Division. The 26th Punjabis fought at the Battle of Dujailah on 7 March 1916 where it suffered just over 100 casualties. The Regiment took part in General Maude’s offensive to take Baghdad and entered the city on 26 March 1917. The 26th Punjabis remained at Baghdad as part of the city’s garrison before it moved to Baqubah in June 1917. The Regiment moved frequently for the remainder of the war and its best to consult the regimental history and war diaries for further information. The Regiment returned to India in October 1919 and in 1922 became the 2nd Battalion, 15th Punjab Regiment.

War Diaries of the 26th Punjabis

There are four war diaries for the 26th Punjabis and the first three have been digitized by the National Archives. To download these war diaries for a small fee click on the blue links below. The last war diary can only be viewed at the National Archives. I have copies of all war diaries and have transcribed some of the entries below.

  • Date: 01 December 1915 – 31 August 1918
  • 36th Indian Infantry Brigade, 14th Indian Division
  • Reference: WO 95/5177/8
  • Notes: A good war diary which provides plenty of information regarding the Regiment’s activities in Mesopotamia. There are lists of British officers serving with the Regiment at the end of most months from December 1917.
  • Date: 01 September – 31 December 1918
  • General Headquarters, Army Troops, Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5003/1
  • Notes: A poor war diary with many days either having no entry or very brief. There is a list of British officers serving with the 26th Punjabis each month.
  • Date: 01 January – 30 September 1919 (June 1919 missing)
  • Lines of Communication, Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5287/7
  • Notes: A poor war diary with few entries. There is a list of British officers serving with the 26th Punjabis each month between January and August 1919. The only appendix is a Special Order of the Day, Saturday 19th July 1919.
  • Date: 20 January 1921 – 28 February 1922
  • 21st Indian Infantry Brigade, Waziristan Force
  • Reference: WO 95/5401
  • Notes: An average war diary with April 1921 missing. Most months contain a nominal roll of British officers serving with the 26th Punjabis. The war diary contains the following appendices. List of permanent picquets with their strength January 1919. A Report on an affair of 12 January 1922 (2 1/2 pages) and a report on an affair of 16 January 1922 (1 page with sketch map). Operation orders dated 24 January 1922.

Further Sources for the 26th Punjabis

The 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 Regiment was abroad only its Depot and the British officers who served with it are reported on. For information regarding the British and Indian officers who served with the 26th Punjabis, the Indian Army List should be consulted.

There is also a regimental history: A History of the 26th Punjabis 1857-1923 by P. S. Stoney. This book hasn’t been reprinted and I viewed a copy at the British Library. This is an excellent book full of detail you will not find elsewhere and includes named group photographs of British and Indian officers.

Extracts from War Diaries of the 26th Punjabis

20 January 1921 – 28 February 1922, Waziristan Force, WO 95/5401

19 March 1921 – Kotkai – The Road Protection Troops fired on a party of eight armed Mashud who were lying semi-concealed behind some stones about 1000 yards south of Nai Kach picquet. Enemy casualties believed to be 2. Our casualties nil. A party which was out clearing away some sangars about 800 yards south west of No.2 camp picquet fired on a small party of armed Mashud. Enemy casualties believed to be one, our casualties nil.

05 May 1921 – Soragha – Routine. Wire patrols came into force to prowl inside and outside the wire round camp at night.

06 May 1921 – Soragha – Regiment was examined by the regimental medical officer for enlarged spleens, very few cases.

20 November 1921 – Soragha – Some officers exercising horses on raghza in evening were sniped and about half an hour later spectators and players at hockey match were sniped. No casualties.

16 December 1921 – Soragha – 09.30 – Watering party (B Company) to Bluff picquet ambushed in nullah about 600 yards north of new range. Party, consisting of No. 3249 T Lance Naik Des Ram and 2 sepoys, attempted [to] drive of enemy with their pick halves. Lance Naik Des Ram was wounded in the stomach by bullet and one man was stabbed but not injured owing to protection of leather jerkin he was wearing. Enemy made off with mules but owing to prompt opening of fire from Bluff picquet one mule was released and galloped back to camp and one mule was killed.

Guides to Researching Soldiers who Served in the Indian Army

Guides to Researching Soldiers who Served in the British Army