28th Punjabis

This article is about the 28th 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 28th Punjabis and a series of guides to help you research soldiers who served in the Indian Army in the First World War:

The 28th Punjabis in the First World War

Lineage: Raised by Captain C. S. Salmon in 1857 at Ferozepore and designated the Ferozepore Punjab Battalion and then in the same year the 20th Regiment of Punjab Infantry. In 1861 it became the 32nd Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry and then the 28th Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry. In 1864, the 28th (Punjab) Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry and the 28th (Punjab) Regiment of Bengal Infantry in 1885. Then the 28th Punjab Infantry in 1901, the 28th Punjabis in 1903 and the 4th Battalion 15th Punjab Regiment in 1922.

Class Composition in 1914: 3 Companies of Sikhs, 1Company of Dogras, 3 Companies of Pathans and 1 Company of Punjabi Musalmans. 1919: 1 1/2 Companies of Sikhs, 1/2 a Company of Dogras, 1/2 a Company of Pathans and 1/2 a Company of Punjabi Musalmans.

Location in 1914: The 28th Punjabis was stationed at Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) having arrived from the Lahore Cantonment (Punjab, Pakistan) on 3rd April 1914.

The 28th Punjabis was an Indian infantry regiment which was stationed at Colombo, Ceylon when the First World War was declared in August 1914. The 28th Punjabis remained in Ceylon until November 1915 when the Regiment left for Mesopotamia (Iraq). During its war service in Ceylon, the Regiment provided guards at strategic points around Colombo and guarded prisoners of war. The 28th Punjabis was split between Colombo and Diyatalawa from January 1915 and helped to suppress the 1915 Ceylonese Riots. Unfortunately, the war diary makes no mention of the Regiment’s activities during the riots. The extract below was taken from the October 1914 Indian Army List and recorded the British officers serving with the Regiment.

28th Punjabis British OfficersThe 28th Punjabis embarked on board SS Arankola at Colombo on 28 November 1915 and disembarked at Basra on 7 December 1915. The Regiment joined the 19th Indian Infantry Brigade, 7th Indian Division in which they served for the remainder of the war. The 28th Punjabis took part in the bloody battles to relieve the besieged 6th (Poona) Division at Kut-al-Amara in 1916 and suffered heavy casualties. The Regiment was also involved in the capture of Baghdad and Tekrit. I would highly recommend looking at the Regiment’s war diary for this period as it provides a good overall account.

On 7 January 1918, the 28th Punjabis embarked on board H.T. Jeddah to join the Egyptian Expeditionary Force disembarking at Suez, Egypt on 26 January. The 28th Punjabis served in the Palestine Campaign and achieved notable success on the opening day of the Battle of Megiddo on 19 September 1918. On the 11 November 1918, the 28th Punjabis was at Tripoli (Lebanon) and after a series of marches arrived at Beirut (Lebanon) on 5 December 1918 where they remained until February 1919. After this date, the Regiment stayed in a variety of places before it moved to Belbeis, Egypt at the end of the year. When the war diary ends in March 1920, the Regiment was at Kantara, Egypt.

The 28th Punjabis returned to India either in 1920 or early 1921 and was stationed at Sarwekai, South Waziristan (Pakistan) when the next war diary begins on 1 March 1921. The 28th Punjabis served as part of the 23rd Infantry Brigade, Wana Column, Waziristan Force and there is a war diary covering the period between March 1921 and January 1922. During the Waziristan Campaign, Sepoy Ishar Singh who was serving with the Regiment became the first Sikh soldier to win the Victoria Cross. In 1922, the 28th Punjabis became the 4th Battalion 15th Punjab Regiment.

War Diaries of the 28th Punjabis

There are four war diaries for the 28th Punjabis but only the second covering Mesopotamia has been digitized. To download this diary for a small fee, click on the second blue link below which will take you to the National Archives’ website. The other three war diaries can only be viewed at the National Archives. I have copies of all war diaries and can

  • Date: 30 July 1914 – 30 June 1915
  • Ceylon
  • Reference: WO 95/5440
  • Notes: A poor war diary with few entries which is only 9 pages.
  • Date: 01 November 1915 – 31 December 1917
  • 19th Indian Infantry Brigade, 7th (Meerut) Indian Division, Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5137/5
  • Notes: Overall a good war diary, though the entries for 1917 are a lot briefer. There’s plenty of information when the 28th Punjabis was engaged and a number of sketches appear throughout the war diary. These include a “Rough plan of trenches held by 28th Punjabis” between February and March 1916. Appendices include monthly strength returns.
  • Date: 01 January 1918 – 31 March 1920
  • 19th Infantry Brigade, 7th (Meerut) Indian Division, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
  • Reference: WO 95/4712
  • Notes: A very good war diary with British and Indian officers appearing throughout. There are detailed descriptions including a long account of the part the 28th Punjabis took in the Battle of Megiddo in September 1918. At the end of each month, there is a page detailing the Regiment’s increases and decreases. Both British and Indian officers have the reason for any movements listed. Between November 1918 and March 1919, the majority of entries are very brief. There is a list of British and Indian officers present at Surafend dated 1 March 1920 and at Kantara on 1 April 1920.
  • Date: 01 March 1921 – 31 January 1922
  • 23rd Infantry Brigade, Waziristan Force
  • Reference: WO 95/5402
  • Notes: A very good war diary which is full of interesting accounts of service on the North West Frontier. April and October 1921 are missing. Of particular interest are the appendices: A typed 1-page report by Captain G. E. Tinney describing an ambush on 6 July 1921 in which the 28th Punjabis suffered 14 casualties. A nominal roll of British and Indian officers with the Regiment each month. A 2-page report on the “Attack on the convoy near Haidari Kach on 12 May 1921″. Some months contain a table detailing the increase and decrease of the Regiment’s strength. A 1 1/2 page report on an ”Attack on a permanent picquet held by the 28th Punjabis in Haidari Kach Section, Wana Column on the night 4/5th June 1921′. There is also a very detailed account of the action on 16 July 1921.

Further Sources for the 28th Punjabis

A good source for the 28th Punjabis is the Regiment’s confidential reports held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. These reports also contain the annual confidential reports of the British officers serving with the Regiment. However, when the 28th Punjabis was abroad only its Depot and the officers serving with it are reported on. For information regarding the British and Indian officers who served with the 28th Punjabis, the Indian Army List should be consulted.

Extracts from War Diaries of the 28th Punjabis

01 January 1918 – 31 March 1920, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, WO 95/4712

12 March 1918 – Ismailia – Division inspected by H.R.H the Duke of Connaught, after the inspection H.R.H distributed medals.

31 March 1918 – Ludd – Enemy bombarded our position and Battalion Headquarters from 13.55 to 15.30 hours about 200 rounds and 2 men slightly wounded.

03 April 1918 – Two patrols one under Subadar-Major and one under Havildar Mailk Khan ran into a large party of Turks in the early morning and lost 9 men during the retirement.

09 May 1918 – In the early morning a Bulgarian airman came over flying very low and downed both our observation balloons. A very clever piece of work of which we had a very good view.

28 May 1918 – The whole Division advanced its line at night. The extreme right was unchanged but the remainder of the line was pushed forward on an average of 1000 yards. A and B Companies went forward with the 125th Rifles. No opposition was met with on our front and trenches were dug in new places… The operation was completely successful and in spite of a lot of firing the only casualty in the Brigade was one Seaforth officer killed.

15 June 1918 – During night about 40 Turks approached B Company listening post. On being fired at they ran away. A patrol from C Company got up to about 200 yards from Turkish trenches and left propaganda. Turks fired on them but did no damage. All our patrols now leave propaganda in conspicuous places but no deserter has come into our lines.

22 June 1918 – A Turk aeroplane came over and in spite of a very thick barrage [?] circled round and round our observation balloon and succeeded in downing it. He then flew back very low over our lines and is supposed to have crashed on his way home. He was undoubtedly a very fine fellow.

08 September 1919 – Amanus Camp, Cilicia, Between Pijli and Bileylik, two hours march from Bagtche towards Harone, three Armenians were murdered by Turks, nothing being stolen from them.

A party of 15 French soldiers of the 412 Regiment while proceeding to Alexandretta, were attacked by 40 brigands near Payas. One Frenchman was killed and two wounded. It is believed that 2 brigands were killed.

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