29th Punjabis

This article is about the 29th 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 series of guides to help you research soldiers who served in the Indian Army:

The 29th Punjabis in the First World War

Lineage: Raised by Captain T. Tulloh at Jullundur (Jalandhar) in 1857 by Captain T. Tulloh as the 21st Regiment of Punjab Infantry. Then in 1861, it became first the 33rd Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry and then the 29th Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry. In 1864 the 29th (Punjab) Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry and the 29th (Punjab) Regiment of Bengal Infantry in 1885. The 29th Punjab Infantry in 1901, the 29th Punjabis in 1903 and the 10th Battalion 15th Punjab Regiment in 1922. The 10th Battalion was the 15th Punjab Regiment’s training Battalion.

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

Location in August 1914: The 29th Punjabis was stationed at Hyderabad, Sind (Sindh, Pakistan) having arrived from Chaman (Balochistan, Pakistan) on 8th April 1914.

The 29th Punjabis was stationed at Hyderabad, Sind when the First World War began in August 1914. In the Regiment’s last confidential report before the war for 1913-14, the 29th Punjabis was inspected by Major-General Charles John Melliss, Commanding 2nd (Quetta) Infantry Brigade who reported:

Turn-out, Drill, Manoeuvre, Musketry, Signalling, Bayonet-fighting, Personnel: Satisfactory.

Physique: Excellent.

Recruits: Satisfactory.

Discipline: Very good.

Conduct: Satisfactory.

Health: Good.

Care of equipment: Satisfactory.

Animals and stable management: Satisfactory.

Interior economy: Very good. Due economy is exercised in regard to clothing deduction.

General Efficiency: A very fine battalion, well trained, having great esprit-de-corps. In every respect fit for active service.

 Lieutenant-General Sir Malcolm Henry Stanley Grover, Commanding 4th (Quetta) Division:

A very fine Battalion. Well commanded by Colonel Drew who is supported by an excellent lot of officers. Well trained and well recruited. In every respect thoroughly fit for active service.

Confidential review reports on Indian Army units for 1913-1914IOR/L/MIL/7/17023

The 29th Punjabis was mobilized for service in East Africa in August 1914 as part of Indian Expeditionary Force C. The Regiment arrived at Mombasa, British East Africa, now Kenya on 1 September 1914. There is a very good war diary for the Regiment’s early service in East Africa which I have discussed below. The 29th Punjabis had the distinction of being the first Indian regiment to engage enemy forces during the First World War when it came into action near Tsavo on 6 September 1914. The Regiment served in East Africa until 12 January 1917 when it embarked for India at Dar es Salaam. The 29th Punjabis served on the North West Frontier (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan) before the Regiment was mobilized for service with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in December 1917. The 29th Punjabis disembarked at Suez, Egypt on 5 April 1918 and joined the 75th Division, 233rd Infantry Brigade which it served with for the remainder of the war. In 1922, the 29th Punjabis became the 10th Battalion, 15th Punjab Regiment which was the training battalion. The extract below was taken from the October 1914 Indian Army List which recorded the British officers serving with the 29th Punjabis.

29th Punjabis British Officers

War Diaries of the 29th Punjabis

There are four war diaries for the 29th Punjabis and the first two have been digitized by the National Archives. To download these files for a small fee click on the first two blue links below. The other two war diaries haven’t been digitized and can only be viewed at the National Archives. I have copies of all war diaries and have transcribed some entries below.

  • Date: 01 August 1914 – 31 October 1916
  • East Africa
  • Reference: WO 95/5340/7
  • Notes: A very good war diary proving a detailed account of the Regiment’s activities. The names of both British and Indian officers appear throughout. There are a variety of appendices including an account of the Action at Longido by Major Haslehurst with map. Another appendix (8 pages with map) concerns the operations at Mbuyuni 12-14 July 1915. Also, a copy of Report by Lieutenant Bird (6 pages) on “action 6 miles N[orth] of Bissil on 1 June 1915” and an account of the Action at Pika Pika 23/12/15.
  • Date: 01 November 1916 – 12 January 1917
  • East Africa
  • Reference: WO 95/5333/5
  • Notes:  Only 4 pages in length in which very little occurred. Many entries are very short and consist of either “halted” or a brief comment on the state of the weather.
  • Date: 01 December 1917 – 31 May 1919
  • 75th Division, 233rd Infantry Brigade, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
  • Reference: WO 95/4691
  • Notes:  An average war diary at best which mostly contains brief entries.
  • Date: 01 June 1919 – 30 March 1920
  • 30th Infantry Brigade, 10th (Irish) Division, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
  • Reference: WO 95/4584
  • Notes: A poor war diary which is typical of the post-war period with very brief entries, usually “Company Parades Battalion”,” Route March” or “Nothing to Report” etc.

Further Sources for the 29th 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 reports of the British officers who served with the Regiment. Though when the Regiment was abroad only its Depot and the British officers serving with it were reported on. For information regarding the British and Indian officers who served with the 29th Punjabis, the Indian Army List should be consulted. 

Extracts from War Diaries of the 29th Punjabis

01 August 1914 – 31 October 1916, East Africa, WO 95/5340/7

31 August 1914 – At Sea – Message received through H.M.S Fox that officers may send their horses back to India from Mombasa if they wish, in view of abundance of tsetse flies.

4 September 1914 – Nairobi – Information received by G.O.C. [General Officer Commanding] that a “force of some strength” of the enemy is advancing towards Tsavo. G.O.C. has ordered the detachment at Voi to move at once by rail to Tsavo and directs the 1/2 Battalion at Nairobi to be in readiness to move at any moment to Tsavo by rail. 3 days supplies, 200 rounds per man, and as light a scale as possible. No animals to be taken.

9 September 1914 – 6 am – Arrived Tsavo. Halted 4 hours. Commanding Officer conferred with Major James re action of 6 instant: It appears that an advance against the enemy on the 7 was considered inadvisable owing to fresh tracks of enemy having been found… The country was extremely difficult and in the thick bush communication and mutual support was impossible. Of the 4 sepoys reported as missing, one (No.3711 Sepoy Mirza Khan) has been found dead. Subadar Sher Baz’s body has not been found yet. Practically all our casualties were due to enemy’s machine gun fire; mostly in an attempt to charge a machine gun led by Captain Pottinger, Subadar Sher Baz and Naik Gul Mahomed.

13 – 23 July 1918 Barren Hill – During this period patrols were sent out nightly, both for information and offensive action, patrols laid up for prisoners, but no enemy patrols were encountered. Working parties and talking heard on Three Bushes nightly.

24 July 1918 Shoot for 3 minutes by the artillery on Three Bushes, enemy replied quickly on our position on left of Sanger Ridge. No casualties. The enemy opened rifle fire and threw bombs on Umbrella Hill. Men had not returned from posts. No casualties.

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