2nd Battalion 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry

This article will provide a history of the short-lived 2nd Battalion 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry during the First World War and help you research those who served with the Battalion. I have written a separate article on the 1st Battalion 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry and a series of guides to help you research those who served in the Indian Army during the war. These guides can be viewed by clicking on the links below:

The 2nd Battalion 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry in the First World War

Lineage: Formed at Makina Masus Camp, Mesopotamia (Iraq) on 16 May 1916 from the Mahratta Provisional Battalion and was disbanded on 8 March 1921. For a history of the Regiment’s lineage see my page on the 1st Battalion 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry.

Class Composition of Battalion in 1919: 1 Company of Lingayats, 1 Company of Bedars, 1 Company of Dekhani Mahrattas and 1 Company of Konkani Mahrattas.

The 2nd Battalion 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry was formed at Makina Masus Camp, Mesopotamia from part of the Mahratta Provisional Battalion. The Mahratta Provisional Battalion was composed of soldiers from Mahratta regiments serving in Mesopotamia, including drafts from the 1st Battalion 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry and 110th Mahratta Light Infantry. These two regiments had been besieged at Kut-al-Amara between December 1915 and April 1916 and captured when the town fell. The Battalion’s war diary described its formation:

Ordered received that Mahratta Provisional Battalion to be disbanded. All men [?] of 103rd and 110th Mahratta Light Infantry in Mesopotamia to be collected, and called 2nd Battalion 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry under the officers of Mahratta Provisional Battalion. While men of 116th and 117th Mahrattas should be transferred to Indian Base Depot for transfer to 114th Mahrattas.

The Battalion’s first commanding officer was Lieutenant-Colonel H. Ross who was appointed from the 105th Mahratta Light Infantry Infantry on 18 July 1916. Lieutenant-Colonel H. Ross was a career Indian Army officer, who had been commissioned in May 1890. In his confidential report for 1916-17 Ross was praised for his ”excellent work in raising and training the 2nd battalion of the 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry with scarcely any help except that of very junior officers. He possesses initiative and tact; is energetic and hardworking”.

By the end of May 1916, the Battalion’s strength was 4 British Officers, 1 Medical Officer, 4 Indian Officers, 1 Sub-assistant-Surgeon and 350 Indian Other Ranks. The war diary recorded:

During the month [May 1916] the 116th and 117th (4 Indian Officers, 203 Other Ranks Indian) left and drafts to the extent of about 200 joined, from Indian Base Depot Amara (50), Indian Base Depot Basra (80) and from Magil (70).

While the Battalion was stationed at Makina, a large number of men were sent to repair the Shaiba Bund (a flood controlling embankment near Basra) which has been damaged by floods. On the 26 June, the Battalion moved to Shaiba and the next day the war diary recorded:

A large part of the Regiment always on fatigues morning and evening, digging wells, making incinerators, unloading supply carts etc. Training given up for the present except [?] machine gunners and signallers carry on with their training, and classes were started for stretcher bearers.

Information received during the month that the 103rd and 110th Depots were to be Regimentally separate and 103rd would be particular Depot of 2nd Battalion 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry.

Unfortunately, the war diary ends abruptly on 27 June 1916. The Battalion did not remain in Mesopotamia for long and was withdrawn to India at some point between July 1916 and February 1917. The extract below was taken from the January 1917 Indian Army List which recorded the British officers serving with the Battalion.2nd Battalion 103rd Mahrattas British Officers 1917Once in India, the Battalion served as part of the Bombay Brigade, on ”Defended Port Duties” before becoming part of the Bannu Brigade on the North West Frontier (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan). In its confidential report for 1916-17, Brigadier-General Charles Granville Bruce, Commanding Bannu Brigade explained why the Battalion wasn’t inspected:

The battalion arrived in this brigade from Bombay on the 20th March 1917. The unit was understrength and on the 30th March despatched approximately 200 men to garrison outposts in the Bannu District. During the 10 days that they were complete in Bannu, the battalion was settling down in their lines and there was no opportunity for me to inspect except superficially its training or interior economy.

Confidential review reports on Indian Army units, British officers, etc. for 1916-17IOR/L/MIL/7/17028

The Battalion continued to serve in India for the remainder of the war and changed its composition to allow groups (see marital race theory) which had not previously been recruited into the Indian Army to join. One of these groups were Lingayats who were unfavourably reported on in the 1918-1919 inspection. The Battalion’s depot was noted as being at Ambala in the January 1920 edition of the Indian Army List and the 2nd Battalion 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry was disbanded on 8 March 1921.

War Diary of the 2nd Battalion 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry

There is only a single war diary for the 2nd Battalion 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry which has been digitized. To download the war diary for a small fee, click on the blue link below which will take you to the National Archives’ website.

  • Date: 01 May – 27 June 1916
  • 41st Indian Infantry Brigade, Euphrates Defence and Communications
  • Reference: WO 95/5030/7
  • Notes: A very short war diary which recorded the formation of the Battalion. However, most entries are brief and it is a shame this is the only diary.

Further Sources for the 2nd Battalion 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry

For information on the British and Indian officers serving with the 2nd Battalion 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry, the Indian Army List should be consulted. Confidential reports for the Battalion are held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. IOR/L/MIL/7/17007-17037. These reports also contain the annual confidential reports of British officers serving with the Battalion.

Guides to Researching Soldiers who Served with the Indian Army

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