This article looks at the short-lived 2nd Battalion 123rd Outram’s Rifles and will help you research those who served with the battalion during the First World War. I have written a separate article about the 1st Battalion 123rd Outram’s Rifles and a series of guides to help you research soldiers who served in the Indian Army during the war. To view the guides click on the link below:
The 2nd Battalion 123rd Outram’s Rifles in the First World War
Lineage: The 2nd Battalion 123rd Outram’s Rifles was formed at Baroda (Gujarat, India) on 29 December 1915 and was disbanded on 12 August 1921. For a history of the Regiment’s lineage see my page on the 1st Battalion 123rd Outram’s Rifles.
Class Composition of Battalion in 1919: 2 Companies of Punjabi Musalmans, 1 Company of Rajputana Jats and 1 Company of Rajputana Rajputs.
The 2nd Battalion 123rd Outram’s Rifles was a short-lived Indian infantry battalion formed at Baroda (Gujarat, India) on 29 December 1915. The Battalion was first inspected by Major-General C. F. G. Young, Commanding Rangoon Brigade in 1916:
This unit was only raised at the beginning of the year and has been handicapped by change of stations, paucity and constant change in British officers and lack of literate non-commissioned officers as instructors.
Confidential review reports on Indian Army units, British officers, etc. for 1916-1917: IOR/L/MIL/7/17028.
The Battalion served in Burma for the first two years of its existence before it moved to the 8th (Lucknow) Division in late 1917 or early 1918. The Battalion was inspected by Brigadier-General R. G. Strange, Commanding Presidency Brigade on 20 January 1918:
This Battalion lately arrived from Burma where it was much split up. Training has thus been very backward. There is a paucity of senior officers and a large number of very young ones. Recruiting results are very poor and but have improved of late. The battalion recruits mainly from Rajputana and Poonch. On account of the large number of young soldiers and young officers the battalion is not fit for service.
Confidential review reports on Indian Army units, depots, British officers, etc. for 1917-1918: IOR/L/MIL/7/17029.
The 2nd Battalion 123rd Outram’s Rifles did not serve outside of India during the First World War and the extract below was taken from the July 1918 Indian Army List which recorded British officers serving with the Battalion.The 2nd Battalion 123rd Outram’s Rifles was mobilised at Nowshera on 6 May 1919 for service during the Third Anglo-Afghan War. The Battalion served as part of the 2nd Indian Brigade, 1st Indian Division, North West Frontier Force. There is a good war diary covering the Battalion’s involvement in the war and I have transcribed a few entries below. After service on the North West Frontier, the Battalion was stationed at Belgaum (Karnataka, India).
The 2nd Battalion 123rd Outram’s Rifles was mobilised again in the summer of 1920 for service in Mesopotamia (Iraq). The Battalion was one of a number of Indian units sent to Mesopotamia to help quell the 1920 Iraqi Revolt. The Battalion served with the 74th Indian Infantry Brigade, 6th Indian Division and there is a war diary covering the period between July and November 1920. Soldiers of the Battalion who served in Iraq qualified for the General Service Medal with Iraq clasp and fortunately a portion of their Medal Index Cards have survived. After returning to India, the Battalion was stationed at Nowshera in the April 1920 Indian Army List and was disbanded on 12 August 1921.
War Diaries of the 2nd Battalion 123rd Outram’s Rifles
There are two war diaries for the 2nd Battalion 123rd Outram’s Rifles though only the second has been digitized. To download the war diary for Mesopotamia for a small fee click on the second blue link below. The first war diary covering the Third Anglo-Afghan War can only be viewed at the National Archives, though I have a copy and have transcribed some of the entries below.
- Date: 06 May 1919 – 31 July 1919
- 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Indian Division, North West Frontier Force
- Reference: WO 95/5406
- Notes: A good war diary for the Battalion which contains a number of operation orders and telegrams for May 1919. There are fewer entries for June and July and British officers are mentioned throughout.
- Date: 28 July – 30 November 1920
- 74th Indian Infantry Brigade, 6th Indian Division, Mesopotamia
- Reference: WO 95/5126/4
- Notes: A very good war diary with detailed entries and a lot of appendices which has been digitized and is available to download from the National Archives’ website. There are lists of British officers serving with the Battalion each month. There is a very interesting statement by 4213 Rifleman Rup Singh who was aboard the S9 when she was attacked by Arabs on 27 August 1920 and details his subsequent escape. Also, a statement by 1710 Rifleman Bhur Singh who was on board and also managed to escape.
Further Sources for the 2nd Battalion 123rd Outram’s Rifles
For information concerning the British and Indian officers who served with the 2nd Battalion 123rd Outram’s Rifles, the Indian Army List can be consulted. The Medal Index Cards of soldiers entitled to the General Service Medal can be downloaded from the National Archives or viewed on Ancestry. A good source of information for the 2nd Battalion 123rd Outram’s Rifles and in particular the British officers who served with its confidential reports held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc.
If you’d like to learn more about the Mesopotamia Campaign I can recommend When God Made Hell: The British Invasion of Mesopotamia and the Creation of Iraq, 1914-1921 by Charles Townshend.
Extracts from War Diaries of the 2nd Battalion 123rd Outram’s Rifles
01 May 1919 – 31 July 1919, North West Frontier Force, WO 95/5406
08 May 1919 – Jamrud – Left Jamrud to march 21 miles through the Khyber with a regiment tired with stifling kit all day long (except for the railway journey). No transport – No medical arrangements. Except a dresser who had left his panniers and haversack at Nowshera-not a march to be undertaken lightly.
25 May 1919 – Landi Khana – In camp, no medical officer yet joined the Regiment. Have arranged with Combined Field Ambulance for a medical officer to see sick each day, a most unsatisfactory arrangement, and this was again brought to notice of Brigade Headquarters as dysentery is showing in C Company in large numbers today. Men stated they have had it for a few days but there being no Regimental hospital they did not report. This will cause it to spread.
26 June 1919 – Landi Khana – Strength 13 British Officers, 11 Indian Officers, 652 Indian Other Ranks. Temperature 106º. Have come to conclusion continued colitis amongst Jats due to excessive red pepper in their food in hot weather. Steps taken to reduce this gradually until none is drawn with rations.