This article is about the war-raised 2nd Battalion 12th Pioneers (The Kelat-i-Ghilzie Regiment) and will help you to research either the Battalion or a soldier who served with it during the First World War. I have written a separate article for the 1st Battalion 12th Pioneers and a series of guides to help you to research soldiers who served in the Indian Army:
- 1st Battalion 12th Pioneers (The Kelat-i-Ghilzie Regiment)
- Researching Soldiers who Served in the Indian Army
The 2nd Battalion 12th Pioneers (The Kelat-i-Ghilzie Regiment) in the First World War
Lineage: The 2nd Battalion 12th Pioneers was formed at Lahore Cantonment (Punjab, Pakistan) on 6 June 1917 and disbanded on 4 December 1921. For a history of the Regiment’s lineage see my page on the 1st Battalion 12th Pioneers.
Class Composition of Battalion in July 1918: 2 Companies of Jats, 1 Company of Sikhs and 1 Company of Hazaras. October 1921: 2 Companies of Jats, 1 Company of Sikhs and 1 Company of Hazaras.
The 2nd Battalion 12th Pioneers was a short-lived Indian pioneer battalion formed at Lahore Cantonment on 6 June 1917 which served in India for the duration of the war. The Battalion was inspected by Brigadier-General William Melvill Southey, Commanding 43rd Infantry Brigade on 28 April 1918:
General remarks: The battalion has made marked progress in the last two months in every respect. Systematic work in the technical training for a Pioneer battalion is now required, and good opportunity for road making in the hills should be made use of… I consider when the battalion has had a few more months in the hills, that it should be fit for active service. Certainly by the end of the year. I recommend the battalion being moved for a time to the Quetta District with a view of further recruiting of Hazaras; and to ensure constant training throughout the year in a country second for none for Pioneer battalions.
Confidential review reports on Indian Army units, depots, British officers, etc. for 1917-1918: IOR/L/MIL/7/17029.
The Battalion was in Punjab when the Third Anglo-Afghan War began in May 1919 and was used as corps troops for the North West Frontier Force. The Battalion spent most of its time building or repairing roads near the Afghan border, around Dakka and Landi Kotal. The Battalion continued to serve on the North West Frontier after the cessation of hostilities but there are no war diaries covering this period. In the July 1921 Indian Army List, the Battalion was stationed at Jamrud with a detachment at Shagai, North West Frontier (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan). While on field service the Battalion’s Depot was at Lahore. The 2nd Battalion 12th Pioneers was disbanded on 4 December 1921. Below is an extract from the April 1919 Indian Army List which recorded the British officers serving with the Battalion. Only the commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Hawkes was a pre-war Indian Army officer. This was typical of a war-raised Indian infantry battalion.
War Diary of the 2nd Battalion 12th Pioneers
There is only one war diary for the Battalion which hasn’t been digitized and can only be viewed at the National Archives. I have transcribed some entries at the bottom of the page.
- Date: 05 May – 30 September 1919
- North West Frontier Force
- Reference: WO 95/5390
- Notes: A good war diary with plenty of information about the Battalion’s activities with British and Indian officers mentioned throughout. There is a list of British and Indian officers who entrained at Lahore for Peshawar on 07 May 1919.
Further Sources for the 2nd Battalion 12th Pioneers
For information concerning British and Indian officers who served with the 2nd Battalion 12th Pioneers, the Indian Army List can be consulted. The confidential reports for the Battalion can be seen at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc which also contain the annual reports of the British officers serving with the Battalion.
Extracts from War Diary of the 2nd Battalion 12th Pioneers
05 May – 30 September 1919, North-West Frontier Force, WO 95/5390
05 May 1919 – Lahore Cantonment – 19.00 hours – Warned verbally by Brigade Major 43rd Brigade to mobilise.
06 May 1919 – Lahore Cantonment – Wire from Simla to mobilize and proceed to Peshawar by special train leaving Lahore Cantonment West at 01/20 hours 07 May 1919. Wires sent to all officers and men on leave to return immediately.
08 May 1919 – Arrived Peshawar 07.00 hours and received orders from Railway Transport Officer to proceed straight to Jamrud. Arrived Jamrud 10.00 hours…
09 May 1919 – Jamrud – Work commenced on railway sidings and Supply and Transport Dumps under orders of Major Woods R.E. 8 hours work daily.
16 May 1919 – Jamrud – Warning received by Deputy Director of Works re move of Battalion to Ali Musjid.
07 June 1919 – 800 yards South of Ali Masjid – Work on road continued. One case of cholera amongst attached transport. All contacts isolated.
10 June 1919 – Ali Masjid – Move to Landi Khana cancelled owing to Battalion being infected with cholera. One case mumps reported to Assistant Director Medical Services 5 men admitted to hospital and 2 men of 61 Pack Mule Corps. 1 Driver of 61 Pack Mule Corps died of cholera.
13 June 1919 – Ali Masjid – 6 men admitted to cholera hospital. 3 men died of cholera. Battalion working on road.
14 June 1919 – Ali Masjid – 2 deaths of cholera. 1 man admitted to cholera hospital. Battalion working on road.
15 June 1919 – Ali Masjid – 2 deaths of cholera. Half Battalion working on road and half on water supply.
17 June 1919 – Ali Masjid – 01.00 hours. Message received at Battalion Headquarters from Officer Commanding D Company. Reported presence of about 50 enemy East of camp and after a short engagement enemy retired. Our casualties were 1 Naik slightly wounded.
30 June 1919 – Ali Masjid – Observed a holiday owing to news of Germans signing of peace treaty… Stand to at 21.00. Bonfires lit and Very lights fired.
11 August 1919 – Dakka – Work on Khuro Khyber Road. Some sniping at our picquets from Twin Peaks and Conical Hill to which we replied and drove out snipers.