2nd Battalion 32nd Sikh Pioneers

This article is about the 2nd Battalion 32nd Sikh Pioneers and will help you to research the Battalion and the soldiers who served with it. I have also written articles about the 1st and 2nd Battalions and a series of guides to help you research soldiers who served in the Indian Army:

The 2nd Battalion 32nd Sikh Pioneers in the First World War

Lineage: The 2nd Battalion 32nd Sikh Pioneers was formed at Sialkot (Punjab, Pakistan) on 11 December 1916 and disbanded on 18 August 1921. For a history of the Regiment’s lineage see my page on the 1st Battalion 32nd Pioneers.

Class Composition of Battalion in 1919: 4 Companies of Mazbhi and Ramdasia Sikhs.

The 2nd Battalion 32nd Sikh Pioneers was a war-raised Indian pioneer battalion formed at Sialkot (Punjab, Pakistan) on 11 December 1916. The Battalion was one of the first new Indian Army units to be formed. The extract below was taken from the July 1917 Indian Army List and recorded the British officers serving with the Battalion.

2nd Battalion 34th Sikh Pioneers WW1The Battalion’s first commanding officer was Major George Stanley Clarke who was appointed from the 34th Sikh Pioneers on 16 January 1917. The Battalion was inspected by Brigadier-General A. A. J. Johnstone, Commanding Sialkot Brigade on 11 February 1918 just before it departed to serve in the Egyptian Expeditionary Force who reported:

General remarks: All ranks have worked hard to prepare unit for active service. This unit furnished working parties for the Murree Hills last summer and later larger parties for the manoeuvre area near Hasan Abdal. The absence of these parties from headquarters rather retarded the training in purely military subjects.

Confidential review reports on Indian Army units, depots, British officers, etc. for 1917-1918: IOR/L/MIL/7/17029

The Battalion served with the 75th Division and there is a war diary covering the period between December 1917 and April 1919. In May 1919, the Battalion served with North Force and there is another war diary covering the dates between May and October 1919. I have transcribed portions of both war diaries below. While the 2nd Battalion 32nd Sikh Pioneers served overseas its Depot was based at Sialkot. After returning to India, possibly in early 1921, the 2nd Battalion 32nd Sikh Pioneers was disbanded at Sialkot on 18 August 1921.

War Diaries of the 2nd Battalion 32nd Sikh Pioneers

There are two war diaries for the 2nd Battalion 32nd Sikh Pioneers and they can only be viewed at the National Archives. I have copies of both war diaries and have transcribed some of the entries below.

  • Date: 21 December 1917 – 31 April 1919
  • 75th Division, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
  • Reference: WO 95/4685
  • Notes: A good war diary until June 1918. After this date, the majority of months are written on a single page often consisting of just a short paragraph. There is a nominal roll of British and Indian Officers who proceeded on Field Service with the Battalion.
  • Date: 01 May – 26 October 1919
  • North Force, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
  • Reference: WO 95/4459
  • Notes: A poor war diary with May – September consisting of a short typed outline of the Battalion’s work for the month (see example below). October is the only month with multiple daily entries and even then only for 12 days.

Further Sources for the 2nd Battalion 32nd Sikh Pioneers

The Confidential Reports for the Battalion are held at the British Library and include brief annual reports for the British officers: Confidential Reports. However, when the Battalion was abroad only its Depot and the British officers serving there are reported on. For information concerning the British and Indian officers who served with the 2nd Battalion 32nd Sikh Pioneers, the Indian Army List should be consulted.

Extracts from War Diaries of the 2nd Battalion 32nd Sikh Pioneers

01 December 1917-31 April 1919, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, WO 95/4685

21 December 1917 – Mobilization orders for Egypt received in Sialkot. All ? had returned from ”works” except 100 men at Campbellpur. Regiment wired 2nd Rawalpindi Division that 1000 Rank and File could proceed on service if Campbellpur Detachment was returned.

25 January 1918 – Old rifles had been withdrawn from Regiment and 1914 pattern rifles issued. Great difficulty experienced in rapid fire with new rifle owing to width of magazine.

25 February 1918 – Arrived Aden. Passage good and uneventful. No infectious diseases [?] 1 Bhisti (attached from Amritsar Follower Depot to Regiment) evacuated with fever. About 30 other details and 1 British officer landed and about 30 other ranks embarked. British officers and Indian officers allowed ashore.

29 March 1918 – Works as before. Turks shelled near bridge at Kilometre 316.9. They are reported to run out a gun at dusk to get within range of certain targets. Regimental followers found lousy and arrangements made for washing and disinfecting. Men ordered to lie down in case of aeroplane alarm, not to run about.

01 May-26 October 1919, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, WO 95/4459

01 – 31 May 1919 – Tripoli- Road surface, retaining wall, and general road repair. Stone collecting in making fair weather road Beitmeri to Mahatti and in maintenance service road Beirut-Beitmeri-Baabdat-Mahatti.

Battalion: less 2 Companies working outwards from Beitmeri. 2 Companies Right Wing working outwards from Baabdat.

01 – 28 September 1919 – 2nd Battalion 32nd Sikh Pioneers less 2 companies working outwards from Beit-Meri. 2 Companies working outwards from Baabdat on Beirut Beitmeri-Mahatti road. Road surface repair, patching retaining walls and collecting stone. 27 – Received ordered to move to Homs under 4 Cavalry Division.

12 October 1919 – Arrival of 10 Motor lorries from 906 M.T. Coy R.A.S.C. under Lieutenant Hepworth for attachment to the unit for rationing and metal carrying work. A very welcome reinforcement, but owing to having come by road and an extremely bad road too- from Beirut via Tripoli, not so useful as they might have been. Two lorries being useless… Great difficulty was experienced in obtaining spares. The first spares to be received arrived 14 days after. However lorries were kept working by very scientific stripping of non-running lorries by Lt Hepworth and Corporal Randall. Endeavors to borrow some 905 lorries, of which there were reported about 30 doing very little in Homs, proved unavailing. Orders received from Division to become mobile.

14 October 1919 – 2 motor lorries after overhaul sent to Right Wing.

15 October 1919 – Orders received from Division to get ready to form dumps at Homs stations at short notice.

Guides to Researching Soldiers who Served with the Indian Army

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