This article on the 2nd Battalion 96th Berar Infantry will help you research the unit and those who served with it during the First World War. I have written a separate article on the 1st Battalion 96th Berar Infantry and also a series of guides to help you research soldiers who served in the Indian Army during the First World War. The links below will take you to the guides:
The 2nd Battalion 96th Berar Infantry
Lineage: The 2nd Battalion 96th Berar Infantry was formed at Ahmednagar in the present day Indian state of Maharashtra on 4 March 1918 and was disbanded on 28 January 1922. For a history of the Regiment’s lineage see my page on the 1st Battalion 96th Berar Infantry.
Class Composition of Battalion in April 1919: 2 Companies Hindustani Muslims, 1 Company of Tagas, 1/2 a Company of Rajputs and 1/2 a Company of United Provinces Jats.
The 2nd Battalion 96th Berar Infantry was a short-lived Indian infantry battalion that was formed at Ahmednagar in the present-day Indian state of Maharashtra on 4 March 1918. Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Herbert Jardine was the Battalion’s first commanding officer who was appointed on 7 March 1918 from the 1st Battalion 96th Berar Infantry. Lieutenant-Colonel Jardine had seen extensive service, first in South Africa and subsequently in France, Egypt and Mesopotamia (Iraq) before he was appointed to the Battalion. The 1st Battalion’s war diary reported on 25 February, while it was stationed at Beled, Mesopotamia:
Information received that Government have sanctioned formation of 2nd Battalion 96th Infantry. Following to be returned to India to form nucleus for new battalion. 1 Subadar as Subadar-Major. 6 Jemadars as Subadars. 6 Havildars as Jemadars. 20 Naiks as Havildars. 20 Lance Naiks as Naiks and 47 old soldiers.
The British officers who initially served with the Battalion were either Indian Army officers on probation or from the Indian Army Reserve of Officers (I.A.R.O.). The extract below was taken from the April 1919 Indian Army List and recorded the British officers serving with the Battalion.
By December 1918, the Battalion had moved to Arangaon, six miles south of Ahmednagar where it was reported as still being under formation. By March 1919 the 2nd Battalion had moved to Manmand and in August was stationed at Deolali. The Battalion’s first annual inspection was undertaken by Brigadier-General Ernest J. Macfarlane Wood who in a report dated 12 February 1919 wrote:
Training: Training was extremely well organised and carried out by Lieutenant-Colonel Jardine and the results were most exceptional.
Marching Powers: Satisfactory.
Physical Appearance: Satisfactory.
Arms and Equipment: Complete and serviceable.
Officers’ Mess: Satisfactory and messing charges unusually low.
Hospital: Indian Troops Hospital.
School: Well organised.
Regimental Books: Satisfactory.
General Observations: Organisation and discipline very satisfactory. Many difficulties have to be overcome in the raising and organising of a new battalion. These have been tackled with energy and resource by Lieutenant-Colonel Jardine loyally assisted by his 2nd-in-Command Major Staples. The other British Officers though young and inexperienced have worked well.
Major-General Sir Michael Joseph Tighe, Commanding Poona Division reported:
I concur with the Brigadier’s remarks. This unit was selected to furnish a detachment under Major Staples in aid of the Civil Powers in the Akola district [Maharashtra] and which earned the thanks of the Civil Authorities. It was also selected to form the garrison battalion at Poona and guard the Turkish Prisoners of War.
It was at one period over 2,000 strong and has now to be reduced to 200. Ably commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Jardine and ably assisted by Major Staples.
Confidential review reports on Indian Army units, depots, British officers, etc. for 1918-1919: IOR/L/MIL/7/17030
The Battalion’s report for 1918-1919 saw the unit given the highest grade of “A very satisfactory report.” On 15 October 1919, the Battalion arrived at Santa Cruz, Bombay, now Mumbai. The Battalion served in Mesopotamia during 1920-1921 with fourteen men of the Battalion commemorated on the Basra Memorial. In the July 1921 Indian Army List, the Battalion’s Depot was at Nowgong and the 2nd Battalion 96th Berar Infantry was disbanded on 28 January 1922.
War Diaries of the 2nd Battalion 96th Berar Infantry
War diaries were written by an officer of a unit and recorded its locations and activities. Unfortunately, there are no war diaries for the 2nd Battalion 96th Berar Infantry.
Further Sources for the 2nd Battalion 96th Berar Infantry
For information regarding British and Indian officers who served with the 2nd Battalion 96th Berar Infantry the Indian Army List should be consulted. Confidential reports for the Battalion are held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. These reports also contain the annual confidential reports of the British officers who were serving with the Battalion.