34th Sikh Pioneers

This article is about the 34th Sikh Pioneers and will help you to research the Regiment and those who served with it during the First World War. I have created separate articles for the short-lived 2nd and 3rd Battalions 34th Sikh Pioneers 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 blue links below:

The 34th Sikh Pioneers in the First World War

Lineage: Raised by Colonel A. C. W. Crookshank at Mian Mir in 1887 as the 34th (Punjab) Regiment of Bengal Infantry (Pioneers). In 1901 it became the 34th Punjab Pioneers, the 34th Sikh Pioneers in 1903 and the 3rd Battalion 3rd Sikh Pioneers in 1922.

Class Composition 1914: 8 Companies of Mazbi and Ramdasia Sikhs. 1919: 4 Companies of Mazbi and Ramdasia Sikhs.

Location in July 1914: The 34th Sikh Pioneers was stationed at Ambala (Haryana, India) having arrived from Sialkot (Punjab, Pakistan) on 16th November 1913.

The 34th Sikhs received orders to mobilize at Ambala on 8 August 1914 and proceeded to Bombay where the Regiment arrived on 17 August. The Regiment boarded the Hired Transport Nurani which sailed as part of a convoy for France on 24 August 1914. After a brief stay in Egypt during September, the Regiment landed at Marseilles on 26 September 1914. The 34th Sikhs served as divisional troops for the 3rd (Lahore) Division during its year in France. Despite being a pioneer battalion, the 34th Sikhs saw extensive action and suffered heavy casualties during the First Battle of Ypres in October 1914. There is an excellent war diary covering the Regiment’s service on the Western Front which I have discussed below.

The 34th Sikhs served on the Western Front until it left for Mesopotamia (Iraq) along with the rest of the 3rd (Lahore) Division in December 1915. The Regiment disembarked at Basra on 9 January 1916 and served in Mesopotamia until it moved to Egypt in May 1918. The Regiment served with the 3rd (Lahore) Division during the Palestine Campaign before it returned to India in 1920. In 1922, the 34th Sikh Pioneers was re-designated as 3rd Battalion 3rd Sikh Pioneers.

The extract below was taken from the October 1914 Indian Army List and recorded the Indian officers serving with the Regiment. The date on the left is when the officer first enlisted into the Indian Army while the numbers in brackets after their names record courses passed (there is a list at the start of the book). You’ll notice that there are two Natha Singhs who were Subadars in the Regiment and that Roman numerals have been used to distinguish them.

34th Sikh Pioneers Indian Officers 1914

War Diaries of the 34th Sikh Pioneers

There are three war diaries for the 34th Sikh Pioneers and the first two have been digitized by the National Archives. To download these war diaries for a small fee click on the blue links below which will take you to the National Archives’ website. The final war diary can only be viewed at the National Archives. I have copies of all of the war diaries and have transcribed some entries below.

  • Date: 01 August 1914 – 31 December 1915
  • 3rd (Lahore) Division, France
  • Reference: WO 95/3919/4
  • Notes: An excellent war diary which is very detailed and full of usual information. The diary contains a large number of appendixes, including Operation Orders and maps. There are some Indian Other Rank casualties recorded along with their regimental number.
  • Date: 01 January 1916 – 31 March 1918
  • 3rd (Lahore) Division
  • Reference: WO 95/5102/1
  • Notes: Another good war diary which provides plenty of information regarding the activities of the Regiment.
  • Date: 01 April 1918 – 31 December 1919
  • 3rd (Lahore) Division, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
  • Reference: WO 95/4698
  • Notes: A very good war diary which is full of information about the activities of the Regiment. There are lists of British officers serving with the Battalion each month from May to October 1918. Unfortunately, there are no other appendices.

Further Sources for the 34th Sikh Pioneers

If you’re researching a British or Indian officer who served with the Regiment then the Indian Army List can be consulted. One of the best sources for information concerning the 34th Sikh Pioneers and in particular for the British officers serving with it are the Regiment’s confidential reports held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. These reports also contain the annual confidential reports of the British officers serving with the Regiment, though when it is abroad only those serving with the Depot are reported. There is also a regimental history The History of The Sikh Pioneers by Lieut-General Sir George MacMunn which can be viewed for free online by clicking on the blue link below:

The History of The Sikh Pioneers

Extracts from War Diaries of the 34th Sikh Pioneers 

August 1914 – 31 December 1915, France, WO 95/3919/4

24 October 1914 – About midnight – On marching down with my company to take over our position from the French, we met the French Company marching out. I insisted that they should relieve and allow us to take over the trenches man for man. After a heated argument he marched back followed by my company. Shortly after I had begun to take over I found that nearly all the French has vacated the trench again and were going back down the road. I hurriedly placed my men in the empty trenches and proceeded to reconnoitre to out front. It was very dark and finding reconnaissance impossible returned to our line.

I placed a picquet in a trench which ran out from the road at ?. I had just returned and been along the line when we heard a deep muffled sound in front. After a little hesitation I realised it was a body of the enemy moving across the ploughed fields. I ordered “rapid fire ?” and the enemy’s advance ceased. He replied heavily but his fire was wild and high. Our casualties were only one or two. Later on during the night there were several bursts of fire from my men and from the troops on our right and left but I was unable to distinguish any enemy. When dawn broke I saw our position clearly. It was not strong. [Also includes sketch of position].

30 October 1914 – Picantin (Fauquissant position) The first line of trenches were again shelled during the afternoon and sniping was continuous fro daylight till dusk. Subadar Maghar Singh was wounded by H.E. [High Explosive] in the morning (the shell burst just behind the trench). Some of our own H.E. shells fell short behind our own line in the afternoon but no casualties.

01 April 1918 – 31 December 1919, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, WO 95/4698

17 April 1918 – Regiment marched at 5 am and embarked on 2 barges at 6 am. Magil was reached at 9.30 am and direct embarkation on Hired Transport Cooeyanna commenced. This was completed by 3.30 pm. Cooeyanna sailed at 4 pm.

Late in evening fire was discovered in one of the coal bunkers. Help was summoned by wireless from Busra and work continued all night to dig out the coal above the fire. Cooeyanna proceeded upstream again and anchored just downstream of Khora Creek.

18 April 1918 – Busra – Work continued all day, with help of about 100 coolies brought from Busra, at digging coal out of the bunker.

Guides to Researching Soldiers who Served in the Indian Army

Guides to Researching Soldiers who Served in the British Army