This article about the 3rd Battalion, 39th Garhwal Rifles and will help you to research the Battalion and those who served with it during the First World War. I have written separate articles for the 1st, 2nd and 4th Battalions and a series of guides to help you research soldiers who served in the Indian Army during World War One. To view the guides, click on the links below:
- 1st Battalion 39th Garhwal Rifles
- 2nd Battalion 39th Garhwal Rifles
- 4th Battalion 39th Garhwal Rifles
- Researching Soldiers who Served in the Indian Army in WW1
The 3rd Battalion, 39th Garhwal Rifles in the First World War
Lineage: The 3rd Battalion 39th Garhwal Rifles was formed on 20 August 1916 from transfers from the 1st and 2nd Battalions and became the 3rd Battalion 39th Royal Garhwal Rifles in 1921 and then the 3rd Battalion 18th Garhwal Rifles in 1922. For a history of the Regiment’s lineage see my article on the 1st Battalion 39th Garhwal Rifles.
Class Composition of Battalion in April 1919: 4 Companies of Garhwalis.
The 3rd Battalion 39th Garhwal Rifles was one of two new battalions raised by the Regiment during the First World War. The Battalion was formed on 20 August 1916 from transfers from the 1st and 2nd Battalions and was stationed in India for the duration of the First World War. The Battalion was first inspected by Brigadier-General O. M. R. Thackwell, Commanding 7th (Meerut) Divisional Area on 18 March 1917:
The Battalion was formed in August 1916 by transfers from the 1st and 2nd/39th Garhwal Rifles, and then consisted of 432 trained soldiers and 215 recruits; it has now grown to 581 trained soldiers and 531 recruits, and the recruits are still coming in at the rate of 50 or more a month.
The men stand well on parade; handle their rifles smartly, and are generally well trained. A smart well trained battalion. After practice in brigade will be fit for service, but of course not yet up to pre-war standard.
Confidential review reports on Indian Army units, British officers, etc. for 1916-1917. IOR/L/MIL/7/17028
The 3rd Battalion 39th Garhwal Rifles was stationed at Rewat Camp, Murree Hills when it was ordered to mobilise on the outbreak of the Third Anglo-Afghan War. The Battalion served as part of the 5th Infantry Brigade, 2nd (Indian) Division and there is a war diary available between May 1919 and April 1920. The 3rd Battalion 39th Garhwal Rifles spent most of the war at Peshawar and Jamrud where it served as part of the North West Frontier Force. The Battalion was stationed at Jamrud until April 1920 when in left for Kotdwara (Uttarakhand, India). While serving on the North West Frontier the Battalion’s Depot was at Lansdowne (Uttarakhand, India). In the 1921 Indian Army List, the Battalion was stationed at Drosh (Chitral District, Pakistan) with a Detachment at Chitral. In 1922 the Battalion became the 3rd Battalion 18th Garhwal Rifles.
Below is an extract from the July 1919 Indian Army List recording the British officers serving with the Battalion. Only two British officers were pre-war regulars with many being drawn from the Indian Army Reserve of Officers (IARO).
War Diary of the 3rd Battalion, 39th Garhwal Rifles
There is only a single war diary for the 3rd Battalion, 39th Garhwal Rifles which as of February 2017 hasn’t been digitized and can only be viewed at the National Archives. I have a copy of the war diary and have transcribed some entries below.
- Date: 06 May 1919 – 27 April 1920
- 2nd Indian Division, 5th Infantry Brigade
- Reference: WO 95/5410
- Notes: Overall a good war diary between May and August 1919. After August 1919, the war diary is very poor with many entries consisting of ”Nothing to report”. Appendices include telegrams sent to the Battalion and a variety of orders. There are lists of British officers serving with the 3rd Battalion, 39th Garhwal Rifles each month between August and October 1919.
Further Sources for the 3rd Battalion, 39th Garhwal Rifles
For information concerning the British and Indian officers who served with the Battalion the Indian Army List can be consulted. The confidential reports for the 3rd Battalion 39th Garhwal Rifles are held at the British Library: Confidential Reports. These also contain the confidential reports of the British officers serving with the Battalion. However, when the Battalion was on active service only its Depot and the British officers serving with it were reported on.
Extracts from War Diary of the 3rd Battalion, 39th Garhwal Rifles
06 May 1919 – 27 April 1920, 5th Infantry Brigade, WO 95/5410
06 May 1919 – Rewat Camp Murree Hills – 02.00 – Received orders from Headquarters 5 Brigade to mobilise at once and be ready to leave Rewat, leaving sufficient guards only to look after baggage and camp.
17 May 1919 – Peshawar – Battalion ordered to provide an escort for lorries going up through the Khyber Pass; 4 Company Commander were sent in charge of their own Company detachments. The Company marched Landi Kotal safely. No sniping experienced, lorries were parked for the night. Escorts were put on the perimeter.
05 June 1919 – Jamrud – Two cases suspected cholera in the unit; one died. Orders were received at 17.00 hours for the whole battalion to move into segregation. 1/2 mile from Khyber Rifles Serai. Battalion settled in by about 23.30 hours. Some enterprising hill men sniped some of the outlying picquets, but left the battalion alone.
6 June 1919 – Very hot; no more fresh cases of cholera. Very great difficulty was experienced with the drinking water. The battalion was left to make its own arrangements.
18 June 1919 – Headquarters and C Company moved into the Serai in the morning. 17.15 hours a fire broke out in a petrol store, in the corner of the Serai. Several thousand gallons were locked up in a room, and there was no notice to that effect. The fire picquet was fallen in, and as there was no hope of quenching the fire, the men were sent on the roof with picks and shovels to try and isolate the fire. The fire started to spread very rapidly, but stopped spreading after a few yards and confined itself to the corner where the petrol was…. At 1900 hours the fire started to die down slightly, and some of the working parties dismissed, leaving some pioneers to stand by, while a picquet of 15 rifles of the battalion posted sentries to watch the fire.