This article is about the 3rd Skinner’s Horse and will help you to research the Regiment and those who served with it during the First World War. This is one of a series of guides I have produced to help you research soldiers who served in the Indian Army during the First World War:
I also offer a First World War Soldier Research Service.
3rd Skinner’s Horse in the First World War
The watercolour above one of a series painted by A. C. Lovett to illustrate The Armies of India by Lieutenant-General Sir George MacMunn. It shows two soldiers of Skinner’s Horse just prior to the First World War. They are both wearing dress uniforms, the mounted soldier is from the 1st Duke of York’s Own Lancers (Skinner’s Horse) and the standing soldier is from the 3rd Skinner’s Horse.
Lineage: Raised by Lieutenant-Colonel James Skinner at Hansi in 1814 as the Second Corps of Lieutenant-Colonel Skinner’s Irregular Horse. In 1821 it became Baddeley’s Frontier Horse, then the 4th Regiment of Local Horse in 1823, the 4th Bengal Irregular Cavalry in 1840 and the 3rd Regiment of Bengal Cavalry in 1861. Then the 3rd Bengal Cavalry (Skinner’s Horse) in 1901 and the 3rd Skinner’s Horse in 1903. In 1921 the Regiment was amalgamated with the 1st Duke of York’s Own Lancers (Skinner’s Horse) to form the 1st/3rd Skinner’s Horse which became the 1st Duke of York’s Own Skinner’s Horse in 1922.
Composition in 1914: 1 Squadron of Sikhs, 1 of Jats, 1 of Rajputs, 1 of Musalman Rajputs. 1919: 1 Squadron of Sikhs, 1 of Jats, 1 of Rajputs, 1 of Musalman Rajputs.
Location in July 1914: The 3rd Skinner’s Horse was stationed at Meerut (Uttar Pradesh, India) having arrived from Neemuch (Madhya Pradesh, India) on 23 November 1910.
The 3rd Skinner’s Horse was at Meerut when war was declared in August 1914 and was part of the Meerut Cavalry Brigade in the 7th Meerut Division. The 7th Meerut Division was mobilized in August and sent to France and Belgium as part of Indian Expeditionary Force A. However, the Meerut Cavalry Brigade would have to wait until the 24 October 1914 before it received orders to mobilize.
The 3rd Skinner’s Horse boarded the Hired Transport Rajah at Bombay on 17 November and arrived at Marseilles on 15 December 1914. After Marseilles, the Regiment entrained for Orleans and subsequently moved to Boulogne. The Regiment suffered its baptism of fire in the trenches in front of the village of Le Plantin on 13 and 14 January 1915. The regimental history describes the state of the trenches when the 3rd Skinner’s Horse arrived:
The sector allotted to the Regiment included the village of Le Plantin. The original fire and support trenches had been found untenable, the water in them being waist high, so a line was occupied along the front edge of the village, which the sappers strengthened during the night with breastworks.
The Regiment was withdrawn on the 14 January and moved to Bethlime. On arrival in France, the Indian cavalry was formed into the 1st Indian Cavalry Corps. The 3rd Skinner’s Horse was part of the 2nd Indian Cavalry Division which had been formed from the Secundrabad, Meerut and Mhow Cavalry Brigades. After January 1915, the Indian Cavalry Corps was held as a mobile reserve able to quickly reinforce an area being threatened or exploit a potential breakthrough. Very little happens over the next few months and the Regiment was billeted at Linghem and Liettres.
For the rest of the year, the Regiment is billeted behind the lines and or the exact location of the 3rd Skinner’s Horse the war diary should be consulted. The Regiment returned to the trenches in August 1915, when the cavalry regiments of the Meerut Brigade were formed into a “Battalion of six companies, each Regiment forming two companies of four platoons or half squadrons”. The other Indian cavalry Brigades were likewise formed into Battalions and all were tasked with taking over the trenches held by the 152nd Brigade 51st Highland Division.
The war diary of the 3rd Skinner’s Horse becomes a lot more detailed once they are rotated in and out of the trenches. In September, the Regiment was occupying trenches directly in front of the Thiepval Chateau. On the night of the 12/13 September 1915, the 3rd Skinner’s Horse was relieved in the front line and there follows an extended period behind the lines. As the regimental history records, “During the winter 1915-16 nothing worthy of record occurred”. The Regiment stayed in France until the 24 June 1916, when the left wing embarked on board the Hired Transport Missouri for India at Marseilles with the right wing following them on board the Hired Transport Kingstonian on 7 July.
Once back in India the Regiment moved to Rawalpindi (Punjab, Pakistan) where it was concentrated on 6 August 1916. There is no war diary covering the remainder of the war and the regimental history provides a brief overview of its activities. While the 3rd Skinner’s Horse stayed in India, many of its officers and men were sent overseas as drafts to other regiments. In August 1917, the Regiment moved to Jullundur (Jalandhar, Punjab, India).
On 19 February 1918, a small number of the Regiment made a stand against a large force of Marris tribesman at Gumbaz Fort in Baluchistan during the Marris Revolt. Major Gaussen was in charge of 80 men of the Regiment which held the fort against a determined attack. The next day 200 dead and wounded Marris were found in and around the fort. The 3rd Skinner’s Horse was at Loralai (Balochistan, Pakistan) when the Third Anglo-Afghan War broke out on 6 May 1919. The Regiment served with Baluchistan Force during the war and was sent to Chaman (Balochistan, Pakistan) on 28 July 1919. After the war, the 3rd Skinner’s Horse moved to Quetta (Balochistan, Pakistan), then to Sibi (Balochistan, Pakistan) before returning to Quetta in the spring of 1920. The Regiment would move to Chaman in April 1920 and back to Quetta in July. In 1921 the Regiment was amalgamated with the 1st Duke of York’s Own Lancers (Skinner’s Horse) to form the 1st/3rd Skinner’s Horse which became the 1st Duke of York’s Own Skinner’s Horse in 1922.
War Diary of the 3rd Skinner’s Horse
There is only one war diary for the 3rd Skinner’s Horse which has been digitzed and is available to download for a small fee from the National Archives by clicking on the blue link below.
- Date: 24 October 1914 – 7 August 1916
- 2nd Indian Cavalry Division, Meerut Cavalry Brigade
- Reference: WO95/1186/2
- Notes: Overall a good war diary in parts but very little of interest happens for the majority of the Regiment’s service in France. There are a few appendices, the most interesting of which concerning the health of the Regiment’s horses.
Further Sources for the 3rd Skinner’s Horse
The best source of information concerning the 3rd Skinner’s Horse is its confidential reports held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. For information regarding the British and Indian officers who served with the 3rd Skinner’s Horse, the Indian Army List can be consulted. A good article for an overview of the Marris Revolt is: Fighting the Marris and the Khetans by Harry Fecitt.
Regimental History: The History of the Skinner’s Horse by Major A. M. Daniels which also covers the 1st Duke of York’s Own Lancers (Skinner’s Horse). This short book covers the history of the Regiment ) from its founding to 1922 with over 20 pages devoted to is service in the First World War. The History of Skinner’s Horse has been reprinted and can be bought online.
Extracts from the War Diary of the 3rd Skinner’s Horse
24 October 1914 – 7 August 1916, Meerut Cavalry Brigade, WO95/1186/2
27 October 1914 – Meerut – “A” squadron medically examined. Reported regiment [?] will proceed on service at full strength plus 10% first reinforcement. Supply and Transport Corps unable t supply the full amount of free clothing sanctioned by special Indian Army Order. Flannel shirts socks, warm drawers ordered from private firms, and compensation drawn in lieu. Compensation does not cover price paid for these articles; difference made good by 1/2 squadron grain funds.
28 November 1914 – At Sea – This day and the day preceding were both very hot. No breeze. One horse on “Rajah” died of pneumonia. Horses on tween decks had to be kept continually on the move and brought up on to upper deck.
26 December 1914 – Camp La Source – Drawing winter clothing etc. Hard frost at night.
14 January 1915 – La Plantin – 4.30 pm – Enemy again shelled village, paying more attention to the north end of the village, where Regimental Headquarters were situated. No casualties occurred. Enemy appeared to be firing at extreme range, and their shells were defective. Our artillery replied and shelled enemy’s trenches.