4th Cavalry (Indian Cavalry)

This article looks at the 4th Cavalry and will help you to research the Regiment and the officers and men who served with it. This is one of a series of articles on the Indian Army and you can view the others by clicking on the links below:

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4th Cavalry (Indian Amy) in the First World War

Lineage: Raised by Captain C. Newbery at Sultanpore, Oudh (Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India) in 1838 as the Cavalry Regiment of the Oudh Auxiliary Force and became the 6th Regiment of Bengal Irregular Cavalry in 1840. Then the 4th Regiment of Bengal Cavalry in 1861, then the 4th Regiment of Bengal Lancers in 1900 and the 4th Bengal Lancers in 1901. Then the 4th Lancers in 1903 and the 4th Cavalry in 1904. Amalgamated with the 2nd Lancer’s (Gardner’s Horse) to form the 2nd/4th Cavalry in 1921 and became the 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse) in 1922.

Composition in 1914: 1 Squadron of Rajput Musalmans, 1 of Hindustani Musalmans, 1 of Sikhs and 1 of Jats.

Location in July 1914: The 4th Cavalry was stationed at Bareilly (Uttar Pradesh, India) having arrived from Fyzabad (Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh, India) on 4 January 1914.

The 4th Cavalry was an Indian cavalry regiment which served in France, Mesopotamia and India during the First World War. The Regiment was stationed at Bareilly when war was declared in August 1914 and received its mobilization orders on 9 August 1914. The Regiment embarked on board the SS Manora and Euryalus at Bombay on 9 September 1914 and arrived at Marseilles, France on 12 October 1914. The 4th Cavalry served as Divisional Cavalry with the 7th (Meerut) Division during their time in France.

The 4th Cavalry received its baptism of fire near Gorre on 4 November 1914 and spent a week in the trenches. The Regiment was fortunate in its first experience of trench warfare and the following note appears in the margin of the war diary, “It is surprising how few our casualties have been as the various parties were always under fire”.

After the initial war of movement came to a close and the trenches are consolidated, very little of interest happens to the 4th Cavalry. The Regiment is billeted behind the lines and is often involved on fatigue duty, especially furnishing “digging parties” in the winter of 1914. The exact location of the Regiment during 1915 can be found by consulting its war diary. While in France, the 4th Cavalry’s machine gun section was constantly used in the trenches as support. On the 11 November 1915, the 4th Cavalry embarked on board SS Janus and disembarked at Alexandria, Egypt on 18 November 1915. The Regiment then moved to Suez, where it embarked once again on the SS Janus for Basra on 23 November 1915.

The 4th Cavalry arrived at Basra on 11 December 1915 and joined the 6th Indian Cavalry Brigade. During its time in Mesopotamia, the 4th Cavalry was constantly used on reconnaissance duties. In July 1916, 66 men of the regiment were sent to hospital due to an outbreak of scurvy as the 4th Cavalry had had, “practically no vegetables no milk to speak of, not even a continuous supply of fresh meat”. The Regiment was decimated by scurvy and by mid-August the Regiment consisted of only 201 men of whom 57 were suffering from scurvy. Though there were 85 reinforcements at Basra, the Regiment was suffering a wastage of three men sent sick a day and was struggling to look after its horses.

The Commanding Officer wrote to the Brigade Major, 6th Cavalry Brigade on 22 August 1916 requesting that the Regiment be withdrawn from the front and recommending its withdrawal to India. The war diary for the 4th Cavalry ends in September 1916 and the Regiment was withdrawn to India in 1917. The 4th Cavalry remained in India for the duration of the war and very quickly obtained its pre-war standard.

The 4th Cavalry served with the North West Frontier Force during the Third Anglo-Afghan War and joined the Force from Ambala (Haryana, India) on 6 June 1919 and served at Mardan. The 4th Cavalry then moved to Peshawar on 15 November 1919 with a detachment at Landi Kotal and Jamrud. In 1920, the 4th Cavalry was sent to Palestine and returned to India either in late 1921 or early 1922. The 4th Cavalry was amalgamated with the 2nd Lancer’s (Gardner’s Horse) in 1921 to form the 2nd/4th Cavalry and in 1922 became the 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse).

War Diaries of the 4th Cavalry

There are two war diaries for the 4th Cavalry and both have been digitized by the National Archives. To download the war diaries for a small fee click on the blue links below.

  • Date: 09 August 1914 – 30 November 1915
  • 7th Indian (Meerut) Division, Divisional Troop
  • Reference: WO 95/3936/1
  • Notes: A poor war diary especially for 1915 where some months contain only a few lines. Very little happens during the Regiment’s service in France which is reflected by the brief entries.
  • Date: 01 November 1915 – 30 September 1916
  • 6th Indian Cavalry Brigade
  • Reference: WO 95/5086/1
  • Notes: An average war diary which has a number of interesting appendices. One of which is a document written by the Commanding Officer on 27 July 1916 describing the outbreak of scurvy in the Regiment. Also another account regarding the possible desertion/capture of 6 men of the Regiment and how postcards had been received from some of the men. A very interesting document regarding the state of the regiment and the belief by the Commanding Officer that the Regiment need to be withdrawn from the front line dated 22 August 1916.

Further Sources for the 4th Cavalry

A very good source of information concerning the 4th Cavalry and the British officers who served with it are its confidential reports held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. These confidential reports also contain the annual reports of the British officers serving with the Regiment. However, when the 4th Cavalry was abroad only British officers serving with the 4th Cavalry’s Depot were reported on. For information regarding the British and Indian officers who served with the 4th Cavalry the Indian Army List can be consulted.

Regimental History: There is no regimental history for the 4th Cavalry.

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Extracts from War Diaries of the 4th Cavalry

09 August 1914 – 30 November 1915, 7th Indian (Meerut) Division, WO 95/3936/1

Note in the margin of November 1914- During the period November 3rd to 15th the majority of the men were separated from their horses practically the whole time. Owing to this and the bad weather the wear and tear to harnesses and equipment has been considerable. Owing to the non-arrival of stores indented for, especially oil and dubbin, arms and equipment were almost impossible to keep clean and in serviceable condition.

Considering that the Regiment was 7 days in [?] trenches and after that was engaged in digging support and communication trenches it is surprising how few our casualties have been as the various parties were always under fire.

01 November 1915 – 30 September 1916, 6th Indian Cavalry Brigade, WO 95/5086/1

Note at the end of July 1916- Scurvy has attacked the Regiment heavily during the month. Out of 66 cases evacuated from Regiment 52 have been due to the disease. The disease has been brought about entirely through unsuitable rations. Practically no vegetables no milk to speak of, not even a continuous supply of fresh meat. The above figures do not include 76 incipient cases of scurvy all of whom will probably have to be evacuated.

The clothing is bad and we cannot get it renewed, men have to borrow breeches from one another to go on parade. All efforts to get clothing have so far failed. We have not yet been provided with chaguls [water bottles usually made from leather and slung underneath a horses stomach] which are a necessity in the great heat prevalent during the last and this month.

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