54th Sikhs (Frontier Force)

This article on the 54th Sikhs (Frontier Force) aims to help you research either the Regiment or a soldier who served with it during the First World War. I have written a separate article for the war-raised 2nd Battalion 54th Sikhs (Frontier Force) and 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 54th Sikhs (Frontier Force) in the First World War

Lineage: Raised by Captain C. Mackenzie, Madras Army, at Ludhiana in 1846-47 as the 4th Regiment of Infantry of the Frontier Brigade. In 1847 it became the 4th Regiment of Sikh Local Infantry. In 1857 its designation changed twice, first becoming the 4th Regiment of Sikh Infantry and then the 4th Regiment of Sikh Infantry, Punjab Irregular Force. Then the 4th Regiment of Sikh Infantry, Punjab Frontier Force in 1865 and the 4th Sikh Infantry in 1901. In 1903 it was designated the 54th Sikhs (Frontier Force) and the 4th Battalion, 12th Frontier Force in 1922.

Class Composition in 1914: 4 Companies of Sikhs, 1 of Dogras, 2 of Punjabi Musalmans and 1 of Pathans. 1919: 2 Companies of Sikhs, 1/2 a Company of Dogras, 1 Company of Punjabi Musalmans and 1/2 a Company of Pathans.

Location in July 1914: The 54th Sikhs (Frontier Force) was stationed at Kohat (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan) having arrived from Malakand (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan) on 21st January 1912.

The 54th Sikhs (Frontier Force) was stationed at Kohat on the North West Frontier when the First World War began in August 1914. The Regiment was inspected earlier in the year by Major-General C. F. G. Young Commanding Peshawar (Infantry) Brigade:

A regiment of good traditions.

Owing to this unit having been on outposts all the cold weather, it has not been able to take part in any combined training or manoeuvres, but every effort was taken by officers commanding outposts to exercise their men and the general efficiency is very satisfactory.

Musketry, drill and signalling are very satisfactory. The interior is satisfactory and due economy is practised as regards clothing deductions. Fit for service.

Confidential review reports on Indian Army units for 1913-1914IOR/L/MIL/7/17023

Below is an extract from the October 1914 Indian Army List recording the British officers serving with the 54th Sikhs. The Indian Army List is a great resource for researching both the British and Indian officers of the Regiment.

51st Sikhs (Frontier Force)

While the 54th Sikhs (Frontier Force) remained in India until 1918, the Regiment did send large drafts of men abroad including to the 14th King George’s Own Ferozepore Sikhs, 53rd Sikhs (Frontier Force) and 58th Vaughan’s Rifles (Frontier Force).

The 54th Sikhs (Frontier Force) received orders to mobilize at Nowshera on 18 December 1917. The Regiment arrived at Karachi on 16 February 1918 and embarked on board the Hired Transport Jeddah on 17 February 1918 which sailed the same day for Egypt. The Regiment disembarked at Suez on 1 March 1918 and moved to Tel-el-Kebir where it remained until moving to the front line on 23 April 1918. The 54th Sikhs (Frontier Force) served as part of the 29th Infantry Brigade, 10th (Irish) Division. In April 1919, the 54th Sikhs (Frontier Force) joined the 31st Infantry Brigade, 10th (Irish) Division. In 1922, the 54th Sikhs was redesignated as the 4th Battalion, 12th Frontier Force.

War Diaries of the 54th Sikhs (Frontier Force)

There are two war diaries for the 54th Sikhs (Frontier Force) but neither have been digitized and they are only available from the National Archives. I have copies of both war diaries and have transcribed some of the entries below.

  • Date: 18 December 1917 – 31 March 1919
  • 29th Infantry Brigade, 10th (Irish) Division, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
  • Reference: WO 95/4581
  • Notes: A good, detailed war diary. There are a number of appendices including a 6 page Defence Scheme No.5 Subsector of No.5 Sector dated July 1918, and an account of the attack on ”points 1972, 2036 on afternoon of 20th instant [September 1918, 2 1/2 pages]. After November 1918, entries become a lot briefer.
  • Date: 01 April 1919 – 31 March 1920
  • 31st Infantry Brigade, 10th (Irish) Division
  • Reference: WO 95/4586
  • Notes: Very little happens during this war diary, and the majority of entries note company parades and training. Only the last week contains longer entries. British and Indian officers are mentioned throughout.

Further Sources for the 54th Sikhs (Frontier Force)

If you are researching British or Indian officers who served with the 54th Sikhs (Frontier Force) then the Indian Army List can be consulted. A very good resource for the 54th Sikhs (Frontier Force) is its confidential reports which are held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etcThese reports also contain the annual reports for the British officers serving with the Regiment. However, when the 54th Sikhs (Frontier Force) was serving abroad only its Depot and the British officers serving with it were reported on.

Extracts from War Diaries 54th Sikhs (Frontier Force) 

01 April 1919 – 30 March 1920, WO 95/4586

12th April 1919 – Maadi – At 17.00 hours heard indirectly that the convicts had broken out of Tura Convict prison. Three platoons to assist in their recapture were sent. At 19.00 hours platoons returned.

14th April 1919 – Maadi – Owing to the present political situation and shortage of ammunition, practices, both rifle and Lewis fun were discontinued.

5th – 6th April 1919 – Maadi – Holiday. (Mohammadan feast Id-ul-Zuha)

31st October 1919 – Maadi – Nos 2 and 3 Companies searched villages around Maadi for eight rifles, lost from Army Veterinary Corps Lines Maadi, on the night of 30-31st instant.

9th December 1919 – Maadi – Subadar Hira Singh and 100 other ranks proceeded to India for repatriation.

27th March 1920 – Scutari – During the evening of 26th about 18.49 report was received from 10th Jats picquet on hill North West of camp that about 100 enemy were proceeding towards Mekedje. They opened fire, as did the two other Jat picquets on North of camp, for about 5 minutes.

Guides to Researching Soldiers who Served with the Indian Army

Guides to Researching Soldiers who Served with the British Army