62nd Punjabis

This article on the 62nd Punjabis aims to help you research either the Regiment or a soldier who served with it during the First World War. I have also created a series of guides to help you research soldiers who served in the Indian Army during the First World War. The link below will take you to the guides:

The 62nd Punjabis in the First World War

Lineage: Formed at Madras in 1759 from independent companies and designated the 3rd Battalion of Coast Sepoys. In 1769 the Regiment became the 2nd Carnatic Battalion and then the 2nd Madras Battalion in 1784. In 1796 the Regiment was designated the 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment of Madras Native Infantry and in 1824 the 2nd Regiment of Madras Native Infantry. Then in 1885 the 2nd Regiment of Madras Infantry and in 1901 the 2nd Madras Infantry. In 1903 it was designated the 62nd Punjabis and became the 1st Battalion 1st Punjab Regiment in 1922.

Composition in 1914: 4 Companies of Punjabi Muslims, 2 of Sikhs, 2 of Rajputs from Western Rajputana and the Eastern Punjab. 1919: 2 Companies of Punjabi Muslims, 1 Company of Sikhs, 1 Company of Rajputs from the Western Rajputana and the Eastern Punjab.

Location in July 1914: The 62nd Punjabis was stationed at Cawnpore (Kanpur, Attar Pradesh, India), having arrived from Benares (Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India) on 5th November 1912.

The 62nd Punjabis was stationed at Cawnpore when the First World War began in August 1914 and had the future Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck serving with the Regiment. The Regiment was inspected by Brigadier-General Cowper, Commanding Allahabad Brigade in its confidential review for 1913-14 who reported:

Turn-out: Very smart.

Efficiency in drill: Satisfactory.

Manoeuvre: Very satisfactory.

Musketry: Very satisfactory.

Signalling: Very satisfactory.

Care of equipment: Very satisfactory.

Personnel: A capable and zealous set of British officers, and a fine body of men, composed of good fighting classes.

Discipline: Satisfactory.

Conduct: Satisfactory.

Health: Very satisfactory.

Physique: Satisfactory.

Recruits: Satisfactory of prescribed classes.

Interior economy: Very satisfactory. Due economy is practised as regards clothing deductions.

General efficiency: The Indian officers and non-commissioned officers are a class very proficient in the knowledge and performance of their duties. A carefully trained and well run battalion, well commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel S. Geoghegan, who is well supported by his officers.

Fitness for active service: Fit for active service

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

The extract below was taken from the October 1914 Indian Army List and recorded the British officers serving with the 62nd Punjabis. The Indian Army List is a great resource to use when researching either Indian regiments or British or Indian officers of the Indian Army and I have written a guide to help you with its jargon: Indian Army Acronyms and Abbreviations.

62nd Punjabis British Officers

The Regiment received orders to mobilize on 11 September 1914 and proceeded to Egypt where the 62nd Punjabis landed on 22 November. The Regiment initially served with the 22nd Indian Infantry Brigade to help defend the Suez Canal before the 62nd Punjabis was moved to Aden in July 1915. In January 1916, the Regiment was moved to Mesopotamia (Iraq) and joined the 36th Indian Infantry Brigade, 14th Indian Division. The Regiment took part in the Kut-al-Amara relief attempts in 1916 and suffered heavy casualties. In September 1918, the 62nd Punjabis became General Headquarters troops and later served on the Lines of Communication in 1919 -1920. In 1922, the 62nd Punjabis became the 1st Battalion 1st Punjab Regiment.

War Diaries of the 62nd Punjabis

There are seven war diaries for the 62nd Punjabis and all have been digitized by the National Archives except the first when the Regiment was in Egypt. To download these war diaries, click on the blue links below which will take you to the National Archives’ website where you can purchase them for a small fee.

  • Date: 11 September 1914 – 25th July 1915
  • 22nd Indian Infantry Brigade, Suez Canal Defences
  • Reference: WO95/4428
  • Notes: The actual war diary is poor with the majority of entries very brief. However, the appendices it contains more than makeup for this which include an appendix by Major C. Stooks 5th Light Infantry attached to the 62nd Punjabis, who commanded a detached company dated 4th January 1915. Two sketches of the Camp at Bir Mabeuik dated 29th December 1914 – 3rd January 1915. Another sketch of Mitla Pass dated 1st January 1915. Report on Action near Toussoum Gare on 3.2.1915 (transcribed below). Report on Action of 4th February 1915. A 6 page “Narrative of events on the Lake Timsah – Bitter Lake Section of the Suez Canal defences during the 3rd February 1915” and 2-page report for the following day.
  • Date: 26 July 1915 – 31 December 1917
  • 36th Indian Infantry Brigade, 14th Indian Division
  • Reference: WO 95/5178/1
  • Notes: A good war diary with a lot of sketch maps.
  • Date: 01 January 1917 – 31 August 1918
  • 36th Indian Infantry Brigade, 14th Indian Division
  • Reference: WO 95/5178/2
  • Notes: A good war diary where the British officers who are serving with the Regiment each month are recorded.
  • Date: 01 September – 31 December 1918
  • General Headquarters, Army Troops, Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5003/2
  • Notes: A good, detailed war diary which is typed apart from October. Each month is followed by an appendix containing a list of officers serving with the 62nd Punjabis.
  • Date: 01 January – 30 April 1919
  • Lines of Communications, Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5287/8
  • Notes: An average war diary which is typed. There is a list of British officers serving with the 62nd Punjabis during March and April 1919. The only appendix is a list of guards provided by the 62nd Punjabis.
  • Date: 01 May – 30 November 1919
  • General Headquarters, Army Troops, Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5035/9
  • Notes: A poor war diary which has been typed where entries are very brief. There are nominal rolls of British officers serving with the 62nd Punjabis each month, along with an overview of where men were on guard duty. The most detailed entry concerns a train accident on 28 October 1919.
  • Date: 01 December 1919 – 30 April 1920
  • Tigris Defences and Communications, Headquarters and Troops, Kut-al-Amara
  • Reference: WO 95/5024/8
  • Notes: An average war diary for the period where very little of interest happens.

Further Sources for the 62nd Punjabis

An important source of information for the 62nd Punjabis is its regimental confidential reports which are held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. These reports also contain the annual confidential reports of British officers who served with the Regiment but when the 62nd Punjabis are abroad only its Depot is reported on. For information regarding British and Indian officers who served with the 62nd Punjabis, the Indian Army List can be consulted.

Extracts from War Diaries of the 62nd Punjabis

11 September 1914 – 31 July 1915, Suez Canal Defences, WO 95/4428

26th September 1914 – Cawnpore – Animals entrained at 7 am. Battalion fell in at 8 am, and entrained. Started at 9.24 am. Strength 12 British Officers, 19 Indian Officers, 808 Rank and File, 37 Followers. 14 Chargers. 12 Machine Gun Mules.

22nd December 1914 – Moascar – No move. Strict censorship of outgoing correspondence introduced. Lieutenant R. Young appointed regimental censor with number “7”.

Report on Action near Toussoum Gare on 03.02.1915

1. Dispositions of the 62nd Punjabis before the Action.

Headquarters and B, C, and D Companies at Serapeum West. Machine Gun Section at Serapeum East. Remaining five Companies on outpost on the West Bank:- G and H between miles 48.4 and 47.2. E and F between miles 46.8 and 45.6. A between 45.5 and Water limited to North of Mosque Hill.

2. The first alarm occurred at 3.30am when sentries at mile 47.4 opened fire on two steel pontoons of the enemy which were being launched on the East bank. Two more boats were immediately launched at mile 47.6. The firing then became general.

4 am. Verbal orders were issued by the Brigade Major, 22nd Brigade to send one (Double) Company out to support the outpost companies of the 62nd Punjabis who were under heavy fire.

4.25 am Owing to large numbers of guards and fatigues in Camp B, C, and D Coys were formed into a composite Coy and despatched under Major Skeen. Lieutenant Colonel Grimshaw went out to reconnoiter at 4.15am. He met Major Skeen’s party at mile 48.4 and ordered it to line the trenched between 48.4 and 48.0.

4.45 am Fire was general by the whole of the 62nd Punjabis against the enemy’s machine gun and rifle fire on the East bank. There were three distinct attempts to cross the Canal in boats, covered by heavy fire.

5.10 am. One boat landed at 48.3 and was charged by a small party under Major Skeen. All the occupants were killed or wounded and the boat drifted away.

5.30 am Two boats landed at 47.6. They were attacked by Captain Morgan. About 26 enemy emerged, of whom 6 were killed and four captured. The remainder subsequently surrendered to the 2nd Rajputs. A detachment of the 128th Pioneers under Lieutenant Fitzgibbon rendered valuable assistance to Captain Morgan during this period of the action.

6.0 am At daylight 3 Coys (old) and 2 Machine Guns of the 2nd Rajputs reinforced our line between miles 48.1 and 47.6. The firing then became less general. Considerable numbers of the enemy’s dead were seen lying round the boats which were ashore on the East Bank. Both sides entrenched and fire was limited to occasional bursts when opportunity offered.

During the early morning Toussoum Post was attacked by the enemy. Support was given to the post by fire from the left of the 62nd Punjabis line (mile 47 to 46). These troops were under heavy fire from 4 am to 6.30am. A counter attack having been launched from Serapeum East East, the 62nd Punjabis Machine Guns accompanied it and came into action.

9.30 am A large number of the enemy retired at 9.30am and suffered from our rifle fire, but some remained entrenched opposite our trenches at 48.3. Sniping from these trenches continued throughout the day.

11 am Orders were received to withdraw Major Skeens’ party and resume the dispositions to the attack (see para 1 above).

3. The action resulted in the stopping of the enemy’s attempt to cross the Canal, and the destruction of their pontoons.

4. The night was cloudy and dark. The day was cool with a westerly wind.

5. Our casualties were:- Killed: 5 Rank and File, 1 Machine Gun Mule. Wounded: 2 British Officers, 12 Rank and File, 1 Machine Gun Mule.

Two of the enemy were captured by the 62nd Punjabis. Two rifles were damaged. 16,398 rounds small arms ammunition expended.

6. All ranks behaved admirably and were wonderfully cool under fire. I would like particularly to notice the following officers and men in the action of the 3rd February.

Major O.St.J Skeen for the plucky way he charged the boats attempting to land on the West bank. Captain M.H.L.Morgan for similarly repulsing a very determined attempt of the enemy to land, in which action he was wounded.

Subadar Kalu Khan and Jemadar her Zaman Khan both displayed the greatest coolness and bravery in supporting Major Skeen.

The following rank and file I specially wish to bring to notice for their bravery:- No.279 Naik Safdar Ali, killed. He leaves a wife and 2 children. No. 1655 Lance Naik Sultan Muhammad. No.1878 Sepoy Sher Khan (seriously wounded). No.1675 Sepoy Amir Khan.

01 September – 31 December 1918, Mesopotamia, WO95/5003/2 

15 September 1918 – Orders received to submit names of Indian officers and men recommended for transfer to 2nd Battalion 66th Punjabis a new unit being formed in India. The Regiment has to find 1 Subadar for Subadar-Major, 2 Jemadars for Subadars, 3 Havildars for Jemadars, 10 Naiks for Havildars, 10 Lance Naiks for Naiks and 24 old sepoys.

September 1918 – Approximately 25,000 Armenian refugees passed through on their way to Baqubah where a large concentration camp has been established for them. These refugees came from Lake Roumith district which has been taken by the Turks after a long and arduous struggle between the two sides. It was only due to their ammunition being expended that these people fled. Diseases of all kinds are rife amongst them, the most prevalent being, smallpox and dysentery.

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