66th Punjabis

This article on the 66th Punjabis 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 short-lived 2nd Battalion 66th Punjabis and have created 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 66th Punjabis in the First World War

Lineage: Raised at Trichinopoly in 1761 as the 7th Battalion of Coast Sepoys. It became the 7th Carnatic Battalion in 1796 and the 6th Carnatic Battalion in 1770. Then in 1784 the 6th Madras Battalion and the 1st Battalion, 6th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry in 1796. The 6th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry in 1824 and the 6th Regiment of Madras Infantry in 1885. The 6th Madras Infantry in 1901, the 66th Punjabis in 1903 and the 2nd Battalion 1st Punjab Regiment in 1922.

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

Location in July 1914: The 66th Punjabis was stationed at Rangoon, Burma (Yangon, Myanmar) having arrived from Barrackpore (Kolkata, India) on 20th February 1913.

The 66th Punjabis was an Indian infantry regiment which served in the Mesopotamia Campaign during the First World War. The Regiment initially served with the 30th Indian Infantry Brigade, 12th Indian Division in Mesopotamia between March and October 1915 before joining the 6th (Poona) Division. The 66th Punjabis fought at the Battle of Ctesiphon (22-25 November 1915) where the Division was halted in its attempts to capture Baghdad. The Division fell back to the town of Kut-al-Amara where it was besieged between December 1915 and April 1916 when the town fell. Hundreds of men of the 66th Punjabis were taken prisoner with many dying in Turkish captivity due to appalling treatment.

The 66th Punjabis was reformed at Jhelum in December 1916 and stayed in India for the remainder of the First World War. A second Battalion was raised at Sitapur on 5 October 1918: 2nd Battalion 66th Punjabis. The Regiment served in the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919 and in 1922 became the 2nd Battalion 1st Punjab Regiment. The extract below was taken from the January 1915 Indian Army List and recorded the British officers serving with the Regiment. The Indian Army List contains a lot of jargon and I have written a guide to help you: Indian Army Abbreviations and Acronyms.

66th Punjabis British Officers 1915

War Diary of the 66th Punjabis

There is only one war diary for the 66th Punjabis which has been digitized by the National Archives. To download the war diary for a small fee click on the blue link below which will take you to the National Archives’ website.

  • Date: 07 March – 30 October 1915
  • 30th Indian Infantry Brigade, 12th Indian Division, Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5146/10
  • Notes: A good war diary which contains many detailed entries. However, there are no appendices and few entries for September and October 1915. This is the only war diary for the 66th Punjabis.

Further Sources for the 66th Punjabis

A good resource for the 66th Punjabis is its confidential reports at the British Library. These give an overview of the state of the Regiment and contain the annual reports of the British officers then serving with the regiment. However, when the Regiment was abroad only the Depot and the officers serving with it were inspected: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. For information regarding British and Indian officers who served with the 66th Punjabis, the Indian Army List can be consulted.

There is a list of Indian officers and men of the 66th Punjabis who were prisoners of the Turks in 1917 held at the British Library. I have a copy of the list but can’t find the India Office catalogue number to put here!

If you’d like to learn more about the Mesopotamia Campaign I can recommend When God Made Hell: The British Invasion of Mesopotamia and the Creation of Iraq, 1914-1921 by Charles Townshend.

If you’d like to know more about the Siege of Kut I recommend Kut 1916: Courage and Failure in Iraq by Patrick Crowley.

 

Extracts from War Diaries of the 66th Punjabis

7 March – 30 October 1915, Mesopotamia, WO 95/5146/10

7 March 1915 – Jhelum – Orders received from Control, Delhi, for the Regiment to be prepared to move to Kiamari at 36 hours notice, to join Indian Expeditionary Force D, taking 1st 10% reinforcement.

26 April 1915 – The force marched from Salmaner. No.4 Double Company under Captain Stockley formed part of the advanced guard to the force. The remainder of the regiment marched at the head of the main body in van of the signal company.

11 May 1915 – Illah – The Regiment again found fatigues on ferrying, swimming horses and mules, preparation of defensive post and in addition sent parties out collecting fuel. The horses and mules were also sent out grazing under an armed party, no grass being available from the Supply and Transport Corps. A fatigue was also found for the Supply and Transport Corps at 6 am. There was a strong wind and consequent bad dust storm all day.

15 July 1915 – Ahwaz – Regiment to hold itself in readiness to proceed to Basra on arrival of SS Mosul. A fatigue party of 1 British officer and 150 men crossed to Nasrie and unloaded engineering stores etc. from iron barge. The work was completed by 3.30 pm. Two barges were allotted to the Regiment for kit. The smaller one taking ammunition and chargers; the larger being loaded with heavy kit and having tent awnings for men. The left half Battalion was allotted to the barge and the right half to the SS Mosul.

Guides to Researching Soldiers who Served in the Indian Army

Guides to Researching Soldiers who Served in the British Army