This article on the 1st Battalion 70th Burma Rifles aims to help you research this war-raised Battalion and those served with it. I have written separate articles for the other three Battalions of the Regiment which can be read by clicking on the links below:
I have also written a series of guides to help you research a soldier who served in the Indian Army during the First World War. The link below will take you to the guides:
The 1st Battalion 70th Burma Rifles in the First World War
Lineage: The 1st Battalion 70th Burma Rifles was raised at Maymyo, Burma (Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar) on 19 September 1917 and became the 1st Battalion 20th Burma Rifles in 1922.
Class Composition of Battalion in 1919: 3 Companies of Burmans and 1 Company of Karens.
The 1st Battalion 70th Burma Rifles was the first of four battalions of the 70th Burma Rifles to be formed during the First World War. The 1st Battalion 70th Burma Rifles was formed at Maymyo, Burma (Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar) on 19 September 1917. The Battalion’s first commanding officer was Acting Lieutenant-Colonel Donald Neil Stuart who was appointed to the Battalion on 19 September 1917. The British officers who served with the Battalion were initially either on probation (on probn.) or from the Indian Army Reserve of Officers (I.A.R.O.). Below is an excerpt from the July 1918 Indian Army List showing the British officers serving with the Battalion.The 1st Battalion 70th Burma Rifles was mobilised for service in the Egyptian Expeditionary Force at Secunderabad in April 1918. The Battalion arrived at Suez, Egypt on 14 May 1918 and served on the lines of communication between May 1918 and February 1919. There is a war diary available for this period and I have transcribed some of the entries below.
In March 1919, the Battalion joined the 232nd Infantry Brigade, 75th Division. There is a war diary covering the period between March and November 1919 when the Battalion was stationed at Bilbeis, Egypt. The Battalion served in the Middle East into 1920, however, there is no war diary available to give their location. In the January 1920 Indian Army List, the Battalion’s Depot was based at Meiktila, Burma (Myanmar) and Shwebo, Burma in the April 1920 edition. In the July 1921 Indian Army List, the Battalion was stationed in the Malay States. The 1st Battalion 70th Burma Rifles became the 1st Battalion 20th Burma Rifles in 1922.
War Diaries of the 1st Battalion 70th Burma Rifles
There are two war diaries for the 1st Battalion 70th Burma Rifles neither of which, as of January 2018, have been digitized and can only be viewed by visiting the National Archives. I have copies of both war diaries and have transcribed some of the entries below.
- Date: 25 April 1918 – 28 February 1919
- Lines of Communication, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
- Reference: WO 95/4732
- Notes: An average war diary which includes a large number of appendices, many of which relate to the strength of the 70th Burma Rifles or are Operation Orders.
- Date: 01 March 1919 – 30 November 1919
- 232nd Infantry Brigade, 75th Division, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
- Reference: WO 95/4689
- Notes: Very little occurred during the 70th Burma Rifles’ time in Egypt. Court martials appear frequently in the war diary, though with no information regarding the cause. The war diary is typed between July and November.
Further Sources for the 1st Battalion 70th Burma Rifles
For information concerning the British and Indian officers who served with the 1st Battalion 70th Burma Rifles, the Indian Army List can be consulted. Unfortunately, there are no confidential reports for the Battalion.
Extracts from War Diaries of the 1st Battalion 70th Burma Rifles
25 April 1918 – 28 February 1919, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, WO 95/4732
26 April 1918 – Secunderabad – Preparations for the move. Kit and Medical Inspections held. Health of the unit satisfactory. Mumps, however, troublesome and cause the detention of 30 other Ranks at the Depot.
09 May 1918 – At Sea – The ship arrived at Aden at about 8 am… Guns firing in the distance were heard from the ship at which the Burman Ranks were very pleased. It was heard after that a slight bombardment was taking place. Transport sailed at 11 am.
01 March 1919 – 30 November 1919, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, WO 95/4689
5th September 1919 – Belbeis – One Burma Officer and 9 Burman other ranks (Christian) sent to Jerusalem on 10 days leave.
12 September 1919 – Belbeis – Court Martial held at Battalion Orderly Room in the case of No. 176 Havildar Maung San Bwin at 11.30 hours. Sentenced to be reduced to the rank of rifleman. Promulgation parade held at 16.30 hours.
13th September 1919 – Belbeis – Suicide of No. 176 Rifleman Maung San Bwin 06.15 hours and burial at 12.30 hours.
14th September 1919 – Belbeis – Court of Enquiry held in the case of deceased No.176 Rifleman Maung San Bwin.
29th September 1919 – Belbeis – A and B Companies paraded for lecture on “Venereal diseases” by Medical Officer.
29th October 1919 – Belbeis – Regimental school opened for English and Hindustani, and Arithmetic classes.
30th November 1919 – Nothing to report. Duties found by this unit during the month; Guards were found 14 times with the total strength of 201 non-commissioned officers and men at a time; Escorts were found 14 times with the total strength of 357 non-commissioned officers and men at a time (average).