72nd Punjabis

This article on the 72nd Punjabis aims to help you research both the Regiment and those who served with it during the First World War. I have written a separate article on the short-lived 2nd Battalion 72nd Punjabis and a series of guides to help you research a soldier who served in the Indian Army during the war. The links below will take you to the guides:

The 72nd Punjabis in the First World War

Lineage: The Regiment was raised at Cuddalore in 1767 by Captain R. Mathews as the 16th Battalion of Coast Sepoys. In 1769 it became the 13th Carnatic Battalion and then the 12th Carnatic Battalion in 1770. Then the 12th Madras Battalion in 1784 and the 2nd Battalion 8th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry in 1796. The 12th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry in 1824 and the 12th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry in 1885. Then the 2nd Regiment of Burma Infantry in 1890 and the 12th Regiment (2nd Burma Battalion) of Madras Infantry in 1891. The 12th Burma Infantry in 1901 and the 72nd Punjabis in 1903. In 1922 became the 3rd Battalion 2nd Punjab Regiment.

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

Location in July 1914: The 72nd Punjabis was stationed at Peshawar (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan) having arrived from Dera Ismail Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan) on 25th October 1913.

The 72nd Punjabis was an Indian infantry regiment which spent most of the First World War in India on internal security. In 1914, the 72nd Punjabis was part of the 1st (Peshawar) Infantry Brigade, 1st (Peshawar Division) and served with the Division on the North West Frontier before proceeding to Egypt. On the 28 February 1918, the Regiment embarked on board the Hired Transport Royal George at Karachi (Sindh, Pakistan) and disembarked at Suez, Egypt on 10 March 1918. The 72nd Punjabis then joined the 232nd Infantry Brigade of the 75th Indian Division which was part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force.

There is a war diary covering the Regiment’s service with the 232nd Infantry Brigade between February 1918 and May 1919. The Regiment spent its first weeks in Egypt at Tel-el-Kebir where it undertook extensive training before it moved to Wadi Balut and subsequently Deir Balut where it remained until mid-June 1918. The war diary provides a good account of the period the 72nd Punjabis were in the front line at Deir Ballut. In late June the Battalion was constantly on the move before heading to Wadi Emir where they remained until they moved to Deir Tureif in late August 1918. The extract below was taken from the July 1918 Indian Army List and recorded the British officers serving with the Regiment.

72nd Punjabis 1918 British OfficersThe 72nd Punjabis was in action on the opening day of the Battle of Megiddo on 19 September 1918 and suffered just over 100 casualties. After the battle, the Regiment took part in the subsequent pursuit of the Turkish forces through Palestine. The Regiment spent most of October at El-Afuleh (Afula, Israel) and reached Haifa on 27 October 1918. On the 14 November 1918, the 72nd Punjabis moved to Ludd (Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel) where they remained until 4 December when they entrained for Kantara, Egypt. The 72nd Punjabis remained at Kantara until the 6 January 1919 when they moved into camp at Suez before returning to Kantara on 15 February 1919. The Regiment moved to Cairo in late March 1919, then to Wasta before reaching Dairut on 10 April 1919.

In June 1919, the 72nd Punjabis joined the 30th Infantry Brigade, 10th Division and there is a war diary covering the period between June 1919 and March 1920. The month of May is missing but on the 1 June 1919, the 72nd Punjabis was at Assiout (Asyut), Egypt. The 72nd Punjabis remained at Assiout until the 16 September 1919 when it entrained for Beni Suef (115km/71m south of Cairo) and arrived the next day. The Regiment remained at Beni Suef until the 3 November when it moved towards Kom Abu Radi where it arrived on the 8 November. The Regiment then moved back to Benu Suef on 10 December 1919. On the 10 February 1919, the regiment entrained at Benu Suef for Assiout and reached its destination the same day. The 72nd Punjabis was still at Assiout when the war diary ends on 31 March 1920. The Regiment remained in Egypt until 1922 when it returned to India and arrived at Fyzabad (Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh, India) on 8 April 1922. In 1922, the 72nd Punjabis became the 3rd Battalion 2nd Punjab Regiment.

During the First World War, the 72nd Punjabis raised a second battalion at Kamptee on 16 October 1917 which was disbanded in 1921. I have written a separate article about the Battalion here: 2nd Battalion 72nd Punjabis.

War Diaries of the 72nd Punjabis

There are two war diaries for the 72nd Punjabis and at the time of writing (January 2018) neither have been digitized and can only be viewed by visiting the National Archives. I have copies of both and have transcribed some entries at the bottom of the page.

  • Date: 01 February 1918 – 31 May 1919
  • 232nd Infantry Brigade, 75th India Division, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
  • Reference: WO 95/4689
  • Notes: A very good war diary with plenty of information about the activities of the 72nd Punjabis especially when they are in action (the entry for the Battle of Megiddo is particularly long). The names of British officers appear throughout. The only appendices are for a raid on Gurkha Hill on 6 August 1918, which includes operation orders, a sketch map, and 6-page report.
  • Date: 01 June 1919 – 31 March 1920
  • 30th Infantry Brigade, 10th Irish Division, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
  • Reference: WO 95/4584
  • Notes: A slightly more detailed post-war diary than is usually found. Despite this, very little occurred. British and Indian officers are mentioned throughout.

Further Sources for the 72nd Punjabis

For information regarding the British and Indian officers who served with the 72nd Punjabis, the Indian Army List can be consulted. A very good source of information about the Regiment is its confidential reports held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. These reports also contain the annual confidential reports of the British officers who were serving with the Regiment. There is also a regimental history: History of the 3rd Battalion the 2nd Punjab Regiment by H.C. Wylly. This is a short regimental history devoting 15 pages to the period between 1908 and 1922. The regimental history’s value lies in the coverage of the Regiment’s activities in India prior to February 1918.

Extracts from War Diaries of the 72nd Punjabis

01 February 1918 – 31 May 1919, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, WO 95/4689

07 April 1918 – Tel-el-Kebir – Webbing equipment including belts, braces, pouches, packs, entrenching took cases, straps, water bottles with carriers and haversacks issued. Leather equipment including belts, bandoleers, pouches, chapels, great coat carriers and entrenching tool cases returned to Ordnance.

08 April 1918 – Tel-el-Kebir – Some Sikh wrestling matches were held in the afternoon.

01 June 1919 – 31 March 1920, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, WO 95/4584

 7th June 1919 – Assiout – Usual parades. A medical officer started reinoculation of Battalion for cholera.

19th June 1919 – Assiout – The trial of Deirut train murder case by military courts was concluded.

30th June 1919 – Assiout – Peace celebration holiday. At 07.00 hours all troops marched through the town of Assiout. Reception of notables at 10.30 hours. 1 Indian officers and 76 Indian other ranks left to proceed to leave to India.

07th July 1919 – Assiout – Strength effective 12 British Officers, 15 Indian officers, 861 Indian other ranks, 48 Followers, 21 Supply and Transport personnel.

09th July 1919 – Assiout – Party 1 British officer, 1 Indian officer and 80 Indian other ranks having drawn prisoners or hanging (Dairut murders) proceeded by armoured train to Mallawi for execution.

14th July 1919 – Assiout – Holiday peace celebrations. Sports in afternoon at sporting club from 16.00 to 18.30. Tea given to British officers and men by notables of Assiout. Concert and fireworks display in the evening.

23rd August 1919 – Assiout – Subadar Murad Baksh, C Company appointed acting Subadar Major with effect from 15.8.19, vice acting Subadar Major Fazal Din proceeded to Mecca on pilgrimage.

4th October 1919 – Beni Suef – B Company on musketry drills. Holiday for Mahomedans on account of Mohurram.

18th October 1919 – Short route march through Beni Suef town. Information received from Brigade Headquarters that the threatened railway strike might take place today. Officer commanding troops Minia Captain Priestly reports attitude of population sullen, but nothing has happened beyond cutting of a temporary telephone line.

20th October 1919 – Beni Suef – Parades as usual, except for Hindus, who observed the festival of the Dewali.

29th October 1919 – Beni Suef – Parades as usual except for Sikhs, who has a religious holiday on account of the last day of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

27th January 1920 – Beni Suef – B Company were held in readiness to demonstrate in town in the event of disturbance caused by visit of member of Milner Commission but the day passed off without disturbance.

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