This article on the 80th Carnatic Infantry aims to help you research 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 80th Carnatic Infantry and also a series of guides to help you research soldiers who served in the Indian Army during the war.
The 80th Carnatic Infantry in the First World War
Lineage: Formed at Tanjore, now Thanjavur by Captain Thomas Bagot in 1777 from drafts of the 2nd, 6th, 12th and 15th Carnatic Battalions as the 21st Carnatic Battalion. The Regiment became the 21st Madras Battalion in 1784 and the 2nd Battalion 2nd Regiment of Madras Native Infantry in 1796. Then the 20th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry in 1824 and the 20th Regiment of Madras Infantry in 1885. The 20th Madras Infantry in 1901 and 80th Carnatic Infantry in 1903. The Regiment was disbanded in 1921.
Composition in 1914: 4 Companies of Madrasi Muslims, 2 Companies of Tamils and 2 Companies of Paraiyans and Christians. 1919: 2 Companies of Madrasi Muslims, 1 Company of Tamils and 1 Company of Paraiyans and Christians.
Location in July 1914: The 80th Carnatic Infantry was stationed at Bhamo, Burma (Kachin, Myanmar) having arrived from Rangoon, Burma (Yangon, Myanmar) on 27th November 1913.
On 4 August 1914, when Britain declared war on Germany, the 80th Carnatic Infantry was stationed at Bhamo in Burma, now Myanmar. At Bhamo, located 274 miles northeast of Mandalay. Here, the Regiment remained to at least February 1915. Later in the year, the Regiment moved to Colombo in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. In a distribution list for December 1915, the unit’s stay at Colombo was reported to be of a temporary nature. By August 1916, the Regiment had moved to St Thomas’ Mount where six of its eight companies were stationed, with two on detachment at Sumerpur. Here, the unit was serving with the 9th (Secunderabad) Division.
In 1917, the 80th Carnatic Infantry moved to Mesopotamia, now Iraq where it spent its first year serving on the Lines of Communication. Most of 1918 was spent at Baghdad while a second battalion was raised in October. This short-lived battalion was disbanded on 31 January 1920. In December 1918, the Regiment joined the 51st Infantry Brigade of the 17th Indian Division and served with the Division into 1921. The Regiment qualified for the General Service Medal with Iraq clasp due to its service in the 1920 Iraqi Revolt and fortunately, medal index cards to its soldiers have survived. They can currently be viewed for free on Ancestry. In the July 1921 Indian Army List, the 80th Carnatic Infantry was stationed at Secunderabad and later in the year, the Regiment was disbanded. The extract below was taken from the October 1914 Indian Army List and recorded the British officers serving with the Regiment.
War Diaries of the 80th Carnatic Infantry
There are three war diaries for the 80th Carnatic Infantry which were written by an officer of a unit and recorded their location and activities. All have been digitized and are available to download from the National Archives’ website for a small fee by clicking on the links below.
- Date: 01 August – 30 November 1917
- Lines of Communication, Mesopotamia
- Reference: WO 95/5247/8
- Notes: Only three pages in length and the majority of entries are very brief.
- Date: 01 December 1917 – 27 November 1918
- Advanced Base and Defences, Mesopotamia
- Reference: WO 95/5035/10
- Notes: This war diary contains very brief entries, usually concerning the comings and goings of a small number of Indian troops e.g. “16 Indian other ranks and 2 public followers proceeded to Nukta”. There are lists of British officers serving with the 80th Carnatic at the end of each month between February and November 1918.
- Date: 01 December 1918 – 28 February 1921
- 51st Indian Infantry Brigade, 17th Indian Division, Mesopotamia
- Reference: WO 95/5211/8
- Notes: Entries are usually brief in this diary, however, after March 1920 they become longer. Each month contains a list of British officers serving with the 80th Carnatic as well as noting the strength of the Regiment (usually detailing increases/decreases).
Further Sources of Information for the 80th Carnatic Infantry
A good source of information for the 80th Carnatic Infantry are the confidential reports for the Regiment held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. These contain an overview of the state of the Regiment and the annual confidential reports of the British officers who served with it. However, when the 80th Carnatic Infantry was abroad only its Depot and the British officers serving with it were reported on. For information concerning British and Indian officers who served with the 80th Carnatic Infantry, the Indian Army List can be consulted. The Medal Index Cards of soldiers entitled to the General Service Medal with Iraq clasp can be downloaded from the National Archives or viewed on Ancestry. I would recommend viewing them on Ancestry as they are free and in colour.
If you’d like to learn more about the Mesopotamia Campaign and the 1920 Iraqi Revolt I can recommend When God Made Hell: The British Invasion of Mesopotamia and the Creation of Iraq, 1914-1921 by Charles Townshend.
Extracts from War Diaries of the 80th Carnatic Infantry
01 August – 30 November 1917, Mesopotamia, WO 95/5247/8
10 August 1917: Ashar: Jemadar Sivaramulu and 15 Indian Other Ranks [IORs] proceeded to Kharaq Island, Persian Gulf on detachment duty.
16th August 1917: Ashar: The following drafts were received from India 80th Infantry 50 Indian Other Ranks , 86th Infantry, 1 Indian Officer and 35 IORs, 88th Infantry 1 Indian Officer and 49 IORs. 1 IOR rejoined from war leave.
19 August 1917: Ashar: 14 Indian other ranks rejoined Headquarters from guard duty Beit Nama.
20 August 1917: Ashar: 8 Indian other ranks proceeded to Baghdad as escort to D.I.W.T. [Depot? Inland Water Transport].
24 August 1917: Ashar: A Company under Captain Wright-Warren proceeded to Magil on detachment duty. 32 Indian other ranks transferred to Base band.
25 August 1917: Ashar: The regiment relieved the 73rd Carnatic Infantry at Tanooma.
1 September: Tanooma: Casualties during August. Increase 2 Indian officers and 134 Indian other ranks drafts. 1 Indian other rank from war leave. Decrease 5 Indian other ranks invalided. Strength British officers 8 (including Medical Officer), Indian officers 20 (including sub-assistant surgeon), Indian other ranks 801.
2 September: Second Lieutenant A. F. Cambridge rejoined regiment from detachment at ? Umar.
01 December 1918 – 28 February 1921, Mesopotamia, WO 95/5211/8
16 August 1920: Fallujah: During the night the serai was heavily fired on, at short ranges and from housetops but the raiders were driven off with casualties by Lewis gun fire and rifle bombs. The Caddis Fly (defence vessel I.W.T.) with 2 machine guns was stationed in midstream outside Fallujah Town and gave considerable assistance in dispersing the enemy. (Our casualties 1 wounded).
17 August 1920: Fallujah: Camp fired on all the morning till 11:30 hours. Casualties nil.
18 August 1920: Fallujah: Camp fired on again during morning and very heavily during the night, from close range. Enemy were driven off. Casualties nil.
19 August: Fallujah: A Company with 4 guns Royal Field Artillery moved out early and “strafed” villages 2 miles downstream which had a good effect, there being very little sniping that night and none during the day.
20 August 1920: Fallujah: Situation more satisfactory and quieter, little sniping during night, which lasted only a short time.
22 August 1920: Fallujah: Punitive expedition, consisting of A and B Companies and Headquarters 80th Carnatic and 2 sections guns Royal Field Artillery under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel P. L. Coleridge O.B.E commanding Felujah [Fallujah], moved early about 3 miles downstream and burnt and destroyed several villages and shelled the encampment of Sheikh Dhari. On retirement o this force Captain Ridley M.B.E and 1 non-commissioned officer were both slightly wounded, otherwise our casualties nil. We inflicted many casualties on the enemy, 4 men and 2 horses were killed at close quarters. Nine donkeys and some rifles and ammunition were brought in.