86th Carnatic Infantry

This article on the 86th Carnatic Infantry will help you research the Regiment and those who served with it during the First World War. This is just one of a series of articles I’ve written to help people learn more about the Indian Army and those who served with it:

The 86th Carnatic Infantry in the First World War

Lineage: Raised by Captain James Innes at Tanjore, now Thanjavur in 1794 as the 36th Battalion of Madras Native Infantry. It became the 2nd Battalion, 13th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry in 1798 and the 26th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry in 1824. The 26th Regiment of Madras Infantry in 1885 and the 26th Madras Infantry in 1901. In 1903 it was designated the 86th Carnatic Infantry. Then the 10th Battalion 3rd Madras Regiment in 1922. This was the Regiment’s training battalion.

Composition in 1914: 4 Companies of Madrasi Muslims, 2 of Tamils and 2 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 86th Carnatic Infantry was stationed at St Thomas’ Mount, Madras (Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India) having arrived from Secunderabad (Telangana, India) on 22nd October 1911.

The 86th Carnatic was stationed at St Thomas Mount, Madras when war was declared in August 1914. By May 1915, the Regiment was stationed at Secunderabad and later that year moved to Burma, now Myanmar. The 86th Carnatic Infantry joined the Burma Division and was stationed at Bhamo. By August 1916, the Regiment had a detachment at Punkum and it was recorded as attending a training camp at Myothit in February 1917. In January 1919, the Regiment had two companies at Shewbo and two at Bhamo where the unit was still serving as part of the Burma Division. The 86th Carnatic was never held in high regard and in its confidential report for 1916-17 Major-General Herbert Aveling Raitt, Commanding Burma Division wrote:

Drill and Instruction: Drill bad, instruction indifferent.

Manoeuvre: Satisfactory.

Musketry: Indifferent. Fire direction, sighting, etc., on parade was bad and showed neglect and bad training.

Signalling: Fair.

Health: Fair.

Conduct: Some improvement in crime during the past year, but an enormous increase in venereal.

Interior economy: Seems to be well regulated. Due economy is practised as regards clothing deductions.

General efficiency: Although there has been an improvement of late the state of the battalion cannot be considered satisfactory. The battalion has got into slack ways. The Commanding Officer is past his work and fresh blood is urgently required. Fitness for service: Not fit for service.

Confidential review reports on Indian Army units, British officers, etc. for 1916-1917: IOR/L/MIL/7/17028

The 86th Carnatic Infantry served in Mesopotamia, now Iraq with the 34th Indian Infantry Brigade of the 18th Indian Division between July 1920 and May 1921. Arriving at Baghdad on 4 July 1920, the Regiment helped to suppress the 1920 Iraqi Revolt which took place between May and October of that year. There is a very good war diary covering this period and I have transcribed some entries below. While the 86th Carnatic Infantry served overseas it left its Depot at Trichinopoly. The Regiment served in Mesopotamia past May 1921 and likely returned to India before the end of the year. In 1922 the 86th Carnatic Infantry became the 10th Battalion 3rd Madras Regiment which was the Regiment’s training battalion. The extract below is from the January 1917 Indian Army List which will be a great help to you if you’re researching a British or Indian officer who served in the regiment.86th Carnatic Infantry, January 1917

War Diaries of the 86th Carnatic Infantry

There is only one war diary for the 86th Carnatic Infantry which has been digitized and is available to download from the National Archives’ website. War diaries were unit records written by an officer which recorded its location and activities. To download it for a nominal fee click on the blue link below.

  • Date: 05 July 1920 – 31 May 1921
  • 34thIndian Infantry Brigade (55th Infantry Brigade is listed), 18th Indian Division, Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5230/3
  • Notes: A very good war diary for giving an overview of the problems faced in putting down the 1920 Iraqi Revolt with a lot of detailed entries. The entries for 1920 are a lot more detailed than for those of 1921. There are a number of appendices, typical orders etc. but also a half-page typed report on the action at Khan Jedwal, with a casualty list, on 10 July 1920 with small sketch map by Lieutenant Jones and a report on the good conduct of Jones. Another appendix, one and a half pages in length, covers the action of 15 July 1920 and was written by Captain Hockaday. This also includes a casualty list.

Further Sources for the 86th Carnatic Infantry

An excellent source of information for the 86th Carnatic Infantry and the British officers who served with it are the confidential reports held at the British library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. These reports contain the annual confidential reports of the British officers which would have been in their service records which for the most part are now lost. For information concerning the British and Indian officers who served with the 86th Carnatic Infantry, the Indian Army List can be consulted. The surviving General Service Medal with Iraq Clasp Medal Index Cards for the Regiment can be viewed on Ancestry for free. You can also download them from the National Archives’ website but they charge a fee, are in black and white and you can’t see the reverse: Medal Index Cards on the National Archives.

Extracts from War Diaries of the 86th Carnatic Infantry 

05 July 1920 – 31 May 1921, Mesopotamia, WO 95/5230/3

5 July 1920: The Regiment arrived in Baghdad on 4 July 1920 about midday and disembarked at once. All ranks proceeded to the Combined Depot Camp. On 5 July 1920 the orders directing the unit to join the 55th Brigade were cancelled and the Regiment was posted for duty with the 34th Brigade. Headquarters at Diwaniya, which had just commenced operations against the refractory Arabs who were investing Rumaitha in which place a portion of the force was surrounded. The unit was fitted out very hurriedly with such mobilization stores as were most necessary.

6 July 1920: D and A Companies under Captain Farbrother and Lieutenant Anderson proceeded by train from Baghdad to Diwaniyah.

11 July 1920: Ordinary routine. 87th [Punjabis] in strength escorted repair train to establish communications and returned same evening.

20 July 1920: Arabs reported tampering with line and too strong for escort which accompanied repair train from Hillah. Relief train under Lieutenant Colonel ? with Captain Farbrother, Lieutenant Anderson and B Company augmented by 1 platoon and 2 sections A [Company] left and were reported to have got through by 8 pm.

8 August 1920: Sniping continued early morning, one man killed. Orders issued that the immense expenditure of small arms ammunition over snipers on night 7/8 must be discontinued. Lull in sniping from midday and throughout night. Five Arabs, two with rifles, approached D Company piquet. One unarmed Arab came on and was captured. The others retired. Captured man questioned and detained.

9 August 1920: Accurate sniping from close range commenced early morning. Casualties two killed and three wounded of 86th Carnatic Infantry and one killed in Mountain Battery 45th rapidly accrued. Enemy showed more signs of offence and planted standards near outlying piquet. Shortly, afternoon sniping became less frequent but presence of close range snipers still appreciable.

During the day standards were moved to some unknown position and at night sniping continued and rather half-hearted attacks were made on picquets occupied and under command of Jemadar Muthuviru and Jemadar Sundar Raju, which were repelled with rifle fire and rifle grenades. An unnecessary amount of small arms ammunition was again expended. The Arabs seem to have remarkable characteristics in their attacks the accurate sniping being about the most dangerous. Singing of songs, shouting of threatening remarks, gathering round fires for war dances play a large part in the early stages of the attack.

After this, if a serious attack is intended fire increases in intensity. Further casualties during the day. Total casualties for the day 86th Carnatic Infantry, three killed, three wounded. 45th Mountain Battery one killed.

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