88th Carnatic Infantry

This article on the 88th 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 88th Carnatic Infantry along with guides to help you research soldiers who served in the Indian Army:

The 88th Carnatic Infantry in the First World War

Lineage: Raised by George Martin at Vellore in 1798 as the 2nd extra Battalion of Madras Native Infantry from drafts of the 4th, 5th, 6th and 12th regiments and became the 2nd Battalion, 14th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry the same year. In 1824 it became the 28th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry and the 28th Regiment of Madras Infantry in 1885. Then the 28th Madras Infantry in 1901 and the 88th Carnatic Infantry in 1903. The Regiment was disbanded on 10 January 1922.

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 88th Carnatic Infantry was stationed at Secunderabad, a city in southern India, having arrived from Cannanore, now Kannur on 6 January 1914.

When Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914, the 88th Carnatic Infantry was stationed at Secunderabad. The Regiment was one of a handful of Indian infantry regiments which remained in India for the duration of the war. Never held in high esteem, the Regiment was initially part of the Southern Brigade and spent most of the war unfit for active service. In May 1915, the Regiment was still stationed at Secunderabad but by December, had moved to Poona, now Pune where seven of its companies were based. One company was on detachment at Satara. The 88th Carnatic Infantry remained at Poona until 31 July 1916 when it moved to St Thomas’ Mount outside Madras, now Chennai. By February 1917, the Regiment was stationed at Madras with a detachment at Bellary. Its eight companies had been reduced to four, a change which had begun in the Indian Army shortly after the outbreak of war.

On 3 July 1918, the Regiment raised a second battalion at Bangalore and the original unit was redesignated as the 1st Battalion 88th Carnatic Infantry. At some point around late November 1918, the 1st Battalion 88th Carnatic Infantry landed in Mesopotamia where it joined the 54th Indian Infantry Brigade of the 18th Indian Division. Its Depot while abroad was at St Thomas’ Mount. When its war diary began on 1 December 1918, the Battalion was in camp at Basra waiting to be moved to Baghdad by steamships. The first war diary covers the period between December 1918 and December 1919 but it is very poor. Between January and April 1920 the Regiment served with the Advance Base and Defences in Mesopotamia. The 88th Carnatic Infantry most likely returned to India in 1920, and in the July 1921 Indian Army List was stationed at St. Thomas Mount. On 10 January 1922, the 88th Carnatic Infantry was disbanded. The extract below was taken from the October 1914 Indian Army List and recorded the British officers serving with the Regiment.88th Carnatic Infantry British Officers 1914

War Diaries of the 88th Carnatic Infantry

There are two war diaries for the 88th Carnatic Infantry, both of which cover the Regiment’s service in Mesopotamia after the war. A war diary was written by a British officer of a unit and recorded its activities and location. They are the most important documents for researching a unit during this period. The war diaries can be downloaded from the National Archives’ website for a small fee by clicking on the blue links below. I have transcribed some entries from the war diaries at the bottom of the page.

  • Date: 01 December 1918 – 31 December 1919
  • 54th Indian Infantry Brigade, 18th Indian Division
  • Reference: WO 95/5228/2
  • Notes: A short war diary of thirteen pages. The vast majority of entries record the Battalion’s movements
  • Date: 01 January – 30 April 1920
  • Advanced Base and Defences, Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5035/10
  • Notes: Only four pages in length with each containing the single entry ” No change from” and then noting the preceding month.

Further Sources for the 88th Carnatic Infantry

After the Regiment’s war diaries the most important source of information for the 88th Carnatic Infantry are its Confidential Reports held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. These reports also contain the annual reports of the British officers serving with the Regiment. For information concerning the British and Indian officers who served with the Regiment, the Indian Army List can be consulted.

Extracts from War Diaries of the 88th Carnatic Infantry 

01 December 1918 – 31 December 1919, Mesopotamia, WO 95/5228/2

1 December: In camp Basra.

3 December: Headquarters, A and D Companies left Basra by streamer for Baghdad.

5 December: B and C Companies left Basra by steamer for Baghdad.

6 December: headquarters, A and D Companies arrived Kut and left same evening by train for Baghdad.

7 December: Headquarters, A and D Companies arrived Hinaidi and left same morning by barges for Baghdad and arrived Baghdad.

12 December: C and D Companies arrived Baghdad.

20 December: Regiment left Baghdad by train, arriving Baiji Railhead 21st December.

21 – 31 December: Regiment in Camp Baiji.

01 May 1919 – The Regiment at Tekrit with 53rd Infantry Brigade. Instruction classes in musketry, bayonet fighting, physical training, Lewis gun under British instructors attached to unit. Scouting class and stretcher bearing class carried out. Medical examination of unit, ordered by 18th Division held. Two sepoys and one bugler rejected.

25 May: B and C Companied moved to Baiji to take over guard duties under 55th Infantry Brigade.

3 July 1919: The following proceeded on leave to India: Indian officers 4, Indian other ranks 182, followers 9.

01 September 1919 – Regiment Stationed as follows: 1 platoon at Mosul. 2 Platoons at Hammanal – D Company. 2 Platoons at Hadra- D Company. A Company at Quiarah. 2 Platoons at Hadraniyah – C & B Companies. Headquarters and 5 platoons of C & B Companies at Sharqat. Commandant, officer commanding Sharqat and Post Commandants found for other posts.

30 September 1919 – Strength of regiment British Officers – 5. Indian Officers 13. Indian Other Ranks 673. Followers 53.

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