91st Punjabis (Light Infantry)

This article looks at the role of the 91st Punjabis (Light Infantry) during the First World War and will help you research those who served with it. I have also written a series of guides to help you research those who served in the Indian Army during the war.

The 91st Punjabis (Light Infantry) in the First World War

Lineage: Raised at Trichinopoly by Lieutenant-Colonel S. Jennerett in 1800 as the 1st Battalion, 16th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry. It became the 1st Battalion, 16th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry, or Trichinopoly Light Infantry in 1812 and the 31st Regiment of Madras Native Infantry, or Trichinopoly Light Infantry in 1824. Then the 31st (Trichinopoly) Regiment of Madras Light Infantry in 1885 and the 31st Regiment (6th Burma Battalion) of Madras (Light Infantry) in 1892. Then in 1901 the 31st Burma Light Infantry, the 91st Punjabis (Light Infantry) in 1904 and the 3rd Battalion 8th Punjab Regiment in 1922.

Composition in 1914: 3 Companies of Punjabi Muslims, 1 Company of Hindustani Muslims, 2 Companies of Sikhs and 2 Companies of Dogras. 1919: 1 and a 1/2 Companies of Punjabi Muslims, 1/2 a Company of Hindustani Muslims, 1 Company of Sikhs and 1 Company of Dogras.

Location in July 1914: The 91st Punjabis was stationed at Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar) having arrived from Meiktila (Mandalay, Myanmar) on 5th February 1911.

The 91st Punjabis was stationed at Mandalay when orders were received to mobilize on 5 July 1916. The Regiment remained at Mandalay until the 14 August when it moved to Rangoon and the next day boarded the Hired Transport Egra which set sail for Mesopotamia (Iraq). The Regiment disembarked at Basra on 30 August 1916 and moved into camp at Magil. The Regiment served in Mesopotamia as part of the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division. For information regarding the Regiment’s activities in Mesopotamia, its war diary can be consulted which I have discussed below.

In May 1918, the 91st Punjabis (Light Infantry) moved from Mesopotamia to Egypt and landed at Suez on 5 May 1918. The Regiment spent the summer training intensively for the coming offensive which opened on 19 September 1918 with the Battle of Megiddo. The 91st Punjabis took part in the opening battle and the subsequent pursuit of Turkish forces. The Regiment moved to Salim, Palestine in December 1918 where it remained until 2 June 1919 when it moved to Haifa. The Regiment moved multiple times for the remainder of the year before it returned to India in 1920. In 1922, following the reorganisation of the Indian Army, the 91st Punjabis (Light Infantry) became the 3rd Battalion 8th Punjab Regiment. The extract below was taken from the October 1914 Indian Army List and recorded the British officers serving with the Regiment.91st Punjabis British Officers WW1

War Diaries of the 91st Punjabis (Light Infantry)

There are three war diaries for the 91st Punjabis but only the war diary covering its service in Mesopotamia has been digitized. To download this war diary for a small fee click on the first blue link below. The other two war diaries can only be viewed at the National Archives. I have copies of all the war diaries and have transcribed some entries at the bottom of the page.

  • Date: 01 July 1916 – 28 February 1918
  • 7th Indian Infantry Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division, Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5107/5
  • Notes: An excellent war diary with detailed descriptions from the Regiment’s mobilization to the battles it took part in. There are a large number of appendices including lists of wounded, multiple maps, regimental orders, a list of British officers serving with the Regiment in February 1918.
  • Date: 01 May 1918 – 31 March 1920
  • 7th Infantry Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
  • Reference: WO 95/4701
  • Notes: A good war diary with a large number of appendices which include a variety of orders and telegrams. Entries become briefer after the Armistice as is found in the majority of post-war diaries. There is a 20+ notebook page report concerning the 91st Punjabis’ role during the Battle of Megiddo in September 1918 (NB this is at the back of the war diary). Also, an interesting appendix “Report on the Rounding up Operations in the Jordan Valley on the 26th July 1919”. There are nominal rolls of British officers serving with the 91st Punjabis each month between May and October 1918.
  • Date: 01 November 1921 – 28 February 1922
  • Waziristan Force
  • Reference: WO 95/5398
  • Notes: A good war diary with detailed accounts of the Regiment’s activities. There is a 2 page (A4) appendix “Supplementary report on the attack by Mahsuds on the Double Hill watering mules, 91st Punjabis, on the 11th February 1922” and sketch map. A Kotkai Order No. 10 dated 16 February 1922 regarding a tactical exercise. There is a list of men (with regimental numbers) granted leave between January and February 1922. Also, a list of five deaths sustained by 91st Punjabis with the cause of death recorded (3 died of pneumonia, 2 from wounds).

Further Sources for the 91st Punjabis (Light Infantry)

For information regarding the British and Indian officers who served with the 91st Punjabis (Light Infantry), the Indian Army List can be consulted. A good resource for the 91st Punjabis is its annual confidential reports held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etcThese reports also contain the annual confidential reports of the British officers serving with the Regiment. However, when the 91st Punjabis was abroad only its Depot and the officers serving with it were reported on.

Extracts from War Diaries of the 91st Punjabis (Light Infantry)

01 November 1921 – 28 February 1922, Waziristan Force, WO 95/5398

22 November 1921 – Kotkai – At 24.00 on the night of 22 – 23 November 1921, once perimeter picquet situated East of the Battalion camp and immediately below the Camel Camp, was fired on by the enemy. The picquet returned the fire aiming at the flash of enemy rifles. One man of the picquet was slightly wounded and in the morning it was found that the wire had been badly cut in two places. Later it was reported that a Peshwari had been severely wounded during the night from the position of the ? (He had been hit in the forehead and the bullet had grazed of, entering his chest and issuing forth again lower ?). We were able to establish that he had been hit by the fire of the picquet.

02 December 1921 – During the night an attempt was made by Mahsuds to cut the wire of KotKai East Piquet (permanent picquet east of the camp). The enemy was dispersed by rifle and Lewis gun fire. In the morning it was found that the damage to the wire was not great. Our casualties were nil, and the enemy casualties not known.

23 January 1922 – For several days, intelligence summaries etc. had reported the presence of bands of Mashuds in the vicinity. At 15.30 the officer commanding road protection troops upstream reported that the convoy had been fired on from Black Rock, East of R.P Headquarters. The artillery were informed and immediately opened fire, the place having been registered two weeks earlier.

Two Companies, two Vickers guns and a Stokes gun of the unit were also sent out immediately beyond Lawat Piquet to take the enemy in the flank, but before reaching Black Rocks a distance of over a mile, the convoy had passed safely except for one camel killed, and the two companies were withdrawn and reached camp with the Road Protection Troops. It was reported that the enemy gang numbered between 40 and 50.

At about 17.30 hours those of the permanent piquets reported that the enemy had again issued from Black Rocks and were gathered round the camel they had shot. When it was certain that they could not be friendly Mashuds picquets were directed to fire if opportunity arose. Whitechapel Picquet turned its Lewis gun on them just as they were leaving the nullah, at a distance of about 1000 yards. The result was that three of the Mashuds were carried away by the remainder.

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