This article will look at the role of the 93rd Burma Infantry during the First World War and will help you research soldiers who served with the Regiment. I have also written a series of guides to help you research those who served in the Indian Army during the war:
The 93rd Burma Infantry in the First World War
Lineage: Raised at Guntoor (Guntur) in 1800 as the 1st Battalion 17th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry and became the 33rd Regiment of Madras Native Infantry in 1824. Then became the 33rd Regiment of Madras Infantry in 1885, the 3rd Regiment of Burma Infantry in 1890 and the 33rd Regiment (3rd Burma Battalion) of Madras Infantry in 1891. The 33rd Burma Infantry in 1901, the 93rd Burma Infantry in 1903 and the 5th Battalion 8th Punjab Regiment in 1922.
Composition in 1914: 4 Companies of Sikhs and 4 Companies of Punjabi Muslims. 1919: 2 Companies of Sikhs and 2 Companies of Punjabi Muslims.
Location in 1914: The 93rd Burma Infantry was stationed at Barrackpore, Calcutta, (Kolkata, India) having arrived from Rangoon, Burma (Yangon, Myanmar) on 1st March.
The 93rd Burma Infantry was stationed at Barrackpore, Calcutta when the First World War began in August 1914 and received orders to mobilize on 15 October 1914. The Regiment moved to Karachi (Sindh, Pakistan) on 2 November and boarded the Hired Transport Takada which sailed the next day in convoy for Egypt. The 93rd Burma Infantry arrived at Suez on 19 November 1914 and moved into camp at Kantara. The Regiment remained in camp at Kantara until it moved to Moascar near Ismailia in January 1915. The Regiment did not take part in repelling the Turkish attack on the Suez Canal in February 1915.
The 93rd Burma Infantry remained in Egypt until September 1915 when it moved to France and joined the 19th Dehra Dun Infantry Brigade, 7th (Meerut Division). In the winter of 1915, the Indian infantry divisions were withdrawn from the Western Front and sent to Mesopotamia (Iraq). While serving in Mesopotamia, the Regiment took part in the failed attempts to relieve the 6th (Poona) Division which was besieged by Turkish forces at Kut-al-Amara. This included the Battle of Hanna (21 January 1916) and the Battle of Dujaila (8 March 1916) where the Regiment suffered over 400 casualties including the commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Stephen Repton Stevens.
The photograph below was kindly sent to me by Justin Herter and shows the British officers of the 93rd Burma Infantry taken prior to the outbreak of the First World War. Justin’s great-grandfather was Lieutenant-Colonel Stevens killed commanding the Regiment at the Battle of Dujaila and is seated on a chair, the second from right. In the Regiment’s confidential report for 1912-13, the inspecting officer Brigadier-General William Hugh Dobbie, commanding Rangoon Brigade, had written that Stevens was “Sound in judgment, reliable; energetic, keen; popular. First-class trainer. In every respect qualified for command”.After the fall of Kut in April 1916, the Regiment remained in the Sanniyat position for the remainder of the year and took part in General Frederick Stanley Maude’s offensive. For information concerning the activities of the Regiment in Mesopotamia, it is best to turn to the war diary which is discussed below. During 1917, the 93rd Burma Infantry spent most of its time either near Baghdad, at Beled, Istabulat or Al Ajik (Samarra).
The Regiment spent the first two months of 1918 at Al Ajik before it moved to Egypt along with the rest of the 3rd (Lahore) Division. The Regiment landed at Suez on 16 May 1918 and moved into camp at Moascar. The 93rd Burma Infantry moved to Ludd on 1 June before it spent the summer rotating in and out of the front line. On the 19 September 1918, the Regiment took part in the opening day of the Battle of Megiddo which was the most important battle fought by the unit during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign. The 93rd Burma Infantry remained in the Middle East after the end of the war and moved to Damascus in November 1918 where it remained until November 1919 when it moved to Ludd. The Regiment remained at Ludd until February 1920 when it moved to Surafend where it remained until late March 1920. The 93rd Burma Infantry returned to India in 1920 and was redesignated as the 5th Battalion 8th Punjab Regiment in 1922.
The extract below was taken from the October 1914 Indian Army List and recorded the British officers serving with the Regiment. The Indian Army List is a great resource to use to research both British and Indian officers and regiments of the Indian Army. The books are full of military jargon and I have a guide to help you: Indian Army Abbreviations and Acronyms.
War Diaries of the 93rd Burma Infantry
There are four war diaries for the 93rd Burma Infantry but only two covering France and Mesopotamia have been digitized. To download these war diaries for a small fee click on the second and third blue links below which will take you to the National Archives’ website. The other two war diaries covering the Regiment’s service in Egypt can only be viewed at the National Archives. I have transcribed some of the entries from the first war diary at the bottom of the page.
- Date: 15 October 1914 – 12 September 1915
- 31st Indian Infantry Brigade, 11th Indian Division, Canal Zone Defences
- Reference: WO 95/4422
- Notes: A very good war diary which contains more information than is usual for a unit guarding the Suez Canal. There is a nominal roll of British officers serving with the 93rd Burma Infantry on 33 March 1915. The war diary contains the following appendices: appendix on mobilization including a lengthy discourse on the problems with reservist system; distribution of the Regiment on 6 February 1915 and a sketch map of the perimeter camp at Kantara showing positions of units on 3 December 1914.
- Date: 14 September – 31 December 1915
- 19th Dehra Dun Infantry Brigade, 7th (Meerut Division), France
- Reference: WO 95/3942/3
- Notes: A short war diary of fewer than 30 pages. Despite its brevity, the war diary provides plenty of information regarding the activities of the 93rd Burma Infantry. There is a list of the British and Indian officers who landed in France.
- Date: 01 January 1916 – 30 April 1918
- 9th Indian Infantry Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division
- Reference: WO 95/5111/4
- Notes: Overall a good war diary, especially for information regarding the Kut relief attempts. The most detailed of which is the Battle of Dujaila on 8 March 1916. In the margin, there are four very brief recommendations for the Indian Distinguished Service Medal. However, there are some months which contain few or repetitive entries e.g. between April and June 1917. There are nominal rolls of British and Indian officers present with the 93rd Burma Infantry on 1 January and 1 May 1918.
- Date: 01 May 1918 – 31 March 1920
- 9th Indian Infantry Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division, Egyptian Expeditionary Force
- Reference: WO 95/4703
- Notes: Overall an average war diary which has the benefit of containing nominal rolls of British and Indian officers (until November 1918) serving with the 93rd Burma Infantry each month. The entry for Battle of Megiddo is over two pages in length and quite detailed. The names of British and Indian officers appear frequently throughout.
Further Sources for the 93rd Burma Infantry
A good resource is Regimental History, 1914-1920, 93rd Burma Infantry by Anon, printed circa 1921. Unfortunately, this book hasn’t been reprinted and can be quite difficult to find. There isn’t a copy at the British Library, Imperial War Museum or the National Army Museum. The book is divided into four parts, Egypt, France, Mesopotamia and Palestine and there are also maps for the battles the unit took part in. For an appendix, there is a list of British and Indian dead, divided into British officers, Indian officers and Indian other ranks. When a casualty died of wounds, the date they were wounded was recorded not when they died.
Further information regarding the Regiment can be found by looking at the war diaries of the Brigade Headquarters the unit served with. These war diaries will cover all the battalions of the brigade, with the 93rd Burma Infantry serving with the 31st, 19th and 9th Indian Infantry Brigades during the war. The Regiment’s war diaries listed above record the dates they served with each brigade with the war diaries also found in the WO 95 series. Make sure you search for Indian infantry brigade headquarters as there will usually be another British infantry brigade with the same number.
The British Library has a transcript of an interview with 1487 Lance Naik Kishan Singh whose catalogue entry recorded that he served “in the Indian Army from 1911 to 1917, and was in the 93rd Burma Infantry. He served in Iran, Iraq and Syria during the First World War”. The interview was conducted by S. D. Pradhan in 1971 and is three pages in length. I haven’t seen the transcript and its catalogue number is Mss Eur F729/2/15.
If you’re researching a British or Indian officer who served with the 93rd Burma Infantry, the Indian Army List can be consulted. A good resource for the Regiment is its annual 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 served with the Regiment. However, when the 93rd Burma Infantry was abroad only its Depot and the British officers serving with it were reported on. If you’d like to learn more about the Mesopotamia Campaign I can recommend When God Made Hell: The British Invasion of Mesopotamia and the Creation of Iraq, 1914-1921 by Charles Townshend.
Extracts from the First War Diary of the 93rd Burma Infantry
15 October 1914 – 12 September 1915, Canal Zone Defences, WO 95/4422
15 October 1914 – Barrackpore – Regiment ordered to mobilize by telephone. Detailed instructions to follow. All men on recruiting duty were recalled by wire receiving orders to be ready for field service on 12 October 1914. Deficiencies to be made up from 72nd Punjabis at Peshawar and reservist of whom not more than 120 to be taken. Remainder to train at their training centres. Regiment to concentrate at Jubbulpore.
16 October: Officer commanding 72nd [Punjabis] wired to asking for 200 men 100 Sikhs and 100 Punjabi Mussalmans [Muslims]. 32 Punjabi Mussalmans rejoin from recruiting duty. Officer commanding reserve centres wired to telling them to mobilize. Officer commanding Jhelum Reserve Centre to send 40 Punjabi Mussalmans picked men as soon as ready and officer commanding Lahore Centre to send 80 Sikhs. Advance party left for Jubbulpore. 17 Non-commissioned officers and men had gone to 35th Signal Company. 2 Subadars and 76 men had gone to 92nd Punjabis.
17 October: Wire received temporarily postponing all movements in connection with concentration. 1 Sepoy rejoined from recruiting duty.
18 October: 1 Jemadar 1 Sepoy rejoined from recruiting duty.
19 October: Orders received for Regiment and Headquarters to move to Jubbulpore on 21st Depot to follow.
20 October: 1 Subadar, 2 Jemadars and 34 Sepoys rejoined from recruiting duty.
21 October 1914 – Regiment leaves Barrackpore en route for Jubbulpore by train. Depot remains at Barrackpore. 538 Indian ranks accompanied regiment. 173 stayed with depot. Depot: 47 sick, 63 recruits, 63 other ranks of whom 32 were unfit.
22 October: In train. Depot at Barrackpore.
23 October: Regiment arrives Jubbulpore at 10 pm. Depot at Barrackpore.
24 October: Depot leaves Barrackpore at 10 pm.
25 October: Depot in train. 39 Punjabi Mussalman reservists join at Jubbulpore from Rawalpindi.
26 October: Depot arrives at Jubbulpore at 10 pm. 200 non-commissioned officers and men arrive at Jubbulpore from 72nd Punjabis Peshawar as a draft at 10 pm.
27 October: Mobilising.
28 October: 21 Punjabi Mussalman reservists join from Jhelum. 12 machine gun mules arrive from 1/3rd Gurkhas at Almora.
29 October: Regiment leaves Jubbulpre by train en route for Karachi. Rifles and kits of seventy-three Sikh reservists who are to join the regiment at Delhi accompany regiment and are carried by unfit men and recruits. Time of departure 3 pm. Depot remains at Jubbulpore. Officer commanding depot Captain G. H. J. Barrett also with Depot Second Lieutenant W. R. F. Trevelyan.
30 October: Jhansi – Gwalior (where regiment was entrained by state) – Agra – Delhi (arrive 22:30 hours pick up and equip 73 Sikh reservists leave 23:30 hours).
31 October – Jind – Narwara – Bhatinda (arrive 12:30 hours leave 13:30) Abukar (report received here that eleven Sikhs have deserted at Bhatinda. Wires sent for their arrest). Macleodghanj – Bahawalnagar. 12 Sikh reservists wired for.
1 November: Samasata – Rohri.
2 November 1914 – Arrived Karachi at 12 noon. Embarked in British India Steam Ship Takada. Lieutenant Todd and ponied embark in S.S. Frienfels. Major Graham and Sub Assistant Surgeon Lal Singh embark in S.S. City of Nagpur. 21 non-commissioned officers and men left in hospital at Karachi suffering from itch and ringworm. 3 more Sikhs found to have deserted at evening roll call. SS Takada leaves Kemari wharf at 9 pm and lies off Manora for night of 2nd 3rd. Wire received saying that 12 Sikh reservists will arrive at Karachi on 3rd from Lahore to replace deserters. Units in SS Takada, 24th Punjabis, 93rd Burma Infantry 200 Royal Artillery details and 100 31st Mule Corps.
3 November: Convoy sails at 6 am escorted by H.M.S. Duke of Edinburgh and Northbrook.
4 – 8 November: At sea.
9 November 1914 – Arrived Aden at 7 am and disembark. Subadars Hira Singh and Barkat Ali and 76 rank and file suffering from itch and ringworm.
10 November: Leave Aden 2:30 pm.
11 – 15 November: At sea.
16 November: Arrived Suez 10 am. Remained in roads.
17 November: Remains in roads.
19 November: Disembarked and left in two trains. 1st train at 12:30 with Headquarters, 1 and 2 Double Companies and baggage also rations for 30 days. 2nd train at 2 pm with 3 and 4 Double Companies under Lieutenant-Colonel Whitehead. 4 sick men left in Suez. 1st train arrived at Kantara at 4:30 pm. 2nd train arrived at Kantara at 7:30 pm. Baggage was unloaded and stacked near station and regiment bivouacked by side of railway line.
20 November: Regiment and baggage crossed the Canal to east bank by ferry. Paraded on alarm posts at 4:30 pm and slept there. No1 and 4 Double Companies on perimeter. No.3 in reserve. No.2 loaded baggage of 1/4th Gurkhas and slept in camp which was pitched 400 yards south of ferry. Enemy reported by camel corps 50 miles North East of Kantara. Patrol of Bikaner Camel Corps cut up (15 reported killed).
21 November: Moved camp, kits and baggage into the perimeter. 1 and 4 Double Companies perimeter. 2 and 3 general reserve. Headquarters in Police Station. Machine gun section on perimeter. Other units in force 21st Kohat Mountain Battery, 27th Punjabis and about 80 men of the Bikaner Camel Corps. Entrenching, fatigues and demolishing village. 1 sentry found asleep on post.
22 November: In camp. Entrenching, fatigues and demolishing village. No.2 Double Company (100 rifles) sent on night outpost in trenches protecting north and south flank of position. No.3 remain in reserve. Shower of rain about 11 pm.
23 November: In camp. Entrenching and demolishing village. No.3 (E Company deficiencies from F) went out to patrol under Lieutenant Todd. Left camp at 6 am returned 5 pm. No news of enemy. One Arab captured by Camel Corps. General Wilson inspected camp and defences. 1 Squadron of Patiala Lancers arrived in camp.
24 November: In camp. Entrenching and demolishing village. F Company and 40 rifles from No.2 Double Company went out to patrol under Lieutenant Pegg. Left camp 4 am returned 5 pm. Camel Corps out on screen. No news of enemy.
25 November: In camp as before. E Company under Lieutenant Todd on patrol with Camel Corps and Patiala Lancers went out at 4 am returned 5 pm. Enemy seen at about 3,000 yards strength estimated by Todd at about 100
26 November: In camp as before. F Company out patrolling under Lieutenant Haycroft covered by Patiala Lancers and Camel Corps. No signs of enemy. 6:30 pm rain began to fall and continued raining till 4 am. One squadron Patiala Lancers arrived in camp. Making 2 in all.
27 November: In camp as before. C Company out patrolling under Major Simpson covered by Patiala Lancers and Camel Corps. Biplane arrived in camp from Ismailia at 9:30 am and left camp and reconnoitred towards El-Ahram at 11 am. Very high wind from west blew all day.
28 November: In camp. An easy day. No.2 Double Company put on perimeter. No.3 alone now in reserve. F Company out patrol duty under Lieutenant Taylor. Wind gradually dropped but cold. No news of enemy.
29 November: In camp. E Company out patrol duty under Second Lieutenant Hodson. General Maxwell and staff inspected camp and expressed great satisfaction with trenches and work done. More attention should now be paid to sanitation.
30 November: In camp. F Company out on patrol under Lieutenant Todd.
Only a few entries for December 1914 are transcribed below.
13 December 1914 – Kantara – Holiday… Up till now health of regiment has been good. Altogether fifteen men have been sent away sick. Four at Suez and eleven at Kantara. The itch and ringworm is being rapidly got in hand and should shortly disappear. Men are now living in tents. Also officers. There is less night work.
28 December 1914 – Kantara – 4 deserters brought in by Mysore Lancers at 4 pm having been caught about 20 miles South East of Kantara Post. There had previously been desertions from Pathans of 128th Pioneers at Ismailia.
31 December 1914 – Kantara – 3 deserters shot at 7 am by firing party of 93rd and 14th Sikhs. 1 deserter’s sentence commuted to imprisonment for life on account of his youth and short service.