96th Berar Infantry

This article will look at the role of the 96th Berar Infantry during the First World War and will help you research those who served with the Regiment. I have written a separate article for the war-raised 2nd Battalion 96th Berar Infantry and a series of guides to help you research those who served in the Indian Army during the war:

The 96th Berar Infantry in the First World War

Lineage: Raised at Hyderabad in 1797 as the 2nd Battalion Aurangabad Division and afterwards became the 2nd Battalion Berar Infantry. In 1826 it became the 3rd Regiment of Infantry Nizam’s Army and then the 3rd Infantry Hyderabad Contingent in 1854. In 1903 it was designated the 96th Berar Infantry and became the 2nd Battalion 19th Hyderabad Regiment in 1922.

Composition in 1914: 3 Companies of Rajputs, 2 Companies of Jats and 3 Companies of Hindustani Muslims. 1919: 1 1/2 Companies of Rajputs, 1 Company of Jats and 1 1/2 Companies of Hindustani Muslims.

Location in July 1914: The 96th Berar Infantry was stationed at Mhow (Madhya Pradesh, India) having arrived from Bombay (Mumbai, Maharashtra, India) on 4th March 1912.

When Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914, the 96th Berar Infantry was stationed at Mhow, India. In a confidential report dated 6 February 1914, Major-General Richard Lloyd-Payne, Commanding 5th (Mhow) Division reported:

Turn-out: Smart, and men well set up.

Efficiency in Drill: Handle their arms well and drill steadily in close and ceremonial.

Manoeuvre: Quick in movement and realize the value of taking cover.

Fire discipline and control: Satisfactory.

Musketry: Satisfactory, an improvement since last year.

Signalling: Satisfactory.

Care of equipment and accoutrements: Satisfactory.

Personnel: British officers are a very senior body and well up in their duties. There are only three subalterns. The Indian officers are intelligent. The rank and file a useful body of men.

Discipline: Most satisfactory.

Conduct: Almost an entire absence of crime.

Health: Very satisfactory. The number of sick never exceeding 3 per cent of strength.

Physique: Good. Recruits a promising lot.

Interior economy: Well supervised and a good system prevails. Due economy is practised in regard to clothing deductions.

General efficiency: Very efficient. A good feeling and tone exists in the regiment. The regiment is in all respects “Fit for service”. Independence of action and individuality encouraged.

Confidential review reports on Indian Army units for 1913-1914IOR/L/MIL/7/17023

The Regiment remained in India for the first year of the war before it moved to Persia, now Iran and became part of Bushire Force in August 1915. The Regiment remained in the Middle East until 1921 and had a rather uneventful war. Apart from brief service with the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division between July and November 1916, the Regiment was used on the Lines of Communications. There are war diaries (discussed below) which record the exact location of the Regiment between August 1915 and March 1920. In March 1918, the Regiment raised a second battalion and the original unit became known as the 1st Battalion 96th Berar Infantry.

The 96th Berar Infantry returned to India in 1921 and in the July 1921 Indian Army List was stationed at Rangoon (Yangon, Myanmar) with a detachment at Port Blair (Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India). In 1922, the 96th Berar Infantry was redesignated as the 2nd Battalion 19th Hyderabad Regiment. The extract below was taken from the October 1914 Indian Army List and recorded the British officers serving with the Regiment.96th Berar Infantry British Officers 1914

War Diaries of the 96th Berar Infantry

A war diary was written by an officer of a unit and recorded its location and activities. There are six war diaries for the 96th Berar Infantry and all have been digitized by the National Archives. To download the war diaries for a small fee click on the blue links below.

  • Date: 01 August 1915 – 30 June 1916
  • Bushire Force
  • Reference: WO 95/5010/4
  • Notes: A good war diary with many long entries especially when the Regiment was in action.
  • Date: 01 July – 30 November 1916
  •  3rd (Lahore) Division, 7th Indian Infantry Brigade, Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5107/6
  • Notes: An average war diary which contains a couple of interesting entries (August 1916) regarding the court-martial of six soldiers from the 96th Berar Infantry who refused to eat the food provided to them in hospital.
  • Date: 01 December 1916 – 31 December 1917
  • Tigris Defences and Communications, Baghailah, Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5020/8
  • Notes: An average war diary for a unit serving on the Lines of Communication with brief entries, though there are a few longer passages. There are a handful of appendices relating to notes made by the commanding officer of a mobile column and work carried out by detachments. There is a list of British officers serving with the 96th Berar Infantry on 31 December 1917.
  • Date: 01 January – 31 December 1918
  • Base and Defence Troops, Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5035/11
  • Notes: A good war diary where British and Indian officers are mentioned throughout along with other ranks (regimental numbers are usually recorded). Appendices include nominal rolls of British officers serving with the 96th Berar Infantry on 24 February, 29 April and 14 July 1918. Also, the distribution of the Regiment on 21 March 1918.
  • Date: 01 January – 30 April 1919
  • Headquarters Troops, Qurnah, Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5021/8
  • Notes: Very little occurred and most entries are brief, though British and Indian officers are mentioned throughout.
  • Date: 01 May 1919 – 31 March 1920
  • Tigris Defences and Communications
  • Reference: WO 95/5018/10
  • Notes: An average war diary which contains a roll of British officers serving with the Regiment in July 1919.

Further Sources for the 96th Berar Infantry

If you’re researching British or Indian officers who served with the 96th Berar Infantry, the Indian Army List can be consulted. A good resource are the annual confidential reports for the Regiment held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etcThese reports also contain the annual confidential reports of the British officers serving with it. Though, when the 96th Berar Infantry was abroad only its Depot and the officers serving with it are reported on.

There is also a regimental history: Regimental History of the 2/19th Hyderabad Regiment (Berar) by J. Coney. This is a small book based on regimental orders which recorded a history of the Regiment from its origins until 1922 in 32 pages. The book contains a list of Indian soldiers with their regimental number who received land grants for their service in the war. This is a difficult book to find as it hasn’t been reprinted. A copy is held at the British Library.

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 War Diaries of the 96th Berar 

01 July – 30 November 1916, Mesopotamia, WO 95/5107/6

1 July 1916: 4 am: Twin Canals: 2 British officers and 150 men went as escort to convoy conveying sick to Sandy Ridge. From there escort moved to Arab Village and brought back 3rd Divisional Supply Column and 2 field ambulances to Twin Canals leaving 6 pm. The Company which was attached to 89th Punjabis on 29 June rejoined.

21 July 1916: Twin Canals: Early in the month names were submitted of men who proceeded on field service during first 9 months of war and who had not been invalided to India sick or wounded ever since. This with a view of giving them 1 months leave. Names of 3 British officers, 10 Indian officers, 22 Havildars, 19 Naiks and 231 men submitted.

6 August 1916: Twin Canals: No. Sepoy Ibrahim, one of three men on guard at No.3 piquet (bridges) was fired on by a party of 10 Arabs at about 3 am while he was getting out of his trench after being relieved and was slightly wounded in the foot. Picquet fired at Arabs but with no apparent result.

7 September 1916: Thorny Nullah Camp – Draft of 82 Hindustani Mahomedans arrived here at 6 pm this evening from 95th Russel’s Infantry. Also 10 Jats and 2 Rajputs from regimental depot.

3 November 1916: Twin Canals: 5 am: No.2998 Sepoy Juglal while under punishment for feigning sickness while in hospital committed suicide. 10 am: A court of enquiry assembled with Major C. H. Jardine as president and Second Lieutenant J. Jefferies, Subadar Sukhram Singh as members to enquire into how Sepoy Juglal met his death. Court dispersed with opinion that Sepoy Juglal committed suicide while temporally insane.

01 January – 31 December 1918, Mesopotamia, WO 95/5035/11

04 January 1918: Baghailah: A summary general court-martial assembled at the Headquarters of the 96th Infantry to try No. 3162 Sepoy Abdulla 96th Infantry on the following charge “attempting to commit an offence of an indecent kind and doing an act towards its commission”.

05 January 1918: Baghailah: No. 3162 Sepoy Abdulla sentenced to “Rigorous imprisonment 1 year”.

25 February 1918: Beled: Information received that Government have sanctioned formation of 2nd Battalion 96th Berar Infantry. Following to be returned to India to form nucleus for new battalion. 1 Subadar as Subadar-Major. 6 Jemadars as Subadars. 6 Havildars as Jemadars. 20 Naiks as Havildars. 20 Lance-Naiks as Naiks and 47 old soldiers.

01 April 1918: Belad: Terrific gale and heavy rain throughout the day. Camp soaked and many tents flattened. Issue of rum sanctioned and made to all troops. Bad weather still continues.

18 April 1918: Belad: No. 2716 Naik Ramsewak Singh appointed Lance-Havildar with effect from this date for good work done in apprehending Arab thieves.

22 April 1918: Belad: Priority wire received from officer commanding Detachment Samarrah, states, that No. 1551 Lance Naik Nurunjan Swami shot himself at 5 am this morning.

24 September 1918: Belad: Epidemic of influenza broke out amongst men of detachment at Belad.

01 January – 30 April 1919, Mesopotamia, WO 95/5021/18

1 January 1919: Baghdad: Orders received from advanced defences to the effect that Regimental Headquarters and two companies will proceed downstream forthwith. Headquarters to be at Qurnah and detachments to be provided at the Central Control Station, Ezra’s Tomb and Hammar Lake; also that the remaining two companies will remain in Baghdad, shortly proceeding to advanced base for duty under advanced section.

4 March 1919: Qurnah: Information received from Subadar Allaudin officer commanding detachment Ezra’s Tomb that the ambulance train collided with No. 39 UP troop train at Ezra’s Tomb. 11 men killed and 37 injured. Accident occurring at 4:28 am this morning.

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