97th Deccan Infantry

This article looks at the role of the 97th Deccan 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 97th Deccan Infantry and a series of guides to help you research those who served in the Indian Army during the First World War:

The 97th Deccan Infantry in the First World War

Lineage: The Regiment was raised at Hyderabad in 1794 by Monsieur Raymond and became the 3rd Battalion Aurangabad Division and then the 3rd Battalion Berar Infantry. In 1826 it became the 4th Regiment of Infantry Nizam’s Army and then the 4th Infantry, Hyderabad Contingent in 1854. In 1903 it was redesignated the 97th Deccan Infantry and became the 3rd Battalion 19th Hyderabad Regiment in 1922.

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

Location in July 1914: The 97th Deccan Infantry was stationed at Jubbulpore (Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, India) having arrived from Bolarum (Hyderabad, India) on 7th March 1910.

In August 1914, the 97th Deccan Infantry was stationed at Jubbulpore now Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh having arrived there from Bolarum, Hyderabad on 7 March 1910. It was serving as part of the Jubbulpore Brigade in the 5th (Mhow) Division. The first year of the war was uneventful with the Regiment providing guards on the Great Indian Peninsular Railway between the cities of Jubbulpore and Bushawal, separated by over 340 miles of track. The Regiment sent out a draft of two British officers, four Indian officers and 150 Indian other ranks to the 98th Indian Infantry which took part in the disastrous Battle of Tanga in early November. The extract below was taken from the October 1914 Indian Army List and recorded the British officers serving with the Regiment. British Officers 97th Deccan Infantry

The Regiment then received orders to proceed to the North West Frontier which always needed a large Anglo-Indian garrison. On 24 October 1914, the 97th Deccan Infantry arrived at Dera Ismail Khan. The Regiment was to spend the next year on the frontier and was widely dispersed in the region. In May 1915, the unit had one and a quarter companies at Dera Ismail Khan, half a company at Zam, Jajuri and Katch, a company at Tank, another at Nili Katch, one and a quarter at Jandola and two companies scattered on outpost duty. It was serving as part of the Derajat Brigade at the time. On 23 October, the 97th Deccan Infantry received orders to mobilize while it was stationed at Tank.

The Regiment travelled to Mesopotamia in two halves, the first of which boarded the SS Edavana at Karachi on 30 November and arrived at Basra, Mesopotamia (Iraq) on 6 December 1915. The second boarded the SS Muttra at Karachi on 3 December and arrived at Basra six days later. In Mesopotamia, the unit joined the 35th Indian Infantry Brigade Headquarters which was part of the 14th Indian Infantry Division. The Regiment served in a variety of formations during the war. In early 1916, it took part in the attempts to relieve the 6th (Poona) Division which was besieged at Kut-al-Amara.

The 97th Deccan Infantry’s first battle of the war was the Battle of Sheikh Sa’ad (6-8 January 1916) where the Regiment suffered over 160 casualties. The Regiment then fought at the Battle of the Wadi on 13 January and sustained 20 casualties, including four Indian officers. There was little respite for the Regiment in January as it fought again at the Battle of Hanna on 21 January and suffered over 150 casualties. After the three battles, the only British officers left with the Regiment were Lieutenants O. Cox and Sidney Hauser of the Indian Army Reserve of Officers. There are good accounts of the part played by the Regiment during the battles in the regimental history discussed below.Richard de Lisle 97th Deccan Infantry

Second Lieutenant Richard de Beauvoir de Lisle was one of the British officers killed in action on 21 January 1916 during the Battle of Hanna. He had been commissioned on 16 December 1914 and had joined the Regiment on 12 February 1915. Beauvoir de Lisle is commemorated on the Basra Memorial to those with no known graves.

The Regiment didn’t take an active part in the Battle of Dujaila on 8 March 1916 and after the fall of Kut-al-Amara in April 1916 was sent to Ali Gharbi to reform. In May, the 97th Deccan Infantry was sent to Basra where it remained until proceeding to Ahwaz in August 1916. The Regiment remained at Ahwaz apart from brief interludes until July 1917. In August, the Regiment joined the 50th Indian Infantry Brigade, 17th Indian Division and moved frequently during the remainder of the war. I  recommend combining the regimental history with the 97th Deccan Infantry’s war diaries for this period. The Regiment arrived at Hit on 10 March 1918 where it stayed for the remainder of the First World War. The 97th Deccan Infantry moved to Ramadi on 1 February 1919 and subsequently to Baghdad where it arrived on 10 March 1919 and returned to India the same month. In 1922, the 97th Deccan Infantry was redesignated as the 3rd Battalion 19th Hyderabad Regiment. A 2nd Battalion 97th Deccan Infantry was raised at Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh on 27 June 1917.

War Diaries of the 97th Deccan Infantry

There are five war diaries for the 97th Deccan Infantry and the first four covering the Regiment’s service in Mesopotamia have been digitized. To download these war diaries for a small fee click on the blue links below. The last war diary covering the Third Anglo-Afghan War hasn’t been digitized and can only be viewed at the National Archives.

  • Date: 23 October 1915 – 30 April 1916
  • Reference: WO 95/5176/2
  • 35th Indian Infantry Brigade, 14th Indian Division
  • Notes: A short war diary of fewer than twenty pages which is missing February 1916. Despite this, the diary contains detailed accounts of the part the Regiment took in the Kut-al-Amara relief attempts. Only British and Indian Officers mentioned by name.
  • Date: 01 May 1916 – 31 July 1917
  • Karun Front
  • Reference: WO 95/5012/3
  • Notes: A poor war diary which contains details of the comings and goings of British officers. After July 1916, the majority of the months only contain a few entries on a single page.
  • Date: 13 August – 30 September 1917
  • 50th Infantry Brigade, 17th Indian Division, Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5209/14
  • Notes: A good war diary which provides great detail regarding the 97th Deccan Infantry’s activities during August and September 1917.
  • Date: 01 October 1917 -29 March 1919
  • 50th Indian Infantry Brigade, 15th Indian Division
  • Reference: WO 95/5198/7
  • Notes: A very detailed war diary with many of the daily entries filling an entire page. There are a number of appendices, including a couple of nominal rolls of British Officers and a five-page account titled ‘General observations on operations connected with capture of Khan Baghdadi and the seizing of Haditha and Anah’.
  • Date: 09 June- 30 September 1919
  • Baluchistan Force
  • Reference: WO 95/5395
  • Notes: A short war diary with mostly brief entries.

Further Sources for the 97th Deccan Infantry

I recommend downloading the regimental history The Story of the 97th Deccan Infantry by W. C. Kirkwood. If you are looking for information regarding the British and Indian officers who served with the Regiment then the Indian Army List can be consulted. A good resource is the Regiment’s 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 97th Deccan Infantry. Though, when the 97th Deccan Infantry was abroad only the Depot and the officers serving with it were reported on.

Extracts from War Diaries of the 97th Deccan Infantry 

23 October 1915: Tank: Regiment demoblized and prepared all mobilization kit for handing over to the 99th Infantry.

26 October 1915: Tank: Received orders to mobilize at Multan. 99th Infantry arrives.

27 October 1915: Received orders to mobilize at Multan. 99th Infantry arrived. Left by route march for Dera Ismail Khan.

30 October 1915: Dera Ismail Khan: Arrived.

1 November 1915: Left Dera Ismail Khan by route march arrived Darya Khan [twenty-six miles away] and entrained.

2 November 1915: Multan: Arrived and detrained, marched to barracks.

24 November 1915: Multan: Orders received by wire to proceed to Karachi for service overseas.

27 November 1915: Multan: Headquarters and right half battalion entrained.

29 November 1915: Karachi: Arrived (Headquarters and right half battalion)

29 November 1915: Multan: Left half battalion entrained.

30 November 1915: Kiamari: Headquarters and right half battalion embarked on SS Edavana.

1 December: Karachi: Left half battalion arrived.

3 December: Kiamari: Left half battalion embarked on S.S. Muttra.

6 December 1915: Headquarters and right half battalion arrived Basra.

7 December 1915: Headquarters and right half battalion disembarked. Due to time taken by 102nd Grenadiers and shortages of transport arrived Ashar Barracks 9:30 pm. Much trouble with carts falling over edge of road to and from landing stage to barracks in the dark.

9 December: Basra: Left half battalion arrived.

9 December: Embarked on river boats. General Aylmer and staff onboard. Horses and machine gun mules left behind.

12 December: Amara: Headquarters and right half battalion arrived and disembarked.

14 December: Left half battalion embarked on river boats.

19 December 1915: Ali-al-Girbi: Left half battalion arrived and went into details camp on right bank of Tigris.

12 – 17 December 1915: Standing camp for Headquarters and right half battalion on left bank of Tigris.

21 January 1916: 6 am Advanced 350 yards to trench previously dug and waited there. 7.45 am 10 minutes intense bombardment under which the regiment advanced and joined the 6th Jats. Heavy casualties suffered. The enemy’s second line of trenches was reached. A temporary footing was gained in the trenches but owing to heavy casualties and a lack of reinforcements the Turkish bomb throwers supported by heavy machine gun fire forced the regiment to retire to the trench 200 yards from enemy’s front line. This position was held till dark.

26 November 1916 Dizful. Column marched towards Shalgahi but, in consequence of news received from Assistant Political Officer of possible attack by Allarwand tribesmen, returned to camp Dizful. The same evening A Company under Captain Kirkwood crossed the R.D12 by [?] and garrisoned Khushk ”palace” against reported impending attack by the above mentioned tribesman.

11 December 1917: Feluja: 2 Indian Other Ranks killed and 7 injured in a bomb accident. Owing to cold weather warm clothing taken into use by all ranks.

7 January 1918: Felujah: [notice how Fallujah is spelt differently from the entry above, Arabic place names can vary dramatically in their spelling]. Hot baths opened at Felujah for all ranks.

25 February: Uqbah: An enemy aeroplane bombed the amp this afternoon dropping 5 or 6 bombs. There were three casualties in the Oxfords. The Regiment had only just arrived in a new camping ground, the first one having been taken over by a Casualty Clearing Station. When the enemy aeroplane arrived over camp. All the men were digging aeroplane trenches at the time and they were only about two feet deep so it was fortunate that no bombs actually fell in our camp.

General Observations on Operations connected with capture of Khan Baghdadi and the seizing of Haditha and Anah.

2. Insulated food cans were used to carry hot tea. These worked well, the tea being issued at Wadi Hauran having kept hot for about 8 hours.

5. The importance of not throwing away detonator boxes when bombs were fuzed should be impressed on all bombing section commanders. In some cases boxes were either thrown away or lost and means had to be improvised to wrap detonators up in paper etc when the time came to unfuze bombs.

May 1918 General. The most important happening of the month has been the outbreak of scurvy in the regiment. About 30 cases were evacuated to hospital during the month. This probably the result of poor dieting during the earlier part of the year and of the continued hard work which the regiment has had to perform. The rations as at present issued are very good containing a large amount of fresh vegetables and fresh meat and if they had been available earlier on might have prevented the outbreak.

The disease is not showing the usual symptom in all cases, about 75% of the cases not having the typical scurvy gums. Most men seem to get swellings in the leg and thigh.

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