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(British) Indian Army Officers Serving in British Battalions


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Hello - I am trying to establish the number of serving British Indian Army Officers who were in Britian at the outbreak of the war on leave and who were ordered to remain in Britain in order to help form the Kitchener Battalions. My interest is in the serving Officers, not Retired Officers who were drafted in.

As part of my research into units that fought at Gallipoli, particularly the Kitchener Divisions, I discovered that there were a number of Battalion Officers who had originally served in the Indian Army. I understand from a little research that British Officers serving with the Indian Army who were in England on furlough (leave) in August 1914 were ordered to stay in England in order to form a cadre of officers that could be used to stiffen the Officer ranks of the new Battalions being formed. It seems that they were mostly sent to the Kitchener Battalions rather than the Territorial Battalions, although I am sure there are examples of both. Additionally I notice that a few retired Officers from the Indian Army also appear. My interest is specifically in the serving officers who happened to be in Britain in Aug 1914 and were ordered to stay.

A few examples from the 10th (Irish) Division, 11th (Northern) Division and the 13th (Western) Division (all taken from the May 1915 Army List)

8th (Service) Bn the Northumberland Fusiliers who had four Officers from the Indian Army of which three came from the same Regiment. All (I think) were company commanders:

Major W De L Passy - 25th Punjabis

Capt C H Tyrrell - 25th Punjabis

Capt G W Atkins - 25th Punjabis

Capt C R L Fitzgerald - 126th Baluchis

9th (Service) Bn West Yorkshire Regt

Capt W B Hore - 120th Rajputana Infantry

8th Bn Duke of Wellington's (West Riding) Regiment)

Capt W Padday - 36th Sikhs

Capt F W Lethbridge - Indian S C

6th (Service) Bn Lincolnshire Regiment

Maj D,A McK Fraser - Capt, Indian Army

9th (Service) Bn Sherwood Foresters

Capt G H Chambers - Indian Army

10th (Service) Bn Hampshire Regiment

Capt G D McCormick - 72nd Punjabis

6th Bn Royal Irish Rifles

Capt A L Wilford - Indian Army

Capt P D Green-Armytage - 117th Mahrattas

6th (Service) Bn Princess Victoria's (Royal Irish Rifles)

Capt F G M Wigley - Lt, Indian Army

5th (Service) Bn Connaught Rangers

Maj N C K Money - Capt, 22nd Punjabis

7th (Service) Bn Royal Dublin Fusiliers

Maj R S M Harrison - Capt, 51st Sikhs (Frontier Force)

6th (Service) Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

Maj H W Whitwell - Capt, 13th Rajputs (The Shekhawati Regiment)

9th (Service) Bn Royal Warwickshire Regiment

Maj R Shuttleworth - Capt, Indian Army

8th (Service) Bn Cheshire Regiment

Capt H M Leapman - 13th Rajputs (The Shekhawati Regiment)

8th (Service) Bn Welsh Regiment (Pioneers)

Maj J A Bald - Indian Army

5th (Service) Bn The Duke of Edinburgh's (Wiltshire Regiment)

Maj H W F Ricketts - 93rd Burma Infantry

I have found a few others scattered among other Kitchener Army units and I am trying to establish how many British Indian Army Officers were separated from their Indian Army regiments and were drafted into newly formed British Army units. I have found a few in Bde HQ staff too. Any examples, particularly from the first year of the Great War would be gratefully received. Similarly if anyone can point me to any detailed research on this I would be grateful.

Thank you in advance. MG

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I dont see Capt Blackadder in your list. :excl:

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Hi Martin,

The Sparling brothers fall into this category, I think?

Major N.C.Sparling(54th Sikhs)served with the 6th KOSB and was Kia 25/9/15 at the battle of Loos.

Major S.J.B.Sparling(57th Rifles)served with Howe Bn R.N.D. and was Kia 4/6/15 at Gallipoli.

I suppose that Sydney Sparling may not quite fit but his obituary states: "--in November 1914 he proceeded to England on six months leave on medical certificate. In February 1915 he was offered a temporary appointment in the Royal Marines, with the rank of Major, which he accepted, becoming Adjutant of the 'Howe' battalion Royal Naval Division."

Hope these are of interest.

Robert

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Hi Martin,

The Sparling brothers fall into this category, I think?

Major N.C.Sparling(54th Sikhs)served with the 6th KOSB and was Kia 25/9/15 at the battle of Loos.

Major S.J.B.Sparling(57th Rifles)served with Howe Bn R.N.D. and was Kia 4/6/15 at Gallipoli.

I suppose that Sydney Sparling may not quite fit but his obituary states: "--in November 1914 he proceeded to England on six months leave on medical certificate. In February 1915 he was offered a temporary appointment in the Royal Marines, with the rank of Major, which he accepted, becoming Adjutant of the 'Howe' battalion Royal Naval Division."

Hope these are of interest.

Robert

This is exactly the kind of records I am looking for...many thanks Robert.

MG

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Martin,

Another one:

Major J.G.Jennings, 66th Punjabis attached 6th Royal Dublin Fusiliers as 2/IC, Kia 9th August,1915 at Gallipoli.

Robert

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And another:

Captain P.T.L.Thompson, 79th Inf? att'd 6th R.D.Fus.

Incidentally I think that Major R.S.M.Harrison was 7th R.D.Fus?

Robert

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I have found a few more and a couple of additional men from the Ceylon Vols...... I have not included Lt Colonels as it is unclear to me if they were serving at the outbreak of the War or were brought out of retirement. There are just too many to seem to have all been on furlough.... there are roughly 70 Lt Cols from the Indian Army who were commanding Service Battalions in May 1915...some, but not all are annotated as retired. There are about 30 retired Majors, ex Indian Army on the lists too. The following are the ones who I am fairly sure were serving Officers in England at the outbreak of the War...

11th (Service) Bn The Royal Scots

Major K R Cloughin........Capt 14th KGO Ferozepore Sikhs

12th (Service) Bn The Royal Scots

Capt L J Torrie............Lt Indian Army

11th (Service) Bn King's Liverpool Regiment (Pioneers)

Maj S B Watson...........64th Pioneers

Lt C M Longbotham.....72nd Punjabis

12th (Service) Bn King's Liverpool Regiment

Capt L Forbes...............57th Wilde's Rifles (Frontier Force)

13th (Service) Bn King's Liverpool Regiment

Capt G C Bampfield......90th Punjabis

8th (Service) Bn Leicestershire Regt

Capt A L Morris.............17th Infantry (The Loyal Regiment)

Capt H A Ironside..........Lt Singapore Volunteer Corps

13th (Service) Bn Lancashire Fusiliers

Maj R N S Gordon.......Capt Indian Army

17th (Service) Bn Lancashire Fusiliers

Maj A de L Faunce.........9th Bhopal Infantry

6th (Service) Bn Royal Scots Fusiliers

Maj G O Turnbull......Capt 26th Punjabis

9th (Service) Bn Royal Scots Fusiliers

Capt A S B Roberts........Indian Army surplus list

9th (Service) Bn Royal Welsh Fusiliers

Capt C B Harcourt......28th Punjabis

10th (Service) Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

Maj F G Kunhardt.....Capt 74th Punjabis

10th (Service) Bn Worcestershire Regt

Maj E A Maude......Capt 26th Punjabis

11th (Service) Bn East Surrey Regt

Maj A B Tillard DSO.........Indian Army

5th (Service) Bn Ox & Bucks Light Infantry

Maj W F R Webb................22nd Punjabis

6th (Service) Bn Shropshire Regt

Capt T A Davis.................8th Rajputs

8th (Service) Bn KRRC

Capt C B de Mowbray.......Capt Ceylon Volunteers

11th (Service) Bn KRRC

Maj A J Verini...................Capt Ceylon Volunteers

14th (Service) Bn Durham Light Infantry

Capt R E G Berkeley..........Indian Army

6th (Service) Bn Cameron Highlanders

Capt H W Milne..................74th Punjabis

If anyone can track down more, I would be extremely grateful......MG

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Another possible:

Lt.Col.Harold Lewis(37th Lancers) was C.O. of the 20th(Pals)Bn Manchester Regt and was Kia 1/7/16

Robert

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Thanks Od Owl....looks like he was posted in afterwards. The Army List for may 1915 does not show him with the 20th Bn.....

My focus is for the Officers who were in Britain in August 1914, prevented from returning and drafted into the Bns being formed. My guess is that there can't be that many as only a small per cent would be allowed home on furlough at any one time.

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Here's one for you:

SETON Captain Henry Winton - Born on 1 August 1887. Commissioned into the Indian Army on 25 January 1908 and joined 1/9th Gurkha Rifles. Served on the North West Frontier in 1908 at the engagement at Matta. India General Service Medal and clasp ‘North West Frontier 1908’. Lieutenant 25 April 1910. Attached to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Princess Victoria’s (Royal Irish Fusiliers) (County Armagh) as adjutant in November 1914. Captain 1 September 1915. To France with 36th (Ulster) Division in October 1915. 1914-15 Star. Left on 6 December 1915 to return to 1/9th Gurkha Rifles, but joined 20th (Reserve) Battalion, The Royal Irish Rifles on 19 June 1916 as adjutant to Lieutenant Colonel S W W Blacker. Relinquished his appointment 15 May 1918. Retired on account of ill-health 25 July 1923. Died at Cornwall in 1976, aged 89.

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All officers whether serving in the British or Indian armies had been commisioned into HM Land Forces. However, no officers were 'drafted' anywhere in the sense you are using the term. 'Draft' in UK land forces means a group of soldiers who have been posted to a unit travelling as a body to that unit.

Edited by Keith Roberts
Phrase deleted to remove potential offence.
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I may not be quite getting this but :D

Is it worth using 'Officers Died Great War'

Input Regt, Corps etc ' Northumberland Fusiliers '

Battalion/etc ' 2nd Battalion '

Supplementary Notes 'ATT'

For example Sydney Reginald Swift 2nd Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers attached 8th battalion

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"My interest is specifically in the serving officers who happened to be in Britain in Aug 1914 and were ordered to stay."

Martin, would your request include IO's who were on furlough in the UK before outbreak of war but instead of being sent to a British Regiment, they were sent back to France to another Indian/Gurka Regt because of excessive officer casulities?

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Seaforth - I am only interested in those on furlough in the UK who were sent to 'British' infantry battalions at the beginning of the war when recruiting for Kitchener's units was at its height. What is driving this is that when the Kitchener Bns of the 10th and 11th Divs went into action at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, this was the first time that Kitchener's army was used en masse in the assault. Casualties were extremely high (Officers 98% and ORs 68% within 2 weeks) in these units and responsibility for Bn command devolved to inexperienced junior officers quite rapidly. It was apparent that the lack of combat experience among the officers was a factor. Some Bns had officers from the Indian Army, some TF (ex VB) Officers with Boer War experience and I was interested in the former group to try and establish if there was any pattern to the way they were distributed among the Bns when they were being formed.

I am curious as to why the 8th Bn Northumberland Fus had four Company Commanders from the Indian Army while other Bns had none. It would have made sense to have distributed men with regular Army and /or Boer war experience evenly among the units being formed. The Army List annotates Officers who have served overseas (in war) so it is easy to see how unevenly these experienced men were distributed. I am very familiar with the units that served in Gallipoli but not at all familiar with the Kitchener units that served in France in 1915 and wondered if they had similar patterns - can anyone tell me which Kitchener Divisions were the first to go to France?

Doubtless there were many other factors. The rapid expansion of the Army in 1914-15 quickly outstripped the supply of experienced officers and given this critical factor, it seems a rather important oversight to have concentrated so much experience in some units while sending in others with relatively few experienced Officers. At Gallipoli one of the Bdes saw a few weeks trench warfare at Helles warfare before being sent into the Suvla Bay assualt and even that short, sharp experience made a big difference according to the Chief of Staff of the Div.

Interestingly I can find very few Indian Army officers in the TF units I have researched. It seems they were (all?) sent to the Kitchener Armies. Tracking down those who ended up on Bde and Div Staff is proving to be difficult.

As the war progressed and injured officers returned to duty I am sure we will find thousands of cases of Indian Army officers posted to 'British' units. My interests is in the Bns when they were being formed.

Thanks for your suggestion though. Appreciated.

MG

P.S. "Gurka" is spelled Gurkha or Goorkha (I hope you don't mind me pointing this out - I served 5 years with them and it is a point of Regimental pedantry... :) )

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All officers whether serving in the British or Indian armies had been commisioned into HM Land Forces. However, no officers were 'drafted' anywhere in the sense you are using the term. 'Draft' in UK land forces means a group of soldiers who have been posted to a unit travelling as a body to that unit.

I might be wrong, but my understanding that the Indian Army was separate from the British Army; I believe officers of the IA on leave in the UK in 1914 were, shall we say, "requisitioned" by the War Office to serve with Kitchener's Armies. Those on leave from units of the IA which were proceeding to France rejoined their units.

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Hi Martin,

Oh sorry about that, it was typo of course, my finger did not keep up with my brain... :closedeyes: As a matter of interest my man Edward Geoffrey Mildmay Buckley and his brotther Felix was in the 8th Battalion NF in France and Gallipoli. I have the former's sword.

Have you looked at the Bond of Sacrifice book? Its quite a useful book........

Cheers,

Seaforth

post-88538-0-15861500-1342893773_thumb.j

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  • Admin
can anyone tell me which Kitchener Divisions were the first to go to France?

I may be wrong but I think it was the 12th division followed by 14th division.

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Martin

I'm going to send you a PM regarding your research. Since you were a former Gurkha officer I'm sure you can help me.

Thanks

Seaforth

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I might be wrong, but my understanding that the Indian Army was separate from the British Army; I believe officers of the IA on leave in the UK in 1914 were, shall we say, "requisitioned" by the War Office to serve with Kitchener's Armies. Those on leave from units of the IA which were proceeding to France rejoined their units.

Yes it was, commanded by the Governor General in Council instead of the Army Council. I assume the posting of Indian Army officers to British regiments was agreed by the AG branches in the the War Office and GHQ Delhi. This means there'll be an official record probably listing all those affected, perhaps even two files - India Office (or possibly the Indian Army records at Sandhurst) and whichever WO series at Kew.

However, all officers were commissioned into HM Land Forces, some joined British regiments and corps and colonial regiments, others joined Indian regiments. My father was commiisoned from RMCS in 1917 and dispatched to the Indian Army (he passed out reasonably high - talent was needed to run the Empire), his commission states 'Land Forces'.

The problem was it took an additional 6 months of language training to produce Indian Army officers, officers weren't much use if they couldn't talk to their soldiers, who also (apart from Gurkhas) had to learn Urdu the language of the Indian Army.

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I see that officers at Sandhurst destined to the Indian Army had to take and pass a Hindustani class. I have the Sandhurst ledger records for Lt's JO NICOLLS and RA MACKEAN both class of 1908 and it shows their grades, but I wonder how the quality of their teachers were....

Furthermore, anyone at Sandhurst attempting to pass out to the Indian Army had to score quite high to make the cut. For instance the famous instance of Montgomery (also class of 1908) missing by a space for the IA was still keenly felt 40 years on.

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In the 1930s according to John Masters in "Bugles and a Tiger: My life in the Gurkhas" he had to spend some time (a year I think?) with a British Infantry Battalion before joining his Gurkha battalion. I assume this had been standard practice for many years.

The point on languages is an interesting one - using Indian Army officers to plug gaps in Kitchener units solved one problem but created another - as casualty rates climbed it would take longer to train new Officers to command Indian troops. I suspect the Indian Civil Service provided a large number of Officer recruits for this very reason. Urdu and Hindustani are essentially identical languages, the former being identified with the Muslim population and the latter of course with the Hindu population. Gurkhali (now often called Nepali) shares many words with Urdu/Hindustani. Most Gurkhas can speak good Hindi. I am not sure if the Officers in Sikh regiments would have learned Punjabi, but I am pretty sure it would have taken some time for any Officer to have sufficient command of the language(s) before he could handle the troops capably. Some Indian Army Officers came from Indian Army families so may already have had some understanding of the languages before joining up. I suspect everyone had to learn Urdu but Officers might also learn other tribal languages related directly to the men they commanded. My father-in-law who served in the Deccan Horse from the 1930s through WWII could certainly speak more than one Indian language.

I am not sure if the public schools such as Haileybury (founded by the East India Company) taught Urdu (I suspect it did) but Addiscombe Military Academy (closed in 1861), one of the earlier EIC cadet colleges certainly did (as well as Latin and French). I don't know if Sandhurst or Woolwich trained officers destined for the Indian Army had any language training prior to arriving in India, although it seems from the posts above that they would have to pass out with high grades to qualify first...something I did not know. 1,436 Haileyburians lost their lives in WWI.

With regards to the language training, nothing has changed much. In my day we were sent to the language school at Sek Kong in The New Territories (Hong Kong) for twelve weeks of continuous total immersion in Gurkhali which went on 7 days a week - having to learn 100 words a day. On day 3 we were tested on the 300 words, day 4, the 400 words... by day 84 we could be tested on any of the 8,400. The pass mark was 90% and every day started with the test. Anyone failing the morning test was RTU'd (returnd to unit) which was the greatest shame any Officer could imagine. During the training none of the men were allowed to speak to us in English (modern Gurkhas often have good English). Immediately after the language course we were sent to Nepal on 'trek' for a month or two to visit the recruiting areas and to get to understand the culture and religions. I went to east Nepal and trekked 14 days directly north from the last metalled road. Extremely remote and having worked extremely hard at the language I was surprised to find that hardly anyone (except ex-Gurkhas) actually spoke Gurkhali as most spoke their own tribal language. In the recruiting areas some of the families could trace their continuous service in the Gurkhas back way beyond WWI.

Back to WWI - I assume all Indian Army Infantry officers would have served their one year with a British Infantry regiment (presumably one stationed in India), so they would have an understanding of the differences between the British Army and Indian Army practices. Kitchener battalions being formed under the command of old retired Indian Army officers, whose understanding of the British Army had faded with time might have struggled. I have a faint recollection of seeing an account of an IA Officer having to be removed from command for his 'old school' views.

Looking at the 1915 Army List, I have found (so far) 61 Service Bns commanded by and Indian Army Lt Col - the majority who were retired. Again the Northumberland Fusiliers appear high on the list with eight battalions commanded by an IA Officer at that time - possibly a function of the large population density and the large number of Battalions being raised. There is a low correlation with IA commanded battalions and the distribution of furlough IA officers.

MG

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Martin

Back to your original post, you said four company commanders were from IA. Have you thought about the raising of the battalion? Who was the driving force? The Liverpool Pals battalions were under the aegis of Lord Derby who was able to pull rank, strings etc. if there was an influential figure behind 8 NF he might be found to have links with the IA.

Just a thought.

D

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