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Full text of "M & R: A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 1941-1947"

M&R 

A Regimental History 

of the Sikh Light Infantry 

1941-1947 




EDITED BY 

J D Hookway 



First published 
Beckington, Bath, England 

Copyright ® J D Hookway 1999 

ISBN 9534656 8 

Typeset by Reesprint 

1 Little Howe Close 

Radley, Oxon, OX14 3AJ 

Printed and bound by 

Oxford University Computing Services 

Oxford, OX2 6NN 



The right of J D Hookway to be identified as the Author 

of this Work has been asserted by him in accordance with 

the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. 



Second Edition 
Copyright ® Janet Hookway 2012 

Published on the Internet Archive 

under a 

Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licence 

http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nd/3.Q 

by the Sikh Pioneers and Sikh Light Infantry Association, 
http://www.archive.org/details/MRARegimentalHistory 



Contents 

Subadar Major Puran Singh, Sardar 
bahadur, obi 

One of the invaluable veterans who had served in 

the Sikh Pioneers (32 SP) prior to their disbandment 1 

Foreword to the Second Edition 

by Lt Col D L Mackay RE (Retd), President of 

the Sikh Pioneers and Sikh Light Infantry Association 6 

Foreword to the First Edition 

by Lt Col J D Maling, DSO, MC (Retd) 7 

Prologue 9 

Acknowledgements 11 

Glossary of Abbreviations of Ranks, 
Appointments and Formations 13 

1 The Disbanding of the Corps of Sikh Pioneers 15 

2 The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh 

Regiment 18 

2.1 The Formation of the 1st Bn Mazhbi and 

Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 18 

Jullundur: 1st October 1941 - 15th March 1942 18 

Multan: 16th March 1942 - 10/1 lth April 1942 25 

Peshawar: 10/1 lth April 1942 - July 1943 26 

Fort Salop, Kajuri Plain: July - October 1943 29 

Wah: October 1943 - February 1944 29 

2.2 The Formation of the 2nd Bn Mazbhi and 

Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 30 

Multan: 1st July 1942 - February 1943 30 

Erode and Salem: February 1943 - March 1945 32 



Contents 

Madras: March - October 1945 33 

2.3 The Formation of the 3rd Bn Mazbhi and 

Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 33 

Sialkot: August 1942 - September 1942 33 

Agra: September 1942 - February 1943 35 

Bellary: February 1943 - September 1945 35 

Thai and Wana: September 1945 - July 1947 36 

Madras: July 1947 - 1948 36 

2.4 The Formation of Garrison Bns and Coys, 

M & R Sikh Regiment 37 

25th Garrison Bn 37 

Poona: August - December 1942 37 

Abadan and Khorramshahr: January 1943 - 

March 1946 37 

26th Garrison Bn 43 

35th and 37th Labour/Garrison Companies 43 

3 Garrison Company 44 

127 Garrison Training Company 45 

2.5 The formation of the Training Battalion 

at Bareilly 45 

2.6 The Formation of the Regimental Centre 52 

Farewell Lahore: a personal account of 

the Regimental Centre 55 

3 The 1st Bn Moves East 58 

3.1 Moving Up 58 

Raiwalla: March - April 1944 58 

Ranchi: May to September (99 Bde) 58 
Ranchi: May 1944 -January 1945 

(17 Indian Division) 59 
Journey to the Imphal Plain (Wangjing): 

January 1945 61 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Imphal Plain (Wangjing), Training: 
January - February 1945 63 

3.2 The Battle to retake Burma 65 

3.3 The 1st Bn in Burma, the battle of Meiktila: 

February - April 1945 71 

3.4 Pyawbwe and the 'Tally-Ho' to Rangoon 92 

3.5 Operations in the Southern Shan States: 

June - August 1945 103 

3.6 Tenasserim: September 1945 - February 1946 

1 Sikh Li's first peacetime operation 110 

3.7 Return to India: February 1946 118 

4 2nd Bn Sikh Light Infantry in the Middle 

EAST 1945-1947 121 

4.1 Deir-ez-Zor, Syria: October 1945 - January 1946 123 

4.2 Lattakia, Syria: January-April 1946 132 

4.3 Az Zubeir, Shaibah, Iraq: April 1946 - 

May/June 1947 138 

5 The Sikh Pioneers and Sikh Light Infantry 

Association 149 

EPILOGUE by Lt Col E W Carvalho (Retd) 166 

Appendices 171 

Appendix A: Officers of the M & R Sikh 
Regiment and Sikh Light Infantry (from 
Indian Army Lists) 171 

Appendix B: Messages re. Japanese surrender 187 

Illustrations and Maps 189 



Foreword to the Second Edition 

by Lt Col D L Mackay RE (Retd) 
President of the Sikh Pioneers and Sikh Light Infantry Association 

With my own roots in the Sikh Pioneers, having been born in 
Sialkot in February 1933, just days before the Sikh Pioneers were 
disbanded, I count it a particular honour to be writing this 
foreword. My father regarded it the greatest privilege to have 
served with Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikhs. When two legends of 
those days, 'Prix' Price and 'Pumpus' Pearse, were asked to reform 
a new Regiment of infantry, they started with a wonderful tradi- 
tion and the Regiment has gone from strength to strength. 

Time takes its toll and few remain with first-hand knowledge of 
those stirring and historic times, which are remembered by the 
Regiment with such justifiable pride. John Dugdall Hookway died 
on 30th June 2005, and John Darwin Maling on 16th March 2009. 
But in recording these first six years of the Regiment they, and 
those others whose recollections helped so much, have performed 
an invaluable service. We can only deeply regret that that some are 
not now able to see the success of the First Edition and this require- 
ment for a Second one. As we move forward in the age of commu- 
nications, this Edition will be published on the Internet but with a 
limited number of copies for those who appreciate the feel of a 
book. 

Unlike the Cheshire cat, fading away until only the grin remains, 
the Sikh Pioneers and Sikh Light Infantry Association continues to 
bring, at least for the present, pleasure and satisfaction to those 
who served at this time and their families who are proud to be 
connected. 



Foreword to the First Edition 

by Lt Col J D Maling, DSO, MC (Retd) 

a founding member of the Regiment 

It is an honour to be asked to write a foreword to the history of the 
raising and early deployment of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikhs as 
an infantry regiment. 

The regiment was raised in wartime in 1941 at a period of intense 
crisis and confusion. There were unusual difficulties to be faced on 
raising. There was no Training Centre, no pool of trained junior 
leaders, no established recruiting system. Army instructional man- 
uals were of little use initially because only a handful of our intake 
of Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikhs could read or write Roman Urdu. 

The provision of weapons, equipment and housing of all kinds 
was so slow that much valuable training time had to be confined to 
elementary foot drill and outdoor classes teaching the three R's. It 
was something of a miracle that those problems were overcome in 
time for the regiment to make a genuine contribution to the Indian 
Army's war time effort. 

The excellence of the Mazhbis and Ramdasias as soldiers in the 
old Sikh Pioneer regiments from 1857 to their disbandment in 
1932, was well known to our first Commanding Officer, Colonel 
C H Price and our first Second-in-Command, Major E P F Pearse. 
They had experienced the joy and pride of serving with the 
Mazhbis and Ramdasias in the old Pioneer Regiments. They had 
also experienced the sorrow of the disbandment of the Pioneers in 
1932. In 1941 these two officers were presented with the opportu- 
nity to help Mazhbis and Ramdasias regain their old position in the 
Indian Army. In 1941 it also presented a unique opportunity to 



Foreword to the First Edition 

help the whole Mazhbi and Ramdasia community in the Punjab. 

The enthusiasm of these two officers, revered by all who served 
with them, was an important element in the growth of the new reg- 
iment. I deeply regret that neither of those true friends of the 
Mazhbi and Ramdasia is alive today to read this Foreword. 

The writing of a history of the regiment has been a long-felt 
need. The wide and permanent dispersal of all wartime officers 
after 1945 and the natural difficulties of access to records in India 
after Independence, have contributed to the delay. 

We can be very grateful to Captain 'Hukm' Hookway for his 
determination to fill this gap. He has overcome obstacles of dis- 
tance and time in his collection and collation of information about 
the regiment. His history is the first such record available, outside 
India, to historians and libraries. The publication of this book will 
enable the families and descendants of those who served in the Sikh 
Light Infantry to have a clearer understanding of the endeavours 
and sacrifices of those early tumultuous years. 

I am sure that all those who shared in the struggle to bring the 
regiment through its birth pangs will be proud of what they helped 
to achieve. Today the splendid Sikh Light Infantry, with its many 
battalions, is a respected and successful regiment playing a full part 
in the defence of India. 



Prologue 



This History of the Sikh Light Infantry, from its re-birth in 1941 as 
the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment to Independence in 1947, 
should have been written at least twenty, if not thirty years ago. 
Had the opportunity been taken then, most of the participants 
would have been alive, and able to contribute at first hand. Doubt- 
less many interesting and amusing episodes have been lost beyond 
recall, but it is precisely this point that makes it essential to do the 
best job possible now. 

There is no way in which this record can be further delayed, 
without being totally impossible to complete; time lost can never 
be made up. And it is important to the Regiment, if not to a wider 
public, that the formative years of the Regiment are available, in 
print, for later members of our very select band to read and study. 
For men worked, and fought and died for the Regiment, and we 
owe it to them to chronicle their deeds and those of their comrades. 

I have taken the view that, for a small Regiment and over a short 
period of some six years, it is quite permissible to include the odd 
anecdote or story. These illustrate chiefly those who survive 
and/or those willing to put pen to paper: many units are poorly 
served in this respect, but that is unavoidable. 

One other point. The History deals almost entirely with offi- 
cers, and with the employment of the various units. The ordinary 
IOR gets hardly a mention ... yet we all know that the Mazhbi and 
Ramdasia Sikhs are the main characters in this story, for without 
them nothing could have been achieved. As was said '/o hoega, 
hoega or 'What Mazhbi, Mazhbi'. The mistakes, omissions and, in 

9 



Prologue 

many cases, the opinions are mine and I must stand or fall by them. 
It has been a very frustrating yet rewarding process, and it is pleas- 
ing to hear that the Official Regimental History covering the 
period 1857 to date has just been published in India. This is in no 
way to be taken as a competing History: rather it chronicles the 
re-employment of Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikhs and their service 
prior to Indian Independence. 

The History since Independence is a matter for the Regiment, 
and former British officers are most grateful for the close contacts 
which have been maintained over the past fifty years. We are also 
very proud indeed of the growth and successes achieved since 1947, 
and especially the appointment in 1997 of the Colonel of the Regi- 
ment, Gen Ved Malik, PVSM, AVSM, ADC as Chief of Army 
Staff. Who could possibly have thought such a thing possible in 
1941, or even in 1947? 

The continuing factor is the men: the brave, loyal and friendly 
M and R Sikhs. Long may they and the Regiment prosper. 

Deg Teg Fateh. 
(the post-Independence motto of the Regiment) 

The full meaning is: 'We all wish at all times for our victory in War, 
which is the victory of our sword, and also our economic prosper- 
ity in peace and war — more food, better standard of living and all 
other riches for our country.' 



10 



Acknowledgements 



My main thanks must go to the one surviving founder-member of 
the Regiment, Lt Col J D Maling, DSO, MC, now living in New 
Zealand. He was in at the very first, commanded the only M & R 
Battalion to see action in the Second World War, and made detailed 
notes and kept many original papers very shortly after the events 
described. In fact there was a good deal more than could be 
included in this History, and it is hoped to keep all these papers 
together and available for further study. His interest in the project 
and his willingness to correct mistakes and fill omissions has been 
crucial. 

The second main source of information was the letter from Col 
C H Price (late 32 Sikh Pioneers) written shortly after the end of 
the War in January 1947. This gave an overview of the traumatic 
days during which the M & R Sikh Regiment was raised from virtu- 
ally nothing, and of the subsequent expansion and renaming of the 
Regiment. It also included the roles of the various Battalions and 
Garrison Companies in the period up to Independence. 

A number of other officers have contributed details from their 
own experiences, notably Maj P Petherbridge for the 3rd Bn and 
Capt D R Casselle for the 25th Garrison Bn. Capt H C T Routley 
has provided much information on the Training Bn, later the Regi- 
mental Centre, and this has helped to keep track of units and offi- 
cers. Many other officers have been good enough to complete a 
questionnaire sent out a few months ago, and these replies have 
helped to fill in some gaps ... and also to raise some queries. 

I am indebted to Capt Routley for the maps which appear in this 

11 



A cknowledgements 

History. They cover the sub-continent of India, and show where 
the main places mentioned in the text were located, Burma and the 
area around Meiktila where the 1st Bn fought an epic series of bat- 
tles, and the Middle East, where the 2nd Bn was responsible for 
huge areas of both Syria and Iraq. 

Finally, Dr Robin Rees, son of the late Capt Douglas Rees (34 
Royal Sikh Pioneers), has been of the greatest possible help in the 
preparation of text and illustrations for this History. His father 
wrote a most interesting account of his own service with the Sikh 
Pioneers shortly after the First World War, and it is nice to think 
that his son has, in his own way, helped to get another episode in 
the history of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikhs into print. 

My own role has been largely to collect, sort and reproduce the 
work of others: my main regret is that it was left until so long after 
the events recorded. But it is now in print, and I hope that readers 
in the future will spare a thought for those gallant men from the 
Punjab who, over nearly one and a half centuries, have been true to 
their salt, and who still serve their great country with distinction. 

Beckington, Bath 
August 1998 



The Sikh Pioneers and Sikh Light Infantry Association is 
extremely grateful to Mrs Janet Hookway for her kind permission 
to produce this Second Edition of M &R, her late husband's history 
of the Regiment in its early days. 

March 2011 



12 



Glossary of abbreviations 



The military are much given to the use of abbreviations, for many 
purposes, and this may make it difficult for non-military readers. 
Only the main abbreviations are given in this brief summary and 
modern notations have been used, not always the same as at the 
time of the events recorded. 



Ranks 



King's Commissioned Officers (KCOs) 



2Lt 


Second Lieutenant 


Col 


Colonel 


Lt 


Lieutenant 


Brig 


Brigadier 


Capt 


Captain 


Maj Gen 


Major General 


Maj 


Major 


Lt Gen 


Lieutenant General 


LtCol 


Lieutenant Colonel 


FM 


Field Marshal 



Viceroy's Commissioned Officers (VCOs) 



Jem Jemadar 



Sub Subadar 

Sub Maj Subadar Major 



often platoon commander, no British 

equivalent 

often Coy 2 i/c, no British equivalent 

senior Indian VCO, no British 

equivalent 
(Indian units, especially Infantry battalions, typically had 12-18 
KCOs, far fewer than a British Infantry battalion. This would be 
made up by some 20-30 VCOs.) 



13 



Glossary of abbreviations 

Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) 
and Indian Other Ranks (IORs) 

Sep Sepoy Private 

L Nk Lance Naik Lance Corporal 

Nk Naik Corporal 

Hav Havildar Sergeant 



Appointments 

CO Commanding Officer 
2 ic Second-in-Command 

Adjt Adjutant 



QM Quartermaster 
IO Intelligence Officer 



Formations 


Sec 


section 


PI 


platoon 


Coy 


company 


Bn 


battalion 


Bde 


brigade 


Div 


division 



approx 8-10 men 
approx 30-40 men 
approx 100-150 men 
approx 700-850 men 
approx 4,000 men 
approx 15,000 men 



I must apologise for any inconsistencies in the use of these 
abbreviations. 



14 



1 



The Disbanding of the Corps of Sikh 

Pioneers 



The disbanding of the Corps of Sikh Pioneers is covered in the 
definitive History of the Sikh Pioneers by Lt Gen Sir George 
MacMunn, but before embarking on the Regimental History of the 
Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment, its lineal descendant, some 
few extra words should be added. 

The Sikh Pioneers were the main, in fact almost the only unit in 
the Indian Army to offer the opportunity of service to the Mazhbi 
and Ramdasia classes of Sikhs. A small number served in the Royal 
Bombay Sappers and Miners, but that was about it. The M & Rs, as 
they were affectionately called, were held to be lower-class Sikhs by 
the bulk of the Sikhs in India, and were, for example, not allowed 
to worship in public Gurdwaras. It was only by military service, 
effectively in the Sikh Pioneers, that such men could progress in 
the world and, more importantly, in their villages. 

The Pioneer Regiments in the Indian Army all suffered in the 
reorganisation of 1932-3; the units involved were the Madras Pio- 
neers, formed in 1758, the Bombay Pioneers in 1777, the Sikh Pio- 
neers in 1857 and the Hazara Pioneers in about 1905. They were 
particularly useful for road-making and similar duties on punitive 
operations, such as on the North- West Frontier. But this role was 
coming to an end in the 1930s, and permanent roads were replacing 
tracks or even no roads at all. At the same time the need to reduce 
expenditure and to get maximum efficiency was paramount. So, 
partly to standardise the organisation of Engineer troops in a Divi- 
sion, it was decided that the Pioneers would have to go. They had 

15 



The Disbanding of the Corps of Sikh Pioneers 

since their formation combined the dual roles of infantry and tech- 
nical troops, but their organisation and training was not sufficient 
to meet modern conditions and become Sappers. Similarly, it was 
not thought that they could be converted to infantry, given the 
financial constraints. 

So under the reorganisation, the strengths of Field Companies of 
Sappers and Miners were increased by some 30 to 35%, and the 
reinforcements for this would come from the disbanded Pioneer 
units. But this raised peculiar problems for the Sikh Pioneers. The 
Bengal Sappers and Miners and the Bombay Sappers and Miners 
were both allocated some 320 Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikhs from the 
Sikh Pioneers. The founder of Sikhism had intended that there 
should be no discrimination on the grounds of religion, caste or 
class, but this did not stand up in practice. The caste system per- 
sisted, and there were many social grades of Sikhs. At the top were 
the Jats: the Lobanas, Ramdasias and Mazhbis were amongst those 
lower down. These latter had given good service for eighty years, 
without caste coming into question, but they had been mixed only 
with Ramdasias and not with Jat Sikhs. It was recommended that 
the Bengal Corps should enlist only Jats and the Bombay Corps 
only Lobanas, Ramdasias and Mazhbis. 

Unfortunately this advice was not heeded, on the grounds that 
any Sikh should be able to command any other Sikh, and so M & 
Rs were transferred to the Bengal Sappers and Miners, to serve with 
Jat Sikhs. Everything possible was done to make a success of these 
arrangements, but difficulties were encountered in the Gurdwara 
(temple), and led eventually to more serious trouble. Early in 1933 
it was decided to go back to the original proposals; all Jat Sikhs 
transferred to the Bengal Sappers and Miners, and all Lobana, 
Ramdasia and Mazhbi Sikhs to the Bombay Sappers and Miners. 
Subsequently, the Lobana Sikhs were allocated to the Indian 
Machine Gun platoons of British Infantry regiments and by 
mid- 193 3 everyone had settled down in their new units. But only a 

16 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

small number of M & R Sikhs had this opportunity for service, and 
their own Corps had gone, apparently for good. 

So the disbandment had the effect of penalising the Mazhbi and 
Ramdasia Sikhs, and although every effort was made to soften the 
blow, a severe blow it undoubtedly was. As Gen MacMunn ends 
his History, 'Morituri te salutant.' (Those about to die salute you.) 

The British officers of the Corps, very sorrowfully as many have 
in later years described, were posted away to other Regiments 
where, in the fullness of time, they met the challenges of war in 
many theatres. The few, lucky VCOs and IORs were transferred to 
the Sappers and Miners , but the greater number were demobilised 
to their villages, to try to take up civilian employment. No doubt 
they remembered the friendship and comradeship of the Corps, 
but must have thought that that was gone for ever. 

Not so! The qualities of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikhs, which 
had made the old Pioneers famous from China to Abyssinia, from 
Tibet to France and above all on the Frontier, were not forgotten 
in the dark and threatening days of mid-1941. Ex-Pioneer officers, 
many now in high places, recollected the bravery and endurance of 
the Pioneers and suggested that as a 'martial class' they should again 
be able to serve King-Emperor and Country. The gap since Decem- 
ber 1932 and disbandment had been long, but not fatally so. There 
still were VCOs and other ranks of the Pioneers fit and able to 
serve, and the story of how they, and a very small number of 
ex-British officers of the Sikh Pioneers re-raised the Corps as infan- 
try is the subject of this Regimental History. 

For the continuity of service, although terribly weakened, was 
not totally lost, and so the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment, 
later to be renamed the Sikh Light Infantry, carried the authentic 
Pioneer training and outlook as well as the traditions of those glori- 
ous forebears. 



17 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia 

Sikh Regiment 



This chapter deals with the raising of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battal- 
ions, also the 25th and 26th Garrison Battalions, three Garrison 
Companies and the Training Battalion, eventually to become the 
Regimental Centre, and with the early days of each of these units. 

2.1 The Formation of the 1st Bn Mazhbi and 
Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

Jullundur: 1st October 1941 - 15th March 1942 

The Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment was raised on the 1st 
October 1941 at Jullundur, the authority being Indian Army 
Order No. 1015 of the 13th September 1941. 

Two former Sikh Pioneer officers, Lt Col C H Price ('Prix', 32 
SP) and Maj E P F Pearse ('Pumpus', 34 RSP) were called from their 
Battalions in the 12 FFR and 2 Punjab in Malaya to be respectively 
CO and 2i/c. Capt J D Maling, MC (1/11 Sikhs) came from his unit 
on the North West Frontier, to be Adjutant. It was during the hot 
weather, and the three officers met together for the first time in 
Chamiers Hotel in Jullundur. Price and Pearse had been old friends 
from Sikh Pioneer days; both were tremendous admirers of the 
Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikhs and were filled with an infectious 
enthusiasm at being given the opportunity of bringing the descen- 
dants of the Sikh Pioneers back into the Army as infantry. 

Col Price started that first meeting by announcing that he had 

18 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

opened two files for the new Regiment whilst he was flying from 
his old Battalion in Malaya. He apologised for the file covers saying 
that the only material available to him for this purpose had been 
pages of a publication called Tit-Bits which he had picked up in the 
aircraft. At this stage he produced what he called the 'policeman 
file' with a cover picture of a policeman pursuing a malefactor and 
which contained the GHQ instructions for raising the Regiment, 
and then the 'naked girl file' with a cover needing no further 
description, which contained the Admin instructions. 

GHQ's instructions said that the Regiment would be raised on 
1st October 1941 with the title of 1st Bn Mazhbi and Ramdasia 
Sikh Regiment. It would be made up initially of the three regular 
officers present, a handful of recalled ex-Sikh Pioneer pensioned 
Viceroys Commissioned Officers (VCOs), one 3rd-grade clerk and 
some five hundred Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh territorials. GHQ 
also instructed the battalion to do its own recruiting from the 
Punjab, and to do its own recruit training with the intention of 
expanding to more battalions if the recruiting and training were 
successful. 

On 1st October 2 Lt Ranjit Singh (from 15 Punjab ITF) was 
appointed officiating Quartermaster. An advance party of 2 VCOs 
and 23 Indian Other Ranks (IORs) from 15 Punjab Regiment at 
Jhansi and 15 IORs from 17 Dogra Regiment at Allahabad, com- 
menced erecting tents to form a standing camp. Sub Maj Jiwan 
Singh was i/c the advance party. 

On the 4th October the main body of the draft from 9/15 
Punjab Regiment arrived: it consisted of 5 VCOs, 367 IORs and 18 
followers. Construction of a sports ground was begun, but office 
work was held up as no clerk was available. A 3rd-grade clerk came 
from Jhansi the same day, but was remembered by Col Price as 
'very bad'. The next day the main body of the draft from 7/17 
Dogra Regiment arrived by train from Allahabad; there were 3 
VCOs, 173 IORs and 8 followers. The 9/15 Punjabis and 7/17 

19 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

Dogra had only been embodied a month or so before, so the troops 
were little better than recruits. Under the Admin instructions the 
Regiment was to be attached to the Dogra Regimental Centre in 
Jullundur for rations and accommodation. Rations and stores 
became the responsibility of the Regiment when 2 Lt Ranjit Singh 
arrived from 15 Punjab Regt ITF (Indian Territorial Force). The 
accommodation consisted of five kachcha barracks for recruits, 
stores and messes. The Battalion offices were in four or five EPIP 
tents with one telephone which sometimes worked. All ranks 
except recruits were in tents, but the three regular officers were 
soon established in 'Wana huts' (mud walls and EPIP tops) which 
were beautifully constructed, complete with fireplaces and chim- 
neys, under the guidance of our old Pioneer experts. The Battalion 
was organised into four Rifle Companies and HQ Company. HQ 
Company temporarily consisted of signallers, recruit instructors, 
orderlies and other employed men, as there were no means of 
selecting specialists at that early stage. All platoons were to be of 
mixed Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikhs. The Company Commanders 
were ex-Sikh Pioneer VCOs: 

Sub Maj Jiwan Singh (32 SP) 

Sub Mit Singh, IDSM (23 SP) (His first campaign medal was 
1903 Tibet, and he was on the Younghusband expedition to 
Lhasa.) 

Sub Puran Singh (32 SP) 

Sub Mukand Singh (34 RSP) 

Sub Hazura Singh (32 SP) 
The new recruits must have wondered at the bedlam surround- 
ing Battalion HQ. Several times a day Maj Pearse's bull terrier 
would invade the area in hot pursuit of stray cats. The decisive 
engagement would take place between the two flies of the office 
tent's roofs and the sounds of these out-of-sight conflicts had to be 
heard to be believed. Added to this were the sounds of the frus- 
trated Adjutant or Quartermaster dealing with a recalcitrant 

20 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

telephone, and trying to out-shout the cats and dogs. This may 
have been good battle training for the recruits, but led eventually to 
an attached officer suffering from battle fatigue and his replace- 
ment had to be found from the young officers who soon arrived to 
join the battalion. 

Training gradually got under way. There was a North West 
India Defence scheme which ran from 7th to 14th October: the 
lines were blacked-out, and the Bn had to find one platoon to guard 
Area Headquarters and two platoons for inlying piquets for the 
defence of the lines. The only weapons available were bamboo 
mosquito-net poles! The Regiment very quickly came to the notice 
of the Area Commander when one of the Bn's roadblocks, with 
orders to check the identities of all road users, had to take positive 
action to stop a car which did not pull up quickly enough. In a nice 
show of aggression the car's headlights were smashed with the bam- 
boo poles — and the car's passenger was identified as the Area 
Commander! When he had recovered his equilibrium he turned 
out to be distinctly human, and became one of the Regiment's earli- 
est admirers and was very helpful during the stay in Jullundur. 

On 16th October individual training began; prior to that PT and 
drill were carried out by companies. Cadres for recruit instructors, 
VCOs and havildars were started and the first recruits began to 
arrive. There were ten from Jhansi with one month's service and 
five more joined from Jullundur with no training. 

The only vehicle in the lines for the first few weeks was Capt 
Maling's private car, but even this decrepit conveyance came to a 
quick end when his orderly tried his hand at driving. The officers 
then graduated to bicycles, and camel transport was provided by 
the Dogras, but it was not long before the battalion received six 
magnificent old civilian buses for driver training. Each of the buses 
had done at least ten years' hard labour before coming to the Bn 
and, after experiencing our recruit drivers, they spent most of their 
time immobile. 

21 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

Mercifully the Bn was accommodated in an area which was iso- 
lated from the Dogra Regimental Centre, so it could be as unortho- 
dox as it liked, and it had to be unorthodox to survive. GHQ gave 
the impression of having forgotten that it had raised the Regiment or 
why. The excitement of receiving the first consignment of stores and 
equipment was tremendous. Col Price himself opened the first case 
whilst Sub Maj Jiwan Singh pulled off the lid to disclose thirty 
Handbooks on Gurkhas and ten buckshot rifles (chowkidar variety). 
No ammunition was ever received for the buckshot rifles, but the 
Bn was deluged with .22 calibre ammunition without the .22 rifles. 

But things were beginning to move. Early in November ten 
hired lorries were received and the training of thirteen MT drivers 
began. Four NCOs arrived on transfer from 26 Garrison Com- 
pany, and four LMGs came, enabling an LMG cadre of 12 NCOs 
and 12 sepoys to begin. 2 Lt Ranjit Singh was commissioned as an 
ECO (Emergency Commissioned Officer) and Hav Indar Singh 
was promoted to be Jem Head Clerk. On 20th November two 3" 
mortars were received, but unfortunately no instructors were avail- 
able for mortar training. These were quite unexpected, as they were 
hardly basic training weapons in those days when they were just 
being issued to fully trained units waiting to go overseas. Web 
equipment was not available, but some old leather equipment was 
issued. 

At the end of November the first rifles were received: 106 service 
models plus 24 dummy LMGs. Early in December the first promo- 
tions were able to be made: 19 naiks were promoted to havildar and 
17 lance-naiks to naiks. A further 100 service rifles were made avail- 
able, and on 10th December the Bn was visited by Lt Gen Hartley, 
GOC Northern District and Maj Gen Hickman, Comd Lahore 
District. Two days later 2 Lt Gurdial Singh arrived from 17 Dogra 
Regt ITF, and two weeks later he was taking the first cadre for 
Tommy gun (Thompson sub-machine gun) and 3" mortar. Eight 
revolvers were also received. 

22 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

The first firing practices were done with six air rifles purchased 
in the bazaar. After the .303 and .22 rifles eventually arrived the air 
rifles continued in use, mostly for teaching fire orders. Coloured 
darts were fired at landscape targets, with a different colour for 
each rifleman so that the instructor could tell which rifleman did 
not know the difference between the 'bushy top tree' at ten o'clock 
and the one at four o'clock. The Bn probably became the greatest 
consumers of landscape targets in the Indian Army's experience. 

These same air rifles were used in a popular training exercise 
where six men would be sent off separately for an hour or two, 
each with a rifle and ten pellets. A prize would be given to the man 
bringing back the biggest or heaviest victim of his shooting. It was 
sometimes necessary for the Adjutant to have to drop out of hectic 
volleyball matches in order to judge what the happy and trium- 
phant snipers brought back — usually birds of all descriptions. 
There was always the slight worry that someone might come back 
with the Area Commander in his bag! 

Early in January 1942 Lt K N Young arrived from 4/9 Jat Regi- 
ment, followed by 2 Lts J W Warner and F N Draper straight from 
the UK. Later in the month the latter two went off to OTS, 
Bangalore for a two-month course. A further 206 service rifles were 
received on 20th January, making the total held by the Bn 412. At 
the end of January the strength of the Regiment was: 8 BOs, 12 
VCOs, 34 havildars, 6 L/havildars, 38 naiks and 740 IORs — total 
838. 

In February letters were sent to the Recruiting Officers at 
Jullundur and Lahore for the enrolment of 210 more recruits. Four 
havildars were promoted to Jems and 2 Lt D J Ewert arrived, fol- 
lowed a week later by 2 Lt J G Slater-Hunt. The strength of the 
Regiment then was: 11 BOs, 16 VCOs, 31 havildars, 45 naiks and 
780 IORs - total 883. 

Early in March Capt C R Toby (Brit Ser Attd) arrived from 
OTS, Bangalore, and the Establishment Table for a Training 

23 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

Company and a date for raising it was received. Nine hired lorries 
were returned to Messrs Pertap Chand and Co (presumably the 
tenth had been 'written off). 

One of the first duties for the Adjutant was to convene a meeting 
of senior VCOs to decide on the Regimental badge. He was wear- 
ing his 1/11 Sikh cap badge of a quoit surmounted by 
Prince-of- Wales feathers in those days, and told the committee that 
Col Price wanted a more warlike symbol than feathers. The Com- 
mittee then decided on the representation of two traditional Sikh 
weapons, the chakra or quoit surmounted by a kirpan or sword, 
and was drawn-up by Audrey Hungerford-Jackson, the artist 
daughter of an ICS officer, who was serving with the WAC(I). A 
proof copy was drawn for submission to GHQ, where it was 
approved without question, subject to the final approval of HM the 
King. The Regiment did not have any say about the shoulder titles 
which soon arrived in the rather badly produced cloth form of 'M 
& R Sikhs'. 

Those early days in the M & R Sikhs were very happy ones. Col 
Price and Maj Pearse truly loved being back with the men they had 
known in the Pioneer Regiments. The Regiment had received a 
hard core of tremendous characters in the ex-Sikh Pioneer VCOs. 
The younger VCOs and NCOs were filled with the same dedica- 
tion to soldiering as the older ones and they all shared a marvellous 
sense of humour. This dedication and sense of humour infected 
everyone from the Commanding Officer downwards and enabled 
the Regiment to go from strength to strength despite all difficulties. 
The Adjutant, Capt J D Maling later wrote: 

For myself, I look on my years with the M & Rs as the most 
rewarding in my army career and I am grateful that I was 
given the opportunity of serving with such magnificent men 
from their raising to their first battles. 

On 15th March 1942 the Bn moved from Jullundur to Multan 
Cantt, after a stay of five and a half months. 

24 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Multan: 16th March 1942 - 10/1 lth April 1942 

The Regiment left Jullundur on the afternoon of 15th March and 
arrived at Multan early in the morning of the 16th. Shortly thereaf- 
ter 2 Lts Hunt and Morrison went on courses to the Infantry 
School, British Wing, Saugor and 2 Lt Ewert to Fighting Vehicles 
School at Ahmednagar. 

On 27th March Hony Lt Mall Singh (SP) was re-employed in the 
Training Company, and on the next day Sub Maj Jiwan Singh, 
Sardar Bahadur was presented with the OBI medal. At the end of 
the month the strength of the Regiment was: 23 BOs, 16 VCOs, 43 
havildars, 49 naiks and 892 IORs — total 1,000. 

On 2nd April an Advance Party left for Peshawar. Officers con- 
tinued to arrive, or return from courses: 
2 Lt F W Draper back from OTS, Bangalore 

Lt T L Megoram arrived from IMA, Dehra Dun, DLI 

Lt D L Blois arrived from OTS, Mhow 

Capt J J Kerr from OTS, Bangalore 

2 Lt J B Crosthwaite from OTS, Mhow, Border Regt 
2 Lt J F D Browne from IMA, Dehra Dun, British Service 
Capt WHP Hill from OTS, Bangalore, Q Royal West Kent 
2 Lt H H Blezard from IMA, Dehra Dun, Green Howards 
Lt H. Whitmore from OTS, Mhow, British service 

2 Lt J A Hett from IMA, Dehra Dun, British service 

2 Lt J E Savage from IMA, Dehra Dun, British service 

2 Lt Gurdip Singh 

Dhillon from IMA, Dehra Dun 

All the above arrivals took place between 4th and 9th April 1942, 
making it a very busy few days for all concerned. In addition, four 
VCOs were sent on a Platoon Commanders' course at Kakul, and 
ten NCOs to the Infantry School at Saugor. 

Col Price later wrote of this period, with feeling: 

Our principal difficulty now and throughout our existence 
was the production of leaders, for we had nothing between 

25 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

the Sikh Pioneer VCOs, the majority of whom were 'past it' 
and our own production, of very limited service. However, I 
should like to place on record that there were some of these 
old VCOs who formed a bed rock and without their aid I 
doubt if we could have been raised. I wish there could have 
been more, for it only worked out at about one or two per 
battalion. The gap between the disbandment of the Sikh Pio- 
neers and our raising was very sorely felt. 

Maj Watkin reports that at this time he was in a rifle company 

commanded by Capt Peter Hill. The company Sub was Mit Singh, 

IDSM, much decorated, whose first medal was 1903 Tibet! He had 

been with Younghusband to Lhasa. 

Peshawar: 10/llth April 1942 -July 1943 

The remainder of the Regiment moved from Multan to Peshawar 
in two trains, leaving Multan at 2330 hrs on 10th and 0330 hrs on 
11th April, and arriving at Peshawar at 0330 and 0630 hrs on 12th 
April respectively. 

More training followed. Forty NCOs went on courses to the 
Infantry School, Saugor, and Maj E P F Pearse went on a course at 
the Frontier Warfare School, Kakul. The Regiment was also visited 
soon after its arrival by Brig E V R Bellers, Comd Peshawar Bde 
and Maj Gen R Denning, Comd Peshawar Dist. 

At the end of April 1942, after seven months of existence, the 
strength of the Regiment was: 31 BOs, 19 VCOs, 64 havildars, 61 
naiks and 910 IORs (including recruits), plus 42 boys — total 1,127. 

Then, on 1st May, Lt Col T M Ker (34 RSP) arrived from 1 1 Sikh 
Regiment as Comdt designate for a new 2nd Battalion. 

Further officer arrivals in early May were 2 Lts D Nesteroff and 
R P Watkin, both from OTS, Mhow, after being commissioned in 
the UK. Capt J J Kerr left the Regiment to be Admin. Officer, 
CDRE, Rawalpindi. Training continued with the annual classifica- 
tion of signallers, and 1 BO, 1 VCO and 19 IORs went on a course 
to G(R) Warfare Training, Charat. 2 Lt R F Day arrived from OTS, 

26 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Mhow and 2 Lt D J Ewert returned from Fighting Vehicles School, 
Ahmednagar. 

On 15th May it was advised that a 2nd Bn would be raised on 
War Establishment and Field Accounting System. At the end of the 
month two VCOs and two IORs returned from instruction in 18 
pdr field gun at Nowshera, and the strength of the Regiment was: 
30 BOs, 23 VCOs, 61 havildars, 68 naiks and 982 IORs, plus 70 
boys — total 1,239. 

In early June 1 VCO and 9 IORs went to Bara Fort (2/2 Punjab) 
for training in MMG, and Capt Mohinder Singh MC arrived from 
4/11 Sikh Regiment. Hav-clerk Wariam Singh also arrived from 11 
Sikhs. On 13th June an Attestation Parade was held for the first 
group of recruits to join the 1st Bn. Soldiers were listed as Recruits 
i.e. Rect Fauja Singh, until attested. 

Later in the month three VCOs arrived on transfer from Auxil- 
iary Pioneer and Garrison Company, Aurangabad after service in 
the Middle East. Three more VCOs from the same source joined at 
the end of the month, as did Lts I O Arthur and V C M Williams 
and 2 Lt R D Ballentine, all from OTS, Bangalore. Lt J R Ross 
returned from Fighting Vehicles School course, and the last arrivals 
in June were A/Capt C G Mitchell and T/Capt A D Barnett, both 
from OTS, Bangalore. 

On the same day the 1st Bn became Duty Bn, Peshawar, after 
nine months of existence; and Roman Urdu classes for BOs started 
the next day. There can have been very little time available for for- 
mal language study in those busy nine months! Further officer 
arrivals in July were 2 Lt B E Kew, Lt B S Drewe and later 2 Lt 
Ghukor Singh, from OTS, Mhow. A Ceremonial occasion on 11th 
July saw HRH the Duke of Gloucester inspect a Bn guard at Gov- 
ernment House, and a representative detachment of all officers and 
60 IORs. 

The Bn had to find a Demonstration Company for the Frontier 
Warfare School at Kakul: this consisted of 2 BOs, 3 VCOs and 123 

27 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

IORs, plus 11 followers. Throughout July, small drafts of approxi- 
mately nine recruits at a time were being sent to the 2nd Bn at 
Multan. 

The Indian Army List for July 1942 shows the officer and Sub 
Maj names at about this period (see Appendix A). 

At the beginning of August there was a Brigade exercise involv- 
ing the Bn, and orders were received for Maj E P F Pearse to go to 
13 Pioneer Bn, Indian Engineer Group at Sialkot as CO with effect 
from 15th August, on its conversion to 3rd Battalion Mazhbi and 
Ramdasia Sikh Regiment. This battalion had been raised by Lt Col 
S A (Bill) Bowden, (32 Sikh Pioneers). A further ten NCOs from 
the Auxiliary Pioneer Corps Depot at Aurangabad were received. 
Another officer joined the 1st Bn during August, 2 Lt Munshi 
Singh Brar and drafts of 60 and 130 recruits arrived from the 2nd Bn 
in Multan. 

On 1st September Capt J D Maling arrived back from the 2nd 
Bn, where he had acted as Adjutant for the first two months follow- 
ing its raising on 1st July. 

He then took over as 2i/c 1st Bn, replacing Maj E P F Pearse who 
had left to raise the 3rd Bn. A Battalion parade was held, and a Bri- 
gade exercise followed. Two more officers reported; 2 Lt H 
Whitaker, British service from IMA, Dehra Dun and Lt J D Worne. 

The first birthday of the Regiment was celebrated on 1st Octo- 
ber 1942. The year had been one of continuous expansion, and the 
raising of two Battalions from an almost non-existent pool of lead- 
ers. It was a year of non-stop training and of tremendous stress for 
the very small number of qualified instructors. This was also the 
third station the Regiment had occupied in the space of twelve 
months, not the best of situations in which to carry out training. 

On 7th October 2 Lts J Morrison and B E Kerr were transferred 
to 25 (Garrison) Bn, M & R Sikh Regiment, and on 28th October 
HM the King approved the design of the Regimental badge for 
adoption by the M & R Sikh Regiment [see MGO/CG1, GHQ(9), 

28 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

New Delhi, letter No. 27119/11/ CGr(2) of 22.10.42]. For most of 

the first year of the 1st Battalion's existence, the officers and senior 

VCOs were: 

CO Lt Col C H Price (32 SP) 

2i/c Maj E P F Pearse (34 RSP) 

Capt J D Maling, MC 

Capt J D Maling, MC 

2 Lt Ranjit Singh 

Capt H Whitmore 

Sub Maj Jiwan Singh (32 SP) 

Sub Mit Singh, IDSM (23 SP) to 2nd Bn 

became Sub Maj 
IstBn 



Adjutant 
Quartermaster 

Company 
Commanders 
(initially) 



from Sept. 1942 



British service 



to 2nd Bn 



Company 
Commanders 



Sub Maj 



Sub Puran Singh (32 SP) 

Sub Mukand Singh (34 RSP) 

Sub Hazura Singh (32 SP) 

Lt D J Ewert 

Capt K N Young 

Lt J W Warner (Boys Coy) 

Capt C R Toby 

Capt J Worne 

Capt Mohinder Singh, MC later 2 i/c 

TrgBn 
Sub Maj Jiwan Singh Bahadur, OBI 



Fort Salop, Kajuri Plain: July - October 1943 

In July 1943 the Battalion moved to Fort Salop, some twenty miles 
West of Peshawar, on the Kajuri Plain as a Frontier Role Bn, stay- 
ing there until October when they marched to a new station at 
Wah. 

Wah: October 1943 - February 1944 

At Wah the Battalion joined 3rd Brigade (Frontier Defence 
Reserve). The principal officers at that time were: 



29 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

CO Lt Col C H Price 

2 i/c Maj J D Maling, MC 

Company Maj J Worne 

Commanders Maj G Cambell- Austin 

Maj C R Toby 
Capt J W Warner 
Capt D J Ewert 

Wah is 26 miles from Rawalpindi. It provided good training 
areas for both mountain and open warfare exercises with easy 
access to field-firing areas. Accommodation for all ranks was rea- 
sonably good and the Punjab was within easy reach for leave 
parties. 

In February 1944 the battalion was suddenly ordered to send all 
men on leave pending a unit move to a Jungle Training School, fol- 
lowed by a move to Burma. At the same time orders were received 
for Col Price to take over command of an extended Training Cen- 
tre for the M & R Sikh Regiment at Bareilly. He was to hand over 
command of the battalion, at Wah, by March to Lt Col G D 
Staveley-Jones of 2 Punjab Regiment. 

The change of command was an occasion for sadness for both 
Col Price and all ranks of the battalion he had raised. But the 
extended Regiment was to gain greatly from having him at the 
Centre. 

2.2 The Formation of the 2nd Bn Mazbhi and 
Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

Multan: 1st July 1942 - Early 1943 

It will be remembered that Lt Col T M Ker (34 RSP) had arrived at 
the 1st Bn in Peshawar from 11 Sikh Regiment as Comdt-designate 
of a new 2nd Battalion, and on 1st June 1942 the 2nd Bn M & R 
Sikh Regiment came into being at Multan. There is an interesting 

30 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

query here, as the Indian Army List for July 1942 lists the raising of 
the 2nd Bn and the appointment of Lt Col Ker to command as 
being 1st May 1942, and at Peshawar Cantt. This certainly was the 
date on which Lt Col Ker arrived at Peshawar, but the actual date 
of the transfer of 17 BOs, 728 all ranks and 52 followers was 1st July 
1942. 

The main appointments were: 
CO Lt Col T M Ker (34 RSP) from 1 1 Sikh Regt 

2i/c Maj R Sangster from 12 FF Regt 

Adjutant Capt J D Maling Qui. /Aug.) 

Capt T L Megoram from DLI 



Company 
Commanders 



Capt W H P Hill 



Other officers 



Sub Maj 



from Q Royal West 

Kents 

from Green Howards 

from 9 Jat Regt 

Border Regt 



from Irish Guards 



Capt H H Blezard 

Capt K N Young 

Lt J B Crosthwaite 

Lt R P Watkin 

Lt S Cohen 

Lt Day 

Lt F Hepworth 

Lt O Rocyn-Jones 

Lt E J Savage 

Sub Maj Mall Singh 
In August it was intimated that the 3rd Battalion M & R Sikh 
Regiment would probably move to Multan as soon as possible, and 
continue raising alongside the 2nd Bn. Some 200 recruits were 
transferred to the 1st Bn early in August, in view of the very diffi- 
cult situation in Multan. The accommodation necessary was lack- 
ing: the Bn was housed in barracks designed to hold 500 and in the 
height of the hot weather they were about 1,200-strong. The 



31 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

climate was described by Lt Col Price as 'the vile hot weather cli- 
mate of Multan' and, due to this and the poor accommodation, 'de- 
sertions amongst the recruits were frequent and hardly to be 
wondered at with the conditions prevailing.' 

Three ECOs were posted to the Bn from OTS, Bangalore (2 Lts 
Gurpartap Singh, Raghbir Singh Brar and Joginder Singh Dhillon). 
The Bn was visited by the ADMS Rawalpindi District and a week 
later by the GOC Rawalpindi District. Recruiting officers were 
instructed to stop recruiting for the Bn. The strength of the Battal- 
ion as at 31st August 1942 was: 18 BOs, 14 VCOs, 108 IORs 
(trained), 910 recruits and 74 boys — total 1,224. 

It is not clear just how trained the IORs were. Maj Watkin com- 
ments 'preponderantly totally untrained', as training facilities were 
poor, and they were doing arms drill with wooden rifles. 

Erode and Salem 

In February 1943 the 2nd Bn moved down to South India for rail- 
way protection duties and were stationed at Erode. These duties 
covered an area stretching from Bangalore to Trichinopoly, involv- 
ing over 100 miles of line. At Erode the Bn was under canvas and 
there was not much to do, which was bad for morale. The only rec- 
reation for officers was to visit station dining rooms where reason- 
able meals could be obtained. But it was extremely interesting to 
observe the Tamils and the Southern Indian way of life as distinct 
from the Punjab. 

From January 1944 to February 1945 two companies at a time 
were dispatched to Jungle Warfare Schools at Gudalur and 
Shimoga where they provided demonstration troops. During this 
period every officer and man underwent training in jungle warfare 
both individual and collective up to company level. GHQ had 
intended to send them out to Burma. During this period the Bn 
moved from Erode to Salem. 



32 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Madras 

The Bn moved in March 1945 to St Thomas' Mount, just outside 
Madras. Here the Bn had no specific role and was at something of a 
loose end. It was at Madras that Jack Crosthwaite married Helen, 
one of a number of ladies who came from Madras to dispense tea to 
the jawans, and afterwards to be entertained in the Officers' Mess. 

The Bn was earmarked for the Burma front, but due to the sur- 
render of the Japanese the move did not materialize. The troops 
were very much disappointed and to recompense them the C-in-C 
during his tour of Madras area comforted the Bn by ordering its 
move to Iraq and then Syria. 

2.3 The Formation of the 3rd Bn Mazbhi and 
Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

Sialkot: August 1942 - September 1942 

On 6th August 1942 orders were received for the 2 i/c of the 1st Bn, 
Maj E P F Pearse (34 RSP) to go to Sialkot to the 13 Pioneer Bn, 
Indian Engineer Group, to become CO on its conversion to 3rd Bn 
M & R Sikh Regiment. 

The 13th Pioneer Bn was raised from Mazhbi and Ramdasia 
Sikhs in April 1942 and so was just over three months old when it 
had to transform into the 3rd Bn. It had experienced the same diffi- 
culties with lack of instructors as the 1st and 2nd Bns, only worse, 
and regretfully Lt Col Price had to remark, 'with instructions to 
raise the Bn from the dregs of an Engineer Bn'. At this time the offi- 
cers of the 13th Pioneer Bn, Indian Engineer Group were: 

CO Lt Col S A Bowden (32 SP) 

2 i/c Maj J F Hill RE 

Adjutant Capt R R Mestor RE 

Quartermaster Lt J Thompson IE 

33 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

Company Capt A Donaldson RE A Coy 

Commanders Capt A D Mitchell RE B Coy 

Capt WHO Short RE C Coy 

2 Lt Jiwan Singh on transfer of 

Capt Short 
2 Lt V C Jacobs RE D Coy 

Unlike the 2nd Bn, Lt Col Pearse had to manufacture his own 
VCOs and NCOs except for the very few he was able to scrounge 
from the 1st Bn and later from the Royal Bombay Sappers and 
Miners. Two officers were posted from the 2nd Bn (2 Lts Ranjit 
Singh and K G O Fearnley), and some 70 recruits came from the 
same Bn, which was over strength. Capt P G Petherbridge and 
three other officers were posted to the 3rd Bn from 5/17 Dogra 
Regiment, which was disbanded after it returned to Jullundur fol- 
lowing the 1942 retreat from Burma. It is interesting to note this 
connection with the Dogra Regt which had been so helpful when 
the 1st Bn was being raised a year previously. 

Capt Petherbridge was the first British officer to report, and on 
the strength of this he was appointed QM, to take over the stores 
and effects of the Pioneer Bn, a task for which he admitted to being 
totally untrained and unprepared. At that time 'Pumpus' Pearse 
was quite incredible. He would walk along the lines inspecting the 
Pioneers, a number of whom he remembered from the early 
Thirties when the original Sikh Pioneers had been disbanded. Some 
he refused to accept, but the majority he welcomed into his new 
Battalion. 

In particular there was a VCO who had been sent from one of 
the Bns as a likely Sub Maj. He was rejected outright as being a 'bad 
hat' and sent back instantly. Acting Sub Maj Darwara Singh was 
the first Subadar Maj of the 3rd Bn, and he was relieved by Sub 
Puran Singh, from 1 M & R Sikh Regiment (later Sub Maj Puran 
Singh, Sardar Bahadur, OBI) a magnificent fellow. Col Pearse and 

34 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 
Sub Maj Puran Singh together made a most formidable team. 

Agra: September 1942 - February 1943 

The Bn moved to Agra almost immediately and there carried out 
Bn and Bde training in most agreeable conditions. Christmas in 
Agra 1942 brought back the happiest of recollections. The Bn how- 
ever made a representation for a change of location on grounds of 
lack of sufficient training area, which was granted by GHQ(I). 

Bellary: February 1943 - September 1945 

On reaching Bellary, the Bn was put up in tents due to lack of 
pukka or hutted accommodation. Bellary turned out to be a good 
training ground due to both its geographical location and the role 
that the Bn had to play later. 

After six months the Bn was, like the 2nd Bn, put on the heart- 
breaking task of railway protection in Southern India, with their 
HQ at Bellary, about twenty miles west of the railway junction at 
Guntakal, which itself is on the main line from Bombay to Madras. 
Following the Congress riots, it was deemed that the railways were 
at risk and the Bn's task was to guard the bridges from the 
Tungahbadra River in the north to Dhamavaram in the south — a 
distance of well over 100 miles. 

This was a disastrous arrangement for a young Battalion with 
inexperienced British officers, VCOs and NCOs. Two companies 
went out at a time split into platoons and even sections. Mainte- 
nance of control and discipline was extremely difficult and at no 
time was the Bn ever assembled together. Many DOs went off to 
the Regiment's guardian angel in Delhi (Gen Reggie Savory) and 
the Bn got a steady supply of equipment, but even he could not 
change the Bn's role and they were in fact spread out on soulless 
railway protection duty for more than two years. The Bn did have 
its own tactical train which was used for inspections and changing 
the various guards, and this was certainly a diversion which created 

35 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

some interest. 

A good deal of hockey was played and there were a number of 
wrestling events arranged, but all in all it was not a good time for 
the Bn. 

It was at this time that, by Royal proclamation, the Regiment 
came to be known as The Sikh Light Infantry and the Battalion as 
The 3rd Battalion, the Sikh Light Infantry. 

Thai and Wana: September 1945 -July 1947 

In 1945 they followed the 2nd Bn as Demonstration Battalion for 
the Jungle Warfare School at Shimoga, and at the beginning of the 
cold weather in 1945 they moved up to Thai in Kurram. This was a 
small station on the Frontier, where they formed part of the Kohat 
Bde. This was an excellent period as the Bn was all together and 
able to train as a unit. 

Picqueting and 'opening the road' were fresh experiences, espe- 
cially in the new and exciting atmosphere of the North- West Fron- 
tier, and came as a welcome tonic after the lack-lustre operations on 
the railways of Southern India. For the British officers, Thai was a 
family station and much enjoyed despite their being accommo- 
dated in bungalows outside the fort, and a constant watch against 
tribesmen had to be kept. 

Madras: July 1947- 1948 

On arrival at Madras at the end of July 1947 the Bn was split, Bn 
HQ going to St Thomas Mount, one company to an ordnance 
depot at Gummindipundi and two to St George Fort, Madras, all 
for various guard duties. The Bn had the honour of taking over the 
historic fort of St George from a British infantry battalion on 3rd 
August 1947. The Bn remained in the area until January 1948. 

From the raising of the 3rd Bn in August 1942 Lt Col E P F 
'Pumpus' Pearse had been CO and Puran Singh the Sub Maj. No 
two men could have worked harder or done more in the very 

36 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

difficult circumstances that prevailed for so much of the time, to 
create a new 3rd Bn when surrounded by so little experience. To 
them is owed much of the credit for the eventual success of the Bn, 
which became a first-class unit. 

The main appointments were: 
CO Lt Col E P F Pearse (34 RSP) 

2 i/c Maj P G Petherbridge 

Adjutant Capt M R J Waring 

QM Capt P G Petherbridge (initially) 

2.4 The Formation of Garrison Bns and Coys, 
M & R Sikh Regiment 

25th Garrison Bn 

Poona: August - December 1942 

The 25th Garrison Bn was raised at Poona in about August 1942, 
under the command of Lt Col E C Le Patourel, MC (9 Jats), and 
was almost immediately sent to the Middle East. They were sta- 
tioned in Iraq and Iran and employed on escort and protection 
duties, although they were periodically let off for Bn and Bde train- 
ing. As Iran itself was previously unwilling to accept the Allies' 
presence, the British and Russians had 'invaded' it in August 1941 
in order to establish a base from which to channel supplies to the 
Russians. 

Abadan and Khorramshahr: January 1943 -March 1946 
In late 1945 the Bn was stationed at Abadan, the huge Anglo-Ira- 
nian Oil Company refinery from where much of the oil necessary 
for the war effort was processed. The safeguarding of this oil was a 
vital role, and will come to the fore again later. 

In January 1946 the Bn moved to barracks in Khorramshahr, 
where it operated guard posts and security patrols for the British 
Petroleum refinery at Abadan, and the port installations and 

37 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

railhead at Khorramshahr. Until the end of the war, Khorramshahr 
was an ocean terminal for Allied supplies to Russia, which then 
went by truck convoys right up to the Russian frontier. The 25th 
also did escort runs with these convoys on an occasional basis. 

The CO was Lt Col Le Patourel who, by 1946 had some 30 years 
of service, broken presumably by the inter-war retrenchments. 
The second-in-command was Maj C G Mitchell, and there was a 
Sikh Maj, probably Gurpartap Singh who joined in February or 
March 1946. Lt T D McKenzie (known as Big Mac!) took over from 
the QM who went on release in the middle of 1946, and Capt D R 
Casselle filled the vacant position of Adjutant. There was also an 
MO, but apart from this there were no KCOs and the companies 
were commanded by Subadars. The Bn never had more than five or 
six KCOs at any one time: this may have been the standard estab- 
lishment for Garrison Bns. 

Many things were peculiar to the 25th — and probably to many 
other units as well! Examples were an officer who was 
court-martialled for assaulting a barman with a bottle, and another 
who was charged with sedition. (Before anyone criticises such behav- 
iour, it is necessary to remember the extremely difficult conditions 
in that part of the world. The temperatures could rise to fantastic 
levels, as much as 140 degrees F in the shade — except that there 
never was any shade. Near the coast the humidity was very high, 
and the facilities were of a very poor standard. The French Foreign 
Legion called it caffard or desert madness, and it was probably the 
same sort of thing at Abadan and Khorramshahr). 

By 1946 the 25th Bn was the only sizeable formation in the area: 
the rest had dwindled down to a company of Royal Engineers, a 
military hospital, a US Air Force base, a small group of OSS opera- 
tives (Col Donovan's forerunners of the CIA) and a small section 
of the Intelligence Corps Special Investigations Branch. Some Per- 
sian militia were based in the ex- American supply depot, which had 
been purchased complete with its contents by a syndicate of 

38 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Teheran businessmen. 

There was excitement from time to time. In February 1946 there 
was considerable gunfire in the vicinity of the ex-US Army depot. 
A garbled report came in from one of our patrols, to the effect that 
the Duty VCO had been fired on from within the depot while on 
his rounds, and that our patrol was consequently shooting it out 
with the depot garrison. Capt Casselle took out a motorised pla- 
toon to see what was what. On the road towards the incident area 
they were passed by three dVi tonners loaded with Persian militia ... 
he reckoned that added up to at least 150 men. And the lorries had 
.50 calibre MMGs mounted over the cabs. Casselle's view was that 
it could well be one of those days when it would have been better to 
have stayed in bed. It was all quiet when the patrol was located, 
about half a mile from the depot perimeter. After deploying the 
platoon, the officer went with a section to see what was happening 
at the depot. Fortunately they were challenged by a Persian officer 
who spoke French. He claimed that it was all a case of mistaken 
identity due to a security guard who couldn't tell the difference 
between two Sikhs in a truck and a local peasant making away with 
goods stolen from the depot. The only casualty was the aforesaid 
guard! Since the patrol had sustained no losses, and the Persian mili- 
tia had gone off to lurk inside the depot, it was agreed that hostili- 
ties would cease and an inquest could wait till morning. 

Came the morning and Col Le Patourel took charge of the pro- 
ceedings, from which nothing much emerged except that he 
decided to increase the patrolling strength in that area, in case the Per- 
sians fancied their chances again. 

A few days later, about ten civilians loaded with booty from the 
depot came strolling past our patrol and few if any of them sur- 
vived the encounter. Le Patourel had the corpses dumped on the 
Town Maj's doorstep, in a neat line. Tea Biscuit from the Foreign 
Office (see later) was swiftly on the scene but showed no great con- 
cern, even though one of the dead was alleged to be the son of a 

39 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

sheikh. Had a duck got caught up in the melee, his attitude would 
no doubt have been different. It was a sad affair which reflected no 
credit on anybody, but could have resulted in death or injury well 
after the end of the war, in a remote part of the world. It probably 
discouraged any further attempts at looting, and news of the affair 
reached the 2nd Battalion, at that time across the river at Shaibah. 

The Garrison Bn was organised and equipped in much the same 
way as British or Indian infantry and had acquired very similar atti- 
tudes. A changed outlook was inevitable from close association 
with British and American troops, plus better conditions of service 
than in India. The differences invariably affected Indian Army 
units serving abroad, and led to considerable problems of readjust- 
ment on their return home. 

Although perpetual guard duty of one kind or another is hardly 
an inspiring role, the Battalion's morale and efficiency was high. In 
spite of his many eccentricities — or perhaps as much because of 
them — Col Le Patourel was revered by all ranks. This might not 
have been the case with the more senior generals, especially when 
he would casually remark that his established rank was senior to that 
of most generals. A comment from one of his officers seems appro- 
priate: '... if you screwed up, he called you a silly b , told you to 

put it right — now, if not sooner — and recommended suicide if 
you let it happen again!' Having said that, there was some evidence 
suggesting that serious misdemeanours went on. Possibly this was 
inevitable, bearing in mind that illegality was the norm out there. 
When you have a unit stationed in one of the backwaters of the 
war, working among a hotch-potch of British, Indian, American 
and Russian soldiery, plus an oil company colony of expatriates, and 
a host of indigenous wheeler-dealers — well, everything has a ten- 
dency to be enacted several sizes larger than life. Failure to condone 
certain activities — or worse, holier-than-thou attempts to prevent 
them — could and did have nasty consequences. 

Capt Casselle, who provided much of this information, 

40 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

continues: 

I learned all this through being detailed to mingle, fraternise, 
act-up 'the innocent abroad' and report back everything 
which might be even remotely in the Col's interest to know. 
My world then became largely populated by colourful char- 
acters. For instance ... 

Hannibal... A Hungarian ex-cavalry officer of 1914-1918 
war vintage. Latterly a Mister Fixit, all-purpose go-between. 
Drove around in a vast Cadillac, reputedly won off a US Air 
Force general at poker after bluffing with two low pairs 
against a full-house of Aces and Queens. Real name quite 
unpronounceable. 

Fat Daddy... Head of the Persian business syndicate that 
bought the American supply depot. He asked me to do a 
rough inventory — because it was sold without one, and 
then became resold, piecemeal, to more investors, and 
nobody was going to open up except to a neutral observer. I 
told him they'd been had: like a million cans of pork lun- 
cheon meat, astro-navigation charts, filing cabinets, arctic 
clothing, et al. Was he thinking of starting another war 
somewhere, I asked. At which, he gave me a lecture that did 
in effect forecast US embroilment in Korea and Vietnam, 
and thus the opportunity to sell the stuff back at an immense 
profit. 

Flash Gordon... A US Army captain. Another Mister Fixit. 
Often accompanied by an OSS chum who ostentatiously 
carried a Colt .45 automatic in a shoulder holster. Said to 
have negotiated payment in dollars for the supply depot, 
extracted his commission before putting the loot on a B17 
(Flying Fortress bomber) straight back to the States. Always 
had some lottery on the go. 

Tea Biscuit... So-named because he always wore a beige suit 
and shirt; same colour underwear, too, I shouldn't be sur- 
prised. A Foreign Office third-secretary or some such. Peri- 
odically came visiting to complain about an atrocity — e.g. 
four Engineer officers duck-shooting with tommy guns at 50 
mph in a Jeep. They crashed the Jeep, of course, and did not 

41 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

do themselves a lot of good in the process. Our beige friend 
showed no concern over that but was incensed about what 
he described as the decimation of the region's wildlife. 

The Basrah Bitch... Rosanna Galento, American WAC ser- 
geant who ran the PX (NAAFI or Canteen). I asked what 
currency was acceptable; anything except marks or yen, she 
replied. How did she work out all those exchange rates, I 
enquired. Against the customer, dum-dum, she said. She was 
near enough six feet tall and built like a brick privy, so you 
didn't argue. 

Polack... Natashe Czsnscka, ex-librarian and free-lance 
journalist who fled Warsaw when the Russians were pound- 
ing at the gates. Clerical services for hire — and forget any 
ideas about anything cosy to go with them. She tolerated me 
because I would occasionally guide her through the more 
sordid court cases reported in the News of the World. I sup- 
pose this somehow tied in with her declared ambition to 
make her way to England, get a nice apartment in South 
Kensington and a job with the BBC. Col Le Patourel said she 
fancied me and that it was a pity that I was already married, 
because she would have made a man of me, she would ... As 
they say: there was no answer to that. 

In my opinion, the 25th was a rough-and-ready lot but, in 
its own way, an effectively disciplined battalion; and earlier 
on had the potential to be a great one. I very much hope that 
those who chose to serve on after its disbandment were able 
to adapt and to help build the foundations of the success and 
prestige that the Regiment enjoys today. 

These episodes give a vivid if sketchy picture of life in what was 
obviously a very difficult situation. The shortage of officers put 
much more responsibility on VCOs who commanded companies, 
and on the platoon commanders and section leaders. They were 
not having to deal with a conventional situation or conventional 
characters, as is clearly shown in the account above. Still, the job 
had to be done, and 25th Sikh LI were the ones to do it. 

42 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

After Khorramshahr the battalion returned to Lahore for dis- 
bandment in March 1946, arriving there in April. Col Le Patourel 
commanded them throughout their entire existence. 

The senior officers of the Battalion in February or March 1946 
were: 

CO Lt Col E C Le Patourel, MC 

2 i/c Maj C G Mitchell 

Adjutant Capt D R Casselle 

QM Capt T D McKenzie 

MO Not known 

Other officer Maj Gurpartap Singh 

26th Garrison Bn 

The 26th Garrison Bn, M & R Sikh Regiment was raised at 
Aurangabad by Lt Col R de V R Fox, MC (11 Sikhs), although 
other records show the place of raising as Poona. 

At some stage they moved to Poona, where, it is reported, they 
were in barracks opposite the Aga Khan's palace guarding 
Mahatma Gandhi, who was interned there. As in the case of the 
25th Bn, they were also employed on escort and protection duties 
on the railway from Bombay to Poona, and they could be seen 
with rifles and bayonets guarding bridges and crossings. 

In December 1945 Lt Col Fox handed over command to Lt Col 
Mallinson (Dogra) and in May 1946 they returned to Lahore for 
disbandment. 

35th and 37th Labour/Garrison Companies 

These two Labour companies were sent to the Middle East in 1940, 
probably soon after the declaration of war by Italy on 11th June 
1940. The strong Italian forces in Libya and Abyssinia (Ethiopia) 
threatened the British position in the Middle East, particularly 
Egypt, where the main British bases were. Hostilities soon com- 
menced: the Italians over-ran the small force in British Somaliland, 

43 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

and in September the expected invasion of Egypt from Libya 
began. 

British and Allied forces were built up in Egypt as quickly as the 
meagre resources available permitted, and there was an obvious 
need for military as opposed to dock labourers. It can be presumed 
(it would be nice to know for certain) that the two Labour compa- 
nies consisted of Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikhs, and it is possible that 
one of them was commanded by an old Sikh Pioneer, Maj N P Rob- 
inson (2/23 SP). He had lived in South Africa after leaving the Sikh 
Pioneers, and was certainly at the siege of Tobruk, where he was 
wounded by enemy action. 

The companies obviously started in Egypt, but with the success 
of Gen Wavell's offensive which began in December 1940 the sup- 
plies were able to be transported by sea to Tobruk, which was the 
base for the Labour companies. Incidentally, the 11th Indian Infan- 
try Brigade of 4th Indian Division was commanded by Brig R A 
Savory at the time of Wavell's counter-offensive. 

In 1943 the two Labour companies moved over to Iraq in the 
area of Basrah, now a very important supply base for the Russian 
front, through Iran; there was also a detachment at Bahrein. At 
some stage they were absorbed into the Regiment and became 1 
and 2 Garrison companies. They returned to the Regimental Cen- 
tre at Lahore in October 1945 and were disbanded in February 
1946. 

3 Garrison Company 

This Garrison Company, originally 87 Garrison Coy, was first 
employed on Garrison and L of C duties in the rear areas of the 
Burma campaign, and finished up with five months in the Cocos 
Islands. These are isolated in the central Indian Ocean, about half- 
way between the southern tip of India and the north west tip of 
Australia. They returned to the Regimental Centre at Lahore in 
May 1946 for disbandment. 

44 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

127 Garrison Training Company 

This training company was stationed in Bareilly for the whole of its 
independent career until its absorption by the Regimental Centre 
in September 1945. The OC in 1942 was Capt Dilbagh Singh 
Sidhu. It presumably recruited and trained for the Garrison Bns 
and Coys. It ceased to exist altogether in March 1946. 

2.5 The formation of the Training Battalion at 
Bareilly 

Initially, training of all recruits had to be carried out by the various 
Battalions of the Regiment, and in Indian Army terms almost 
everyone was a recruit or at best a very junior and inexperienced 
soldier. As Col Price remarked, the greatest problem was the short- 
age of experienced leaders, and this would take much time and 
effort to overcome. Late in 1943, that is, some two years after the 
formation of the 1st Bn and eighteen months after the 2nd and 3rd 
Bns were raised, the need for a dedicated training unit was accepted. 

So a Training Battalion was set up as part of the 9th Jat Regimen- 
tal Centre at Bareilly. The somewhat kachcha lines were separate 
from those of the Jats, but the officers, having no proper building 
to house their own Mess, were able to share the excellent, 
well-established Jat's Officers Mess. The Battalion was commanded 
by yet another former Sikh Pioneer officer, Lt Col P White (34 
RSP), and in September 1943 Hon Lt Sohan Singh, Sardar Bahadur, 
OBI (who had served with 32 Sikh Pioneers) had been re-employed 
and was appointed Sub Maj of the Training Battalion. 

The battalion consisted of two Training Companies, each with 
some 400 recruits, sub-divided into platoons which bore the names 
of Sikh Pioneer battle honours (e.g. China, Festubert etc.). There 
would be a Coy Comd and usually three or four junior officers, 
newly-commissioned and new to the Regiment and to the men 

45 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

who were enlisted in it. For them it would be an opportunity to 
meet the men and learn their particular strengths and weaknesses 
and, above all, to get the 'feel' of the Regiment; something quite 
tangible, yet impossible to put into words. But this would now 
have been the new Sikh Light Infantry: time was too short to per- 
mit instruction in the proud records and traditions of the Sikh 
Pioneers. 

There was also a Duty Company and HQ, including a Records 
and Accounts section under Maj J R Ross, to look after those vital 
aspects of military life. This section employed some eighty clerks 
and held some 7,000 records — quite a number. The instructors in 
the first instance were Jats, but they were replaced by our own men 
as soon as these could be spared by the Active Battalions. There was 
no Weapon Training Officer as such on the establishment at that 
time. Instruction, demonstrations etc. were carried out by a small 
team of VCOs and Havs under the supervision of the 2 i/c (in 1944) 
Maj Mohinder Singh, MC. In May 1945 Capt Routley was recalled 
from Saharanpur to become the first established Weapon Training 
Officer. In addition there was a Boys' Company under the com- 
mand of Capt J W Warner, who was a keen athlete. 

It has to be realised that all the men in the Indian Army were vol- 
unteers; in our case of the same religion and caste, who very often 
followed father and grandfather into the Army and indeed into the 
Regiment. The men were mostly poorish farmers from the Punjab. 
They were not at all used to western-style clothes and boots, and 
route marches would often be completed with the majority of the 
new recruits barefoot, until they got used to the Army boot. Simi- 
larly the concept of left and right had to be taught, and this could be 
quite amusing or exasperating, depending on how one looked at it. 
But very quickly the men would get the 'hang' of things, and from 
then on progress would be quite rapid. 

Training started with drill and turnout, the basic essentials for all 
soldiers, and then went on to weapon training and live firing of rifle 

46 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

and LMGs, and throwing of grenades; this latter was always quite 
interesting for a brand new batch of recruits. Then there would be 
route marches to toughen up the body and tactical exercises to 
sharpen up military skills, and always a good proportion of time 
for sports which, apart from hockey, included volley ball, wres- 
tling, kabaddi, and even football, the latter usually played in bare 
feet, except by the officers! These were often on a competitive basis 
and were entered into with great enthusiasm, especially hockey 
which, on a hard mud pitch, could be almost lethal as the desire to 
win sometimes overcame judgment. But the men were in good 
heart and always cheerful, keen to get training done and to be 
posted to an Active Battalion. 

Maj Watkin has provided the following comments on aspects of 

life and training at the Training Battalion: 

Opium Eaters! A problem in the Trg Bn was with recruits 
who turned out to be opium eaters. They tended to collapse 
when deprived of their fix, a lump of brown tobacco-like 
substance which they actually ate. It was difficult to cure 
them although there was an 'opium eaters squad' under a 
senior VCO who gave them rather a hard life. IA Regula- 
tions had it that we must detect them in the first two months 
of service in order to discharge them — otherwise they had 
to be retained and given an opium ration. At this time 
recruiting was to a large extent in the hands of recruiting 
agents in the Punjab — mostly substantial landown- 
ers — who would produce recruits to the recruiting officers 
and be paid so much per head. We had 'professional desert- 
ers' who ran away only to be recruited again by the same 
agents who collected another commission. 

Sports. We had a first-class hockey team in Bareilly which 
reached the area final, fiercely contested! Other sports 
included Punjabi wrestling between two individual oppo- 
nents stripped down to loincloths, and probably covered in 
coconut oil, in an area about the size of a large boxing ring: 
another was kabaddi, a game of challenge between two teams 



47 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

arranged in lines either side of a dividing line — and rather 
like catch-as-catch-can, only more violent, and requiring a 
strong pair of lungs. 

Basic training. This was quite a lengthy business. The 
recruits were very jangli and mostly totally illiterate, and 
had to be taught basic Roman Urdu and numbers. They 
couldn't even read the calibrations on a rifle back sight. 
Moreover they were generally of poor physique. For the 
first two months we fed them up and gave them extra milk. 
Basic training took four months followed by one month's 
leave. After that came field training and finally jungle war- 
fare training at Saharanpur. After all that I reckon they were 
ready for most things. They were dead keen and never went 
outside the lines during the first four months, and spent 
much of their evenings doing weapon training, off their own 
bat! 

One particular problem was always education for the more spe- 
cialised roles within the Bn, such as signallers and NCOs. Classes in 
Roman Urdu (parts I and II) were organised, for which there was a 
money award, and which helped promotion to L Nk and Nk. 
There were also classes in English, mainly for VCOs and signallers. 
Younger recruits were taken on as Boys; this gave more time for 
language and other teaching. 

Language — For officers it was expected that they would pass the 
Lower Standard (Elementary) Urdu examination to enable them to 
communicate with the Indian troops. There was a reward of Rs.50 
for having passed, and it may also have helped in promotion to 
Capt. To obtain an emergency commission into the Indian Army 
at that time it was (usually) necessary for British officer cadets to 
pass the Elementary Urdu examination at their OTS or Military 
Academy. Those cadets who came from the UK by the long sea 
journey around the Cape had the advantage of initial instruction 
from older officers, usually Indians, during their several weeks at 
sea. They then gained proficiency with lessons given by profes- 
sional munshis (teachers) at their Training School or Academy in 

48 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

India. 

The next stage was the Higher Standard in Urdu examination 
which would be left to the individual officer or to his Regiment. 
Passing this exam had a reward of Rs.100 and would, perhaps, have 
helped in gaining promotion to Maj. 

The official text book was Khawab-o-Khayal which included 
From Sepoy to Sub by Sita Ram which Maj Watkin remembers 
included Sir Arthur Wellesley's campaign in India and his duel 
with Tipoo Sahib culminating in the Battle of Seringapatam. All 
this required mastery of the Persi-Arabic script which, in peace- 
time, there may well have been time to accomplish: but with the 
pressures of war only a few officers made the effort. Those who did 
found the local munshis in Bareilly quite good. It was a worthwhile 
experience to be invited to their homes for a meal, and to have to 
talk to the family and other guests in the vernacular. 

Perhaps it would have been better for the younger officers to 
have learned as much Punjabi as possible in order to communicate 
directly with the jawans — and ignore the prize money! 

When the Training Bn moved to Lahore there was an excellent 
text book on Punjabi published by the local Civil and Military 
Gazette (known affectionately as the Drivel and Dilatory). Some of 
the clerks in the Battalion's offices were also interested in acquiring 
or 'borrowing' a copy. 

But for all this the VCOs in particular were always ready to help, 
even if they had a good chuckle afterwards; and the training went 
on. After basic training, which took four months, all recruits or 
rather soldiers {sepoys) as they had become, were sent to the Jungle 
Warfare Training Centre with 39 Indian Division in the Siwalik 
Hills below Dehra Dun and close to Saharanpur. After some appre- 
hension by the Jats, a Training Company for the M & R Sikh Regi- 
ment was established with the 7/9th Jat Regiment (commanded by 
Lt Col Visheshar Nauth Singh) and forming part of 1 13 Ind Inf Bde 
(commanded by Brig Bourke). The training centre was situated in 

49 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

the wooded hills of Badshahibagh, a renowned big game-hunting 
area before the war, just down the main road from the Timli Pass 
on the road to Dehra Dun. Maj Jim Baldwin of the Jats was put in 
command of the M & R Sikhs at Jungle Warfare Training and he 
wrote: 

As I think you know, I took over the training of the M & Rs 
and very quickly realised that they had the making of sound 
and reliable soldiers. I think that to a degree they felt that 
they had to show that they were at least as good as anyone 
else; they were full of enthusiasm and had an eagerness to 
learn that was very satisfying to me. But what gave me the 
greatest pleasure and made me feel proud to be associated 
with them, apart from their determination to become effi- 
cient in training, was their sense of loyalty to me. This was 
illustrated time and time again, and for me was quite a sober- 
ing experience. At times I felt that this sense of loyalty was 
more freely given than I deserved. From all the subsequent 
reports I received the M & Rs fulfilled all the promise they 
had shown with me. I had a great affection for them and am 
proud to have been so closely involved with them. 

In a way, this sums up the affection between the Mazhbis and 
Ramdasias and their British officers; it was mutual, but always very 
freely given by the men. 

The Training Battalion may have been the first experience of 
strong drink that some of the young, newly-commissioned British 
officers had had. Straight from school in many cases, and barely out 
of their teens, the 'Passing-out' party of their platoon of recruits 
was sometimes very aptly named! One amusing story must be told, 
without mentioning any names. Apparently, after a very good 
party in the Officers' Mess, a senior officer on his bicycle, the usual 
mode of transport in the lines, failed to turn either left or right on 
reaching the road from the Mess, and subsided with his bicycle into 
the monsoon ditch opposite. There he was found, next morning, 
still asleep and unharmed, by the Area (?) Commander on a visit. 
The Area Commander was not amused, and from then on it was 

50 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 



routine for a recruit to be detailed off to look after each officer; in 
practice the officer would be sat on the saddle of his bicycle, and 
solemnly wheeled back to his quarters, pushed and guided by the 
recruit. It was certainly one way of avoiding difficulties with the 
Area Commander! 

There was no band at Bareilly: it didn't start until the Trg Bn was 
at Lahore when a nucleus was started. During the time at Bareilly 
visits were paid by the Bombay Sappers and Miners band from 
Kirkee in which there were many trained bandsmen of Ramdasias 
and Mazhbis. The conditions at Bareilly were not good; there were 
no VCOs' quarters and all lived in huts with thatched roofs and 
verandahs, and khus-khus tatties in the hot season. There was a 
VCOs' Mess to which the officers were invited from time to time, 
and where necessary were assisted back to their Quarters. 

Eventually, after many representations, its Training Battalion was 
moved to Lahore on 15th October 1945. From 1st January 1946, 
and at the same time as its new QM Lt (QM) WEG Blythe joined, 
it changed its title to 'The Sikh L.I. Regimental Centre'. Sohan 
Singh continued as Sub Maj, Ujagar Singh as Jem Adjutant, with 
Santa, Daulat and Natha Singh as the senior Subs. The senior staff 
of the Training Battalion were: 



Comdt 



2i/c 



Adjt 



QM 

Pay & Records 
Coy Comds 



Lt Col P White (34 RSP) 
Lt Col C H Price (32 SP) 

Maj H Du Pre Moore 
Maj Mohinder Singh MC 

Capt E H C Brown 
Capt Narrinder Singh 

Capt WEG Blythe 
Maj J R Ross 
Capt K Draper 



late 1943 - 
March 1944 
Mar. 1944 - 
October 1945 



51 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

Capt F Hepworth 

Capt J W Warner (always Boys' Company) 

Capt H Nisbet 

Capt R P Watkin 

Capt F E Pearson 

Capt W C M Williams 'Bill Singh' 

Lt Kupaswami Naidu 

Other Officers Lt I B Gardner 

Lt Macfarlane 

At this time the first casualties came through from the 1st Bn at 
Meiktila and subsequent actions, and many were looked after in the 
IM Hospital at Bareilly where they were visited from time to time. 
Many were quite badly wounded but their spirit was amazing. All 
they could think about was getting back into the thick of it. 

A comment was made to two of our ex-officers after the VJ 
Anniversary Parade by someone who asked, 'Were your lot at 
Meiktila in 17 Div?' One of ours said, 'Yes, that was our 1st Bn', 
and the other added, 'They got knocked about a bit.' The ques- 
tioner then remarked, 'They did bloody well and gave a damn sight 
more than they got!' 

In addition, there was at Bareilly the 127 Garrison Training 
Company, charged with recruiting and training for the Garrison 
Bns (25th and 26th) and the Garrison Coys (1st, 2nd and 3rd). This 
Company was absorbed into the Training Bn in September 1945 
and ceased to exist in March 1946. 

2.6 The Formation of the Regimental Centre 

Lt Col C H Price handed over command of the 1st Bn to Lt Col 
Staveley Jones (2 Punjab) in March 1944, and proceded to Bareilly 
to raise the Training Bn, which at this time had become independ- 
ent of the 9th Jats. In October 1945 the Regimental Centre was 

52 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

moved to Lahore, into the old Cavalry Lines. Col Price remarked 
'Although Lahore was a very pleasant place to visit, it is no place 
for a Regimental Centre', and a moment's reflection will show 
why. Too many distractions, too close at hand. The Lines were 
vast, very expensive and had too many internal security 
commitments. 

Here the Centre reorganised again, into: 
1 Recruits' Training Company, 
1 Advanced Training and Holding Company, 
1 Duty Company 1 Boys Company, 
1 Demob. Centre, 
1 Resettlement Centre, 
1 Records and Administration Section. 

At one time during peak demobilisation, the Centre was 3,000 
strong, and men were being released at the rate of 120 per week. 

Capt Eric Heath writes: 

Lts Webster Smith, Brown and I joined the Training Bn at 
Bareilly in late May or early June 1945. There were, as I 
remember, HQ, A, B, C, and D Coys, Boys Coy and 
Records. I became OC MT Platoon, part of HQ Coy. 

In October the Training Bn moved to Lahore. I took the 
Transport Platoon of 8 trucks and 2 motor cycles by road: it 
took 8 days — at times 4 trucks were towing the other 4! At 
Amritsar we visited the Golden Temple and my 16 jawans 
garlanded me when we came out. 

About November I was promoted to Capt and took over 
B Coy from Hugh Nisbet. The Coy became the Demob Coy 
and then the Demob Centre. Much of my time was spent 
interviewing those due for demob and finding out where 
they were going and what work they wanted to do. 

A few memories 

The Regimental Centre had a very good pipe band. 

Maj Mike Ross, the Records Officer, liked to borrow our 
Harley-Davidson motor-cycle and wasn't very sensitive in 
his use of the foot clutch. He used to take off on the rear 

53 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

wheel — what is now known as a 'wheely'. 

... seeing two one-armed sepoys jointly knitting a sock in 
the Regimental Centre. 

Freddy Hepworth had a black eye from being knocked off 
his bike one night by a low-flying owl. Sometimes he could 
be seen in mess kit preparing the joint for dinner because the 
mess cooks weren't good at it. 

The Centre also took over the 12,000 Sikh Pioneer Records and 
the Sikh Charitable Fund from the Sappers and Miners. Col Price 
describes the Regimental Centre as definitely the man-bap of the 
Regiment and a very different cup of tea from the old Training Bn. 
In addition to the functions of the old Training Bn it had to train 
boys (aged 15 to 17), to carry out post-basic training of recruits as 
the Training Divisions had ceased to exist; and to hold the current 
and past records of the whole Regiment. This included the Pay and 
all Promotions and grants of GS Pay and Proficiency Pay. It can be 
imagined that the Centre was an interesting job, if nothing else. 

In February 1946 Lt Gen Sir Reginald Savory, CB, DSO, MC, 
Adjutant General in India was asked to become Col of the Regi- 
ment by the Comdt Sikh LI Regimental Centre and, despite the 
knowledge that if he accepted he would be barred from the Colo- 
nelcy of his own Regiment (the Sikh Regiment), he accepted the 
appointment. This was confirmed by HM the King on 3rd April 
1946 and was no doubt warmly welcomed by all ranks of the Regi- 
ment. At about the same time HH the Raja of Faridkot became 
Hony Col. 

And finally, in October 1946, it was announced that the Regi- 
ment would take the Army List precedence of the Sikh Pioneers 
and be permitted to carry their battle honours. The wheel had 
turned full circle! 

On 15th October Lt Col Price handed over command of the 
Centre to Lt Col E P F Pearse (34 RSP), soon followed by Lt Col 
Ricketts, MC, who was the last British officer to hold that post. 

54 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Farewell Lahore 
a personal account of the Regimental Centre 

J M Ricketts 

On return to India after completing my end-of-war leave in 
1946, 1 set off up-country from Bombay to rejoin my Fron- 
tier Force Regimental Centre in Sialkot. Stopping off en 
route in Delhi, I learned of my transfer to a newly formed 
regiment, the Sikh Light Infantry. Who were they, I won- 
dered? I was to be second in command to Col C H Price, 
commanding its Regimental Centre in Lahore — a wonder- 
ful station. 'Prix' Price I knew well and looked forward to 
being with him; he, too was from my 2nd Bn, 12th Frontier 
Force Regiment and he had known my father in the old Sikh 
Pioneers. Before joining, I had not realised that this new regi- 
ment of whom I had heard great things spoken of its perfor- 
mance in Burma, were the reraised gallant old Mazbhi and 
Ramdasia Sikhs, the actual descendants of the famous old 
Sikh Pioneers! I had loved my Sikh company of the 3rd Bn 
12th Frontier Force Regiment in the Middle East and was 
well content to be with Sikhs again. I shall always remember 
the welcome from Sub Maj Sohan Singh who embraced me 
saying, 'Sahib, I was a L Nk in your father's company!' 

Soon afterwards, on 15th October 1946, Col Price retired 
and was succeeded by Col 'Pumpus' Pearse who came from 
the 2/3 Punjab Regiment. He was just the man for the job, 
but he was soon to depart for England on leave, not having 
been home for seven years. No one could have anticipated 
the awful happenings of the following summer of 1947 and 
no passage was available for Pearse to return. The Centre 
was at the core of the Punjab tragedy and I was privileged to 
remain in command over a vital period. The position 
became critical when the flooded Sutlej halted the projected 
move of the Centre to Ferozepur and we were marooned 
after 15th August in the newly created state of Pakistan. 
Lahore, outside the Centre confines, had suddenly become 
hostile territory; communal relations, like the fires, shoot- 
ings and ambushes under the smoke-filled sky, ran riot. I had 



55 



The Raising of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment 

no first-hand memories of the traditional courage of our M 
& R in the heat of battle, but they gave proof enough of their 
coolness and dependability in the face of the severest provo- 
cation and just when they could not be expected to under- 
stand why the old India they knew had suddenly gone mad. 
While the civil administration lay in ruins they continued 
guarding VIP bungalows and buildings in the cantonment 
and even within the city itself. They were indispensable. 
As it turned out, the Centre's immobility was a blessing not 
only to the old Sikh Pioneer refugees from their settlements 
in the West Punjab but to many a Sikh family fleeing 
eastwards to the new Pakistan-Indian border. 'Luck' lines in 
Mir Mir were soon known as a safe harbour and staging post 
along the escape route to India. We looked more like a refu- 
gee camp than a training depot and it became impossible to 
continue with our normal role. Temporary food and shelter, 
medical aid and limited transport were provided for numer- 
ous military pensioners and their families: also, doubtless, 
various co-religionists besides. All these unfortunates were 
passed through with the minimum delay while, somehow, 
the ration situation was masterminded. 

Incredibly, while all this was going on, communications 
remained unbroken with our Col, General Savory, who was 
Adjutant General in Delhi (by telephone) and with our 
Honorary Col, His Highness the Rajah of Faridkot (by Air). 
We owed much to both of them; to the General for his sup- 
port and advice and to HH for his material help on the spot. 
He sent his little L5 plane over for me one evening and, tak- 
ing off from the polo ground, I was soon ensconced in the 
palace where, over some Rajah-sized whiskies, he suddenly 
announced a typically generous offer to feed and house 3,000 
Sikhs for 6 months. I can't swear to these figures now, but 
they certainly took my breath away. This wonderful ges- 
ture, like his numerous gifts to the Regiment on becoming 
an Honorary Sikh Light Infantryman, was supremely 
important; our men and their families knew they had a 
haven in Faridkot just over the border. After a final Mahara- 
jah-sized peg it was getting dark, so we hurried off back to 

56 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Lahore, landing with the aid of our own lights. I was glad not 
to be doing the driving! 

For our Centre to have been still in Lahore at Partition was 
a stroke of luck. We were at the most vital spot in the 
Punjab. We were to have gone to Sialkot, a move rendered 
impossible by the division of India. I like to think that, in an 
internal crisis in its country's history, the Centre rose to the 
occasion and midst civil anarchy and bloodshed helped keep 
some semblance of the former state of law and order, so pre- 
serving many lives and much property. The practical pre- 
cept of the old Sikh Pioneers, 'Either find a way or make 
one' may not have been quite apt in the conditions, but it 
seemed to indicate the direction where advantage could be 
snatched from adversity. Thanks to the steadfast loyalty of 
all ranks this was done. 



57 



The 1st Bn moves East 



3.1 Moving Up 

Raiwalla: March - April 1944 

In March the Bn moved to Raiwalla, about ten miles out of Dehra 
Dun, to the Jungle Training School for battalion training. The Bn 
was ordered to prepare for a move to the Arakan in Burma for 
operations. These orders were changed in late April when the Japa- 
nese threat to that area ceased. 

Maj J C Orgill (14 Punjab Regiment) arrived as 2 i/c and the 
Company Commanders were Worne, Maling, Ewert and 
Campbell- Austin. 

Ranchi: May to September (99 Bde) 

The pace of training was being stepped-up to Bde level at Ranchi, in 
readiness to join 17 Indian Division, who were then fighting at 
Imphal. Lt Col Staveley Jones unfortunately was involved in an 
accident in May, only a month or so after taking over as CO. He 
drove a carrier into a tree and bust his kneecap and had to leave for 
hospital: Maj Orgill acted as CO and Maj Maling as 2 i/c. 
Staveley-Jones did not return to the battalion. 

On 23rd June 1944 the name of the Regiment was changed from 
the technically correct but generally unpopular Mazhbi and 
Ramdasia Sikh Regiment to the Sikh Light Infantry. Gen Savory 
used to tell an amusing story about the difficulties of getting a deci- 
sion on the new name at GHQ. Various suggestions were put for- 
ward: Sikh Fusiliers, Sikh Rifles or Sikh Light Infantry and the 

58 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

latter name was selected after a vote was taken. Apparently 'Reggie' 
Savory suggested Sikh Brenadiers, on the lines of Grenadiers but 
with a much more modern weapon in the title; this concentrated 
minds and produced the alternatives mentioned above. As a curios- 
ity, this choice of name was not accompanied by a change of Regi- 
mental badge, which as Light Infantry should have incorporated a 
bugle-horn. Gen Savory used to say that he always visualised a unit 
of troops able to travel light across all sorts of terrain, rather as the 
old Sikh Pioneers used to do, and not marching at break-neck speed 
and madly blowing bugles! 

On this subject, John Maling says that the Bns were asked by Col 
Price which of the suggested names were preferred. 'The consensus 
of opinion was that we preferred Sikh LI as long as we did not have 
to make a war time change to Light Infantry customs in drill, dress 
etc' This was agreed by GHQ. 

Ranchi: May 1944 -January 1945 (17 Indian Division) 

The Battalion was moved to several different camps in the Ranchi 
area, including Lohardaga, Dipatoli and Namkun during this 
period, living in tents or makeshift bashas. The monsoon made this 
very trying. 

Training was sharply intensified on the arrival from Burma of 17 
Ind Div with its supporting weapons in late September 1944. At 
about this time Lt Col W H Barlow- Wheeler (11 Sikh Regiment) 
took over from Maj Orgill as CO and the latter left the Battalion. 

The principal officers then were: 



CO 


Lt Col W H Barlow- Wheeler 


2i/c 


Maj J D Maling, MC 


Adjutant 


Capt H Whitaker 




Maj J A Hett 


Quartermaster 


Capt A B Burnett 


MO 


Capt B V Kale, IMS 



59 



The 1st Bn moves East 

Company Maj D J Ewert 

Commanders Maj J Worne 

Capt Macfarlane 

Maj G Campbell- Austin 

Capt D L Blois Admin Coy 

The Battalion provided the Divisional Demonstration Com- 
pany for tactical training (Maj Jock Worne's company). Training 
took place with 255 Indian Tank Bde [5 (Probyn's) Horse and 9 
Royal Deccan Horse, both with Sherman tanks and 16 Light Cav- 
alry with armoured cars] starting in September. This involved a lot 
of live ammunition firing with the tank regiments, the troops 
going in against simulated bunkers as close as ten yards; the tanks 
would switch from 75mm HE shells to solid anti-tank shot for the 
last few yards. This was wonderful training and the liaison with 
tank commanders was excellent. (Chaplin's hook Action in Burma 
1942-45 gives the best description of training and then the actions 
of 17 Ind Div.) 

Changes in organisation to suit the projected role of the Bn were 
fairly frequent at this time. A carrier platoon was formed and 
equipped and then disbanded. The 3" mortar platoon ended up 
with mule transport. The Animal Transport Platoon (mules) was 
sent on ahead of the Bn when the Division moved from Ranchi so 
that it could be held in the Imphal area with the rear Divisional ech- 
elons, to join the Bn at Meiktila much later. In fact, it was not until 
the Bn had got to the Shan States in June 1945 that the animal trans- 
port platoon rejoined the battalion. 

In December 1944, 99 Bde was ordered to move to the Imphal 
area, early in January 1945, for unspecified action as part of 17 Divi- 
sion. All Divisional signs were to be removed. Preparations for this 
move were completed very quickly. 

At the last moment the Bn lost two senior Company Com- 
manders. Maj Campbell-Austin was posted elsewhere and Maj 

60 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Worne was involved in a bad jeep accident causing him to stay in 
Ranchi Hospital for several months. Maj Ewert was also injured in 
this accident but, swathed in bandages, was able to accompany the 
Battalion. Lt Col Barlow- Wheeler was detained in Ranchi, on 
urgent business, for some weeks and was unable to join the battal- 
ion until sometime in February. 

The loss of senior officers at this stage was serious. The battalion 
was very fortunate in receiving Maj M H W Robinson (11 Sikh 
Regiment) as a replacement Company Commander. He took over 
D Company from Maj Campbell-Austin when we left Ranchi. 
Capt Macfarlane, who had been with the battalion a short time, 
took over Worne's C Company. 

Journey to the Imphal Plain (Wangjing): January 1945 

The 1st Bn moved from Ranchi to the Imphal Plain (Wangjing) 

after a somewhat eventful trip. Lt Col John Maling writes: 

Lt Col Barlow- Wheeler was detained by events in Ranchi 
when we set off from there by train to Dimapur, the railhead 
for Imphal. I was therefore commanding officer for our jour- 
ney which took us across the Ganges and the Bramhaputra 
Rivers. We crossed the latter river at Gauhati by ferry and 
reloaded in a hurry on to a metre-gauge railway line for the 
run to Dimapur. It was dusk and the men's evening meal had 
been prepared and was being eaten at a flat area by Gauhati 
railway Station — a few hundred yards away from where the 
train was drawn up. 

I had just started dinner in my rail compartment when 
suddenly the Orderly VCO appeared at my carriage with an 
urgent message from Maj Donald Blois, the Orderly British 
Officer for the day. The message was to the effect that 'the 
ammunition wagon was on fire, Maj Blois was doing what 
he could but he had not located any fire extinguishers or 
water buckets. The wagon was at the front of the train and 
was not blazing but smoking.' The only cheering part of the 
message was that the engine driver was present with his 

61 



The 1st Bn moves East 

engine. As the VCO, my orderly and I ran up the train, past 
the sentries in their positions outside each of their carriages, 
a message was going to the Companies to stay away from the 
train until further orders. We found Donald Blois had got 
the wagon open and had located the seat of the fire in the 
general stores, which made up the rear half of the long steel 
wagon, with a clear gap of three or four feet between the gen- 
eral stores and the regiment's ammunition. 

The general stores were now burning brightly. There was 
another stores wagon, marked 'Royal Engineers Stores', 
between the engine and our burning wagon. After a very 
brief discussion with the engine driver we decided to uncou- 
ple the two front wagons from the rest of the train. The 
driver would then take us slowly out of the station whilst we 
unloaded all the ammunition onto the sides of the railway 
line from the doors on each side of the burning wagon. So 
we puffed gently down the track whilst Maj Blois, the duty 
VCO, two sepoys and I worked quickly to move all the bat- 
talion's first-line ammunition boxes of .303 ammunition, 3" 
and 2" mortar bombs, grenades of all varieties (nos 36,77 and 
M9A1), Very pistol cartridges and 808 plastic explosive. The 
draught of incoming air kept the flames of the burning gen- 
eral stores away from us and in a very short time we had 
thrown all the ammunition out. The engine driver stopped 
on our yelled request, the somewhat exhilarated Sikh LI 
unloading team dismounted, the front RE wagon was 
uncoupled and taken to a safe distance, and the general stores 
burnt themselves out. At this stage we were joined by two 
British RE soldiers who had been in the front wagon but 
who had been unaware of what was going on behind them. 
They said that their wagon gave them enough space to 
unroll their sleeping bags, but it had been a tight squeeze as 
their wagonload was made up of closely packed large acety- 
lene gas cylinders! 

In a remarkably short time the burnt-out wagon was 
shunted off and replaced by a fresh one, the whole train was 
coupled up and our journey towards Dimapur proceeded. 
For the first mile the pace was very slow, for all the men 

62 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

walked along the side of the tracks picking up the jettisoned 
ammunition and loading it in the fresh wagon now at the 
end of the train. After a brief stop for tidying up and check- 
ing of the collected ammunition, the troops entrained and in 
quick time we were on our way to Dimapur. Somewhere in 
GHQ records in Delhi there will be a report on this inci- 
dent, for we held a court of enquiry into the incident when 
we reached Wanjing on the Imphal Plain. 

There was another incident on that final run down the line 
to Dimapur which we did not report to higher authority. 
The VCOs were in first class compartments complete with 
the usual en suite loos. Jem X, on that last night, opened the 
loo door in the dark and stepped in. But he had opened the 
wrong door and he stepped out and into a ditch by the side 
of the track. He was uninjured and the first anyone knew 
about it was when he was found to be missing on arrival at 
Dimapur. He rejoined the next day, but it was bad luck for 
Jem X that his exploit occurred just before our final training 
for an air-transported role. I remember the huge grins when, 
at a briefing to all VCOs and NCOs shortly before we flew 
from Palel to Meiktila, I commented that it would be a good 
thing for any peshab karne wallahs (those wishing to relieve 
themselves) to make sure they were going through the right 
door whilst in flight. 

John Maling added that both Donald Blois and Jem X were killed 
within a few weeks of arrival in Burma. 

Imphal Plain (Wangjing), Training: January - February 1945 

At Wangjing 99 Bde formed up for its next task — to start with an 
air-transported move. For reasons of security the battalion was not 
told until late January 1945 of the Divisional task of attacking 
Meiktila with 255 Indian Tank Brigade and two Infantry Brigades 
in a mechanised role, while 99 Brigade remained in the Imphal area 
until the capture of an airfield eight miles from Meiktila. 99 Brigade 
was then to fly in with no transport other than two jeeps and trail- 
ers for a whole battalion which would then rely on local bullock 

63 



The 1st Bn moves East 

carts and any motor transport that Division could make available. 
The Brigade had 21 Mountain Regiment (3.7" guns with jeep trans- 
port) in support. 

Intensive training for our air move began. Jungle training was 
forgotten. Training for fighting in the open paddy fields of Central 
Burma began. Time was short but spirits high. 

One interesting sidelight on this training is provided by Col J B 
Chaplin in his book Action in Burma 1942-1945 which deals with 
the service of 21 Mountain Regiment in that campaign. Writing of 
the training he says: 

During the month [February 1945], the Regiment also had 
exercises with infantry battalions, on 15 February with 1/3 
GR, on 17 February with 6/15 Punjab Regiment and, per- 
haps the most successful of these, with 1 Sikh Light Infantry 
on 21 February. John Maling, their CO, and I decided that 
for this scheme, called KHALSA, we would impress on the 
Sikhs the importance of infantry getting as close as possible 
to the fall of the rounds from the supporting guns. The Bat- 
talion advanced towards our concentration from the whole 
Artillery Regiment. John and I, to show how close we could 
get, led the way but such was their enthusiasm that we had to 
keep them back. We got to within fifty yards of the fall of 
shot — the only bits of metal which came back as far as this 
were the baseplates of the shells, which were blown straight 
back. The chances of being hit by one were small. In fact 1 
Sikh LI suffered one casualty, but learned a lesson and gained 
confidence which stood them in very good stead later against 
the Japs. 

At this time the officers of the Bn were: 

CO Lt Col W H Barlow- Wheeler 

2 i/c Maj J D Maling, MC 

Company Maj D J Ewert A Coy 

Commanders Maj J A Hett B Coy 

Capt Macfarlane C Coy 

64 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 



Adjutant 

Quartermaster 

MO 

Other officers 



Maj M W H Robinson 

Maj D L Blois 
Capt H Whitaker 
Capt A B Burnett 
Capt B V. Kale, IMS 
Capt K P Kalsy 
Capt F Hepworth 
Capt Munshi Singh Brar 
Lt I B Gardner 
Lt W P J Cooper 

(Burma Regt) 
LtDLW Jones 



D Coy from 
6/11 Sikh 
Admin Coy 



Transport Offr 
Defence Pi 
Mortar Pi 
Signals Offr 
Intell Offr 

Coy Offr, A Coy 



3.2 The Battle to retake Burma 

At the end of 1944 the front in Burma ran roughly along the line of 
the River Chindwin in the north and thence along the 
India-Burma border to the coast. At the second Quebec Confer- 
ence an operation Capital was approved, with the object of an 
advance by XIV Army (Gen W Slim) to the line Mandalay 
-Pakokku. This called for IV Corps (Gen Sir Geoffrey Scoones) to 
concentrate in the Kohima area, advance via Pinleku to the 
Schwebo area and to link up with 36 British Division, part of the 
Northern Combat Command Area (Chinese and Americans) 
advancing south. XXXIII Corps (Gen Sir Montagu Stopford) 
would cross the Chindwin River further south in the Kalewa area 
and meet IV Corps in the Schwebo Plain. Both Corps would then 
wheel south to trap the Japanese forces in the bend of the River 
Irrawaddy. 

The offensive opened on 3rd December, when XXXIII Corps 
crossed the Chindwin at Kalewa and Mowlaik, and IV Corps at 



65 



The 1st Bn moves East 

Sittaung. Japanese resistance was light since Gen Kimura (Burma 
Area Army), given his parlous supply situation, was not prepared 
to risk direct confrontation at this early stage. 

On 8th December Gen Frank Messervy took command of IV 
Corps. On 18th December Gen Slim changed his plan: in view of 
the lack of Japanese resistance he now planned to use XXXIII 
Corps to deceive the Japanese into thinking that Mandalay was his 
main objective while IV Corps drove to the key communications 
centre of Meiktila. Once the upper Irrawaddy had been secured, 
XIV Army would race south to seize a port, Rangoon or 
Moulmein, before the monsoon broke in May. Slim termed this 
plan Extended Capital and the first priority was secretly to deploy 
IV Corps south down the line of the River Manipur until it was 
opposite Meiktila. During January XXXIII Corps established 
bridgeheads on the Irawaddy north of Mandalay prior to the 
mounting of an attack on that city. XXXIII Corps' advance would 
thus attract the main attention of Japanese forces. 

By 15th February 7th Indian Division of IV Corps had seized a 
bridgehead over the Irawaddy in the Pagan-Nyaungu area near the 
roads leading to Meiktila. Over the next few days 17 Indian Divi- 
sion (less 99 Brigade and 21 Mountain Regiment), with 255 Indian 
Tank Brigade under its command, crossed the Irawaddy and assem- 
bled in this bridgehead. The force immediately available to Gen 
Cowan as commander of this 17 Division group consisted of: 
2 motorised infantry brigades (48 and 63), 

2 regiments of Sherman tanks (Probyns Horse and Royal Deccan 
Horse), 

1 regiment of armoured cars (16 Light Cavalry), 
1 divisional recce regiment, 

1 machine gun battalion, 

2 field and 1 anti-tank regiments of the divisional artillery. 

The intention was that this divisional group, strongly supported 
by close tactical-support aircraft, should move rapidly to capture 

66 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Meiktila deep in the Japanese lines of communication and hold that 
town against all counter-attacks. En route to Meiktila 17 Division 
should capture Thabutkon airstrip, 12 miles north of Meiktila, to 
allow for the immediate fly-in of 99 Brigade group with supporting 
arms including 21 Mountain Regiment. All supplies for 17 Division 
Group were to be delivered by air as it advanced so that no land 
lines of supply back to the bridgehead need be maintained. 

On 21 February Gen 'Punch' Cowan began his advance out of 
the bridgehead with immediate and rapid success. While 17 Divi- 
sion and 255 Tank Brigade closed in on Meiktila, the Japanese com- 
mander at last realised the danger and ordered 168 Infantry 
Regiment into the defence of Meiktila. He also galvanised the 3,500 
strong garrison into constructing strong-points and other defence 
positions. 

The battle for Meiktila began at the end of February, when it was 
attacked from four directions and by nightfall on 28th the town 
was surrounded. The Japanese resisted tenaciously, but were worn 
down by coordinated assaults by air, tanks and infantry: after fierce 
fighting, the town eventually fell on 3rd March after all the garri- 
son had been killed. 

This provoked a frenzied reaction from Gen Kimura, command- 
ing the Burma Area Army. The 33rd Army, under Gen Honda, 
was ordered to move southwards at full speed, and to recapture 
Meiktila at all costs. Meanwhile 99 Brigade Group began flying 
into Thabutkon airstrip on 28th February. The Brigade consisted 
of HQ, C Coy, 6/9 Jat Regt. (Div Recce Regt), 6/15 Punjab Regt, 
1st Bn Sikh LI, 1/3 Gurkha Rifles, D Coy, 9/13 Frontier Force 
Rifles (MMGs), 88 Anti-tank Battery, 21 Mountain Regiment, 
Tehri Garhwal Field Company (Engineers) and other units. Condi- 
tions on the airfield were hectic; it took a total of 353 sorties to land 
99 Bde, totalling some 4,350 men plus weapons and stores. Luckily 
there was very little opposition. The battalion, commanded by Lt 
Col Barlow- Wheeler, flew out from Palel on 28th February in 

67 



The 1st Bn moves East 

American Air Force transport aircraft — a mixture of C47s 
(Dakota) and C46s (Commandos). For most of our men it was their 
first flight in an aircraft and many were the cases of air sickness, not 
helped on at least one aircraft when the friendly American crew 
made toffee on a primus stove in the cockpit and offered it 
around — without many takers! 

The flight from Palel was about 200 miles flying down the 
Chindwin, across the Irrawaddy and on to Thabutkon in a flight of 
about two hours. We had virtually total air superiority over the 
Japanese so the chances of their fighter aircraft disrupting our fly-in 
were not high, but we were uncomfortably aware of the vulnerabil- 
ity of the endless stream of slow transport aircraft making their 
way into the rear areas of the enemy. As we neared Thabutkon we 
could see Meiktila, 12 miles further south-east, burning as it was 
shelled by the Division which was held up on the approaches to the 
city. The whole place was a mass of dust as plane after plane landed 
at a few seconds' interval, pulled into the side for 5 minutes to 
unload and then took-off back for the next load. Detachments of 
American and British Light Anti-Aircraft gunners were preparing 
positions close to the strip while units of 99 Brigade were moving 
into deployment areas and digging in or moving off in trucks to 
support the forward troops. 

To top-off all the hectic activity there was a very large air-drop of 
petrol, ammunition and rations going on, a few hundred yards 
north of the airstrip, for the remainder of the Division, which had 
fought its way through to Thabutkon whilst the Japanese closed in 
behind the Division, cutting its land supply route. There was, in 
fact, so much activity in the immediate neighbourhood that the 
roar of battle a few miles further east did not make much impres- 
sion and everyone got on with deploying and digging-in on the per- 
imeter of the strip. The soil was good for digging fox-holes, the 
temperature pleasantly warm after a very hot day, and the Japanese 
did not interfere with our first night in Burma. Once landed the 

68 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

infantry moved to positions in and around Meiktila. 

After the capture and clearance of Meiktila the Division was 
organised to meet the inevitable Japanese counter-attack. The 
infantry of 99 Brigade was established in a series of mutually sup- 
porting series of harbours and keeps as shown on the sketch map. 99 
Bde were responsible for the keeps, but not for the formation har- 
bours. 1 Sikh LI provided the garrisons for A, B and C keeps, 6/15 
Punjab for D keep, 6/7 Rajput (under comd of 99 Bde) for E keep 
and 1/3 GR for F keep. This enabled the two motorised brigades to 
be available for more fluid operation with 255 Tank Brigade. 

By 5th March the main captured airfield at Meiktila (adjoining 
the east of D keep) was in full use for landings and take off by our 
transport aircraft. This increased the flow of supplies and reinforce- 
ments as well as facilitating the evacuation of casualties. Later there 
were days when the Japanese were so close to the airfield, and their 
shelling of it so considerable, that all landings and take-offs were 
impossible. On such occasions, fortunately brief, 17 Division 
existed on parachuted supplies; and casualties built up in the Casu- 
alty Clearing Station beside the airfield. 

Gen Cowan had decided that passive defence was not the answer 
to the all-out Japanese attacks. Instead, he organised strong col- 
umns of infantry and tanks, heavily supported by the air forces, 
which left the keeps and harbours to search for and harry Japanese 
units wherever they were to be found. The severe pressure on the 
airfields required further reinforcements for the troops, defenders 
now, of Meiktila. On 15th March 9 Brigade of 5 Indian Division 
was flown in. This provoked the final desperate Japanese attempt 
to retake the town, the loss of which was continuing to strangle the 
flow of men and supplies to their northern 33rd Army. This last 
attempt also failed, the siege of Meiktila was over, and the remnants 
of the decimated Japanese units were pulled back to the south. 

The pursuit of the routed Japanese was along two main axes; 
XXXIII Corps (7 and 20 Indian Divisions) along the River 

69 



The 1st Bn moves East 

Irrawaddy and IV Corps (5, and 17 Indian Divisions) along the 
main road and railway that led south from Meiktila. The Japanese 
made a stand at Pyawbwe, but were pushed aside by 17 Division 
and its supporting armour. 1 Sikh LI was involved in a fierce battle 
on 9th April for the high ground overlooking Pyawbwe at 
Hminlodaung and the road to the south was free. This was the last 
determined stand by the Japanese and it now became a race against 
time to reach Rangoon before the monsoon. 

Brigades and Divisions leap-frogged forward against fragmented 
opposition, and on 23rd April 19 Indian Division had reached 
Toungoo. Six days later 17 Indian Division reached Pegu and on 
6th May linked up at Rangoon with 26 Indian Division, which had 
been landed just south of the city on 2nd May. Some scattered 
pockets of Japanese forces tried to help other units trapped to the 
west of the Sittang River, but to no avail. Many small actions were 
fought until fighting ceased on 4th August, during which heavy 
casualties were inflicted on the enemy by our troops, local villagers 
and irregulars from Aung San's Japanese raised Burmese National 
Army. The fugitives tried to make their way south and east 
towards Moulmein, before seeking sanctuary in Malaya. 

But other events were happening at the same time. On 6th 
August an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and on 9th 
August a second on Nagasaki, in both cases with heavy loss of life. 
Also on 9th August, Russian troops invaded Manchuria, still occu- 
pied by the Japanese, and as a result of all these tremendous blows 
the Emperor Hirohito broadcast the surrender of Japan on 15th 
August 1945. The Second World War was finally over. 



70 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

3.3 The 1st Bn in Burma, the battle of Meiktila: 
February - April 1945 

This account of 1 Sikh Li's activities from 28th February to 10th 
April was written by Maj Maling in 14th Army Base Hospital at 
Comilla a few days after he had been wounded at Hminlodaung, 
just outside Pyawbwe, during the concluding phase of the battle of 
Meiktila. It was written from memory without access to records 
and all errors and omissions are regretted. Place names were taken 
from one-inch-to-one-mile maps: 

By the end of January the Battalion had concentrated at 
Wangjing with 99 Brigade on the Imphal Plain after a some- 
what eventful trip from Ranchi. We were very sorry to have 
to leave Jock Worne and Campbell Austin in hospital, the 
result of a car accident at New Year. 

In Wangjing we at once got down to intensive battle-train- 
ing, and training for our new role of an air-transported Bri- 
gade. Mock-ups and plane manifests rapidly became matters 
of importance and we watched the continual stream of 
Dakotas moving over our camp with new interest. 

Our month in Wangjing was a happy and healthy one for 
all ranks, washing and training facilities being of the best 
and, on the morning of 28th February we at last got the 
order to move. The Unit was at the top of its form and itch- 
ing for a fight, and it seemed as if we were going to be really 
in the middle of things. 

The events of our first weeks of action are best told in diary 
form. 

28th February 

The Battalion less C Coy and Admin Coy flew from Palel 
air strip to Thabutkon strip some 13 miles west of Meiktila. 
It was an awe-inspiring event for all of us to take part in this 
top speed air move of a Brigade. As each lorry load of men 
arrived at Palel air strip and saw the Dakotas at work, they 
realised they were really in the war at last. 
The move itself was quick and uneventful except for a high 

71 



The 1st Bn moves East 

percentage of air sickness and we were thankful that the 
Thabutkon strip was well cleared of Japs by the time of our 
arrival. We could see Meiktila burning in the distance and 
saw terrific activity on the roads beneath us as we flew in; 
but on the ground we had only to contend with speeding up 
our planes' turn-round. The scene on the strip was full of 
action — Dakotas and Commando planes roaring in with 
accompanying dust clouds; a Divisional air drop of supplies 
in progress a few hundred yards away with up to thirty sup- 
ply planes circling for the drop; AA gunners British and 
American stripped to the waist and digging feverishly, and 
the continual flow of MT; infantry and equipment moving 
from the strip to the Battalion harbours, made a stirring 
picture. 
1st March 

Our first night in Burma passed off quietly and we awoke 
feeling that maybe the war wasn't so close after all. But we 
were speedily disillusioned; C Coy and our Admin Coy flew 
in before breakfast without mishap, and a few minutes later 
the CO was ordered to move the Battalion by MT to take 
over the defence of Divisional HQ on the outskirts of 
Meiktila itself. 

MT arrived rapidly and we were forced to move on the 
same basis of loads per lorry as we had used for the fly in, 
only substituting lorries for planes. There was no time for 
working out staff-tables and although tactically complicated 
we found the distribution satisfactory. 

By 1230 hrs our leading vehicles were heading for 
Meiktila, where the sounds of heavy fighting stirred us all. 
Order and counter order followed in quick succession, but 
by late evening we were disposed for the defence of Divi- 
sional HQ at some 800 yards from Meiktila itself, inside 
which fierce fighting was going on. A Coy came under com- 
mand of 48 Brigade and moved out to form a road block at 
MS (milestone) 342 on the Mandalay road where Jap infil- 
tration had been prevented on the previous evening. D 
Coy formed a separate box on the lake side at the Pagoda, 
that was to become known as Able Box. C and B Coys were 

72 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

disposed of at the north, and Battalion HQ found its protec- 
tion from HQ and Admin Coys. 

At 1700 hrs D Coy was ordered to wipe out a sniper 
pocket at the Monastery and the first Jap was killed by Jem 
Udham Singh's platoon a few moments later. The snipers 
were quickly eliminated and a Jap MMG captured in the 
mopping up. This was an exhilarating start and was followed 
by a most satisfactory night during which the Battalion's fire 
control was noticeably good despite Jap jitter parties on the 
prowl throughout the night. D Coy found three bodies in 
front of its position in the morning including an officer, all 
killed by our grenades. 
2nd March 

Donald Blois started a successful day for the Battalion by 
taking out a dawn patrol from Admin Coy old sweats, and 
presently there were exultant shouts a short distance from 
the perimeter as the patrol sailed in with the bayonet at a 
party of three very rash Japs who had decided to have a short 
sleep too near our positions. These were the first Japs that 
the majority of our men had seen and their bodies were 
brought into the Box for a short lying in state. Admin Coy 
were very pleased with themselves. 

The Battalion set about improving defences during the day 
but there were other notable incidents. 

At about 1100 hrs an excited British NCO brought in 
word of a Jap sniper who had tried to hit him on the main 
road back to Thabutkon, where the remainder of 99 Brigade 
was still concentrated. Hepworth at once took a section of 
the Defence Platoon and set off by truck to settle the sniper. 
Within 10 minutes he was back in camp with the dead 
sniper. Hepworth himself gave him the coup-de-grace after a 
good bit of work by all concerned. On the same afternoon a 
sniper from across the lake was sniping Divisional HQ, and 
an SOS was sent to D Coy to deal with him. The greater part 
of Divisional HQ and many troops then had a grandstand 
view of a first-class piece of work by Jem Udham Singh's 
platoon, which moved round the exposed lake side with 
supreme confidence and shot it out with the sniper at 

73 



The 1st Bn moves East 

close range. 

A Coy meantime, still on its isolated road block, had con- 
tacted an enemy patrol during the morning. Jem Karnail 
Singh's platoon was ordered out to attack a nearby village in 
which the patrol was positioned. The attack went well and 
five Jap bodies were counted, the remainder making off 
northwards. The day ended with the spirits of the Battalion 
very high. 
3rd March 

The night 2nd/3rd March was a disturbed one, with men 
rather lighter on the trigger than previously. The dawn 
showed Jap bodies on the Pioneer Platoon's and D Coy's 
fronts. 

A Coy also had an exciting night and suffered some casual- 
ties from enemy grenades inside the position. 

At dawn A Coy was joined at its position (road block) by a 
squadron of Sherman tanks, plus some artillery and light 
armoured cars. This task force was under command of Lt 
Col Miles Smeeton who had co-operated with us so thor- 
oughly in Ranchi in our Tank and Infantry training. The 
forces had orders to clear an enemy pocket which was 
known to be at about MS 344 on the Mandalay road and 
which had given the armoured cars a nasty knock the day 
before. 

A Coy moved off mounted on the tanks and presently 
contact was made just west of MS 344. Mortar and 75mm fire 
was encountered and the leading tank was almost immedi- 
ately knocked out and set on fire. A very dashing tank attack 
soon put matters right and A Coy was enabled to overrun 
the enemy position without further opposition. It was a real 
tank triumph as three 75mm guns and one 57mm A/Tk gun 
were found with crews killed, and in addition A Coy found a 
vast amount of abandoned enemy personal kit, blankets, 
packs, papers and ammunition. No further opposition was 
met and A Coy returned to its position without casualties, 
after a fine demonstration of the tanks' fire power. 

Later in the evening A Coy was relieved by 6/15 Punjab 
regiment. The remainder of the Battalion spent the day 



74 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

strengthening defences. 
4th-13th March 

The Battalion less B and D Coys moved into the permanent 
defences of Meiktila and took over Baker Box at Kyigon. 
This was an old Japanese bunkered position, but in a very 
exposed position astride the Mandalay road and the entire 
layout open to view from the high ground on the Pindale 
road to our north west, as we found to our cost very shortly. 
The box was tightly packed with Field Gunners, an 
Anti-Tank Battery, a light air strip with some five Air OP 
planes and a company of MMGs. Large supplies of timber 
and corrugated iron were readily available from ruined 
houses in the area and everyone set about getting really deep 
underground as rumour had it that the Japs intended remov- 
ing us from our positions astride their communications. 

The next eight days were ones of constant strengthening 
of this position, and the two outside boxes Able and Charlie 
held by D and B Coys respectively. Charlie Box was a 
cramped company position on the northern edge of the 
Monastery covering the northern entry into Meiktila. The 
position smelt strongly of dead Japs despite much cremation 
by B Coy, and was uncomfortably open to view from the 
north. 

Wiring and digging, with headcover, went on intensively 
as reports increased of the approach of Jap forces from the 
north. These reports were by no means vague, as we found 
that one of our jobs was long distance MT patrolling on the 
Pindale and Mahlaing roads on both of which the enemy 
was rapidly concentrating. These patrols were somewhat 
trying for commanders, as many good ambush positions 
existed in the scrub, villages and nullahs along the roads, 
whilst the distance to be covered meant a continual conflict 
between speed and security. 

First contact was made on 8th March, when Hepworth led 
the Defence Platoon up the Pindale road without armoured 
escort. At MS 18 the Platoon had just dismounted for a 
ground search when fire was opened from a range of twenty 
yards. 



75 



The 1st Bn moves East 

Hepworth at once led his Platoon into the charge and this 
offensive action so surprised the enemy that he fled leaving 
18 killed by bayonet and bullet. Enemy supporting positions 
then opened up from the north and Hepworth ordered a 
withdrawal to his trucks and thence to camp. 

This first-rate little action without loss to ourselves pro- 
duced valuable information and raised the morale of the Bat- 
talion to a high level. The Defence Platoon, who had some 
lucky escapes, were undoubtedly the happiest people in the 
Division that night and the confidence bred on that day was 
shown in their very successful subsequent actions. Capt 
Kalsy who had accompanied Hepworth on this day in order 
to see the ground also opened his personal score against the 
Jap in this attack. 

On the same day C Coy contacted a small enemy patrol on 
the Mahlaing road about MS 18 and obtained information of 
large parties in this area. A sniper's rifle was captured from 
the lone Jap killed on this patrol. 

A Coy again made contact on 9th March on the Pindale 
road, when they bumped into strong prepared positions in 
the MS 18 area. It was now apparent that the Jap was in some 
force and moving slowly in on Meiktila. 

On 10th March C Coy was ordered to patrol as far as MS 
17 on the Pindale road and were given two carriers to assist. 
At about 1530 hrs the leading platoon, in carriers and trucks, 
reached the northern bank of a wide and dry chaung at MS 
15 when very heavy fire was opened from the high banks 
and scrub to the north of the chaung; unfortunately Coy 
HQ and the next platoon were close behind and were caught 
in the middle of the chaung where the sand was so deep that 
it was impossible to turn vehicles. Very heavy LMG and 
mortar fire was poured in on the halted convoy and 
MacFarlane was forced to withdraw to the south bank of the 
chaung and abandon the carriers and lorries which were 
under fire. A section of 3" mortars which had so gallantly 
got into action in the middle of the chaung without cover, 
was also forced to abandon its mortars. C Coy's losses were 
heavy particularly in Coy HQ including CHM Sarwan 

76 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Singh. 

This reverse was a great blow to the Battalion and was the 
more of a shock, as up to then we had had matters very much 
our own way. It also marked the beginning of a week of 
unpleasant small engagements on the Pindale road during 
which we suffered heavily. 

The enemy was now closing in more rapidly on this road, 
but the Division was too fully occupied elsewhere to deal the 
Jap a real blow here. It therefore fell to us to keep contact 
with the Jap advance at the same time avoiding becoming 
heavily engaged. This was an unpleasant role and from 1 1th 
March our patrols were under constant observation and 
accurate shelling from enemy 105mm guns. This shelling 
was particularly severe in the area of MS 4 on the Pindale 
road, whilst the enemy was establishing forward positions in 
the Myindawgan Lake area MS5. 

On 11th March A Coy and the Sniper Section suffered 
from this shelling and on 12th March D Coy was heavily 
engaged by enemy shelling and enemy infantry in the vil- 
lages west of Myindawgan Lake. D Coy's attack on these vil- 
lages was beaten off with a number of casualties including 
Maj Robinson, who was wounded in the arm (luckily a clean 
hit and he continued to command his company for another 
month). 

On 13th March A Coy was ordered to probe the positions 
around MS 5 and continued to do so throughout a trying 
day. They were constantly under close observation, and 
shell fire followed them at every move. Late in the evening 
one of our planes was shot down whilst supporting A Coy, 
and attempts to reach the burning plane were beaten off by 
enemy fire. 

These days of maintaining contact without the means of 
mounting any attack on the enemy, and constant shelling, 
had an unnerving effect on the men for a short time. 

By 14th March, however, the men had got used to their 
mounting losses and had learnt that shelling had little effect 
if one was close enough to the ground. On that date A Coy 
relieved D Coy in Able Box at the Pagoda and the 1/7 



77 



The 1st Bn moves East 

Gurkhas took on the Pindale road patrol. 

About 1900 hrs on 14th March Maj Ewert in the Able Box 
reported that elements of the 1/7 Gurkha Company which 
had moved up the road, were back in Able Box at the Pagoda 
after being overrun by Japanese tanks and an infantry com- 
pany at MS 4 VS. 

Shortly afterwards Maj Ewert saw large bodies of troops 
moving in threes down the road to his position. Thinking 
they may be remnants of the Gurkha Company, he went 
out to the wired entrance and challenged. In reply the 
approaching troops scattered and opened heavy fire. Maj 
Ewert was at once hit in the thigh and Jem Jassa Singh 
accompanying him was fatally wounded in the head. Maj 
Ewert was able to carry on and throughout the night con- 
ducted a very cool and skilful defence against repeated 
enemy attacks. Enemy tanks were brought up near the per- 
imeter on several occasions but did not assault. The Divi- 
sional Artillery gave most heartening support on D/F and 
SOS tasks, and the Battery of the 1st Indian Field Regt, 
which was in Baker Box, gave extremely close support under 
the direction of Maj Ewert. A Coy's performance on this 
night was notable for the good fire control shown. 

The morning of 15th March showed that the enemy was 
well established on the high ground overlooking Kyigon and 
the aerodrome, where the 6/15 Punjab and the 1/3 Gurkhas 
were in position. D Coy, later joined by a company of 1/3 
Gurkhas, were ordered to clear the area between Able Box 
and the bridge, sluice and nullah some 800 yards north of 
Able Box. This was done at the cost of some twenty casual- 
ties, the enemy being strongly entrenched by now all along 
the northern edge of the sluice nullah. D Coy spent a thor- 
oughly unpleasant day under constant sniping at short range 
from positions which could not be accurately pinpointed. 

A large force of tanks had been ordered to try to clear the 
area north of the aerodrome on this day, and at about 1100 
hrs this force moved through Baker Box along the exposed 
Mandalay Road. The Japs who had brought up 75mm guns 
to very close range during the night now opened fire on 

78 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Baker Box with everything they had got in the way of artil- 
lery: and some 100 shells fell in the Battalion area in a very 
short time. Our deep bunkers stood us in good stead and 
casualties were very few, but from that time onwards all 
movement above ground in Baker Box was of a somewhat 
furtive nature. Our friends in the Field Gunners had a partic- 
ularly unpleasant time, as their gun pits were the target for 
some very heavy concentrations during the next few days, 
until they were forced to move to more concealed positions. 

The 16th and 17th March were notable only for increased 
enemy shelling both of Baker and Charlie Boxes. B Coy in 
the latter were fortunate in suffering few casualties despite 
their cramped and exposed position. A Coy continued to 
repulse night attacks with success, but on 19th March were 
unfortunate in suffering heavily during a patrol action near 
the sluice nullah. A Coy had come under command of the 
3/2 Punjab on 17th March, and the position was strength- 
ened by the addition of the Defence Platoon under 
Hepworth. 

On 19th March A Coy were ordered to attempt to pass 
patrols over the sluice nullah area towards the 
Mahlaing-Pindale cross-roads. Sub Bawa Singh's platoon 
attempted this difficult task, but was held up by heavy LMG 
and Discharger fire as soon as its leading elements were 
across the nullah. Some thirteen casualties were suffered 
before the patrol was finally extricated under heavy mortar 
support. A particularly noteworthy episode was the gal- 
lantry of Sep. Balbir Singh (A Coy) who volunteered to 
bring in a wounded NCO across 200 yards of fire-swept 
ground. This he did successfully, himself escaping unhurt, to 
everyone's surprise. 

On 17th March the Battalion, less A Coy, had been 
ordered to concentrate at the aerodrome for offensive opera- 
tions. This was a cheering bit of news, as the whole Battalion 
was longing to pay back something to the Jap for the heavy 
casualties of the past week. Also it would be our first oppor- 
tunity of acting as one unit in action. 

On 18th March we received orders to move in rear of the 



79 



The 1st Bn moves East 

1/3 Gurkhas on a Brigade operation to capture Pt. 801, just 
to the SE of Myindawgan Lake. Our route was to be through 
the villages to the north of the aerodrome as far as the village 
Shawbyugan (3138) then west to Pt 801. We expected to be 
out for 48 hours, and our only transport was two Jeeps both 
for wireless or intercom purposes. No 3" mortars were to be 
taken but we received our quota of gunners to assist. 

Initial progress by the 1/3 Gurkhas was slow and at about 
1100 hrs the Battalion was ordered to move direct to 
Kandaingbauk from the south, and after its capture to pro- 
ceed on to Shawbyugan whilst the Gurkhas swept further 
east. 

D Coy moved off first to clear the small village and numer- 
ous nullahs south of Kandaingbauk and was soon engaged 
with snipers in the village area, and on emerging to the north 
of the small village came into contact with larger forces of 
enemy who were in temporary positions south west of 
Kandaingbauk. Jem Udham Singh who had proved himself a 
first-class leader in action, was unfortunately wounded at 
this time, and he died from these wounds the following day. 
Jem Gurdial Singh, who had joined us from the 3rd Battal- 
ion some months before, was also severely wounded. Alto- 
gether, D Coy casualties in this short encounter totalled 
approximately fifteen. 

Meanwhile on D Coy's right, B Coy had come up to a 
starting line in a nullah some 800 yards south of 
Kandaingbauk. They were faced with open paddy country 
from the start line to the village. A fire plan to cover the 
company's advance over this exposed ground was prepared 
and sanctioned and it was only some five minutes before 
zero that Division reported that the Artillery programme 
could not be adhered to as the guns were urgently required 
on another target. In the actual event B Coy's support was 
therefore limited to a four-minute battery concentration 
with HE, instead of the anticipated ten minutes, including 
smoke, by the whole Divisional artillery. As the concentra- 
tion began B Coy left the start line with great confidence. At 
once enemy LMGs and dischargers opened up on them and 

80 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

kept up a murderous fire from the centre and flanks of 
Kandaingbauk. B Coy never hesitated but continued to 
advance at a fast pace over the paddy fields suffering heavily 
as they did so. 

In front of the left-hand platoon a small party of Japs was 
seen to panic and run, quickly pursued by our men. As the 
Company closed in on the village the fire became more 
intense and sections were, one by one, pinned to the ground. 
Attempts to get 2" mortars into action brought heavy retal- 
iatory fire, and attempts to get more artillery support failed 
as the FOO was killed together with the Company Com- 
mander, John Hett, whilst making a reconnaissance from a 
very exposed position. By this time, in addition to the Coy 
Commander and FOO, every VCO in the company and 
every Hav except one, had become casualties, and casualties 
amongst the men were equally heavy. B Coy had reached to 
within fifty yards of their objective and were now forced to 
withdraw across the same fire-swept area. There were many 
courageous rescue attempts made by the less severely 
wounded and unwounded at this stage. Sub Mohinder Singh 
was himself the last to withdraw from the most forward 
positions and though wounded, he returned to re-organise 
the Company in a defensive position on the start line. 

A platoon of C Coy, led by Jem Bir Singh moved out some 
time later to recover all possible wounded. This platoon was 
successful in evacuating a number of men from exposed posi- 
tions, but the expected smoke cover did not work out as 
planned and a number of men in the most forward positions 
had to be left. It was during this rescue period that L/Nk 
Ajmer Singh of C Coy volunteered for, and carried out, the 
evacuation of Sub Mehnga Singh from a position covered by 
sniper and LMGs, and without cover in the area. 

The Bn was now called into Bde reserve as the 1/3 Gurkha 
Rifles had also run into a strong enemy position in the 
Shawbyugan area and our tank losses were severe. It was 
eventually decided to withdraw the Bde to the aerodrome 
again, and we returned about 2100 hrs after an exhausting 
and distressing day. The Brigadier had a brief word with the 

81 



The 1st Bn moves East 

few unwounded survivors of B Coy and told them how fine 
an attempt they had made to do the impossible, and this was 
stressed again by the Divisional Commander on the follow- 
ing day. 

It was B Coy's first and last attack, as they were amalgam- 
ated with D Coy the next day. They had given a most inspir- 
ing display of courage and determination, but at a cost that 
we, as a new Battalion, could not afford. 

The next day, 19th March, was a busy one of preparation and 
re-organisation. Brig Tarver left the Brigade to everyone's 
intense disappointment and regret; he had proved himself a 
most efficient commander, and with great sympathy for the 
Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikh, whom he knew and respected. 
Lt Col Barlow- Wheeler took over temporary command of 
the Brigade, and Maj J D Maling took command of the 
Battalion. 

On this day we were given orders for a new and very dif- 
ferent role from any we had anticipated. We were to move 
out on a bullock cart and two Jeep basis for an unspecified 
period to the area east of the Mandalay-Thazi railway line, 
and from there harass the road Hmyaungu-Oktwin- 
Hlaingdet down which it was believed the Jap was with- 
drawing to the Shan States. We were to be direct under Divi- 
sion, and were to obtain maximum information of enemy 
movements east of the Thazi line, but we were to avoid 
becoming deeply engaged with the Japanese. 
19th March 

Two members of the Burma Intelligence Corps were 
attached to us and proved of immense value, whilst Lt Coo- 
per our Intelligence Officer, with his knowledge of Burmese 
was also to prove invaluable. Our supplies were to be 
dropped by air as required, and we were told that the first 
drop of rations and ammunition was scheduled for 21st 
March, at Maungmase some twenty miles east of Meiktila, 
and some two miles south-west of Zawin. 

Our bullock-cart transport was very limited and it was a 
case of humping everything on the men except for the heavy 
equipment. Kit was cut to the absolute minimum — no 

82 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

blankets, groundsheets or mosquito nets were taken. Jerseys 
were, however, carried bundled on carts, and were issued 
nightly. 

Strong parties of Japs were known to be between us at 
Meiktila and the area where we were to operate, and it was 
with some misgivings that we set off on 20th March on our 
long trek. The Battalion had so recently had a serious 
reverse, and we had no experience of a role of this nature; 
moreover the Japs were now definitely closing in on 
Meiktila from all sides. We must therefore be excused for 
moving off with a certain anxiety as to what the future held 
for us. We need have had no doubts, every officer and man 
rose to the occasion superbly, and our fortnight out in the 
blue was to cost the Jap some 100 killed and 10 MT vehicles 
destroyed. 

Our first encounter was some four miles from Meiktila, 
where we completely wiped out a Jap patrol of 56 men 
including three officers and two Jiffs. This was largely the 
work of Sub Basant Singh's platoon of D Company, though 
the cordon of A Coy, Defence Platoon and even Battalion 
HQ also had a share in the killing. It was a cheering sight 
towards the end of the fight, to see a party of six Japs throw 
their arms away and run madly away pursued by cheering 
Sikhs. They were all accounted for. Our own losses were 
one killed and seventeen wounded, including our Signals 
Officer Lt Gardner, who was most unluckily wounded 
while searching those Japanese presumed killed for identifi- 
cations. (He was shot through the forearm and lost an arm as 
a result: the Jap was properly dealt with.) The casualties 
were evacuated by Jeep which returned from Meiktila at 
speed and by bullock cart which had to be allotted from our 
already overstrained transport. 

As soon as our Jeeps had rejoined, we continued the 
advance until after dark, when we harboured for the night 
round a very muddy waterhole, some five miles west of the 
Thazi railway line. It was a new experience to have a quiet 
unbroken night and to hear in the distance the battle around 
Meiktila, with the sky lit up by terrific flashes from the 

83 



The 1st Bn moves East 

Gunner Box. We were off again at dawn making for 12R. A 
and D Coys moved ahead with orders to push on to 
Maungmase from 12R, and to lay out a dropping-zone and 
collect our first air drop. The remainder of the Battalion 
with our painfully slow bullock carts followed on to 12R, 
where on arrival we found that a company of 6/ 15th Punjab 
Regiment, had that night derailed a Jap engine and tender. 
Our orders were to leave a small detachment at 12R to take 
over the 6/15th Punjab's role of preventing Jap use of the 
railway, and to obtain information of Jap movements in the 
area. Hepworth with the Defence Platoon, reinforced two 
days late by a platoon of C Coy, took over this role at 12R. 
From here he blew up the line in several places, kept us accu- 
rately informed of Jap movements, and had one set-to with a 
Jap party of about fifty strong, who unfortunately escaped 
after an abortive air strike by Thunderbolts, which came in 
just too soon for his cordon to get into position. Locals in 
the 12R area were particularly helpful and kept us well sup- 
plied with the latest Jap moves. 

The Battalion, having dropped off the Defence Platoon, 
carried on to Maungmase, where our first air drop had been 
successfully completed. We spent the night well forward at 
the Fish nala some 1500 yards west of Zawin. During the 
night enemy MT could be clearly heard on the road and it 
was clear we had work to do at once. The men were unfortu- 
nately too noisy. They seemed unaware of the need for com- 
plete silence and it was decided to draw back our first 
harbour to the scrub area south of Maungmase, where on 
22nd March we made a strong harbour position in a suitable 
central spot for raids on the road. It was strange to be back in 
the jungle scrub again after our long spell in the open, and 
many were the cases of lost direction. It reminded us all 
strongly of our patrol training at Raiwalla and we were 
thankful for that training. 
22nd March 

The night 22nd-23rd March was spent in patrolling forward 
to the road and Donald Blois was able to select an ambush 
position. He reported fairly heavy use of this road, also the 

84 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

presence of Jap patrols moving continually in the area of the 
roadside. A further patrol reported enemy positions cover- 
ing the Okshitkon-Oktwin track. Whilst these parties were 
out, a Jap patrol paid us a short visit and some grenades were 
thrown by both sides. In the morning a pool of blood and an 
officer's sword were found just in front of D Coy's position. 
We now began a series of quick moves from one position to 
another, in the hope that the Japs would not be able to con- 
centrate any large forces against us, which seemed a distinct 
probability as he obviously valued the Oktwin-Hlaingdet 
road as an escape route. Our next harbour was at the village 
of Yinmayo, and D Coy with main HQ moved there on the 
afternoon of 23rd March taking another air drop en route. 
Our lack of adequate transport meant ferrying stores up 
from the drop to the new box and it was late before all was 
in. Moreover, we were forced to bury a large quantity of 
ammunition in our 'box' south of Maungmase, as we were 
without the means of carrying it. A and C Coys with Battal- 
ion Tac HQ stayed in the Maungmase box until late evening 
on the 23rd March, and then moved up to ambush the road 
just north of Oktwin. The plan was for Bn Tac HQ and C 
Coy to form a firm base and RV for A Coy, who were to 
move up to the road, open on to a wide front, and destroy 
enemy MT at a point chosen by Donald Blois the previous 
night. The plan worked well enough, and when A Company 
had just got into position three lorries came down the road. 
A terrific fire of PIATs (Projectors, Infantry, Anti-tank), 
M9Als (rifle grenades) and LMGs and grenades was opened 
up on them at point-blank range, and the lorries were com- 
pletely destroyed in next-to-no-time. The ambush unfortu- 
nately had to withdraw before they could search the lorries, 
but for a start it was very satisfactory. The enemy did not 
follow up to the RV as had been expected. 

The whole party then withdrew reaching the Maungmase 
area at daybreak. At dawn, there was a most unfortunate 
accident, the exact cause of which was never discovered. Just 
as it was getting light there was a tremendous explosion in 
the middle of C Coy platoon which had bunched in the 

85 



The 1st Bn moves East 

thick jungle. Subsequent examinations leads us to think that 
a PIAT bomb was accidentally exploded, though enemy- 
action cannot be completely ruled out. The result was 
exceptional, one killed and twenty wounded, many of 
them most severely, and it was some time before all these 
were found in the thick jungle and scrub. Evacuation of 
these casualties had to wait the arrival of Jeeps from 
Yinmayo, which soon arrived, and by 1000 hrs the whole 
force, including the wounded, had been concentrated at 
Yinmayo. 

Here we at once got to work to make a light air strip, so 
that we could fly out the wounded without delay. The local 
inhabitants co-operated to the full, turning out in large num- 
bers to level the strip, posting sentries in all the trees round 
about, and even providing additional rations for officers and 
bullock cart drivers. By 1500 hrs our air strip was ready and 
soon afterwards eight L5 planes were seen coming in to land. 
These were single-engined light planes from the US Air 
Force, all flown by Texan sergeants; they could carry one 
stretcher and two sitting wounded. It was a most cheering 
sight and morale was at once raised to see the speed at which 
casualties could be cleared. 

Our admiration for the American pilots of these planes is 
great, and they worried us when they told us that our strip 
was a bit tough and bumpy. We promised to have it smooth 
for their next fly-in on the following day, but it was an anx- 
ious time watching each plane off on that first evening. 

Next morning, our last casualties were flown out and we 
showed our appreciation to the Americans by presenting 
them with a Jap sword and a cavalry carbine. They brought 
us news too, of the Meiktila battle, which continued to be 
intense. 

24th-25th March 

Overnight further patrols confirmed that the road was again 
in use north of Oktwin, and A Coy less one platoon there- 
fore moved out on the afternoon of 25th March to lay 
another ambush. This time they were more successful than 
before and in addition to destroying another three lorries 

86 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

they also killed at least twenty Japs. The lorries were each 
filled with at least fifteen to twenty Japs and they were fired 
on at point-blank range very heavily, so twenty is a conser- 
vative estimate. This time the Japs had troops to hand who 
followed our ambush up for some distance, but without 
effect. This successful action was again led by Maj Blois. It 
was now decided to move closer to the road again, to enable 
more frequent patrols and ambushes to be laid on. Our fight- 
ing patrols had been busy in the area north and south of 
Yinmayo without success, though they gathered consider- 
able information from local inhabitants who gave us most 
reliable information throughout. 
27th-29th March 

An air-drop was taken at Yinmayo and on the same evening 
we moved into a harbour on the nullah north-north-west of 
Zawin, and on 28th March a recce, in force, of Zawin was 
made from the north. Our arrival on the northern outskirts 
of Zawin was unexpected and a number of Japs were seen 
bathing at a well. The locals however raised the alarm before 
an attack could be put in, and it was decided not to put in an 
assault on a forewarned position which we had not been able 
to reconnoitre. We therefore withdrew to harbour after 
putting down a 2" mortar barrage on the village, which was 
reported to have killed eight Japs. It was late in the evening 
when the withdrawal began and we were not back to har- 
bour until dark. 

Our patrols that night were mainly in the Hmyaungu area 
where considerable movement was reported by Lt Jones 
who had done some sterling patrols before in this area. As a 
result of this information supplemented by locals, we were 
able to direct three heavy air strikes during the day at 
Hmyaungu, Zawin and Oktwin. The two former air strikes 
were observed by our daylight patrols from very close range 
and Sub Basant Singh's patrol managed to bag two Japs mak- 
ing for cover near Hmyaungu; both this patrol and one 
under Capt Kalsy laid 75 (anti-tank) grenades on the road 
during the day. 

That evening 29th March, we collected another air drop 

87 



The 1st Bn moves East 

from Yinmayo and found our long-awaited air photos 
included in the mail which arrived by light plane at the same 
time. This plane also brought orders for a further intensifica- 
tion of patrols, as the advance of Divisions from Mandalay 
made this Oktwin road doubly important to the enemy; the 
same plane also flew out one of our casualties. MacFarlane 
relieved Hepworth at 12 R with a platoon of C Coy, 
Hepworth joining us in the Battalion box. 

Maj Robinson took out a party of D Coy on the night of 
29-30th March to ambush the road between Hmyaungu and 
Zawin and to lay 75 grenades on the road. Lt Jones took a 
recce patrol some miles east of Zawin to locate another track 
believed to be in use by the Japs. 

D Coy's patrol had moved only a short distance from the 
harbour when it ran into a large Jap patrol halted on the 
track. The Japs did not wait, with much noise they made off 
at speed and presently they ran into another of their own 
parties, for heavy fire and screams and shouts were heard! It 
is hoped that the two Jap parties had a bloody encounter 
with each other. D Coy meanwhile moved on only to find 
that some Japs had tacked themselves on to the rear of their 
patrol. It was some time before they could be shaken off, but 
the patrol eventually reached a position beside the road only 
to find that they had drawn a blank night, with no move- 
ment of any sort on the road. 

Lt Jones had meanwhile discovered the track east of the 
road, and although it was daylight by that time, he set off 
with his recce patrol to see where the track went, and what 
traffic was on it. 

He soon found that the track was in use by Jap bullock 
carts, and a little north-east of Zawin, he bumped into a Jap 
patrol which opened fire, and hit Jones in the shoulder. 
Luckily he was able to keep going and our patrol got back 
safely with valuable information. 
30th March 

30th March was spent in moving to a new box further south 
and in thick jungle; and that night A Coy laid an unsuccess- 
ful ambush (fire was opened prematurely), and Hepworth 

88 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

with his Defence Platoon laid 75 grenades on the track east 
of the road, without meeting any Japs. 

It was decided that D Coy would carry out an ambush 
south of Oktwin on the night of 3 1 March - 1 April, whilst a 
further platoon under Capt Munshi Singh Brar ambushed 
the track further east. The remainder of the Bn moved to a 
new box in Maungmase village and took an air drop there, 
whilst at the same time MacFarlane closed down the 12R 
position and moved up to join us. On the way out he pro- 
tected the fly-out of Jones in a light plane and brought on 
sealed orders, which were brought by this plane, to Bn HQ 
at Maungmase. Up to that time the intention had been to 
concentrate the whole Bn and carry out a more offensive 
role in the Hmyaungu area, where Jap dumps had been 
located. 

The new orders were a bombshell! The Bn was to be con- 
centrated three miles north-east of Thazi by first light next 
day and to be prepared to occupy Thazi on the following 
night. We received these orders just as darkness came. D Coy 
was well out of wireless range on an all-night job and our 
transport was now 75% unserviceable. Moreover this was 
our first news of an advance on Thazi by our Division. 

The inhabitants of Maungmase promised transport 
replacements for the next day, so a small party was left there 
with our mortars and all stores to await D Coy's return, 
whilst the remainder of the Bn moved. 
lst-2nd April 

We moved south-west to find a good hiding place before 
dawn, close enough to Thazi for our role. The country was 
unknown to us, but by dawn we had found a suitable place 
in thick jungle scrub near a small lake about 3Vi miles 
north-east of Thazi. Almost at once a Jap patrol of about fif- 
teen strong came straight for our position, and spotted us 
before our fellows had time to get after them. 

D Coy and the transport joined us in our harbour at 1100 
hrs and we heard of D Coy's success on the night ambush. 
They had lain up very close to the road, whilst large parties 
of Japanese infantry passed at ten yards range, then the 

89 



The 1st Bn moves East 

lorries came and another three were bagged and destroyed. 
In addition some fifteen enemy were killed in the vicinity. 
The Japs followed up quickly with fire, but we had no casu- 
alties. Maj Robinson later in the night took a party forward 
to the road again and strafed it with 2" mortar and LMG fire, 
causing considerable confusion. 

In our new base NE of Thazi we were somewhat alarmed 
to hear that 99 Bde's attack from the west was not progress- 
ing, as our role was based on a successful and swift advance 
from that direction. However we persevered with our task 
of patrolling towards Thazi and the Defence Platoon soon 
found itself involved with a largish party of enemy holding a 
village about one mile south of our box. 3" mortar support 
enabled Hepworth to clear one end of the village, but he had 
to be recalled to prevent his being too deeply committed. 
The men were by now extremely tired, many having gone 
48 hours without sleep, plus tiring ambushes and long 
marches with full packs. However, they had a bigger test to 
come. At 1600 hrs we received orders to give up our role of 
taking Thazi that night from the east (in fact it fell some 
weeks later after prolonged assaults by two Brigades) and to 
concentrate by dawn the next day at Segyi in 99 Bde's area, 
many miles west of Thazi. 

We set off at once, hoping to get well into the range of hills 
between us and our objectives, before dark came. But the 
bullock carts just could not make it and darkness found us 
well on the wrong side of the hills, with a completely 
unknown stretch of hills and scrub between us and our goal. 
It was an unpleasant night's march, the map was thoroughly 
inaccurate and attempts to follow the tracks led us astray 
time and time again. Many of the men were on their third 
night operation in succession without sleep and it became 
increasingly difficult to rouse them after halts. Dawn found 
us about a mile short of our objectives, and we had gone only 
a short way on when we realised that we had stumbled 
through the middle of Jap parties, as a heavy battle broke out 
just behind us, when the 6/15 Punjab patrols contacted the 
enemy. 

90 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

By 0730 hrs we were all safely in Segyi, and rest and tea 
were obtainable. Looking back over the untracked hills and 
paddy fields we wondered just how our creaking carts, our 
Jeeps (one of them on tow) and our weary men, had man- 
aged to get there at all. After a few hours in Segyi the Bn 
moved by MT to take over the defence of the Bde harbour at 
Pyintha and we found ourselves once again in civilisation 
and amongst friends, after our fortnight's patrol. 

The remainder of the 2nd April and the whole of the 3rd 
April was spent with one third sleeping, one third washing 
and one third defending. 

It was our first chance to re-organise since our arrival in 
Meiktila a month before and we were glad to find Capt Ata 
Mohd with a large batch of reinforcements awaiting us. 
These recruits had arrived in Meiktila in the thick of the Jap 
attacks, and had found themselves fighting at once. We were 
able to make A, C, D and HQ Coys up to full strength, but 
we had no means of providing the staff for B Coy. This lack 
of a fourth Company had been much felt already, but was to 
be much more missed in the week to follow. 

Our attempts to sleep in Pyintha were only partially suc- 
cessful, as the entire Divisional Artillery was concentrated 
around us in an incredibly small area, and it was engaged in 
supporting the other units of the Bde in a particularly stiff 
battle just south of Pyintha. The nights brought little respite 
and we cursed the people who called for D/F and SOS tasks 
so persistently. 

The CO reported to Division on April 3rd, on the results 
of our patrol and was very pleased to find that the reputation 
of the Regiment had reached a new high level. It had been a 
trying time for all concerned, but the men were immensely 
pleased with what they had accomplished. The greatest 
credit was certainly due to the Company Commanders and 
Junior Officers who had been constantly on patrol and in 
close contact with the Jap. 



91 



The 1st Bn moves East 

3.4 Pyawbwe and the 'Tally-Ho' to Rangoon 

Maj Maling continues his account: 
3rd April 

Late in the night we received orders for the advance on 
Pyawbwe which was the Division's next objective. Our role 
for the first day was to push on ahead and seize the villages of 
Kweinge and Kokkogaing some six miles south of Pyintha. 
This was done without opposition, except for a small party 
which A Coy cleared out of Kweinge at the double. The Japs 
left a small dump of equipment at this place, but it was 
blown up later, presumably by a Jap time bomb. The Battal- 
ion moved into harbour in Kweinge for the night 4/5th 
April and spent a quiet night. We were all saddened to hear 
that night of the death of Lt Jones. He had left the Casualty 
Clearing Station in Meiktila on 4th April, his wound having 
healed. With him he brought large canteen stores for the 
Mess in his usual generous fashion, and he was determined to 
join us as soon as possible. He borrowed a Jeep and set out to 
catch up our advance at once, despite repeated warnings that 
the roads were mined. He was seen by a Sapper officer, who 
gave him a last warning. Jones however said he must get 
through at once and drove on. Soon after this his Jeep was 
blown up on a Jap mine, and he was found to be dead. This 
was a great loss to us all, his cheerfulness and real guts had 
heartened us all before he was wounded, and we had looked 
forward to his return. 
4th April 

The late evening was disturbed by reports of enemy move- 
ment from the east, and we were much worried concerning a 
platoon of A Coy which had been sent eastwards to form a 
patrol base. This platoon under a Subadar was surrounded at 
dusk by the enemy and was forced to withdraw after a short 
scrap. Our casualties were light. 
5th April 

In the morning, A Coy moved out to clear up the situation 
to the east. An enemy platoon supported by a Battalion Gun 

92 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

was encountered and driven back after some stiff fighting, in 
which our 3" mortars and artillery lent a hand. A Coy had 
half a dozen casualties in this fighting, which were evacuated 
by an American Field Service other rank who was attached 
to us. (The American Field Service consisted of Quakers who 
drove Jeeps, equipped with four stretchers, right up to the 
front line, but who were not armed.) This was our first expe- 
rience of the Jap Battalion Gun and we found it very quick 
to get on to our mortars. 

Later that day, we were ordered to move to a position 
north of Thabebyin village from where we could patrol 
southwards during the night, and continue our advance in 
that direction next day. We set off for this harbour late in the 
afternoon, dropping off D Coy and the Pioneer Platoon at 
an intermediate position to protect our L of C, which by 
now was nothing more than a very rough cart track across 
country. As we moved into our harbour area, a convenient 
natural position at a nullah junction, we found that the vil- 
lage of Kokkobauk some 800 yards to our right was the tar- 
get for the Divisional Artillery, followed by the most 
tremendous volume of tank supporting fire that we had yet 
heard. It was clear that a full scale attack was being launched 
by our troops and equally clear that the Jap resistance was 
strong. 'Overs' began to whistle overhead in ever-increasing 
numbers, and then just as we began to dig in, our tanks mis- 
took us for the enemy and we came under fairly heavy 
machine gun fire plus the odd 75mm shell. Luckily it was 
rapidly getting dark and no damage was done other than two 
men slightly wounded. The attack on the right petered out 
and the tanks withdrew leaving us to prepare for what we 
thought would be a hectic night. To our surprise it was 
quiet; our patrols under Ata Mohd killed one Jap and our 
perimeter accounted for two more in the early hours of the 
morning, whilst we collected a few more bodies on the dawn 
patrol. Our main concern, however, had been a sudden 
cloud-burst soon after dark; we were without any protection 
from the rain of any sort (we had not seen our 
ground-sheets, mosquito nets or blankets for three weeks) 

93 



The 1st Bn moves East 

and our trenches were filled to the brim within half an hour. 
It was a cold and sleepless night for us all. 
6th April 

At first light Jem Raja Singh led a platoon of C Coy to clear 
the thick country immediately to our south. He was soon 
heavily engaged with the enemy in Thabebyin village and 
reported back that he had captured a Jap gun. This gun was 
dragged back to the Battalion box in triumph, our first gun, 
and a fine 75mm mountain gun in good order. 

Jem Raja Singh's platoon was reinforced by the remainder 
of C Coy under Hepworth, and were ordered to keep the 
enemy in Thabebyin fully occupied, whilst the Gurkhas put 
in a full-scale attack on the village of Kokkobauk. At about 
this time A Coy was ordered to move some five miles south 
to occupy the village of Kattwinkala, a strategic point on our 
route south. D Coy had not yet re-joined from its night task 
on the L of C, and so once again, the odds and sods of Battal- 
ion HQ found themselves defending the Battalion Box as on 
so many occasions before. 

D Coy luckily arrived at midday and came into reserve for 
use in the Thabebyin direction if required. By 1200 hours 
the Gurkhas had captured Kokkobauk after some solid 
fighting and permission was received for C Coy to attack 
Thabebyin. 

A squadron of tanks was put at C Coy's disposal and a soft- 
ening-up of Thabebyin by Divisional Artillery began. 

At 1315 hours C Coy assaulted with close tank support 
and it at once became clear that the village was extremely 
strongly held. The Gurkhas had placed a company on the 
enemy's probable escape route and our Defence Platoon was 
watching the other possible way out. This led to the enemy 
fighting fanatically, although one party tried to get away to 
the east but ran into the Defence Platoon; 57 enemy bodies 
were counted when the Defence Platoon ceased fire. Mean- 
while C Coy launched repeated attacks from the north and 
then from the east into the village. Time and time again their 
attacks were halted by the Japs who were heavily bunkered 
in and who had a number of tree snipers also. A platoon of 

94 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

D Coy was brought up to assist, but throughout the after- 
noon the main thrust of the attack was from C Coy. Jem 
Raja Singh was wounded early in the afternoon's attack, but 
his platoon continued to assault from the east, whist Sub 
Pritam Singh II's platoon put in some fine charges from the 
north. One particular charge, enhanced by loud fatehs, 
routed out thirty Japs from bunkers and they were mown 
down on the spot. Maj Robinson moving up on the east with 
his platoon of D Coy had some of the best killing of the day 
in the nullahs and temporary huts where large parties of Japs 
had tried to take cover. 

By 1730 hrs it was decided to move the Battalion round to 
a harbour at Pt 607, from where the Jap retreat could be 
effectively cut. This movement was begun, whilst the 
Defence Platoon was ordered into a last attempt before dark 
to clear out an enemy pocket which still held out in the cen- 
tre of the village. It made a fine start but almost at once came 
under heavy fire from the bunkers and was only able to clear 
the south-east edge of the village, where more Japs had taken 
refuge in the two bush lined ditches. The slaughter here was 
great. 

Nk Munsha Singh who had led the first assault of the 
Defence Platoon so gallantly, was killed whilst bayoneting a 
Jap in this area. 

As darkness fell, enemy snipers became more bold and it 
was with difficulty that the whole Battalion (less A Coy) was 
got into harbour. It had been a great day for the Battalion 
marred only by our heavy casualties, which were inevitable 
in such close quarter fighting as had raged all afternoon. 
During the afternoon a party of Japs, trying to escape had 
run into C Coy HQ unexpectedly, and had severely 
wounded Hepworth the Company Commander and fatally 
wounded Sub Bara Singh. Both were a serious loss to us; Sub 
Bara Singh was one of our staunchest and most loyal of 
VCOs and his death was very much felt by us all. 

Maj Robinson was fatally wounded in the forehead by a 
grenade discharger just at the end of the day, while harbour- 
ing was in progress. He had made D Coy into our most 

95 



The 1st Bn moves East 

efficient killers, and was always noticeable for his offensive 
spirit. Our other losses (not including A Coy) during the day 
were twelve killed and forty-four wounded. 
7th-9th April 

Despite the losses, the Battalion was in great heart on the 
morning of 7th April, when a further fifteen enemy were 
killed by patrols around our perimeter. The Japs had finally 
evacuated Thabebyin during the night, despite our 
ambushes, and on 7th we carried out a count of the dead. 
The final count showed 253 Japs in and around Thabebyin. 
The whole village was a mass of close-packed bunkers and 
every ditch was filled with dead Japs. Included in our cap- 
tures were one flamethrower, three MMGs, one 75mm Bat- 
talion Gun, ten swords and many pistols, rifles and grenade 
dischargers. Many valuable documents were also obtained. 
Unfortunately, we could not complete the collection of 
equipment, as we were ordered to move at once to join the 
Brigade some six miles away. Whilst this successful action 
had been in progress, A Coy away to the south had been hav- 
ing a most difficult time. At 1200 hrs on 6th April Maj Blois 
had reported Kattwinkala to be held, estimated strength 
about forty men with two guns. Brigade arranged an imme- 
diate air strike followed up by a softening by the guns. A 
Coy's 48 set was at maximum range and he had difficulty in 
directing the artillery fire, but eventually a concentration 
was arranged for 1315 hrs and his attack followed at once. 
His attack was initially successful, but, having pushed well 
into the village, he ran into MMGs and bunkers and had to 
withdraw again. It was a gallant attempt especially as his 
Company was so far from all support and was typical of the 
dash shown by Maj Blois since he had taken over A Coy. 
Our casualties in A Coy were five killed and 20 wounded, 
making our total casualties for April 6th seventeen killed 
and 64 wounded, plus one BO killed and one wounded. 
Included in those killed in A Coy was Jem Karnail Singh, 
another great loss to us, as he had proved one of our best 
leaders in action. 
A Coy was forced to spend the night in the area of 

96 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Kattwinkala. Attempts to evacuate their casualties by 15-cwt 
trucks were unsuccessful, owing to the trucks meeting a Jap 
ambush en route, including a Jap officer in Burmese clothing. 
This officer was killed by the Intelligence Hav, No 502 
Dumman Singh and his sword brought back to the unit. A 
number of casualties were however evacuated by tanks. By 
1300 hrs on 7th April, we were concentrated at the Brigade 
Box, and the afternoon was spent in cleaning up and prepar- 
ing for the next day's dash to the hills just north of 
Pyawbwe. 

Messages of congratulations on the previous day's success 
were received from the Divisional and Brigade Com- 
manders, and a visit paid to the unit by press representatives. 
The press representative's photoman remained with us to 
get action photos on the 8th and 9th. We hope he took 
advantage of the opportunities we gave him. 

We were given a detached role on 8th April; we were to 
push on some miles beyond the Bde and seize any high 
ground considered vital for the mounting of an attack on 
Hminlodaung village. The Bn pushed on in the late evening 
to the waterless hills north of Pyawbwe, being forced to 
leave our transport in the rear with the Brigade, owing to the 
broken ground. By 1800 hrs C Coy was in occupation of Pt 
795 directly overlooking the village of Hminlodaung at a 
range of about 500 yards. Their arrival was most unexpected 
and flushed Japs were running in all directions as they got to 
the top. A small killing was made and C Coy, reinforced by 
the Defence Platoon, at once began digging-in. Ata Moham- 
med was in charge of C Coy and throughout that evening 
and night, conducted a very cool defence despite concen- 
trated Jap mortaring and grenading on their exposed hill top 
position. Cooper got through in a carrier to C Coy, just at 
dusk, but it was too late to get casualties back and he 
remained with C Coy. The remainder of the Bn harboured 
some 1500 yards to the west of C Coy and everyone spent a 
thirsty night after a march of some fourteen miles. No water 
was available. 

Next day saw our first set piece attack as a Battalion. C 

97 



The 1st Bn moves East 

Coy's defence enabled us to make a detailed reconnaissance 
of the approaches to the village of Hminlodaung, though C 
Coy's position was still under constant artillery and sniping 
fire. The CO was given the Divisional Artillery in support, 
plus two troops of tanks and air strikes as required. The 
result was a first-class Divisional concentration which saw A 
Coy on to its first objective unopposed. Another immense 
concentration followed and D Coy passed through to take 
the village against only slight opposition. Thefatehs which 
swept across the hills as A and D Coys took their objectives 
were well worth hearing. It was estimated that some fifty 
enemy were killed in the village area, mostly by artillery and 
mortar fire. Our casualties mounted after the attack as a well 
concealed 75mm gun harassed us until nightfall from a posi- 
tion to the south. A Coy, after the capture of the village was 
ordered to push south to neutralise this gun. It was whilst 
doing this that the leading troops ran into machine gun fire 
from some high ground. Maj Blois, who was well forward, 
was at once killed. 

About the same time, the enemy put down some heavy 
shelling in Battalion HQ area and Lt Cooper was killed 
instantaneously by a shell splinter in the neck. This gun had 
the area well ranged and we suffered somewhat heavily. D 
Coy during its assault had sustained casualties from the same 
gun. Amongst the first to be hit was Macfarlane who got 
splinters in each leg. During the day, we had some twenty 
casualties including two BOs killed and one wounded. The 
position that we had captured was so dominating and our 
support had been so complete, that everyone's spirits were 
very high after this attack. 
10th April 

In the morning, the enemy gun was still in action to the 
south, and D Coy moved out to the high ground overlook- 
ing the gun area. It was whilst directing covering fire for this 
advance that Maj Maling was hit in the head by a shell splin- 
ter and had to be evacuated. 

D Coy successfully cleared the high ground and forced the 
withdrawal of the enemy gun without casualties. 

98 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 



This concludes Maj Maling's account, but a summary of the offi- 
cers present shows the casualties suffered. 

1 Sikh LI Officers at Meiktila: February -April 1945 
Lt Col H Barlow- Wheeler Commanding Officer 

appointed Brigade 2 i/c 19 March 
rejoined Bn at Pyawbwe 10 April 

2 i/c Acting CO 19 March-10 April 
wounded Pyawbwe 10 April 

Coy Comd 

wounded Mahlaing Road 12 March 

killed Thabebyin 6 April 

Admin Coy Comd to 14 March 
A Coy Comd 14 March - 9 April 
killed Hminlodaung 9 April 

B Coy Comd 

killed Kandaingbauk 18 March 

A Coy Comd 

wounded Meiktila 14 March 

C Coy Comd to 1 April 
D Coy Comd to 9 April 
wounded Pyawbwe 9 April 

Adjutant 

Defence Platoon Comd to 1 April 
C Coy Comd 1-6 April 
wounded Thabebyin 6 April 

Transport Officer to 15 March 
QM and Admin Coy Comd 
from 15 March 

QM to approx 15 March 
evacuated (sick) 15 March 



Maj J D Maling, MC 
Maj M W H Robinson 

Maj D L Blois 

Maj J A Hett 
Maj D J Ewert 
Capt Macfarlane 



Capt H Whitaker 
Capt F Hepworth 



Capt K P Kalsy 



Capt A B Burnett 



99 



The 1st Bn moves East 

Lt I B Gardner Signals Officer to 20 March 

wounded E of Meiktila 20 March 

Lt Munshi Singh Mortar Officer to 6 April 

C Coy Comd 6-7 April 

LtDLW Jones 2 i/c D Coy to 29 March 

wounded Zawin 29 March 
killed SE of Meiktila 4 April 

Lt W P J Cooper Intelligence Officer to 9 April 

(Burma Regt) killed Hminlodaung 9 April 

Capt Ata Mohd joined Bn at Pintha on 2 April 

C Coy Comd 7-18 April 
wounded Yamethin 18 April 

Summary 

Total 16 officers, of whom: 

5 killed (2 of whom had been previously wounded) 

6 wounded 

1 evacuated sick 
4 unwounded 
All this in a period of some 40 odd days! 

After the Pyawbwe battle, Lt Col Barlow- Wheeler returned to 
command 1 Sikh LI in the absence of Maj John Maling, evacuated 
wounded. This was followed by the return of Maj J D Qock) 
Worne from Ranchi hospital. In addition Maj Gerald Walker (11 
Sikh Regt) joined the battalion as a temporary replacement as 2i/c. 
Capt Ata Mohammed was shortly to be wounded severely at 
Yamethin on 18th April. Maj D J (Bandy) Ewert rejoined the bat- 
talion on 25th April from hospital. 

The Battalion then took part in 17 Division's fast mechanised 
dash towards Rangoon in response to the brief Corps order 
'Tally-ho! On to Rangoon!' Japanese resistance was crumbling but 
the monsoon was breaking. Every form of motor transportation 
was pressed into service, and 1 Sikh LI was frequently moved on 

100 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

tank transporters when the tanks themselves were fighting in the 
advance. Air supply was also hampered by the weather. For a 
period of several weeks the whole Division was on half rations so 
that the supply, all by air, could be maintained for petrol and 
ammunition at the expense of less vital items! 

The weather did permit the use of some of the airfields captured 
in the dash southwards. This enabled some reinforcements to fly in 
to advanced airfields. At one rain-sodden field North of Pegu the 
Battalion received Maj Maling, back from hospital in Comilla, Majs 
Tripathi and V C M Williams from the Regimental Centre 
together with five other officers (Hunt and Gurpartap Singh from 
3 Sikh LI, Farrell from 7/15 Punjab, K Sahai from R Garwhal 
Rifles and Talbot-Butt from the Gurkhas), and 88 ORs. 

These incoming reinforcements were surprised to find themselves 
among a group of emaciated outgoing British POWs, released from 
Rangoon jail a few days before, and permitted by the Japanese to 
make their way North of Pegu. 

Farrell soon took over as Adjutant from Capt Harry Whitaker, 
who became a company commander. 

1 Sikh LI was not engaged in any large-scale battles at this time 
but had frequent patrol encounters during its dash southwards. 17 
Division was prevented, by blown bridges and swollen rivers at 
Pegu, from liberating Rangoon, which fell unopposed to 
Mountbatten's seaborne and airborne landings. The Division 
immediately did an about-face and became engaged in preventing 
the escape eastwards, across the Pegu-Meiktila road, of the large 
Japanese force trapped between the Irrawady and the Sittang rivers. 

1 Sikh LI moved to the Pyu area, Penwegon and Kanyutkwin 
(between Pegu and Toungoo) for a short period. Fighting patrols 
towards the Pegu Yomas were frequent but there were few 
engagements. 

It is fitting to close John Maling's account of the battles around 
Meiktila by reproducing the letter from Maj Gen Cowan, DSO, 

101 



The 1st Bn moves East 

MC, Comd,17 Indian Division to Maj Gen Savory, CB, DSO, MC, 
MG Infantry, GHQ, New Delhi: 

I can best describe them by saying that, in my opinion, the 
Sikh LI are absolutely first-class. 

I never had any doubts about their fighting abilities, but I 
was afraid that their junior leadership was going to let them 
down, owing to lack of training and experience. Taken by 
and large the junior leaders have done extremely well. I am 
delighted with the Battalion and proud to have them in my 
Division. They go in at sight, and as fighters are second to 
none of any troops I have had under my command. They 
have killed a very large number of Japs and their morale is 
terrific. Their casualties have been comparatively heavy, but 
that has not deterred them in any way. 

The ambush to which you refer was no ambush at all. I 
gave them the task of cutting the Jap escape route from 
Alegan SE of Windwin to Hlaingdet. On the way out to 
carry out this important task, they encountered a party of 
Japs who opened fire on them. The Japs were dug in in a vil- 
lage which flanked the route. Without any hesitation the 
plan, as laid on, went in, the Sikhs under their own support- 
ing fire, attacked the enemy and killed 65; the final killing 
was done with the bayonet, preceded by a blood-curdling 
yell. What was left of the Japs ran like hell. 

Some of their other attacks have been copy-book ones, 
going right in under artillery concentration, as close as 70 
yards. The Armour, when fighting with them in one of their 
fierce engagements, was lost in admiration. The culminating 
point was when the Sikh LI forward troops told the armour 
to stand back as they were going to finish the party off, and 
then they proceeded to do so! 

Col Price, back in Bareilly as Training Battalion Commandant, 
was meanwhile anxiously awaiting firm news of how the battalion 
he had raised was faring in Burma. He knew heavy casualties had 
been suffered. It must have been a proud moment for him when he 
received a personal letter, dated 11th April 1945, from the C-in-C, 

102 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

India. This letter read: 

My dear Price, 

I have been more than delighted to hear very good 
accounts of your 1st Battalion from Gen Messervy. He 
writes, 'I thought you would like to know how wonderfully 
well the 1st Sikh LI have done in battle. The Div Com- 
mander is delighted with them; he says he has never seen 
better infantry — they have shown tremendous dash and 
enthusiasm and their spirit is magnificent. Yesterday they 
killed 264 Japs in a series of difficult village actions. They are 
rather low in numbers now, both in officers and men. I hope 
they will be able to be kept up to strength, to carry on the 
good work they are doing.' 

Signed C J E Auchinleck. 

3.5 Operations in the Southern Shan States: 
June- August 1945 

In mid-June Lt Col Barlow- Wheeler left the battalion for another 
appointment and for some three weeks Maj Worne acted as Com- 
manding Officer. During this time 99 Bde received orders to move 
to Kalaw, East of Thazi in the Southern Shan States with the task of 
driving the Japanese from that area and eastwards on the axis of the 
road and railway Kalaw to Taunggyi. 

The Battalion moved by MT through Pyawbwe and Thazi to 
Kalaw, reaching the latter on 18th June. On that day Maj Maling 
returned from a visit to India to take over the Battalion, a position 
he held till 1946 when the Bn returned to India. 

Kalaw was a pleasant hill station 4,000 feet up from the flat land 
at Thazi. There were a number of European style buildings left 
intact by the Japanese, whose nearest positions were now some six- 
teen miles away to the East. 

On 22nd June C and D Coys under Maj Worne carried out a 
reconnaissance towards Heho at the foot of a jungle-clad ridge half 

103 



The 1st Bn moves East 

way to Taunggyi. C Coy came under fire from a position near the 
landing ground just north of Heho. D Coy found Heho village 
clear of enemy but patrols on the following day obtained informa- 
tion suggesting there were over 1,000 Japanese in the area running 
north and south from Heho. One of our patrols played 
hide-and-seek with a party of men, wearing somewhat strange uni- 
forms which eventually turned out to be members of the Karen 
Guerillas. This party joined the battalion for one night in our new 
base near the village of Ingaung, whence it had moved from Kalaw 
as a result of the C Coy patrol the previous day. The Karen Gue- 
rillas, a secret force, was composed of ex-soldiers of the Burma 
army with British officers — each man a walking arsenal of per- 
sonal weapons. Our men were very interested to see these strange 
troops, but their interest was equally shared in the discovery that 
our new position was being dug in the middle of a crop of peanuts. 

The Bn never returned to the comfortable billets of Kalaw. The 
Brigade with its supporting artillery and engineers joined the Bn in 
the Ingaung, and then Heho, positions. There were to be several 
small but fierce encounters with the Japanese during the next 
month as the Bde attempted to clear the road and rail defile at 
Heho. Jem Gurdial Singh and two sepoys were killed on 3rd July 
after some of our men had been wounded the day before. 

Life in the Brigade box was not over-comfortable because a new 
rainy season had begun. Tents and bivouacs were in use for every- 
one in the box but there were forward positions, on the nearby 
hills, which were extremely uncomfortable. 

The dominant landscape feature whilst in Heho was a jungle- 
clad ridge running North and South through the empty village of 
Heho. Just east of that village was a narrow defile through which 
ran the road and railway line on the way towards Taunggyi. On the 
eastern side of the Heho defile, the large Inle Lake had its Northern 
beginnings. This beautiful duck- and reed-covered lake ran south 
for nearly thirty miles. Numerous small villages inhabited by 

104 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

fishermen lay on the east and west banks of the lake. Hilly country 
rose immediately east of the lake. In June 1945 the Japanese had 
outposts of unknown strength holding the west side of the lake. It 
was expected that stronger Japanese forces would hold the eastern 
side north and south through Taunggyi. 

It was one of 99 Brigade's tasks whilst operating from Heho, to 
locate Japanese outpost positions west of the lake. The most memo- 
rable of the Bn's fighting patrols during this period was one by A 
Coy (less one platoon) commanded by Maj Bandy Ewert. This 
patrol had the task of reconnoitring the area around the town of 
Indein on the west side of the lake, some 14 miles to the south of 
Heho. Reports had been received suggesting that there was a Japa- 
nese force at Indein as a base for its patrols to the west and north- 
west towards Kalaw. The possibility of a Japanese counter-attack 
was always taken seriously. The activities of this patrol are 
described in the citation for Bandy Ewert's bar to his MC. There 
were a number of other awards made to this patrol, but unfortu- 
nately no record of them exists. 
The citation read: 

Major Douglas John Ewert, MC 1st Bn Sikh Light Infantry 

20 July 1945 
On 12 July 45 Major D J Ewert MC was ordered to discover 
the dispositions and strength of an enemy force, which had 
been reported in Indein (Southern Shan States). Leaving 
Heho on the morning of 12 July 45 Major Ewert with two 
platoons arrived at his firm base position (a mile North of 
Indein) late in the evening after a long and tiring march. 

Major Ewert then gave orders for the defence of the firm 
base, and he himself with seven men moved off after dark to 
take up an ambush position between Indein and Taung 
Kamuk (see note below), both of which places were known 
to be held. By 0400 hrs 13 July no enemy appeared, so Major 
Ewert led his small party through difficult hill country to an 
OP on high ground overlooking Indein from the West. 
From this view point, only a very short distance from a 

105 



The 1st Bn moves East 

Japanese manned OP, Major Ewert was able to observe 
throughout the whole of 13 July, and to obtain valuable 
information of enemy movements in Indein. 

After dark on 13 July Major Ewert moved North again to 
the area of his firm base, arriving there after his second 
rain-soaked night with no sleep. He reached the firm base 
before dawn, where he received accurate information from a 
local that the village of Taung Kamuk contained a Jap out- 
post, thirty strong. The local was also able to describe the 
exact positions of the enemy sentry groups posted to protect 
the outpost. 

Major Ewert, despite his previous exertions and hardships 
at once decided to attack this outpost despite the fact that he 
would not have the protection of darkness. With the utmost 
skill he personally led his entire force of Coy HQ and two 
platoons between the enemy sentry posts and up an exposed 
hill side to within 15 yards of the Kyaung (Buddhist resting 
place) in which the enemy were resting. 

At this stage the enemy could be clearly seen inside the 
Kyaung going about their morning tasks. Major Ewert dis- 
posed his men to cover all possible escape routes of the 
enemy, except for the route to the South, which he could 
not reach without exposing his force. This route was more- 
over so precipitous as to be dangerous to the enemy. 

When his whole force was ready Major Ewert, accompa- 
nied by two men only, moved forward under the Kyaung, 
which was on stilts, intending to climb the stairs and spray 
the enemy occupied room with his Tommy-gun, before the 
enemy could begin moving out. As Major Ewert was about 
to climb the stairs an unarmed Japanese soldier suddenly 
appeared from an outhouse, and managed to raise the alarm. 
Major Ewert was forced to return to his troops, and very 
heavy fire was opened by the men of his Company on the 
Kyanug and on the enemy as they attempted to escape. The 
Japanese, in their panic, abandoned all but their rifles and 
bounded down the stairs and over the precipitous cliff to the 
South. 

Six Japanese bodies were found in the compound of the 

106 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Kyaung, and local reports from two reliable sources confirm 
that others were killed as they went over the cliff. 

Major Ewert, who had personally directed fire during this 
action, at once led parties into the Kyaung building, wherein 
one LMG, one Grenade Discharger and one sword were 
found. In addition, documents and sketch maps of the 
defences of the Indein area were captured, in addition to 
other identifications. 

Having completed his task Major Ewert withdrew his 
force at speed, having suffered only one casualty during this 
daring and successful action. Local reports have since con- 
firmed that this action led to the withdrawal of all enemy to 
the North of the Balu Chaung, and to immediate prepara- 
tions being made for the evacuation of Indein itself. 

Moreover Major Ewert, on return to Heho, was able to 
give such accurate information of enemy positions in the 
Indein area, that an immediate air strike was called for, as a 
result of which further Japanese were killed. 

Throughout this arduous 60-hour patrol over previously 
unreconnoitred country of the greatest difficulty, Major 
Ewert 's enthusiasm, good judgment and disregard for per- 
sonal danger enabled his force to annihilate a large enemy 
outpost, and to bring back information of operational 
importance. 

This fine example of fearless leadership closely follows a 
similar case during the period lst-3rd July 1945, when 
Major Ewert with one platoon penetrated several miles 
behind the enemy defence line in the Heho hills. On that 
patrol he accounted for one Japanese officer and four other 
ranks, and provided invaluable information. The activities 
of that patrol were so disturbing to the Japanese, that they 
were partly instrumental in causing the enemy to evacuate 
his strong positions overlooking Heho without any strong 
resistance. 

Throughout the whole of the operations in the Heho area 
Major Ewert 's offensive spirit and ability to overcome natu- 
ral difficulties to achieve his objects, have been an inspira- 
tion to the whole Battalion. 



107 



The 1st Bn moves East 

On 25th July, 99 Brigade, including 1 Sikh LI, entered the largely 
undamaged town of Taunggyi after 1/3 Gurkhas had cleared the 
area without opposition the day before. The town was not only 
almost undamaged, it also contained quite a large number of 
friendly locals living an almost normal life. A large portion of the 
regiment was billeted in houses though a proportion still had defen- 
sive tasks on the brigade perimeter. 

The Bn was to stay in Taunggyi until some weeks after the end of 
the war. The Bn's responsibilities, up to 15th August, were to 
locate and attack the small Japanese rear parties to the South of 
Taunggyi. 1/3 Gurkhas had a similar job to the east and north. The 
British regiment in 99 Brigade (E Yorks) was so run down by repa- 
triation schemes that it was non-operational by this stage. A few 
small engagements took place, fortunately with very few casualties. 
The Bn was planning a small-scale attack on an isolated Japanese 
position some ten miles South of the town when the news of the 
atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki broke. On 11th August a 
signal was received from 4 Corps, and the planning for the attack 
went on, but with a strong hope that peace might intervene. On 
15th August news of Japan's surrender came almost as an anti-cli- 
max because celebrations had to be tempered with uncertainty 
about the reactions of isolated Japanese parties. However the Bn 
was able to celebrate VJ night with some considerable parties and 
the loosing off of a lot of ammunition and Very lights. 

One social party in Taunggyi about this time stayed in the mem- 
ories of all who participated. Taunggyi had a fairly large Christian 
community and its church and church hall had survived the Japa- 
nese occupation. One day the officers were invited to attend a party 
in the church hall. About ten went along dressed in jungle greens 
complete with revolvers and boots. They were greeted by an 
all-woman group of Burmese who entertained them to a sticky bun 
tea followed by a game of Musical Chairs with gramophone accom- 
paniment. It would have been nice to have had a camera to record 

108 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

that happy and unexpected scene. 

The first few weeks of peacetime saw the Bn very busy indeed, 
for it had the task of assisting the Civil Affairs officers (CAS(B)) to 
get back control as far South as Loikaw (over 70 miles to the South 
of Taunggyi). There was no contact in the area with the Japanese 
who had quickly moved off to their own assembly areas in the 
South and East. From 16th August the Battalion had been provided 
with surrender notices in English, to air-drop to any group of Japa- 
nese they came across. The same message was going out over the 
wireless from Army HQ. 

The Battalion was lucky enough to have two light aircraft made 
available for use at the Commanding Officer's discretion. The air- 
craft were of the type used by Air Ops. for the artillery, and were 
used for keeping in touch with far-flung companies and platoons 
which were using diverse means of transport. 

Loikaw was at the limit of the Bn's responsibilities, and Lt Col 
Maling remembers flying down the road from Taunggyi to Loikaw 
to see the progress being made by troops and locals on the blown 
road-bridges, then landing on a very small strip at Loikaw for a 
brief look around with Harry Whitaker, who was commanding 
the detachment there at the time. He and his troops had been inter- 
ested to see some of the giraffe-necked Padaung women who lived 
there. On the way back the pilot took him back to Battalion HQ in 
Taunggyi via the river leading out of the Inle Lake. On the way 
they flew at reed-top level and dropped a message on one of our 
patrols moving in sampans back north. 

Suddenly early in September 1945, 1 Sikh LI was ordered to 
assemble its scattered sub-units and move to Rangoon by MT. The 
orders were to be prepared to move by sea, from Rangoon to Setse 
beach just South of Amherst in the Tenasserim area of Southern 
Burma, on or about 25th September. On arrival in Rangoon the Bn 
was to come directly under 12th Army for the planning and opera- 
tion of the move. 

109 



The 1st Bn moves East 

The Roll of Honour for the period 28th February to 15th 
August 1945 was a lengthy one. Of the sixteen officers, five were 
killed and six wounded, with one evacuated sick and only four 
unwounded. Six VCOs were killed, together with 86 IORs, and a 
large number were wounded. A very heavy toll, indicative of the 
heavy fighting in which the Bn was involved. 

3.6 Tenasserim: September 1945 - February 1946 
1 Sikh Li's first peacetime operation 

1 Sikh LI left Taunggyi on 9th September by MT. Maj Whitaker 
with his D Company had not reached Taunggyi before the battal- 
ion left but soon followed. By 22nd September the Bn was concen- 
trated in Rangoon. Planning for what was called Operation Bisto 
was in full swing. This operation planned for a landing on Setse 
beach on the Tenasserim coast 120 miles from Rangoon and a few 
miles South of Amherst, from six LCTs (Landing Craft Tanks) by a 
battalion group, called Setse Force, under the command of Lt Col 
John Maling. The force consisted of 1 Sikh LI, one platoon of Tehri 
Garwhal engineers, a light ADS from 50 Field ambulance, detach- 
ments of signals, Field Hygiene and Burma Intelligence Corps, plus 
a troop of 20 Animal Transport Company with about 60 mules. In 
addition the force included 34 members of Civil Affairs Burma 
(CAS(B)) who were under the Bn's protection whilst they set about 
establishing the civil administration and law and order in the area 
south of Moulmein. 

Once ashore, the force was to operate directly under 12 Army 
HQ until 17 Division had moved by road, some three or four 
weeks later, into Moulmein from the Pegu area. The task of Setse 
Force was to establish British control over the area south of 
Moulmein to the Southern boundary of Burma at the 3-Pagodas Pass 
on the Kwai Railway, thence south-westwards to Ye on the 

110 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Tenasserim coast. The Setse Force HQ was to be at Thanbyuzayat 
which was the point where the Japanese-built railway from Siam 
joined the long existing Burmese railway to Moulmein and Ran- 
goon. It was known that the Japanese had two Independent Mixed 
Brigades (IMBs), 24 and 72 IMBs, in the area. It was also known that 
these two IMBs were now, after the Japanese surrender on 15th 
August, guarding the various ammunition dumps, positions along 
the line of the railway North and South of Thanbyuzayat, from 
infiltration by Burmese dacoits. The Japanese would have to guard 
their dumps until CAS(B) control was complete. 

A reconnaissance of Setse beach had been made by a Col from 12 
Army HQ accompanied by Maj Bandy Ewert about a week prior 
to Operation Bistro. This recce was to determine how suitable 
Setse was to receive LCTs, to make contact with the Japanese staff 
and issue orders for Japanese assistance after landing. Bandy 
Ewert's description of the start of this recce depended on whether 
he was being debriefed by 12 Army HQ or by his friends in the 
Sikh LI. In the latter case he could be frank and his story was as 
follows: 

A Royal Navy frigate carried the two British officers to an 
off-shore position opposite Setse. A rubber dinghy was 
launched with the two officers and two sailors aboard. As 
the rubber dinghy approached the shore it was clear that a 
largish collection of senior Japanese were drawn up to 
receive the visitors from the sea. The Red-Hatted British col- 
onel said to Bandy, as the dinghy came through the surf, 'We 
must stand up to receive the Japanese salute.' Whereupon 
the Col stood up, fell forward in the dinghy as it bucked in a 
small wave, his hat fell off into the water and the hat was 
handed to the Col as he stepped ashore by a bowing Nip. 
Bandy Ewert, who had prudently remained sitting, told us 
that this incident 'took some of the gloss off the proceed- 
ings!' 

Setse Force's first wave embarked in 5 LCTs at Rangoon on 25th 

111 



The 1st Bn moves East 

September and set sail in the evening of that day. The course lay 
down the Rangoon River to its mouth, then south-eastwards in the 
Gulf of Martaban. It was the first time that the majority of the 
Sikhs had ever seen the sea. Fortunately a calm night followed so 
that there was little sea sickness, only the discomfort of sitting or 
lying with full Field Service Marching Order in tightly packed 
conditions. 

The next morning, 26th September, landing was made on the 
excellent sandy beach at Setse, twelve miles from Thanbyuzayat. 
Troops, vehicles and mules disembarked without difficulty into 
three feet of water. The first formal contact with Japanese staff offi- 
cers took place at the village of Sangyi, some three miles from Setse. 
On this occasion, as on all subsequent contacts with the Japanese, 
their behaviour was very correct. (A group of Japanese troops were 
at hand to assist in any way the Bn might require.) 

On this first meeting there were present senior staff officers from 
the Japanese Burma Area Army HQ (BAA) at Mudon, 20 miles 
south of Moulmein, and from 24 and 72 IMBs. At this meeting it 
was decided that all orders for the Japanese formations in the area 
would be passed through Lt Col Maling, as the Officer Com- 
manding Setse Force, to Col Horiba, senior staff officer of 24 1MB, 
who was camped near the intended Setse Force HQ at 
Thanbyuzayat. Col Maling was to see Col Horiba almost every day 
for the next four months when he visited the Sikh LI to receive his 
orders. He knew a great deal about the area from Thanbyuzayat to 
the 3-Pagodas Pass, for his 1MB had been preparing the defences in 
this area for some time before the surrender on 15th August. 
Horiba spoke good English, and Maling had the assistance of an 
attached Nisei (an American with Japanese parenthood) sergeant 
when talking to him. Horiba was a tough, humourless man who 
did his very best to lighten the sometimes heavy tasks demanded of 
the Japanese prisoners. 

At Thanbyuzayat Setse Force had a great number and variety of 

112 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

tasks needing attention. There were, in the Force area, a little under 
8,200 Japanese troops. The most exciting feature of the Bn's job 
was undoubtedly the responsibility for the whole of the Burma 
portion of the now infamous River Kwai railway. Thanbyuzayat 
was at the head of the section built from the Siam border, at 3- 
Pagodas Pass to where it joined the existing rail system running to 
Moulmein and Northwards. 

Setse Force took over six Diesel railway engines, one wood burn- 
ing engine and two motor trolleys plus a number of carriages, all 
based at Thanbyuzayat Railway station. The Force was thus able to 
cover the whole of its sector of line with rail-borne patrols. It was a 
fascinating means of travel. The Japanese crew of driver, stoker and 
general helper would drive the engine on command. The Japanese 
who operated the points, and such signals as existed, would bow 
politely as units moved out in the carriages or open box-cars. As a 
means of transporting long-distance patrols to the Siam border the 
trains were invaluable. They also provided a very exciting means of 
transport for, once out of the flat unjungled area near 
Thanbyuzayat, the flimsy wooden bridges became more frequent. 
The jungle pressed in beside the wavy lines and unstable sleepers. 
Sharp curves and deep cuttings added to the constant feeling that 
one could soon join the old wrecked railway equipment resting on 
the trees or in chaungs at intervals along the way. 

The Force's particular stretch of railway line from 
Thanbyuzayat to 3-Pagodas Pass was run under 1 Sikh LI orders by 
No 9 Japanese Railway Regiment. It had its HQ at Thanbyuzayat, 
which was one of the very few railway stations which actually had 
a railway station recognisable as such. The very good 1" to the mile 
maps, 1945 edition by courtesy of Survey HQ 12 Army, showed 
railway stations every few miles. These were in reality just old 
POW camp sites with unloading areas and sometimes a siding or 
loop. 

The Japanese had time, between 15th August and the arrival of 

113 



The 1st Bn moves East 

Setse Force at the end of September, to clear up the worst of the old 
camp sites and POW burial grounds. There were still some awful 
reminders of the sufferings of the prisoners under Japanese control. 
At one point near Retphaw (or Retpu, as the Japanese and POWs 
called it), 20 miles down the line from Thanbyuzayat, there was a 
Japanese-made notice 'Allied POW cemetery, 100 yards'. At the 
end of a short jungle track was a clearing, a little bigger than a bil- 
liard table with about 750 small crosses in it. 

'Retpu' had at one time between 1942 and 1944, been a POW 
hospital. There were other mass graves along the railway, but at 
Thanbyuzayat there was a very large and more conventional ceme- 
tery which had been dug and cared for by Australian POWs. Quite 
close to the Thanbyuzayat cemetery was a large notice board, 
erected by either the Japanese or Burmese, recording the fact that 
many thousands of members of the Burmese civilian labour corps 
had died working on the railway. It was only many years after the 
war that the book Military Administration in the Far East 
1943-1946 (by F S V Donnison) suggested a death ratio amongst 
the 175,000 Burmese labourers on the railway of about 3 in every 7, 
or 70,000 dead. 

When 17 Division eventually reached Moulmein, 1 Sikh LI 
remained at Thanbyuzayat, and with responsibility for the area to 
the south as far as the Siam border including all Japanese camps 
remaining there. Lt Col Maling had some special memories of inci- 
dents concerning the Japanese army: 

One is a report by one of our patrols which visited Burmese 
villages near Thanbyuzayat and found two Japanese soldiers 
in a village at night. The Japs knew they would be punished 
and when the patrol had cornered them in a field, they lay 
down on the ground, one on top of the other, and pulled the 
pin of a grenade between their bodies. When I told Col 
Horiba of this he told me that those men 'would have lost 
their surrendered personnel status and would have become 
POWs — and that would have been intolerable for them.' 

114 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

This may have sounded like semantics to us, but the Japs 
would have been still influenced by an instruction of Tojo, 
their Army Minister, in 1941, written into the Japanese 
Field Service Code, stating: 'Do not be taken prisoner alive.' 

However there was a case when one of our patrols did 
catch two Jap soldiers out of their military camp. These two 
Japs were brought to my HQ I showed them to Col Horiba 
and said that if those two soldiers had been in my battalion I 
would have given them 10 days imprisonment. Horiba 
asked me if I would make them POWs rather than surren- 
dered personnel. I said I would not, but that I would like the 
Japs themselves to imprison these two within their own 
camp. That evening I visited Horiba in his camp and was 
shown the two soldiers whom Horiba had taken with him. 
They had been placed in a bamboo cage six feet long by three 
feet high and three feet wide and, said Horiba, they would 
remain there for 10 days, allowed out for short visits to the 
latrines and a short spell of exercise each day. I cannot 
remember how long we let this go on for, but it did make me 
realise that a fair amount of the harsh treatment of Allied 
POWs by the Japanese came from the hard treatment of 
their own troops. 

Another incident concerning our contacts with the Japa- 
nese came when we were ordered to arrest a certain Jap Cap- 
tain who was in the Jap camp at Nikhe a few miles into Siam. 
I decided to go with a platoon of Sikh LI to Nikhe for this 
venture for I wished to see 3-Pagodas Pass and the Siamese 
end of the railway. After the usual exhilarating and scary 
journey down the line, we were met at the Nikhe stopping 
point by the Japanese Commandant who said that he was 
sorry but the Capt was dead. I asked why this had happened 
and the Commandant said that they had been told, the day 
before, that the Capt was to be arrested and he had commit- 
ted hara-kiri. When I said I wished to see the Capt, even if he 
was dead, I was taken through the Jap camp to the Capt's liv- 
ing place, a flattened terrace of earth, where he was tidily laid 
out with his personal kit beside him and some incense burn- 
ing and some small vases of flowers. He was certainly dead 

115 



The 1st Bn moves East 

but there was no means of identifying him as the wanted 
man. I accepted the Commandant's assurance that the dead 
man was the one I had come out to arrest, and was given 
some identifying material to send to Bangkok. I asked how 
the Capt knew we were coming to get him and was told that 
British HQ in Bangkok had sent a message the day before so 
that the Capt would be ready for our arrival! It seems 
extraordinary that telephone communication was kept open 
along the railway, but it was necessary so that the Japs could 
advise us of dacoit attacks to seize their arms and also so that 
we could operate the railway more safely. This Capt was 
wanted for questioning by the War Crimes Tribunal. 

That visit to Nikhe to arrest the Capt had an amusing 
sequel. For some reason or other I decided that we should 
spend the night at Nikhe and told the Commandant I was 
coming to dinner with him in his rather neat though spartan 
bamboo basha. The platoon of Sikhs deployed itself for the 
night beside the basha and augmented its own rations with 
whatever was locally available. Our chaps were immensely 
adaptable at this sort of thing. My dinner with the Comman- 
dant was as spartan as his basha. He could speak enough Eng- 
lish to make it clear that Nikhe was so isolated that the Japs 
there had been largely left on their own since the surrender. 
After dinner the Commandant asked me if I would like to 
hear his gramophone. We drank a glass of Saki as a Bing 
Crosby record, Good dog Rover, was played. I had never 
heard it before nor have I ever heard it since! 

One of the officers who joined the battalion at this time was Bob 
Almy, who recalled several interesting episodes. At Thanbyuzayat, 
he remembers going into the Japanese camp to have his teeth seen 
to by one of their dentists. His only protection in case they became 
nasty was one sepoy with a Lee-Enfield rifle. He also had to take a 
patrol, using the railway as the means of transport, through the 3- 
Pagodas Pass and into Siam. The target of the patrol was the band 
of dacoits who were causing considerable trouble at the time. They, 
the patrol, spent the night in some comfort at a Siamese village, 

116 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

where the headman was extremely hospitable and offered Almy a 
whisky — Black and White whisky, no less. Naturally he accepted, 
wondering how some of Scotland's finest had found its way to a 
remote village in Siam. When the bottle was produced he was 
rather taken aback to see that the label did not show the usual black 
and white scotties but a pair of black and white kittens! A local 
brew which doubtless would fall foul of the Trades Description 
Act in the UK, but which tasted quite all right and did him no 
harm. 

Almy supposes that this patrol might have been unique in two 
ways. Not only was he one of the first Europeans to travel on the 
Burma-Siam railway, but also one of the first to drink locally 
brewed 'Scotch Whisky'. 

Another incident involving Almy was more serious. While at 
Amherst the Bn was given the job of guarding two quite high-rank- 
ing Japanese officers who were then to be shipped back to India to 
stand trial for war crimes. John Maling put him in charge of them 
overnight, but somehow they managed to give their guards the slip 
and vanished into the Burmese night. Almy was given a good dress- 
ing down and patrols were sent hither and thither into the jungle to 
find the villains, but all to no avail. They had disappeared without 
trace. Possibly John Maling was not too concerned. Perhaps he 
considered that if they were picked up by the Burmese, they would 
meet a far more grisly fate than at the hands of the authorities in 
India. 

1 Sikh LI remained in Thanbyuzayat until February 1946. Tasks 
changed very little after 17 Division reached Moulmein. The battal- 
ion came under the command of 48 Brigade for the last four 
months in Burma. Surrender parades of Japanese forces continued. 
Bn patrols extended their range as far South as Mergui. Amherst 
became a rest camp for companies for a week each in rotation. 17 
Division Christmas cards were sent off, and Lt Talbot-Butt, who 
had joined the battalion near Pegu in May 1945, was married there. 

117 



The 1st Bn moves East 

3.7 Return to India: February 1946 

The 1st Bn moved to Rangoon early in February 1946, and Lt Col 
Maling returned from a Training Centre conference to find it 
embarked on a ship in Rangoon stream: he went aboard from a 
launch, and returned to India with the battalion. The battalion 
arrived in Lahore on or about 6th February and received a consid- 
erable welcome from the Training Centre. A few days later there 
was a parade so that the 1st Battalion could march past the Com- 
mandant and make presentations of Japanese swords to Col Price 
and Sub Maj Jiwan Singh who had both been founding members of 
the battalion. The Bn also presented the Training Centre, per Sub 
Maj Sohan Singh, captured Japanese weapons including a 75mm 
mountain gun and a 6" heavy mortar, which are still proudly dis- 
played at the quarter guard at Fatehgarh. 

The Bn remained in Lahore for some weeks before being posted 
to Sialkot. At this stage large leave parties of men and officers were 
sent off. Lt Col S Goodchild took command of 1 Sikh LI, and Col 
Price and Maj Maling set off in March 1946 to see as many as possi- 
ble of the wounded Sikhs in their home villages or in the hospitals 
in which some remained. Shortly thereafter on 9th June the Bn 
moved down to Poona to join the reforming 4th Indian Division 
(Red Eagles), under the command of Lt Col S Goodchild (14 
Punjab Regiment). The Bn took over the guards of Kirkee arsenal 
and, in addition, the task of railway protection duties along 245 
miles of railway line. About this time the Regiment was very 
pleased to hear that Lt Col Barlow- Wheeler had been awarded the 
DSO for his service in Burma. 

The main officers of the Battalion at this time were: 

CO Lt Col S Goodchild known as 'Achchha 

Bachcha' 
Lt Col E C Wall 
2 i/c Maj E C Wall 

118 



M & R —A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 



Adjutant 

QM 

Company 
Commanders 



Maj Shaukat Ali Shah 
Capt A T Cocks 
Lt Nur ul Huq 
Capt Bhattarcharjee 
Capt A T Cocks 



subsequently Adjutant 



T/Maj G C O'Flynn 

Capt C M McBride 

Maj Gurdial Singh 

Maj Sultan Ali Shah from 26/1 1 Sikh Regt 
Other officers Lt R D Almy 

Lt H J Bromley 

Lt Mohinder Singh 
MTO Capt H C T Routley 

HE Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, C-in-C, India visited 
the Bn on 9th December 1946 and presented awards for gallantry 
and distinguished service to the following personnel: 

Maj J D Maling, MC 
Capt Ata Mohammed 
Sub Maj Bachan Singh 
Sub Mohinder Singh 
Hav Char Singh 
Sep Ginder Singh 
Ajit Singh 
Nk Inder Singh 
Nk Ajmer Singh 
L Nk Banta Singh 

Unfortunately Sub Basant Singh was not available to receive his 
IOM on this occasion. On 31st December 1946 an extract from the 
supplement of the London Gazette was received: 

The King has been graciously pleased to approve that the 



DSO 

MC 

MC 

MC 

IDSM 

IDSM, CHM 

MM 

MM 

MM 

MM 



119 



The 1st Bn moves East 

following be mentioned in recognition of gallant and distin- 
guished service in Burma: 

Lt Col (Temp) J D Maling, DSO, MC 

Sub Labh Singh 

Nk Munsha Singh 

L Nk Kartar Singh 

Sep Mehar Singh 

Sep Tehal Singh 

Lt Col Gurkipal Singh (3 Sikh LI) was appointed Commanding 
Officer in place of Lt Col Wall on 24th September 1947. On 17th 
November the Bn left Poona for Jullunder Cantt and took over the 
duties of railway protection Sutlej/Beas. 



120 



2nd Bn Sikh Light Infantry in the Middle 

East 1945-1947 



Having sent reinforcements of both officers and men to the 1st Bn 
in Burma, the 2nd Bn was considerably under-strength when 
orders were received to move to the Middle East. The officers at 
that time with the Bn were: 



CO 

2i/c 
Adjutant 
QM 

Company 
Commanders 



Lt Col G R F Jenney 

Maj W A Rumbold 

Capt E C Lacey 

Not known 

Maj K N Young 

Maj R Crook 

Maj Raghbir Singh Brar 

Maj Tara Singh 

Maj Narrinder Singh 

Capt F E Pearson 

Hon. Capt Mall Singh OBI 

In October 1945, the bulk of the Bn entrained at Erode, and had 
to endure a seven-day journey to Karachi. The stores etc. were 
embarked at Madras on HT Varsova for the sea journey to Karachi. 
There a draft of three officers from Jungle Warfare Training at 
Saharanpur joined (2 Lts D J Clarke, J D Hookway and H Walters) 
with a party of jawans, also from Jungle Training. For the troops 
on the draft, it was the first time that they had seen the sea (kala 
pani, or black water) and they were fascinated by the waves, and 
the absence of the other bank. 



Sub Maj 



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2nd Bn Sikh Light Infantry in the Middle East 1945-1947 

The journey to the port of Basrah, at the head of the Persian 
Gulf, was made on the HTJaladurga. It was still quite hot and the 
ship very crowded, but it was the absence of land for two or three 
days which caused most concern. Eventually a small island in the 
Straits of Hormuz was seen, and the ship took on quite a list as the 
troops crowded to see it. After disembarking at Maquil, the port 
area of Basrah, the Bn moved to a Transit Camp, in a bare, sandy 
and featureless area so very different from the jungle from which it 
had come. 

The Bn now drew stores etc. for its new role and this gave rise to 
a great deal of speculation for, at the end of a very hot summer, all 
ranks were issued with winter clothing which included thigh 
length felt boots, leather jerkins, poshteen (sheepskin) mit- 
ten-gloves and snow-goggles! Everyone thought that the Staff had 
finally 'flipped', but the Bn was assured that they would 'be needed 
where you are going!' Eventually it became known that the desti- 
nation was the town of Deir-ez-Zor, and many maps had to be con- 
sulted before it could be found, right in the midst of the Syrian 
Desert on the River Euphrates. It was not at once clear what the Bn 
might have to do there, but it seemed unlikely that skills learned in 
Jungle Warfare Training School would figure prominently on the 
list! And so it turned out. 

For the three new officers, promotion — rapid promo- 
tion — was the order of the day, and all became captains overnight! 
Clarke became Mortar Platoon Comdr, Hookway QM and 
Walters OC HQ Company. The Bn shook itself out for a few days 
at Basrah and absorbed the draft of reinforcements, before starting 
the long journey to Deir-ez-Zor by road, troops and stores being 
carried by a British GT Company. Unfortunately Hookway fell 
prey to the dreaded 'Baghdad Belly' at Baghdad, and spent a week 
in the Gen Hospital there. The Bn had long since gone on, and he 
re-joined via a very speedy and comfortable trip on a Nairn bus, 
which drove non-stop across the desert, not using the roads, 

122 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

overnight. On arrival at Dez (the universal name for Deir-ez-Zor) 
he found himself Mortar Platoon Comdr and Capt Clarke QM. It 
was probably for the best. 

The officers of the Bn at this period were: 



CO 


Lt Col G R F Jenney 




2i/c 


Maj W A Rumbold 




Adjutant 


Capt E C Lacey 




QM 


Capt J D Hookway (one we( 
Capt D J Clarke 


&) 


Company 


Maj K N Young 




Commanders 


Maj R Crooks 

Maj Raghbir Singh Brar 

Maj Narrinder Singh 

Maj Tara Singh 

Maj F E Pearson 




Other officers 


Capt Mohinder Singh 


MTO 




Capt J D Hookway 


Mortar Officer 




Capt H Walters 


HQCoy 


Sub Maj 


Hony Capt Mall Singh OBI 





4.1 Deir-ez-Zor, Syria: October 1945 -January 1946 

There should at this stage be some explanation of why Indian, and 
some British troops should find themselves, after the end of the 
War, on duty in a French Protectorate. After the collapse of the 
Ottoman (Turkish) Empire in 1918, there was an urgent need to 
make fresh political arrangements for the Middle East. Many 
promises had been made to the Arabs as an inducement to win their 
support, and after the Armistice the Arabs occupied the region of 
Syria and, under King Faisal ibn Hussein, declared an independent 
state with its capital in Damascus. Despite promises made and 
implied, the Peace Conference at Versailles in 1920 assigned Syria 



123 



2nd Bn Sikh Light Infantry in the Middle East 1945-1947 

and Lebanon to French control as a Mandate under the league of 
Nations: at the same time Palestine became a British Mandate. In 
Syria especially this caused widespread dissatisfaction to the Syrian 
people, and from time to time the French had to use military force 
to support the Mandate. 

At the outset of the Second World War and, as a result of the 
German attack on France through Belgium and Holland, the 
French Army was rapidly defeated, and the French Government 
decided to ask for an Armistice. This came into effect on 22nd June 
1940, but two days earlier Italian troops invaded the south of 
France on a small scale, and an Armistice with Italy was signed on 
24th June. France was out of the war, but still had numerous colo- 
nies and mandated territories overseas. Some declared for the 
Allied cause by supporting the Free French under Gen de Gaulle, 
but Syria opted for Vichy France, and soon showed signs of wish- 
ing to collaborate with the Axis powers. To add to British prob- 
lems Raschid Ali, an Iraqi politician in the pay of the Germans, 
seized power in Iraq and attacked British bases in that country. 
Troops from India and Palestine rapidly brought the situation 
under control after severe initial difficulties. 

The situation for Britain at that time was precarious. Attacks on 
Rommel's German and Italian Army in North Africa {Brevity and 
Battleaxe) were repulsed, Crete fell after desperate battles with Ger- 
man airborne and seaborne troops, and only in Italian East Africa 
(Eritrea and Ethiopia) were Allied forces meeting with success. The 
situation in Vichy-French controlled Syria was still threatening 
and on 8th June 1941 Allied Forces including Free French com- 
menced an invasion of Syria. The 45,000 French and native troops 
resisted fiercely, but within a month the whole country had been 
cleared and the threat of German intervention removed. This was 
the position up to and just after the end of the Second World War, 
but again the Syrian population was becoming restive, as the 
French tried to resume their control through the mandate as 

124 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

though circumstances had not changed. 

Thus towards the end of 1945 the 2nd Bn Sikh LI, fresh from the 
very short-range world of the jungle track and trying to look like 
trees, found itself in the midst of the featureless Syrian Desert, 
where not a tree was to be seen, except by the banks of the River 
Euphrates! Deir-ez-Zor was a town of some 22,000 inhabitants on 
the Euphrates, and of strategic importance as the site of the only 
bridge for some one hundred miles and,as such, a centre of trade. 
The French authorities had established a regional headquarters 
there covering the Jezireh, a hard stony area of desert quite differ- 
ent from the soft sand dunes met with in other deserts. There were 
few if any obstacles to wheeled transport, and the only occupants 
of the vast areas of desert were the Bedouin Arabs with their black 
felt tents, camels and often flocks of sheep. 

The actual movement into Dez was along the main road running 
beside the River Euphrates from Aleppo, and the most noteworthy 
event was reported in the local Army Newsletter: 'Sikh LI - 3, Dez 
Donkeys - 0', so the local donkeys obviously came off worse, 
being no match for the Bn's vehicles! The Bn camped by the side of 
the French aerodrome, on flat ground, and as there were very few 
permanent buildings all ranks were accommodated in EPIP pattern 
tents, except the officers who were in 180-pdr ridge tents. These 
had been dug down two or three feet into the ground, and this gave 
much more headroom and also helped to reduce the effects of the 
strong, cold wind which had already begun to blow from the 
north. Only two permanent buildings had been allocated to the Bn, 
and these were used as the armoury and the Officers' Mess. There 
was a small French party still at the aerodrome because when the 
French were trying to contain Syrian protests about their contin- 
ued occupation, aircraft were used, in some cases to bomb and 
machine-gun local protesters. All the aircraft had been withdrawn, 
but the airstrip could still have been used to land and refuel. There 
was little if any love lost between the Syrians and the French, and 

125 



2nd Bn Sikh Light Infantry in the Middle East 1945-1947 

the main internal-security role of the Bn was to protect the French 
from the Syrians and enable the French to keep their civil author- 
ity in place — but only just — until such time as there would be a 
final agreement. This was definitely not an easy role for the Bn, and 
particularly for the guard commanders and the like who might at 
any time be confronted by a situation which could turn into a dip- 
lomatic incident. The French were very 'touchy' about anything 
which involved the pride of France and, after their traumatic expe- 
rience in the war, that was not to be wondered at. 

So the Bn settled down to the main tasks: training and familiari- 
sation with the local conditions and guarding French installations. 
The Bn formed part of 24 Indian Infantry Brigade, and was soon 
asked to provide a Bde Defence Platoon for Bde HQ. The unit 
from which the Sikh LI took over was the Kotah Umed State Infan- 
try, a State-Force unit. They were quite smart, but their worth mil- 
itarily was not certain. It cannot be said that the 2nd Bn Sikh LI was 
a particularly smart unit at that time, and when for some reason the 
CO, Lt Col Jenney decided that the Bde Def Pi would be found 
from Admin Company, a collision was bound to come sooner or 
later. 

One special type of training which had to be instituted very 
quickly was driver-training. An Indian Infantry Bn on Jungle estab- 
lishment would have had 12 Jeeps plus trailers, and 52 mules: the 
Bn now found itself as virtually an Independent Motorised Bn, 
with a total of no less that 110 vehicles, including motor-cycles and 
a platoon of Indian-pattern wheeled armoured carriers. The main 
vehicles were US 2Vi -ton lorries, sturdy and reliable, which was 
just as well when jawans got hold of them for the first few times. 
Fortunately the desert was flat and hard, and drivers could practise 
their skills well away from anyone else! In a surprisingly short 
period of time sufficient drivers were trained, but fortunately they 
were not soon put to the test of traffic or difficult-driving condi- 
tions. The rifle companies had much training to carry out, and 

126 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

inspections of Syrian Army weapons (all ex-French), and assistance 
in training them provided a bit of variety. The Syrians were much 
impressed by the heavy weapons of the Bn, and the ability of the 3 " 
mortars to come quickly into action and have several bombs in the 
air at the same time, made a big impression. One Coy was detached 
from the Bn and sent up towards the Turkish border at a town 
called Hassetche, almost due north of and some eighty miles from 
Dez. It was a lonely posting, again guarding French civil and mili- 
tary installations, but there always seemed to be some minor inci- 
dent which helped to break the monotony. 

The only other troops in the area were 291 Bty 79 ATk Regt RA 
at Raqqa, the site of another strategic bridge across the Euphrates. 
If anything, they had the hardest task of all, since the recreational 
facilities in Syria were almost non-existent. Eventually some AKC 
films did get out as far as Dez, but sports provided almost the only 
other form of relaxation. For the officers there was the odd oppor- 
tunity to shoot on the Jezireh desert; mostly sand-grouse in enor- 
mous flocks and herds of fleet gazelle. In both cases they were 
hunted from vehicles; the former by using shotguns from the open 
roof of a station-wagon and the latter by using rifles from 
madly-driven jeeps. 

The following report is taken from a 24 Ind Inf Bde Intelligence 
Summary (No 17 from 19th December 1945 to 2nd January 1946): 

Syrian Forces 

A very successful rifle and LMG competition was held 
between 2 Sikh LI and Syrian Army personnel on 21 and 22 
Dec. The Syrian team were obviously 'old soldiers' and their 
shooting was good. However their rifles were in poor condi- 
tion and they had not been 'zeroed'. It was noticeable that 
after the first few shots, which went over the target, they 
quickly altered the point of aim and from then on shot very 
well. When the Syrian soldiers fired the British Lee-Enfields 
(No. 4 rifles) they were very surprised by the shock of dis- 
charge and their shooting was poor. Their own rifles were 

127 



2nd Bn Sikh Light Infantry in the Middle East 1945-1947 

the 1888-1916 model long rifles. 

In the LMG competition the Syrians used their FMs, 
which proved to be extremely accurate firing 'application' at 
200 metres, due no doubt to their butt-rests. The Syrians 
fired very well with the Bren. The prizes, which were 
equally divided between the two teams, were distributed by 
the Brigade Commander. 

A private competition between the Brigade Commander 
and staff officer and the Commander Syrian troops and staff 
officer resulted in the British Army winning. 

It is quite clear from this account that diplomacy as much as mili- 
tary skills was required from the Bn. 

Other snippets from the Intelligence Summary give an idea of 
the problems the Bn had to face in Syria: 

(Dez) It is reported in Deir-ez-Zor that a raid by elements of 
the Shammar against the Baggara (two Bedouin tribes) took 
place in the Jezireh. No casualties were reported. 

. . . (Dez) The raiding party from the Shammar is reported 
by TJFF Mech Regt to have taken 90 camels from the 
Baggara south of Ras el Ain. There were no casualties. 

. . . (Dez) In a written complaint to the Political Officer, 
the Mohafez (Mayor) has complained of increased move- 
ment in the town by French personnel. The Mohafez 
pointed out that if this continued he could not be held 
responsible should any incident occur. In order that this let- 
ter should not be used in the event of an incident, and to 
ensure maximum security with minimum restrictions on 
French movement, the Political Officer first explained to 
the Mohafez that the responsibility for any incident or 
breach of security was a joint Syrian-British one. An infor- 
mal meeting was then held in the French Mission, OC Brit- 
ish troops and Maj Naish (PO) being present, at which Lt 
Col Huguenet volunteered to ensure minimum journeys to 
and from the aerodrome, and to give the Mohafez no cause 
for complaint or reasonable comment. A number of other 
points were adjusted, and Lt Col Huguenet was most reason- 
able in his attitude to escorts, and the avoidance of any 

128 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

possible incident which might mar the usual peaceful rela- 
tions in Deir-ez-Zor. [It is quite clear from this that someone 
was 'leaned-on' rather heavily!] 

. . . (Dez) A joint Anglo-Syrian patrol which went out on 5 
Dec 1945 consisted of a British Capt (Hookway), a Syrian 
Lieut., 1 VCO, an interpreter and 10 other IORs, with 9 Syr- 
ian Army personnel. The Syrian Army provided two 
armoured cars, and 2 Sikh LI a jeep and two 15-cwts. The 
route chosen was Dez - Soukhne - Bir Hafa - Resafe - 
Raqqa - Dez, a total distance of approx 295 miles. 

Extracts from the report on Syrian Army personnel: 

The Syrian officer in command seemed to be efficient, 
although he did not know the route covered. His Sergeant 
(Hav) was extremely good and seemed to be an old hand at 
patrolling. Inter-unit discipline seemed rather 'free and 
easy', although it proved sufficient. Arms were all kept in 
good condition, vehicles were satisfactory. Regular halts 
were apparently considered unnecessary and no mainte- 
nance was done. Their leading armoured car was inclined to 
break away from the main body, so that it proved difficult to 
keep inter-communication between their vehicles and ours. 
In short, a very efficient little force, except where strict disci- 
pline was concerned. 

What was actually happening was that whenever the Syrian 
armoured cars saw a herd of gazelle, they would drive straight at 
them and chase them in whatever direction. On coming within 
range of their Hotchkiss light machine gun on the vehicle, they 
would open automatic fire on the creatures, until several had been 
killed, gutted and retrieved. They would then rejoin the patrol. 
Roast gazelle cooked on an open fire in the desert is very good! 

(Dez) Shops in the town closed on 2 Jan (1946), as in all 
other towns in Syria, and a deputation of students called on 
the Mohafez to complain at the continued presence of for- 
eign troops in the area, and to complain about the 
Anglo-French agreement. There was no incident and there 
was no trouble. Shops which opened normally on the 

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2nd Bn Sikh Light Infantry in the Middle East 1945-1947 

morning of 3 Jan were ordered by officious students to close 
again, and did. 

By late November - early December it was obvious that things 
were starting to move. The Bn was ordered to dispose of large 
stocks of French aircraft bombs, of all types and sizes up to 500 kg 
or one half ton. These were carted to a number of narrow ravines 
which ran down from the escarpment some three miles away from 
the aerodrome and the Bn lines, and, in a series of explosions, were 
more or less destroyed. One larger than normal blast blew open the 
door of the CO's billet! A very large number of detonators were 
extremely difficult to dispose of. 

Long-serving British officers from British service were by this 
time becoming eligible for Demob, and just before Christmas 1945 
Capt Lacey left for UK. Capt Hookway took over as Adjutant. 
This led to a confrontation on the morning of Boxing Day outside 
the French Mission in Dez. The Adjt had just arrived to inspect the 
guard when he was made aware that the Bde Comd Brig McCullum 
and his BM Maj Stephenson had also arrived for the same purpose. 
After a period of one-sided discussion the following questions were 
posed: 'How old are you?'; 'How long have you been commis- 
sioned?'; and 'How long have you been Adjutant?' to which the 
answers were: 'Nineteen and a half; 'Seven months'; and 'Two 
days'. The tone of the meeting improved considerably after that, 
and the difficulties tended to lessen. 

Probably the most dangerous event to take place at Dez was the 
Christmas Day hockey match between the officers and a selection 
of the toughest VCOs. Unfortunately, for some reason never fully 
explained, the VCOs were first entertained to drinks in the Offi- 
cers Mess. The arrangements were simple: one bottle of every 
drink behind the bar (and there were a goodly number, including 
very exotic ones) was poured into a large metal bath, thoroughly 
stirred and then served out in pint mugs until it had all gone. This 
should have been followed by an afternoon on the bed, but instead 

130 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

the most lethal hockey match was played. All the rules went 

straight out of the window, no score was kept and a proper referee 

would have sent most of the players off the pitch! 

This was the extent of the Christmas celebrations, except 
that rum was issued to the troops who, in the bitterly cold 
weather, consumed it eagerly. Then it was business as usual, 
but the officers were entertained by the fine singing of some 
of the French Air-Force personnel, who were obviously 
very homesick, as we all were. Then the Bn was on the 
move, as described in the Bde Int Summary: 

The Anglo-French military evacuation of the Jezireh began 
on 22 Jan and had proceeded without incident : Ras el Ain 
and Qamichliye were both evacuated, the last British soldier 
leaving with the last Frenchman, as in the terms of the agree- 
ment. Hassetche will be evacuated by 6 Feb, when the TJFF 
(Trans-Jordan Frontier Force) Mech Regt will be concen- 
trated at Deir-ez-Zor with a detachment at Raqqa. . . . 
Deir-ez-Zor has welcomed the evacuation no less than the 
Jezireh, but there has been some regret that the British are 
going. An official reception and tea party given to the Bde 
Comd and his officers by the Municipality, and a dinner and 
dance given by the Syrian officers were indications of the 
friendly Anglo-Syrian relations which have existed in East 
Syria since the 'troubles' and the British occupation. A fare- 
well party given by the Bde Comd and staff was no less 
successful. 

Anglo-French relations in this area have always been most 
cordial, and at a dinner party given by the Bde Comd, Lt Col 
Huguenet announced that there would be no 'broken plates' 
in the town for the Bde Comd to have to come back and 
mend. . . . The building in the centre of town previously 
used as the French Delegation would be evacuated and 
handed back to the Municipality. The Mohafez showed 
great pleasure at this move . . . with the stand-down of the 
British guard on duty, was regarded with great favour by the 
townspeople, who saw for the first time since the 'troubles' a 
concrete proof that the French were on the move, and that 

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2nd Bn Sikh Light Infantry in the Middle East 1945-1947 

the British were seeing fair play all round. 

Col Huguenet stated that he did not expect to be in 
Deir-ez-Zor much longer. His departure would, of course, 
be regarded with immense enthusiasm in the town, since he 
is alleged to have been responsible for the order to bomb the 
town. 

2 Sikh LI (under comd 24 Ind Inf Bde) have taken over 
guard duties at Lattakia, and the CO of the Bn has taken over 
the duties of OC British Troops, Lattakia. One Coy of the 
Battalion is stationed at Tartous. 



4.2 Lattakia, Syria: January- April 1946 

Lattakia was a very different station in every way from 
Deir-ez-Zor. Situated on the northern coast of Syria, just below the 
Turkish border, it was a prosperous port of some 25,000 inhabit- 
ants, with modern houses and streets. Whereas the Bn was located 
well outside the town at Dez, in Lattakia the detachments were 
right in the middle of town, and the main barracks were pur- 
pose-built and much superior to the tents on the windy aerodrome. 
There was a Bn of French Colonial troops, in the barracks immedi- 
ately adjacent to 2 Sikh LI, local Alouites from the Lebanese moun- 
tains. They had their regimental whores with them who used to 
sun themselves en deshabille over the other side of the wire. The 
jawans spent much time looking back the other way! 

There was a much greater French presence in Lattakia, and fre- 
quent visits by military and diplomatic officers from Beyrouth. On 
one occasion this led to a considerable heightening of tension, as 
the French said that their man was coming, and the Syrians that he 
could not . The jawans were in the midst of this sort of diplomatic 
game quite frequently, and it led to requests such as 'but who is the 
dushman (enemy)?' It was not always easy to explain that there was 
not an enemy as such, but only anyone who broke the rather com- 
plicated rules or, more simply, didn't do what you told them to! 

132 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

On this particular occasion the Bn tried a show of strength by 
parading the Carrier Platoon, each heavily armed with a Bren light 
machine-gun and a PIAT anti-tank weapon — range 200 metres if 
you were very lucky. The carriers paraded for several days until it 
became apparent that the French had quietly backed down; on the 
next day, in place of the Sikh LI carriers, the Syrians produced a 
troop of real armoured cars, mounting real anti-tank guns, which 
could have blown the carriers away in very short order. With a real 
sense of humour they followed the exact route the carriers had 
been taking — and then disappeared back to wherever they had 
come from. 

One of the main tasks of the Bn, apart from protecting French 
from Syrians and vice- versa, was to escort convoys of French vehi- 
cles to their supply bases in the Lebanon, which was much more 
pro-French and where little trouble was experienced. From time to 
time the Syrians got a bit restive about this, especially when they 
thought that too many vehicles were going, or too frequently. 
Then they would erect a barrier of a strong chain across the road, 
requiring vehicles to stop and be checked. In the role of impartial 
troops this could not be allowed to happen, since any little incident 
might get blown up to a full-scale problem if somebody said or did 
the wrong thing. The solution was relatively easy: armoured carri- 
ers were put at the head and rear of each convoy. The chain was 
located, rather stupidly, halfway down a long, straight slope, and 
the leading carrier would switch on its headlights, put weapons 
through the slits, and motor at top speed towards the chain. The 
momentum of the carrier would probably have carried the chain 
away without trouble, but the Syrians didn't wait to find out. At 
the last moment they would drop the chain, and stand back as the 
convoy rushed past. It would have been another matter if they had 
had an armoured car or two. 

The Bn took over duties in Lattakia from a Gurkha Bn (almost 
certainly 2/6th Gurkha Rifles), and this gave rise to an interesting 

133 



2nd Bn Sikh Light Infantry in the Middle East 1945-1947 

phenomenon. It appeared that the local young ladies, seeing the 
small size of the Gurkhas, thought that they were only boys and 

hence not capable of In this they were very wrong and, after 

the Gurkhas had left, there were a number of small, rather dusky 
babies in the town. There were no such misconceptions about our 
jawansl Rather, they were reliably credited with being baby-eaters, 
and young children would be hustled off the streets when even 
only one of our troops approached. In addition, the detachments' 
cookhouses were often on waste ground near the guard posts; on at 
least one occasion the kerosene cooker blew-up in a sheet of flames, 
leading to the further report that the men were fire-worshippers 
too. Needless to say, the rumours were not contradicted, and the 
Bn never had any trouble from the local badmash or wrong-doers. 
The language problems were often quite severe, and several interpret- 
ers were attached to the Bn. They were almost all Armenians, and 
could speak eight or ten languages, the chief ones being French (for 
the French, and Syrian officials), Arabic (for the locals) and of 
course English. 

Soon after the Bn had arrived at Lattakia, a draft of reinforce- 
ments was received from the Regimental Centre at Lahore. They 
included Maj R P Watkin, and 2 Lts W D Purdie and J G Rice. Lt 
Purdie was appointed Signals Officer and Lt Rice was posted to Bde 
HQ at Aleppo as Bde Transport Officer. An unusual opportunity 
occurred for a party of IORs from the Bn to go to the UK for a 
short leave: the main comments on return was how green every- 
thing was (not surprising, as it was winter in UK and anything 
would look green after the desert at Dez). One other comment was 
about the honesty of ordinary people: a paper-seller had left his pile 
of papers and the jawans waited to see them all stolen. They were 
amazed to see people picking up papers and putting down the 
money. 

There was another minor problem which reared its head in 
Lattakia. The area was for centuries a centre of the drugs trade, in 

134 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

particular hashish, which was grown locally in the mountains and 
exported, illegally, from the port of Lattakia by sea. It was in the 
form of a fine, green powder and it was only after the Bn had left 
Syria that the peculiar behaviour of a small number of the troops 
was explained. Somehow they had got hold of hashish and must 
have sniffed it (it was normally smoked in a cigarette); the effect 
was to make them much slower and less inclined to work, or take 
part in games etc. The problem disappeared completely as soon as 
the Bn moved to Iraq. 

It was in Lattakia that a tragedy occurred. The second-in-com- 
mand, Maj Bill Rumbold, died as the result of an accident and was 
buried in the Military Cemetery at Tripoli. He was replaced by the 
senior Maj, Ken Young and a short while afterwards Lt Col C W 
Morris came to take over the Bn as CO from Lt Col Jenney for a 
short period. 

But there were some rather more pleasurable events at Lattakia. 
A very successful Bn Sports Day was held, and for the officers there 
was the occasional trip with the French convoy to Beyrouth, acting 
as OC Escort. Beyrouth in those days was a very smart city with 
great French influence, and the nearest thing to civilisation anyone 
was likely to see in that part of the Middle East. No one enquired 
too closely about time spent in the city, but those who went 
seemed to enjoy it. There were opportunities for more energetic 
pastimes. Maj Watkin and Capt Lacey had good fun in Lattakia rid- 
ing the police horses and drinking Turkish coffee with the Chief of 
Police. They also took a Jeep and drove over the border into Tur- 
key where the Turkish frontier guards appeared very ready to dis- 
pense with formalities for a packet of cigarettes. They visited a very 
primitive hill village where they were greeted with enthusiasm and 
the local fire-water. Then, finally and inevitably, the French 
authorities had to yield to the pressure of the Syrians for Independ- 
ence, and this was granted on 12th April 1946. Several officers from 
the Bn were invited as guests to witness the Independence Day 

135 



2nd Bn Sikh Light Infantry in the Middle East 1945-1947 

parade in Damascus; it was the only time that we had seen a troop 
of Boy Scouts with steel helmets, and their leader had a pistol on his 
belt. The Anglo-French evacuation of Syria and the Lebanon fol- 
lowed immediately. As before, the last British and French units 
would leave together, in a large convoy, and this gave rise to a very 
poignant ceremony at the small French garrison at Tartous. The 
escort from 2 Sikh LI arrived to find the entire garrison drawn up 
on parade in front of the flag-pole, with a small band at the side. On 
being told it was time to leave, the French Lt gave his orders, the 
band played and the French flag, with a pennant showing the 
Free-French Cross of Lorraine, was slowly lowered for the last 
time in Syria. The poor officer stood there, flag in his hands and 
tears streaming down his face. He had no idea of what to do with 
the flag, so eventually the British officer suggested that it might be 
passed to him as a souvenir of that very sad occasion. The French 
Lt agreed, salutes were exchanged and the flag was handed over. 

The convoys formed up, but here a problem which had not been 
foreseen occurred. The Bn drivers had had plenty of space in the 
desert to practise driving, and the streets of Lattakia were not particu- 
larly difficult or crowded. Beyrouth was another matter altogether, 
especially since no-one had told the drivers about traffic lights! As 
far as they were concerned they were just pretty lights, but the Syri- 
ans and Lebanese had learnt from experience and, if in doubt, they 
gave way to the Bn's vehicles. 

There was an amusing incident with an officer of the French 
Colonial Infantry Bn which had lines adjoining ours in Lattakia. 
They had to be escorted out of Syria by the Sikh LI and an 
armoured car escort provided by the Jodhpur Lancers. It was feared 
that the French might get shot up by the Syrians on the way. The 
order of march was Sikh LI advance and rear-guards, with the main 
body and French in between, and armoured cars dispersed here and 
there along the column. The French OC complained that the 
French should by rights be the last to leave Syria. The security 

136 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

problem was explained to him, also that the Sikh LI were responsi- 
ble, but it was agreed that the French could make a token last to 
leave by the presence of one officer. The last that was seen of him 
was over the tail of the column at the roadside, peeing into a bush! 
Vive La France! 

The Bn was soon on the road running across the Lebanese moun- 
tains, and then directly eastwards across northern Jordan to Iraq. 
For one long stretch the road ran through an area covered with 
football-sized black lava boulders, and in the heat of the sun these 
radiated the heat to make it almost unbearable. Then it was on to 
the tarmac desert road in Iraq, where everything gave way to the 
convoy except the huge pipe-carrying vehicles of the oil company, 
which drove at speed right on the crown of the road and forced all 
other users, including the Bn and its carriers, to pull over on to the 
hard shoulder. 

As before, the troops were carried by a British GT company, and 
they were very impressed by the arrangements made by Sub Maj 
Mall Singh. He would go ahead of the main convoy with a small 
party, select a camp site for the night, and then mark out the posi- 
tions into which the lorries had to be driven, which were marked 
with small stones. This arranged the lorries exactly one ground- 
sheet-width apart and, with the minimum of fuss, the Bn would dis- 
mount, put up their bivouacs and start preparing a hot drink and a 
hot meal. The usual way of preparing a hot drink was for each vehi- 
cle to carry a smallish tin can, half full of sand. Petrol would be 
poured on this and carefully ignited, soon boiling the mess-tins or 
billy-cans for tea. This was almost certainly quite irregular, but 
everyone did it and no-one seemed to worry. 

The driving was terribly monotonous, as the road was com- 
pletely straight and dead flat. The sun was always on the south or 
right-hand side, and in open vehicles became quite oppressive. 
Boredom led to one or two minor accidents through drivers falling 
asleep at the wheel, and a jeep had to be written off and abandoned 

137 



2nd Bn Sikh Light Infantry in the Middle East 1945-1947 

as the Bn was about to enter Baghdad. One other little memory for 
those who made that trip — the officers' toilets at the small Transit 
Camp at H2 pumping station! The concrete seats had been covered 
with gazelle skin, which had not worn well in the very hot 
weather. The Bn didn't stay long in Baghdad, but turned south for 
another day's journey to our destination: Shaibah, just to the south 
-west of Basrah. The troops were not at all sorry to arrive. The 
actual journey time from Syria to southern Iraq was about five 
days; and, in those temperatures and with the monotony, it was 
good to be able to move about on one's own feet again. 



4.3 Az Zubeir, Shaibah, Iraq: April 1946 - 
May /June 1947 

After the long drive across the deserts from Syria to the extreme 
south of Iraq, the Bn was pleased to get into a permanent camp 
again. In fact, Az Zubeir was an almost non-existent village not far 
from the very large RAF aerodrome and base at Shaibah. The area 
was about ten to twelve miles from the sea at Basrah and right out 
in the desert, with absolutely no vegetation except very straggling 
tamarisk bushes. In fact it was to prove a blessing that the camp was 
not close to the sea, as in the hot season the humidity at Shaibah was 
at least bearable. The temperatures got up to 140 deg. F in the shade at 
the very hottest time — except that there was rarely any shade of 
which to take advantage. Nearer the coast the temperatures were 
significantly lower, but the very high humidity was very trying. 

The camp itself was bounded by a high barbed- wire fence, for all 
the world like a Prisoner-of-War camp, and the huts were wooden, 
with rush screens over the windows to try to cool things down. It 
would get extremely cold at night, even in hot weather, and this 
often posed difficult alternatives for guards and troops on exercises 
regarding clothing to be worn. The role of the Bn, which was 

138 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

shared with the 7/11 Sikhs and 2 Mahars, was to guard the enor- 
mous Base installations in south Iraq, left over from the days of 
Allied assistance to the Russians via Persia. The BAD (Base Ammu- 
nition Depot), which the Bn often had to guard, was several miles 
in perimeter, and guards were mounted on jeeps which patrolled 
the wire fences looking for holes or signs of entry. It was not an idle 
threat, as the quite possibly true story was that the King David 
Hotel in Jerusalem was blown up by explosives taken from that 
BAD, but fortunately not when 2 Sikh LI was on duty! 

Numerous other guards had to be found, as well as for the camp 
itself, and it was usual for one third of the Bn to be on guard-duty 
on any one day. Some training was possible, but the combination 
of heat and complete lack of any facilities made life there very try- 
ing. The main recreation was sport, and hockey was played fre- 
quently. The officers mess tried desperately to grow a small strip of 
grass in front of the mess, but despite daily watering and all the care 
possible, the grass just didn't survive. So a small tree was made from 
wire and camouflage netting, and this was the only green thing for 
miles around. 

Very little was seen of other units, but one source of interest to 
the jawans was the presence of a number of German and Austrian 
POWs. They would work within the camp, mainly digging the 
deep latrines at which they were very highly specialised, and they 
were under minimal if any form of guard. (There was nowhere for 
them to go.) The troops seemed puzzled to see dushman (enemy) at 
close quarters, and in the normal rig of shorts, boots and forage cap 
they were not much different from their own British officers. 
There was on one occasion a visit of a hockey team from the 25th 
Garrison Bn stationed across the Shatt-al-Arab waterway in Abadan, 
but apart from this almost nothing. All ranks were greatly tired by 
unremitting guard duties, and rest was eagerly taken when it could 
be. 

There was an officers' club in the area, but the total lack of any 

139 



2nd Bn Sikh Light Infantry in the Middle East 1945-1947 

female company made it a rather frustrating place to visit. The 2nd 
Mahars were a very jovial crowd, not too far away down the road 
to Basrah, and some convivial evenings were arranged between the 
Messes. 

There were new intakes at the end of summer. 2 Lt E W 
Carvalho with a draft of twenty men from the Regimental Centre 
reported on 12th October 1946. They were followed by 2 Lt T 
Shiner a few weeks later. 

The command of the Battalion changed several times in a short 
period in Iraq; Lt Col CWN Morris being CO from May to Sep- 
tember 1946 and Lt Col Mir Afzal from September to November 
1946. 

The CO, by now Lt Col J H Seagrim (2 Punjab Regiment), was 
concerned under these conditions for the welfare of his very young 
officers, and so from time to time an invitation would be issued to 
the (few) ladies of the Malcolm Club at the RAF base at Shaibah. 
These ladies were volunteers from the UK who looked after the 
welfare on the base, and on the evenings before they were due there 
would be a flurry of cleaning-up done, which was usually desper- 
ately needed. There were also occasional and quite illegal visits to 
the shadier areas of Basrah, in the CO's station wagon, but nobody 
came to any harm through it. 

Col Seagrim came from a military family of five brothers, who 
between them had a quite incredible record of bravery and service. 
In age order, Charles (RA) was invalided out from Burma, Cyril 
(RE) served on the planning staff for D-Day and was awarded the 
OBE, Derek (Green Howards) won a posthumous VC at the Mareth 
Line in Tunisia, Jack (2 Punjab) became CO of 2 Sikh LI, and Hugh 
(Burma Rifles) won a posthumous GC (George Cross, the highest 
civilian award) for service behind Japanese lines in Burma, surren- 
dering to save the lives of his Karen followers. Truly a remarkable 
family. 

Then, in April 1946 came an event which changed the role of the 

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M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Battalion, and very much for the better. There were a series of 
strikes in the British owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company's refiner- 
ies in Abadan, just across the river from Basrah. These were insti- 
gated by the Tudeh Party, led by Doctor Mossadec, which was a 
communist organisation. This was held to pose a serious threat to 
British interests in that area, especially as loss of control would 
threaten the supply of oil to the West. The strike was accompanied 
by anti-British rioting, and the decision was taken to move a force 
to Basrah to safeguard the position of the oil and the refinery. Force 
401, commanded by Maj Gen F Loftus-Tottenham and consisting 
of 19 Indian Brigade Group (4 Indian Grenadiers, 3/8 Punjab Regi- 
ment and 6/13 Frontier Force Rifles plus supporting elements), 
was moved from India to the Basrah area to await events. The three 
battalions already in south Iraq (7/1 lth Sikhs, 2 Sikh LI and 2 
Mahar) also came under command of Force 401, and training began 
in earnest for a possible role of intervention in Iran. 

The first plan was for the Bn to move to Maqil, the port area of 
Basrah, and load troops, equipment and supplies with a view to 
unloading at Bandar Shahpur, a port at the head of the Persian 
Gulf. There were two or three practices of this operation, but 
someone must then have had second thoughts about the feasibility 
of unloading a ship, which required cranes and docks, in a country 
likely to be quite hostile to what was a foreign invasion. So the Bn 
was transformed into an air-landing role, with the same general 
task, namely the seizure and retention of the oil wells at Agha Jahri, 
some eighty miles inside Iran. It was quickly appreciated that the 
nearest landing strip was at Haft Kel, some fifteen miles from Agha 
Jahri, and that once landed the Bn would have to move itself, its 
equipment and supplies on foot to the objective. Not a particularly 
encouraging thought if resistance were to be expected. 

So, having divided the Bn into aircraft loads and worked out that 
one aircraft load was almost identical to a 2Vi -ton lorry load, train- 
ing began. This consisted of loading troops and absolute minimum 

141 



2nd Bn Sikh Light Infantry in the Middle East 1945-1947 

equipment into lorries, driving fifteen miles out into the desert, 
and being told to make your way to camp. Wireless sets, 3" mortar 
components and bombs, and all the other pieces which had to be 
carried became heavier as the march progressed, and the extreme 
heat did nothing to make life any easier. But the change from guard 
duties was welcomed; at least the Bn might have a chance to do 
something useful, and it did make a change. While the main body 
was to be air-landed, the Carrier Platoons were to move overland 
and across the desert. 

2 Lt Carvalho was appointed Carrier Pi commander and ordered 
to report to Maj Sam McCoy, OBE (2 Royal Lancers) and CO 
Indian Long Range Squadron (ILRS) for six weeks' attachment and 
training in desert navigation and movement. The ILRS under its 
present commander was once part of the famed Long Range Desert 
Group and had contributed to its spectacular success in the West- 
ern Desert. They were stationed on Coal Island in the middle of the 
Shatt-al-Arab at its narrowest, just off Basrah. 

While the drivers learned the finer points of coping with various 
types of desert terrain, the officer, VCO and NCOs concentrated 
on Sun Compass, Long Range patrolling techniques and reconnais- 
sance. The first attempt at night navigation was an eye-opener. A 
dark night and the absence of landmarks, proved a disaster and did 
little for morale and self-respect. A whole night's driving from A, 
twenty miles to B, found the platoon at dawn, two miles from A 
and twenty-two miles from B! 

However, they learned fast. At sunset during the next exercise, 
when giving 2 Lt Carvalho an RV for sunrise the following morn- 
ing, again twenty miles away, Maj McCoy promised to cook him 
breakfast if he appeared at the crack of dawn! True to his word, 
Sam McCoy did!! 

There certainly was a change for the officers, who now became 
involved in large signal exercises, with such exotic things as ASSUs 
(Air Support Signals Units), co-operation with aircraft etc., and 

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M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

there was much examination of aerial photographs of the target 
area. There was also a very large-scale battle-inoculation exercise 
for each battalion, supported by an Indian Field Regiment and the 
mortar platoons of the three Bns; the mortar bombs were much 
more impressive, and more scaring, than the 25-pdr shells. 

Probably fortunately, the Tudeh Party and the Iranians backed 
down, and Force 401 never had to go into action, but it would have 
been an interesting few weeks if something had happened. 

Then there seemed to be rather more in the way of general train- 
ing and rather less guard duties, and the Bn laid on several demon- 
strations of weapons etc. for a very un-military looking Iraqi 
Army. There was also the opportunity to carry out Bn exercises, 
which involved the whole Bn,in vehicles, driving in closed-up for- 
mation across the flat, stony desert, and then forming up on the 
start-line just before dawn and carrying out battalion attacks. (As a 
matter of general interest, these exercises were just north of the 
border between Iraq and Kuwait, where some forty years or more 
later the Iraqi Republican Guard was in battle against the Allied 
Powers in the Gulf War.) 

Being so close to the state of Kuwait while on collective training 
near Safwan, Maj Jenney, the 2 i/c, suggested a visit over the week- 
end: the idea caught on and, needing the change, a party of officers 
and a Mess detachment left on the four-hour trip, heading over the 
desert in the general direction of the town. 

When it appeared on the horizon, they picked up a barely dis- 
cernible track that led to the capital. The splendour of the Kuwait 
of today bears no resemblance to the conditions encountered in 
1947: a dry and dusty medieval town with narrow streets and not a 
blade of grass. Currency was based on the Indian rupee and, having 
purchased sufficient kerosine tins of fresh water at one rupee a tin, 
the party camped on the beach and spent a very pleasant weekend. 

One complete change from the normal routine occurred when it 
was announced that the Bn would receive an official visit from Maj 

143 



2nd Bn Sikh Light Infantry in the Middle East 1945-1947 

Gen Loftus-Tottenham, GOC Force 401. Lt Col Seagrim said that 
every other unit would put on a tactical exercise, and that all the 
general would see would be troops' bottoms. So he decided to lay 
on a full ceremonial parade. A company was borrowed from 25th 
Garrison Bn, and somehow the band of the Rajputana Rifles was 
obtained, and the Bn had the first chance for a very long while to 
smarten up drill and appearance, and to show the general what the 
M & Rs could do. The parade was agreed to have been a great suc- 
cess, but then it was back to training and guard duties. 

A photograph taken after this parade records the officers and 
VCOs of the 2nd Bn Sikh LI in early 1947: 



CO 


Lt Col J H Seagrim 




2i/c 


Maj G R F Jenney 




Adjutant 


Capt J D Hookway 




QM 


Capt D J Clarke 




Company 


Maj Raghbir Singh Brar 


A Coy 


Commanders 


Maj Tara Singh 


BCoy 




Maj Narrinder Singh 


C Coy 




Maj K N Young 


DCoy 




Capt H Walters 


HQCoy 




Capt Mohinder Singh 


Admin Coy 


Other officers 


Maj Sterling 


att. 




Lt J G Rice 


MTO 




Lt K C Hodge 


Mortar Pi. 




Lt W D Purdie 


Signals officer 




Lt T Leete Int. officer 






Lt T Shiner 


Carrier Pi. 




Lt D J Cooper 


att. 


Absentees 


Lt G Maitland 


War leave in 
India 




Lt A S Anand 


Liaison visit to 
UK 



144 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Lt E W Carvalho 3" Mortar 

course at Gaza 
Medical officer Capt Basaka Menon MO 
Sub Maj Sub Maj & Hony Capt 

Mall Singh, OBI 
Sub Maj & Hony Lt 
Puran Singh OBI from Mar 1947 

In March 1947, Sub Maj and Hon Capt Mall Singh OBI, who had 
been with the Bn since its inception on 1st July 1942 left on what 
can best be described as a well-earned retirement. He was replaced 
by another Pioneer stalwart, the legendary Sub Maj and Hon Lt 
Puran Singh, OBI, a welcome addition to the team. 

But now thoughts of the British officers were turning towards 
leave in the UK of which there were several types: 
PYTHON permanent expatriation for British service; 

LIAP leave in addition to PYTHON 

(also for British service); 
LILOP leave in lieu of PYTHON 

(for Indian Army personnel); 
SLICK short leave in UK (28 days) 

Soon after that the talk was of demobilisation, as it became more 
clear that India would be granted Independence in the relatively 
near future. The senior British officers went first, except for those 
who had volunteered to stay on for given periods and who were then 
replaced by newly-commissioned officers from India. Then even 
quite junior officers were off; they were advised to apply for perma- 
nent commissions with the British Army should they so wish. But 
by then the Infantry was full and only the Royal Artillery or Royal 
Engineers still had vacancies. It was in 1947 that the pre-war Regu- 
lar Indian Army officers (British) of the rank of Major and above 
started going. An example was Maj G C O'Flynn, who transferred 
to the Royal Artillery in the UK in early 1947. 

145 



2nd Bn Sikh Light Infantry in the Middle East 1945-1947 

On the departure to the UK for demobilisation of Capts. Clarke, 
Hookway and Walters, Capts. Autar Singh Anand and G F 
Maitland were appointed Adjutant and QM respectively. 

With the date for the handover of power decided. GHQ India 
moved to have as many as possible of the Indian Units serving over- 
seas back in the country by 15th August 1947, Indian Independence 
Day. The Bn received its movement orders in early July, the news 
being greeted with enthusiasm and a feeling of relief by the troops, 
many of whom, depending on the location of their villages, were 
concerned at the outcome of the impending partition of the 
country. 

It was at this time that the Bn had a visit from Field Marshall Sir 
Claude Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief, India. 

Capt K P Kalsy flew in from India a week before embarkation to 
boost the depleted officer establishment. After being bade farewell 
at the port of Maqil by Brig. Wilson-Haffenden of HQ British 
Troops Iraq, the battalion embarked on HT Varsova and sailed for 
Bombay in the early hours of 4th August 1947. 

At this time the officer and VCO establishment was: 



CO 


Lt Col J H Seagrim 




2i/c 


Maj Raghbir Singh Brar 


also OC A Coy 


Adjt 


Capt A S Anand 




QM 


Capt G F Maitland 




Coy Comds 


Maj Raghbir Singh Brar 


A Coy 




Maj Tara Singh 


BCoy 




Maj Narrinder Singh 


C Coy 




Capt E W Carvalho 


DCoy 




Capt K P Kalsy 


HQCoy 




Maj Mohinder Singh 


AdminCoy and 
MTO 


Med Offr 


Capt B Menon, AMC 


RMO 


Sub Maj 


Sub Maj & Hony Lt 





146 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Puran Singh, SB, OBI 

VCOs Sub Harnam Singh A Coy 

Sub Chattar Singh B Coy 

Sub Bujha Singh C Coy 

Sub Hari Singh D Coy. 

Sub Bachan Singh Sig Pi 

Sub Mehta Singh MT Pi 

Jem Ujjagur Singh Jem Adjt 

JemWaryam Singh Jem Head Clerk 

The voyage was uneventful, and the ship made good time, dock- 
ing at Bombay on 10th August, a day earlier than expected by HQ 
Embarkation. 

The Bn was destined for Dhond, a rather isolated cantonment 40 
miles from Poona that, either during or after the war, had housed a 
West African Brigade. A train was hastily arranged for the same 
evening and, while the Bn disembarked, Maj Gen D R Bateman, 
DSO, GOC Bombay and his GSO 1 arrived to welcome them. 

The unit entrained and left for Dhond the same evening; they 
were given a welcome cup of tea by the 1st Bn during a brief halt at 
Poona early the following morning. On arrival it transpired that 
they were the only major unit in the station, later to be joined by a 
Bn of the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles back from Java. In his capacity 
of Station Commander, Lt Col Seagrim directed the MES to fur- 
nish a building that he had selected to be the Station Club, and it 
was here that Independence Day was ushered in. 

Shortly thereafter, he held a Durbar and announced that he was 
sending a party comprising an officer, some VCOs and men to the 
Regimental Centre to assist, if required, in the evacuation of fami- 
lies of troops and bring back the latest information. This was done 
and proved to be a wise and prudent measure in those troubled 
times in the Punjab, 1,500 miles away. 

In late August the CO and officers drove to Poona to attend an 

147 



2nd Bn Sikh Light Infantry in the Middle East 1945-1947 

address by Gen Sir Rob Lockhart, the new C-in-C Indian Army 
FM Sir Claude Auchinleck now being the Supreme Commander 
India and Pakistan. After the address they availed themselves of the 
opportunity to visit the 1st Bn and met Lt Col E B C Wall and some 
of the officers and VCOs. 

Shortly thereafter Maj Balwant Singh, ex 14 Punjab Regiment 
and an ex-POW in Italy arrived as second-in-command. A few 
weeks later Lt Col J H Seagrim, the last British CO, handed over to 
Maj Balwant Singh and left the Bn on 29th September 1947. He 
insisted on the complete absence of ceremony. After saying good- 
bye to the officers and VCOs, he inspected the Quarter Guard and 
was seen on to the train by the new CO and Sub Maj & Hony Lt 
Puran Singh SB, OBI 

Popular with all ranks he had accomplished a great deal in his ten 
months of command. 

So ended a happy chapter, and another commenced. 



148 



The Sikh Pioneers and Sikh Light Infantry 

Association 



The Association, for former British officers of the Sikh Pioneers 
and Sikh LI, their wives and widows, was formed shortly after the 
War and met once a year, in London. Initially there were always 
two functions: a Dinner in the evening for Officers only, followed 
by a Luncheon for Officers and Regimental Ladies the next day. 

The first record I have is of the 1950 Reunion, which was held at 
the Criterion Restaurant, Lower Regent Street, London: the lun- 
cheon cost 17/6 (S7V2 p) and the dinner 19/- (95p). (You wouldn't 
get much for that nowadays!) The Hon Sec was Lt Col 
E P F Pearse, and his report shows that 32 Sikh Pioneers and wives 
and 17 Sikh LI and wives attended the luncheon and 22 and 19 
respectively the dinner. 

The 1953 Reunion, held at the Junior United Service Club, was 
memorable for the presence of their Highnesses the Raja and Ranee 
of Faridkote with their son, David and second daughter at the lun- 
cheon, and again of His Highness and his ADC at the dinner. Gen- 
eral Savory took the chair at the dinner and Maj Gen Alfieri at the 
luncheon. Maj Gen 'Punch' Cowan, who commanded 17 Division 
in which 1 Sikh LI served with great distinction in Burma was pre- 
vented by ill-health from attending. 

In 1957 Gen Savory and Air Commodore 'Bertie' Drew were in 
the chair at the luncheon and dinner respectively. Guests included 
FM Sir Claude Auchinleck and Brig Sir John Hunt. Sikh Pioneer 
and Sikh LI representation was 46 and 23 at the luncheon and 17 
and 16 at the dinner. 

149 



The Sikh Pioneers and Sikh Light Infantry Association 

At the 1961 Reunion Mrs Spurgin, (widow of the co-author, 
with Gen McMunn, of the History of the Sikh Pioneers) gave an illus- 
trated talk on her recent tour of India and Pakistan. She was wel- 
comed there by Brig Gurkipal Singh, the Colonel of the Regiment, 
and met many pensioners: she also visited the 3rd Bn in camp in the 
Amritsar area and was given a very warm welcome. At the Regi- 
mental Centre at Meerut she was welcomed by the Comdt Lt Col 
Nanda and given an extensive tour. This coincided with the visit of 
HM the Queen; and Mrs Spurgin attended the Republic Day 
Parade at which Her Majesty was present. The Sikh LI contingent 
looked very smart in their green pagris and shining chakras. 

The 1963 Reunion, held at the Junior Army and Navy Club for 
the dinner on Friday night, and at Whitehall Court for the lun- 
cheon, was notable in that our Regimental guest at luncheon was 
FM Viscount Slim, KG, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, GBE, DSO, MC. 
Gen Savory also welcomed Gen Misra, who had been a cadet in his 
Coy at Dehra Dun! One lovely story from this Reunion concerned 
a Regimental Lady who called a taxi to take her to Paddington sta- 
tion. The driver became very excited, and asked if she knew who 
was just coming out behind her. 'Oh yes,' she said, 'Field Marshal 
Slim. He was Guest of Honour at the Reunion I have just come 
from.' The cabbie said that he had served in 14th Army and 
thought the world of 'Bill' Slim, and wouldn't take any money for 
taking her to Paddington! Gen Savory also reminded the guests of 
the very sad loss the Regiment had suffered by the death of Col 
Price, who had raised the Sikh LI: he had received a very touching 
letter from the Regiment expressing the grief of all ranks. 

Our Regimental Guests at the 1964 Reunion were Col and Mrs 
Mohd. Aslam (the Army Adviser to the High Commissioner of 
Pakistan). Col Aslam had a close association with the 1st Bn Sikh 
LI: both were in 17 Div at Meiktila, and close support was provided 
by Jacob's Mountain Battery, which was commanded by him. In 
reply to the speech of welcome, Col Aslam noted that he was the 

150 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

third generation of his family to have served in the Mountain 
Artillery. 

These early Reunions were heady affairs, with a mixture of the 
'old and bold' who had served in such places as China, Tibet, 
France and Palestine (in the Great War) and on the Frontier in 
many campaigns, and the young officers of the Sikh LI. When Air 
Commodore 'Bertie' Drew started to talk about his time in China, 
or gave one of his celebrated pep talks on the M & Rs, everybody 
listened, but especially the newer members. 

It was always exciting to take the Underground to Central Lon- 
don and see a gradual increase in the numbers of Sikh Pioneer and 
LI ties as the final destination grew closer! Lt Col J F 'Podge' Peart 
took over as Hon Sec of the Association in 1965 from 'Pumpus' 
Pearse. 

In 1966, three pieces of Sikh Pioneer silver were presented to 
what was hoped to be their final homes. The magnificent Dragon 
Bowl, for some years the centre-piece of the 34th Royal Sikh Pio- 
neers, was a memorial to that Battalion's service in China 
1900-1901; and Maj C K Crookshank (son of Col A C W 
Crookshank who raised the 34th in 1887) and Air Commodore 
Drew were survivors of those times who were still with us. The 
Kelly Rose Bowl of the 23rd Sikh Pioneers, commemorating Col 
Kelly's epic march to relieve Chitral in 1895, and the Dragon Bowl, 
were presented to Gen Sir Frank Simpson, Chairman of the United 
Services Club. Finally the unique Pioneer Piquet Memorial, con- 
sisting of a silver model of a sangar on a stone taken from the actual 
sangar itself, and commemorating the action of the 3/34th Sikh 
Pioneers on 21st December 1919 in repulsing attack after attack by 
large numbers of Mahsud tribesmen, was presented to the National 
Army Museum by Lt L N Loder, who won his MC that day, and 
who was the only survivor of that action still with us. 

The death was announced at the 1967 Reunion of Col 
F M Bailey (32 SP) CB, who had a most distinguished career from 

151 



The Sikh Pioneers and Sikh Light Infantry Association 

Tibet 1903-4 onward in the Political Dept. He was Political Agent 
in Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim and S.E. Asia and in 1917/18 with 
Mesopotamian Force and then in Persia. Later he became Adviser 
in Kashmir and several Indian States. His explorations in China, 
the Himalayas and the Brahmaputra Valley brought him interna- 
tional fame. 

Capt Douglas Rees (34 RSP) took over as Hon Sec in 1968 from 
John Peart due to the latter's ill-health; and at the 1969 Reunion he 
had to report, amongst others, the death of Air Commodore Drew 
in January of that year. In a special Newsletter in Feb. 1970 he had 
to report the death of Maj C K Crookshank, who served with 
'Bertie' Drew in the 34th in China for the Boxer Rising in 1901. 
Also in 1970 Capt John Hookway was co-opted to give a Sikh LI 
report in the annual Newsletter. 

At the 1972 Reunion, a Mini-Reunion dinner was held at the 
Senior, but the luncheon was held at the the Naval & Military Club 
(In and Out), with Gen Savory in the chair. Gen Sir Frank and 
Lady Messervy were the principal guests, and the chairman wel- 
comed Maj 'Bandy' Ewert (from New Zealand) who had flown spe- 
cially from Copenhagen to be present. John Peart (23 SP) died in 
January 1972, as did Lt L N Loder in March that year. John 
Hookway commented in the 1972 Newsletter that there seemed to 
be a connection between the Regiment and the Somerset Army 
Cadet Force. At one time Gen Savory was County Commandant, 
John Peart was an Area Commander, and was to be followed in 
that post by the same John Hookway. John Peart had a particular 
fascination for the teenage cadets, with his rather eccentric ways: I 
really believe that he saw them as little Mazhbis... or perhaps there 
was a common way of leading them. 

Due to falling numbers and the increasing costs of staying in 
London overnight to attend the dinner, it was ended in 1973, and 
from then on only the Reunion luncheon took place. The 1974 
Reunion luncheon was held at the In and Out; Gen Savory was in 

152 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

the chair and 30 members were present. Douglas Rees expressed his 
desire to give up the Hon Secretaryship, and Gen Savory thanked 
him for all the work that he had done. Capt J D Hookway was then 
introduced as the new Hon Sec from 5th October 1974, the first 
one from the Sikh LI. 

The 1975 Spring Newsletter was memorable for the very full 
report by Brig and Mrs Lyn Goadby on their visit to the Regimen- 
tal Centre at Meerut in January 1975, and this led directly to a 
major change in the contacts between the Regiment in India and 
the Association. Lyn had gone to India primarily for the 200th 
Anniversary of the Rajputana Rifles, to which he was posted on the 
disbandment of the Sikh Pioneers. Going on to our Regimental 
Centre at Meerut, they were welcomed by the Commandant, Col 
Victor Masilamani. Lyn took the opportunity of having a good 
look at the Regimental silver and trophies, and saw many old 
friends, including the Lama's seal, the Mosque of Omar and various 
pictures. He suggested that there must be many Sikh Pioneer Mess 
trophies and copies of McMunn's History of the Sikh Pioneers with 
former officers now in the UK, and efforts were soon made to try 
to send back any such items which could be spared. It may be coin- 
cidence, but from about that time the Hon Sec started to receive 
much more in the way of information, letters etc. from India, and I 
am happy to say that this has continued to the present day. 

In the Newsletter the Hon Sec made the first of many pleas to 
ex-Sikh LI officers to put pen to paper and note down their recol- 
lections of their service with the Regiment. (Would that this had 
been followed-up more energetically at the time: this Regimental 
History would have been able to record many more people and 
their deeds.) He also reported the death of the Colonel of the Regi- 
ment, Lt Gen P S Bhagat, VC, to whom Gen Savory paid a very 
warm tribute. 

The 1975 Reunion was held at the In and Out, with Gen Savory 
in the chair: guests included the Deputy High Commissioner for 

153 



The Sikh Pioneers and Sikh Light Infantry Association 

India, K Natwar Singh and his wife, and the Assistant Military 
Adviser, Col V Badhwar and Mrs Badhwar. There were 43 mem- 
bers and guests at the Reunion, rather more than usual and, after 
the luncheon, there was a hurried exodus to the National Army 
Museum, where a unique ceremony was held. This was the presen- 
tation of the magnificent War Memorial Screen, in the form of a 
triptych of three very heavy, metal panels and, in the words of an 

irreverent bystander, weighing a b ton! Gen Savory spoke first, 

as under: 

The Sikh Pioneers and Sikh Light Infantry 

The Sikh Pioneers were raised in 1857. Their men were all 
Sikhs of the Mazhbi and Ramdasia classes; some had served 
in the disbanded army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Lion of 
the Punjab. They were formed into Pioneers and were 
trained, not only as pioneers but also as infantry. In view of 
the rugged and roadless country over which the Indian 
Army of those days had to operate, pioneers were an indis- 
pensable part of any Field Force partly as roadmakers, and 
partly as a reserve of skilled and tough fighting men. 

So great, in fact, was the demand for their services, that no 
expedition on the frontiers of India was carried out unless 
accompanied by a unit of Pioneers. It followed that they saw 
more active operations than the other arms of the service, 
and attracted the best type of adventurous officer. In short, 
they became a corps d* elite. 

In the First World War, one of their battalions fought in 
France as Infantry in the Indian Corps which had arrived 
just in time to plug the gap through which the Germans 
were beginning to pour. The rest served in Egypt, Palestine, 
Mesopotamia, East Africa and, of course, on the 
North- West Frontier of India, in their dual role. 

After the war, in 1922, the Indian Army was reorganised 
and ten years later, in 1933, during one of those economic 
crises with which we are all too familiar, all the Regiments of 
Pioneers were disbanded. Perhaps they had outlived their 
usefulness in those days of railways and motor roads; 

154 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

perhaps they had become too technical and too similar to 
the Sappers and Miners. No one quite knew. They took the 
blow with their customary stoicism, held a final parade, dis- 
tributed their funds and trophies, transferred as many men 
as they could to other units and sent the rest home. India was 
deprived of some of its finest fighting material. 

Nine years later, in 1941, these same Mazhbi and Ramdasia 
Sikhs were recalled to arms. Some of the older men had 
served in the Pioneers; the majority were relations. This 
time they were infantry, not pioneers, but they all had the 
same background. After some initial hesitation, they were 
called The Sikh Light Infantry and were allowed to bear on 
their colours the battle-honours of their predecessors The 
Sikh Pioneers. 

Gen Savory went on to refer particularly to the 34th Sikh Pio- 
neers, who won the coveted title of Royal Battalion in France in the 
1914-18 War. They, with their race's typical thrift, collected the 
copper driving bands of shells fired at them on three fronts, and 
sackloads of these were collected at the depot. After the war, they 
were melted down and eventually cast into the magnificent War 
Memorial Screen. On the disbandment in 1932, it was offered to 
HM King George V, and accepted by him as 'a personal souvenir'. 
It had remained in Royal ownership until today when, by the 
Queen's command, Gen Savory was pleased to present it to the 
Deputy High Commissioner for India, K Natwar Singh, for trans- 
mission to the Regiment whose forebears had made it. 

The Deputy High Commissioner accepted the Screen in a brief 
and amusing reply, saying how proud he knew the Regiment 
would be to receive back such an historic and interesting trophy. 

It was also reported at the meeting that Brig A K Chatterjee, 
VSM had been appointed Colonel of the Regiment. In 1976 an 
annual subscription, initially £2, was introduced to replace voluntary 
donations, and Capt H C T Routley joined the Committee as Hon 
Treasurer to deal with this. 

155 



The Sikh Pioneers and Sikh Light Infantry Association 

At the 1976 Reunion, more trophies were sent back to the Regi- 
ment: Gen Savory reported that the War Memorial Screen was 
now safely in the new Regimental Centre at Fatehgarh, and then 
said that he had been able to buy the Kelly Rose Bowl at an auction 
at the Senior. Unfortunately we were not able to afford the Dragon 
Cup as well. Then Mr Boris Mollo, of the National Army 
Museum, presented the Pioneer Picquet to Brig Vohra, Military 
Adviser to the High Commission for India, to be sent on indefinite 
loan to the Regiment. 

In 1977 a very interesting letter was received from the Regimen- 
tal Centre, describing the move to Fatehgarh and the hectic round 
of works which had to be carried out to make it comfortable. Work 
had been started on the Quarter Guard, the MT park, the Messes 
and the Guest House. The band had also acquired a name for itself, 
and was anxious to get the score of Amazing Gracel There was also 
a letter from the 3rd Bn, referring to their formation, and to the 
original Quarter guard Flag made by Mrs 'Peter' Bowden. Finally, 
it was with regret that the death of Mrs Hunt ('Hunty' as she liked 
to be called) was announced. Gen Savory described her as a real 
'daughter of the Regiment': her father, Col A C W Crookshank 
CB actually raised the 34th Sikh Pioneers and died of wounds 
whilst commanding them during the Black Mountain expedition 
on the North West Frontier in 1888. Her husband Capt C E Hunt 
(34 SP) was killed in France in the First World War and she was left 
with two sons to bring up. Her book, A Rainbow of Memories, 
expressed her noble qualities: a connoisseur of the arts, a linguist, 
an inveterate traveller and a lover of mountains. Capt Routley rep- 
resented the Regiment at her Memorial Service, where Fight the 
Good Fight was sung — at her request — with great gusto! 

In 1979 Brig Lyn Goadby reported on another visit to India with 
his wife Joan; they were able to visit the 2nd Bn at Meerut and there 
met the Raja of Faridkot, HH Colonel Sir Harinder Singh, KCSI. 
Then off along the Grand Trunk Road to Jullundur, to see 3 Sikh 

156 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

LI. Finally to Fatehgarh, being met by the new Centre Comman- 
dant, Col Ajit Sisodia. At a Mess Night, Lyn had made a formal pre- 
sentation of the trophies sent back from UK and in return was 
presented with a copper replica of the War Memorial Screen and a 
magnificent bronze replica of the 32nd piece depicting a Mazhbi as 
a Mounted Infantryman in Tibet 1904, with a jawan of the Sikh 
Light Infantry today leading the pony, as a gift for the Association. 
Lyn said that, for once, he was speechless! The Winter Newsletter 
had to report the death, from cancer, of Maj Bandy Ewert, in Sept 
1978. He was aged 58, and 1 Sikh LI remembered him as a cheerful, 
tough, gallant and efficient officer and as a good companion. He 
won the Regiment's first decoration, (an MC) and was as popular 
with the jawans as with the officers. 

In 1980 the Association and the Regiment mourned the death of 
Lt Gen Sir Reginald Savory, KCIE, CB, DSO, MC on 14th June at 
the age of 85. He had served in the 1914-18 War in Egypt, 
Gallipoli, Persia, Mesopotamia and Siberia, and in 1923 in 
Kurdistan. In 1930 he went to the North West Frontier, and later 
commanded 1st Bn the 11th Sikh Regiment before commanding 
11th Indian Infantry Brigade in the Western Desert in 1940-41. He 
was appointed GOC Eritrea, moving to Burma in 1942 to lead the 
23rd Indian Division. He was Director of Infantry from 1943 to 
1946, and then Adjutant-General in India from 1946 to 1947, was 
promoted Lt Gen in 1947 and retired in the following year. He 
won the MC in 1915 at Gallipoli, the DSO in 1941, was made CB in 
1944 and KCIE in 1947. Col Barlow- Wheeler, then the chairman of 
the Association wrote: 

The bare bones of Reggie Savory's life and career make a suf- 
ficiently exciting story in theselves and mark him out as one 
of the outstanding officers of the Indian Army. We who had 
the privilege and pleasure of being able to call him a friend 
will think of his unfailing tenacity, determination, cheerful 
acceptance of odds and also of the humanity, wit and kind- 
ness that was not always obvious in the taut military 

157 



The Sikh Pioneers and Sikh Light Infantry Association 

appearance. As one old friend put it: 'Not many inches per- 
haps — but every inch an officer and a gentleman'. Nothing 
was too much trouble. After his retirement he became a 
Magistrate and a Deputy Lieutenant for Somerset. The beau- 
tiful coloured windows of the Indian Army Room at Sand- 
hurst, known as Reggie Savory's windows, were made 
possible only through his personal efforts in raising the 
money and getting the job done. 

He was the first Colonel of the Sikh Light Infantry, a dis- 
tinction very appropriate because, when he was Director of 
Infantry, he had much to do with the Regiments' progress, 
and re-naming as The Sikh Light Infantry. Through all the 
years that he was Colonel of the Regiment and President of 
the Association, he devoted all his zeal to helping wherever 
help was needed and he was personally instrumental in get- 
ting so much of the Sikh Pioneer Silver returned to the Regi- 
ment. Many people will regret the passing of Gen Savory. 
We of the Sikh Light Infantry mourn the loss of our Colonel 
and our friend. 

Sadly, obituaries began to feature more in the Association's 
Newsletters: Maj John Crosthwaite and Maj Tara Singh, both for- 
merly with the 2nd Bn, died in 1980. 

1981 was memorable for the presentation of Colours to fifteen(!) 
battalions of the Sikh Light Infantry in a most impressive parade at 
the Centre at Fatehgarh. The Colours were presented by The Presi- 
dent of India, Shri N Sanjiva Reddy, and the members of the Asso- 
ciation who were able to attend were: 
Brig Lyn Goadby, OBE, DL 32nd SP 

and Mrs Joan Goadby 
Mrs 'Peter' Bowden 32nd SP and 3rd Bn 

Lt Col John Maling, DSO, MC 1st Bn 

Col Bill Carvalho 2nd and 1st Bns 

Capt Charles McBride 1st Bn 

and Mrs Lee McBride 
Capt Hector Routley Regtl Centre and 1st Bn 

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M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Capt John Hookway 2nd Bn 

and Mrs Janet Hookway 

The senior Indian officers were Maj Gen and Mrs A K Chatterjee 
(Colonel of the Regiment) and Brig and Mrs D J Mudholkar (Cen- 
tre Commandant). 

The party from UK was welcomed at Delhi Airport and steered 
through customs, before going through Delhi traffic to catch the 
Assam Mail for Shikohabad. Here we met up with John Maling and 
a lunch was provided in the Ladies and Gents waiting rooms, cour- 
tesy of a Mess Party specially sent down from the Centre. On to 
Fatehgarh in a hair-raising mini-bus journey, and we gladly 
accepted drinks before a curry supper. The Big Day was a splendid 
affair: our ladies had been fitted out in saris of Regimental pattern, 
and very smart they looked. The colour of the uniforms of the 
troops on parade was quite stunning to those of us used only to jun- 
gle green or khaki drab. The drill and marching were superb, and 
we all felt very proud and a little emotional watching all this splen- 
dour. We were also honoured to be presented to the President of 
India. 

On the following days were a wide variety of social functions, of 
increasing peril to life and limb. The Officers' Mess Dinner was 
much as it used to be in our days, the VCOs' Mess Night was as 
lively as ever, with officers being 'cornered' by their old battalions 
and invited to prove their capacities! Very wearing, but not as 
wearing as the Bara Khana, which involved taking a drink (rum and 
water) with each of the fifteen battalions and the Centre that took 
part in the parade. I am glad to report that we stood up well to this 
ordeal! It was an unforgettable experience, and one which those 
who were able to attend will treasure. 

In 1983 we had to report the death of Capt Douglas Rees, 34 
RSP, aged 83. Douglas had been Hon Sec for several years and, as 
such, was a fount of knowledge about the Sikh Pioneers; and had 

159 



The Sikh Pioneers and Sikh Light Infantry Association 

written a detailed diary of his service just after the First World War. 
His wise advice was to be sorely missed. 

A party from the Association was able to visit the Regimental 
Centre for the Biennial Conference in February 1984, namely Brig 
and Mrs Goadby (32 SP), Mrs Bowden (32 SP and 3 SLI), Mrs 
Crosthwaite (2 SLI), Mrs Sutton-Pratt (rep 23 SP) and husband, 
Capt Rice (2 SLI) and son, Capt Routley (1 SLI and RC) and Capt 
Walters (2 SLI). On the way to the Centre they were able to visit 
Agra and Fatehpur Sikri. An Attestation Parade for recruits was 
held, with the oath being administered on the Granth Sahib. There 
were receptions and social events, and as before the whole party 
were made to feel most welcome, and that they really were a part of 
the Regimental family. 

In 1985 we had to record the death of Brig Lyn Goadby, OBE, 
DL, who had been a moving force in setting up those close contacts 
with the Regiment in India which have lasted to this day. His obit 
in the local paper noted that 'during his annual leaves he undertook 
the rewriting of military routes in Gilgit and Chitral, which 
entailed walking hundreds of miles, sometimes at altitudes of 
19,000 feet.' In a letter the Colonel of the Regiment, Maj Gen 
Chatterjee, described him as the 'father of the Regiment' and 
mourned his passing. 

We first had news in 1986 that the Regiment was commissioning 
a History of the Regiment, and we were asked to help; in 1987 we 
learned of the project to construct a Boys' Hostel at the Centre for 
the sons of widows of the Regiment. Mrs Claire Spurgin, OBE, 
whose visit to India was covered in a previous Newsletter, died in 
1986, as did Lt Col Jenney (11th Sikhs and 2nd Sikh LI). Mrs Sue 
Young, the daughter of Col Barlow- Wheeler, visited the Centre in 
1986, and a report of the visit was included in the Newsletter. 
Unfortunately the Obits again began to mount in 1987, and we 
mourned the passing of Mrs Joan Goadby, Brig John Flewett, DSO 
and Bar (23rd SP), Lt Col John Ricketts MC, (his report on the 

160 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Centre at Lahore is published as Farewell Lahore in this History) 
and Maj Jock Worne (1 Sikh LI). In 1988 the Obits of Brig G L 
Lillies (23rd SP), Maj Whittome (SP) and Capt Wynes (32nd SP) 
were reported. Time marches relentlessly on, and these Obits were 
to increase until all the former officers of the Sikh Pioneers had 
passed on. Maj Williams (Bill Singh) died in 1989. 

The Association and the Regiment in India were much saddened 
by the announcement, in 1989 of the death of the Hon Colonel of 
the Regiment, Col Sir Harrinder Singh Brar, Bans Bahadur, KCSI, 
Raja of Faridkot. His support was crucial in the early days of the 
Regiment; and in the difficult days following Partition in 1947 
when the Centre was in Lahore his help and advice were 
invaluable. 

The year 1990 marked the Golden Jubilee of the Regiment, and 
Maj Phil Watkin and Capts Bromley, Purdie and Walters repre- 
sented the Association, as did Col Bill Carvalho from Australia. 
There was an interesting and varied programme of events, with 
Gen Chatterjee and the Centre Commandant Brig Tewari, to the 
fore. The new Colonel of the Regiment, Maj Gen Ved Malik 
AVSM, was unfortunately not able to be present due to service 
commitments. Chatty as he was affectionately always known, 
retired from the Army and as Colonel of the Regiment from June 
1990, after nearly 40 years in uniform. 

In 1991 the real Golden Jubilee year was marked by the 1st Bn in 
Meerut. Present from New Zealand were Una Ewert and her two 
daughters Linda and Rebecca, and John Maling with his wife Frida 
and eldest daughter Sarah. From Australia, Bill Carvalho and his 
wife Glenys with sons Mark and Michael also attended. Reports 
were submitted to Association HQ re. this Southern Hemisphere 
invasion! In the same year a statuette of a Sikh Lljawan, first pre- 
sented to the late Gen Savory by the Regiment and subsequently 
left to his nephew Maj ACS Savory, was handed over to the Hon 
Sec for despatch to India. Maj Savory was sure that that was where 

161 



The Sikh Pioneers and Sikh Light Infantry Association 

it belonged. The venue for the Annual Reunions, which had since 
the beginning always been in London, was changed in 1992 to the 
Witney Lodge Motel, near Oxford . This obviated the difficulties 
of parking in Central London and also reduced the costs of the 
meals, but unfortunately the change did pose problems for a few 
members who found London more convenient. By now we were 
receiving regular copies of the excellent Regimental Journal, the 
Khanda, in sufficient numbers to permit distribution to our more 
active members. The 15th and 16th Bns of the Sikh LI were pre- 
sented with Colours in February 1994, and Maj Watkin and his 
daughter Mrs Enwright, with Capt Walters, were there to repre- 
sent the Association. 

Lady Savory died in July 1994, and due to the shortness of the 
notice we were not able to be represented at her funeral: she had 
met Reggie Savory on the Trans-Siberian express in 1920 and, when 
his first wife died, they met up again and were married. Maj Bert 
Blezard (2 Sikh LI) also died in that year. 

The First Draft of this Regimental History 1941-47 was circu- 
lated in 1995, and the (only) VJ Parade to be held was on the 50th 
Anniversary of the end of the Second World War, 19th August 
1995. The Association was represented by Majs Watkin and 
Gillespie, Capts Bromley, Hookway, Rice and Routley and Lt 
Dudley in the marching procession, and Maj Petherbridge and 
Capt Bennett in the stands. For such a small Association we possi- 
bly had the highest percentage turnout of members of any of those 
present. It was a marvellous affair, held on a very hot summer day 
and watched by huge crowds who cheered everyone to the echo. 
We all felt very proud to have been on the parade, and to have 
marched past HM the Queen, representing the Regiment. 

Gen and Mrs Ved Malik visited the UK in June 1996 and we were 
able to arrange a mini-Reunion at the Royal Overseas League in 
London. It was a very warm and friendly gathering, and gave many 
the first opportunity of meeting the Colonel of the Regiment. Also 

162 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

in that year we were saddened by the death of Maj Eric Lacey (2 
Sikh LI): he had been a great rugby player after the war, and was a 
pillar of one of the most famous rugby clubs in England, Leicester. 

Three members of the Association joined members of the Sikh 
Brigade Association for luncheon at the Army and Navy Club in 
that year, and we found much to talk about. Gen Chatterjee 
(Ret'd), the former Colonel of the Regiment, visited London in 
1997, and had a meeting with the Hon Sec and John Dudley: it was 
nice to see him looking so well, probably because he keeps so busy! 

There was an extra toast to be drunk at the 1997 Reunion: in 
addition to the usual toasts to Her Majesty the Queen and The Reg- 
iment, we were for the first time able to add The Chief of Army Staff 
as Gen Ved Malik had been appointed Chief on 1st October 1997, 
exactly 56 years after the Regiment was raised as the M & R Sikh 
Regiment. The toast was drunk with a feeling of real pride, both for 
Gen Malik and for the Regiment in which he — and we — served. 
What an achievement! But we also had to report the deaths of two 
stalwart and loyal supporters of Reunions over a great number of 
years, Mrs Betty Rees (34 RSP) and Mrs 'Peter' Bowden (32 SP): in 
their own ways each contributed to the warm and friendly atmo- 
sphere of the Reunions and helped to keep us in touch with the 
Sikh Pioneer days. Members of the Association were present at 
both funerals to represent the Regiment. 

The Reunions have always been fairly informal, but more so of 
recent years. There would be drinks before the meal, when old 
friends could meet and chat, and latterly perhaps exchange news of 
minor ailments. The meal used to be taken on long tables, with a 
top table for the more senior, but at the Witney Lodge round tables 
of eight became the norm. This encouraged conversation during 
the meal, and helped those who had become slightly hard of hear- 
ing. The Chairman has, for some time, been appointed only at the 
Reunion because it had been noticed that previous permanent 
Chairmen had died off quite quickly afterwards, perhaps because of 

163 



The Sikh Pioneers and Sikh Light Infantry Association 

the excitement; and appointing another permanently seemed to be 
giving a hostage to fortune. The Chairman welcomes guests and 
members, makes some appropriate remarks about visits made or 
reminisces about old times, before calling for the toasts and then 
handing over to the Hon Sec. The latter starts by reading out a list 
of 'wishes to be remembered', which unfortunately seems to be get- 
ting longer as we all get older. Then there are messages from over- 
seas, always one from Lt Col John Maling and the Ewert family in 
New Zealand, and also from Col Bill Carvalho in Australia, fol- 
lowed by the Message from the Colonel of the Regiment, which 
keeps us up-to-date with the achievements of the Regiment and 
forthcoming events. He ends with remarks about other items such 
as attendance at the Reunion, and often displays items from the 
Centre, or shows a video received from India. Finally, the Hon 
Treasurer is invited to give his report on the finances of the Associ- 
ation. Hector Routley has kept these in good order for a large num- 
ber of years, to the extent of being able to fund one bottle of wine 
per couple attending; and his past efforts were always greeted with 
acclaim. The luncheon ends with animated conversation and hopes 
to meet again next year. 

Some years ago it was decided to establish Associate Member- 
ship, and we were pleased to welcome Maj Jim Baldwin (9 Jats), 
who had been Training Coy Commander at the Jungle Warfare 
School at Saharanpur in charge of Sikh LI troops. Also Lt Col 
MacFetridge (Mtn Arty) and Lt Seaber (Bihar) who regularly join 
our gatherings. 

And what of the future? Time is inexorably gnawing away at our 
membership, as it is with all Ex-Indian Army Associations like 
ours. The umbrella is the Indian Army Association, which covers 
all regimental associations. It seems certain that, at some stage, indi- 
vidual Associations will have to disband or merge into the larger 
Indian Army, as opposed to Regimental Associations. 

And after that...? Rather like the Cheshire Cat in Alice's 

164 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Adventures in Wonderland, we will all vanish quite slowly, begin- 
ning with the end of the tail and ending with the grin, which 
remained some time after the rest had gone. 



165 



Epilogue 

by Lt Col E W Carvalho (Retd) 

Capt J D 'Hukm' Hookway was the Adjutant of the 2nd Bn the 
Sikh Light Infantry at Shaibah, Iraq, when on 12th October 1946 at 
the age of nineteen, I reported to him with a draft of reinforce- 
ments from the Regimental Centre Lahore. It was beyond imagina- 
tion that, over half a century later I would be honoured with an 
invitation to write an Epilogue to his fascinating account of the 
birth and early formative years of the Regiment. 

A fast rewind of history takes one back to the year 1947! On 20th 
February it was announced in London that Indian Independence 
would be granted by June 1948. Within a month of the new Vice- 
roy, Lord Mountbatten's arrival at Delhi on 22nd March, the trans- 
ference of power to the two new Dominions was set for 15th 
August 1947. The certainty of Independence was in stark contrast 
to speculations on the future of Regiments re-raised or raised dur- 
ing the war, ours being one of them. 

Emergency-Commissioned British Officers commenced repatri- 
ation to the United Kingdom for demobilisation. Whilst anxious to 
return, many were sad at the thought of parting. This was particu- 
larly so for the older British Regular Commissioned Officers who 
had given the best part of their lives to the Indian Army. It was a 
season of parting and farewells. Sound foundations, discipline and 
mutual regard were manifested in the orderly and friendly atmo- 
sphere in which handing and taking-over proceeded, ending in a 
clean break. 

Immediate concerns for the future of the Regiment were quickly 

166 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

dispelled. Of the eight Infantry units re-raised or raised during the 
period 1941-1945, the Sikh Light Infantry and the Bihar, Assam 
and Mahar regiments were earmarked for retention on the perma- 
nent establishment, while the Ajmere and Chamar Regiments, 
together with the Coorg and Lingayat Bn, were disbanded. 

The Regimental Centre was still at Lahore on 15th August and 
moved into lines vacated by the 14th Punjab Regimental Centre at 
Ferozepore Cantonment on 27th September. During this period 
they evacuated a considerable number of Mazhbi and Ramdasia 
Sikh families belonging to serving and ex-service personnel of the 
Sikh L I and the late Sikh Pioneers that were stranded in West Paki- 
stan. HH The Raja of Faridkot, the Hony Colonel of the Regi- 
ment, graciously helped resettle many of these displaced people in 
his State. Whilst in the process of settling-in, the Sutlej broke its 
banks submerging most of Ferozepore resulting in the evacuation 
of personnel and stores to Faridkot. As ever, HH The Raja of 
Faridkot's Largesse was never in question. 

The Centre moved to Meerut in 1951, and for the next twelve 
years was amalgamated with the Punjab Regimental Centre (ex 2nd 
Punjab Regiment) and was known as The Punjab and Sikh Light 
Infantry Regimental Centre. In 1963 it reverted to its original sta- 
tus with lines of its own and after thirteen years made a final move 
in 1976 to Fatehgarh where it was established in its present location 
by Col G V E Massilamani, AVSM. The Colours Presentation and 
First Reunion were held there in 1981 during the command of Brig 
D J Mudholkar. 

To revert to the Bns, all three of which were far away from the 
Punjab on 15th August 1947: 

• The 1st Bn was stationed at Poona. Lt Col E BC Wall handed 
over to Lt Col Gurkipal Singh (ex 8th Punjab Regt) on 18th 
October. 

• The 2nd Bn having returned from Iraq a few days earlier on 10th 
August was at Dhond (near Poona). Lt Col J H Seagrim handed 

167 



Epilogue 

over to Lt Col Balwant Singh (ex 14th Punjab Regt) on 29th 
September. 
• The 3rd Bn had arrived in Madras on 31st July from Wana. Lt 
Col J V E Paterson later handed over to Lt Col Gurkipal Singh 
on 31st December after the latter's short stint with the 1st Bn. 

Within weeks the 1 st Bn moved north to Jullunder, and early in 
Jan 1948 was deployed and engaged in fighting in the Jammu and 
Kashmir theatre. The 2nd Bn formed part of a force sent to quell 
disturbances in Junagadh State while the 3rd Bn was later involved 
in the Hyderabad Police Action during September 1948. 

Any lingering doubt as to the future of the Regiment was finally 
put to rest with the raising of the 4th Bn at Ferozepore on 12th July 
1948. After a spell of fourteen years, further expansion commenced 
with six Bns being raised between March 1962 and January 1967, 
another three Bns together with the affiliation of a Territorial 
Army Bn between June and July 1979 and a further three Bns 
between July 1980 and June 1987. This brought the Regiment to a 
total strength of sixteen active Bns and a Territorial Bn. It is an 
achievement that speaks for itself, and the result of dedication, 
commitment, sacrifice and pride, inspired by the history of their 
forebears in the Sikh Pioneers. 

They have acquitted themselves with distinction in wars on the 
sub-continent and with the United Nations Emergency Force in 
Gaza during the Arab Israeli Six-Day War in June 1967. 1 consider 
myself fortunate to have been in command of the 1st Bn during this 
mission. The Regiment later fielded Bns for another UN operation 
in Sri Lanka. Over the years they have received many decorations 
and awards for gallantry and distinguished service, adding four Bat- 
tle and five Theatre Honours to the earlier list. 

The jawans continue to be the finest one could hope to serve 
with and the Regiment is proud now to have quite a few sec- 
ond-generation personnel in the ranks and among the officers. Of 

168 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

the post-war officers commissioned into the Regiment, as opposed 
to those drafted in, the first to be promoted to the rank of Brigadier 
was A K Chatterjee in 1975 who, shortly after, on the untimely 
demise of Lt Gen P S Bhagat, PVSM, VC, assumed the role of Colo- 
nel of the Regiment. He was also the first to achieve General Offi- 
cer rank in 1981 eventually retiring in 1990 as a Lt Gen and Army 
Commander after a very distinguished career. 

Over the years, the Regiment has been very well represented in 
the spectrum of Command and Staff appointments, ranging from 
Sub-Area, Brigade, Area, Division, Corps, and Army Com- 
manders, as well as Military Secretary Army HQ, Vice Chief of the 
Army Staff and presently Chief of the Army Staff. Equally, in the 
instructional field they have also been well represented, with 
appointments from the Commandant of the Defence Services Staff 
College at Wellington, to instructors at various levels in the Indian 
Military Academy, the National Defence Academy and other Col- 
leges and Schools of instruction. 

The recent promotion and appointment of Gen V P Malik, 
PVSM, AVSM, ADC, The Colonel of the Regiment as Chief of 
The Army Staff on 1st October 1997 exactly 56 years to the date of 
the raising on 1st October 1941, is an event of tremendous signifi- 
cance and pride for all members of the Regiment, past and present. 

By all accounts, the Sikh Light Infantry lives up to the Regimen- 
tal motto chosen in April 1950 at the Bn Commanders Conference 
at Freozepore, a rough translation meaning 'Prosperity in peace 
and victory in war' or, in its original form: 

Deg Teg Fateh. 

This history, recording as it does the Regiment's beginnings and 
now touching on its journey to the present will surely be a source 
of much interest, pride and satisfaction particularly to those who 
served in it during the period 1941-1947, and especially Lt Col J D 
Maling, DSO, MC, one of the three Regular officers present on the 

169 



Epilogue 

day of raising. Witnessing the high standard of turn-out and drill 
displayed by the Ceremonial Guard of Honour at Meerut in 1991 
during the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the 1st Bn, 45 years after 
he had relinquished command, the pride on his face and the tears in 
his eyes said it all. 



170 



Appendix A 

Officers of the M & R Sikh Regiment and 

Sikh Light Infantry 



The Indian Army Lists plot the growth of the Regiment by listing 
the officers posted to it, and very interesting reading they make. 
They show the very small beginnings, and the eventual size of the 
Regiment, but not the casualties suffered except by comparison of 
each successive list. 

It should be pointed out that these Indian Army Lists were obvi- 
ously drawn up some considerable time before they were printed 
and distributed. For example, the January 1942 List probably dates 
to late 1941. 



January 1942 

There were only five officers, one Subadar Major, two subadars 
and nine Jemadars, hardly sufficient for two companies. 

THE MAZHBI AND RAMDASIA SIKH REGIMENT 

1st Battalion 

Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikhs, 

Raised at Jullundur Cantt, 1st October 1941 

Rev. Remarks 

date of 
seniority 

Majors 
Price, CH 1.10.36 12 F F R - Comdt 

Pearse, EPF 29.1.38 2 Punjab R - 2ic 



Class Composition: 



Service for Name 

promotion 

from 



1.10.18 
29.1.20 



171 



Officers of the M & R Sikh Regiment and Sikh Light Infantry 

Lieutenant 
29.8.35 MalingJD, 

MC 29.11.37 HSikhR-Adjt 

2nd Lieutenants 
29.10.40 Ranjit Singh 29.10.40 EC 

7.11.40 Gurdial Singh 7.11.40 EC - 17 Dogra R, ITF 

Subadar '-Major 
8.2.10 Jiwan Singh 29.7.40 15 Punjab R, ITF 

Subadars 
Mit Singh, IDSM 
Puran Singh 

Jemadars 
Mukand Singh 15.9.41 15 Punjab R 
Hazura Singh 15.9.41 15 Punjab R 
Sahib Singh 15.9.41 15 Punjab R - Jem Adjt 
Jogindar Singh 15.9.41 15 Punjab R - Jem QM 
Harnam Singh 15.9.41 
Banta Singh 15.9.41 
Sundar Singh 15.9.41 15 Punjab R 
Rattan Singh 15.9.41 15 Punjab R 
Indar Singh 15.9.41 Head Clerk 

April 1942 

The number of officers had increased to fifteen, of whom only one 
(Lt Col Maling, MC) survives to this day. The Subadar Major Jiwan 
Singh was enrolled in 1910!!, and of the other VCOs, two were 
enrolled in 1913, two in 1916, one in 1922 and the other ten in 1940 
or 1941. This graphically illustrates the age gap which was one of 
the major problems in setting up the new Regiment, i.e. lack of 
continuity. 

172 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

THE MAZHBI AND RAMDASIA SIKH REGIMENT 

1st Battalion 

Class Composition: Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikhs 

Raised at Jullundur Cantt, 1st October 1941 



Service for 


Name 


Rev. 


Remarks 


promotion 




date of 


From 


from 




seniority 
Majors 




1.10.18 


Price, C H 


1.10.36 


12 F F R - Comdt 


29.1.20 


Pearse, E P F 


29.1.38 
Lieutenant 


2 Punjab R - 2ic 


29.8.35 


Maling, J D, 








MC 


29.11.37 


HSikhR-Adjt 




2nd Lieutenants 


.. 


Toby, C R 




EC 


23.8.41 


Young, K N 


23.8.41 


EC-9JatR-QM 


29.10.40 


Ranjit Singh 


29.10.40 


EC - 15 Punjab R, ITF 


7.11.40 


Gurdial Singh 


7.11.40 


EC - 17 Dogra R, ITF 


13.9.41 


Warner, J W 


13.9.41 


EC 


27.9.41 


Draper, F W 


27.9.41 


EC 


1.12.41 


Gurdial Singh 


1.12.41 


EC 


12.2.42 


Ewert, D J 


12.2.42 


EC 


12.2.42 


Slater-Hunt, 








JG 


12.2.42 


EC 


. . 


Morrison J I 


, , 


EC 


. . 


Maynard, P B 


.. 


EC 




Raj Bahadur Singh 


EC 




Subadar-Major 


8.2.10 


Jiwan Singh 


27.7.40 
Subadars 


15 Punjab R, ITF 


, , 


Mit Singh, 








IDSM 


5.11.40 


15 Punjab R, ITF 


4.7.13 


Puran Singh 


25.10.40 


17 Dogra R, ITF 



173 



Officers of the M & R Sikh Regiment and Sikh Light Infantry 

Jemadars 
Mukand Singh, Rattan Singh, Hazura Singh, Indar Singh I, Sahib 
Singh, Indar Singh II, Jogindar Singh, Hazara Singh, Harnam Singh, 
Bhag Singh, Banta Singh, Labh Singh, Sundar Singh 



October 1943 

By October 1943 there were three Battalions (1, 2 and 3) and two 
Garrison Battalions (25 and 26). The Indian Army Lists were still 
prepared by battalions at this stage, and it is noteworthy that 
almost all the VCOs were enrolled in the early 1940s, except those 
who were re-employed. This meant that the level of training and of 
experience was very low, and had laboriously to be built up. 

THE MAZHBI AND RAMDASIA SIKH REGIMENT 

1st Battalion 

Class Composition: Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikhs 

Raised at Jullundur Cantt, 1st October 1941 



Names 



Price, C H 

Maling, J D, MC 
Mohinder Singh, MC 

Burnett, A B 
Drewe, B S 
Williams, V C M 
Toby, C R 
Worne, J D 
Ross, J R 
Blois, D L 
Hett, J A 



Ranks. Subst, 
WS and Ty 
Major 
Ty Lt Col 

Lieutenants 
WS Capt, Ty Maj 
Ty Capt 
2nd Lieutenants 
WS Lt, Ty Capt 
WS Lt, Ty Capt 
WSLt, 

WS Lt, Ty Capt 
WS Lt, Ty Capt 
WSLt 
WSLt 



Remarks 
From: 

12 F F R - Comdt 

11 Sikh R 
11 Sikh R 

Brit Ser Attd 
Brit Ser Attd 
Brit Ser Attd 
Brit Ser Attd 
Brit Ser Attd 
Brit Ser Attd 
Brit Ser Attd 
Brit Ser Attd, - QM 



174 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 



WSLt 

WS Lt, Ty Capt 



EC 

Brit Ser Attd 

EC - Adjt 

EC 

EC 



Jiwan Singh 



Warner, J W 
Whitaker, H 
Ewert, D J 
Gurdip Singh 
Munshi Singh 

Subadar-Major 

Sardar Bahadur, OBI 
Jemadars 
Jogindar Singh, Daulat Singh, Sucha Singh,Bara Singh, Indar Singh, 
Sohan Singh, Arjan Singh, Wariam Singh, Basant Singh, Mehanga 
Singh, Mohindar Singh, Ishar Singh, Poshaura Singh, Piara Singh, 
Gurdit Singh, Pritam Singh I, Bawa Singh, Pritam Singh II, Hazara 
Singh 

2nd Battalion 

Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikhs 

Raised at Peshawar Cantt, 1st May 1942 



Class Composition: 





Ranks Subst, 


Remarks 


Names 


WS and Ty 

Majors 


From: 


Ker, T M 


Ty Lt Col 


HSikhR-Comdt 


Sangster, R A K 


2nd Lieutenants 


12 F F R - 2 ic 


Rocyn-Jones, O 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


Brit Ser Attd - Adjt 


Nisbet, H A 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Savage, E J 




Brit Ser Attd 


Johnson, A C 


WSLt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Blezard, H H 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Smith, S G 


Ag Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Young, K N 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


EC 9 Jat R 


Crosthwaite, J B 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Sorrell, D I P 


WSLt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Watkin, R P 




EC 


Raghbir Singh Brar 


WSLt 


EC 



175 



Officers of the M & R Sikh Regiment and Sikh Light Infantry 



Tara Singh 
Nanda, R B 
Narindar Singh 
Amarjit Anand 
Hepworth, F 
Yates, F V 
Crook, R 
Pearson, F E 
Mastan Singh 
Bali, N D 
Mohindar Singh 



WSLt 



WSLt 



EC 

EC 

EC 

EC 

EC 

EC 

EC 

EC 

EC 

EC-QM 

EC 



Mall Singh 



Subadar-Major 

Hony Lt 
Jemadars 
Hazura Singh, Gurbachan Singh, Harnam Singh, Bhag Singh, Sundar 
Singh, Kishan Singh, Charan Singh, Lakha Singh, Indar Singh I, Indar 
Singh, Hazara Singh, Mehnga Singh, Labh Singh, Bukha Singh, 
Waryam Singh, Chattar Singh, Hari Singh 

3rd Battalion 

Class Composition: Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikhs 

Raised at Sialkot, 15th August 1942 



Names 


Ranks Subst, 


Remarks 




WS and Ty. 


From: 




Major 




Pearse, E P F 


Ty Lt Col 

Lieutenants 


2 Punjab R - Com 


Moore, H R Du Pre 


WS Capt, Ty Maj 


8 Punjab R - 2ic 


Waring, M R J 


Ty Capt 

2nd Lieutenants 


17 Dogra R - Adjt 


Savage, E J 




Brit Ser Attd 


Day, R F 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Mortimer, J F 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


EC 17 Dogra R 


Shaw, R 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


EC 17 Dogra R 



176 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 



Petherbridge, P G 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


EC 17 Dogra R - QM 


Ranjit Singh 


WSLt 


EC 


Draper, F W 


WSLt 


EC 


Fearnley, K G O 


WS LT, Ag Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Slater Hunt, J G 




EC 


Maynard, P B 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


EC 


Gurpartap Singh Sekhon 




EC 


Mann, K R 


WSLt 


EC 


Sarwate, K A 




EC 


Kuppaswamy, G 


Subadars 


EC 


Puran Singh 


Bahadur, OBI 


Ag Subadar-Major 
17 Dogra R, ITF 



Jemadars 
Bhag Singh, Rulda Singh, Budha Singh, Buta Singh, Warriam Singh, 
Munsha Singh, Nagindar Singh, Thakur Singh, Gopal Singh, Gurdial 
Singh, Budh Singh, Wirna Singh, Raja Singh 

25th Battalion 

Class Composition: Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikhs 

Raised at Aurangabad, 1st July 1942 



Names 


Ranks. Subst, 


Remarks 




WS and Ty. 


From: 




Major 




le Patourel, E C, MC 


Ag Lt Col 
Lieutenants 


Comdt 


Mitchell, C G 


2nd Lieutenants 


Brit Ser Attd 


Cookson, R W 


WSLt 


Brit Ser attd 


Durston, J J 


Ag Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Hopkins, C F 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Dilbagh Singh Sidhu 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC - 127 Ind Garr 
Coy 


Rai Bahadur Singh Sirohi 


Ag Capt 


EC 



177 



Officers of the M & R Sikh Regiment and Sikh Light Infantry 



Ferguson, W C 


Ag Capt 


EC 


Wright, J 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


EC 


Atma Singh 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


EC - 87 Ind Garr 
Coy 


Bhagwant Singh 


WSLt 

Jemadars 


EC 


Kehar Singh 


Ag Subadar-Major 
26th Battalion 




Raised at Poona, 1st October 1942 


Names 


Ranks. Subst, 


Remarks 




WS and Ty. 


From 




Majors 




Fox, RduVR, MC 


Ty Lt Col 


Comdt 


Guthrie, R 


Lieutenants 


2ic 


Sardar Mohindar Singh 






Bedi 


Ag Capt 

2nd Lieutenants 


AIRO 


Gurdial Singh 


Ty Capt 


EC - Adjt 


Kew, BEE 


WSLt 


Brit Ser Attd - QM 


Ganesha Singh 


WSLt 


EC 



April 1946 

This was the last List before many of the more senior and long-serv- 
ing officers went home to the UK or wherever on demobilisation. 
It shows that most of the senior officers were transferred from 
other Regiments, although a few had served with the Sikh Pioneers 
before their disbanding. The middle-ranking officers, all 2nd-Lieu- 
tenants but with War Substantive ranks of Lt and often Acting 
Captain or Major, were largely British Service, Attached, but 
Emergency Commissioned Officers (ECs) began to appear towards 
the end of 1941. At this stage the Regiment had 99 King's 



178 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

Commissioned officers and 186 Viceroy's Commissioned officers, 
a startling increase in the space of four years. 

THE SIKH LIGHT INFANTR Y 
Class Composition: Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikhs 



Names 


Ranks. Subst, 


Remarks 




WS and Ty. 


From 




Lieutenant Colonels 




Price, C H 




12FFR 


Le Patourel, E C, MC 




9JatR 


Pearse, E P F 


Majors 


2 Punjab R 


Mallinson, E H P 


Ty Lt Col 

Captains 


17 Dogra R 


Jenney, G R F 


WS Maj, Ty Lt Col 


11 Sikh R 


Rumbold, W A 


TyMaj 


1 Punjab R 


Maling, J D, DSO, MC 


Ty Lt Col 


11 Sikh R 


Moore, HRDu Pre 


TyMaj 
Lieutenants 


8 Punjab R 


Mohinder Singh, MC 


AgMaj 


11 Sikh R 


Tripathi, K N 


WS Capt, Ty Maj 




Sardar Mohinder Singh 






Bedi 


WS Capt, Ty Maj 


AIRO 


Ross, J R 


AgMaj 

2nd Lieutenants 


Brit Ser Attd 


Burnett, A B 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Drewe, B S 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Williams, V C M 


WS Lt, Ty Maj 


Brit Ser Attd 


Worne, J D 


WS Lt, Ty Maj 


Brit Ser Attd 


Cookson, R W 


WSLt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Nisbet, H A 


WS Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Johnson, A C 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Kishan Singh 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Durston, J J 


Ty Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 



179 



Officers of the M & R Sikh Regiment and Sikh Light Infantry 



Mortimer, J F 


WS Lt, Ag Maj 


EC 


Smith, S G 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Young, K N 


WS Capt, Ag Maj 


EC 


Hopkins, C F 


WS LT, Ty Maj 


Brit Ser Attd 


Petherbridge, P G 


WS Lt, Ag Maj 


EC 


Warner, J W 


WS Lt, Ag Maj 


EC 


Draper, F W 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Sorrel, D I P 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Whitaker, H 


WS Lt, Ag Maj 


Brit Ser Attd 


Watkin, R P 


WS Lt, Ag Maj 


EC 


Dharam Singh 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Fearnley, K G 


WS Lt, Ag Maj 


Brit Ser Attd 


Burley, A B 


WSLt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Ewert, D J,MC 


WS Capt, Ty Maj 


EC 


Slater-Hunt, J G 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


EC 


Dilbagh Singh Sidhu 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Kishan Murari Sahai 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


EC 


Maynard, P B 


WS Capt, Ty Maj 


EC 


Raj Bahadur Singh Sirohi 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Krishan Parkash Kalsy 


WSLt 


EC 


Ferguson, W C 


Ty Capt 


EC 


Talbot-Butt, P 


WSLt 


EC 


Atma Singh 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Nasar, S 


WSLt 


EC 


Chuhar Singh Goraya 




EC 


Bhagwant Singh 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Gillespie, D H 


WSLt 


EC 


Gurpartap Singh 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Raghbir Singh Brar 


WS Lt, Ag Maj 


EC 


Munshi Singh 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


EC 


Farrall, F E 


WS Capt, Ag Maj 


EC 


Madan Mohan Lai Whig 


WSLt 


EC 


Tara Singh 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


EC 


Raghbir Bahadur Nanda 


WSLt 


EC 



180 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 



Narinder Singh 


WS Lt, Ag Maj 


EC 


Yates, F V 


WSLt 


Ec 


Crook, R 


WS Lt, Ag Maj 


EC 


Pearson, F E 


WSLt 


EC 


Kushall Ram Mann 


WS Lt, Ag Maj 


EC 


Sarwate, K A 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


EC 


Kuppuswamy, G N 


WSLt 


EC 


Mastan Singh 


WSLt 


EC 


Robson, H N 


WSLt 


EC 


Mohinder Singh 


WS LT, Ty Capt 


EC 


Webster-Smith, B C E A 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Ata Mohammed, MC 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Heath, E E 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Shan Sundar Rai 




EC 


Brown, E H C 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Jones, J M 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Routley, H C T 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Callin, J P 


WSLt 


EC 


Tinto, J I 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


EC 


Lacey, E C 


WSLt 


EC 


Autar Singh Anand 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


EC 


Jones, E 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


EC 


Albert Bhattacharjee 


WSLt 


EC 


Casselle, D R 


WSLt 


EC 


Leaney, J M 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Pannifer, W F 


WSLt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Almy, R D 


WSLt 


EC 


Hookway, J D 




EC 


Walters, H 




EC 


Clarke, D J 




EC 


Mekenzie, T D 




Brit Ser Attd 


Maitland, G F 




EC 


Tate, H L 




EC 


Shivder Singh 




EC 



181 



Officers of the M & R Sikh Regiment and Sikh Light Infantry 



Friend, J A 




Brit Ser Attd 


Cocks, A T 


WSLt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Rice, J G 




EC 


Purdie, W D 




EC 


Randell, CHE 




EC 


Bennett, G P 


WSLt 


EC 


Leete, G B 




Brit Ser Attd 


McBride, C M 


Quartermasters 
Major 


EC 


Guthrie, R 


Lieutenant 




Blythe, WEG 


Subadar-Majors 


EC 


Mall Singh 


Hony Capt, Sardar 




Bahadur, OBI 






Sohan Singh 


Sardar Bahadur, OBI 




Subadars 




Bachan Singh, MC 


WS Subadar-Major 




Puran Singh 


Sardar Bahadur, OBI 


Natha Singh 


Jemadars 




Darbara Singh 


Sardar Bahadur, OBI 




WS Subadar-Major 




Faqir Singh 


WS Subadar-Major 





There were also 179 Jemadars, many with the WS rank of Subadar. 

October 1946 

This was the last Indian Army List available, and shows the final 
intakes of young officers from Training Schools. 



182 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

THE SIKH LIGHT INFANTR Y 
Class Composition: Mazhbi and Ramdasia Sikhs 



Names 


Ranks. Subst, 


Remarks 




WS and Ty. 


From 




Lieutenant Colonels 




Price, C H 






Morris, C W M 






Pearse, E P F 


Majors 




Goodchild, S 


Ty Lt Col 




Jenney, G R F 


Ty Lt Col 

Captains 




Wall, E B C 


Ag Lt Col 




Ricketts, J M, MC 


TyMaj 




Quayle, HMD 


Ty Lt Col 




Maling, J D, DSO, MC 


TyMaj 




Sultan Ali Shah 


TyMaj 




Moore, H R M 






du Pre, MC 


TyMaj 




Morris, R R 


TyMaj 




O'Flynn, G C 


TyMaj 




Mir Afzal 


TyMaj 




Mohinder Singh, MC 


TyMaj 
Lieutennants 




Jafarali Khan 


TyMaj 




Man Singh 


WS Capt, Ty Maj 




Tripathi, K N 


WS Capt, Ty Maj 




Sher Mohindar Singh Bedi WS Capt, Ty Maj 




Sehor Mohd.Khan 


WS Capt, Ty Maj 




Ross, J R 


TyMaj 


Brit Ser Attd 


Burnett, A B 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Williams, V C M 


WS Lt, Ty Maj 


Brit Ser Attd 


Cookson, R W 


WSLt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Nisbet, H A 


WS Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 



183 



Officers of the M & R Sikh Regiment and Sikh Light Infantry 



Moreton, M H 


WS Capt, Ty Maj 


EC 


Johnson, A C 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Kishan Singh 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Young, K N 


WS Capt, Ty Maj 


EC 


Warner, J W 


WS Lt, Ag Maj 


EC 


Draper, F W 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Whitaker, H 


WS Lt, Ag Maj 


Brit Ser Attd 


Dilbagh Singh Sidhu 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Krishna Murari Sahai 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


EC 


Raj Bahadur Singh Sirohi 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Kalsy, K P 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Atma Singh 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Nasar, S 


WSLt 


EC 


Chuhar Sungh Goraya 




EC 


Bhagwant Singh 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Gillespie, D R 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Kapadia, N J 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Garpartap Singh 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Joginder Singh Dhillon 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Raghbir Singh Brar 


WS Lt, Ag Maj 


EC 


Munshi Singh 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


EC 


Tara Singh 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


EC 


Amamit Anand 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Raghbir Bahadur Nanda 


WSLt 


EC 


Narinder Singh 


WS Capt, Ty Maj 


EC 


Mann, K R 


WS Capt, Ty Maj 


EC 


Sarwate, K A 


WS Lt, Ag Capt 


EC 


Kuppuswamy, G N 


WSLt 


EC 


Mastan Singh 


WSLt 


EC 


Mohindar Singh 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Ata Mohammed, MC 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 


Aitiwadekar, S T 


WS Capt 


EC 


Shan Sundar Rai 




EC 


Jones, J M 


WS Lt, Ty Capt 


EC 



184 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 



Routley, H C T 


WSLt, 


TY Capt 


EC 


Callin, J P 


WSLt 




EC 


Autar Singh Anand 


WSLt, 


Ag Capt 


EC 


Albert Bhattacharjee 


WSLt 




EC 


Binney, J D 


WSLt, 


Ty Capt 


Brit Ser Attd 


Casselle, D R 


WSLt 




EC 


Pannifer, W F 


WSLt 




Brit Ser Attd 


Almy, R D 


WSLt 




EC 


Gurbachan Singh Intizar 


WSLt, 


Ty Capt 


EC 


Hookway, J D 






EC 


Walters, H 


WSLt 




EC 


Clarke, D J 






EC 


Cooper, D J A 


WSLt 




EC 


Mekenzie, T D 






Brit Ser Attd 


Fish, J L 






Brit Ser attd 


Maitland, G F 


WSLt 




EC 


Tate, H L 


WSLt 




EC 


Shivder Singh 


WSLt 




EC 


Friend, J A 






Brit Ser Attd 


Cocks, A T 


WSLt 




Brit Ser attd 


Rice, J G 


WSLt 




EC 


Purdies, W D 


WSLt 




EC 


Randell, CHE 






EC 


Leete, G B 


WSLt 




Brit Ser Attd 


McBride 






EC 


Hodge, K C 






EC 


Nur-ul-Haq 






EC 


Sham Singh Dhillon 






EC 


Beale, P O 






Brit Ser Attd 


Reynolds, F G 






EC 


Ralph, J 






EC 


Bromley, H J 






Brit Ser Attd 


Baker, J G 






Brit Ser Attd 


Grahm, L J 






Brit Ser Attd 



185 



Officers of the M & R Sikh Regiment and Sikh Light Infantry 



Midgley, P G 


Brit Ser Attd 


Jenkins, J E 


Brit Ser Attd 


Carvalho, E W 


EC 


Brooks, N L 


EC 


Skinner, S G 


Brit Ser Attd 




Quartermasters 




Major 


Guthrie, R 






Lieutenant 


Blythe, WEG 






Subadar-Majors 


Mall Singh 


Hony Capt, Sardar Bahadur, OBI 


Sohan Singh 


Hony Lt, Sardar Bahadur, OBI 




Subadars 


Bachan Singh, MC 


WS Subadar-Major 


Puran Singh 


Sardar Bahadur, OBI 


Darbara Singh 


WS Subadar-Major 


Mokand Singh 


Bahadur, OBI 



•■'- •■'- •■'- *'- 



It is an exercise in nostalgia to read through these lists and to won- 
der, idly, what has happened to some of our colleagues and friends. 
Many dropped out shortly after the end of their service, and many 
more had received the Final Call. But their names are recorded 
here, and should not be forgotten. 



186 



Appendix B 

Messages re. Japanese surrender 



Message to all units in 99 Brigade: 11 Aug 1945 

MESSAGE FORM 

From:- 99 Ind Inf Bde 

To:-lEYorks 1 Sikh LI 1/3 GR 4FdRegtRA TGFdCoy 414 
Fd Pk Coy A Coy 6 Rajput 9 D Coy 9 F F RIF 4 Sqn 116 Regt 
RAC 28 Sqn RAF 2 V Ops 99 BG CAS(B) 99 LAD 99 Sigs 123 
Wksps BIC. 

02050 (.) SECRET (.) the following has been received from 9/4 
cours (.) ref broadcast announcements JAPS virtual acceptance 
POTSDAM terms (.) unlikely that order to cease resistance will 
reach forward JAP TROOPS this area and be acted on for consid- 
erable period perhaps several weeks (.) in these circumstances our 
offensive effort will be in NO way relaxed for present (.) if we relax 
at all JAPS is still likely to take advantage and cause unnecessary 
risks (.) this must be explained to all tps (.) 

John Maling comments: 'This signal received from 99 Bde HQ 
on 11 Aug 45, originating from 4 Corps HQ. The first real news of 
peace coming up.' 



187 



Messages re. Japanese surrender 

Message to all Japanese Military Forces: 16 Aug 1945 

ALL JAPANESE MILITARY FORCES 
YOUR COUNTRY HAS SURRENDERED. 

1. YOUR SAFEST LINE OF ACTION IS TO SEND IN 
ENGLISH SPEAKING REPRESENTATIVES UNDER FLAGS 
OF TRUCE (WHITE FLAGS) TO ANY OF OUR FORWARD 
POSTS. YOU SHOULD NOT ATTEMPT TO SURRENDER 
IN SMALL PARTIES: ALL SURRENDERS WILL BE IN 
DAYLIGHT. 

2. UNTIL SUCH TIME AS THIS HAPPENS OFFENSIVE 
ACTION WILL BE TAKEN AGAINST YOU. 

3. WHEN YOU SURRENDER, YOUR LIVES WILL BE 
QUITE SAFE. 

16th August 1945. SENIOR COMMANDER. 
BRITISH MILITARY FORCES. 

John Mating comments: 'The day after VJ we were expected to air-drop 
them. I don't think we saw any surrenders till we got to Tenasserim in 
September. ' 



188 



M&R 

A Regimental History 

of the Sikh Light Infantry 

1941-1947 




EDITED BY 

J D Hookway 



Maps 

Pre-Independence India, 1941-47 192 

The Burma Campaign, 1945 193 

Meiktila battle area, February- April 1945 193 

Meiktila, 1945 194 

Burma— Siam Railroad 195 

2nd Bn Sikh L I in the Middle East, 1 945-47 1 96 



Illustrations 

1st Bn Founding officers: Sub Maj Jiwan Singh, 197 

Lt Col C H Price and Maj E P F Pearce 



189 



Me^R — y\ Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 

MajJDMaling,MC 197 

Training: Vickers-Berthier gun cadre 198 

Christmas group of officers, 1942 198 

2nd Bn Officers at Madras, early 1945 199 

25th Garrison Bn 

Evacuation from Khorramshahr: Wheeled 199 
carrier 

Jeep and lorry 200 

Trg Bn Bareilly: Capt R P Watkin, Coy VCOs and 200 
orderly 

Hony Col Sir Harinder Singh, Raja of Faridkot 201 

Regtl Centre Lahore: 

Lt Gen Sir Reginald Savory with pensioners 201 

Officers at Sports Day 202 

COs' Conference, January 1946 202 

FM Auchinleck inspecting Admin Coy 203 

1st Bn Burma: Jat Sikh signaller from Div Signals, att 203 
to Bn 

Bullock cart, as used for transport 204 

Troops advancing under cover of smoke 204 

Troops clearing an enemy position 205 

Pyawbwe: Capt Kalsy and Sub Maj Bachan 205 

Singh 

Jawans advancing using cover 206 

S Shan States: Mortar PI setting-up mortars 206 

Overlooking Taunggyi, the capital 207 

Lahore: Japanese war trophies being handed 207 
over 

Lt Col C H Price addressing 1st Bn 208 

Japanese field gun and heavy mortar being 208 
handed over 

Officers and VCOs 209 



190 



Maps and Illustrations 

2nd Bn Deir-ez-Zor: Capt Clarke (QM) and Jem QM 210 

Capt Walters 210 

Maj Pearson, Capt Hookway, by Officers' 210 

Mess 

Lattakia: Handover to the Syrian Army; the 211 

Union Jack is lowered 

The Syrian flag is hoisted 21 1 

Iraq: "Brew-up" in the desert 212 

Shaibah: Officers on a desert exercise 212 

Jawans being briefed for a desert exercise 213 

FM Auchinleck followed by Lt Col Seagrim 213 

inspect the Quarter Guard 

Officers and VCOs 214 

Sikh Pioneers and Sikh LI Association 

London: Presentation of Capt Hunt's medals 215 

London: Annual Reunion, with trophies 215 

Witney: Annual Reunion group of officers 215 

London: V J Anniversary Parade, August 1995 216 



191 



M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 




I APGHANISTAH 



Kabul , 

** /Peshawar 
-"° yiWar, 
'oThal oRawalpfnd 



Razmak o / /^yCSiiVoBli f ", 

,/eWana / /* / .*- \ 

--._' f Lahorea^Amntsar * 

FerozePofeo'"" J ullundujA. 
WUlo-^ > '"Faridkot^X^, 

SaharanpL/r B^iT * > "*- fc . 



TIBET 



v CHINA 




192 



Maps and Illustrations 



RURAAA CAMPAIGN 
104-5 

Map including area 
of Ist.Bn.SikhL.l. 
operations 



ME1KTILA 

J Sikh L.l .battle area. 
Feb. -Apr. 1945 



Ko Vtima • * 




To RAH&OOM 

YAMETH1N%\ SmmU« 



Miles Ir-^-t, 



Q S lO IO SO 44 



193 



M & R — y\ Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 



PlNDALE *n, 
(2+*fto> T/lt 



MAW 
^21 Miles' 

THA60TKOM AlRSTR.1 
to) 

12 MAR 



ME I KT I LA 1945 

Baptism of Rre 



MAN DA LAY 




xxxx 

o 

— > 
•-■-»■ 

J- -> 



17 divvsjon perimeter 
i sikh l.l positions 

attacks/advances 

FIGHTING PATROLS 
JAPANESE ADVANCES 
POSITIONS 



/sAlLES 



PVAWBWE 
9APR\ ^ 



194 



Maps and Illustrations 



THE BURMA-StAMRAH-ROAP 
194a- 1946 

By rma-Siam Railroad 

..... . Railways existing in 194-1 

Miles 




195 



M & R — y\ Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 




< * 



196 



Maps and Illustrations 




1st Bn Founding officers: Sub Maj Jiwan Singh, 
Lt Col C H Price and Maj E P F Pearce 




1st Bn Founding officer: Maj J D Maling, MC 



197 



Me^R — y\ Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 



*%, 




liJl^v;:. 







Training: Vickers-Berthier gun cadre 







j'i: ■.•:. 











Christmas group of officers, 1942 
L to R: Ewart, Burnett, Ballentyne 




198 



Maps and Illustrations 




Officers of 2nd Bn at Madras, early 1945 

Seated, L to R: Maj DIP Sorrel, Maj J P Crossthwaite, 

Maj W Rumbold, Lt Col G R F Jenney, Maj R Crook, 

Maj S G Smith, Capt R P Watkin 

Standing L to R: Maj Narrinder Singh, Capt F E Pearson, 

Maj Raghbir Singh Brar, Capt E C Lacey, Sub Maj Mall Singh OBI, 

Medical Officer, Capt Mohinder Singh 




25th Garrison Bn, Evacuation from Khorramshahr: wheeled carrier 



199 



M & R — y\ Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 







25th Garrison Bn, Evacuation from Khorramshahr: Jeep and lorry 




...--■■ " ■■■■ . ■■ ■ ■ 

■ - : 



Trg Bn, Bareilly: Capt R P Watkin, Coy VCOs and orderly 



200 



Maps and Illustrations 



^SsKM'sSSSfi 




Hony Col Sir Harinder Singh, Raja of Faridkot 




Regtl Centre Lahore: Lt Gen Sir Reginald Savory with pensioners 



201 



M & R — y\ Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 




Regtl Centre Lahore: Officers at Sports Day 
L to R: Rickets, Pearse (head), Price, Savory 




Regtl Centre Lahore: COs' Conference, January 1946 

L to R: Young, Atma Singh, Munshi Singh Brar, NK, Draper, 

Gurpartap Singh, Blythe, Heath, Warner, Pannifer, NK, Dudley, 

Webster-Smith, Brown, NK, NK, Naryana, Aitiwadekar, Leasey, 

NK, Shirdev Singh, NK, Baij Nath 



202 



Maps and Illustrations 




Regtl Centre Lahore May 1946: FM Auchinleck inspecting 
Admin Coy with Capt Bennett (L) and Col Ricketts (R) 




1 st Bn, Burma: Jat Sikh signaller from Div Signals, att to Bn. 
There were two, the only contact with Div HQ. 



203 



Me^R — y\ Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 





MM 






Bullock cart, as used for transport in Burma 




1 st Bn, Burma: Troops advancing under cover of smoke 



204 



Maps and Illustrations 





1 st Bn, Burma: Troops clearing an enemy position 




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18-1 st Bn-Pyawbwe: Capt Kalsy (QM) and Sub Maj Bachan Singh 



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Me^R — y\ Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 



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1 st Bn, Pyawbwe: Jawans advancing using cover 




1st Bn, S Shan States: Mortar PI setting-up mortars 

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Maps and Illustrations 



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1st Bn, S Shan States: Overlooking Taunggyi, the capital 




1st Bn, Lahore: Japanese war trophies being handed over to the 
Regimental Centre; Lt Col Maling addressing Lt Col C H Price 



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Me^R — y\ Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 




1st Bn, Lahore: Lt Col C H Price addressing 1st Bn 



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1 st Bn, Lahore: Japanese field gun and heavy mortar 
being handed over to the Regimental Centre 



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Maps and Illustrations 




1st Bn, Lahore: Officers and VCOs, February 1946: presentation of 
Japanese swords to Col Price and Hony Capt Jiwan Singh 

Front row: Maj KN Tripathi, Hon Capt Jiwan Singh, Sardar 

Bahadar, OBI, Lt Col J D Maling, DSO, MC, Lt Col C H Price, Sub 

Mohinder Singh, MC, Maj D J Ewert, MC and bar 

Middle row: Capt A Battacharjee, Sub Hazara Singh, Capt Munshi 

Singh, Jem Mohan Singh, Capt Gurpurtap Singh, Jem Wary am 

Singh, Capt E Jones, Jem Kartar Singh, Sub Waryam Singh, Sub 

Pritam Singh 

Rear row: Lt A T Cocks, Sub Gurdial Singh, Lt A P Bennett, Sub 
Pritam Singh, Lt C M McBride, Jem Nand Singh, Lt R D Almy, Jem 

Bhir Singh 



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M & R — y\ Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 








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2nd Bn, Deir-ez-Zor: Capt Clarke 
(QM)andJemQM 



2nd Bn, Deir-ez-Zor: Capt 
Walters, tents in background 





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2nd Bn, Deir-ez-Zor: Maj Pearson, French officer, Capt Hookway, 
French officer, by Officers' Mess 



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Maps and Illustrations 




2nd Bn, Lattakia: Handover to the Syrian Army; 
the Union Jack by the Quarter Guard is lowered. 






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2nd Bn, Lattakia: The Syrian flag is hoisted 

211 



Me^R — y\ Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 




2nd Bn, Iraq: "Brew-up" in the desert for Capt Hookway 
and men of the Regtl Police 




2nd Bn, Shaibah: Officers on a desert exercise 
L to R: Lt Cooper, Lt Purdie, Lt Hodge, Lt Col Seagrim 

212 



Maps and Illustrations 




2nd Bn, Shaibah: Jawans being briefed for a desert exercise 




2nd Bn, Shaibah: FM Auchinleck, escorted by Lt Col Seagrim, 

inspects the Quarter Guard 



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Me^R — y\ Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 




2nd Bn, Shaibah: 
Officers and VCOs with Maj Gen Loftus-Tottenham 

Front row L to R: Maj Sterling, Maj Narrinder Singh, Maj Tara 

Singh, Maj Jenney, Brig Hamilton, Lt Col Seagrim (CO), Maj Gen 

Loftus-Tottenham (GOC), Sub Maj & Hon Capt Mall Singh, Maj 

Young, Maj Raghbir Singh Brar, Capt Hookway 

2nd row: Lt Cooper, Capt Clarke, Jem Shamsher Singh, Sub Hari 

Singh, Lt Shiner, Lt Purdie, Lt Hodge, Lt Rice, Sub Hernam Singh, 

Capt Mohinder Singh, Lt Leete, Capt Walters 



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Maps and Illustrations 




London: Sikh Pioneers and Sikh LI Association, c. 1975 
Presentation of Capt Hunt's medals to go back to India 




London: 50th Anniversary Reunion, with trophies, 1991 

L to R: Capt Routley, Capt Purdie, Capt Bennett, Capt Bromley, Maj 

Lacey, Maj Watkin, Capt Rice, Capt Hookway, Maj Gillespie 

Seated: Mrs Crosthwaite 



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M & R — A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 




Witney: Reunion, 1994 

L to R: Capt Hookway, Capt Walters, Maj Gillespie, Capt Bromley, 

Maj Lacey, Lt Dudley Capt Rice, Capt Routley 




London: VJ Anniversary Parade, London, August 1995 
L to R: Maj Gillespie, Capt Walters, Maj Watkin, Capt Hookway, 

Capt Rice 



216