Christopher Trevelyan © King-Emperor.com 2003-2014 | Trevelyan@king-emperor.com

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The Indian Army on campaign 1900-1939

2/153 Punjabis in the Third Afghan War

by Christopher Trevelyan


         On 30th May 1919, the 2/153rd Punjabis received orders to mobilize for war with Afghanistan. At the time, the commanding officer was Acting Lt.Col.C.A. James (126th Baluchistan Infantry). The Regiment at once began to fill its equipment shortages, and a number of British Officers soon arrived to fill vacancies. The first of these was Lt.J.S.B. Forde (122nd Rajputana Infantry), who joined on 12th June as a company commander. Liuentenant's O.N. Soper (101st Grenadiers) and Bridgewater (119th Infantry) followed two days later. To help bring the regiment's compliment of Other Ranks up to full strength, Subedar Pastab Singh, 2/153rd Punjabis, and 5 N.C.O.'s left on 6th June for Amritsar to recruit.


         Throughout June, individual companies undertook field training in attack, defence and protection work, as well as some training in mountain warfare and picquetting. On 19th June, the 2/153rd Punjabis received its Lewis guns, and began practice firing a week later. Rifles would however not arrive until 15th July. Cholera innoculations were begun in late June, and were completed by 2nd July.


         Captain B.W. Browning (1/9th Bhopals), arrived on 24th June to serve as Depot Commander. On 3rd July, Captain B.H. Bonham-Carter (40th Pathans), arrived, and took over duty as temporary 2nd in command. On 10th July, the 2/153rd Punjabis received orders to leave in 4 days time for Quetta via Bombay and Karachi. This order was subsequently postponed by 5 days, with the new departure date being fixed at 19th July.


         On 18th July, the Regiment sent its heavy kit by rail to Bombay, followed the next day by the Regiment itself. The 2/153rd Punjabis entrained with 11 British Officers, 20 Indian Officers, 783 Indian Other Ranks, 42 Public Followers and 15 Private Followers. The British Officers were -


Lt.Col.C.A. James

Captain B.H. Bonham-Carter

Captain G.L. Hyde

Lieutenant A.C. Moore

Lieutenant G.C. Hutton

Lieutenant J.S.B.Forde

Lieutenant D. Turnbull (temporary commission)

Lieutenant T.F. Haymes (temporay commission)

Lieutenant O.N. Soper, I.A.R.O.

Lieutenant Bridgewater

Captain Nulkar, I.M.S.


          The 2/153rd Punjabis arrived in Bombay on 20th July, and embarked on the H.T.'Egra' for Karachi. The Regiment was at sea on 21st July, and disembarked in Karachi on 22nd July. The 2/153rd Punjabis then entrained for Quetta on 24th July. One British Officer, 4 Indian Officers and 33 Indian Other Ranks left one day later with the Regiment's mules and baggage. Jemadar Amir Ali and 2 Indian Other Ranks remained behind in Karachi sick.


         On 26th July, the 2/153rd Punjabis arrived in Sibi en route to Quetta. The Regiment was however, diverted to Harnai instead to be part of the Zhob Field Force. The mules and baggage arrived in Harnai a day later on 27th July, less one missing wagon that contained all of the regiment's mobiliation stores.


         During its stay in Harnai, the regiment used the opportunity to undertake further practice picquetting, against the backdrop of daily heavy afternoon thundershowers. Rumours of armed local badmashes (bandits) around Harnai neccesitated some precautionary measures while stationed there, including picquetting the camp at night. Meanwhile, the missing wagon had shown up in Sibi, and was to be forwarded to Harnai. One Naik reported sick to a field hospital.


         The 2/153rd Punjabis soon received orders to proceed north by foot to Loralai, which was a 53 mile march. This was to be accomplished over 4 days.


         At 0705 on 3rd August, the 2/153rd Punjabis set out for Loralai, marching 12 miles to Thorkhan on the first day. 'D' Company remained behind to wait for the missing wagon, which still had not arrived. The wagon finally appeared in the early afternoon, and after unloading its stores, 'D' Company left Harnai for Thorkhan late in the day.


         On 4th August, the entire Regiment including 'D' Company marched 12 miles to Reighai, with the home stretch being uphill. The Regiment had to stay alert during this period as there were rumors of badmashes along the way.


         On 5th August, the Regiment marched another 12 mile march to Sansawe. This was along good level ground, and no incidents occoured.


         On 6th August, the Regiment set out on the final 17 miles to Loralai. Several hours into the march, at Inzor Ghat, the 2/153rd Punjabis came upon a looted tonga and a dead horse. Later, about 10 miles short of Loralai, the Regiment came upon two ambulance tongas, one dead driver, and four wounded bullock. Four men were seen along the skyline roughly 300 yards ahead of the Regiment, who then fled when approached. Scouts gave chase, and managed to capture three of them. They were then taken to Loralai and turned over to the proper authorities. The subsequent investigation found them to have been involved in the murder of the driver.


         The regiment rested at Loralai on 7th August.


         On 8th August, 'A' Company set out north for Murgha Kibzai as escort to a bullock wagon convoy, which contained ammunition, 'treasure', and rations.


         On 9th August, the remainder of the 2/153rd Punjabis set out for Murgha Kibzai as part of a mobile column, which also included the recently arrived 37th Mountain Battery and a detachment of the 1/97th Infantry. The 57 mile march was carried out as before in four days, with stops at Lahor, Mara Tangi, and Zara. No incidents occoured.


         On 12th August, the column arrived at Murgha Kibzai, where it joined the remainder of the Zhob mobile force, including the 1/153rd Punjabis and the rest of 1/97th Infantry. The 2/153rd Punjabis were also reunited with its 'A' Company, which had arrived a day earlier after escorting the bullock wagon convoy.


         The entire force rested in Murgha Kibzai on 13th August.


         On 14th August, the assembled Zhob mobile force set out for Lakaband. Captain Bonham-Carter and 40 Indian Other Ranks remained behind sick in hospital. The first day of the march took the column 6 miles to Gulamma.


         On 15th August, the column marched 7 miles to Zarozai, with the 2/153rd acting as rear guard.


         On 16th August, the column marched 5 miles to Adozai.


         On 17th August, the column arrived in Lakaband. 2 platoons from 'A' company established a camp here to look after the sick, which now included a further 13 Indian Other Ranks.


         On 18th August, the column left Lakaband and marched 17 miles to Babar, with the 2/153rd serving as rear guard.


         On 19th August, the column marched towards Fort Sandeman, with the 2/153rd acting as the advanced guard. Along the way, the Regiment had to mend the road in two places, and clear away the remains of a British convoy that was destroyed near Kapip on 16th July. On that day, 4 British Officers and 49 Indian Other Ranks were killed and 71 wounded, Most of the casulaties had come from the 3/1st Gurkhas and 3/124th Baluchistan Infantry. While the column mended the road, the 1/97th Infantry continued on ahead to Fort Sandeman to relieve the 3/1st Gurkhas. No opposition was encountered.


         On 20th August, the column returned south to Babar. Lt.Hutton and 9 Indian Other Ranks were admitted to hospital there.


         On 21st August, the column continued south to Lakaband. Upon arrival, two companies of the 2/153rd ('A' and 'D' Company) were ordered to relieve two companies of the 3/124th Infantry stationed there, which then returned to Quetta.


         On 22nd August, the column less the 2 companies marched south again to Zarozai. Along the way, a raid upon two suspect villages was contemplated, but abandonded due to worsening weather conditions.


         On 23th August, the column continued south to Murgha Kibzai. Captain Bonham-Carter and 38 Indian Other Ranks, who were recently relaeased from hospital, re-joined the Regiment there. In addition, 22 Indian Other Ranks and 9 horses who marched up with a convoy from Loralai also joined the Regiment. The column rested for the next two days.


         On 26th August, the column turned around and marched 6 miles north again to Gulamma. 30 Indian Other Ranks remained in Murgha Kizbai sick, and another 10 were left at a dump. 5 horses with sore backs also remained along with 5 Indian Other Ranks to tend for them.


         On 27th August, the column continued north to Zarozai, with the 2/153rd acting as rear guard. On 28th August, the column marched north past Adozai, with the 2/153rd acting as advanced guard.


         On 29th August, the column arrived in Lakaband again, where the 2/153rd admitted 90 sick from 'B' and 'C' Companies to hospital. On 30th August, the column again marched north out of Lakaband. With the war effectively over, the strength of the Regiment stood at 12 British Officers, 17 Indian Officers and 609 Indian Other Ranks. 2 Indian Officers and 74 Indian Other Ranks proceeded on war leave, and 101 Indian Other Ranks were sick in hospital. Throughout the Zhob campaign, the majority of sickness was caused by Malaria and stomach ailments.