Christopher Trevelyan © King-
The Indian Army on campaign 1900-
by Christopher Trevelyan
During the British Raj, few could rival the status and fighting reputation
of the Indian Mountain Batteries. Throughout their existence, hardly an expedition
on the North-
The oldest Indian Mountain Battery can trace its origins back to 1827, while
a further four were raised by the time of the 1857 Great Mutiny. With its conclusion,
these five batteries would be the only Indian artillery units to avoid disbandment.
Throughout the remainder of the 19th Century, and during the years leading up to
and including the Great War, a total of twenty-
Throughout their history, the reputation of Indian Mountain Batteries was enhanced by the fact that they were officered by the very best the Royal Artillery had to offer. Such talented men competed to join because a tour in an Indian Mountain Battery, unlike other branches of artillery, virtually guaranteed seeing active service. Indian officers (VCO's) and other ranks were also the best available, as the relatively small number of batteries and their role as the only Indian artillery meant that there was always a surplus of volunteers, and this in turn meant that only the highest quality of recruit was accepted.
Although light in calibre, the guns of Mountain Batteries were designed to be disassembled and transported by pack mule in up to eight loads for use in terrain that would otherwise be impossible to traverse with larger and more conventional artillery.
The earliest guns were the tiny 3 Pounder SBML (Smooth Bore Muzzle Loading) and 4 2/5 Inch SBML howitzer of c.1850. These were replaced in 1865 by the 7 Pounder RML (Rifled Muzzle Loading) and this in turn was replaced in 1879 by the significantly improved and significantly heavier 2.5 inch RML, also known as Kipling's Screw Gun (all mountain gun types from this 2.5 inch RML on had barrels that split in two for transport).
For the Great War, the 10 Pounder BL (Breech Loading) and 2.75 Inch guns (pictured
above) equipped the Indian Mountain Artillery. Only in the last year of the war was
the next model, the 3.7 Inch (pictured below), introduced in East Africa. Upon entering
service, it immediately became clear that this piece was vastly superior to all previous
models, and it would soldier on as the standard mountain gun during the inter-
WAR SERVICES OF THE INDIAN MOUNTAIN ARTILLERY
The following is a brief outline of the war services of the first five Indian Mountain Batteries that were raised before the Great Mutiny. Only space restrictions prevent the mention of the other batteries; many of which would come to compile war records that would rival those of the Batteries mentioned below.
1st ROYAL (KOHAT) MOUNTAIN BATTERY F.F. -
2nd (DERAJAT) MOUNTAIN BATTERY F.F. -
3rd (PESHAWAR) MOUNTAIN BATTERY F.F. -
4th (HAZARA) MOUNTAIN BATTERY F.F. -
5th (BOMBAY) MOUNTAIN BATTERY -
INDIAN MOUNTAIN BATTERY TITLES
Over their long history, Indian Mountain Batteries altered their numerical designations and titles several times, although for the most part maintaining some consistency. This can nonetheless be confusing to the medal collector, especially if he is interested in World War One medals or the 1908 and 1936 India General Service Medals. For example, one may come across such medals named to the 21st Mountain Battery, the 21st Pack Battery, the 101st Pack Battery and the 1st Mountain Battery, even though all are to the same Battery. To help clarify this, the following brief outline of Mountain Battery Designations is given. This is not a list of every little change (and there were many), but it does cover the majors ones, and the ones that would be encountered on a medal.
From 1880, the Batteries were known by their name and number; for example, No.1 Kohat Mountain Battery, P.F.F. or No.3 Peshawar Mountain Battery, P.F.F.
In 1903, the number 20 was added to the old number, so the No.1 Kohat Mountain Battery, P.F.F. became the 21st Kohat Mountain Battery (F.F.) and the No.3 Peshawar Mountain Battery, P.F.F. became the 23rd Peshawar Mountain Battery (F.F.). This change was made to avoid confusion with British Mountain Batteries (which while serving in India, were made up of British officers and gunners, and Indian drivers.). Indian Mountain Batteries would be known by these designations during the Great War.
In 1920, the word 'Pack' replaced 'Mountain', so the 21st Kohat Mountain Battery (F.F.) became the 21st Kohat Pack Battery (F.F.) and the 23rd Peshawar Mountain Battery (F.F.) became the 23rd Peshawar Pack Battery (F.F.).
In 1921, the number 80 was added to the numerical designation and the 'Frontier Force' title was omitted, so the 21st Kohat Pack Battery (F.F.) became the 101st (Kohat) Pack Battery and the 23rd Peshawar Pack Battery (F.F.) became the 103rd (Peshawar) Pack Battery. 1922 brought the 'Royal' title to the 101st (Kohat) Pack Battery (F.F.) only, and returned the (Frontier Force) title to the first four batteries.
1924 saw the Indian Mountain/Pack Batteries become Batteries in the Royal Regiment of Artillery. As a result, 'R.A.' was added to the title of each Battery. Other than adding these two letters, no other effect was made in organization or administration.
In 1927, the number 100 was dropped from the numerical designations, 'Pack' was reverted to 'Mountain' and 'Indian' was added, so the 101st Royal (Kohat) Pack Battery, R.A. (F.F) became the 1st Royal (Kohat) Indian Mountain Battery, R.A. (F.F.) and the 103rd (Peshawar) Pack Battery R.A. (F.F.) became known as the 3rd (Peshawar) Indian Mountain Battery, R.A. (F.F.). In 1928, 'Indian' was dropped from the titles, while in 1939, Indian Mountain Batteries were transferred from the Royal Regiment of Artillery to the Indian Regiment of Artillery, which had been formed in 1935. As a result of this, 'R.A' was dropped, while the brackets around F.F. of the first four batteries were also eliminated. With this last title change, the Batteries of the Indian Mountain Artillery would fight throughout World War Two.
Although brief, it is hoped that this overview of the history of the Indian
Mountain Artillery, the war services of the five oldest batteries, and the titles
the Batteries fought under from 1880-
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