Away from the Western Front 1st – 11th September 1917

The Indian Army and the EEF

Punjabis at a camp fire Mcbey1595
Two Punjabi men of the Indian Army standing close to a camp fire for warmth. James McBey© IWM (Art.IWM ART 1595)

Some 1.8 million soldiers from the Indian Army were sent overseas during World War One. 200,000 served in Egypt and Palestine, over 95,000 in combatant roles.

The main role of the Indian Army in peacetime had been to defend its North- West Frontier. Its commissioned officers  were all British while other ranks were recruited from the north of India ( especially amongst the Sikh community)  and in Nepal (the Gurkhas). But the war effort needed far more men than this method could provide and by 1917, Indian soldiers were drawn from all over the country.

Sending out reinforcements to the EEF from the UK became harder and harder during 1917. There was a constant need for fresh manpower on the Western Front and Italian defeats meant that divisions had to be transferred to Central Europe. Some Indian battalions were already successfully serving in the communication lines in Egypt and so the chosen solution was to replace British battalions with ones newly arrived from India . They would be trained for the fighting and terrain ahead while the British battalions would be sent to France.

In the reorganisation that followed, the  54th (East Anglian) Division was the only division in the EEF that remained all British.

Gen Allenby watching bombardment Gaza 1704
Two Generals, including commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force Edmund Allenby, stand at an observation post along with other senior and staff officers. Allenby stands looking into the distance with a pair of binoculars in his hands. Two men look on from the left at the group of officers, with another man standing in the immediate right foreground. All of the officers stand behind a thick earth wall, with a sandbagged command post in the background . James McBey © IWM (Art.IWM ART 1704)

 

 

Location LEES HILL LEFT SECTOR Date 1/9/17

Bn engaged on trench improvement work. Work continued on new piece of forward trench (1900 -0100) working parties heavily sniped and 1 man wounded. Usual night patrols.

Date 2/9/17

Holy Communion 0830 in Nantwich Gully. No work being done today by order of Brigade Commander. Slight reciprocal shelling. MAJOR CAMPBELL 1 BO 8 IO and 8 Indian NCOS attached for instruction in patrol work and trench duties returned for duty to their battalion. (2/23 SIKH PIONEERS).

Date 3/9/17

Work on trenches (both fire and communication) being carried out under direction of Coy commanders. Work also continued from 1900 to 2400 on new piece of forward trench work. 100 Sikh and 50 Bedfords being employed. 2nd Lieut Parry and patrol of men fired on by Turkish snipers concealed in old British trenches in front of our lines and the enemy also threw a bomb on our party inflicting head wounds on 2nd Lt Parry and wounding and killing two other men of his party. Patrol under SERJ ANDERSON encountered enemy patrol in front of left of Battn line. Our patrol fired a rifle grenade, whereupon enemy retired hurriedly, dragging with them 2 men presumably killed or wounded by our bomb. Slight reciprocal shelling. Draft of 120 men reported from EGYPTIAN BASE DEPOT.

Date: 4/9/17

Trench improvement work (Traffic and communication) Usual night patrols. MAJOR HAMMOND returned to Battn after 4 weeks senior officers’ course at Cairo and Alexandria.

Date: 5/9/17

Bn employed on trench improvement work. Usual night patrols. Night work continued on forward trench from OIRE BAY f-15-1 Slight reciprocal shelling during early morning and evening. Our own enemy snipers active. GAST G M HOOPER returned from service.

Location LEES HILL Date: 6/9/17

Work on trench improvements, widening Traffic and communication Trenches. Night Patrols as usual. CAPT. A.T. LEWTHWAITE proceeded to ALEXANDRIA en route for 3 weeks English leave. Turkish Trenches heavily bombarded by our artillery during afternoon.

Date: 7/9/17

Work on fire bays, Traffic and communication Trenches by day and by night. Line quiet. Usual rifles patrols.

Date: 8/9/17

Bn engaged with assistance of working party from 1/10 LONDON BN, widening Traffic and Communication Trenches. Turkish artillery active along our front during early part of morning.

Date: 9/9/17

Holy Communion by Chaplain at 9.30 in Regtl Aid Post. No work on defences and communication by order of Brigade Commander. Front Line quiet.

Date: 10/9/17

Bn engaged on Trench improvement works, working parties from 1/10 LONDON employed on widening communication trenches and improving approaches. Usual Night Patrols. Slight reciprocal Shelling. Night work on Front Line Trenches and work on new forward trench to over wire.

Date 11/9/17

BN engaged on Trench improvement works, working parties from 1/10 LONDON employed on widening communication trenches and improving approaches. Usual Night Patrols. Slight reciprocal Shelling. Night work on Front Line Trenches and work on new forward trench to over wire.

Date 12/9/17

Usual working parties employed on general improvement work. Instructional Demonstration in the Small Box respirator given at H.Q of 54th Divs attended by the C.O.M.O. and 2 Coy Comdrs and 2 cos per company. Slight enemy shelling during the morning. No damage to our line.

Location LEES HILL Date 13 to 15/.9/17

Bn engaged on general improvement of front line trenches. Working parties from 1/10 LONDONS engaged (0700-1000) and (1900-2200) on widening and deepening Communication and Traffic Trenches. Usual Night Patrols. Reciprocal Shelling morning and evening, no casualties or damage sustained by us.

 

 

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