On the 6th of February the 14th Sikhs were
ordered to leave immediately for. the Tigris front. At this time
General Maude was carrying on a series of successful operations
known as the Battle of Kut al Amara, which finally resulted in the
defeat of the Turks on the Tigris and, the capture of Baghdad. The
Regiment embarked on the 8th of February in the transport Bamora
and arrived at Basra on the evening of the 9th of February.
The 14th Sikhs were one of two battalions earmarked
to join the 37th Brigade of the 14th Division to replace the 36th
and 45th Sikhs, who had done magnificently in some recent fighting
near Kut but had suffered such serious casualties that they had
to be withdrawn from the front to reorganize. However, orders were
changed and the 14th Sikhs were now to relieve the 2nd/9th Gurkhas
on line of communication duties in the I Corps. This change was
necessary, as General Maude had been warned that there were no Sikh
reinforcements available and that casualties in the 14th Sikhs could
not be made good. It was therefore unwise to send the Regiment to
the front line at that time.
The Sikhs embarked on a river steamer and started
from Basra after dark on the 10th of February. They arrived at Arab
Village, the British riverhead on the Tigris, some two hundred and
sixty miles north of Basra, three days later.
The 14th Sikhs were employed on holding the
line of communication defences between Arab Village and Kut while
the British forces under General Maude pressed on up the river and
captured Baghdad. The Regiment remained in this area for four months
and carried out routine guard duties without incident.
On the 13th of July the Regiment left. Kut by
river steamer for Baghdad and en route stopped at Bughaila, which
was garrisoned by the 45th Sikhs, with whom the Battalion had a
The 14th Sikhs disembarked at Baghdad on the
17th of July and at the end of the month were ordered to Falluja,
on the Euphrates, some forty miles west of Baghdad, to hold the
left flank of General Maude's defences covering Baghdad. The Sikhs
remained in Falluja during August and September, first in the 7th
Infantry Brigade and later in the 50th Brigade, when the former
was withdrawn. The Turkish positions were some distance from the
British and were out of striking distance of patrols. The Sikhs
therefore were not in action and lived a hard but peaceful life.
In September the 14th Sikhs provided a personal
escort of a hundred men to General Brooking in his successful operations
with the 6th Cavalry Brigade and 15th Division against the Turks
In October the 14th Sikhs were transferred to
the 51st Brigade, which was forming in Baghdad under Brigadier-General
R. J. T. Hildyard, as a part of the new 17th Division. The Regiment
left Falluja on the 11th of October and four days later arrived
in Baghdad, where it joined the 1st Battalion The Highland Light
Infantry, 2nd Rajputs and the 1st/ 10th Gurkhas in the 51st Brigade.
For the next six weeks intensive battalion and
brigade training was carried out. On the 1st of November the Sikhs
distinguished themselves by winning nearly every event in the Brigade
On the 8th of December the 51st Brigade marched to Istabulat, seventy
miles north of Baghdad, in a spell of bitterly cold weather and
spent four very uncomfortable nights in the open. The Brigade went
into a standing camp at Istabulat, but the 14th Sikhs were sent
on to Samarra to guard the aerodrome and ordnance dumps there.
After an uneventful two months in Samarra the
Regiment marched back to Istabulat for another period of intensive
training, but they were soon back in Samarra, as the whole Brigade
moved there in March to continue training.
In April it appeared that the Turks had given
up all idea of attempting to recapture Baghdad, so leave parties
were sent off to India and units settled down into camp for a quiet
time during the hot weather. However, in the first half of May the
51 st Brigade took part in the I Corps advance up the Tigris to
hold the Turkish force at Fat-ha while the British III Corps operated
against Kirkuk. There was no contact with the enemy and the 14th
Sikhs were back in Samarra by the 16th of May. A few days later
the Brigade returned to Istabulat.
At this time "A" Company,( *The Regiment
had for sometime been organized in four companies of four platoons.)
under Major Wace, left the Regiment for India to form a new battalion,
designated the 1st/ 151st Infantry, formed from companies drawn
from the 36th Sikhs, 45th Sikhs and 52nd Sikhs. The 1st/ 151st Infantry
was one of several new battalions urgently required by India for
service elsewhere. A new "A" Company was therefore formed
by drawing on all other companies in the Regiment.
It was very hot in June, but the Sikhs were
in a comfortable camp in Istabulat and were very happy there. On
the 13th of June a large working party of four hundred officers
and men, under Major Channer, was sent to Tikrit to assist in extending
the railway northwards from Samarra. Later the whole Regiment was
concentrated at Tikrit and the Sikhs provided working parties for
the railway until September. During this period an epidemic of influenza
broke out amongst the British forces in Mesopotamia. The 14th Sikhs
had nearly three hundred cases and these were all cared for in camp
by Lieutenant Cursetjee and his medical staff. Fortunately the disease
was not of a serious type and there were no fatal cases in the Regiment.
In September Lieutenant-Colonel Earle
went to England for short leave and Major Channer took over command
of the 14th Sikhs. In October Subadar-Major Sham Singh Badadur,
I.D.S.M., left the Regiment for duty with the Depot at Mooltan.
He had done splendid service with the Regiment from the beginning
of the war. His place was taken by Subadar Narain Singh.
ADVANCE ON MOSUL
In October the Turkish forces. covering Mosul lay astride the Tigris
river at Fat-ha Gorge about twenty-five miles north of Tikrit. The
bulk of the Turkish forces were disposed on the west bank and their
line of communication lay along that bank.
The I Corps, under General Cobbe, was ordered
to attack. and destroy the Turkish forces south of Mosul and then
advance on the town.
General Cobbe's plan was for the 18th Division
to advance, up the Tigris and capture the Fat-ha position on the
east bank, while the l lth Cavalry Brigade moved round the Turkish
left flank and attacked Fat-ha Gorge from the rear. When the east
bank of Fat-ha Gorge had been captured the 17th Division was to
advance and capture the western part of the gorge.
Both the 17th and 18th Divisions moved forward on the 23rd of April
in readiness for the attack on the next day. However, the Turks
did not wait for the assault and withdrew from both banks of the
river during the night.
Pursuit of the Turks was organized as quickly
as possible and the 52nd Brigade with cavalry and armoured cars
was sent forward to follow up on the west bank. The road through
the gorge was very narrow; there were many curves, crossings and
steep gradients, and, the road was blocked in numerous places by
demolitions. The armoured cars and cavalry were considerably delayed
and the 52nd Brigade was held up. The 51 st Brigade, which was now
holding the Turkish positions, was therefore ordered to take the
lead. The Highland Light Infantry and the 14th Sikhs immediately
moved down the slopes on the far side of the gorge and pushed up
the road while the 1 st / 10th Gurkhas moved along the hills, west
of the road, as flank guard.
The Brigade reached a point seven miles north
of Fat-ha Gorge at 6 p.m. and bivouacked there for the night covered
by outposts formed by the Highland Light Infantry. The remainder
of the 17th Division was still held up in the gorge, but the leading
troops of the 18th Division were level with the 51st Brigade on
the other side of the river.
On the next day the 17th Division was ordered
to drive the enemy back while the 18th Division was ordered to secure
the crossing over the Little Zab River. At 3 a.m. on the 25th of
October the 51st Brigade continued' the advance with the Highland
Light Infantry in the lead. By midday the Highlanders had made contact
with the Turks in position just south of Mushak. The Sikhs were
held back in reserve while the Gurkhas had advanced level with the
Highland Light Infantry along the Jabal Makhul Ridge. It was thought
that Mushak was held only lightly so the 17th Division was ordered
to attack immediately while the 18th Division crossed the Little
Zab river and pushed on northwards. General Cobbe's order did not
reach the 17th Division until 5 p.m. and the Highland Light Infantry
were not able to start forward until after dark.
The Highlanders encountered strong opposition
astride the road at about 8 p.m. They immediately assaulted and
captured the post, but suffered very heavy casualties in the fighting.
Two companies of the 14th Sikhs were sent forward to support the
Highland Light Infantry, but were withdrawn at 10 p.m., when the
position was consolidated. The 14th Sikhs bivouacked for the night
in rear of the Highland Light Infantry. East of the Tigris one brigade
had crossed the Little Zab river and was holding a position on the
northern bank while the cavalry had also crossed the river some
miles farther east.
The artillery was having great difficulty in
advancing up the west bank of the Tigris and only three field-howitzer
batteries were forward with the 17th Division.
It was thought that the Turks intended
to retire from Mushak, so the 17th Division was ordered to push
on and pursue the next day while the cavalry advanced north to cut
off the Turkish retreat.
ATTACK ON MUSHAK
The Turkish position at Mushak was very strong, especially the left
flank near the river. On the west of the road there was a tangled
mass of (precipitous hills, and the ground was quite flat between
the river and the road. Since it was expected that the Turks would
withdraw during the night the 14th Sikhs were ordered to move up
on the right of the Highlanders and carry out a rapid attack across
the flat ground east of the road.
However, night patrols of the Highland Light Infantry reported that
the enemy were still holding their positions in strength. The Brigade
Commander, General Hildyard, decided that it was too late to change
the plans and he ordered the attack to proceed as arranged. At dawn
the 14th Sikhs deployed on the right of the road, with "A"
and "C" Companies in the front line and "B"
and "D" Companies in support. The attack was supported
by eight mountain guns and the 403rd Howitzer Battery.
The Regiment commenced to advance at 6.25 a.m. and almost immediately
came under artillery fire. Although the Sikhs suffered casualties
as they advanced over the open ground, they continued to advance
in open formation. They soon came under machine-gun fire and platoons
extended. There was little cover and the Regiment began to suffer
heavy losses. The men continued to press forward very gallantly
with great determination and in spite of increasing casualties,
including three company commanders. Captain K. K. O'Connor had been
reported killed early in the day, but he was brought into the aid
post in the evening with a wound in his thigh. It transpired that
during the first advance a bullet had penetrated the buckle of his
Sam Browne belt and knocked him out. He had fallen on his face and
had been left for dead. On recovering consciousness, seeing that
his company had moved forward, he went on and was hit again in the
By 7.30 a.m. the forward companies, which had been reinforced by
"D" Company, had almost reached the enemy's wire and "A"
Company on the left had joined up with the Highland Light Infantry,
when they were held. Companies re-formed as best they could and.
took up a line three hundred yards south of the enemy's wire, where
they remained for the rest of the day. The 403rd Howitzer Battery
had supported the Sikhs, but it had been put out of action by enemy
artillery, while the mountain guns were having little effect on
the enemy in their strong positions. It was quite obvious that the
enemy was holding the position in strength and further progress
by the Highland Light Infantry and the Sikhs was out of the question,
while the Gurkhas on the left flank had also met strong opposition
in very difficult country and could not make any more progress.
General Hildyard, anticipating a Turkish counter-attack, sent two
companies of the 114th Mahrattas to support the right flank, while
the 112th Infantry secured the left and connected up with the Gurkhas.
Meanwhile, General Leslie came forward himself to see the situation
and decided not to attempt any further advance that day.
After dark the 14th Sikhs were withdrawn and placed in reserve behind
the Highland Light Infantry. They had suffered serious losses. Second-Lieutenant
Irving and sixty-six men were killed, while Major Channer, Captain
Bunbury, Lieutenants O'Connor, Church and Humphreys and two hundred
and fifty-one men were wounded. Captain G. F. Bunbury, whose father
had commanded the Regiment from 1902 to 1908, was wounded in the
arm. He was placed under cover and the wound dressed by his company
bugler, Gurdit Singh, a particularly pious sepoy who afterwards
became the Granthi. This man is reported to have taken a cigarette
from the case in his company commander's pocket, given it to him
and lit it for him. Captain Cursetjee, Sub-Assistant Surgeon Bhagwan
Singh and the medical detachment were almost continuously at work
for three days and nights. They were constantly under fire and had
to tend and evacuate all casualties, as no field ambulance had yet
Meanwhile, the 11th Cavalry Brigade had been entirely successful,
and, having crossed the Tigris from the east, had taken up a good
position at Huwaish, blocking the Turkish line of withdrawal.
It was now thought that the Turks had received reinforcements and
would continue to fight at Mushak, and the l7th Division was again
ordered to attack vigorously.
However, once again British Headquarters were wrong and the Turks
withdrew from their positions during the night. On the 27th of October,
when it was clear that the enemy was in full retreat, the 18th Division
was ordered to push ahead to prevent the Turks crossing to that
side of the river and to support the 11th Cavalry Brigade. Meanwhile,
General Leslie sent the 34th Brigade through at once to pursue the
Turks while the 1st Brigade had a short rest before moving on in
The 34th Brigade made very slow progress on account of the bad road
and difficult hilly country, and by 6 p.m. had only reached Qalat-al-Bint,
where they bivouacked for the night. The Highland Light Infantry
and the 14th Sikhs set
out at 3 p.m. and three hours later halted at Humr, while on the
left the 1st/ 10th Gurkhas, reinforced by the 45th Sikhs from the
52nd Brigade., advanced along the Jabal Makhul track and bivouacked
for the night at Balalij.
At the same time, the 11th Cavalry Brigade maintained its position
at Huwaish, while on the east bank of the Tigris a brigade of the
18th Division advanced as far as Sharqat.
Both divisions were ordered to push on during the night as vigorously
as possible, since Turkish reinforcements were advancing south and
were threatening the rear of the 11th Cavalry Brigade. The 17th
Division was to gain contact and attack the enemy while the 7th
Cavalry Brigade at Fat-ha was to move with utmost speed to reinforce
the 11th Cavalry Brigade.
On the 28th of October the 11th Cavalry Brigade at Huwaish repulsed
Turkish attacks from the south while; their mounted patrols delayed
the advance of the Turkish forces advancing from the north by fighting
a series of delaying actions. The 7th Cavalry Brigade successfully
reinforced the 11th Brigade later in the day.
Meanwhile the 17th Division had set off again at 3 a.m. with the
34th Brigade in the lead and gained contact with the enemy eleven
miles farther north. The 34th Brigade attacked the Turkish rearguard
with complete success and captured two hundred prisoners. The Turks
left their positions and withdrew with haste, and patrols from the
34th Brigade lost contact. General Leslie therefore decided to rest,
since the forward troops and animals were exhausted. The 17th Division
bivouacked for the night three miles south of Sharqat covered by
outposts provided by the 14th Sikhs.
The Division set off again early the next morning with the 51 st
Brigade in the lead. Although the ground was very broken and it
was difficult to keep direction in the dark, contact was gained
with the enemy at 7 a.m. six miles north of Sharqat. The 51st Brigade
continued to press ahead on a broad front, with the Highlanders
and Gurkhas in front. The Turks fought a skilful delaying action
and fell back slowly.
The 14th Sikhs were in support of the Gurkhas on the left, while
the 45th Sikhs, attached temporarily to the Brigade, were in reserve.
The advance continued slowly but steadily. At 11 a.m. it was learnt
from air reconnaissance reports that the Turks were holding a position
on the high ground some three miles south of Huwaish. The Gurkhas
and Highland Light Infantry were just under a mile south of this
position at 12 noon when General' Leslie decided to attack. Since
the Gurkhas and Highland Light Infantry were very scattered over
a two-mile front, the 34th Brigade and the 45th Sikhs were detailed
to carry out the attack.
At 4 o'clock in the afternoon the 34th Brigade, led by the 45th
Sikhs, started its advance. When the 45th Sikhs, supported by the
114th Mahrattas, were some six hundred yards from the enemy trenches,
the Turks launched a strong counterattack. The 45th Sikhs were forced
back, but the enemy was eventually checked in some confused fighting.
A part of the Turkish counter-attack struck a sector of the line
held by the 10th Gurkhas. This line had been reinforced by two companies
of the 14th Sikhs under Captain Savory during the afternoon and
the enemy were thrown back without much difficulty. However, the
Turks were completely cut off since the 11th Cavalry Brigade had
been further reinforced by infantry and artillery from the 18th
The men of the 17th Division were unaware of the hopeless position
of the enemy and were expecting to have more heavy fighting the
next day. It was therefore a welcome surprise when they saw white
flags flying from the Turkish trenches at dawn on the 30th of October.
The Turkish forces surrendered and offered no further resistance.
The next day an armistice was signed with the Turks and the Mesopotamia
campaign came to an end. Lieutenant H. E. Winthrope, the Quartermaster,
rendered fine service to the Regiment in this campaign. After the
Fat-ha Gorge, when wheeled transport was not possible, he converted
all the Battalion transport to pack and, keeping a day's rations
in hand, brought up freshly cooked food each night. He supplied
blankets and greatcoats to all stretcher cases and took charge of
them after the Battle of Mushak to hand them over to the field ambulance
the next day, and so allowed the regimental medical establishment
to continue forward with the Regiment.
The last ten days' fighting had been a great strain on the forward
troops of the 17th Division. The men remained in great heart and
stood up magnificently to the tough fighting under trying conditions.
The 17th Division had suffered heavy casualties in pressing forward
against strong enemy positions without adequate artillery support.
On the 29th of October, out of three thousand riflemen in the Division
there were about five hundred casualties. In the ten days' fighting
the 14th Sikhs suffered three hundred and fifty-two casualties,
which was the highest number suffered by any unit in the Division.
The end of the Mesopotamia campaign was followed almost immediately
by the Armistice with Germany. However, the 14th Sikhs did not return
to India and had to remain in Mesopotamia for another seven months.
General Leslie, Commander of the 17th Division, sent the following
farewell message to the Regiment
"On your departure from the 17th
Division, Major-General Leslie wishes all Officers and Ranks good-bye
and continued success wherever you go. Your conduct, discipline
and soldierly qualities while in the Division have been excellent,
and you have done whatever you have undertaken, whether at play,
at work or in battle, in a manner worthy of your high reputation
and o traditions. By parting with you the Division loses one of
its finest regiments and does so with the greatest regret."
The Regiment was stationed in Baghdad until January, 1919, when
it moved to Basra, where it was employed on guard duties for the
next five months.
On the 23rd of May the 14th Sikhs, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel
Earle, who had returned from leave in March, sailed for India.