The 2/4th Border Regiment, a Territorial Force battalion, did not see action in Europe but still played a pivotal role for the duration of the Great War. Even though the history of their doings are not so well documented as some of the other battalions of the regiment, their patriotism and duty was unflinching, as mentioned below by Gen. Sir Charles Monro, Commander-in-Chief in India. The War Diary of the 2/4th Border Regiment (1914-1919), written by Capt. L. MacGlasson, is an excellent resource with documented accounts of the time, however, the war in Europe and 2/4th Battalion's actions in India were two very different entities and although the below account is somewhat brief, the two sources combined give a good idea of the nature of their service in India.
The Battalion in India
The 2/4th Battalion of the Border Regiment in December of 1914 had been sent to Blackpool, and here in February of the year following officers and men were asked to volunteer for service in Burma. Practically all ranks volunteered to a man, but owing to a considerable percentage being too young for foreign service only 767 non-commissioned officers and men were eligible. Very soon after this the destination of the Battalion was changed from Burma to Poona, and on the 3rd March the 2nd/4th Border Regiment left Blackpool in two parties for Avonmouth, embarking next day at a strength of 28 officers and 767 other ranks in the Dongola, sailing the same evening. During the night, however, as the vessel, with all lights out and escorted by two torpedo boats, was proceeding down the channel, she collided after midnight with a steamer in the Bristol Channel off Barry, a mishap which necessitated the landing here of all on board and the docking of the Dongola, when the troops were transferred for further passage to the Tunisian
The following letter from the Secretary to the Army Council followed the Battalion to India: - “I am commanded by the Army Council to request that your Excellency will be good enough to inform the Officer Commanding 2nd/4th Border Regiment that the Council have been glad to receive a good report of the discipline and conduct of the Battalion during the accident to HMT Dongola on the 5th March last, and during its subsequent transfer to another ship.”
During the voyage 2nd Lieut. G.H. McVittie died of meningitis and was buried at sea.
Bombay was reached on the 31st March, when the Battalion disembarked and left for Poona the same evening. The following officers appear to have landed with the Battalion:
|2/4th Battalion Officers landing in India
|Lt-Col. J.F. Haswell, V.D.
|Major F.W. Halton
|Capt. J.E.C. Graham
|Capt. V.S. Jones
|Capt. P.S. Hamilton
|Capt. W.C.S. Angus
|Lieut. R. Hargreaves
|Lieut. J. Jackson
|Lieut. H.C. Grierson-Jackson
|Lieut. J.L Strang
|Lieut. H. Thompson (Adjutant)
|Lieut. M.G. Fisher
|2nd Lieut. W.A. Sewell
|2nd Lieut. R.I. Smith
|2nd Lieut. N.E. Coates
|2nd Lieut. E.P. Hardy
|2nd Lieut. L. MacGlasson
|2nd Lieut. A.W. Anderson
|2nd Lieut. R.T. Bruckman
|2nd Lieut. G.T. Topham
|2nd Lieut. W.R. Walker
|2nd Lieut. E.C. Kinghorn
|2nd Lieut. J. Glasson
|2nd Lieut. C.F. Ball
|2nd Lieut. H.G. Marshall
|2nd Lieut. P.M. Ream
|Hon. Lieut. J. Brooks (Quartermaster)
|Lieut. J.B. Burgess, M.D., R.A.M.C., (Medical Officer)
During this year the Battalion provided many escorts, one of the most important of which was that under Capt. Fisher which escorted 1,200 Turkish prisoners by sea from Bombay to Rangoon,then proceeding to Singapore to bring the mutineers from there to India. Detachments were also sent to Kirkee, and in August 2 non-commissioned officers and 13 privates left Poona to join the 1st Battalion Oxford and Bucks L.I. in Mesopotamia. This party served in Gen. Townshend's force, advanced on Baghdad, fought at Ctesiphon and was besieged at Kut; of these 7 were wounded and 3 taken prisoners. Later, 3 officers, Captains Angus and Hargreaves and Lieutenant Kinghorn, served in Mesopotamia with various units.
In November, 1915, the Battalion left Poona for Kamptee, in the following March it was sent to Peshawar, whence it was sent by wings for the hot weather to the Murree Hills, and from February to May, 1917, was employed on the Mohmand Blockade line; when in November, 1918, the Armistice was announced the Battalion was quartered at the small hill station of Cherat near Peshawar.
It will not be altogether out of place to quote here the words with which Gen. Sir Charles Munro, the Commander-in-Chief in India, bade farewell in the name of the Army to the Territorial soldiers who had volunteered for service in that country:-
- On your departure from India, I desire to place on record my high appreciation of your services to the Empire during the period of the Great War.
- Many of you previous to the outbreak of war had, by joining the Territorial Force, already given proof of that patriotism and public spirit for which the Force has rendered itself so conspicuous. On the declaration of war your ranks were quickly filled by eager volunteers, animated by the same spirit of self-sacrifice; when called upon to undertake the futher obligation of service overseas your response was immediate and unanimous. By doing so you set free a large number of Regular units for service in the main theatres of war, at a time when every trained soldier was of the greatest value. I share with you the disappointment, which I know you all feel so keenly, that it has not been your luck to fight the enemy in Europe. Many of you, however, have seen service on the Indian frontier and by your conduct and bearing have added to the reputation of the famous regiments whose name you bear.
- For the greater portion of your service in India you have been engaged in the somewhat dull routine of garrison duty. The standard of efficiency which you have attained, both in training for war and in discipline, reflects the highest credit on you all.
- Since the termination of active fighting in all the theatres of war you have been subjected to the further stress of waiting for your relief. That you have appreciated the difficulties which the authorities have had to face in this respect is clear from the patience with which you have borne this trying period.
- You are now returning to your homes in the United Kingdom and I bid you good-bye, Godspeed and a happy homecoming. As an old commander of a Territorial Division at home, I am proud to have again been associated with this Force in India.
Operations against Afghanistan in 1919
The following account is from The Border Regiment in the Great War by Colonel H.C. Wylly. The text begins with a quote from the Annual Register that Colonel Wylly has specifically used to introduce us to this history. From there he punctuates several other quotes with his own words to drive us through an interesting account of the Battalion's involvement during this time.
- After many years of peace there was a recrudescence of trouble in Afghanistan and all along the border between that country and India. On February 22nd the Ameer Habib Ullah Khan, who had always been a loyal friend to Great Britain, was murdered while camping in the Langham Valley. Thereupon ensued a competition for the thone. At Jelalabad a proclamation was issued that Nasr Ullah Khan had assumed the throne, but in Kabul power was seized by Aman Ullah Khan, the third son of the late Ameer. Aman Ullah's mother was Habib Ullah's chef wife; but the late Ameer's eldest son was Inayat Ullah, who appears to have supported the claims of Nasr Ullah. Aman Ullah soon showed, however, that he had control of the situation and the rival claimant withdrew. There was more than a suspicion that Nasr Ullah (who was brother of the late Sovereign) had not been unduly disturbed at Habib Ullah's assassination.
- The new Ameer, Aman Ullah, began his reign by announcing that he would punish those who were guilty of the assassination of his father, that he would institute reforms in the country - including the abolition of the virtual slavery which existed in a disguised form - and that he would preserve the tradition of friendship with India. On April 13 a durbar was held at Kabul, at which the assassination of the late Ameer was investigated. A certain colonel, who was found guilty of committing the murder, was executed, and the new Ameer's uncle, Nasr Ullah, was found guilty of complicity in the crime and was sentenced to imprisonment for life. Possibly owing to the intrigues of the Russian Government, the new Ameer did not long keep his promise of preserving friendship with Great Britain. Early in May a large Afghan army came pouring across the frontier and proceeded to pillage far and wide in the north-west provinces.
- The distribution of the Afghan army at the end of April is believed to have been as follows: on the northern line, including Kabul, were stationed 7½ regiments of cavalry (2,800 sabres), 29 battalions (16,500 rifles), and 110 guns, of which about 200 rifles and 4 guns were located between Kunar and Asmar on the Chitral border. On the central line, including Ghazni, were 3 cavalry regiments (1,100 sabres), 17 battalions (9,150 rifles) and 60 guns; and on the southern line, 1 cavalry regiment (460 sabres), 10 battalions (5,250 rifles) and 24 guns. The Afghan garrisons of Herat, Farah and Mazar-i-Sharif, and in the Maimana and Badakshan Districts are not included in the above and amounted to about 2,700 sabres, 11,100 rifles and 70 guns. The force at the Ameer's disposal thus comprised about 7,000 sabres, 42,000 rifles and 260 guns, but it should be noted that at least half of his guns were either immobile or obsolete. But the Ameer's real strength lay, not in his regular army (which itself is of small account), but in the potential fighting value of the frontier tribes on either side of the border. Expert in all forms of guerilla warfare, and amounting in the aggregate to some 120,000 men, armed with modern rifles, many of which are provided from Kabul, these tribes are the outstanding factor in the Indian frontier problem, and it was on their co-operation that the Afghan plan of campaign was based. As far as can be judged, this plan contemplated operations on three fronts, viz:-
- From Jelalabad on the Khaibar and Mohmand Sector;
- From Gardez on the Kurram and Waristan border, utilizing the Khost salient;
- From Kandahar on the Chaman Border….
- The general idea seems to have been to push forward in the first instance detachments of Afghan regular troops, whose function was to raise the tribes on both sides of the border……The formations at my disposal at the outbreak of war (excluding units allotted to area defence) comprised two divisions and two cavalry brigades on the Khaibar line, one brigade in the Kohat-Kurram area, two brigades in Waziristan, and one division and one cavalry brigade and two mixed brigades in central reserve. During the course of the operations seven additional brigades and one cavalry brigade were formed, increasing the total force employed at the signing of peace to the equivalent of about seven divisions and four cavalry brigades, with one cavalry and five infantry brigades in reserve.
Towards the end of April, 1919, the Afghan Commander-in-Chief arrived at Dakka for the ostensible purpose of inspecting his frontier posts, and on 3rd May the usual convoy proceeding under military escort through the Khaibar was confronted by Afghan picquets between Tor Kham and Landi Khana. Next day large numbers of copies of a firman, signed by the Ameer and containing an exhortation to Jehad, were distributed in the city of Peshawar through the agency of the post-office there, while the same day the Afghan postmaster arrived from Jelalabad with a motor-car load of leaflets, printed in Kabul, stating that the Germans had resumed war and that India and Egypt had risen.
On the 5th May orders were issued for the mobilization of the Field Army, which at first was organized in two forces, the North-West Frontier Force commanded by Gen. Sir A. Barrett, and the Baluchistan Force commanded by Lt-Gen. R. Wapshare. Before the month was out, however, the troops allotted to the Bannu and Derajat areas were separated from the North-West Frontier Force and placed under orders of Maj-Gen. Climo, being designated the Waziristan Force.
The plan of campaign was to take the offensive against Jelalabad with the main striking force, the object being to divide the Mohmands and Afridis, two of the most important of the frontier tribes, cutting them off from Afghan influence and support; to strike at any Afghan concentration within reach; and to induce the withdrawl of Afghan forces from our tribal borders elsewhere, for the purpose of covering Kabul.
During April the 2nd/4th Battalion The Border Regiment was in camp at Peshawar; it then formed part of the 1st Infantry Brigade, commanded by Brig-Gen. G.D. Crocker, of the 1st Peshawar Division commanded by Gen. Sir F. Campbell, KCB, DSO, in the Northern Command, of which Gen. Sir A. Barrett, GCB, KCSI, KCVO, ADC, was then in charge. It was on the 6th May that the Battalion was ordered to mobilize, the operation being completed next day, when the strength stood at 17 offiers and 548 other ranks.
The Indian Army List for April, 1919, shows the following officers as then serving with the Battalion:-
|Lt-Col. F.W. Halton, T.D.
|Major G.H. Heelis
|Capt. J.E.C. Graham
|Capt. J. Jackson
|Lieut. H.C. Grierson-Jackson (Acting Capt.)
|Lieut. L. MacGlasson (Acting Capt.), Adjutant
|Lieut. A.W. Anderson (Acting Capt.)
|Lieut. R.T. Bruckman
|Lieut. J. Glasson
|Lieut. E.H. Barker
|Lieut. E.H. Ashburner
|Lieut. B.F. Chester
|2nd Lieut. D.G. Perry
|2nd Lieut. H. Deuchers
|2nd Lieut. W. Pepperell
|2nd Lieut. J.B. Saint
|2nd Lieut. P.V. Curtis
|2nd Lieut. O.D. Gibbings
|Capt. J. Brooks (Quatermaster)
Gen. Campbell had seen much of the Battalion while it had been quartered on the North-West Frontier, and the good opinion which he had formed of it should be placed on record:-
- The 2nd/4th Border Regiment joind the 10th (Peshawar) Division at Peshawar in March, 1916, at a time when the Buneyrwals, Swatis and Mohmands were simultaneously giving trouble. I was very much struck with the level appearance which the Battalion presented - all stuggy fellows, ruddy and fit. Both oficers and men showed great keenness in all that fell to their lot. The rank and file were remarkably well-behaved and many of the officers filled staff appointments, showing great ability. There is no doubt that the arrival of the Battalion at a critical period proved a valuable asset. I am glad to say that the unit took some part in the active blockade of the Mohmands, which was an enlivening experience and their duties were most creditably performed.
Then another general officer under whom the Battalion served while in India, Maj-Gen. N.G. Woodyatt, CB, CIE, in a lecture which he delivered on “The Infantry of the Territorial Army in India, 1914-1920,” paid the 2nd/4th Border Regiment a very fine compliment. He said:-
- The men of this unit were of fine physique and keen as mustard. It was a great pleasure to deal with them, and to have a chat with individual N.C.O.'s and men in the blockhouses. On one occasion a picquet of this unit, put out to protect the Viceroy on his visit, was threatened and heavily sniped by the Mohmands. On withdrawal it was followed up by the enemy with some determination. I happened to be present as the picquet was approaching our nearest blockhouses, and noted the extreme reluctance with which the men withdrew under orders. I saw that their eyes were blazing, and that they were full of suppressed excitement. Quite the right fighting spirit. About a month later I added a hundred men of the 2nd/4th Border Regiment to a column I was taking out to destroy some villages. The start was at 4am and the men returned to camp at 7pm, having marched 26 miles and helped to destroy two villages. It is not exactly child's play, pushing over strong mud walls, blowing up towers and burning houses. I thought the day a good test of endurance and all ranks were very cheery at the finish. 
It is evident that the 2nd/4th Battalion of The Border Regiment entered upon the Third Afghan War with a good reputation and in the enjoyment of an invaluable experience of frontier warfare.
By this time General Sir F. Campbell had left Peshawar, and Major-General C.A. Fowler, C.B., D.S.O., had assumed command of the 1st Division in his place. It is very much regretted that the diary kept and preserved in the Battalion during the course of the Afghan War of 1919 is not very full, and that adequate justice cannot therefore be rendered in this account to the good work which was performed.
On the 7th May Brigadier-General L.W.Y. Campbell was appointed to command the Peshawar Internal Security Area with 6 battalions and 8 guns, among the former being the 1st/4th Royal West Surrey Regiment, the 2nd/4th Border Regiment, the 37th Dogras and the 3rd/2nd Gurkha Rifles. On the 8th a cordon was drawn by the troops round the city of Peshawar, whereupon the Afghan postmaster surrendered himself with his staff and escort and was deported to Burma. The city was subsequently picqueted and the Battalion provided signallers for communication with the fort, which overlooked the city, and also the garrison for it.
On the same day a detachment of 1 officer and 60 other ranks proceeded to Risalpur as guard for the local Royal Air Force aerodrome, and was there joined two days later by another officer and 26 more men.
During the course of the next few days the Battalion was required to find two more detached parties; one, of an officer and 12 other ranks, was provided for the armoured train moving between Pabbi and Jamrud, while another, of a strength of an officer and 11 men, had to be found to protect the Bara aqueduct nightly. Then on the 26th May a large detachment was called for from the Battalion, when Captain A.W. Anderson, 2 other officers and 100 other ranks proceeded to Kohat to join the Thal Relief Force; these arrived at Kohat early on the morning of the 29th and were at once sent down the Miranzai Valley in motor-lorries to Hangu, where they arrived on the 30th and joined the 45th Brigade there assembled under Brig-Gen. R.E.H. Dyer, CB, being attached to the 1st/25th Battalion The London Regiment.
The course of events which led to this movement is described as follows in Gen. Monro's despatch of 1st November, 1919:
- On the evening of the 24th May information was received at Thal that General Nadir Khan, the Afghan Commander in Khost and ex-Commander-in-Chief of the Afghan Army, intended to advance either into the Tochi or the Kurram, and it was reported from Spinwam that Afghan troops were moving on that post. Major-General Eustace accordingly proceeded to Thal and ordered one more battalion and two more mountain guns to rail from Kohat to Thal. On the arrival of these units the garrison of Thal comprised 4 battalions, 4 mountain guns, one squadron and one company of sappers and miners. On the 27th a considerable force of Afghan troops, with a large following of tribesmen, advanced on Thal city and the hills to the S.W. of the posts. The enemy's guns and the majority of his regular troops were on the S. bank of the Kurram River, which at this season, is liable to sudden floods. The fort and camp were subjected to considerable shelling, 2 of the guns used being German howitzers of 3.8 calibre. On the morning of the 28th General Sir A. Barrett ordered the immediate despatch to Kohat by rail from Peshawar of a field battery of the 2nd Division and a battalion of the 45th Infantry Brigade, to be followed by the remaining units of that brigade under the command of Brigadier-General R.E.H. Dyer, C.B. The Headquarters of the 16th Division were also ordered to proceed to Kohat from Lahore, instead of to Peshawar as previously ordered. These troops began to arrive at Kohat on the morning of the 29th, and were followed in quick succession by two additional battalions and the 46th Brigade from Ambala which I had also ordered to Kohat.
Captain Anderson's detachment of the Battalion marched out from Hangu with the 45th Brigade on the afternoon of the day of its arrival and reached Togh late the same night. Leaving Togh early on the 31st the force arrived at Doaba, a march of 18 miles, entering Thal on the 1st with but little opposition, the Border detachment being employed as escort to the artillery, which came into action near the aerodrome N.N.E. of Thal; the detachment bivouacked for the night of the 1st-2nd June on the artillery position. On the 2nd June General Dyer took steps for clearing the enemy from the hills to the S.E., when Captain Anderson and his men moved out and attacked the enemy occupying a small hill N. of Thal; but the Afghans were not prepared to make any real stand and withdrew hurriedly, leaving behind their camp equipment and a large amount of cordite ammunition.
On the 3rd June, and again on the 4th, the detachment of the Border Regiment marched 4 miles up the Parachinar road beyond Thal, forded the Kurram River and proceeded to the Afghan camp at Yusaf Khel, clearing the camp and the ammunition dump and bringing in 2 wounded Afghans found in the deserted camp.
"During the advance of General Dyer's column on Thal," so runs Gen. Monro's despatch, "the extreme heat made the long marches exceedingly arduous and exhausting; but the march dicipline and spirit of the men were excellent, and the commander and troops deserve great credit for the manner in which the operation was carried out. A flight of aeroplanes based on Thal co-operated throughout, and contributed largely to the enemy's hasty retreat."
On the 8th Captain Anderson and his party left by train for Kohat and all arrived safely at Peshawar on the following day.
While the detachment had been away the Headquarter Companies had experienced a certain amount of "scrapping", the armoured train being attacked and partly derailed on the 2nd June by certain of the tribesmen between Kacha Garhi and Jamrud, when Corporal Murray and Private Brown of C Company were wounded.
The Ameer of Afghanistan had now entered into tentative negotiations for peace with the Indian Government, but the fighting did not immediately cease, our aeroplanes bombed both Jelalabad and Kabul, and it was not until after prolonged procrastination that a peace conference was opened at Rawal Pindi on the 26th July, a preliminary peace being finally signed on the 8th August and duly ratified a month later. The neighbourhood of Peshawar was, however, very unsettled, and on the 22nd June it had been necessary to send out a force to clear the Kajauri and Kacha Garhi; the Battalion - strength, 15 officers and 282 other ranks - accompanied this force and 40 prisoners were taken during the operations.
The Afghan War was now at an end so far as the 2nd/4th Border Regiment was concerned, but it had a very strenuous time, for in addition to finding the detachments for Thal, Risalpur and other places, the Battalion had provided the guard at Peshawar Fort and a very large number of ordinary guards of the garrison. At the opening of war, owing to the absence of the regular battalions, the 2nd/4th had to find all the duties in the station, the men remaining on permanent guard from 10 to 14 days at a stretch until at last relieved by battalions from other divisions; numerous escorts had also to be supplied to Dakka and Jamrud with the Northern Army Commander, with the Afghan peace envoys, or with convoys of prisoners, ammunition etc.
When the 2nd/4th Battalion of the Border Regiment finally left Peshawar to return to England, it had been three years and eight months on the North-West Frontier of India, and during that time, when things were more than usually unsettled, it had not lost a single rifle or a round of ammunition.
By its services in the Afghan War of 1919 the Battalion added a Battle Honour to the Regiment's long roll.
Diary of 2/4th Battalion
Capt. L. MacGlasson documented the Battalion's actions in the War Diary of the 2/4th Border Regiment (1914-1919), now available in the public domain. The transcript links below provide an abridged compilation of events, published by Carlisle book company Chas. Thurnam and Sons in 1920. These entries, although edited from their original form, provide a summary of events rather than a comprehensive account of the Battalion's actions. Please note some months contain only one or two or entries.
Roll of Honour
The 4th Battalion World War One casualty list has been compiled using the publication Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-19, Volume 39, The Border Regiment and cross-referenced with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database. The number of casualties compiled to date does not necessarily reflect the total number of casualties for this battalion due to the possibility of missed names and the (current) exclusion of officers and other ranks that were attached to the Border Regiment.
Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-19 does not differentiate between the three battalions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Territorial Force. A soldier from the 2/4th Battalion is listed as serving in the 4th Battalion. As a result of this, casualties of the 1/4th, 2/4th and 3/4th Battalions have been combined into one Roll of Honour. This listing is a work-in-progress.
- For the 4th Battalion roll of honour, see 4th Battalion Border Regiment Casualty List.
References / notes
- The Border Regiment in the Great War by Colonel H.C. Wylly, C.B., originally printed and published by Gale and Polden Ltd., Wellington Works, Aldershot. This publication is out of copyright and reprinted by The Naval and Military Press Ltd.
- From the Annual Register, 1919, pp.255, 256.
- Gen. Monro's Desptach, 1st November 1919.
- Journal of the Royal United Service Institution for November, 1922.