1st Punjab Regiment

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The 1st Punjab Regiment was formed in 1922 by the amalgamation of six existing regiments and consisted of five regular battalions and a training battalion.

At Independence in 1947 the 1st Punjab Regiment was allocated to Pakistan, and in 1956 amalgamated into the Punjab Regiment, (together with the 14th, 15th and 16th Punjab Regiments), with Regimental Centre now at Mardan.[1]

British Library holdings

Regimental history: The First Punjabis - History of the First Punjab Regiment 1759 - 1956 by Major Mohammed Ibrahim Qureshi, published 1958.[2]. Searchable, but not viewable at Google Books.

The following excerpt has been taken from Pages: 431 - 435

“This is the story of the 1st Punjab Regiment, and covers nearly two hundred years of its life. It is not a story that flows without a break, for there are a number of changes that might be thought to sever the present from the past. There are changes in name and changes in organization. There are changes in the classes of men recruited and in the nationality of the officers. There are, on occasion, changes even in the allegiance of the Regiment.

“The story begins with the raising of companies for the defence of the English trading settlements in southern India. It continues through the years as these units became veteran battalions of the East India Company’s army, taking part in every important campaign and major battle in the south of India. After the mutiny of 1857 the allegiance of the battalions was transferred from the East India Company to the British Crown. Then at the turn of the century, when the focus of military interest had shifted from inside India to the frontiers, particularly the North-West, the recruiting grounds of the Regiment were changed from Madras to the Punjab. Then came the Great War of 1914-18, which proved that the battalions were fully the equal of their famous forefathers.

“During all these years the battalions were separate units, with no link between each other except that of friendship, rivalry and comradeship cemented on many battlefields and in many garrisons. In 1922 the battalions were linked to form the 1st Punjab Regiment and became members of one great family.


“Events in the Punjab during the first half of 1947 were a grim warning of what was to follow the partition of the province, inhabited by a virile and warlike people. The greatest danger lay in the border districts, which were in dispute between the two new Dominions. A Boundary Force commanded by Major-General Rees, Commander, 4th Indian Division, was set up to cover twelve of these districts. The Force consisted of some 50,000 officers and men, mainly composed of original units of the old Indian Army not yet divided and containing a high proportion of British officers. Rees had two senior military advisers-Brigadier, now Major-General, Brar of India, and Brigadier, now General, Mohammed Ayub Khan of Pakistan.

“It was a time when, to villagers of the Punjab, and to those soldiers and policemen who never ceased to be villagers, it must have seemed that heaven and earth were moving. Every party of refugees had to face the risk at every moment of attack by armed men who, when they did attack, slew without mercy; when there was anyone to protect them, their protectors were as a rule men of the Indian Army who did not know what was happening in their own villages. They had seen blackened ruins around them, desolate mud walls standing in the ashes of their own thatch with the corpses heaped in the yard. They could only guess what things were like at home. In that hour, when all they knew was failing, one thing stood firm, the faith and discipline of the Indian Army.

“From the outset the Punjab Boundary Force was beset by almost insuperable difficulties. There were not enough men to perform the many tasks that had to be done and the area of disturbance was too huge to be easily controlled by the troops available; the civil administration had collapsed; great rivers of refugees were flowing from the east and from the west in search of safety; more than two million dispossessed refugees blocked the roads, and their rescue, protection, maintenance and transportation presented an insuperable problem. The killing was bestial in its ferocity. Neither age nor sex was spared. Day after day the situation deteriorated. Trains rolled into Delhi and Lahore from either direction laden with the dead, and communal frenzy knew no bounds.

“Eventually, on August 30th, complete responsibility was handed over to the Dominions, and the Punjab Boundary Force ceased to exist. On the Pakistan Army devolved the responsibility of protecting the Hindus and the Sikhs within Pakistan, particularly in the Western Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province, and, at the same time, of evacuating the Muslim refugees from the Eastern Punjab. The Regiment played an important part in this humanitarian task and for the greater part of the year following the Partition, the Regimental Centre and the several battalions were mainly occupied in this work.

“Jhelum, the home of the Regiment, was itself a victim of these disturbances. Ten thousand Hindu and Sikh refugees had collected in the quarter of the city along the Jhelum river. There were no troops in Jhelum other than those of the Regimental Centre, which was called upon to organize a civil-disturbance column from the Duty Company, the Permanent Staff of the Centre, and such recruits as had fired a rifle course.

“The trouble started on the morning of September 22nd, Patrols confirmed that a large number of armed Muslims had infiltrated into the city, and consequently Colonel Frye decided to move the column to the City Police Station. As the lorries were moving out of the lines, heavy sniping fire commenced from the locality occupied by the Hindus and Sikhs. The column immediately went to the spot and succeeded in dispersing the Muslims, who were moving into the quarter from the side streets. Sporadic sniping continued till the evening and the situation was complicated by the fact that the Hindus and the Sikhs were armed with a number of rifles and shot-guns and also a Bren gun. To stop retaliatory fire, Colonel Frye withdrew the troops. This had the desired effect, and the evacuation of the Hindus from the danger area to another locality was completed before dark.

“Captains Echlin and Ishfaq did excellent work in rescuing the refugees in this area and escorting them without loss through the city. Their presence and activities subsequent to the action did more than anything else to restore confidence and order.

“Major, now Major-General, Umrao Khan took over the military control of the city on September 23rd and established excellent relations with the civil authorities and with the inhabitants. Subsequently he organized the difficult operation of extracting 5,000 refugees from the city and of entraining them at the railway station.

“The 1st Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel M. A. Janjua, moved to the Eastern Punjab on September 28th, 1947, three weeks after its arrival at Nowshera from Ranchi, and carried out the evacuation of refugees until May, 1948, when the last two companies of the Battalion joined it at Lahore. The task was indeed a trying one. The companies were spread over six districts. In addition to rescuing pockets of Muslims, looking after the refugee camps and escorting the refugees from one camp to another, they had to look after the recovered abducted women’s camp. In spite of great provocation and strain, the men kept up the traditions and name of the Regiment by behaving in a splendid and praiseworthy manner. They did not shirk anything. They shared their meals with the refugees, cleaned their camps for them, buried the dead, looked after the patients, and comforted them, thus restoring their morale. They had many sleepless nights, but were always cheerful and smiling. To the refugees they were a symbol of courage and protection. The Battalion escorted some two million people into Pakistan and rescued over 3,000 abducted girls from the Eastern Punjab.

“The 3rd Battalion, which had been summoned from Quetta to Multan in March, 1947, at very short notice, formed part of the Punjab Boundary Force and, on its disbandment, moved to Montgomery in Pakistan, whence it escorted long columns of Hindu and Sikh refugees moving on foot from their former homes in Pakistan to the Indian border. In January, 1948, it moved to Rahwali Camp near Gujranwala. The 5th Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel J. F. S. Ottley, left Jhelum on October 28th, 1947, a few weeks after its arrival, for Ambala, and undertook duties similar to those of the 1st Battalion. Detachments of the 5th Battalion operated in many districts and escorted several foot convoys of refugees moving into Pakistan. Subsequently, it evacuated pockets of converted Muslims from the districts of Ferozepur, Ambala, Karnal, Rohtak and Hissar. The 7th Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel, now Brigadier, Waheed Haider, helped the Indian military detachment at Jhelum in its task of evacuation and protected the trains carrying refugees for a part of the way from Rawalpindi to Lahore. On several occasions, when the communal atmosphere was tense and the threat to the trains grave, the whole Battalion moved out to ensure the safety of Hindus and Sikhs leaving Pakistan.

“It is to the lasting credit of the Regiment that all ranks, of whichever community, gave their best during these critical days, fraught with communal frenzy, and handled all situations with impartiality courage and energy. A better proof of the traditional comradeship in arms of the several classes of the Regiment could not be forthcoming.” [3]

External links


  1. Wikipedia article
  2. There are more details in: Chidley, Ann The First Punjab Regiment Rootsweb India Mailing List 23 August 2011, now archived.
  3. "History of the First Punjab Regiment" by Salim Ansar November 18, 2012 International The News Islamabad, now archived.