25th Motor Machine Gun Battery (Calcutta Volunteers)

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Charles Nida, in his autobiography Chota Sahib... You've Had a Busy Day provides an account of the establishment and training the Battery received, but no details of its subsequent deployments.[1]

The 25th Motor Machine Gun Battery (Calcutta Volunteers) was raised in Calcutta c 1916, due to the efforts of the commandant Captain Heilgers, head of a well-known Calcutta merchant house, with a compliment of sixty six officers and men.

It took some time for the numbers to be reached and there was more publicity, via the Calcutta papers and larger businesses.

There were engineers, planters, banking and insurance men, shipping clerks, and to make up the numbers, three time-serving privates from the regular Army.

There was a week’s initial training at Rawalpindi followed by training at the newly established Machine Gun School at Campbellpur. It was here that their guns were changed from Maxims, weighing 60 pounds, and water- cooled, to Vickers, weighing 45 pound, and air-cooled. They trained at Campbellpur until the commandant of the Gunnery School deemed them fit for posting to a battle zone.


25 Battery, Machine Gun Corps (Motors), was established in India, in May 1917. Moved to Egypt July 1917. Disbanded January 1918.[2] Note , this was a British Army regiment.

A booklet by Major F W Heilgers, the CO, was published in 1919, giving details of its service and giving a list of personnel (with addresses but no army numbers). The battery was formed in October 1916 from personnel of the Calcutta Presidency Battalion and other Indian volunteer units and was mobilized on 1 May 1917 and sent to Egypt on 13 June 1917. It was issued with 18 sidecar outfits (presumably Clynos) and 10 solo machines in August 1917. The Clynos proved unsuitable for desert work and the battery was disbanded in December 1917. Some of the personnel were posted to other MGC units, others were sent back to India and a few were commissioned (including quite a few into the RFC/RAF). It appears the personnel were issued with numbers in the 96300 to 96380 range.[3]

There is one Medal Index Card reference where the regiment is "25th Calcutta Motor Machine Gun Battery".[4] and five seen where the regiment is "Volunteer Machine Gun Corps", including that of Charles Nida, some of which indicate Indian Army.[5] The available information is therefore sometimes indicating British Army, and sometimes Indian Army.

Virtually all the members of 25 (Calcutta) MMG Battery have surviving service records. 80 names have been found, with the first (96301 Gunner A. St C. O'Leary) enlisting on 22 August 1916 and the last (96383 Gunner A.E. O'Shea) enlisting on 12 November 1917 - a few weeks before the unit was disbanded. 12 men were from Calcutta volunteer units. Quite a few came from the East India Railway Volunteer Rifles and the Northern Bengal Mounted Rifles, those from the latter being tea planters.[6]

Also see


  1. Chota Sahib... You've Had a Busy Day, pages 156 onwards. Google Books. Also available are Transcribed extracts from the book, in particular from Chapter 20. whitbywriters.com. Also available at the British Library UIN: BLL01014676175. There is an implication that the author may subsequently have become involved with aircraft, and it appears he became an officer in the RAF, National Archives catalogue reference AIR 76 - Air Ministry: Department of the Master-General of Personnel: Officers' Service Records AIR 76/374/21 - Name Nida, Charles Henry George 1918-1919
  2. Motor Machine Guns of the First World War "The Long, Long Trail"
  3. mcassell. Volunteer Motorcycle Machine Gun Battery (from Calcutta, India) Great War Forum 16 March 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2018. This thread indicates that Heilgers later changed his name by deed poll to Hillyers.
  4. Medal card of Ainslie, C A Corps: 25th Calcutta Motor Machine Gun Battery. The correct name is Claude John Ainslie.
  5. WO 372/14/227845 Medal card of Nida, Charles H G Corps: Bombay Volunteer Rifles 8153, Volunteer Machine Gun Corps 96334 Gunner , also WO 372/2/200259 Medal card of Bolst, Bertram Sydney, WO 372/5/136998 Medal card: Indian Army: Curtis, P H, WO 372/28/1399 Medal card of Rann, P H, WO 372/17/58151 Medal card of Roblin, M L
  6. mcassell. Volunteer Motorcycle Machine Gun Battery (from Calcutta, India) Great War Forum 04 July 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2018.