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The EK1

A close run thing: Mesopotamia, July 1920

Rumaithah and the Arab Insurrection

In mid-1920 violent fighting erupted in Mesopotamia between certain tribal groupings of the local inhabitants and the British forces who were occupying the region.  The reasons for the British presence and for the insurrection have been previously described HERE

On 25th June 1920 the Assistant Political Officer at Rumaitha, Lieutenant P.T. Hyatt, arrested a local sheikh, Sha’alan Abu of the Dhawalim section of the Bani Hachaim tribe, for non-repayment of an agricultural loan.  Sha’alan Abu’s followers took exception to this and firing at Hyatt they killed his Arab guard and released Sha’alan; the remainder of Hyatt’s Arab police ran away leaving Hyatt on his own.  The Dhawalim tribesmen then displayed their war flags signifying confrontation with the Government, and the railway line north and south of Rumaithah was torn up in several places and a bridge destroyed.  Rumaitha lay on the eastern branch of the River Euphrates, about 240 kilometres south-south-east of Baghdad, and the Basra-Baghdad railway line passed by the town.

For the Maps please click HERE

Hyatt urgently requested reinforcements and two platoons (56 rifles) of the 114th Mahrattas under Lieutenant J.J. Healy, 1st Sappers & Miners attached to the Mahrattas, arrived on the repaired railway line on 1st July, followed the next day by three more platoons of Mahrattas.  On 3rd July a company of the 99th Deccan Infantry arrived under Captain H.V. Bragg (1/10th Jats attached to 99th Deccan Infantry), and Bragg took command of the Rumaithah garrison. During the journey Bragg and his men had fought off an insurgent attack whilst railway repair men had temporarily replaced a burned wooden bridge.  The insurgents were ruthlessly murdering and mutilating any railway workers that they came across.  There were now four British officers and 308 sepoys in Rumaitha, along with two other British railways officers, 153 railway personnel and 60 Indian civilians.  The shortage of food in the town became a serious problem for this garrison as the sepoys had only carried two days’ rations.

On the following day Hyatt learned that inhabitants of the village of Abu Hassan, 2.5 kilometres away, were coming into Rumaitha and looting the bazaar and terrorising the townsfolk.  Hyatt took out two platoons of the 99th Infantry under Lieutenant J.R. Marriott to punish the village whilst the Mahrattas provided covering fire from rooftops.  Marriott’s advance was delayed and this gave the Dhawalim time to concentrate a large force.  Hyatt then rashly urged Marriott not to withdraw until Abu Hassan village had been burned down.  This advice was fatal as over 1,500 tribesmen suddenly attacked and overwhelmed the two platoons, killing 43 sepoys and wounding a further 16 officers and men; the survivors retreated rapidly to Rumaitha.  This British defeat led to the inhabitants of Rumaithah openly siding with the insurgents and a further six sepoys were killed by snipers and 14 others were wounded.

Bragg now concentrated the sepoys, railway personnel and civilians in the Political Serai, a large building next to the river and the bridge across it.  Obtaining water from the river was a deadly business and so adequate wells were dug three metres deep in the Serai grounds; food was obtained by fighting patrols that suddenly broke out into the town to forage. 

Bragg could communicate with Samawah by heliograph and he requested ammunition drops from the Royal Air Force.  An initial drop of three boxes was delivered on 8th July – one box landed in the river, another landed amongst date palms 100 metres away from the Serai and the third was on target, unfortunately fatally injuring a corporal and killing an Arab prisoner as it landed.  Mr. E.W.L. Harper of the Railway Service went out with two sepoys and recovered the box in the river whilst 4716 Sepoy Hardat Singh, 99th Deccan Infantry, recovered the box in the palm trees.  Hardat Singh later received an Indian Distinguished Service Medal for his gallantry.  The Royal Air Force’s service was then superb, and until the end of the siege ammunition and some food such as chuppattis were successfully dropped into the Serai grounds, whilst surrounding enemy positions were bombed and machine gunned from the air.

In recognition of a food-foraging operation Lieutenant John Joseph Healy, 1st Sappers & Miners attached to the 114th Mahrattas), was later awarded a Military Cross

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on the 13th July, 1920, at Rumaithah. He led two platoons of the besieged garrison in a sortie, and by his dash and skilful leading drove off the enemy and enabled the garrison to get food from the town. He displayed the greatest courage and initiative

Above: The Rumaitha Political Serai is within the white line (Bottom Left)

On this occasion Healy’s team seized 20 sheep, 12 goats, chickens, grain and other shopkeepers’ goods sufficient for the next ten days.  This sortie was made under the cover of an air-raid delivered by nine aeroplanes.  The planes used were five Bristol Fighters from No 6 Squadron, reinforced by two old RE8s and two DH9As from No 30 Squadron. One machine dropped two 112 pound bombs in the middle of the town. The remainder, one after the other, dropped four Cooper 25 pound bombs on the houses round the Serai, from about 300 ft. This caused a panic in the village, and the enemy occupants rushed out into the countryside, where they were attacked with bombs and machine-gun fire whilst the sepoys scoured the town for food.

The first relief attempt

A small column was formed to march into Rumaitha to relieve the garrison.  It consisted of:

·        37th Lancers (Baluch Horse) – one squadron under Lieutenant K.H. Finch.
·        45th Mountain Battery – one section (two guns).
·        45th Rattray’s Sikhs.
·        99th Deccan Infantry – Battalion Headquarters and five platoons under Captain O. Masters.
·        Arab Levies – 30 sabres.

The column commander was Lieutenant Colonel D.A.D. McVean DSO, the Commanding Officer of 45th Rattray’s Sikhs.  By the 6th July the column, with an accompanying train carrying supplies and water, was ten kilometres north of Rumaitha.  McVean advanced tactically and his Sikh advance guard of ‘B’ Company under Captain J.A. Finlay was heavily fired on from the left flank.  The Lancers on the right flank were also heavily engaged, losing several horses and two Hotchkiss machine guns.  At dusk a perimeter was formed; enemy snipers surrounded it but the mountain guns kept them at a distance.  McVean’s casualties that day, all of them his Sikhs, were one sepoy killed and 13 others and one mule driver wounded.

Above: A 37th Lancer astride his mount

On 7th July the advance continued with the Sikhs’ ‘A’ Company under Lieutenant R.V. Fox leading.  After progressing for 1,500 metres heavy fire was received from an embankment to the front, and ‘B’ Company moved to support ‘A’ Company whilst ‘C’ Company under Captain A.L. Butcher advanced on the right of ‘A’ Company.  A direct assault was mounted but the weight of fire from the embankment combined with the marshy ground in front of it halted the attackers 200 metres from their enemy.  The sepoys took what cover they could on the ground and returned fire under a very hot sun.  All the men were now suffering from thirst and Regimental Bhisti (water carrier) Dhunni, from Lohar Village in Ludhiana District, repeatedly carried his water bag from the train 700 metres to the rear up to the firing line to supply the troops.   Eventually he was shot dead and although he was recommended for an Indian Order of Merit this was not approved; however he was later Mentioned in Despatches.

Right: Colour Party of 45th (Rattray's) Sikhs.

However the 45th Sikhs did receive four Indian Orders of Merit, 2nd Class that day for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.  All these awards are examples of how specialists and trained soldiers in a good infantry battalion react on the battlefield:

No 304 Havildar Tara Singh:  During an attack on a column he was often exposed to heavy enemy fire, but repeatedly established his signalling stations.  On reaching the most forward position, he twice climbed up a telegraph pole under fire in order to ‘Tap in’.  He displayed great gallantry and initiative.

No 2255 Sepoy Ram Singh:  During an attack on a position he was one of a Lewis Gun team.  By the accuracy of his fire, he materially assisted the advance of the line.  He was severely wounded, but refused to leave his gun.  His determination and courage were a splendid example to all.

No 733 Sepoy Chanan Singh:  During an attack, when the firing line was unable to advance, he ran back fifty yards under heavy fire, and brought up a Lewis gun.  Though wounded, he managed to get the gun into action, and his courage and coolness were beyond all praise.  This gallant Sepoy succumbed to his wounds.

No 1777 Sepoy Mahna Singh:  For conspicuous gallantry on July 7th 1920, in Mesopotamia, in rescuing wounded, who were lying within 100 yards of the enemy’s position.  He displayed marked courage and initiative under fire in locating snipers, who were effectively enfilading the stretcher bearers.  Two of them he killed and the remainder fled.  

The Sikhs were taking many casualties due to the lack of bullet-proof cover on the swampy ground, and McVean ordered a withdrawal to a small irrigation ditch; this caused hordes of Arabs to charge forward and two platoons of the 99th Deccan Infantry moved up to aggressively support the withdrawal, causing the enemy to run back to the embankment, suffering casualties on the way. By now it was apparent that up to 5,000 Arabs had gathered around the column, about one quarter of them being mounted.  At around 1300 hours McVean called in his company commanders and stated that as he had lost over 150 men killed or wounded, 20% of his strength, he had no option but to withdraw to the train and back down the line.  Taking advantage of a dust-storm that blew up the Sikhs made a clean break and got all the wounded and dead onto the train.

Left: Mahratta Infantry

Although it was not mentioned in despatches, No 6 Squadron Royal Air Force materially assisted in the safe withdrawal of the column.  At first the aviators had been unable to convince McVean of the enemy strength surrounding the column.  As soon as the withdrawal began, four planes flew for three hours in bad desert conditions, machine-gunning Arabs away from the flanks and rear of the column.

Killed or died of wounds were Captain Terence Cormac McCarthy MC, 1/6th Jats attached to the 99th Deccan Infantry; Acting Subadar Major Nidhan Singh, Jemadar Sant Singh and 44 Non Commissioned Officers and sepoys plus one Follower. The number of wounded totalled 142 officers and men.  The column and the train withdrew, repairing track ahead of them as they went, until a watering point was reached for the horses and the 1st and 2nd Line transport mules, who had all been suffering from lack of water.   After an overnight halt a relief train arrived and took the column back to Imam Hamzah.

Captain John Alexander Finlay, 45th Sikhs, was later awarded a Military Cross

For conspicuous gallantry and military ability on July 6th and 7th 1920, near Rumaithah.  When commanding an advanced guard he overcame by his initiative and bravery, a determined attack from the Arabs, and ensured the advance of the column without any opposition.  His courage, determination and leadership, were deserving of the highest praise, and the success of the operation was due to his disregard of danger, and coolness in action.

The second relief column

A much larger column was now formed under the command of Brigadier General F.E. Coningham CMG DSO, commander of the 34th Infantry Brigade.  The constituent major units were:

·        37th Lancers (Baluch Horse) – one squadron.
·        97th Battery Royal Field Artillery.
·        132nd Howitzer Battery Royal Field Artillery – less one section.
·        45th Mountain Battery.
·        61st Company, 2nd (Queen Victoria’s Own) Sappers & Miners.
·        2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles.
·        45th Rattray’s Sikhs.
·        87th Punjabis.
·        99th Deccan Infantry – less one company.
·        1/116th Mahrattas.
·        1/10th Gurkha Rifles.
·        17th Machine Gun Battalion, Machine Gun Corps – two sections.

Left: Indian Infantry in Mesopotamia

These units came from four different brigades and two divisions and knew little of each other.  The 45th Sikhs were still at Imam Hamzah and so the railway line from there back to Hillah was protected by double-platoon posts and block-houses three to six kilometres apart; these detachments used-up the rifle strength of two battalions and were regularly but unsuccessfully attacked.  Again a train accompanied the column but as many transport carts as possible were also used to carry rations for two days; the men carried one day’s food and an emergency ration.  Because of enemy damage to the line the train crew and its Indian labourers had to continually lift line from behind themselves and re-lay it ahead of the train in order to slowly advance.

Air co-operation with the column was this time well-organised, and the pilots of No 6 Squadron could nearly always land besides the column in order to verbally report to Coningham on the reconnaissance missions that had been flown.

An attempt in the town by Hyatt to obtain a political settlement failed and Coningham’s column reached the ten kilometres from Rumaithah point on 19th July.   The insurgents, led by former officers in the Turkish Army, had strengthened their defensive positions around the embankment where the previous action had been fought by digging well-sited parallel lines of trenches.  The embankment was in fact the second line of defence as a concealed trench had been dug 200 metres to the front.

Right: Indian Army mountain gun

Coningham ordered an immediate attack with the 45th Sikhs and 116th Mahrattas leading, whilst the 87th Punjabis secured the river bank to the left and minimised sniping from across the river.  The two field artillery batteries registered on the embankment and put down a barrage at 1745 hours when the infantry advanced.  Initially the advance was steady although heavy enemy fire was received, and a re-organisation halt was made about 400 metres away from the embankment.  Then the Sikhs observed the Mahrattas on the right rapidly retreating; the Mahratta Commanding Officer was the only British officer still standing and he alone could not prevent the flight of his sepoys.  The enemy immediately took advantage of the situation and counter-attacked, consequently the Sikhs had to ‘right-form’ two platoons of ‘B’ Company to protect the right flank; this was successful and the Arabs quickly retreated before this firepower to the cover of their trenches, having lost many men.  However the British attack had to be called-off and a fighting withdrawal was made to the Start Line where a perimeter was formed.

The mountain gunners had been in action and Lieutenant Gerald Tirah Palin, Royal Garrison Artillery attached to 45th Mountain Battery, was awarded a Military Cross:

 For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on the 19th July 1920, at Fazal Tyah. When his battery was in action at 900 yards range, and communication with the infantry was cut, he twice went up under heavy fire across open ground to the firing line, and thus enabled effective artillery support to be given.

The arrival of the Gurkhas

The 1/10th Gurkhas, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel H.L. Scott DSO MC, had been marching separately from the rest of the column and when this well-understrength battalion heard the sound of the guns it marched swiftly towards them.  On arriving on the intensely hot battlefield the Gurkhas saw that most of the European troops were too exhausted to be effective, and that the Indian troops were just hanging on, being de-hydrated and exhausted themselves.  A disaster was looming.

Coningham, himself a former 1/10th Gurkhas officer, ordered Scott to attack towards the river, now defended by Arabs, and to secure both banks.  The Gurkhas’ ‘A’ Company under Captain C.S. Moore advanced on the village of Umm Nijiris supported by ‘C’ Company under Captain J.I. Ennis MC.  A European section each of artillery and machine guns were firing in support but the artillerymen collapsed over their guns after firing four rounds, whilst one of the machine gun sub-sections never got itself into action due to heat exhaustion.  Nevertheless Clement Selby Moore secured the near river bank and made several attempts to wade through the water before he and Jemadar Panchalal Limbu were killed.  Selby Moore was later Mentioned in Despatches.  Finally the attempt was abandoned and ‘A’ Company fell back onto ‘C’ Company and Ennis was ordered to cross the river at 0500 hours the following morning using both companies.

For his actions that night and the following day Captain John Ignatius Ennis MC, 1/10th Gurkha Rifles, was awarded a Bar to the Military Cross:

For conspicuous gallantry and skilful leadership on the 20th July 1920, during the relief of Rumaithah, whilst second-in- command of his battalion. One of the companies of this battalion was checked, in a very exposed position, by heavy fire from a numerically superior enemy. Captain Ennis was ordered out with a relief company to assist by covering fire in their withdrawal, and then himself to break off the action. By his skilful dispositions and determination the forward company was able to extricate itself, at the same time bringing back all its dead and wounded, and defeating two enemy attempts to follow up. Having reorganised his force, he then successfully attacked and forced a river crossing, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. Throughout, he displayed the utmost bravery and disregard of personal safety, thereby setting a fine example to his command.

Subadar Shiambahadur Limbu of ‘C’ Company won an Indian Order of Merit for gallantry and leadership displayed during the crossing (citation not located) that this time had been effectively supported by the rested European gunners and machine gunners and by the Lancers’ Hotchkiss guns plus the Gurkhas’ own Lewis guns.  Operating on Ennis’ left was Subadar Garbhe Limbu IDSM who now commanded ‘A’ Company; he also waded across successfully with his men and was awarded an Indian Order of Merit for his gallantry during the previous night:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty whilst in command of a company on the 19th July 1920 in Mesopotamia.  When the company was nearly overwhelmed, he made a determined attempt to cross a river but was unable to effect the crossing owing to the depth of mud and water.  He then reorganized his company and held the enemy in check, inflicting heavy casualties and repulsing several counterattacks.  He inspired all ranks by his coolness and daring.

Above: A pre-war 10th Gurkha Rifles shooting team.

The defenders in the vicinity started running, unwilling to confront the Gurkha bayonets and kukris; both sides of the river were quickly cleared and the column’s water supply was assured.  After reorganising themselves the Arabs mounted three counter-attacks but the Gurkhas repulsed them all.

Whilst the Gurkhas were fighting for the river banks No 1046215 Gunner R.S. Pickering, 97th Battery Royal Field Artillery, was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal:

For bravery and determination under heavy rifle fire on the 20th July 1920, near Rumaithah.  He succeeded in getting his water cart to the river edge under heavy fire from the opposite bank, and was successful in filling the cart. 

One member of the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, No 2841 Private P. Leitch, also received a Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery displayed during the previous evening:

For bravery and devotion to duty.  During the action of the 19th July, 1920, south of Abu-Tabikh, the battalion, which was acting as right flank guard of the column, was badly in need of water, and the river line was then held by the enemy.  Private Leitch, who was the battalion water cart man, on his own initiative took the water cart to the river with some bhistis. On nearing the river the party was fired on, but Private Leitch brought up the cart himself, and with the help of two others filled the cart while still under fire.

  Major and Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Henry Lawrence Scott DSO MC, 1/1st (attached to 1/10th) Gurkha Rifles, was awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Service Order:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on the 19th July 1920, near Rumaitha.  On his own initiative he marched his column to the sound of the guns, and brought reinforcements at a critical moment. Later, by his capable handling of the battalion against a very superior enemy, he established a position across the river, and so enabled the whole force to get water which was urgently required. It was owing to his gallant example and bold leadership that the operations throughout the day were successful.

Left: Royal Irish Rifles badge

The relief of Rumaithah

Whilst his men had been fighting for their lives Coningham had signalled Diwaniyeh and organised a second train carrying water, ammunition and medical dressings to come forward during the night, and this arrived at 0845 hours on 20th July. 

At the same time patrols sent out by the Sikhs established that the Arabs had withdrawn from the embankment area, and an aeroplane pilot reported that groups of the enemy were concentrated in various locations a few kilometres from Rumaithah.  The Dhawalim tribesmen were now obviously biding their time until the next major opportunities would occur during the withdrawal.  Once the newly-arrived ammunition had been distributed and the animals watered Coningham left the Mahrattas to guard the trains, transport and track repair gangs and sent the Lancers into Rumaithah.  The town was empty of enemy and motor ambulances quickly evacuated 30 of the more seriously wounded garrison back to the two trains, which now combined into one.

Lieutenant General Sir Aylmer Haldane, the theatre commander in Baghdad, considered that he could not deploy a new garrison at isolated Rumaithah as by now 35,000 Arab insurgents were in the field against him.  Coningham, who had lost three British officers and 32 Indian sepoys killed during his advance, plus two British officers and 150 sepoys wounded, was ordered to evacuate Rumaithah.  Harry Vyner Bragg, 1/10th Jats attached to 1/99th Deccan Infantry, was awarded a Military Cross:

For conspicuous gallantry, initiative and determination throughout the siege of Rumaithah, from the 3rd to the 20th July 1920. He maintained his garrison against very heavy odds for seventeen days, though his force was repeatedly attacked by large numbers of the enemy. He set a splendid example to all ranks by his coolness and courage.

The Rumaithah garrison under Bragg had suffered a total of 148 casualties, killed, wounded or missing.

Above: The Political Serai at Rumaitha

The withdrawal from Rumaithah to Diwaniyah

After repairs to a train had been effected Coningham commenced his withdrawal at 0530 hours on 22nd July.  The infantry formed squares or diamonds around the train, each face being about 450 metres long.  Machine guns were positioned on top of the train and carried on pack animals on the flanks.  The artillery batteries, although withdrawing, were prepared to come into action immediately.  Thousands of Arabs circled the British troops at a safe distance, waiting for an opportunity to break into the British ranks and seize rifles.

That opportunity came a couple of hours later when a dust-storm blew up, blinding the British troops.  Immediately insurgents were in amongst the rear guard, the 87th Punjabis, which broke and was driven back.   Mayhem ensued and many Punjabis were killed.  The Lancers did not help by galloping blindly through the melee, knocking down friend and foe alike.  The artillery came into action but could not see targets.  The 45th (Rattray’s) Sikhs, although initially disrupted from their marching formations by the sudden enemy charge, quickly re-formed and stood their ground with the bayonet.

Once again the 1/10th Gurkha Rifles saved the day by engaging the enemy, giving the Sikhs time to re-form and the 18-pounders time to come into action and devastate the ranks of Arab attackers.  No 1045878 Corporal (Lance Serjeant) F.T. Smith, 132nd Battery Royal Field Artillery, received a Distinguished Conduct Medal:

For bravery and devotion to duty near Rumaithah on the 22nd July 1920. A section of the battery in a rearguard action was in danger of being cut off.  Although wounded, this non-commissioned officer, by his coolness and energy under very trying circumstances, kept the teams together, thus enabling the guns to be limbered up when required.

The 87th Punjabis suffered 69 casualties dead, wounded or missing at Rumaithah.  Captain F.C.D. Ricketts was awarded a Military Cross and Subadar Karam Din was awarded the Indian Distinguished Service Medal.  The Punjabis’ Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel B. M. Carroll, and the 116th Mahrattas’ Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Holroyd Bridges DSO, were later admitted to be Companions of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE).  After the rear guard action several dead Arabs were found with two or three Punjabi rifles slung around their necks, but these men had still attacked again, wanting more loot.

Coningham then deployed three companies of the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, under Lieutenant Colonel A.D.N. Merriman DSO, to re-form the rear guard whilst the trains and animal transport moved on to the mid-day halt.  After this attack the Arabs sniped but kept their distance until the column reached Diwaniyeh on 25th July.  Here the column dispersed whilst news came flooding in of the disaster to the 2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment at Hillah (see: ).  There was a lot more grim work still to be done in Mesopotamia over the next four months.

Further awards

  1.     In September 1921 both Lieutenant Colonel (Temporary Brigadier General) Frank Evelyn Coningham CMG DSO, 10th Gurkha Rifles, and Lieutenant Colonel Donald Archibald Dugald McVean, 45th (Rattray’s) Sikhs, were both appointed to be Companions of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India (CSI).

  2.     Awards to 45th (Rattray’s) Sikhs

The Regimental History of this unit is very comprehensive in allocating awards to actions and it has been used as the platform for the attributions for other units that follow below.  Apart from the awards already described, recognitions of gallantry to the Sikhs for their conduct during the withdrawal from Rumaithah, during which five Sikhs were killed and 15 wounded, were:

a.     A Bar to the Military Cross to Captain Alfred Cyril Curtis MC, 45th Sikhs:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on the 20th July 1920, during the relief of Rumaithah and the subsequent withdrawal. During an attack by a numerically superior force of Arabs, this officer, though severely wounded early in the operations, commanded the whole force of cavalry and infantry engaged. The enemy were constantly driven off and checked within thirty or forty yards. Captain Curtis, by his marked ability, determination and coolness under fire, was largely instrumental in organising a successful attack, which ultimately drove the insurgents across a canal with much loss.

b.     Indian Orders of Merit to:

No 254 Havildar Ganga Sigh:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on July 22nd 1920.  When the rear guard was heavily attacked and driven back, on his own initiative he took up a position, and brought such an effective fire to bear on the enemy that the latter were unable to advance.  By his bravery and coolness, he so inspired the men under him, that the line was restored and the enemy driven back.

and to No 4766 Havildar Harditt Singh:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on July 22nd 1920.  During an attack on a position his Platoon Commander was wounded.  He at once took command, and by his skilful leading drove back the enemy.  Later when the rear guard was driven in, on his own initiative he took up a position on the flank, and by his accurate fire materially assisted in stopping the rush.  His leadership and courage was an example to all.

c.      Indian Distinguished Service Medals (including for the first advance) to:

161 Havildar Ishar Singh;  4441 Havildar jiwan Singh;  520 Naick Lal Singh;  770 Naick Jaswant Singh;  696 Naick Maghar Singh;  785 Naick Bakhtawar Singh;  817 Naick Tahel Singh;  1075 Naick Hazura Singh;  1124 Lance Naick Chattar Singh;  1680 Sepoy Ganga Singh;  2335 Sepoy Bhag Singh;  1037 Sepoy Sewa Singh;  1343 Sepoy Seta Singh;  1405 Sepoy Indar Singh;  1154 Sepoy Kishan Singh;  1668 Sepoy Kehar Singh;  2884 Sepoy Makhan Singh;  3281 Sepoy Jit Singh (killed in action);  1212 Sepoy Mehar Singh;  20 Bhisti Wiru;  Jemadar Kesar Singh. 

  3.     Awards to the 99th Deccan Infantry

a.     Captain Oswald Masters received a Military Cross

  b.     In addition to Sepoy Hardat Singh’s medal the Indian Distinguished Conduct Medal was awarded at the same time to:  4127 Company Havildar Major Soba Ram;  4732 Havildar Ramdhanni Singh;  5909 Havildar Gopal;  5925 Havildar Ramnagina Singh;  4936 Sepoy Sunehra;  5222 Sepoy Ganga Ram;  Subedar Sewa Ram.

It is very probable that these seven recipients were either part of the besieged Rumaithah garrison or amongst the relieving force.

  4.     Awards to 1/10th Gurkha Rifles

Five Indian Distinguished Service Medals were awarded to 1/10th Gurkha Rifles concurrently with similar awards elsewhere in Coningham’s column, and most if not all of them would have been in recognition of acts of gallantry during the relief of and withdrawal from Rumaitha.  The recipients were:

3350 Naik Agambir Rai;  3639 Rifleman Jitbahadur Rai;  4798 Rifleman Chandradhoj Rai;  5218 Rifleman Dhan Bahadur Limbu;  6199 Rifleman Karnabahadur Limbu.

    5.    Awards to 87th Punjabis

Similarly these four recipients of the Indian Distinguished Service Medal from the 87th Punjabis were listed concurrently with the others in the relief column, and the probability is that these awards were for Rumaithah:

903 Company Havildar Major Neki Ram;  1832 Havildar Munshi Khan;  1140 Naik Sultan Ali;  2466 Imam Din.

  6.     Awards to 116th Mahrattas

Again four recipients received the Indian Distinguished Service Medal concurrently with others in the Rumaithah relief column.  They were:

1833 Sepoy Babaji Gaikwad;  2358 Sepoy Dhondu Mohite;  3122 Sepoy (Acting Naik) Din Mohammed;  4220 Sepoy Ganpat Lokande.

  7.     Awards to 114th Mahrattas

One man, 5228 Naik Harbaras Bhosle, received the Indian Distinguished Service Medal along with others at Rumaithah, and it is probable that he served in the besieged garrison.

  8.     Awards to the 45th Mountain Battery, soon to be re-titled 45th Pack Battery

Two Indian Distinguished Service Medals were awarded to 435 Naik Noor Muhammed and 25 Naik Noor Khan at the same time as others for the Rumaitha relief column.

  Clasp to the General Service Medal
A clasp titled IRAQ was issued to the General Service Medal (1918 – 1962) to those present on the strength of an establishment within the Boundaries of Iraq, between 1st July and 17th November 1920.

Left: Medals of Captain C.M. Spaull, 87th Punjabis.

SOURCES: (the most accessible versions are listed)

Anderson, R.H. Lieutenant Colonel: Regimental History of The 45th Rattray’s Sikhs During The Great War and After, 1914-1921. (Naval & Military Press).

Betham, Sir Geoffrey Lieutenant Colonel: The Golden Galley. The Story of the Second Punjab Regiment 1761-1947. (Oxford University Press 1956).

Chhina, Rana: The Indian Distinguished Service Medal. (Invicta India 2001).

Graham, C.A.L. Brigadier General: The History of the Indian Mountain Artillery. ( ).

Haldane, Sir Aylmer L. Lieutenant General: The Insurrection in Mesopotamia 1920.  (Battery Press 2005).

Hughes, B.P. Major General: History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. Between the Wars, 1919-39. (Brassey’s UK 1992).

Jarvis, S.D. & D.B.: The Cross of Sacrifice Volume I. Officers who died in the Service of British, Indian and East African Regiments and Corps, 1914-1919. (Roberts Medals 1993).

Mullaly, B.R. Colonel: Bugle and Kukri. The Story of The 10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles, Volume One. (Naval & Military Press 1993).

Pirie, G.C. Squadron Leader. Article: Experiences of No 6 Squadron in Iraq, 1920. (The Royal Air Force Air Power Revue, Volume Seven, Number Two, Summer 2004).

Despatches from Mesopotamia.  London Gazette Number 32379, page 5321 onwards, Third Supplement dated Tuesday 5th July 1921; plus other London Gazette entries detailing awards and citations.