Assessing the Indian contribution

Douglas Haig’s diary, March 1915 – July 1916 (catalogue reference WO 256/4)

This document from Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig’s diary shows how some of the British Army Officers regarded the fighting abilities of the Indian soldiers on the Western Front. How justified are such views?


The CGS (Robertson) stated today that “the Indians did not do well” and has asked me to consider the advisability of putting some of the British battalions together so as to have some reliable fighting units! Before I can admit that the Indian Regiments are no use, it is necessary to know the conditions under which they were employed at Ypres. Had they been marched off their legs and sent suddenly into the fight without being previously fed? Robertson whom my SGSO (Butler) saw, only gave grudgingly praise to the 40th Pathans! So possibly he may be prejudiced against the Indian troops. In any case, they did well at Neuve Chappelle ! and for the next effort I want every available brigade I can get, so I am disinclined to break up any of the Indian Corps.

The Lahore Division begins to move back to rejoin my Army to-day, and I hope the 7th Division (Gough) will be back soon. In any case, the Division must have five clear days in my command before the operations begin.

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