Razmak Brigade in India (1936 to 1939 OR 1939 to 1945)

P1100612 I was just looking through a photograph album documenting the Razmak Brigade in current day Pakistan that Clémence Scouten recently processed and my interest was sparked.  We have loads of photograph albums of the British Army in India before Indian independence in 1947, but very few of them actually document army life in that region.  For the most part, from their photograph albums, the soldiers APPEAR to be on vacation, traveling about an exotic land.  I am sure that that was not the case, but you sure would not know it from what they chose to document!  However, this photograph album of an unknown unit in the British Army is definitely military based.  What I cannot figure out, though, is if it is from the Waziristan campaign from 1936 to 1939 or from World War II.  My questions arose when I saw that there are no photographs of Indian army soldiers–only British, and there are a few photographs of local Waziri armed men not in uniform.

The creator of this album did not help us much … not one photograph in the album is captioned.  Moreover, I cannot find any insignia on uniforms that helps (although I would certainly not claim to be an expert on any kind of uniform or other military identification system).  There are a few photographs of vehicles and tanks and I am really hoping someone can take one look at them and let me know if we are talking WWII or pre WWII!

During the Waziristan campaign, the British Army fought against the Fakir of Ipi from 1936 to 1939.  According to an article in the Telegraph, “Fakir, born Mirza Ali Khan in the village of Ipi in 1898, was a mullah who managed, after centuries of internecine conflict, to unite the warring tribes of the mountainous province of Waziristan.”  In late 1936, the British moved troops through the Khaisora Valley, from the garrison at Razmak to the east, but the troops were attacked and forced to retreat, which increased support for the Fakir of Ipi.  As a result the British increased the number of troops (both British and Indian) in the area to reinforce the garrisons at Razmak, Bannu, and Wana.  The British Army faced guerrilla warfare and the Fakir of Ipi was never captured.

During World War II, many newly formed brigades were sent to the North West Frontier before they were sent to Africa, Burma or Italy.  It is possible that the soldiers depicted in this album are from any of the following units: the 1st Leicestershire Regiment, the 1st Royal Warwickshire Regiment, the 2nd Suffolk Regiment, the 1st Queen’s Royal Regiment, the 2nd King’s Own Scottish Borderers, the 7th York and Lancaster Regiment, or the 1st Wiltshire Regiment.

It seems that the photographers of these photos were Kalia and Sharma and that they may have made copies and sold them to the soldiers.  I found exact copies of some of the photographs here.

P1100610One more question:  does anyone have any sense of why there would be young YOUNG men in uniform in the British Army … these boys look like they could be about 12 to me! Your help will be greatly appreciated!



NOTE:  Thanks to information from Peter Morwood, we now know that this is the Waziristan campaign from 1936 to 1938.  (his information is in a comment!) Thanks for making our description better!

4 thoughts on “Razmak Brigade in India (1936 to 1939 OR 1939 to 1945)

  1. Peter Morwood solves the riddle: “The photos are pre-WW2. I’m basing this on the puttees and 1908 Pattern webbing … More date confirmation comes from another photo … which shows a couple of tanks … These are Light Tanks Mark IVA (the earlier Mark II and III had return rollers — small wheels above the big ones — while the Mark IV had “slack tracks”) … ‘Mechanised Force: British Tanks between the Wars’ by David Fletcher identifies these further as having the “India Pattern” turret with a raised cupola and view-ports all round “invaluable on the Frontier” — but also states that: ‘By 1935 it had been decided that the Royal Tank Corps should leave India, and all armoured fighting vehicles would be handed over to the newly mechanised cavalry regiments of the Indian Army, or British cavalry regiments stationed in India. The policy was implemented in 1938 …’ Perfect! These photos were taken while the tanks were still with the RTC (their numberplates and names — the first one is called “Boyne” — confirm it) and before any new uniform items were issued, so their time period and location is 1936-1938 during the Waziristan Campaign.”

    His full analysis is here:

  2. Very interesting article especially in view of the fact that I also have an album of World War 2 photographs from my father that would be dated between 9 January 1940 – 4 December 1944.

    My father served in the 1st Northamptonshire Regiment and served as a guard at No. 28 POW Camp probably from 14 February 1943 – 4 December 1944

    I have an album with dozens of photographs of the following areas and towns: Kangra Valley, Pathankot (including MacMullen Building cinema), Charbatia, Jullundur, Pindari Glacier, Dar-es-Salaam, Jhansi, Basra, Ranikhet Café and of course Razmak including some photographs by Sharma. Only a few of the photographs in the album were captioned by my father.

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