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MILITARY ENGINEERS IN INDIA
IN THE 20th CENTURY

by
Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis, 2000.

I. INTRODUCTION

The history of military engineering in India in the 20th century can be traced through the study of the India General Service Medals. Military engineering in India was the responsibility of the Royal Engineers, the Indian Sappers and Miners and the Indian Pioneer Regiments. Units of these establishments were responsible for assisting the movement of friendly forces and impeding that of enemy forces, mostly in rugged terrain and under the most trying conditions of heat and cold. Their duties included road and bridge construction, water supply, construction of fortifications, camp construction, and the demolition of enemy defensive works, as well as other general engineering works. They marched and fought side by side with the infantry, cavalry and artillery, and suffered wounds and death at the hands of fanatical tribesmen on the frontiers of India. Their story is one of building and fighting under a blistering sun or on freezing mountain tops in order to help the Soldiers of the King maintain England's control over the far flung corners of the Empire. In recognition of the military engineers' efforts a number of medals and clasps were authorized to those units that participated in the many frontier campaigns. The units, and the medals awarded to them between 1901 and 1962, are the subjects of this paper.

II. MILITARY ENGINEERS

A. Royal Engineers

Many officers and non-commissioned officers of the Corps of Royal Engineers served in India during the 20th century with the various units of the Indian Sappers and Miners. For the most part, medals that are found named to Royal Engineers will be to officers and NCOs who served with the Sapper and Miner field companies. Medals will also be found to officers and NCOs with the Military Engineer Services, the Survey of India, and Submarine Mining units.

B. The Military Engineer Services

Sandes [1] describes the Military Engineer Services as having evolved from the Public Works Department, first as the "Military Works Department" and later as the "Military Works Services". The MES controlled all military engineering works in India and Burma except in a few small stations where these works were in charge of the Public Works Department. The MES controlled all the works of the Royal Air Force, and in addition they were in charge of all civil and military works, except railways and irrigation, in Baluchistan and the tribal areas of the North West Frontier Province.

C. The Indian Sappers and Miners

The Sappers and Miners of the Indian Army were the backbone of the engineering effort in India and represented the equivalent of the Royal Engineers in the British Army. Officered by Royal Engineers, the Sapper and Miner field companies provided the skilled engineer effort for the army in the field.

There were three Corps of Sappers and Miners, one from each of the Presidencies of India. The lineages of the Corps are described below, the information being obtained from the works of both Sandes [1] and Mollo [2].

THE CORPS OF BENGAL SAPPERS AND MINERS

- Formed at Cawnpore in 1803 as the Corps of Bengal Pioneers.

- Two companies designated as the Corps of Bengal Sappers and Miners at Allahabad in 1819.

- Redesignated the Bengal Sappers and Pioneers in 1847.

- Reverted to the title of Bengal Sappers and Miners in 1851.

- Became the 1st Sappers and Miners in 1903.

- Designated the 1st Princes of Wales Own Sappers and Miners in 1906.

- Redesignated the 1st King George's Own Sappers and Miners in 1910.

- Redesignated King George's Own Bengal Sappers and Miners in 1923.

- Redesignated King George V's Own Bengal Sappers and Miners in 1937.

- Redesignated the Bengal Sappers and Miners Group in 1941.

- Redesignated the Bengal Engineer Group in 1947.

THE CORPS OF MADRAS SAPPERS AND MINERS

- Raised at Madras in 1780 as two companies.

- Formed into a battalion known as the Madras Pioneer Battalion in 1793.

- Expanded to form the 1st and 2nd Battalions of Madras Pioneers in 1803.

- Became the Corps of Madras Sappers and Miners in 1831

- Redesignated the Queen's Own Corps of Madras Sappers and Miners in 1876.

- Redesignated the 2nd Queen's Own Sappers and Miners in 1903.

- Redesignated the 2nd Queen Victoria's Own Sappers and Miners in 1911.

- Redesignated Queen Victoria's Own Madras Sappers and Miners in 1923.

- Redesignated the Madras Sappers and Miners Group in 1941.

THE CORPS OF BOMBAY SAPPERS AND MINERS

- Raised as a company of Pioneer Lascars in 1777.
NOTE: A Lascar is another term for Labourer. In the sense used here Pioneers were considered labour units.

- Designated the Corps of Engineer Lascars in 1820.

- Renamed the Bombay Engineer Corps in 1830.

- Renamed the Corps of Bombay Sappers and Miners in 1840.

- Redesignated the 3rd Sappers and Miners in 1903.

- Redesignated the 3rd Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners in 1921.

- Renamed the Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners in 1923.

- Redesignated the Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners Group in 1941.

- Renamed the Bombay Sappers and Miners Group, Royal Indian Engineers in 1946.

Mollo [2] indicates that the designation "Corps of Royal Indian Engineers" was introduced in 1941. All three of the Sapper and Miner Corps became a part of this newly designated Corps.

D. Submarine Mining in India

Submarine mining originated in India in 1868, but was not formalized by the establishment of a specialized unit until 1891 when the Indian Submarine Mining Company was formed. In 1902 the Indian Submarine Mining Company was amalgamated with the Corps of Submarine Mining Lascars to form the Indian Submarine Mining Corps. The companies of this Corps were reduced to sections by 1909, and in 1910 the five Submarine Mining Sections were attached to one or other of the Sapper and Miner Corps. The Submarine Mining Sections were replaced in 1912 by Defence Light Sections and in that year the Indian Submarine Mining Corps was abolished. Small Defence Light Sections continued to exist in Karachi, Bombay, Calcutta, and Rangoon until 1925.

E. The Indian Pioneer Regiments

Like the Corps of Sappers and Miners the Indian Pioneer Regiments had their ties to the Presidencies of India. Sandes [1] provides some interesting information on the lineages of the Pioneer Regiments, although the most informative references are Mac Munn [3] and Tugwell [4)] The lineages of the various Pioneer Regiments are presented below.

THE BOMBAY PIONEERS

The earliest of the Pioneer Regiments was raised in Bombay as The Marine Battalion in 1777. The evolution of this unit then continued as follows:

- Designated the 1st (or Marine) Battalion, 11th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry in 1818.

- Redesignated the 21st (or Marine) Battalion of Bombay Native Infantry, and then again renamed The Marine Battalion during the same year (1824).

- Renamed the 21st Regiment of Bombay Infantry (The Marine Battalion) in 1885.

- Redesignated the 21st Bombay Infantry (The Marine Battalion) in 1901.

- Redesignated the 21st Bombay Pioneers and then the 121st Pioneers, both during the year 1903.

- Renamed the 10th (Training) Battalion, 2nd Bombay Pioneers (Marine Battalion) in 1922.

- Redesignated the 1st (Marine) Battalion, Corps of Bombay Pioneers in 1929.

- Disbanded in 1932.

The next regiment of Bombay Pioneers in order of seniority was raised as the 4th Battalion of Bombay Sepoys in 1788. Its lineage continued as follows:

- Renamed the 1st Battalion, 4th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry in 1796.

- Designated as the 7th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry in 1824.

- Redesignated the 7th Regiment of Bombay Infantry in 1885.

- Redesignated the 7th Bombay Infantry (Pioneers) in 1900.

- Redesignated the 7th Bombay Pioneers in 1901.

- Renamed the 107th Pioneers in 1903.

- Redesignated the 1st Battalion, 2nd Bombay Pioneers in 1922.

- Became a unit of the Corps of Bombay Pioneers in 1929

- Disbanded in 1932.

Third in order of precedence among the Bombay Pioneers was the 3rd Regiment of Infantry, Shah Shuja's Force raised in 1838. This unit evolved into a pioneer regiment in the following manner:

- Renamed the Regiment of Kelat-i-Ghilzie in 1842.

- Renamed the 13th Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry in 1861 and renumbered the 12th Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry in the same year.

- Redesignated the 12th (The Kelat-i-Ghilzie) Regiment of Bengal Infantry in 1864.

- Redesignated the 12th Bengal Pioneers in 1903, and then the 12th Pioneers (The Kelat-i-Ghilzie Regiment) during the same year.

- Redesignated the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Bombay Pioneers (Kelat-i-Ghilzie) in 1922.

- Redesignated the 2nd (Kelat-i-Ghilzie) Battalion, Corps of Bombay Pioneers in 1929.

- Disbanded in 1932.

Next in order of precedence of the Bombay Pioneers was the 28th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry raised in 1846. Its lineage continued as follows:

- Renamed the 28th Regiment of Bombay Infantry in 1885.

- Renamed the 28th (Pioneer) Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry in 1888.

- Renamed the 28th Bombay Pioneers in 1901.

- Redesignated the 128th Pioneers in 1903.

- Redesignated the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Bombay Pioneers in 1922.

- Redesignated as a unit of the Corps of Bombay Pioneers in 1929.

- Disbanded in 1932.

Last in order of precedence among the Bombay Pioneers was the 48th Regiment of Bengal Infantry (Pioneer) formed in 1901. During this same year the unit was renamed the 48th Bengal Pioneers. Its lineage continued as follows:

- Renamed the 48th Pioneers in 1903.

- Redesignated the 4th Battalion, 2nd Bombay Pioneers in 1922.

- Disbanded and absorbed into all battalions of the Bombay Pioneers in 1926.

THE SIKH PIONEERS

The First Sikh Pioneer Regiment was raised as the 24th Regiment of Punjab Infantry, Punjab Irregular Force in 1857. The unit was also known as the 24th Sikh Pioneers, Punjab Irregular Force. The unit evolved in the following manners

- Renamed the 24th Regiment of Punjab Infantry (Pioneers), or more simply the 24th Pioneers in 1858.

- Redesignated the 36th Bengal Native Infantry; or 36th (Punjab) Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry (Pioneers); and later the 32nd Bengal Infantry, all during the year 186i.

- Renamed the 32nd (Punjab) Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry; or 32nd Pioneers; or 32nd Sikh Pioneers, all during the year 1864.

- Renamed the 1/32 Sikh Pioneers in 1914.

- The 2/32 Sikh Pioneers was raised in 1917 and disbanded in 1921.

- The 3/32 Sikh Pioneers was also raised in 1917 and disbanded in 1919.

- The 1/32 Sikh Pioneers became the 2/3rd Sikh Pioneers in 1922.

- Disbanded in 1932.

The Second (Sikh) Pioneer Regiment was originally raised as the 15th (Pioneer) Regiment of Punjab Infantry; the 15th Punjab Pioneers or the 15th Regiment of Punjab Infantry (Pioneers) in 1857. The lineage of the unit continued as shown below:

- Redesignated the 27th Bengal Native Infantry; and later, the 23rd Bengal Infantry, both during the year 1861.

- Renamed the 23rd (Punjab) Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry (Pioneers) the 23rd Pioneers; and the 23rd Sikh Pioneers, all during 1864.

- Redesignated the 1/23rd Sikh Pioneers in 1914.

- 2/23rd Sikh Pioneers were raised in 1917.

- 3/23rd Sikh Pioneers were raised in 1918 and later disbanded.

- The 1/23rd Sikh Pioneers became the 1/3rd Sikh Pioneers and the 2/23rd Sikh Pioneers became the 10th (Training) Battalion, 3rd Sikh Pioneers in 1922.

- Disbanded in 1932.

The Third (Sikh) Pioneer Regiment was raised in 1887 as the 34th Sikh Pioneers. The succeeding unit designations are indicated below:

- 1/34 Sikh Pioneers in 1914.

- 2/34 Sikh Pioneers was raised in 1917 and later disbanded.

- 3/34 Sikh Pioneers was raised in 1918 and later disbanded.

- The 1/34 Sikh Pioneers was redesignated the 3/3rd Sikh Pioneers in 1922.

- Disbanded in 1932.

THE MADRAS AND HAZARA PIONEERS

Both the Madras and Hazara Pioneer Regiments were war-raised units that came into existence at the beginning of the Great War of 1914 to 1918. Their lineages are briefly presented below.

The 61st Pioneers was raised in 1914, redesignated the 1/1st Madras Pioneers in 1922 and was disbanded in 1932.

The 64th Pioneers was raised in 1914, redesignated the 2/1st Madras Pioneers in 1922, and was disbanded in 1932.

The 81st Pioneers was raised in 1914, redesignated the 10th (Training) Battalion, 1st Madras Pioneers, and was disbanded in 1932.

The 106th Pioneers was raised in 1914, redesignated the 4th Hazara Pioneers in 1922, and disbanded in 1932.

III. INDIAN CAMPAIGNS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

The medallic history of the campaigns fought on the Indian frontiers during the 20th century will necessarily include the following medals and clasps [5],

INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1895-1902 with the bar for Waziristan 1901-02. This medal was issued to those troops who were engaged in the Mahsud and Waziri districts between the 23rd of November 1901 and the 10th of March 1902. Men of both the 23rd and 32nd Pioneers were authorized this medal.

INDIA GENERAL SERVICE MEDAL 1895-1902
On the left is the Victorian version of the medal that was issued to troops from 1895 until the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. The medal on the right is the Edward VII version issued from 1901 to 1902.

INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1908-1935

This medal was issued with the following clasps during the period 1908 to 1935:

North West Frontier 1908: This bar was awarded for service in the Mohmand Field Force, Bazaar Valley Field Force, and for service at Landi Kotal and North of Adinazal. The engineer troops authorized this bar include the 1st and 6th Companies of the Bengal Sappers and Miners and the 9th Company of the Madras Sappers and Miners. This medal was issued in silver to military personnel and in bronze to noncombatants.

Abor 1911-12: This bar was issued to troops who participated in the campaign against the Abors from the 6th of October 1911 to the 20th of April 1912. It was authorized to men of the 1st Company, King George's Own Sappers and Miners, the 32nd Sikh Pioneers, the 1/61st Pioneers, and the Survey of India. Medals with this bar were the last issued in both silver and bronze.

Afghanistan N.W.F. 1919: This bar was awarded for service in the Third Afghan War, under General Sir A.A. Barratt GCB, KCSI, KCVO, ADC. A large number of engineer troops were authorized this bar, including;

The 1st, 7th, 53rd, 56th, 57th, and 58th Companies, 1st Sappers and Miners; the 8th, 11th, 14th, 15th, 63rd, 64th, 66th, 67th, 68th, 69th and 76th Companies, 2nd Sappers and Miners; 17th, 24th, 71st, 73rd, and 74th Companies, 3rd Sappers and Miners; 1/12th, 2/12th, 2/ 23rd, 2/34th, 3/34th, 1/61st, 2/61st, 1/81st, 2/81st, an l/107th Pioneers.

Mahsud 1919-20: Army Order No. 361 of 1921 sanctioned the award of this bar to all who served under Major-General A. Skeen, west of and including Jandola between the 18th of December 1919 and the 8th of April 1920. Army Order No. 347 of 1922 also granted the award of this bar to all who served under the G.O.C. Waziristan Force on the Takki Zam Line north of and including Jandola between the 18th of December 1919 and the 8th of April 1920. The only engineer unit known to be authorized this bar in the 2nd Queen Victoria's Own Sappers and Miners.

Waziristan 1919-21: This bar was awarded for punitive operations against the Tochi and Wana Wazirs and Mahsuds who had caused considerable depredations since the end of the Third Afghan War. The operations under Major-General A. Skeen, CMG took place between the 6th of May 1919 and January 1921. Engineer units issued this bar include the 55th, 74th, and 76th Field Companies Sappers and Miners and the 3/34th and 2/61st Pioneers.

Malabar 1921-22: Army Order No. 50 of 1924 sanctioned the award of this bar to all who took part in the suppression of the Moplah Rebellion in Malabar during the period of the 20th August 1921 to the 25th February 1922. Engineer troops active during this campaign included a platoon of Madras Sappers and Miners and a detachment of the 64th Pioneers.

Waziristan 1921-24: Army Order No. 177 of 1925 authorized the issue of this bar to all who served in North and South Waziristan, Bannu, the Dera Ismail Khan Civil Districts and that part of the Mianwali District which lies west of the River Indus. It was also issued to troops in the military posts of Mari Indus and Darya Khan east of the River Indus. Service had to have taken place between the 21st of December 1921 and the 31st of March 1924. This bar was authorized to the 5th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 94th, 96th and 113th Companies, Sappers and Mineral the 1/1st and 2/1st Madras Pioneers; the 1/3rd, 3rd, and 3/3rd, 21st, 32nd, and 34th Sikh Pioneers; the 1/4th Hazara Pioneers; and the 48th, 2/61st, and 1/12th Pioneers.

Waziristan 1925: This bar is not known to have been issued to any engineer troops.

North West Frontier 1930-31: This bar was issued to troops who took part in operations against the Redshirt rebel organization along the Mohmand Frontier during the period between the 23rd of April 1930 and the 22nd of March 1931. It was authorized to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Companies of the Bengal Sappers and Miners and to the 2nd Bombay Pioneers.

Burma 1930-32: This bar was sanctioned by Army Order No. 94 of 1933 for award to all who were dispatched from India and actually served in Burma between the 22nd of December 1930 and the 25th of March 1932. Awards were made to members of the Royal Engineers and one company of Madras Sappers and Miners.

Mohmand 1933: The Mohmand Column, which contained no British troops, operated against the Upper Mohmands and was commanded by Brigadier C.J.E. Auchinleck, DSO, OBE. The column operated between the 28th of July and the 3rd of October 1933. Medals with this bar were issued to Nos. 2 and 3 Companies, King George's Own Bengal Sappers and Miners.

North West Frontier 1935: This final campaign for which the India General Service Medal 1908-35 was issued took place between the 12th of January and the 3rd of November 1935. This bar was issued to engineer troops accompanying the Mohmand Force. These units consisted of the 3rd and 5th Companies, King George's Own Bengal Sappers and Miners.

With the coronation of King George VI, a new India General Service medal came into being.

INDIA GENERAL SERVICE MEDAL 1936-39

This medal was issued with two clasps during the period from 1936 to 1939:

North West Frontier 1936-37: This bar was issued for operations between the 24th of November 1936 and the 16th of January 1937, and again between the 17th of January 1937 and the 16th of December 1937. Engineer troops receiving this bar consisted of the 12th Company, Madras Sappers and Miners, the 2nd Road Construction Battalion, and the 2nd Field Company, Queen's Own Sappers and Miners.

North West Frontier 1937-39: This bar was sanctioned by Army Order No. 217 of 1940 to be awarded for operations in Waziristan between midnight of 15th/16th of December 1937 and midnight of the 31st of December 1939/1st of January 1940. Engineer troops authorized the bar included the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 9th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 19th, 20th, and 22nd Companies, Sappers and Miners, and the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th Road Construction Battalions.

The India General Service Medal 1936-39 was the last medal issued by the British government for operations in India. While the final operations were underway on the North West Frontier in 1939 the Second World War had already started. Shortly after the War, in 1947, India was partitioned and India and Pakistan given their independence. The engineer units of the original Indian Army were divided up between the two nations along the lines of the religious preferences of the men. The Indian Sappers and Miners had ceased to exist even before Independence, with the Corps being made part of the Royal Indian Engineers. After independence and partitioning the Indian Engineer units were redesignated Groups (such as the Bombay Engineer Group and the Bengal Engineer Group) and the engineer units which found their way to Pakistan were redesignated Pakistan Engineers. Much bitter controversy attended these changes, but a discussion of those problems is beyond the scope of this paper.

The issuing of General Service Medals in India is known to have continued following independence. At least two issues are known; the 1947 medal with bar Naga Hills, and the 1962 version with bar Bengal and Assam. Each medal is of a different design and is suspended by a different ribbon. The 1947 issue still used English on the bar, while by 1962 the inscription on the bar had been changed to Urdu.

IV. DETAILS OF MEDALS ON THIS WEBSITE

A. INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1895-1902 with bar Waziristan 1901-02 issued to 3517 Sepoy Indar Singh, 32nd Sikh Pioneers. The unit designation is consistent with that used between 1864 and 1914. It should also be noted that the Pioneer Regiments used infantry, rather than Sapper and Miner ranks; hence, the rank of Sepoy rather than Sapper.

B. INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1908-35 (silver issue) with bar North West Frontier 1908 issued to 1311 Sapper R. Singh, No. 1 Company, 1st Sappers and Miners. The unit designation on the medal is neither the 1906 nor the 1910 version, but rather the abbreviated 1903 version.

C. INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1908-35 (bronze issue) with bar North West Frontier 1908 issued to Sweeper Kekho, No. 1 Company, 1st Sappers and Miners. Sweeper Kekho and 1311 Sapper R. Singh were contemporaries in this unit.

D. INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1908-35 (silver issue) with bar Abor 1911-12 issued to 1832 Sapper Indar Singh, 1st K.G.O. S & M. The unit designation on this medal is consistent with the 1910 unit title. As previously described, the 1st Company of this unit took part in the Abor campaign, thus 1311 Singh, Sweeper Kekho and 1832 Singh may have all been contemporaries in the same company.

E. INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1908-35 with bar Afghanistan NWF 1919 issued to 555 Sepoy Lassania Singh, 3-34 Sikh Pioneers. The unit designation is consistent with the 1918 title with the exception of the use of a "dash" rather than a "slash" between the 3 and the 34.

F. INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1908-35 with bar Mahsud 1919-20 issued to 01329 Private Subrama Niyan, 2-61 Pioneers. The unit designation on the medal is consistent with the period title of the unit with the same dash/slash exception noted above. Also, Gordon (5) gives no indication that the 2/61st Pioneers were issued the Mahsud bar; hence, Private Niyan may have been in a small detachment of the regiment whose presence in the campaign is not generally recognized. It should also be noted that by this time the rank Sepoy had been changed to Private.

G. INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1908-35 with bar Waziristan 1919-21 issued to Subadar Gurdit Singh, 48th Pioneers. The unit designation is consistent with the 1903 title.

H. INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1908-35 with bar Malabar 1921-22 issued to Sweeper R. Munisami, 2nd Madras S & M. After the Abor issue of the medal the use of bronze for noncombatant personnel was discontinued; hence Munisami’s medal is a silver issue. The unit designation on the medal is a shortened version of the official title in use at the time, namely 2nd Q.V.O. Sappers and Miners. The engravers of the medals obviously took liberties with the titles of the units when abbreviation suited their needs.

I. INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1908-35 with bar Waziristan 1921-24 issued to 5057 Sapper Rurh Singh, Bengal Sappers and Miners. Again, a shortened version of the proper title K.G.O. Bengal Sappers and Miners was used on the medal.

J. INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1908-35 with bar North West Frontier 1930-31 issued to 1344 Pioneer Jinda Singh, 2nd Bombay Pioneers. The medal uses the post 1929 designation of the Bombay Pioneers. Another change of rank has been added altering Private to Pioneer by this date.

K. INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1908-35 with bar Burma 1930-32 issued to 11437 Sapper Harikrishnan, Madras Sappers and Miners. The medal uses the shortened 1923 title of Q.V.0.

Madras Sappers and Miners. Also, since only one company of Madras Sappers and Miners participated in the Burma campaign, this medal should be scarce named to this unit.

L. INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1908-35 with bar Mohmand 1933 issued to 6685-B Sapper Dalkhan, Bengal Sappers and Miners. Again, an abbreviation of the full 1923 title of King George's Own Bengal Sappers and Miners has been used.

M. INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1908-35 with bar North West Frontier 1935 issued to 20111 Driver Amar Singh, Bengal Sappers and Miners. As above, an abbreviated unit title has been used. Also, the rank Driver is different than any rank seen on the previous medals. Drivers were assigned to the mounted sections of the Sapper and Miner units. There were fewer Drivers in a company than there were Sappers, hence the rank does not appear that often on medals.

N. INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1936-39 with bar NWF 1936-37 issued to 227 Sepoy Mir Aslam, 1st Road Construction Battalion. The Road Construction Battalions were rather second class replacements for the Pioneer Regiments that had been disbanded in 1932. While the Pioneers were builders and fighters, the Road Construction Battalions were primarily a labour force. They had neither the technical skills of the Sappers and Miners nor the fighting skills and traditions of the Pioneers. They were units of expedience, and soon faded into obscurity. It should be noted that the Road Construction Battalions reverted to Sepoy as the rank of the private soldier.

O. INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1936-39 with bar NWF 1937-39 issued to 21186 Sapper Zardad Khan, Bengal Sappers and Miners. The medal still uses an abbreviated version of the unit's correct title since in 1937 the Bengal Sappers and Miners were officially known as King George V's Own Bengal Sappers and Miners.

P. INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1947 with bar Naga Hills issued to 1530589 Sapper D. Singh, Bombay Engineer Group. This is the first of the General Service Medals of India issued after independence and using the Engineer Group designation in its title. According to Dorling [6] a bar inscribed Kashmir 1948 was also issued.

Q. INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1962 with bar Bengal and Assam issued to 1496798 Sapper J.C. Nath, Bengal Engineers. This medal was issued during the period of the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962. A detailed description of this war can be found in Maxwell [7]. Note that the word Group has been dropped from the unit designation, simply giving the unit's title as Bengal Engineers.

V. THE UNIT DESIGNATIONS FOUND ON MEDALS

In the preceding section many variations in unit designations were pointed out. These variations for the Sapper and Miner units were due, in large part, to the rather long official titles that were given to the various Corps. There can be little doubt that the shortened versions of the unit titles were also due to the whimsy of the man inscribing the medals.

Naming on medals to the Pioneer Regiments also took on many varied forms. The author, in a previous paper [8], has made a study of the various forms of designating the Pioneer Regiments on medals. This prior study is contained on another page of this website.

VI. SUMMARY

With the exception of the present day Indian and Pakistan Engineer units, they are all gone now; the Indian Sappers and Miners, the Pioneer Regiments, the Survey of India, the Submarine Miners, the Road Construction Battalions. The units may be gone, but their history lives on in books, in medals, and in the works that they performed during their existence.

Of course, the Royal Engineers are still around, and their contributions to the military effort in India were significant. Officers and NCOs of the Royal Engineers trained and led the military engineering efforts in India by their technical and organizational skills, and by direct leadership of the units now passed into history. In today's British Army there are reminders of the Indian Army's military engineering traditions in the form of the Gurkha Engineers. In truth, however, while the Gurkhas have served in the British forces since early in the 19th century, the Gurkha Engineers did not come into existence until after 1947 (9). There are no India General Service Medals named to Gurkha Engineers - but that is another story, and one best told at another time.

REFERENCES:

1. SANDES, Lt. Col. E.W.C. The Military Engineer in India. Volume I. The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 1933.

2. MOLLO, B. The Indian Army. New Orchards Editions, Poole, Dorset, 1981.

3. Mac MUNN, Lieut.-General Sir George. The History of The Sikh Pioneers. Sampson Low, Marston & Co., Ltd., London.

4. TUGWELL, Lieut.-Colonel W.B.P. History of the Bombay Pioneers. The Sidney Press Limited, London and Bedford, 1938.

5. GORDON, Major L.L. British Battles and Medals. Spink & Son Ltd., London, 1971.

6. DORLING, Captain H.T. Ribbons and Medals. Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1974.

7. MAXWELL, N. India's China War. Random House, New York, 1970.

8. De SANTIS, Lt. Col. E. Indian Pioneer Battalions. Journal of the British Military Historical Society of the United States, New York, 1977.

9. CROSS, Lieut.-Colonel J.P. In Gurkha Company. Arms and Armour Press, London, 1986.