Buried Battles & Veterans' Voices
The North West Frontier
Until India obtained independence and was partitioned in 1947, it was one of the most heavily garrisoned parts of the British Empire and was a regular posting for British regiments. The regular battalions of both Surrey regiments spent many years on tours of duty in the Raj. Although India was generally peaceful, the mountainous North West Frontier Province, bordering Afghanistan, saw many uprisings by the Pashtun (or Pathan) tribes and was considered a place where men could engage in some 'real' soldiering in very difficult terrain. In 1935, too, the town of Quetta, was wrecked by a devastating earthquake, and the 1st Battalion, the Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey), helped in the aftermath.
Captain Henry Barker
Henry Barker, 1st Battalion, the Queen's Royal Regiment, remembers the terrible earthquake in Quetta on the North West Frontier of India (now Pakistan) in 1935.
"Tell me about the Quetta earthquake"...
"Oh that was another horrible thing. I was in barracks and it happened about 3 minutes past 3 in the morning and I could feel my bed sliding all the way down the barrack room because the beds were on wheels, and when I got up and had a look outside the ruins was out of this world. Then the next day the whole Battalion was digging out bodies, countless bodies...."
In-Pensioner John Kershaw, late Sergeant
John Kershaw, 1st Battalion, the Queen's Royal Regiment, recalls the perilous nature of service in the mountainous terrain of the North West Frontier.
"Tell me about your memories of India and what sort of impact they made"...
"Well after Quetta we went to Allahabad, and there was nothing but internal riots. We had been out to Benares, the holy city there, and various places from there, but it was a rather quiet sort of place, Allahabad, and four years of that was not too clever really and then we went to the frontier at Razmak, a year up there and then again up to Peshawar, another year up there."
Lieutenant Colonel Mike Lowry
Mike Lowry, 1st Battalion, the Queen's Royal Regiment, recalls being wounded while fighting against hostile tribesmen on the North West Frontier in 1940.
"We were on an operational column from [Rousmount] and [Rozerus] town of North West Frontier Province. We were out on a punitive column to a place called Ladha and the first day out on December 7th, I can't forget it. On December 7th an Indian Battalion was cut up very badly by the enemy, tribesmen, Mahsuds mostly. They lost just about every officer, that's not quite true, but they lost a hell of a lot of their officers including their Commanding Officer, and every white officer of the Battalion except their Second in Command. The next day, after this had happened all day and night, I went out on an advance party."