Pakistan: The Frontier Force Regiment
v.1.0 October 2, 2002

Babar Mahmud

The Frontier Force Regiment is a 1957 amalgamation of three regiments: The Corps of Guides, the Frontier Force Regiment, and the Pathan Regiment, with its regimental center at Abbotabad.

The Corps of Guides

The Regiment traces its history back more than 150 years to the Corps of Guides Cavalry and Infantry raised by Lt. H.D. Lumsden at Peshawar on 14th Dec 1846. This was amalgamated with the 1st Punjab Cavalry on 18 May 1849, the official birthday of the Force, to become the Trans-Frontier Brigade. For a century this force was celebrated in military circles the world over as the ‘Piffers’ - Punjab Irregular Force. These tough and hardy hill fighters from the rugged, barren outbreak of the Afghan-Indian border were quick to find affinity with the British highlanders, whose traditions were similar. Adapting the swirling Scottish Kilt to their own use, they marched into the battle to the skirl of pipes plying such stirring airs as Scotland for Ever, Cock of the North, Athol Highlanders, Scotland the Brave, Come Lasses and Lads, Colonel Bogey, With a Hundred Pipes and many more regimental marches they made their own.

 Lumsden was given the task of raising the Corps of Guides which he did in 1846 whilst still a young subaltern of only eight years service. He had considerable experience of service in the Northwest, having fought in Afghanistan with Pollock's avenging army and in the Sutlej campaign, receiving a wound at Sobraon.

He had complete freedom to arm and dress his corps according to his own wishes. He regarded the tight-fitting scarlet uniforms of the British army to be unsuitable for the Indian climate and set about dressing his officers and men in loose fitting clothes that blended with the landscape. He bought all the white cotton he could find locally and had it taken to the river where it was soaked and impregnated with mud. Lumsden is credited with being not only the founder of the famous Corps of Guides but with the invention of khaki. He commanded the regiment for 5 years with Major W S R Hodson as his second in command. He took part in 16 campaigns in that time including the siege of Multan. For a while, he was on political duty in Kandahar, thus missing the start of the Indian Mutiny. In 1860, he was put in command of the Guides for the second time. At about this time he was wounded when an assassin made an attempt on his life.

The Corps of Guides was the most famous of the Indian Army regiments during the period of British rule. They had a reputation for bravery and efficiency that was the envy of all the other units. The North-West Frontier where they operated was rarely quiet and although many of the cavalry and infantry regiments saw frequent action there, none was engaged more than the Guides.

The corps as raised consisted of one troop of cavalry and two companies of infantry, about 300 men in all. It was the brainchild of Sir Henry Lawrence perhaps inspired by Napoleon's elite Guides. Recruitment was made easier by offering a higher rate of pay than normal. This attracted a large number of applicants so Lumsden could select men of high intelligence. One of their first tasks was a peacekeeping role in Lahore some time after the death of Maharajah Ranjit Singh. An effort by the Maharani to seize power was foiled and the Guides escorted her out of the Punjab, a task more dangerous than it sounds as rescue attempts were expected.

The Frontier Force Regiment

12th Frontier Force Regiment and the 13th Frontier Force Rifles shared a common origin in recruiting veterans of the Sikh Wars  - first in 1845 and second in 1848-49 between Punjab Government and East India Company.

The 12th came from the infantry element of the Frontier Brigade authorized in 1846 after the First Sikh War, consisting of a company of artillery and four regiments of Infantry. Colonel Henry Lawrence, the Agent to the Governor-General on the Frontier part of Punjab till 1901, now present day Pakistani Province NWFP, asked if he might also raise a small irregular body of men  one troop mounted and two companies of infantry - to be called 'Guides'. The Punjab Frontier Force was established on 18th May 1849 as the Transfrontier Brigade. It became the Punjab Irregular Force in 1851 and finally the Punjab Frontier Force in 1865.

There were originally six Punjab Infantry regiments and five of cavalry as well as artillery. The four Sikh regiments came from the disbanded regiments of Sikhs following Gough's victory at Sobraon (10th Feb 1846) at the end of the First Sikh War. Together with some artillery they formed the Frontier Brigade. This name was dropped the following year and they became the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Regiments of Sikh Local Infantry. In 1851, the four regiments of Sikh Infantry became part of the Punjab Irregular Force and the letters 'PIF' became famous throughout the Empire and the men who served in it were proud to call themselves 'Piffers' long after the name changed.  Despite their mandate to serve in the Frontier areas, there was great keenness to follow the drum wherever it might lead and, at that time, there was no shortage of drums in Britain’s Indian territories. The 4th Sikhs volunteered for Burma in 1852 as did the 3rd, but the 4th was accepted and served there for two years. All four regiments went to Central India in 1857 at the time of the first war of Independence of the people of India against foreign rule (called Great Mutiny by British) but the 4th, again, made the headlines even by the exacting military standards of the times.

They marched from Abbottabad to Delhi, 560 miles in thirty days in an Indian June, going into action on their arrival. The Guides beat this with their march from Mardan, a distance of 580 miles in twenty-two marching days but they were a combined cavalry-infantry corps and the infantry element had camels provided, one to every two foot-soldiers.

In 1851 along with these four, the Corps of Guides were added to the Punjab Irregular Force. In 1857 it changed into 1st, 2nd (Hill), 3rd and 4th  Regiment of Sikh Infantry, Punjab Irregular Force. On 19th Sept 1865, they were redesignated as the 1st, 2nd (Hill), 3rd and 4th h Regiment of Sikh Infantry, Punjab Frontier Force and in 1901 as 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th  Sikh Infantry. In 1903, the re-numbering was significant. The 'Bengal block' ended with the 48th Pioneers and the four regiments of Sikh Infantry became respectively the 51st, 52nd, 53rd and 54th Sikhs (Frontier Force). The Guides Infantry became, in 1911, Queen Victoria's Own Corps of Guides (Frontier Force) Lumsden's Infantry.

In 1922 the 51st was declared as 51st Prince of Wales's Own Sikhs (Frontier Force). These four infantry regiments and the Corps of Guides went to form the 12th Frontier Force Regiment in 1923. The infantry became part of the 12th Frontier Force Regiment as they were the senior of the regiments forming the 6 battalions they kindly allowed the 51st-54th Sikhs to take the first four number battalions so that they could retain at least the numbers 1 to 4 (i.e the 51st Sikhs became the 1st battalion etc.). There were two battalions of the Guides infantry, so the first battalion became the 5th battalion of the new regiment and the 2nd bcame the 10th (training) battalion.

Despite their title, the regiments were never wholly Sikh, not even when first raised but they fought their way through the next century as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Sikhs since they had been raised principally from disbanded regiments of the Sikh Army. The 2nd Sikhs, in fact, was first composed almost entirely of Dogras, enlisted for the first time in the Army of the East India Company, together with a few Pathans and Gurkhas and it was this make-up which prompted its title of Hill Corps.<

51st Sikhs

51st Sikhs was composed of Punjabi Muslims, Dogras and Pathans as well as Sikhs. As the 1st Sikhs they saw much action in the 2nd Afghan War and helped quell the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900. In WW1 they served in India, Aden, Egypt, and Mesoptamia. For their services in the Middle East, they were given the title 51st The Prince of Wales's Own Sikhs (Frontier Force) but in 1922 they became the 1st battalion 12th Frontier Force Regiment. A territorial battalion was raised in March 1922 attached to the 1st but soon became the 11th battalion recruiting only Pathans. In World War 2 the 1st served in India, Iraq, Syria and Italy. After the war they were nominated for parachute training to join 2nd Indian Airborne Division. On Partition, the regiment logically went to Pakistan; the Sikhs and Dogras were routed to India.

52nd Sikhs

52nd  Sikh -2nd Regiment of Sikhs- for most of its life until 1903, it was from the beginning, in 1846, composed almost entirely of Dogras enlisted for the first time in the army of the East India Company. Together with a few Pathans and Gurkhas, it was this make-up that prompted its title of Hill Corps.
The regiment served with distinction in the Second Afghan War as part of the Punjab Frontier Force. In the First World War they were in India and Mesopotamia and in WW2 they were captured in Malaya by the Japanese in February 1942.

53rd Sikhs

53nd  Sikh  -3rd Sikhs Regiment - were raised in Ferozepore in 1846. They were presented with regimental colours in August 1848 so must have been a well organized unit by then. They were using flint muskets up until 1852 during which year they were issued with percussion muskets. The 3rd fought in the Second Afghan War and many other frontier battles. One of their more memorable exploits was in the storming of the heights at Dargai during the Pathan Revolt of 1897-8. This was the same battle that brought the Gordon Highlanders into the limelight when Piper Findlater won the VC for continuing to fight having been shot in both ankles. The 3rd Sikhs were right behind the Gordons and shared the victory when the tribesmen were routed.

In WW1, as the 53rd Sikhs, they served in India, Aden, Egypt and Mesopotamia. In 1922 they became the 3rd battalion 12th Frontier Force Regiment and were made a Royal battalion in the Silver Jubilee honours of 1935. In WW2 they were in India, Italian East Africa, Egypt, Iraq, Cyprus, Sicily, Italy and Greece.

54th Sikhs

54th Sikh - 4th Sikhs Regiment - were raised in 1847 with transfers from the Umballa Police Battalion as well as the 6th and 11th Bengal Native Infantry as a local force. They became part of the Punjab Irregular Force (PIF) in 1851, together with the Corps of Guides and six regiments of Punjabi Infantry. In 1852 the 4th and 3rd Sikhs volunteered for Burma, the 4th being the one accepted, serving there for two years. All four Sikh regiments went to Central India at the time of the Mutiny, but the 4th gained the most fame. They marched from Abbottabad to Delhi, a distance of 560 miles in 30 days in the June heat, going into action on their arrival. They became the 54th Sikhs in 1903 and in the period up to WW1 they were stationed at Kohat. They served in India, Egupt and Turkey during that war. The 1922 reorganization saw them as the 4th battalion 12th Frontier Force Regiment and in 1933 they were one of the units nominated for Indianisation. The Second World War saw them in India and Burma.

In 1876, Queen Victoria conferred on the Corps of Guides, the style of 'Queen's Own' making them one of the first units of the Indian Army to become a Royal regiment.

The Second Afghan War in 1879 involved the Corps of Guides and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Sikhs and gave the Guides their first two Victoria Crosses.
Their battleground was the rocky, forbidding mountains of the North-West, among which the Khyber Pass figures large in annals of the warriors and war. In their first sixty years they fought fifty-four campaigns among the craggy peaks, deep defies and shadowy ravines, amid summer heat and piercing winter cold, against tribesmen who refused to vow allegiance to Queen Empress and her successors.

Abroad, too, the Frontier Force demonstrated its mettle, serving as early as 1854 in the expeditionary forces that fought the second Burmese War, taking Pegu  which they would also capture, just under a century later, as the spearhead in the race to Rangoon during the IIWW.

In the Second Afghan War in 1878, units of the Force’s Corps of Guides were held up as an example of devoted bravery. ‘ The annals of no army and no regiment,’ said an official report into the Guides’ heroic but losing defense of the British residency in Kabul, ‘can show a brighter record.’

13th Frontier Force Rifles

Frontier Force Rifle’s history was started in 1849 after the  annexation of Punjab by the British  East India Company. In 1849, when the two Sikh Wars had ended in the annexation of the Punjab, 6 regiments of infantry and 5 of cavalry were raised as the Transfrontier Brigade by Sir Henry Lawrence, brother of John Lawrence, Governer of the Punjab, who later became Viceroy, by 1851 it was called the Punjab Irregular Force (known as Piffers). The first 5  1st, 2nd, 3rd 4th, 5th battalions  - of the infantry units were recruited from disbanded Sikh troops and the 6th by the conversion of the Scinde Camel Corps.

The 3rd Punjab Infantry Regiment was disbanded in 1882 and its number left blank, and in 1903 the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th Regiments became the 55th, 56th, 57th, 58th and 59th Rifles.

55th Coke's Rifles started life in Delhi in May 1849 and was the 1st Regiment of Punjab Infantry. Whereas the other Punjab regiments wore drab uniforms with varying facing colours, the 1st chose to wear very dark green with red facings.
In 1903, they were afforded the status of Rifles and were named after a former commander with the title of 55th Coke's Rifles (Frontier Force) universally known as 'Cokies'. Their service in WW1 was to remain on the Frontier, stationed at Bannu with detachments at Idak, Saidgi, Thal, Jani Khel and Kurram Garhi. The regiment comprised 2 companies of Sikhs, 2 of Afridi Pathans, one of Yusufzai Pathans and one of Punjabi Musalmans. Half their strengh went to France as reinforcements. Among these was Jemadar Mir Dast who won the VC while attached to the 58th Vaughan's Rifles. He had a brother in the 58th called Mir Mast who managed to win the Iron Cross in the German Army, after deserting with a small party of Pathans.

When the 13th Frontier Force Rifles was formed in 1922, the 55th, 56th, 57th, 58th and 59th Rifles returned to their old numbers as the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th battalions, the 3rd remaining blank as before. The 13th Frontier Force Rifles adopted the uniform of the old 55th, dark green with red facings, and were stationed at Abbottabad.

The 2nd Regiment of Punjab Infantry marched from the Frontier to Delhi to help quell the freedom fighter. From then on their battles were fought on the North-West Frontier. They were heavily engaged in the Second Afghan War and in 1894 were despatched to Waziristan with the 4th and 6th to punish an unprovoked attack on the boundary commission fulfilling treaty obligations with Afghanistan.

In 1903 the 2nd became the 56th Punjab Rifles, the only one of the five Punjab regiments (the 3rd had been disbanded) not to be named after a former commander. In 1914 they were stationed at Hangu with a detachment at Thal. During WW1 they were sent to Egypt and Mesopotamia, and in WW2 they were sent to Burma and the Dutch East Indies.

The 3rd regiment having been disbanded in 1882 at the end of the Second Afghan War

The 4th Regiment was redesignated in 1903 as 57th Wilde's Rifles (Frontier Force)
4th Regiment of these six regiments were part of the Punjab Irregular Force (PIF) that was put in place to protect British India from the warlike tribes that inhabited  Afghanistan.

During the independence War of the Indian people in 1857 (called the Great Indian Mutiny by British), the 4th marched 1000 miles at the height of summer from Bannu on the Frontier to Delhi which was under siege by the forces of the last Indian Emperor, Bhahadur Shah Zafar . They were present at the fall of Delhi and went on to Lucknow where, in the storming of the Sikandarabagh with the 93rd Highlanders, Subadar Mukarrab Khan earned immortality for himself by thrusting his left arm through the gap in the closing gates. When the mutineers hacked at it he withdrew it and promptly replaced it with his right arm which was severed at the wrist. The gates remained open and the 4th swarmed through.

  The Second Afghan War kept the regiment busy and they were sent to Waziristan in 1894 with the 2nd and 6th on a punitive expedition. Out of all the regiments of the PIF the 4th earned the first overseas battle honour in 1900 when they helped quell the Boxer rebellion in China.

In the renumbering in 1903 the 4th took the next number after the 2nd, since the 3rd had gone. Along with their new, improved status as Rifles, this gave them the title of 57th Wilde's Rifles (Frontier Force). In 1914 they were stationed in Ferozepore and were comprised of 2 companies of Sikhs, 2 of Dogras, 2 of Punjabi Muslims and 2 of Afridi Pathans (Khyber Agency). Their WW1 service was at first in India and then in France, Egypt and German East Africa. A second battalion was raised in 1918 but disbanded soon after.

In 1922 the 57th became the 4th battalion 13th Frontier Force Rifles. In the Second World War they served in India, Syria, Persia, Egypt and Italy.

5th Punjab Infantry redesignated as  58th Vaughan's Rifles  in 1903 after the completion of the re-organization of Indian army. Indian Army was formed by the union of three East India Company origin armies of 18th century in 1895- Bengal Army, Bomaby Army, Madras Army. 58th Vaughan's Rifles became 5th battalion of Frontier Force Rifles in 1923.

6th Regiment of Infantry, Punjab Irregular Force ( PIF) was added in 1856. This Regiment was actually raised in 1843 as The Scinde Camel Corps and later changed in 1853 to Scinde Rifle Corps and became   6th Regiment of Infantry Punjab Frontier Force on 19-9-1865, in 1903 59th Scinde Rifles (Frontier Force) 1921 59th Royal Scinde Rifles (Frontier Force) and 6th battalion of Frontier Force Rifles on its formation
in 1923.

Until 1911 the Indian Order of Merit was the highest award that the Force’s sepoys or Viceroy Commissioned Officers(VCOs) could win for gallantry, but during the  Delhi Durbar, George V announced they would become eligible for the highest awards the British crown could bestow, including the Victoria Cross. Within 35 years, the Frontier Force Regiment won 26 Victoria Crosses, compared to two for the Punjab Regiment, and three for the Baloch Regiment.  The Regiment earned three VCs in First World War, sixteen between the world wars and seven in the Second World War. The Last VC was won by Ali Haider on 9 April 1945 on the European front in WWII

Frontier Force Regiment in the Second World War

1st Battalion - India, Iraq, Syria, Italy. In late 1946, the battalion was nominated for parachute training to join 2nd Indian Airborne Division.
2nd Battalion - India, Malaya, Captured on Singapore Island by the Japanese in February 1942, Reconstituted 30 Apr 46 on a cadre of 9/12th.
3rd Battalion - India, Italian East Africa, Egypt, Iraq, Cyprus, Sicily, Italy, Greece.
4th Battalion - India, Burma.
5th Battalion (Guides)  India, Iraq, Iran.
6th Battalion - raised 8 Aug 40 at Sabathu. India. Disbanded 5 Jul 44.
7th Battalion - raised 7 Aug 40 at Shillong. India. Became a unit of 39 Training Division. Disbanded February 1946.
8th Battalion - raised 1 April 41 at Bareilly. India, Burma. The battalion was not disbanded after the war but continued as a regular unit.
9th Battalion - raised 1 April 41 at Jhansi, India, Ceylon, Burma, Indo-China, reconstituted as 2/12th on 30 April 46.
11th Battalion - the pre-war Territorial battalion was mobilised on 4 Sep 39, converted to active battalion of 15 Sept 41 and redesignated 14th (Suba Sarhad) Bn.
14th Battalion - formed 15 Sep 41 on conversion of 11th Battalion to active status. India, Burma, Iran, Greece. Disbanded September 1946.
1st Afridi Battalion  raised 1 Apr 42 at Sialkot. India, Iran, Iraq, Syria. Disbanded January 1946 but re-raised as Khyber Rifles.
Machine-Gun Battalion - raised 15 Jan 42 at Sialkot, India, Burma, Dutch East Indies. Disbanded December 1946.
25th Garrison Battalion - raised 1 Apr 41 at Sialkot, India. Disbanded 20 May 46.
26th Garrison Battalion - raised 1 Mar 42 at Sialkot, India, Iraq. Disbanded February 1946.
The cavalry, who were now the 10th Queen Victoria's Own Frontier Force, became mechanised in September 1940 and were sent to Iraq where they had wheeled carriers and 15cwt trucks. In March 1942 they moved to Egypt and served on the Eighth Army's desert flank during the withdrawl from the El Alamein positions. They returned to Paiforce in September 1942 and then to India in November 1943 where they converted to an armoured car role based at Kohat. In November 1945 they were briefly equipped with Stuart tanks, then Churchill tanks for service with 2 Armoured Brigade

After the Second World War, 12 Frontier Force Regiment and 13 Frontier Force Rifles were renamed in 1945 as the Frontier Force Regiment and Frontier Force Rifles.  When India was partitioned  in 1947, the Frontier Force Regiment and Frontier Force Rifles, was logically assigned to Pakistan. Pathans and Punjabi Muslims were retained whilst Dogras and Sikhs were routed to India.

The regular battalions on transfer of power of Frontier Force Regiment were the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 8th. The Regimental Center was located at Sialkot, in October 1947,  it shifted to Abbottabad. And its new composition was 50% Punjabi Mussalman and  50% Pathans.

The regular battalions of the Frontier Force Rifles transferred were the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th Battalions.

The Pathan Regiment was raised from formed fromthe 4th Battalion of the Frontier Force Regiment and the 4th and 15th Battalions of the Frontier Force Rifles. It regimental center was raised at Dera Ismail Khan. In April it moved to Kohat. The Pathan Regiment consisted of Punjabi Mussalmans and Pathans in equal proportions. The new line of battalions was:

4/12 Frontier Force Regiment became 1 Pathan

4/13 Frontier Force Rifles became 2 Pathan

15/13 Frontier Force Rifles became 3 Pathan.

In 1957, a major re-organization took place in the infantry regiments of Pakistan. Most of the regiments organized in 1922/23 were re-organized and the regimental centers reduced from 11 to 5.

Frontier Force Regiment was re-organized by the merger of Frontier Force Regiment, Frontier Force Rifles and Pathan Regiment. The new regimental center was set up at Abbottabad in Dec 1957. The new line up of the regiment was as
 
12 Frontier Force Regiment

1/12 FF 3 FF  (51st The Prince of Wales' Own Sikhs (Frontier Force))
2/12 FF 4 FF  (52nd Sikhs (Frontier Force)
3/12 FF 5 FF  (53rd Sikhs (Frontier Force
4/12 FF 6 FF  (54th Sikhs (Frontier Force) reraised in 1948
5/12 FF 2 FF  (1st Bn QVO Corps of Guides (Frontier Force) (Lumsden's) Infantry
8/12 FF 13 FF  (8th Battalion - raised 1 April 41 at Bareilly)
9/12 FF 14 FF  (9th Battalion - raised 1 April 41 at Jhansi)

13 Frontier Force Regiment

1/13 FF 7 FF  55th Coke's Rifles (Frontier Force)
2/13 FF 8 FF  56th Punjabi Rifles (Frontier Force)
4/13 FF 9 FF  57th Wilde's Rifles (Frontier Force)
5/13 FF 10 FF  58th Vaughan's Rifles (Frontier Force)
6/13 FF 1 FF 59th Royal Scinde 's Rifles (Frontier Force)

The Pathan Regiment

1 Pathan 11 FF  54th Sikhs (Frontier Force)
2 Pathan 15 FF  57th Wilde's Rifles (Frontier Force)
3 Pathan 12 FF

Battles fought by Frontier Force Regiment before 1947


Pegu, Mooltan, Goojerat, Punjaub, Delhi 1857, Ali Masjid, Kabul 1879, Ahmed Khel, Kandahar 1880, Afghanistan 1878-80, Chitral, Malakand, Punjab Frontier, Tirah, Pekin 1900, Somaliland 1901-04.

Suez Canal, Egypt 1915, Megiddo, Sharon, Nablus, Palestine 1918, Aden, Tigris 1916, Kut-al-Amara 1917, Baghdad, Sharqat, Mesopotamia 1915-18,
NW Frontier, India 1914, 1915, 1916-17, Afghanistan 1919.

Gallabat, Tehamiyam Wells, Agordat, Barentu, Keren, Amba Alagi, Abyssinia 1940-41, Gazala, Bir Hacheim, El Adem, North Africa 1940-43, Landing in Sicily, Sicily 1943, Landing at Reggio, The Sangro, Mozzagrogna, Romagnoli. The Moro, Impossible Bridge, Cassino II, Pignataro, Advance to Florence. Campriano, Gothic Line, Coriano, The Senio, Santerno Crossing, Italy 1943-45, Athens, Greece 1944-45, North Malaya, Kota Bharu, Central Malaya, Kuantan, Machang, Singapore Island, Malaya 1941-42, Moulmein, Sittang 1942, 1945, Pegu 1942, 1945, Taukkyan, Shwegyin, North Arakan, Buthidaung, Maungdaw, Ngakyedauk Pass, Imphal, Tamu Road, Shenam Pass, Bishenpur, Kyaukmyaung Bridgehead, Arakan Beaches, Ramree, Taungup, Mandalay, Myinmu, Fort Dufferin, Kyaukse 1945, Meiktila, Nyaungu Bridgehead, Capture of Meiktila, Defence of Meiktila, The Irrawaddy, Rangoon Road, Pyawbwe, Toungoo, Burma 1942-45.

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