All quiet on the Eastern Front: The amazing photo album which shows how our boys fared in India in WWI
An amazing photo album of a World War One soldier’s military campaign has been unearthed – and shows the men having a roaring time.
Unlike the traditional images of corpse-laden trenches in northern Europe, these pictures show the men swimming, dressing up for a concert party and enjoying a whist drive.
Private Wally Langrish travelled from Aldershot in Hampshire in 1915 through India and Mesopotamia – now Iraq – during his service, before he returned home in 1919.
Duty: Private Wally Langrish served in India and Mesopotamia as part of the 1/9 cycle battalion of the Hampshire Regiment during World War One
His 1/9 cycle battalion of the Hampshire Regiment formed a six-a-side football team in Bangalore and found time to visit the Taj Mahal.
The album includes pictures of the men visiting ruins in Babylon, reading books in comfy beds and travelling on trains and boats in much greater comfort than their colleagues on the Western Front.
The men of the ‘Nimble Ninths’ football team are shown playing in front of a packed stadium against Calcutta – at the same time as the Battle of the Somme raged. The British team lost 1-0 after extra time.
As thousands were killed on both sides in the muddy fields of France during the Somme, the ‘ninths’ were also pictured playing the ‘Kents’ at bicycle polo.
Leisure: The men of the battalion formed a six-a-side football team and took part in a tournament in Bangalore in 1916
Comfort: Soldiers in the battalion enjoy a whist drive in April 1916 and, right, pay a visit to the Taj Mahal
Making a splash: The men enjoy a relaxing swim in the River Tigris near Baghdad in 1918
And on the day of the Battle of Passchendaele – July 31, 1917 – Pte Langrish took a photograph of the men being fanned by an Indian punkah-wallah.
There are also images of the men of the battalion dressed in drag for a concert party and being shaved by Indian boys.
Michael Stephens, curator of the Royal Hampshire Regiment museum in Winchester, said: ‘We had 34 battalions during the war.
‘What happened was that the regular battalions came back at the start of the war and were replaced by territorials.
‘The ninths were a cycle battalion, although they didn’t really use their cycles, and like many territorials they replaced regulars based in India.
R & R: Private Langrish captured this image of the men dressed as women for a concert party in Dagshai in 1917
Peaceful: The battalion makes use of its cycles to play a polo match against the 1st Kents in Bangalore
Site-seeing: Members of the unit stand with guides in front of a 10ft ant hill and, right, pose for a photograph with fruit and bread sellers in Dagshai, India, in 1917
‘The ninths went to India and Mesopotamia and in 1919 went to Russia and saw a bit of action.
‘Other battalions saw a great deal of action. The eights and elevenths fought in Gallipoli.’
Michael Bowman, the auctioneer selling the album in Chudleigh in Devon, said: ‘It’s a lovely album of 60 pages.
‘What makes it so interesting is that nearly every picture is dated and captioned.
‘The men were also in India which was a relatively peaceful place. We usually think of the World War One in terms of the Western Front.
Overseas: Soldiers take a ride around the Hebbal camp in Bangalore in 1916
Excursion: Three soldiers pose for a photo at the site of the ruins of Babylon in 1918
Competition: Members of the ‘Nimble Ninths’ football team stand together before a tournament in Calcutta in 1916
‘But of course we had troops in many areas of the world and this album shows what some of them were doing.
‘The final picture shows the return to the family home in Aldershot with the house decked out in bunting and union flags.’
The auction takes place on March 20 and the album, which has remained in the family for more than 90 years, is expected to see for up to £300.
The 1/9 cycle battalion of the Hampshire Regiment was originally intended for service in East Africa.
Records showed that on February 4, 1916, the battalion sailed from Devonport to India.
It also saw service in Vladivostock and Siberia in 1918, as well as Omsk and Ekaterinberg the following year before returning to Southampton on December 5, 1919, where it was disbanded.
Cycle-mounted infantry, scouts, messengers and ambulance carriers saw extensive use by all combatants during World War One.
History: Soldiers in full uniform stand around the Lucknow Memorial in Delhi, 1916
Winding down: A group of men enjoy a game of cards and, right, the battalion returns to Hampshire in 1919