In Collaboration With Charles Griffin


Brief History
Medal Presentation, 1879
In 1838, the British decided to install a ruler in Afghanistan so that a buffer state would exist between British India and the potential danger posed by Russia and Persia. Accordingly, the Amir of Kabul was to be Shuja-ai-Mulk who had spent the last 30 years in exile in Ludhiana. An army was recruited for him and one of the regiments of this army was the 3rd Regiment of Infantry, the forbear of the 12th Pioneers.

Shah Shujah was installed and Dost Mohammed, his rival, fled. The 3rd proved themselves to be a useful unit for mountain fighting and were posted to a partially ruined fort called Kelat-i-Ghilzie which lay between Ghunzee and Kandahar. Whilst there, the British were forced to leave Kabul and massacred on their terrible journey to Jellalabad.
Drill Parade, 1879
Shah Shujah was murdered in April 1842 and Ghunzee was captured bringing about the release of Afghan troops and tribesmen. Kelat-i-Ghilzie was besieged for several months. The 600 men of the 3rd along with 250 of the 43rd and about forty British artillerymen, all commanded by Captain Craigie of the 3rd, repulsed the attacks of some 6000 Afghans. Amazingly there were no fatalities amongst the defenders, only 4 men from the 3rd and 2 from the 43rd were wounded.

The 3rd was taken on to the strength of the Bengal Army as an extra regiment with the name of the fort it defended as its own name, for it's heroic efforts, and became, in 1861 the 12th Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry. The title of Khelat-i-Ghilzie was reinstated in 1864. In 1914 they were stationed at Quetta and comprised 4companies of Jats and 4 of Lobana Sikhs. Their WW1 service was in India and Mesopotamia. By this time, they were styled Pioneers and after the War became the 2nd battalion 2nd Bombay Pioneers stationed at Kirkee. From 1929 to 1933 the Pioneers were merged with the Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners which eventually became part of the Corps of Engineers. Even today the Commandant's House is called Pioneer House and the Bombay Sappers Group Museum is housed in the barrack building that used to be the HQ for the Bombay Pioneers.

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Uniforms
Post Mutiny
Principal Campaigns and Battles
Khelat-i-Ghilzie
Kandahar
Ghuznee
1842 Cabul
Maharajpore
1878 - 80 Afghanistan
1885 - 87 Burma
Punjab Frontier
Predecessor Units
3rd Regiment of Infantry, Shah of Shujah's Force
(1838 - 1842)
The Regiment of Khelat-i-Ghilzie
(1842 - 1861)
12th Bengal Native Infantry
(1861 - 1864)
12th (Khelat-i-Ghilzie) Bengal Infantry
(1864 - 1903)
Successor Units
2nd/2nd Bombay Pioneers
(1922 - 1929)
The Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners
(1929 - 1947)
Suggested Reading
A Matter of Honour
by Philip Mason

India's Army
by Donovan Jackson

Regiments and Corps of the British Army: A Critical Bibliography
by Roger Perkins

Sons of John Company
by John Gaylor

Armies of India
Painted by Lovett, Text by Macmunn

The Indian Army
by Boris Mollo

Forces of the British Empire
by E. Nevins and B. Chandler

Indian Army Uniforms - Infantry
by W. Y. Carman

Sergeant Pearman's Memoirs
by Anglesey, the Marquess of

Soldier Sahibs
by Charles Allen

The Bengal Native Infantry
by Dr Amiya Barat,

An Account of the War in India Between the English and French on the Coast of Coromandel, From the Year 1750 to the Year 1761
by Richard Owen Cambridge

Sketch of the Services of the Bengal Native Army
by Lt Cardew

The Indian Army: The Garrison of British Imperial India
by Heathcote

Britain's Army in India from its Origins to the Conquest of Bengal
by James Lawford

The Battle Honours of the British and Indian Armies
by Leslie

Sikh Soldier; Battle Honours and Sikh Soldier; Gallantry Awards by Narindar Singh Dhesi

A Matter of Honour: An Account of the Indian Army, its Officers and Men
by P Mason

A History of Military Transactions of the British Nation in Indostan from the Year 1745
by R Orme

From Sepoy to Subedar
by Sita Ram

Forty-one Years in India
by Earl Roberts

Wellington in India
by Weller

The Bengal Native Infantry
by Captain Williams


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by Stephen Luscombe