In Collaboration With Charles Griffin


Serangipatam 1799
The regiment was raised in 1794 and titled the 33rd Madras Battalion, but 2 years later the 33rd and 34th battalions were redesignated the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 12th Madras Native Infantry. The British at that time were at war with the French and with any Indian armies that supported the enemy. There were 4 Mysore Wars in the latter half of the 18th century culminating in 1799 with the struggle against Tipu Sultan at Seringapatam. The Bombay and Madras armies converged on the city in May and stormed the place, killing Tipu and 10,000 of his men in a terrible killing frenzy. This secured British control over southern India. The battle honour SERINGAPATAM was awarded to the battalion and 9 other Madras Infantry battalions, 3 Madras cavalry regiments and 5 Bombay infantry battalions.
Korjet Corygaum 1803
A small detachment of the 1st/12th defended the village of Korjet Corygaum against 1,500 Arabs in 1803 causing many enemy casualties. They received the thanks of General Wellesley in Division Orders for this action.
Nagpore 1817
The 1st Battalion, 12th Madras NI was renamed in 1811 as the Wallajahbad Light Infantry. They fought against the Marathas and Pindaris in the last of a series of wars, the 3rd Maratha War of 1817, which was mainly against the Pindaris, lawless bands of mounted men, many of them former soldiers of the Maratha Confederacy. The Nagpore garrison had fled after the arrival of an army of 18,000 Pindaris and the British and Indian troops under Major-General Doveton re-captured it on 16th Dec 1817. The last battle occurred on 23rd Dec at Maheidpoor where 5 Madras regiments fought and defeated the Maratha leader, Holkar, but the Wallajahbad LI was not among them.
3rd Burma War 1885-87
With the accession of King Thibaw in Burma in 1878 there was an outbreak of disorder which interferred with British trade. Thibaw signed an agreement with the French which was the last straw for the British who sent in an army of 19,000 troops under General Prenderghast. The battalion was now called the 23rd Wallajahbad Regiment of Madras Light Infantry and, with 14 other Madras regiments, 12 Bengal regiments and 3 Gurkha units, sailed up the Irrawaddy to take control of Mandalay. Although King Thibaw was deposed there was continued fighting for many years. In one incident a party of the 23rd led by an NCO came across some dacoits in a hut. The NCO and one man broke in and found themselves in difficulties but the Burmese were soon killed. The same NCO also rescued an official who was attacked by dacoits while delivering mail.
Sadon 1891
One contemporary account tells of a detachment of 100 men of the 23rd led by two British officers engaged in the Irrawaddy and Noth-East columns in Burma in 1891. They distinguished themselves in the defence of Sadon with several acts of individual bravery, rescuing wounded comrades. An award of the Order of British India was given for one of these brave deeds.
First World War
In 1903 the regiment was re-numbered in Kitchener's re-organisation. They had been the 23rd for almost 80 years but they were now the 83rd Wallajahbad Light Infantry in the Indian line. In 1914 they were stationed at Secunderabad and comprised 4 double companies, 2 of Madrasi Muslims, one of Tamils and one of Paraiyans and Christians. In the First World War they served in Mesopotamia, mostly garrison duty and protecting lines of communication.
Disbandment and Reconstitution
After the war five Carnatic regiments were incorporated into the 3rd Madras Regiment. The 73rd, 75th, 79th, 83rd and 86th became the 1st 2nd 3rd 4th and 10th Battalions. In 1923 the 3rd and 4th Battalions, while stationed at Madukkarai, were disbanded and the others a few years later. This left only the four territorial battalions plus one other (the 15th) that was raised in 1939. Briefly these were attached to the Madras Pioneers but reverted to being territorial battalions of a regiment in suspended animation. In 1941 it was decided to reconstitute the 3rd Madras Regiment after an appeal by Sir Arthur Hope the Governor of Madras. The 15th Territorial Battalion which was raised in 1939 became the new 4th Battalion 3rd Madras Regiment and continued the tradition of the Wallajahbad Light Infantry. The number 3 was dropped in October 1945 so that the regiment was simply called The Madras Regiment. On the transfer of power in 1947 the whole regiment, which was stationed at Trichinopoly, remained as part of the Indian Army with four battalions.
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Uniforms
23rd Madras Native Infantry
83rd Light Infantry
Colours
1799 - 1947
Battle Honours
Seringapatam
Nagpore
1885 - 87 Burma
Titles
The 33rd Madras battalion
1794
1st Battalion, 12th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry
1796
1st/12th (Wallajahbad Light Infantry)
1811
23rd Regiment of Madras Native Infantry or Wallajahbad Light Infantry
1824
23rd (Wallajahbad) Regiment of Madras Light Infantry
1885
23rd (Wallajahbad) Madras Light Infantry
1901
83rd Wallajahbad Light Infantry
1903
Successor Titles
4th Battalion 3rd Madras Regiment
1922
Disbanded
1923
15th Battalion 3rd Madras Regiment
1939
4th Battalion 3rd Madras Regiment
1941
4th Battalion The Madras Regiment
1945
Part of Indian Army
1947
Suggested Reading
History of the 83rd Wallajahbad Light Infantry
by Lt-Col J C W Erck (Cannanore 1909)

Madras Infantry 1748-1943
by Lt-Col E G Phythian-Adams OBE (Government Press, Madras 1943)

The Madras Soldier 1746-1946 by Lt-Col E G Phythian-Adams OBE (Government Press, Madras 1946)

The Madras Regiment 1758-1958
by Lt-Col E G Phythian-Adams OBE (Defence Services Staff College Press, Wellington 1958)

Now or Never: the Story of the 4/3 Madras in the Burma Campaign
by Major G D Garforth-Bles and Capt S D Clarke (Thacker's Press, Calcutta 1945)

The Black Pom-Poms: History of the Madras Regiment 1941-83 by Lt-Col J R Daniel (Thomson Press, Coonoor 1986)


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by Stephen Luscombe