In Collaboration With Charles Griffin

Brief History
They were called the Kali Panchin - The Black Fifth. The origin of the name is confused. Some say that it is because of the black fringe worn on their turban, but the pictures here show no sign of that. They did change from a red to a black kullah in 1900 but I am inclined to think that the change was made to fit the name. It is more likely that the black facings on their tunics gave rise to their nickname.

An old regiment, the 5th Light Infantry have a long list of battle honours. They fought at Kirkee and Seringapatam. In the First Afghan War, a detachment of the 5th were stationed at a fort under the command of Capt Lewis Brown. A large force of Baluchis besieged the fort and the 5th held them off for two months. A relieving column under Major Clibborn was attacked in a steep and narrow pass called Nuffoosk and defeated, so Brown had to surrender. The enemy were very impressed with the bravery of the 5th and offered favourable terms, which in this case were adherred to.

In 1914 they were stationed at Poona with a detachment at Satara. The regiment comprised 4 companies of Dekhani Mahrattas, 2 of Konkani Mahrattas and 2 of Dekhani Muslims. Their WW1 postings were India, Mesopotamia and Egypt.

In 1922 they were the 2nd battalion 5th Mahratta Light Infantry, stationed at Belgaum. They were posted to Burma in 1932 to suppress a rebellion. The 5th MLI were designated a class regiment of Mahrattas and no more muslims were recruited. Any existing muslims were not transferred but wasted out so that by 1947 when the regiment went to India, none of the men had to be sent to Pakistan.

Post Mutiny
Principal Campaigns and Battles
Beni Boo Ali
1860 - 62 China
1879 - 80 Afghanistan
1885 - 87 Burma
Predecessor Units
3rd Battalion, Bombay Sepoys
(1788 - 1796)
1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry
(1796 - 1824)
5th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry
(1824 - 1841)
5th Regiment of Bombay Native (Light) Infantry
(1841 - 1885)
5th Regiment of Bombay (Light) Infantry
(1885 - 1901)
5th Bombay Light Infantry
(1901 - 1903)
Successor Units
2nd/5th Mahratta Light Infantry
(1922 - 1947)
Post-Independence Fate
To India
Maratha Light Infantry: Early Years
Maratha Light Infantry: WW1
Maratha Light Infantry: WW2
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

| Uniforms | Campaigns | Armaments | Units |


Armed Forces | Art and Culture | Articles | Biographies | Colonies | Discussion | Glossary | Home | Library | Links | Map Room | Sources and Media | Science and Technology | Search | Student Zone | Timelines | TV & Film | Wargames |

by Stephen Luscombe