Help please re my grandfather and 4th/5th Punjab Regiment, Indian Army

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by EdOz, Aug 16, 2020.

  1. EdOz

    EdOz New Member

    Hello. Like many other people the VJ Day 75th anniversary commemorations have made me think of my grandparents. My grandfather Hilary Wontner fought in the Indian Army. I know from the British Army Lists that he served as a Second Lieutenant and then Captain in the 5th and 6th Punjab Regiments, Indian Army and I have old photos of him in Karachi and Lahore dating back to 1940s. I'm curious now about where exactly he continued to serve and whether the regiments served in Burma. He died in the 1990s when I was very young so don't have any opportunity to ask him but curious to know more. Grateful for any experts and people with knowledge of the the Indian Army and Punjab Regiments in WW2 who might know more about precisely which units he served in and where he served and what action he saw. In the army lists he would be listed as "WONTNER, H. A." or "WONTER, H. A." or "WONTNER, HILARY"
    Grateful for any more information about him and his compatriots. Sadly I know very little about the precise nature of what he did and saw in the war.
    (which is ironic because for the past two years I have been researching 305 men named on the Board of Trade War Memorial who died in WW1 - Board of Trade War Memorial and - and don't know about my own granddad)!!

    Attached Files:

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  2. BFBSM

    BFBSM Very Senior Member

    I have looked at the British Army Lists, available on Fold3, Hilary is only listed as serving with the Indian Army, as a 2nd Lieutenant 1940 - 1945, with a War Substantive promotion to Lieutenant on 19 April, 1942.
  3. dryan67

    dryan67 Senior Member

    There was no 5th or 6th Punjab Regiment. There was a 5th Mahratta Light Infantry and a 6th Rajputana Rifles. The Punjab Regiment was 1st, 2nd, 8th, 14th, and 16th. It may have been a 5th or 6th Battalions of one of those regiments that you are referring to.
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  4. EdOz

    EdOz New Member

    Thanks for your reply. I am only going on some sketchy info reported second hand so I don't know the precise battalion or regiment. How do I find out from the army list which regiment and battalion he was in?
  5. EdOz

    EdOz New Member

    Thanks. That's helpful to know. I think someone referred to him as Captain in a photo or in brief reference online but as far as I am aware I don't know exactly if he attained that rank.
  6. BFBSM

    BFBSM Very Senior Member

    Have you considered applying for his service records, I believe they would be available from: Get a copy of military service records. If they don't have them, they will probably be able to tell you where to attain them.
  7. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    I assume you are aware of the clues in this rather unusual place: Hilary Wontner - Biography - IMDb It has one paragraph:
    So he was in PAIFORCE for awhile. Google fails to identify an 'Army journal in Baghdad'. I assume it refers to a locally produced newsletter or magazine for the occupation forces. There is a recent history of PAIFORCE, I have not checked to see if any threads here refer to such a journal. There was a PAIFORCE news-letter if this is a confirmation: PAIFORCE NEWS-LETTER

    Not much added here, except a photo:

    His name appears within this journal article: 'But what would they think of us?” Propaganda and the Manipulation of the Anglo-Soviet Occupation of Iran, 1941‒46'. Journal Iranian Studies is behind a pay wall though:

    The Abstract:
    The article has this passage:
    The article's footnotes cites:
    From this quick look I suspect Hilary Wontner was "badged" as an Army officer, for a non-existent unit and served in the propaganda field - seconded to the British Council is a very good clue.
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  8. Rothy

    Rothy Well-Known Member

    Hilary Arthur Wontner received an Emergency Commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the Indian Army and appears to have been attached to the 16th Punjab Regiment. From the Indian Army List I can find the following:

    Hilary Arthur Wontner, Emergency Commission as 2nd Lieutenant, 19th October 1940. Attached to the 16th Punjab Regiment. (IAL July 1942)

    Attached to the 16th Punjab Regiment. Promoted to war substantive Lieutenant, 10th April 1942. Temporarily released from Army Service, 23rd June 1943 (IAL October 1945)

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  9. dryan67

    dryan67 Senior Member

    Could the Wikipedia article have a misprint and the actual unit was 5th Battalion 16th Punjab Regiment or 5th/16th Punjab Regiment?

    Here is the service of the 5th/16th Punjab Regiment:

    5th Battalion 16th Punjab Regiment

    Meerut District – 7 August 1940 to 14 September 1940
    The battalion was raised at Dehra Dun on August 7th, 1940 by a draft of 150 men of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions.

    Eastern Bengal Brigade – 14 September 1940 to July 1941
    It moved to Chittagong on September 14th, 1940 for internal security duties. It remained there until July 1941.

    36th Indian Infantry Brigade – 22 July 1941 to early November 1944
    The 5th Battalion moved to Baleil, near Quetta on July 22nd to come under the command of the newly created 36th Indian Infantry Brigade of the 14th Indian Infantry Division. The 14th Division was to be the next division to proceed overseas. The battalion moved with the division to Sibi in December 1941 to train. In early 1942 orders were received to go overseas but on January 19th the brigade transport was given to the two other brigades of the division and the brigade was ordered to remain behind. The brigade moved to Bengal on February 28th, 1942 and the battalion took up positions on either side of the BNR railway bridge crossing the Subrenika River. It guarded the bridge and patrolled the coast from Balasore to Contai. The brigade joined the 26th Indian Infantry Division along with the 4th and 71st Indian Infantry Brigades. In May 1942 the battalion moved to Barrackpore, northeast of Calcutta, and after a few weeks to Barasat, twelve miles northeast of Calcutta on the Jessore-Dum Dum Road. During June and July the battalion trained in the Barasat area. It was called out to aid the civil powers in August 1942 and protected working parties along the Kathiar-Purnea railway line in Bihar. The battalion returned to Bengal in September 1942 at Barasat. It then moved to Diamond Harbour at Deola on January 21st, 1943, taking over from the 7/15th Punjab Regiment of the 71st Indian Infantry Brigade, which moved to the Arakan. It continued to train through January and February 1943 and then received orders to move in March 1943.

    It moved to the Arakan on April 22nd, 1943 and arrived at Maungdaw on April 23rd with the brigade. It joined the brigade at Buthidaung on April 30th and got orders to move south to relieve the battered 55th Indian Infantry Brigade. It moved from April 20th to May 1st but was recalled back to the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road on May 1st/2nd, 1943. It again moved south to the 55th Brigade HQ on May 4th, but was again recalled back. The battalion was then in action to the west of its position from the 5th to the 7th of May, when it was withdrawn over Ngakyedauk Pass to Ponnazeik. It then moved to the west side of the Bawli-Bazaar-Maungdaw road and reorganized from May 9th-12th. It left for the Bawli Bazaar area on May 11th and arrived on May 13th. It took up positions in the hills east but was recalled at once to hold Goppe Pass. The 36th Brigade relieved the 4th Brigade on May 29th in the area and the 5th Battalion took over Taung Bazaar after being relieved at Goppe Pass by the 1st North Staffordshire Regiment. It arrived at Taung Bazaar on June 3rd and completed the relief of the battalion there on June 7th. It was pulled out of Taung Bazaar on July 25th and embarked at Bawli Bazaar for Cox’s Bazaar.

    It arrived at Cox’s Bazaar on July 27th and remained there for the rest of the year. It went into a new divisional camp at Fenni, near Chittagong, on January 12th/13th, 1944 and trained with the division and brigade. The division moved south to Bawli Bazaar on February 7th, and arrived on February 9th. It started offensive actions on February 14th with an advance south down the coast to open the road from Bawli Bazaar to Maungdaw. The battalion then continued in action south until withdrawn back to Bawli Bazaar on May 11th. It returned to Cox’s Bazaar at the end of June 1944. It remained there and trained and took some leave.

    Peshawar Brigade – Early November 1944 to 31 August 1945
    It left Cox’s Bazaar and the brigade for Peshawar in early November 1944 to retrain and reequip and it remained there until the end of the war. Early 1946 it moved to Bannu and became the 2nd Battalion on May 10th, 1946.
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  10. dryan67

    dryan67 Senior Member

    As stated above, applying for the service record is your best recourse.
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  11. EdOz

    EdOz New Member

    Thanks to everyone who is replied so far. I have already learnt loads of things I
    wasn't aware of before (although I was aware of IMDB article).

    As the IMDB article states earlier in the war he was in the Field Security Services (ie Special Operations Executive) in France and was evacuated from Dunkirk. He was probably in this unit because he spoke great French and had studied at Poitiers University.

    As you say it seems best to order his war record so I can piece everything together.

    Can I do this even of I don't know his service number?
  12. Rothy

    Rothy Well-Known Member

    Yes you can. They prefer it if you have the service number but the minimum is full name and DoB, that will work.

    Good luck.

  13. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    His service was in a Field Security Section, later part of the Intelligence Corps. In summary:
    Link: Intelligence Corps | National Army Museum

    SOE was formed after Dunkirk, officially it was formed 22nd July 1940. See: Special Operations Executive - Wikipedia

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