Trench Notebook of Indian Soldier



A couple of pages from the trench notebook of Jemadar Mir Mast, found in a sealed envelope marked 'His Majesty's Service'. It contains a hand-drawn trench map, a series of casual jottings and numbers, and a long list of words, first in Urdu and then in English. It appears that he was trying to learn English.


Jemadar Mir Mast was an Afridi Pathan serving in the 58th Vaughan's Rifles (Bareilly Brigade) at Neuve Chapelle. On the rainy night of 3 March 1915, Mir Mast, along with 14 fellow Pashtuns, crossed over and defected to the German side. He became part of a Turko-German-Indian jihad mission, which travelled via Constantinople to Kabul, from where he finally escaped to his homeland. There, he trained fellow deserters and discharged soldiers to foment an anti-British uprising. It is rumoured that the German Kaiser awarded him the Iron Cross. His brother Mir Dast, also a Jemadar in the British Indian army, served so gallantly at the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915, as if trying to make up for his brother's actions, that he was awarded the Victoria Cross. Mir Mast, for all his rebellious spirit, was struck down by the Spanish flu and died in Tirah (India) in 1920.