Journal of the Families in British India Society (FIBIS): Issue 26 – Autumn 2011
‘I Can Never Say Enough About The Men’ – A History of the Jammu & Kashmir Rifles
throughout their World War One East African Campaign by Andrew Kerr. (PMC
Management Consultants Limited, 2010) pp176, illustrated, Hardcover.
“Constraints on manpower of the British Empire were especially severe during the First
World War (1914-1918) and the toll of shell and bullet was horribly severe. However, the
spirit of Empire prevailed and, among the many who flocked to the colours were a number
of the Indian ‘princely states’. These were to contain a small contingent of two and a half
battalions of the Rajah of Kashmir – today’s Jammu & Kashmir. – led and advised by a
handful of British officers. One of these officers was the author’s grandfather, Captain –
later, Lieut. Col. – Alexander (Alec) Kerr, M.C.
Bold and proud as they were, they had never ventured far from their homeland but, at
Britain’s request, they were sent to its colonies in East Africa to reverse the incursion by
German forces from their own adjacent colonies. This attractively produced book explains
their progress through this ‘God-forsaken’ part of the world and how their enemy was less
the Germans than the dysentery, the malarial mosquito, the tsetse fly and even swarms of
The maps and excellent photographs, taken by his grandfather, Alec Kerr, plus various
letters and war diaries, have permitted Andrew Kerr to paint the particularly grim picture of this almost forgotten army as it forged its fatiguing passage through the jungle with
minimum supplies and with losses of men comparing unfavourably with the parallel
expedition to Gallipoli. One will grieve to read that their casualty rate was 98 percent!
Although the pedant may smart at a small number of spelling mistakes, this book offers an
exciting, if often depressing, read. It represents a small star in the constellation of the
history of British India. However it is a star which will shine brightly for those with a family
connection with any of the British soldiers involved.”