The Burma Campaign

13th (Shan States) Battalion, The Burma Rifles, Burma Territorial Force

The Battalion was formed on 1st December 1939 as part of the Burma Territorial Force.  The Commanding Officer was Major (acting Lt. Colonel) F. O’N. Ford.[1]  The Battalion was raised in the Shan States and was officered by Shans, Karens and Burmese - the men being mainly Shans.  Both it and the 14th Battalion, The Burma Rifles were raised to provide guards for R.A.F. aerodromes which were being established in Burma.[2]

The Battalion was based at Taunggyi in the Southern Shan States. 

The Battalion soon reached its full establishment of a Battalion Headquarters and four rifle companies.  By October 1940, the strength of the Battalion was three British Officers, 24 Indian/Burmese Officers and 598 men.

On 8th February 1941, the Battalion was reported as having a strength of 27 Officers and 598 Other Ranks.[3]

Authorisation was given on 15th May 1941 to raise a new Territorial Battalion in the Shan States, the 14th Battalion, The Burma Rifles.  The new battalion was comprised initially of a Battalion Headquarters and three rifle companies, one of which was created by the transfer of a rifle company from the 13th Battalion.  The third company was to be a Reserve Company providing reinforcements for both the 13th and the 14th Battalions.[4]

From June 1941 through to February/March 1942, the Battalion was administered by the Southern Shan Area.  Dispositions in December 1941 were:

Taunggyi…...……………………. Battalion H.Q., ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies less two platoons
Kengtung………………………… Company. H.Q., one platoon ‘C’ Company
Kunhing….………………………. Company. H.Q. ‘D’ Company
Mongping ................................. detachment
Namnawngun………………….… two platoons ‘D’ Company
Takaw…………………………..... one platoon ‘D’ Company
Tongta....................................... detachment.

In January and February 1942 the battalion dispositions were:

Taunggyi…...……………………. Battalion H.Q. and two platoons ‘C’ Company
Kengtung………………………… Company H.Q. and two platoons ‘C’ Company
Kunhing….…………………….… Company H.Q. and one platoon ‘D’ Company
Namnawngun……………………. two platoons ‘D’ Company
Takaw………………………….... one platoon ‘D’ Company
Maymyo-Lashio Railway and..... ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies.
Force Headquarters…………..... Hsipaw

Other than the dispositions for January and February 1942, no war diary survived.  The Battalion is listed in the order of battle for the Burma Army for 1st April 1942.  At that time, whatever manpower was left from desertions would have been deployed on lines of communication protection duties.  The Battalion appears to have been still functioning on or around 16th April 1942.  The war diary for the 14th Battalion places the Headquarters. or at least a part of the 13th Battalion at Kahsi Mansam (modern Ke-Hsi Mansam) on or around this date.  ‘B’ Company of the 14th Battalion was ordered there to join up with the 13th Battalion after having handed over the bridges it was guarding to Chinese troops.  A further diary entry on 21st April records that withdrawal orders for a platoon of the 14th Battalion from HQ Southern Shan Area were not received by ‘OC 13 Burif’.[5]

 

[The war diary is available at the National Archives at Kew as WO 172/985.  A transcription of the file, together with extensive footnotes gleaned from other sources, can be read or downloaded here.]

09 November 2017



[1] Frank O'Neill Ford born, 26th September 1892.  Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, Indian Army Reserve of Officers, 5th January 1917.  Served with the 86th Carnatic Infantry, 5th January 1917 to 3rd July 1917.  Served with the 85th Burman Rifles (originally the Burma Battalion formed from the Burma Military Police at Mandalay in July 1917 and becoming the 85th Burman Rifles in 1918), 4th July 1917 to 1st January 1920.  Served Iraq, 8th August 1917 to 11th November 1918.  Promoted to Lieutenant, Indian Army Reserve of Officers, 5th January 1918.  Served Iraq, 1919.  As Lieutenant, appointed to the Indian Army (261 IA), 2nd May 1919.  Promoted to Lieutenant, Indian Army, 2nd May 1919, with seniority from 5th October 1918.  Served with the Kachin Company, Burma Military Police attached to the 1st Battalion, 10th Gurkha Rifles, 1st January 1920.  Served with the 3rd Battalion, 70th Kachin Rifles (following re-designation of the 85th Burman Rifles to be the Kachin-Chin Battalion on 1st April 1921 and then the 3rd/70th from November 1921), November 1921 to 1923.  Served with the 3rd Battalion, 20th Burma Rifles (redesignated from the 3rd Battalion, 70th Kachin Rifles), 1922 to 31st March 1937.  Promoted to Captain, 26th September 1922.  Attached to the 10th Battalion, 20th Burma Rifles then leave, 1923.  Attached to the 10th Battalion, 20th Burma Rifles on returning from leave, 28th April 1924 to 1925.  Served Burma (Saya San Rebellion), 1930-32.  Attached to the 10th Battalion, 20th Burma Rifles, early 1933 to summer 1933.  Served as Senior Staff Officer, Mandalay, 1934.  Leave ex-India, 17th February 1935 to 17th February 1936.  Promoted to Major, 26th September 1935.  As Major, permanently seconded to the Burma Rifles, 1st April 1937.  Served as Company Officer, the 3rd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 1st April 1937 to 30th November 1939.  As Major, acting Lt. Colonel, formed the 13th (Shan States) Battalion, The Burma Rifles, Burma Territorial Force and became the Commanding Officer, 1st December 1939 to May 1942.  Acting Lt. Colonel, 1st May 1941.  Commanding Officer, the Western Chin Levies, December 1942 to March 1943.  Commanding Officer of the Northern Kachin Levies, March 1943 to June 1945.  As Major, temporary Lt. Colonel, promoted to Lt. Colonel, 26th September 1943.  Awarded the O.B.E., gazetted, 8th February 1945.  As Lt. Colonel, Special List (Ex-Indian Army) British Army, retired, 27th October 1947.  Died, 3rd June 1980  (“Distinctly I Remember”, H. Braund, Wren (1972); “War Services of British and Indian Officers of the Indian Army 1941”, Savannah (2004); Burma Defence Services List July 1941; Billion Graves - F O'N Ford; Indian Army List 1919, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1928, 1930, 1933, 1935, 1936; London Gazette; WO 373/80/326; War diary of the Northern Kachin Levies, WO 172/2656; “Amiable Assassins”, Fellowes-Gordon I., Robert Hale (1957)).

[2] “Indian Armed Forces in World War II, The Retreat from Burma 1941-42”.

[3] Strength returns, held in WO 106/3657.

[4] Telegram from the Governor of Burma to the Secretary of State for Burma, dated 8th June 1941, held in WO 106/3657.

[5] WO 172/986.