6th Burma Rifles
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6th Battalion, The Burma Rifles

The battalion was raised at the Burma Rifles Depot at Maymyo on 15th February 1941 by milking the existing regular battalions.  One of the rifle companies was Burmese.

In December 1941, the battalion was located at Tavoy (present day Dawei), in Tenasserim, under the command of the 2nd Burma Infantry Brigade.  The Commanding Officer of the 6th Burma Rifles, Lt. Colonel J.C. Cotton, [1] was Commander Tavoy and was responsible for all troops in the area bounded by the Mergui Command northern boundary to the south and as far north as Ye, including the landing ground there. [2]  

The Tavoy garrison consisted of:

- 6th Battalion, The Burma Rifles
- Tavoy Company, Tenasserim Battalion, Burma Auxiliary Force
- detachment Kokine Battalion, Burma Frontier Force, aerodrome guards
- detachment No. 1 Animal Transport Company
- small supply depot and hospital detachments. [3]

6th Burma Rifles at Tavoy
(Indian Official History)

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One company, ‘A’ Company, of the 6th Battalion was at Kaleinaung, to the north of Tavoy, and another across the Tavoy River, patrolling the coast south of Maungmagan.  The Maungmagan company covered the area between Maungmagan and Sanlan with the object of dealing with any small enemy landing.  If a larger force were to be encountered, the company was to fight a delaying action. [4]   On 11th December 1941, there was an air raid on Tavoy aerodrome however the battalion suffered no casualties.  Sporadic enemy air activity continued into January 1942. [5]   

On the ground, Japanese preparations for a full-scale attack on southern Burma from Thailand had been progressing since mid-December.  On 3rd January 1942, the 3rd Battalion, 112th Regiment and the Oki Branch Unit left Bangkok to attack Tavoy.  They first travelled by train and concentrated at Kanchanaburi, where they were helped by a group from the Burma Independence Army (B.I.A.).  These troops then made their way by motor boat up the notorious River Kwai to Wanpo (Wang Dong?).  From here they set off on foot to cross the Tenasserim Hills, with horses, oxen and several elephants carrying the heavy equipment and ammunition, the elephants provided by the Thai Army.  Once across the hills and the border into Burma, the Japanese followed the track to Sinbyudaing which was reached around 8th January.  Sinbyudaing, a village well to the east of Tavoy, is just inside the Burmese side of the border with Thailand.  The route the Japanese must follow next would take them to Myitta and from there onto the Tavoy-Myitta road.  The track from Sinbyudaing to Myitta ran along the south bank of the Tenasserim River and emerged from the hills about three miles to north east of Myitta. [6]

By about 10th January, the 6th Burma Rifles had one company at Minyat, one at Maungmagan, a platoon on the Tavoy-Myitta road and ‘A’ Company at Kaleinaung.  This left ‘C’ Company in Tavoy itself. [7]   The road from Myitta was reconnoitred daily as far as the Police station at Kyaukmedaung (Kyauk Me Taung) for signs of Japanese activity.  On 12th January an enemy plan was seen to circle Kyaukmedaung for half an hour just before midday.  The plane dropped four bombs, apparently targeting oil storage tanks owned by the Tavoy Tin Dredging Company at milestone 23.4.  The tanks escaped unscathed but a bungalow belonging to an employee of the company was hit and burnt down.  The next day, a Buffalo fighter based at Tavoy shot down a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft.  Later that day, Tavoy aerodrome was bombed and machine gunned by Japanese light bombers  but there was no damage and no casualties. [8]  

At Kaleinaung, ‘A’ Company, under the command of Captain W.R. Andrews, was in the process of handing over to the 4th Battalion, 12th Frontier Force Rifles when a message was received from Tavoy. [9]   The message stated that there were reports of the Japanese having occupied Sinbyudaing as early as 8th January.  Andrews was ordered to return to Tavoy with ‘A’ Company forthwith.  They arrived in Tavoy that evening and the command of the company was transferred to Captain (temporary Major) H.G.V. Boulter, seconded to the 6th Burma Rifles from the 9th Jat Regiment. [10]   Taking command of ‘C’ Company, Andrews and his men were sent out to the east towards Myitta, with orders to obtain information on the Japanese force and to delay any enemy advance. [11]

 ‘C’ Company headed for Kyaukmedaung, about 28 miles from Tavoy on the road to Myitta, where there was a Police station.  The road is hilly and passes through a tin mining area.  Although an all weather route as far as milestone 31.6, just before Myitta, in 1942 the road did not have a hard surface.  Ten miles from Tavoy, the road branches north to Harmeingyi (Har Myin Gyi) Mine, also accessible from points further along the road by way of hill and jungle tracks. [12]   Captain Andrews’ orders were to send one platoon each to Myitta, about eight miles to the east of Kyaukmedaung, and to Seinpyon, about 20 miles to the north east.  Company Headquarters were at Kyaukmedaung.  The Company’s third platoon, the Company reserve, was co-located with the Headquarters.  The platoon at Seinpyon was ordered to watch the track running from the border that the Japanese might use to outflank the Myitta-Kyaukmedaung road.  The platoon at Myitta was to set up a defensive position to the east of the village on the river junction and to send patrols along the track to the east out to about eight miles.  Communications between Company Headquarters in Kyaukmedaung and Battalion Headquarters in Tavoy were to be maintained by bus or telephone; between Kyaukmedaung and Seinpyon by bicycle; and between Kyaukmedaung and Myitta by bus. [13]   Around 100 Japanese were reported to be at Tantaung, to the north of Seinpyon. [14]

Situation: 13th-14th January 1942

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Captain Andrews received a message from Battalion Headquarters on 14th January that the Japanese had been in Sinbyudaing since 8th January.  It was reported that the enemy had been seen preparing the track along the Tenasserim River towards Myitta.  They were thought to be about 200-300 in strength.  The local District Superintendent had been asked to send a patrol of local villagers down the track towards Sinbyudaing to gather more information.  The Japanese were also trying to gather information on their enemy and sent one of their reconnaissance aircraft over both Kyaukmedaung and Myitta on each of 13th, 14th and 15th January.  On 15th January, Captain Andrews accompanied a patrol along the south bank of the Tenasserim River to a distance of about six miles.  The objective of the patrol was to identify possible places where they could ambush the Japanese.  After the return of the patrol, during the afternoon, Andrews was visited by the Battalion Adjutant and a Lt. Colonel of engineers.  The party was on its way from Kyaukmedaung to inspect Myitta when, at around 16:30, an orderly caught up with them bearing a message saying that the Japanese had been seen on the opposite bank of the Ban Chaung river.  Andrews went forward to the Myitta position, sending the Adjutant back to Kyaukmedaung to inform Battalion Headquarters in Tavoy and to send the reserve platoon forward to Myitta.  The reserve platoon came up quickly and was immediately put in position.  Interestingly, it was this platoon that was to see most of the fighting in the ensuing action. [15]  

The Japanese attacked at 17:00 that evening, launching an attempt to cross the river in front of Myitta.  However, as their leading section entered the water they were fired upon and quickly returned to their own side of the river to seek cover.  Reports from ‘C’ Company’s forward sections suggested that around 20 of the enemy had been hit but Andrews was unable to confirm this.  Then, a member of a Police patrol that had been sent out earlier returned to report that a large number of Japanese were in the area to the south-east of the Myitta position.  Andrews reported this information back to Tavoy and proposed that if an additional company could be sent up to him, it could be deployed on his right flank and together they would be better able to hold up the Japanese crossing.  As the light began to fade that evening, the Japanese launched a second attempt to cross the river, this time to the south of Myitta, on Andrews’ right flank.  As the Japanese began their crossing attempt, under cover of mortar fire, Andrews received new orders from Battalion Headquarters.  He was to conduct a reconnaissance of the area where the additional company now being sent from Tavoy would deploy.  However, the orders also stated that if the reconnaissance could not be done before dark or before the Japanese attacked, then Andrews was to abandon Myitta, fall back on Kyaukmedaung and take up a defensive position on the hills.  By 18:45, the Japanese had managed to get a number of men across the river and the Myitta position was in danger of being outflanked.  Given this situation, at 19:00, Andrews withdrew the two ‘C’ Company platoons as ordered.  Andrews found it difficult to estimate the number of the enemy trying to cross the river given the Japanese tactic of making a lot of noise by both shouting and firing to distract and deceive the defenders.  He thought there might have been 200 at most and probably fewer.  The promised reinforcements, ‘A’ Company, 6th Burma Rifles arrived later that night and both companies took up a position astride the road at milestone 25. [16] 

Situation: 15th January 1942

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On 16th January there was an air raid on Tavoy aerodrome however there were no military casualties.  The 6th Burma Rifles company at Minyat was brought across to Tavoy and on this day or the next, the 6th Burma Rifles company at Maungmagan, under Captain N.R. Watts, was also ordered back to the town. [17]   Watts, who had returned from a course in India only twelve days earlier, was told to organise a defensive position to the east of the town with his company, to run from the Mergui road to the south, around to the north across the Myitta road and half way towards the road to Ye, on a line passing through the Panktin (Pauktaing) and Myitta Bridges. [18]   Reinforcements from Mergui (present day Myeik) were expected imminently.  The reinforcements were the ‘B’ (Karen) and ‘D’ (Chin) Companies of the 3rd Battalion, Burma Rifles, supported by a detachment from the 3rd Battalion Headquarters.  Some of these troops were travelling down by road in lorries and were expected later that evening.  The remainder were being transported by boat and were due the following morning. [19]

During the day, from their position at milestone 25, ‘A’ and ‘C’ Companies, 6th Burma Rifles attacked towards and through Kyaukmedaung, advancing as far as milestone 31, to the east of the location.  They found the village deserted and stayed there for the remainder of the day.  Late that evening, reports were received that the Japanese had been seen on the move to the south of Kyaukmedaung.  In response, the two companies withdrew to their former position at milestone 25. [20]

The two companies of the 3rd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, arrived in Tavoy from Mergui in the early morning of 17th January.   That afternoon, a platoon was detached from one of these companies to bolster Major Watts’ company defending the east of the town. [21]   As for the Myitta road, Battalion Headquarters decided that ‘A’ and ‘C’ Companies, 6th Burma Rifles should continue to hold the defence position at milestone 25.  ‘A’ Company of the 6th Battalion remained astride the road and ‘C’ Company was sent to cover the right flank, to the south of the road, from the vicinity of a hill feature called Yebu Taung (taung is Burmese for mountain). [22]   In the meantime, at least one of the 3rd Burma Rifles companies was sent up from Tavoy to reinforce the 6th Burma Rifles defending the road. This company arrived in the area of milestone 25 during the afternoon. [23]  A small, improvised headquarters was also present to command the three detached companies now operating in the area.  Captain Andrews, with ‘C’ Company at Yebu Taung, was visited by Captain W.R. Williams, the detachment adjutant, at 22:00 that evening. [24]   Williams passed on orders that Andrews was to withdraw his company at 08:00 the following morning.  He was to join the Detachment Headquarters at milestone 25 and, or so Andrews surmised, be part of a fresh attack on Kyaukmedaung.  In fact, the detachment had received orders to withdraw further to west towards Tavoy. [25]  

Situation: 17th-18th January 1942

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However at 23:00 that night, Andrews saw a huge fire in Kyaukmedaung and shortly afterwards the Japanese attacked the position at milestone 25.  Andrews thought that the main Japanese thrust came straight down the road and that an outflanking force passed through the hills to the north of the road and attacked from the rear, their objective being the Detachment Headquarters.  In this action, Major V.A. Chiodetti, in command of ‘D’ Company, 3rd Burma Rifles was killed and Captain H.E. Le, commander of ‘B’ Company, 3rd Burma Rifles was wounded. [26] [27]   It seems that most of the fighting fell to the 3rd Burma Rifles and a single platoon of ‘A’ Company, 6th Burma Rifles. [28]   During the fight, the Japanese captured the detachment’s motor transport. [29]   According to a Japanese account, the Japanese advanced along the road from Myitta after dark on the evening of 17th January.  After about two hours they bumped into the Burma Rifles position near milestone 25 whereupon the Burma Rifles opened fire, killing three of the Japanese advance party.  The Japanese brought the British position under fire from their medium machine guns and fired five shells into it from a mountain gun.  After this the Burma Rifles retreated and the Japanese continued down the road. [30]

Andrews expected to see the signal flare that would indicate his withdrawal from Yebu Taung but it was never fired.  The fight at milestone 25 continued until the early hours of the morning of 18th January.  At 06:30, Andrews began to withdraw his company north towards the road.  The company was split into two, with two platoons taking a track to the west and one platoon and Company Headquarters following another track to the east.  Unfortunately this detachment lost their way and were half an hour late getting to the road.  By this time however, the other two platoons had reached the village of Wagon (Wa Hone) and bumped into the Japanese rearguard.  By the time Andrews’ headquarters and the third platoon arrived, only the company Subedar and his orderly could be found.  On a small hillock to the north of the road, Andrews found a dead Bren gun team, but no other troops were found from his two missing platoons and neither from ‘A’ Company nor from the 3rd Burma Rifles.  Giving up the search, Andrews and Williams went to a bungalow owned by the nearby mine and telephoned Tavoy for instructions.  They were told to take their men to Harmeingyi Mine (Har Myin Gyi Mine) where they would be collected and brought back to reinforce Tavoy. [31]

During the night of 18th January, Andrews and Williams set off for Harmeingyi Mine.  Upon reaching the mine, they found around 100 men of the two Burma Rifles battalions.  Many of the men had moved north of the road during the battle.  There in the jungle, they met a local Karen who led them to the mine where they met up with other survivors.  Among those present were men from the two platoons of ‘A’ Company, previously unaccounted for, who had held their positions south of the road throughout the night battle with the Japanese and who did not leave their positions until 11:00 on the morning of 18th January.  They only withdrew when they realised that everyone else at milestone 25 had left. [32]   The party at the mine did not make it to Tavoy, instead they headed north through the jungle, hoping to meet up with British and Indian troops at Moulmein. [33]

Situation: 18th-19th January 1942

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In the meantime, during the 18th January, the entire Japanese force had pressed on from Wagon towards Tavoy.  The following morning, the Japanese launched their attack on the town from the direction of Zaha Camp, to the north of the town.  The attack began at around 07:30 and Watts’ company was involved in the defence, fighting against superior numbers.  The detachment of the Kokine Battalion, Burma Frontier Force, put up a spirited defence of the aerodrome before being forced to withdraw.  Captain Watts held out until about 11:00 when he received orders to move his company across the aerodrome and inflict as many casualties on the Japanese as possible as they moved unopposed across the aerodrome towards the bazaar.  By midday, the defence of Tavoy had all but collapsed and the Commanding Officer gave orders to evacuate the town.  Captain Watts was sent to remove the wire from the Myitta Bridge after which he scouted the Myitta road.  About one mile above the bridge he ran into another enemy column advancing on Tavoy.  He quickly returned to the Battalion and warned them of the new threat.  The remnants of the Burma Rifles in Tavoy then withdrew north through the hills. [34]   These and other survivors of the garrison passed through the hills and headed for Ye, held by the 4th Battalion, 12th Frontier Force Regiment, which had been sent down from Moulmein to support the defenders of Tavoy.  Parties of the Tenasserim Battalion stayed behind to blow up bridges and roads, some staying long after the Tavoy garrison had left, and most eventually got back having given good account of themselves.  By 15:00 the Japanese had occupied the town.  Their total casualties for the whole Tavoy operation were 23 killed and 40 wounded.  A Burma Independence Army detachment followed the Japanese into the town to set up an administration to run the town.  It also began to recruit volunteers for the B.I.A. [35]  

Two companies, ‘B’ and ‘D’ of the 4th Battalion, 12th Frontier Force Regiment were at Kaleinaung about midway between Tavoy and Ye to the north.  At Ye itself, on the north bank of the Ye River, were the Battalion Headquarters and ‘A’ Company of the 4th/12th Frontier Force Regiment together with the headquarters of the 2nd Burma Infantry Brigade.  Refugees from Tavoy began to pass through Ye during 19th January, bearing conflicting rumours.  The next day many wounded arrived from Tavoy and on 21st January Lt. Colonel Cotton and five other officers arrived.  They were followed by more evacuees.  The Headquarters of the 2nd Burma Brigade moved back to Moulmein that day and in the evening ‘B’ and ‘D’ Companies of the 4th/12th Frontier Force Regiment withdrew to Ye.  The 4th/12th Frontier Force Regiment left for Moulmein the next day, leaving ‘A’ Company and a detachment of sappers as rearguard at Ye.  These men rejoined their battalion at Moulmein on the afternoon of 24th January. [36]

The action at Tavoy effectively finished the 6th Burma Rifles as a battalion, however many stragglers made it back to British lines.  One party of around 21 men made their way to Moulmein with 30 men of “D” Company, the 3rd Burma Rifles.  They were taken under command of the 3rd Battalion but were soon sent back to Rangoon as they were completely dispirited. [37]   Not a single man of ‘B’ Company of the 3rd Burma Rifles was seen again.  A bugler of the 3rd Burma Rifles, Rifleman Vai Thio, was recommended for a gallantry award for his actions on the Tavoy-Myitta road on the night of 17th/18th January.  The recommendation was put forward by Major Boulter, who appears to have assumed command of the 6th Burma Rifles either during the Tavoy fighting or subsequently. [38]  Some officers of the 6th Burma Rifles reached Moulmein, one joined the Headquarters 2nd Burma Brigade and a Major was attached to the 3rd Battalion for a few days. [39]   Lieutenant Khin Mg Gyi reported to the 2nd Burma Brigade Headquarters at 08:00 on 30th January having escaped Japanese capture.  He had been taken prisoner at Peinne Gon on the Kyaikmakan road the previous evening.  When the captured lorry he was being driven in overturned at a corner, he managed to escape and find his way to Moulmein. [40] Captain N.R. Watts became the Officer Commanding Aerodrome Defences at Moulmein and won the Military Cross for his leadership there and at Tavoy previously.  Throughout the remainder of January and early February stragglers continued to report in, being joined by a few more men returning from courses or hospital, a number being recorded as arriving by the 9th and 10th Battalion Burma Rifles at Meiktila and Mingaladon respectively.  On 23rd February, a small party from the 10th Battalion ‘proceeded to join the 6th Burma Rifles at Mandalay’. [41]

By now the 17th Indian Division had become so concerned by the performance of the Burma Rifles battalions under its command that on 25th January it issued an order for their reorganisation.  All weapons and equipment except rifles and gas masks were to be removed from 3rd, 4th and 6th Battalions and given to the 16th Indian Brigade to replace losses in the brigade.  The 3rd and 4th Battalions were to be amalgamated into one battalion under the command of the 16th Indian Infantry Brigade. Officers and men of the 6th Battalion considered valuable for this new amalgamated battalion were to remain and the rest were to return to their Depot.  At this time the 3rd Battalion and survivors of the 6th Battalion were in Moulmein and the 4th Battalion was reorganising near Martaban, on the other side of the Salween River.  In fact several officers and men of the 6th Battalion fought with the 3rd Battalion at Moulmein, whilst others were sent back to Rangoon, as described in the preceding paragraph.  The 3rd and 4th Battalions did not merge until after the Sittang disaster.

In March, the 6th Battalion was effectively disbanded when it was decided that the surviving Karens were to form a Garrison Company.  Surviving Chins from the battalion joined with others from the 3rd Battalion to form a reinforcement company intended for the 2nd Burma Rifles.  This Chin Company arrived with the 2nd Battalion at Chaung from Minhla on 13th April 1942 and was equipped, armed and renamed “C” Company. [42]

Remnants of the 6th Battalion were at Mandalay Hill at the end of April.  Many of these men were Chins from other battalions of the Burma Rifles and had been sent back and collected together.  There were in total around 270 Chins and some 80 Burmans under the command of 2nd Lieutenant G.L. Merrells. The detachment was ordered to accompany the 9th (Reserve) Battalion, The Burma Rifles to Bhamo.  On 20th April Merrells met Major E.H. Cooke of the 9th Battalion and the two officers made arrangements for Merrells’ detachment to board the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company launch “Shwemyo” on the morning of 24th April by which time it was thought the 9th Battalion would have completed loading.  On the appointed day, Merrells and the 6th Battalion arrived at Mandalay Shore, loaded what little gear they possessed and set sail at midday with the 9th Battalion for Bhamo.  The “Shwemyo” reached Bhamo on early on the morning of 1st May.  Bhamo was evacuated on 2nd May, just ahead of the Japanese who captured the town on the evening of the next day after a brisk fight with a small detachment of Chinese troops.  It is not known if Merrells and his men left Bhamo with the 9th Battalion or other troops or made their own way but Merrells did reach India and later went on to serve with the Civil Affairs Service, Burma. [43] [44]

Officers who served with the 6th Battalion, The Burma Rifles are:

- Lt. Colonel John Colson Cotton, Commanding Officer
- Captain Walter Rigby Andrews, Company Commander, ‘C’ Company
- Captain (temporary Major) Henry George Victor Boulter, Company Commander, ‘D’ Company, seconded from the 9th Jat Regiment
- Captain C.G. Booker, Company Commander [45]
- Captain George William Macloy Cockburn [46]
- Captain Norman Reginald Watts
- Captain Walter Robert Williams
- Lieutenant Khin Mg Gyi
- 2nd Lt. George Luen Merrells.

[No war diary or other documents relating to the 6th Burma Rifles survived the war. [47] ]

 


[1] John Colson Cotton, born, 13th April 1899.  Commissioned to the Unattached List as 2ndLt. (81054), 27th October 1917.  Appointed to the Indian Army as 2nd Lt., 3rd November 1917.  Served Iraq, 1918.  Promoted to Lieutenant, attached to the 24th Punjabis, 27th October 1918.  Served Waziristan, 1920-21.  Acting Captain from 7th May 1920 to 14th January 1922.  Served with 2nd Battalion, 21st Punjabis, 1921(?).  Attached 14th Punjab Regiment from 1922.  Promoted to Captain, 27th October 1922.  Served Waziristan, 1923.  Mentioned in Despatches for service in Waziristan, gazetted, 12th June 1923.  Promoted to Major, 27th October 1935.  Seconded to the Burma Army, Company Commander, 1st Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 15th June 1937.  As Major (temporary Lt. Colonel), Commanding Officer of the 6th Battalion, The Burma Rifles from formation, 15th February 1941 to January 1942.  Administrative Commander of the Line of Communication Area providing reception camps for the Burma Army, May-June-1942.  As Major (temporary Lt. Colonel), attached to The Burma Rifles, Mentioned in Despatches, gazetted, 28th October 1942.  Promoted to Lt. Colonel, 27th October 1943.  Acting Colonel from 23rd September 1944.  Retired, 1947.  As Lt. Colonel (399007) Special List (ex-Indian Army) retired, granted the honorary rank of Colonel, 26th November 1948 ("War Services of British and Indian Officers of the Indian Army 1941", Savannah (2004); British Army List; Burma Defence Services List July 1941; Indian Army List; London Gazette; Private Papers of Lt. Colonel I.C.G. Scott).

[2] War Diary 2nd Burma Brigade, WO 172/548

[4] Personal Narrative by Captain N.R. Watts, describing his recollections of the fighting at Tavoy and, later, at Moulmein.  This was submitted to Lt. Colonel Foucar and is referred to in the Indian Official History.  Watts’ narrative is found in Foucar’s files, WO 203/5691.

[5] WO 172/548

[6] Burma 1942, The Japanese Invasion”, Lyall Grant & Kazuo Tamayama, Zampi, 1999; Indian Armed Forces in World War II, The Retreat from Burma 1941-42”

[7] Captain Andrews describes the 6th Burma Rifles troops at Kaleinaung as being ‘A’ Company, see below.  A location statement issued by the Headquarters, 2nd Burma Brigade on 7th January lists only one platoon of the 6th Burma Rifles at Kaleinaung (Andrews, WO 203/5691; WO 172/548).

[8] WO 172/548

[9] Walter Rigby Andrews, born, 12th February 1916.  Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, A.B.R.O. (ABRO 87). (Commission gazetted as 7th March 1940 but later corrected in the Burma Army List), 7th December 1939.  Served with the 2nd Battalion, Burma Rifles, 7th March 1940.  Query raised regarding missing application form to join the A.B.R.O., 1st July 1940.  Employed as general staff, Steel Brothers, Rangoon, 1941.  Served with the 6th Battalion, Burma Rifles, 1941.  War substantive Lieutenant, temporary Captain from 15th August 1941.  As Captain, Company Commander, ‘C’ Company, 6th Battalion, Burma Rifles, January 1942.  Fought at Tavoy, 13th January 1942 to 18th January 1942.  Served with the 6th Battalion, The Burma Regiment, until the Battalion was disbanded, 1st October 1942 to 1st July 1943.  Wrote a personal narrative of the fighting at Tavoy for submission to the official campaign historian, Colonel E.C.V. Foucar, 6th March 1943.  Served with the 5th Battalion, The Burma Regiment, 1st July 1943 to 8th November 1943.  Transferred to the 2nd Battalion, Burma Rifles and served with the Battalion, 8th November 1943 to 1945?  Captain, temporary Major, 1944.  Mentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in Burma, gazetted, 26th April 1945.  Awarded O.B.E., as resident of Pakistan, 1st January 1969.  Died, 2003  (Anglo-Burmese Library; Burma Army List October 1940; Burma Defence Services List July 1941; London Gazette; Personal Account contained within "Personal Narratives", WO 203/5691; Indian Official History; Thacker's Directory; War diary 2nd Burma Rifles, WO 172/2658).

[10] Henry George Victor Boulter, born, 10th August 1909.  Commissioned to the Unattached List as 2nd Lieutenant, 29th August 1929.  Transferred to the Indian Establishment, 13th October 1929.  Appointed to the Indian Army (AI 928), 15th October 1930.  Attached to the 1st Battalion, 20th Burma Rifles, 15th November 1931 to 1937.  Promoted to Lieutenant, 29th November 1931.  Assistant Commandant, 1st (Lushai Hills) Battalion, Assam Rifles, 24th August 1935.  Appointed to be a company officer with the 1st Battalion, 9th Jat Regiment, 1937.  Promoted to Captain, 29th August 1938, with seniority from 1st August 1938.  On leave ex India 6 months to 23rd February 1940.  Attached to the Department of the Judge Advocate General's Office, Northern Command, July 1940.  Deputy Assistant Judge Advocates General, South-Eastern Circuit (officiating), Poona, 24th August 1940 to October 1943.  Deputy Assistant Judge Advocates General, South-Eastern Circuit (officiating), Poona, 6th March 1941.  Served with the 6th Battalion, The Burma Rifles as company commander, January 1942.  Officer Commanding, 6th Battalion, The Burma Rifles, January or March 1942.  As Captain, acting Major, mentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in Burma, December 1941 to May 1942, gazetted, 28th October 1942.  As Lt. Colonel, assumed command of the nth Battalion, 9th Jat Regiment, July 1945???  Temporary Lt. Colonel, 1945.  Promoted to Major, 1st July 1946.  As Captain, temporary Lt. Colonel, promoted to Major, 29th August 1946.  As Major, retired and granted the honorary rank of Lt. Colonel, 1st December 1948.  Died 1995 ("The Jat Regiment: A History of the Regiment, 1803-1947", Hailes, Ross, Jat Regimental Centre (1967); ancestry.co.uk; Andrews Narrative, WO 203/5691; Indian Army List July 1936, October 1936, January 1937, October 1938, October 1939, July 1940, October 1941, October 1943, October 1945; London Gazette; WO 30/373/132).

[11] Personal Narrative by Captain W.R. Andrews, describing what he knew of the fighting at Tavoy.  The narrative provided by Captain Andrews formed the basis of the account of the loss of Tavoy that appeared in the Indian Official History, “Indian Armed Forces in World War II, The Retreat from Burma, 1941-42”, Prasad Bishewar (ed), Orient Longmans, 1959.  The Indian Official History drew heavily upon the history written by Lt. Colonel Foucar, which he began preparing from late 1942 in his office at Simla, the headquarters of the Burma Government in exile in India.  Lt. Colonel Foucar collected all surviving documents, such as war diaries, and wrote to many officers who served in the 1942 campaign, asking them to contribute what they knew.  Captain Andrews’ narrative is found in one of Foucar’s files held at The National Archives at Kew, near London, WO 203/5691.

[12] “The Motor Roads of Burma”, Fifth Edition, The Burma Oil Co (1954) Ltd. and The Burmah Oil Company (BT) Limited, 1962

[13] Andrews, WO 203/5691; Indian Armed Forces in World War II, The Retreat from Burma 1941-42”

[14] WO 172/548

[15] Andrews, WO 203/5691

[16] Andrews, WO 203/5691

[17] Norman Reginald Watts, born, 11th June 1920.  With occupation given as "Engineer Assistant", travelled aboard the S.S. "Yorkshire" from Rangoon to London, arrived, 4th June 1938.  Emergency Commission to the General List as 2nd Lieutenant (189641), 28th April 1941.  Served with the 6th Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 28th April 1941 to April 1942?  Returned to the 6th Battalion, Burma Rifles, at Tavoy from a course in India, 4th January 1942.  As Captain, served with the 3rd Battalion, The Burma Regiment, 1st October 1942(?) to 1st July 1943.  War substantive Lieutenant, 1st October 1942.  As Lieutenant (acting Captain) awarded the Military Cross, for his actions as Officer Commanding Aerodrome Defences, Moulmein, gazetted, 28th October 1942.  Wrote a personal narrative of operations (dated 8th March 1943) in Tavoy and on Moulmein aerodrome.  Died, 10th April 2012 

The citation for the award of the Military Cross follows:  

Division: 17th Indian Division

Date and Place of Recommendation:     MOULMEIN, 30-31 Jan ’42.      

Action for which recommended :-          

Lieut Watts was O.C. Aerodrome Defences at MOULMEIN during the action/30/31 Jan ’42.
Despite frequent attacks on his position by superior enemy forces throughout the day, this officer by his personal example of coolness and leadership succeeded in holding a very extended position from more than twelve hours, withdrawing at night, only when ordered to do so.  He then made a most courageous single handed attempt to destroy a damaged Blenheim which was lying some hundreds of yards distant in thick jungle.  He desisted only when he found himself within the enemy lines, from which he managed to escape, and reported himself for duty seven days later, after having spent six days in enemy occupied territory.

Recommended by: O.C. 6 Burma Rifles

Bde Comd’s remarks and recommendation:  Forwarded and recommended.  His O.C. also brought his name to my notice for gallant conduct during the operations at TAVOY.        

Signed By: V.G. Smyth, Maj General, Comd 17 Ind Div; L.J. Hutton, Lt.Gen [Commander Burma Army].

(ancestry.co.uk; British Army List; Burma Defence Services List July 1941; London Gazette; Personal Narratives, WO 203/5718; Watts Narrative, WO 203/5691; WO 373/30/172).

[18] Watts, WO 203/5691

[19] The reconstructed war diary of the 3rd Burma Rifles indicates that the two reinforcement companies sent to Tavoy travelled by boat.  The war diary of the 2nd Burma Brigade records that some men travelled by road and others by sea  (WO 172/548; War diary 3rd Burma Rifles, WO 172/976).

[20] Andrews, WO 203/5691

[21] Watts, WO 203/5691

[22] Captain Andrews in his narrative, written over a year later, names the hill feature as Yebu Taung.  However Yebu Taung is many, many miles to the south-east.  The feature corresponding to Andrews’ sketch map may have been, using a present day name, Yay Pu Taung, to the south of MS 24 on the Tavoy-Myitta road.

[23] Andrews is specific that only one company of the 3rd Burma Rifles arrived to reinforce the two companies of the 6th Burma Rifles at milestone 25.  The whereabouts of the other 3rd Burma Rifles’ company is not known, however, during the Japanese attack on the night of 17th January, both of the 3rd Burma Rifles company commanders were present.  Of these, Captain Chiodetti was killed and Captain Le was wounded (Andrews, WO 203/5691; WO 172/976).

[24] William Robert Williams, born, 24th September 1911.  Emergency Commission as 2nd Lieutenant (189626), 28th April 1941.  Served with the 6th Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 15th January 1942 to January-February 1942?  War substantive Lieutenant, temporary Captain, 15th January 1942.  War substantive Captain, 9th May 1943.  As war substantive Captain, transferred from the General List to the Royal Engineers, Movement Control Section, 1st August 1945  (British Army List; Burma Army List 1943; Burma Defence Services List July 1941; Andrews Narrative, WO 203/5691; London Gazette).

[25] Andrews, WO 203/5691

[26] Vivian Alexander Chiodetti, born, Rawalpindi, Punjab, 31st May 1905.  Educated at Bishop Cotton School, Simla, India, 1912.  Served in the ranks from 1925.  Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, The Manchester Regiment, 30th August 1928.  Travelled from Brisbane, Australia to Hull aboard the S.S. "Hobsons Bay", arrived, 11th May 1931.  An Indian Cricketer, played one first class match for Hyderabad, 1931-32.  Promoted to Lieutenant, 30th August 1931.  Commanded the Guard of Honour at the naming ceremony of the locomotive 'Manchester Regiment' at Victoria Station, Manchester, 1st October 1936.  Promoted to Captain, 18th January 1938.  Served, Specially Employed, seconded to the Burma Defence Forces from 30th September 1938.  As Captain, seconded to the 3rd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 2nd November 1938.  Staff member of the Officer Cadet Training Unit at Maymyo, 1940 to 1941.  Quartermaster, 3rd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, from 1st November 1940.  Acting Major, 17th January 1941 to 15th February 1941.  Acting Major from 11th May 1941.  As Major, Company Commander, 'D' Company, 3rd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, killed in action at Kyaukmedaung, near Tavoy, 17th January 1942  ("Distinctly I Remember", H. Braund, Wren (1972); Andrews Narrative, WO 203/5691; Commonwealth War Graves Commission; British Army List; Burma Army List January 1939; Burma Defence Services List July 1941; http://www.espncricinfo.com/ accessed July 2017; http://themanchesters.org/forum  accessed July 2017; http://oldcottonians.org/ accessed July 2017; War diary 3rd Burma Rifles, WO 172/976).

[27] Herbert Ernest Le, born, 12th October 1907.  Served as a Company officer on probation, as 2nd Lieutenant, 11th (Upper Burma) Battalion, The Burma Rifles, Burma Territorial Force, Mandalay, 24th August 1932 to 28th April 1941.  Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, Burma Territorial Force, 1st March 1938.  Commissioned as 2nd Lt., A.B.R.O. (ABRO 124), 28th April 1941.  Served with the 3rd Battalion, The Burma Rifles.  Company Commander of "B" (Karen) Company, sent with "D" Company to Mergui, December 1941.  Sent with 'D' Company, 3rd Burma Rifles, from Mergui to Tavoy, 17th January 1942.  Wounded at Tavoy and made his way to Rangoon by country boat, January 1942.  Joined Major E.H. Cooke, 9th (Reserve) Battalion, The Burma Rifles, on the trek from Myitkyina to India, 6th May 1942.  Promoted to Lieutenant, 28th October 1942.  As Lieutenant, temporary Captain, served with the 25th Garrison Battalion, The Burma Regiment, 1943-44.  Left the 25th Garrison Battalion, The Burma Regiment to join the Burma Intelligence Corps, Calcutta, 22nd December 1944 (Anglo-Burmese Library; Burma Army List January 1938, January 1940, October 1940, 1943; Cooke Diary; War diary 25th Burma Regiment, WO 172/5038; War Diary 3rd Burma Rifles, WO 172/974; Andrews Narrative, WO 203/5691).

[28] Andrews, WO 203/5691

[29] WO 172/548

[30] “Burma 1942, The Japanese Invasion”

[31] Andrews, WO 203/5691

[32] Andrews, WO 203/5691

[33] WO 172/976

[34] Watts, WO 203/5691

[35] “Burma 1942, The Japanese Invasion”

[36] War Diary 4th/12th Frontier Force Regiment, WO 172/932

[37] The order of battle for the 2nd Burma Brigade for the morning of 30th January 1942 lists the 3rd Battalion, Burma Rifles as being formed with two companies plus a detachment of 54 B.A.O.Rs (Burma Army Other Ranks) made up of survivors of the 3rd and 6th Battalions, Burma Rifles from Tavoy (Operational reports and Order of Battle of 2 Burma Brigade, WO 203/5704).

[38] Rifleman Vai Thio was awarded the Burma Gallantry Medal, gazetted 23rd April 1942.  WO 172/976; Recommendation for Award for Vai Thio, WO 373/30/132

[39] WO 172/976

[40] WO 172/548

[41] War Diary 9th Burma Rifles, WO 172/981; War Diary 10th Burma Rifles, WO 172/982

[42] War Diary 2nd Burma Rifles, WO 172/975.

[43] “Personal Diary of events in Burma prior to and during the campaign with an account of the retreat through the Hukong [sic] Valley”, Edward Hewitt Cooke, National Army Museum Acquisition No.1972-02-44; Burma 1942 Grant.

[44] George Luen Merrells born, 14th December 1915.  Served as Assistant Commissioner, Burma Civil Service, 1938 to 1941.  Appointed to the Burma Civil Service (Class I), 1st September 1938.  Emergency Commission as 2nd Lieutenant (217664), 26th October 1941.  Commander of a detachment of the 6th Burma Rifles at Mandalay Hill which subsequently accompanied the 9th (Reserve) Battalion, The Burma Rifles to Bhamo, 20th April 1942.  Presumed to have left Bhamo to trek to India when the town was evacuated, 2nd May 1942.  Served in North Arakan, late 1942-1943.  As a Civil Affairs Officer, CAS(B), attached to the 25th Indian Infantry Division, 1944-45.  Sailed from Rangoon to London aboard the S.S. "Worcestershire", arrived, 8th March 1944.  Lecturer in Burmese at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1947-51.  Appointed to Her Majesty's Foreign Service, 23rd October 1952.  Sailed from London to New York aboard the R.M.S. "Queen Mary", departed, 30th April 1959.  Appointed to be Her Majesty's Consul for the states of Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky and Illinois, gazetted, 28th August 1959.  Died, 1990  (ancestry.co.uk; Anglo-Burmese Library; Burma Army List 1943; Cooke Diary; FindMyPast; London Gazette; Mss Eur C646 : 1944-1945; www.soas.ac.uk/).

[45] Cecil Gordon Booker, born, 28th March 1917.  Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant to the Supplementary Reserve of Officers, Devonshire Regiment, formerly Cadet, Oratory School Contingent, Junior Division, Officer Training Corps, 15th July 1936.  Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, The Royal Irish Fusiliers from the Supplementary Reserve of Officers, Devonshire Regiment, 18th December 1937.  War substantive Lieutenant, employed with The Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment, 6th September 1940.  Temporary Captain, 6th September 1940.  As Lieutenant, seconded to the 6th Battalion, Burma Rifles, 2nd July 1941.  Died (retired tea planter), Sussex, 11th June 1984  (ancestry.co.uk; British Army List; Burma Defence Services List July 1941; London Gazette).

[46] George William Macloy Cockburn.  Education, University of St. Andrews, M.A. 1936.  Commissioned from Cadet to the General List as 2ndLt. (189599), 28th April 1941.  War substantive Lieutenant, 11th November 1941.  Temporary Captain, 11th November 1941.  Serving with The Burma Rifles, Mentioned in Despatches, 5th April 1945 (London Gazette; British Army List; http://www.fdca.org.uk/pdf%20files/St%20AndrewsUni3945%20C.pdf)

[47] The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, lists the following men of the 6th Burma Rifles:

Havildar            AUNG BWINT   
Rifleman           AYE MG          
Rifleman           BA MG
Naik                 BAE BA           
Rifleman           CHIT TEE         
Jemadar           DARTHUAMA   
Rifleman           GIN ZA THAUNG          
Rifleman           GOITHZA VUNG           
Rifleman           HANG KHO ZAM          
Rifleman           KHAI ZA NGIN  
Rifleman           KHOI ZAM       
Rifleman           KHUP KHAW KHAM     
Rifleman           MANG EH        
Havildar            MG BA TUN     
Rifleman           MG CHIT          
Rifleman           MG KO LAY     
Rifleman           MG NYUNT      
Rifleman           MG OHN          
Rifleman           MG PYOO       
Jemadar           MG THET         
Jemadar           MG THIN          
Rifleman           MYAW SAW    
Rifleman           NAW TIN          
Lance Naik      OHN HLAING   
Rifleman           PEIN PEIN       
Subadar            SAW BA SEIN   24 November 1944
Rifleman           SAW JURY      
Havildar           SAW KELWYN 
Rifleman           SUT THANG     
Havildar            THA AUNG       
Rifleman           THAN NYUNT   
Rifleman           THANG KHAN LIN        
Rifleman           THANG TUAK   
Rifleman           THANG TUAL   
Havildar            THAT NAWN    
Rifleman           THUAM KHAM KAI       
Naik                 TUN NGWE      
Rifleman           TUN NYEIN       29 April 1942
Rifleman           VUNG KHAM   
Rifleman           ZAL PUM         

 

26 July 2017

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