Burma Auxiliary Force
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Created from Indian Auxiliary and Territorial Force units transferred from the Indian Army when Burma separated from India in April 1937.  The Burma Auxiliary Force consisted of British and Anglo-Burmans and Anglo-Indians while the Burma Territorial Force was mainly Burmese.

In 1937 the units were:

Burma Auxiliary Force

Rangoon Field Brigade R.A.   Burma Auxiliary Force (headquarters, one battery of four 18-pounder guns, one Fortress Company of engineers, one artillery signal section)
Tenasserim Battalion,             Burma Auxiliary Force (headquarters, and two rifle companies)
Rangoon Battalion,                 Burma Auxiliary Force (headquarters, three rifle companies, one AA company and an armoured car section)
Upper Burma Battalion,             Burma Auxiliary Force (headquarters, and two rifle companies)
Burma Railways Battalion,      Burma Auxiliary Force (headquarters, and four rifle companies composed entirely of railway personnel.  The duties of the unit were the maintenance and protection of the railway system.)

Leadership

As well as military duties, the BAF were also involved in the assessment of potential officer candidates.  Following the outbreak of the war in September 1939 additional officer requirements for the Army in Burma were met by the creation of an Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU).  Under the provisions of the National Service (British European Subjects) Act, 1940, British subjects in Burma between the ages of 18 and 50, were required to undergo three months' military training.  In Burma, this was achieved by embodying the men into the Burma Auxiliary Force and by attachment to British Infantry Battalions in convenient batches.  At the end of these attachments, those considered suitable were selected for a four month OCTU course, with a view to appointment to Emergency Commissions in British service in the case of Europeans and in the ABRO in the case of Burmans. 

Adjutants for the BAF were found by the secondment of Regular officers from the British and Indian services, although a number of non-Regular appointments were made due to shortages.  British NCO Instructors were provided from British Regular units.

Personnel embodied in the BAF were required to serve outside of the military area defined for their unit, notably when engaged in military operations.

Duties, Wartime Expansion and Operations

On 3rd September 1939, the Rangoon Field Brigade consisted of a headquarters, one battery of four 18-pounder guns, one Fortress Company of engineers and one artillery signal section.  Two of the 18-pounder guns were sent to Dry Tree Point,on the Rangoon River, together with a searchlight section from the Fortress Company and the artillery signal section.  In May 1940, the guns at Dry Tree Point were replaced by two 6-inch guns from England, forming the 1st Heavy (Coast Defence) Battery, RA, BAF (Rangoon Field Brigade) and the 18-pounders returned to Rangoon.  In September 1940 the 18-pdrs were used to equip the newly formed 5th Field Battery Royal Artillery, Burma Auxiliary Force, remaining as part of the Field Brigade.   This battery left for Maymyo on 1st June 1940.

By October 1940 the BAF numbered nearly 3,000 officers and men, including reserves -men over the age of 45 and who were only required to know drill and how to shoot.  The BAF strength was distributed as follows:

Monthly Strength Return of the Burma Auxiliary Force - October 1940

Unit

Officers

Other Ranks

British Officers

Permanent Subordinate Staff

Active

Snr 1.

Active

Reserves

 

Warrant Officers

Staff Sergeants

Temp Drill Instructors

Rangoon Field Brigade, RA, BAF

23

6

476

94

1

2

4

1

Tenasserim Battalion, BAF

7

-

230

65

1

1

2

1

Rangoon Battalion, BAF

30

3

737

188

1

2

5

-

Burma Railways Battalion, BAF

22

-

407

139

1

2

3

-

Upper Burma Battalion, BAF 2.

16

3

416

60

1

2

3

-

Notes:

1. Snr - Supernummerary

2. Lt-Col. West, Administrative Commandant

As the threat of war with Japan grew, in February 1941 a new Auxiliary Force unit was created for air defence, 1st Anti-Aircraft Battery, RA, BAF, initially equipped with light machine guns. This was commanded by Major Hogan and remained as part of the Rangoon Field Brigade.  In May 1941, No 1 (Burma) Artizan Works Company was formed under Major Jolly and left for Maymyo in August.  Later in September that year, the Rangoon Field Brigade formed a bomb disposal unit and a light aid detachment, the first of eight such detachments.  In December 1941, "B" Troop of the 5th Field Battery was formed without guns but on 27th December sent a detachment to Mergui and another to Tavoy for beach defence and equipped with Austrian 65mm mountain guns.  The balance of "B" Troop of the 5th Field Battery were given eight 77mm Italian field guns for use in the anti-tank role.  These were later handed over to an Indian antitank battery.

Monthly Strength Return of the Burma Auxiliary Force - February 1941

Unit

Officers

Other Ranks

British Officers

Permanent Subordinate Staff

Active

Snr 1.

Active

Reserves

 

Warrant Officers

Staff Sergeants

Temp Drill Instructors

Rangoon Field Brigade, RA, BAF

30

4

553

126

1

2

4

1

Tenasserim Battalion, BAF

6

-

221

63

1

1

2

1

Rangoon Battalion, BAF

25

2

634

291

1

2

5

-

AA Machine Gun Battery, BAF

6

-

155

-

-

-

-

-

Burma Railways Battalion, BAF

22

-

426

140

1

2

3

-

Upper Burma Battalion, BAF 2.

17

4

449

131

1

2

3

-

Notes:

1. Snr - Supernummerary

2. Lt-Col. West, Administrative Commandant

On 22nd February 1942, HQ Rangoon Field Brigade and details left Rangoon for Yenanyaung, leaving behind the the Dry Tree Point garrison, manning details at the power station and guards on the oil refineries.  The Bomb Disposal Unit went to Magwe aerodrome on 5th March and spent a month salvaging motor vehicles, petrol and bombs abandoned by the RAF. On 26th March 1942, the Rangoon Field Brigade was ordered to Shwebo and all available personnel were employed as interpreters, well-borers, lorry drivers and drivers for bulldozers of the X.M.U.(?) on the Shwegyin Road.  Between 15th May and 21st May 1942 the brigade was evacuated to India. 

The Rangoon Battalion provided guards for important facilities in and around Rangoon.  On the outbreak of war with Japan, the Armoured Car Section and a platoon of Bren-gunners were sent to Mingaladon airfield to assist with the ground defences of the airfield.  On the 13th January 1942, the AA Company of the Rangoon Battalion was formed consisting of five officers and 130 ORs.  It was equipped with Browning .5 AA machine guns which were originally intended as part of Lease-Lend material from America to China.  This company was sent to Mingaladon where it relieved the Bren-gunners.  See photographs and surviving fragments of the war diary here.

The Armoured Car Section, Rangoon Battalion, BAF, was embodied on 6th December 1941.  It was equipped with four Rolls Royce Indian Pattern armoured cars, each equipped with a single Vickers .303inch machine guns.  Two cars were damaged beyond repair by Japanese LMG fire whilst trying to reach Martaban on February 8th, 1942.  The third was lost on the retreat from Bilin to Mokpalin on February 21st.  The last car was lost to the Japanese on February 22nd by the Sittang Bridge.  See the war diary of the Armoured Car Section here.  The section was attached to higher commands as follows:

The Rangoon Infantry Brigade Area 01-Dec-41 - 08-Feb-42 4 X cars
46th Indian Infantry Brigade 08-Feb-42 - 15-Feb-42

4 X cars

16th Indian Infantry Brigade 15-Feb-42  - 24-Feb-42 2 X cars 

On 15th August 1941, 1st Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RA, BAF was formed with two batteries:

1st Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery with eight 3-inch guns (formed from 1st AA Battery detached from the Rangoon Field Brigade)
3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Battery with eight 40mm Bofors guns.

However the guns were not available immediately and training went ahead without them.  The guns arrived just before the outbreak of war with Japan. Both the heavy and light guns were stationed in and around Rangoon with a detachment at the oil refineries at Syriam.  Surviving men and guns were evacuated from Rangoon on 7th March 1942.  The regiment eventually reached in India and in May 1942.  

By mid-March 1942, all three battalions of the Burma Auxiliary Force were withdrawn to Mandalay.  On 23rd March 1942, they were amalgamated into a single battalion - the Burma Battalion, BAF consisting of the Rangoon, Tenasserim and Upper Burma Companies.  The survivors of the Rangoon Company left Burma for India from Katha on 2nd May 1942.

Following the Retreat - India

On arrival in India, all BAF personnel were concentrated at Mhow and initially reorganised into the 5th Field Battery, RA, BAF, the 1st Heavy Antiaircraft Battery, RA, BAF and the 1st Coast Defence Battery, RA, BAF, together with a BAF depot and record office.  The 5th Field Battery came under command of the Indian Eastern Army (???), the 1st Coast Defence Battery went to Diamond Harbour, Calcutta, the 1st Heavy Antiaircraft Battery went to Risalpur to be equipped and the BAF Depot and Record Office went to Mhow, together with the balance of BAF personnel. The 3rd Light Antiaircraft Battery was stationed at Mhow in India where it was subsequently disbanded.

The 5th Field Battery and the 1st Heavy Antiaircraft Battery were disbanded during the first half of 1943 to provide for the expansion of the Burma Intelligence Corps. The balance of men were posted to create a reserve for the 1st Coast Defence Battery or were attached to the BAF Depot.

22 June, 2015

 

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