The Burma Campaign

F.F.1, Burma Frontier Force

Formation and Organisation

F.F.1 was formed at Kutkai under Major G.G. Pryce[1] on 14th July 1940. Kutkai was an outpost of the Northern Shan States Battalion, Burma Frontier Force, located on the Burma Road to the North of Lashio.  The detachment consisted of three companies of infantry and one squadron of mounted infantry. The companies and squadron were referred to as "Columns" and the Mounted Infantry Column was commanded by Captain J. Kennedy.[2] [3]

F.F. Detachments in the Southern Shan States & Tenasserim-December 1941 (Indian Official History)

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The Mounted Infantry Column was organised with a small Column Headquarters, two troops of Sikhs and one of Punjabi Mussalmen, each troop having 27 men.[4]  One of the infantry companies came from the Bhamo Battalion, Burma Frontier Force (Kachins) and two from the Reserve Battalion at Pyawbwe (Gurkhas). Later, towards the end of 1940, one of the Gurkha Companies left F.F.1 to help form F.F.2 and in September 1941 the Kachin Company went to form F.F.4.  These were replaced by a Kachin Company from the Northern Shan States Battalion, B.F.F. at Lashio and a Gurkha company from the Myitkyina Battalion, B.F.F.[5]

On 27th September 1941, a new organisation was authorised for F.F.1 which was now to consist of a Headquarters, one Mounted Infantry Column, two Infantry Columns and a Mechanised Column.  A new Intelligence Section was added together with an additional Demolition Squad.  At the same mortars and Thompson sub-machine guns were authorised.  The mortars and Tommy guns did not arrive until December 1941.[6]  The Mechanised Column held sufficient motor transport to move the detachment headquarters and one company at a time.  There was sufficient animal transport to move the whole detachment if required, made up of both bullock carts and pack mules, the latter managed by Chinese muleteers.[7]

Each company had been armed originally with two Lewis guns and shortly before the war with Japan one Bren gun section of six men per platoon or troop was issued.  Thompson sub-machine guns were issued one per platoon or troop. In December 1941, after the outbreak of war with Japan, a three inch mortar detachment was added to each company however ammunition did not arrive until several months later. Fortunately the mortar bombs arrived before the detachment went into action however there had been little time for training. There was one wireless set per company and one at detachment headquarters.[8]

Guarding the Frontier - The Shan States

Japanese Attacks - December 1941 (Indian Official History)

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In November 1941, Lieutenant W.R.V. Russell[9] took over command from Major Pryce.  On 27th December 1941, F.F.1 was moved via Lashio to Pangkem on the Loimwe road in the Southern Shan States where they arrived on January 5th 1942.  The Mounted Infantry Column under Captain Kennedy was detached and sent to Mongsat, South of the Loimwe road near the Mekong River.  Here the M.I. came under the command of “Turcol”, itself under the command of the 1st Burma Infantry Brigade whose headquarters were at Loimwe.  The task allotted to “Turcol” and the M.I. of F.F.1 was to patrol the frontier along a total front of over 100 miles and to stop any enemy force reaching the Kentung road from Siam. [10]  The Kachin Column under Captain E.G. Forbes,[11] together with the motor transport (and thus referred to as the “Motorised Column”), was placed under the command of the 13th Indian Infantry Brigade and sent to Loikaw with orders to patrol the road and to make contact with a company of the 1st Battalion, 18th Royal Garhwal Rifles.[12]  Both these brigades were under the command of the 1st Burma Infantry Division, the formation responsible for protecting the Southern Shan States from invasion via French Indo-China and Thailand.[13]

It had been intended for the two infantry companies at Pangkem to join the Mounted Infantry at Mongsat when supplies allowed.  However this never materialised.  Other than patrol activity across the Thai border F.F.1 saw no active service in these months other than a single raid on a Thai outpost carried out by a Captain Turner with a small force composed of the infantry from "Turcol" and a detachment of Mounted Infantry.  Around 200 casualties including 30 dead were inflicted on the Thais whilst the only friendly casualty was one man wounded.[14]

Operations on the Toungoo Front

1st Burma Division at Pyuntaza (War Diary WO 172/447)

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In February 1942, the 1st Burma Division began handing over responsibility for the defence of the Shan States to the Chinese 6th Army and moving South to defend the Sittang River valley, South of Toungoo.  The 1st Burma Infantry Brigade moved southwards in late February and early March, taking up positions around Pyu and Kyauktaga.  Both infantry columns of F.F.1 were sent, arriving ahead of the 1st Burma Infantry Brigade in the area South of Pyu on the Toungoo-Rangoon Road.[15]  By 1st March, one F.F.1 column was with the 1st Burma Infantry Brigade, which was preparing to set up advanced headquarters at Nyaungbintha, eight miles South pf Pyu.[16]  The Mounted Infantry Column and the motor transport remained in the Mongsat area until relieved by a force of Chinese around the middle of March when they moved to Taunggyi by lorry.[17]  On 10th March the 2nd Burma Infantry Brigade noted that F.F.1 had replaced the 1st Battalion, The Burma Rifles as the Divisional Reserve, the infantry battalion coming under the command of the 1st Burma Infantry Brigade.[18]

On 7th March, the 1st Burma Division received orders to attack Shwegyin and Daik-U and to exploit any success southwards to protect the northern flank of the 17th Indian Division in the Pegu area.  The right flank of this attack was given to the 1st Burma Infantry Brigade which was to attack the villages of Pyuntaza and Daik-U on the morning of 11th March.  By this date it seems that the Kachin Column, F.F.1 under Captain Forbes, had arrived and was attached to the 1st Burma Infantry Brigade.  The Column had orders to watch for enemy movements on the right flank of the Brigade in the area of Egyan (East-gyanzu) to the West of Nyaunglebin and Pyuntaza.  The Column was to revert to the direct command of the 1st Burma Division during 11th March.  The Gurkha Infantry Column, under Captain Turner, and the motor transport were expected to arrive by rail at Peinzalok, to the North of Nyaunglebin, on the morning of 12th March when the Column would join the divisional reserve (at this point the war diary of the 1st Burma Division seems to refer to Turner's column and the motor transport as the "Mechanised Column, F.F.1).[19]

The attack on the 11th March went well at first with the 1st Burma Infantry Brigade securing Pyuntaza however it was then held up at the road block South of the town.  It was then attacked by a superior Japanese force and by the end of the day the Brigade had withdrawn to a line along the Alewa Chaung.  The next day the Division was informed of orders for a withdrawal to Toungoo prior to a move to the Prome area.  It was intended that as many troops as possible would go on foot from Toungoo across the Pegu Yomas to Prome.  Major Russell, the Commanding Officer of F.F.1, was sent to reconnoitre the route.[20]

1st Burma Division Withdrawal to Toungoo and Prome (Indian Official History)

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The 1st Burma Division now undertook a two stage withdrawal to the line of the Pyu Chaung, the first stage being on the night of 13th/14th March.  Captain Turner’s Column, by now at Penwegon on the Toungoo-Rangoon road, was ordered westwards to Udo, near Chaunggwe, via Daingtaya and Myaungshe.  The motor transport column was ordered to Toungoo by rail.  Captain Forbes with the remaining infantry column at Egyan, was ordered to withdraw via Myogyaung, to the West of Pyawbyegon at the foot of the Pegu Yomas.  Turner's Column had only one encounter when two Burmans in a bullock cart fired on the advance guard but were killed by a Havildar with a Thompson sub-machine gun.  On the second night, 14th/15th March, Forbe’s Column continued north-eastwards into the Pegu Yomas and joined Turner’s Column at Udo, near Chaunggwe, on 15th March.  The combined force now came under the command of Captain Turner as Major Russell was still away.[21]

This force had only one wireless set as the others, including the charging motor, had been taken over by the Army.  There was only one three inch mortar remaining as the other had been lent to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Rajput Regiment.[22]

On 15th March, orders for the 1st Burma Division were changed. The Division’s objectives were now to cover the arrival of the 5th Chinese Army in the area Thazi-Toungoo and then to move to Prome, to join the 17th Indian Division as part of the newly formed 1st Burma Corps.[23]  Believing that the 1st Burma Infantry Division was withdrawing on Toungoo, F.F.1 began its own withdrawal northwards on foot.  For several days the force marched North by forced marches, Captain D.E.B. Manning (ABRO)[24] leading them through jungle tracks along streams to avoid the Japanese troops which were now moving between them and the 1st Burma Infantry Division.[25]

By now Major Russell had completed his reconnaissance mission and rejoined Headquarters, 1st Burma Division and on the afternoon of 17th March 1942 was ordered to rejoin F.F.1.  He took with him orders for F.F.1 to move North from Udo on the far West flank of the Division, in the Pegu Yomas, to “cut in” on the route from Toungoo to Prome and to protect the South flank of that route pending its use by other troops. On 18th March, the Division believed that F.F.1 was moving from the Udo area to Mobon in anticipation of a further withdrawal northwards at the F.F.1 commander’s discretion.[26]  In the meantime, F.F.1 had reached the Pyu Chaung where the wireless batteries were running low.  Unable to make contact with the 1st Burma Division the force pressed on, correctly anticipating the Division’s intent.  On 21st March F.F.1 were still out of touch with the division but it was known that F.F.1 was low on supplies and that their wireless batteries were almost exhausted.  The 5th Burma Rifles were ordered to make their way Prome across the Pegu Yomas on foot and were to take F.F.1 under command if encountered (which appears not to have occurred).  Shortly after this date Major Russell found F.F.1 at Satchaung with the vital wireless batteries, the finding of a proverbial "needle in a haystack".[27]  

The force marched on past the Kabaung Post House and down the Kabaung Chaung to Nabumyaung, to the West of Oktwin and Toungoo.  Here one of F.F.1's patrols met the Japanese and was lost.  Later it was heard that all bar one of the men escaped, running through the Japanese lines to join the Chinese.  By this time the force was out of food and the men exhausted by marching and hunger.   Luckily a rice store was found and the march continued westwards to Kyetsha.  F.F.1 was joined by some 200 stragglers from F.F.4 who had been operating in the same area around Myogyaung and some Gurkhas from a Gurkha regiment.  These men were formed into a third column but were in bad shape and it was doubtful if they would have been much use in a fight.  They were also an additional drain on the dwindling food supplies.[28]

Finally, on the morning of 2nd April 1942, F.F.1 sent a message to the Headquarters, 1st Burma Division stating that the Pegu Yomas had been crossed and that the force had reached Paukkaung at midnight, 1st April 1942.  Here the force “collected” a platoon from the 5th Burma Rifles and “one Karen Column of the Kokine Battalion without transport”.[29]

The Mounted Infantry Column, who were last heard of at Taunggyi, had been ordered to proceed to the rail head at Shwenyaung Station and from there by rail to Pyinmana.  From here they crossed to the Prome front by train[30].

Withdrawal from Prome and Allanmyo

Having transferred to the Prome front, the 1st Burma Division took up defensive positions around Allanymo, to Kyaukpadaung to the East and to Dayindabo to the South along the Irrawaddy valley. From Paukkaung, F.F.1 made attempts to link up with the Division but was hampered by the Japanese advance northwards following the withdrawal of the 17th Indian Division from Prome on the night of 30th March.  Finding the route to Prome blocked, the detachment marched North towards Shwebandaw, at the head of a road leading westwards to the main road just South of Allanmyo.[31]

The Mounted Infantry Column, already in the Allanymo area having transferred from the Shan States by train, was attached to the 13th Indian Infantry Brigade.  On 31st March the Column was placed under the command of the 1st Burma Infantry Brigade which was to concentrate in the Dayindabo area.  The Mechanised Column of F.F.1, which had until then been under the command of the 1st Burma Infantry Brigade was also at Dayindabo, was to revert to direct command of the 1st Burma Division (i.e. Divisional troops) upon arrival of the Mounted Infantry in the 1st Burma Infantry Brigade’s area.[32]

The 1st Burma Division's objective now was to protect the withdrawal of the 17th Indian Division by holding the Allanmyo area prior to its own withdrawal to the Yin Chaung line, South of Magwe. On 1st April, the employment of the Mounted Infantry Column of F.F1 and the Divisional carrier Platoon was set out in Operational Instruction No. 17.  The M.I. Column and the Carrier Platoon were to watch the tracks to the South of the Division to provide early reports of any Japanese movement northwards.  One troop of the M.I. was to remain under command of the 1st Burma Infantry Brigade and to watch the tracks to the East of the main road.  The remainder of the M.I. Column, F.F.1, was placed under the command of the 13th Indian Brigade and ordered to watch the tracks to the South of the brigade area around Kyaukpadaung.[33]

The orders for F.F.1 issued on 3rd April were to move into the 1st Burma Division reserve, moving from Shwebandaw via Allanmyo not later than the night of 4th/5th April.  On arrival with the divisional Reserve, F.F.1 was to reabsorb its detached Mounted Infantry and Mechanised Columns.  However, given the abandonment of the Allanmyo-Thayetmyo positions on the night of 5th/6th April, these orders were amended and one column of F.F.1 was now ordered to join up with the Mounted Infantry detachments working with the 13th Indian Brigade and to move to Mogaung via Kyetyongale.   Here F.F.1 would come under the command of the 13th Indian Brigade.  The Mounted Infantry troop and Mechanised Column detached to the 1st Burma Infantry Brigade were to remain with that brigade.[34]

Arriving at Kyaukpadaung on the morning of 4th April, F.F.1 met Captain Kennedy of the Mounted Infantry Column.  Kennedy had only five men under his command, having been attacked at the village of Sindok at around midnight the previous evening.  Kennedy’s command was forced to disperse under Japanese mortar fire and withdrew to Kyaukpadaung.  That evening F.F.1 resumed its march to Mogaung via Sakangyi and Kyetongale with the Mounted Infantry Column and the Divisional carrier platoon under command.  The 1st Burma Division issued new orders that day, instructing the Mounted Infantry Column to join the 1st Burma Infantry Brigade with effect from 6th April.[35]

On the morning of 7th April, the 1st Burma Infantry Brigade was ordered to send the Mounted Infantry with a wireless set to the village of Didokpin where the Mounted Infantry where to come under the command of the 13th Indian Brigade.   The 13th Indian Brigade was ordered to send an infantry detachment to support the Mounted Infantry and one company of the 1st Battalion, 18th Royal Garhwal Rifles was sent.[36]  The Mounted Infantry arrived in Didokpin on the morning of 10th April where they were ambushed by the Japanese, estimated to be two companies in strength.[37]  The survivors fell back northwards on Kanhla and were closely followed up by the Japanese.  By evening they had retired to Thityagauk.[38]  The Mounted Infantry survivors were attached to F.F.1 and after reporting that evening to Brigadier Curtis, commander of the 13th Indian Brigade at Thityagauk, Kennedy was evacuated to a hospital ship on the river where his wound was operated upon.  He saw no further action and joined the general withdrawal to India.  It seems F.F.1 was withdrawn into reserve shortly afterwards.  The detachment's animal transport was taken over by the 1st Burma Infantry Brigade, as part of a wider Divisional plan to make the brigades more mobile when moving off roads.  The men were then sent back to Yenangyaung by lorry, to rest and refit.[39]

Reorganisation and the Battle at Pin Chaung

The higher command had decided to reorganise the F.F.s to break up the big F.Fs and make them into smaller mobile units of two companies each and to create a separate force of Mounted Infantry by amalgamating the surviving mounted elements.[40]  Orders to this effect had been issued on 3rd April.[41]  It was decided to carry out reorganisation at Yenangyaung which had recently become the Advanced Headquarters of the Inspector General of the Burma Frontier Force, having been relocated there from Pyawbwe in February, the Rear Headquarters moving to Myitkyina.  At Yenangyaung the Inspector General, Brigadier Roughton, combined these duties with that of the Commander, Central Area, responsible for maintaining and protecting the lines of communication.[42]  By April Yenangyaung was also home to a draft of B.F.F. reinforcements.  F.F.1., F.F.3., and F.F.4. were concentrated in the scrub along the North of Pin Chaung and reorganisation and re-equipping began around 4th or 5th April 1942.[43]  The original F.F.1 was made into a new F.F.1 of two companies of Gurkhas under Captain L.G. Gaudie,[44] but he went sick almost immediately and Captain D.R. Turner took command.  The Kachin Column joined with that of F.F.4 to form a new F.F.4.  Major Russell was appointed Commander Frontier Force (C.F.F.) to the 1st Burma Infantry Division.  There were insufficient personnel and the resulting newly reorganised infantry columns were somewhat below the planned establishment.  All were re-equipped except for wireless equipment by the morning of 16th April.[45] 

The survivors of the Mounted Infantry column, F.F.1 were amalgamated with the Mounted Infantry Column of F.F.3.  This new Mounted Infantry Column was commanded by Captain G.B. Thunder[46] and reported as being retained by the 1st Burma Infantry Division.[47]  However it also seems that this new Mounted Infantry force may have been split into two squadrons for the Burcorps Operation Instruction of 3rd April gave details of the regrouping of the F.F. columns, with “A” Squadron, M.I. (F.F.1), attached to “Striking Force” (the 1st Burma Infantry Division, the 48th Indian Infantry Brigade and the 7th Armoured Brigade) and “B” Squadron, M.I. (F.F.3), 17th Indian Infantry Division.[48]

Of this reorganisation, Major Russell later wrote:  "This reorganisation from F.F.1s point of view appears to have been a pity. Up till then it had been a whole fighting unit trained to fight together and used to its officers. Its scouting ability had enabled it to hold its own against the Japs. Now new officers were drafted in and it was mixed up with other units under officers and N.C.Os it did not know, while its officers and men did not know their new jobs. Their M.I., mortars and W.T. sets had been removed."[49]

Sometime later, on or just before 16th April, these newly formed units, F.F.1, F.F.3 and F.F.4, moved back to the North of the Pin Chaung where they were camped prior to being sent out as an information screen.  By now the 1st Burma Infantry Division had withdrawn from the Magwe area to Yenangyaung, South of the Pin Chaung.[50]  It was then that a new threat to the 1st Burma Infantry Division had emerged.  What follows is described by Lt. Colonel Pryce:

F.F. Detachments at the Pin Chaung 16/17th April 1942

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In the evening of 16th April when at _________ (I forget the name of the place but the road goes right to Kyaukpadaung and a left branch goes to Chauk [the village is Gwegyo]), I was ordered to detail two F.Fs. to proceed to the two tracks between the two routes MAGWE – YENANGYAUNG, TAUNGDWINGYI – NATMAUK along which 1 Burdiv and 17 Div respectively were withdrawing.  I proceeded there and gave orders to the Os.C. [Officers Commanding] F.F.1 & F.F.3 (Major D.R. Turner and Major J.H. Turner[51]).  I was about to return to Corps H.Qrs about 2030 hours but stopped to speak to Capt. Forbes. A station wagon passed me proceeding in the direction of the village where the Kyaukpadaung and Chauk roads fork. When it reached a point about 500 yards ahead, just before the rise in the ground, a sudden burst of L.A. [light automatic] fire was heard and the station wagon burst into flames.  F.F. Commanders were called and ordered to arrange local protection while proceeding with their preparations to move as ordered.  Shortly afterwards the driver of the station wagon came in and reported that the fire had come from the East of the road.  Several vehicles from the North then came through unmolested.   About this time 2 Bn. R. Tanks Corps [2nd Royal Tank Regiment] arrived.  The officer commanding was given all information and stated that he proposed to push on, so I ordered F.Fs. 1 & 3 to be prepared to follow the Tanks.  The first tank went up the road and when opposite the burning station wagon, one of its tracks was blown off by a grenade or mine and the road was blocked.  O.C. 2nd Bn. R.T.C. [2nd Royal Tank Regiment] then decided to remain for the night or until the road was clear, sent a tank up near the disabled tank, ordered the crew of the latter to evacuate their tank as soon as covering fire was opened by the 2nd tank.  This was done successfully and the crew were evacuated safely. Shortly afterwards the tank was set alight by the enemy.

I then ordered F.F.4. to sweep the area E of the road and they moved off about 2330 hours. Throughout the night there were a number of bursts of L.A. fire and the noise of crackers etc., but it was obvious that no contact was made.  I therefore decided to put a sweep through on both sides of the road, starting just before dawn. F.F.1. was detailed.  At first no opposition was encountered.  At about dawn heavy fire was heard and F.F.4. was later seen withdrawing on the EAST of the road and suffered considerable casualties.  F.F.1. was then held up on the East of the road but advanced on WEST of the road for a time, when this flank was also held up by fire further to the West.  One Pl. F.F.3. was then despatched to deal with this enemy post and receiving valuable aid from a section of tanks, were able to overcome the opposition and the advance continued.  The right flank was still held up and the tanks were unable to help.  I went to this flank and was able to get a small party of about 1 section forward to within 50 yards of the high ground occupied by the enemy.  About ½ of the section became casualties and further progress was impossible owing to the enfilade fire of a L.A. further to the East.  By this time those on the West of the road had advanced and were about level with the party on the East of the road.  I proceeded over to them, decided to put in an attack on the high ground on the EAST of the road from the West, and went back to arrange for co-operation with the Tanks.  The O.C. Tank Bn., put one tp. at my disposal to support the attack.  One A.A. [anti-aircraft] gun also came into action and engaged the enemy position.  The attack went in and the enemy evacuated the position and withdrew to the East. Having proceeded about 300 yards to the EAST of the road a position was occupied under heavy S.A.A. and Mortar fire.  The Tanks and a good deal of the transport which had been piling up all night went through.  The enemy then infiltrated round our flanks and got back to the road preventing any further movement along the road and also taking us in the rear.  “A” Company of the KOYLI [King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry] who were on the far side of the road block had occupied the highest ground astride the road further to the North and we withdrew on them.  On our departure a flight of about 12 Japanese bombers bombed what transport remained in PINCHAUNG [sic]."[52]

The 1st Burma Infantry Division eventually escaped across the Pin Chaung on the afternoon of 19th April, having had to abandon most of its motor transport.

Monywa and the Final Withdrawal

F.F.1 at Monywa 30th April/1st May 1942 (Indian Official History)

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F.F.4 was almost destroyed and set off North for Myitkyina but never reached there as the men were paid off at Naba on the way.  F.F.1 and F.F.3 had suffered a number of casualties also but being in better shape were then concentrated at the village of Gwegyo, North of the Pin Chaung where the Kyaukpadaung and Chauk roads fork.  From there they were sent to the Mount Popa area.  When news was received that the enemy were advancing in strength on Kyaukpadaung, F.F.1 and F.F.3 were ordered to protect that village.  Later, upon withdrawal from Kyaukpadaung, F.F.3 was placed under the direct command of the 1st Burma Infantry Division and F.F.1 became Corps Troops (under the direct command of the 1st Burma Corps).[53]

The Mounted Infantry under the command of Captain G.B. Thunder, previously the Commanding Officer of F.F.5, were also retained by the 1st Burma Infantry Division.  On 20th April both Major Russell and Captain Thunder were placed in charge of “straggler posts”, ordered to gather in stragglers for subsequent collection by their brigades.  On the 22nd April, the Mounted Infantry were given the role of escorting all of the 1st Burma Infantry Division’s animal transport for the withdrawal to Taungtha.  Later, on 25th April, F.F.3 and the Mounted Infantry Column were placed under command of the 13th Indian Brigade, in the Myingyan area, and charged with watching the Division’s West flank.   The Division was at this time holding a position in the area of Taungtha, covering the withdrawal of the 1st Burma Corps, prior to its own withdrawal to the East bank of the Chindwin.  At the end of April, the 63rd Indian Brigade of the 17th Indian Infantry Division, located at Chaung-U, was placed under the command of the 1st Burma Infantry Division, with effect from 1st May.  The Mounted Infantry were sent to Chaung-U to come under the command of the 63rd Indian Brigade on arrival.[54]

Moving with the Headquarters of the 1st Burma Corps, F.F.1 under the command of Major Turner arrived at Songon, 16 miles to the North of Monywa on 30th April.  Monywa was held by a detachment of the 1st Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment and the river patrol of Royal Marines known as Force “Viper”.  That evening this small garrison came under heavy fire from across the Chindwin River.  That night F.F.1 was sent by Burcorps to bolster the Monywa garrison.  The next morning however, under the cover of heavy fire and intense air activity, the Japanese successfully crossed the river and secured a foothold in Monywa.  Being no more than 250 strong and with no heavy weapons, the combined garrison was forced to withdraw to high ground about two miles North of the town.[55]  During action at Monywa, Subedar Baghandoj Raj was blinded but continued to command his company, being led round by the hand.  Unfortunately the recommendation for an award for this act of gallantry was submitted too late for approval.[56]

F.F.1 and F.F.7 at Budalin 2nd/4th May 1942 (1st Glosters War Diary WO 172/861)

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The detachment of Gloucesters and F.F.1 withdrew again and by 2nd May were in the area North of Alon on the Monywa-Yeu road.  That evening, the remainder of the Gloucesters arrived, with an F.F.7 column under command and together with some mountain artillery and a few anti-tank guns were formed into a composite force under the command of the Gloucesters’ Commanding Officer, Lt. Colonel Bagot, known as “Bagot” Force.[57]  This force was directed to delay the Japanese for as long as possible whilst the 1st Burma Infantry Division completed its withdrawal from Monywa.  The force took up positions around Budalin astride the road and railway to Yeu.  F.F.1 were at the rear of the position, with orders to patrol to the West and North out to about eight miles.  F.F.7 were placed on the right flank with orders to patrol out to three miles.  On the evening of 3rd May tanks of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment withdrew on to the Budalin position and harboured behind the forward troops of “Bagot” Force.  In the early hours of 4th May, the Commanding Officer of F.F.7 reported enemy movement on his front and that he had withdrawn his column to Budalin.  Here he was ordered to hold a gap between two of the Gloucesters’ companies.  Before dawn a small force of Japanese supported by three tanks attempted to dislodge the force.  However they were beaten off and at 06:30 orders were received for “Bagot” Force to withdraw to Yeu.  A section of mountain guns and F.F.1 provided rearguard cover.  Following the successful withdrawal of the force, F.F.1 were ordered to rejoin Frontier Force Headquarters.  Presumably F.F.7 joined them for both columns joined the 1st Burma Infantry Brigade on 6th May, the brigade being give the role of flank guard to the 1st Burma Corps.[58]  The final march to India was completed from Pyu Gaing through Pantha to Tamu.[59]

F.F.1 and F.F.7 at Budalin 2nd/4th May 1942 (1st Glosters War Diary WO 172/861)

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After arrival with the Brigade in India, on 28th May the F.F.1 and F.F.7 columns left the Brigade for the Burma Frontier Force Camp at milestone 107 on the Tamu-Manipur road where they were disbanded, with the officers and men entering the pool of Burma Frontier Force and Burma Military Police.[60]

22 November 2017

 



 

[1] Gordon George Pryce born, 21st May 1901.  Commissioned as 2nd Lt. to the Unattached List, 28th December 1921.  Appointed to the Indian Army as 2nd Lt., 17th April 1923.  Attached to the 5th Battalion, 8th Punjab Regiment, 17th April 1923.  Served Waziristan, 1923-24.  Promoted to Lieutenant, 23rd March 1924.  Promoted to Captain, 23rd December 1930.  Seconded and served as Assistant Commandant with the 2nd Rangoon Battalion, Burma Frontier Force, 1st April 1937.  Served as Assistant Commandant, Northern Shan States Battalion, Burma Frontier Force, 1938 to 13th July 1940.  Promoted to Major, 23rd December 1938.  Formed F.F.1, Burma Frontier Force at Kutkai and became first Commanding Officer, 14th July 1940 to 1st October 1941.  Appointed as Commander Corps, Burma Frontier Force, attached to Headquarters, 1st Burma Corps, 29th March 1942.  Mentioned in Despatches for service in Burma, attached to the Burma Frontier Force, gazetted, 28th October 1942.  Served with the 8th Punjab Regiment, 1943.  Died (buried at Delhi War Cemetery), 8th December 1943 ("War Services of British and Indian Officers of the Indian Army 1941", Savannah (2004); “Burma Frontier Force by Lt. Col G.G. Pryce”, WO 203/5697; “F.F.1’s Part in the Burma Campaign by Lt. Col. W.R.V. Russell M.C.”; British Army List; Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Indian Army List; London Gazette).

[2]Burma Frontier Force by Lt. Col G.G. Pryce”, WO 203/5697; “F.F.1’s Part in the Burma Campaign by Lt. Col. W.R.V. Russell M.C.”, WO 203/5699.

[3] John Richard Tatham Kennedy born, 10th March 1915.  Commissioned to the Unattached List as 2nd Lt., 29th August 1935.  Appointed to the Indian Army as 2nd Lt. (502 AI), 17th November 1936.  Promoted to Lieutenant, 29th November 1937.  Seconded and served as Assistant Commandant with the Bhamo Battalion, Burma Frontier Force from 22nd September 1939 to 1940.  Married Beulah Mildred Geneveive Willes at Bhamo, 1940.  On Duty in the Northern Shan States with the Burma Frontier Force, early 1941.  Column Commander, Mounted Infantry Column, F.F.1, Burma Frontier Force, 1941 to April 1942.  Temporary Major from 31st March 1942.  Wounded and relieved of command of the Mounted Infantry Column, F.F.1, Burma Frontier Force, 10th April 1942.  Evacuated and operated upon on a hospital ship near Magwe.  Took no further active part in the campaign other than to walk to India, mid-April to May 1942.  Promoted to Captain, 29th August 1943.  As Major, attached to "Dah Force" during the Second Chindit Operation and was badly wounded, 1944.  As Captain, Special List (ex Indian Army), promoted to Major, 29th August 1948.  As Major, Special List (ex Indian Army), retired, 1st January 1949.  Died, Worcester, 22nd October 1973 (British Army List; FindMyPast; Saxon Lodge; Indian Army List; London Gazette; “Burma Frontier Force by Lt. Col G.G. Pryce”, WO 203/5697; “Account of the action of F.F.1 – M.I. Column in Burma” by Captain J. Kennedy, WO 203/5697; “F.F.1’s Part in the Burma Campaign by Lt. Col. W.R.V. Russell M.C.”, WO 203/5699).

[4] “Account of the action of F.F.1 – M.I. Column in Burma” by Captain J. Kennedy, WO 203/5697.

[5] WO 203/5699

[6] IOR/M/3/1064

[7] WO 203/5699

[8] “Account of the action of F.F.1 – M.I. Column in Burma” by Captain J. Kennedy, WO 203/5697; WO 203/5699.

[9] William Rodney Villiers Russell usually went by his middle name, Rodney and called "Roddie" by some, born, 15th March 1914.  Educated at Wellington College.  Commissioned into The Rifle Brigade as 2nd Lt. (62669), 1st February 1934.  Promoted to Lieutenant, 1st February 1937.  Seconded to the Burma Defence Force, served as Assistant Commandant, Myitkyina Battalion, Burma Frontier Force, 10th September 1938 to late 1939.  War Substantive Major, 10th January 1940.  As Assistant Commandant, Burma Frontier Force, on Special Duty in the Northern Shan States, 1941 to June 1942.  Assistant Commandant, Northern Shan States Battalion, Burma Frontier Force and Officer Commanding the Kutkai outpost detachment, late 1941.  Succeeded Major Pryce as Commanding Officer of F.F.1, Burma Frontier Force, 1st October 1941.  Served as Commanding Officer, F.F.1, Burma Frontier Force (incorrectly recorded in recommendation for M.C. as "W.B.R. Russell"), 1st October 1941 to mid-April 1942.  Promoted to Captain, 1st February 1942.  Temporary Major, 14th March 1942.  Appointed Commander Frontier Force (C.F.F.) to the 1st Burma Infantry Division, April 1942.  As Captain (temporary Major), attached the Burma Frontier Force, while in command of F.F.1, awarded the Military Cross, gazetted, 28th October 1942, the recommendation for which reads as follows:

Division: 1st Burma Division, Burma Corps

Unit:  F.F.1, Burma Frontier Force

Date of Recommendation:           4th June 1942

Action for which recommended :-          

During the operations South of TOUNGOO subsequent to 11 March 1942 Maj RUSSELL was in command of F.F.1 a column which through no fault of his had lost touch by wireless with the remainder of the force and had of necessity to be left behind during the withdrawal.  In spite of many vicissitudes and brushes with the Japanese cavalry (the column was for some time behind the Japanese lines) Maj RUSSELL managed to bring out his column complete, men and animals, across the PEGU YOMAS, living on the country wherever food could be found for two weeks and marching 25 to 30 miles daily.  Rations were approximately a handful of rice per man per day.  The morale of the small force under Maj RUSSEL’s [sic] leadership never waned and on all rejoining the division although tattered, thin and exhausted, their spirit was magnificent.  This I am convinced was due to the personality and character of their leader. 

Recommended by:  Maj-General J.B. Scott, M.C, Comd 1 Burma Division

Signed By:  H.R. Alexander (General)

As Lt. Colonel, Commanding Officer, The Chin Hills Battalion, The Burma Regiment, late 1942 to 4th November 1944.  Temporary Lt. Colonel, 4th November 1943.  Relinquished command of the Chin Hills Battalion, The Burma Regiment and left for repatriation to the U.K., 4th November 1944.  As War Substantive Major, promoted to Major, 1st February 1947.  Died, 7th December 1994 ("Distinctly I Remember", H. Braund, Wren (1972); “Burma Frontier Force by Lt. Col G.G. Pryce”, WO 203/5697; British Army List; Indian Army List April 1940 - July 1942; London Gazette; thepeerage.com; WO 373/30/171; “F.F.1’s Part in the Burma Campaign by Lt. Col. W.R.V. Russell M.C.”, WO 203/5699; WO 373/35/131; WO 203/974; War Diary of the Chin Hills Battalion, WO 172/5040).

[10] “TURCOL” has not yet been identified.  It may have been found from the infantry column commanded by Captain D.R. Turner of F.F.1, the same parent unit as Kennedy’s Mounted Infantry.  Alternatively it may have been drawn from the infantry column commanded by Captain I.H. Turner of F.F.4.  According to an account of F.F.4’s operations, the F.F.4 Column commanded by Captain I.H. Turner was located in the Mongsat area at this time and undertook a raid against Thai border guards in February 1942 (“F.F.1’s Part in the Burma Campaign” by Lt. Col. W.R.V. Russell M.C., WO 203/5699; Private Papers of Lt. Colonel I.C.G. Scott, IWM).

David Rae Turner. Emergency Commission as 2nd Lt. to the General List (217666), 26th October 1941.  As Captain, Column Commander of a Gurkha Column, F.F.1, Burma Frontier Force at Pyuntaza, February 1942.  Became Commanding Officer of F.F.1, Burma Frontier Force when the appointed C.O., Captain Gaudie, went sick, mid-April 1942.  Continued as Commanding Officer of F.F.1 following the amalgamation with F.F.7, May 1942.  War substantive Lieutenant, 1st October 1942 (“Burma Frontier Force by Lt. Col G.G. Pryce”, WO 203/5697; “F.F.1’s Part in the Burma Campaign by Lt. Col. W.R.V. Russell M.C.”, WO 203/5699; British Army List; London Gazette).

Ian Henry Turner, born, 22nd May 1909.  Emergency Commission to the General List as 2nd Lt. (189635), 28th April 1941.  Served with the Reserve Battalion, Burma Frontier Force; assisted Lt. I.C.G. Scott with infantry training, May? 1941 to August 1941.  Column Commander, No. 4 Column, F.F.4, Burma Frontier Force, September 1941 to March 1942.  Temporary Captain (war substantive Lieutenant), 14th March 1942.  Evacuated sick, end March/early April 1942.  Temporary Captain from 28th August 1943.  As war substantive Major, relinquished commission and granted the honorary rank of Lt. Colonel, 11th October 1946 (Burma Defence Services List July 1941; Burma Army List 1943;British Army List October 1945; Burma Army List 1943; Scott papers).

[11] Edward Gordon Forbes born Bengal, India, 16th November 1905.  Occupation given as "Planter" when sailing from London to Singapore aboard the "Atsuta Maru", 11th February 1927.  Commissioned as 2nd Lt. to the ABRO (ABRO 69), 10th November 1939.  Served with the Burma Frontier Force, 1940.  Promoted to Lieutenant, 10th May 1941.  Served with F.F.1, Burma Frontier Force, 1st January 1942.  Was temporary Commander of H.Q. F.F.1, Burma Frontier Force at the fighting at Pyuntaza, on or around, 10th March 1942.  Temporary Captain, 14th March 1942.  Commanding Officer of the "newly reorganised" F.F.4, Burma Frontier Force, April-May 1942.  Occupation given as "Accountant" when travelling from London to Auckland, New Zealand aboard RMS "Rangitata", 18th December 1958 ("Burma Frontier Force" by Lt. Colonel G.G. Pryce, WO 203/5697(Burma Frontier Force - WO 203/5697); “F.F.1’s Part in the Burma Campaign by Lt. Col. W.R.V. Russell M.C.”, WO 203/5699; Burma Army List; Burma Army List October 1940; Burma Army List 1943; FindMyPast).

[12] War Diary of the 13th Indian Infantry Brigade, WO 172/563

[13] “Account of the action of F.F.1 – M.I. Column in Burma” by Captain J. Kennedy, WO 203/5697; WO 203/5699.

[14] “Account of the action of F.F.1 – M.I. Column in Burma” by Captain J. Kennedy, WO 203/5697; WO 203/5699.

[15] WO 203/5699

[16] War Diary of the 2nd Burma Infantry Brigade, WO 172/548

[17] WO 203/5697

[18] War Diary of the 2nd Burma Infantry Brigade, WO 172/548

[19] War Diary of the 1st Burma Infantry Division, WO 172/447; “Indian Armed Forces in World War II, The Retreat from Burma 1941-42”, Prasad, B, Orient Longmans (1954).

[20] War Diary of the 1st Burma Infantry Division, WO 172/447; “Indian Armed Forces in World War II, The Retreat from Burma 1941-42”, Prasad, B, Orient Longmans (1954).

[21] War Diary of the 1st Burma Infantry Division, WO 172/447; WO 203/5699.

[22] WO 203/5699

[23] WO 172/447

[24] Donald Edward Belford Manning born, 1901.  As Lieutenant, placed on the half pay list, 14th October 1921.  Late Lieutenant, made Lieutenant, Regular Army Reserve of Officers, the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (108472), 7th November 1923, with seniority from 16th July 1921.  Appointed to the Burma Forest Service, 24th December 1923.  Travelled with his wife to Rangoon from Liverpool aboard SS "Burma", 17th February 1928.  Worked as Deputy Conservator, Forest Department, Burma Forest Service, 1938 or earlier to 1940 or later.  Organised a system of Karen watchers on the Shwegyin Eastern watershed, February 1942.  Commissioned into the ABRO as 2nd Lt. (ABRO 365), 7th February 1942.  Following the battle of Pyuntaza, guided elements of F.F.1 through jungle near Pyu Chaung and across the Pegu Yomas to Prome, March 1942.  Served with the Chin Hills Levies from their formation, April 1942 to 1944?.  War substantive Captain, temporary Major from 4th July 1942.  As Captain, serving with the Western Chin Hills Levies, awarded the Military Cross, gazetted, 16th December 1943, for which the recommendation reads as follows:

Corps:  IV Corps

Unit:     Chin Hills Levies

Date of Recommendation:         26th January 1943       

Action for which recommended :-           Captain D.E.B. MANNING has served wit the Chin Hills Levies from the time of its inception in April 1942.  On the withdrawal from Burma he was ordered by me to commence rationing arrangements from the Kale Valley Area, this Area having already been evacuated by the British troops.

He displayed the greatest energy and success in his task which had to be carried out in very close proximity to the Japanese, at great risk to his own personal safety.  No escort could be provided.

Captain MANNING obtained sufficient supplies from the Plains to enable the Levies in the Tiddim Area to be rationed for six months at a most critical period.  Without the energy and success of his untiring efforts, The Levy organisation would not have been able to exist in that area.

Later in the year he was again sent to the Plains to obtain further supplies under most difficult and dangerous conditions.  In spite of the fact that several of our rice contractors had previously been either disembowelled or captured by the Japs in that area, he managed to get up a considerable supply from the Plains.

Captain MANNING has also been in charge of several patrols into the plains on offensive recces.

His energy and fine example has been a great asset to the Chin Hills as a whole, and to the Levy organisation.    

Recommended by:  Area Commander, CHIN HILLS; G.A.P. Scoones, Lieutenant-General, Commanding IV Corps

Signed By: N.M.S. Irwin, Lieut.-General, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Army

Officiating Commanding Officer, the Western Chin Levies, 26th May 1944 to 20th September 1944.  As temporary Major, attached the Western Chin Levies, Mentioned in Desptaches, gazetted, 19th July 1945.  As Lieutenant (honorary Lt. Colonel), late Army in Burma Reserve of Officers, having reached the age limit of liability to recall, ceased to belong to the Regular Army Reserve of Officers, 26th May 1951.  Died, Bronant, Cardiganshire, 25th January 1968 (“F.F.1’s Part in the Burma Campaign by Lt. Col. W.R.V. Russell M.C.”, WO 203/5699; Burma Army List 1943; Burma Civil List 1938-1940; Burma Civil List 1942; FindMyPast; London Gazette; WO 373/31/132; War Diary of the Western Chin Levies, WO 172/5043).

[25] WO 203/5699

[26] WO 172/447

[27] WO 172/447; WO 203/5699

[28] WO 203/5699

[29] WO 172/447

[30] WO 203/5697

[31] WO 203/5699; WO 172/447

[32] WO 172/447

[33] WO 172/447

[34] WO 172/447

[35] WO 172/447

[36] War Diary of the 13th Indian Infantry Brigade, WO 172/563

[37] The war diary of the 13th Indian Brigade gives this date as 9th April 1942 (WO 172/563).

[38] WO 172/563

[39] WO 172/447; WO 203/5697; WO 203/5699.

[40] WO 203/5699

[41] War Diary of the 1st Burma Corps, WO 172/403.

[42] “Notes on the Burma Frontier Force” by Captain Hales, WO 203/5698.

[43] WO 203/5697

[44] Lawrence Glen Gaudie born, Eton, Buckinghamshire, 1914.  Worked for Steel Brothers, 1939.  Commissioned as 2nd Lt., ABRO (ABRO 45), 10th November 1939.  Promoted to Lieutenant (listed as "L.G. Gandie"), 20th September 1940.  Assistant Commandant, Northern Shan States Battalion, Burma Frontier Force and Officer Commanding the Kutkai outpost detachment, 1941.  Served with F.F.4, Burma Frontier Force as Adjutant, late 1941 to March/April 1942.  (An "L.G. Gandie" wrote a "note" on F.F.4 - see WO/172/980.  This note has not yet been found in the archives).  Married Valerie Catherine Davies Borrington, Madras, 1942.  Temporary Captain, 14th March 1942.  Appointed Commanding Officer of the "newly reorganised" F.F.1, Burma Frontier Force but went sick and was replaced by Captain D.R. Turner, April 1942.  Served with the Chin Hills Battalion, The Burma Regiment, 1944? to 1945.  Died, Buckinghamshire, 1971 ("Burma Frontier Force" by Lt. Colonel G.G. Pryce, WO 203/5697 (Burma Frontier Force - WO 203/5697); "Distinctly I Remember", H. Braund, Wren (1972); “F.F.1’s Part in the Burma Campaign by Lt. Col. W.R.V. Russell M.C.”, WO 203/5699; Ancestry.co.uk; Anglo-Burmese Library; Burma Army List 1943; Scott papers; FindMyPast; London Gazette; War Diary of the 8th Burma Rifles, WO 172/980).

[45] WO 203/5699

[46] Geoffrey Bernard Thunder born in Tanjong Rambutan, Malaya, 30th December 1908.  Commissioned to the Unattached List as 2nd Lt. (IA 75), attached to Hodson's Horse, 31st January 1929.  Served North West Frontier of India, 1930.  Appointed to the Indian Army as 2nd Lt., 20th March 1930.  Promoted to Lieutenant, 30th April 1932.  Seconded to the Burma Frontier Force as Assistant Commandant, Northern Shan States Battalion, 21st May 1937 to 1st January 1938.  Assistant Commandant, Myitkyina Battalion, Burma Frontier Force, 1938 to 1942.  Promoted to Captain, 28th March 1938.  Raised and became the Commanding Officer of F.F.5, Burma Frontier Force, 15th September 1941.  Appointed the Commanding Officer, Mounted Infantry Column, Burma Frontier Force, formed by the amalgamation of the survivors of the Mounted Infantry Columns of F.F.1 and F.F.3 on or just before, 16th April 1942.  Temporary Major, 18th May 1944.  As Captain, retired, 27th September 1946.  Died in Lacken House, Kilkenny, Ireland, 25th August 1963 ("War Services of British and Indian Officers of the Indian Army 1941", Savannah (2004); ancestry.co.uk; British Army List; Indian Army List; London Gazette; “Burma Frontier Force by Lt. Col G.G. Pryce”, WO 203/5697)

[47] WO 203/5697

[48] War Diary of the 1st Burma Corps, WO 172/403.

[49] WO 203/5699

[50] WO 203/5699; “Indian Armed Forces in World War II, The Retreat from Burma 1941-42”, Prasad, B, Orient Longmans (1954).

[51] John Hector Turner born, 6th August 1903.  Commissioned as 2nd Lt. to the Unattached List, 31st January 1924.  Appointed to the Indian Army as 2nd Lt.(IA 525), 15th March 1925.  Served with Hodson’s Horse from 18th March 1925.  Promoted to Lieutenant, 30th April 1926.  Served with the Hazara Pioneers from 1st May 1927.  Served with the 7th Gurkha Rifles from 1933?.  Promoted to Captain, 31st January 1933.  Appointed Assistant Commandant, Southern Shan States Battalion, Burma Frontier Force, Taunggyi, 8th March 1938.  Commander, F.F.3, Burma Frontier Force from formation until disbandment, 1st October 1940 to 20th May 1942.  Promoted to Major, 31st January 1941.  As Major, author of “Burma Frontier Force: short history”, WO 203/5702 - a history of F.F.3, Burma Frontier Force, 31st May 1943.  Commanding Officer, the 4th Battalion, 7th Gurkha Rifles, 16th March 1944 to 4th December 1944.  Promoted to temporary Lt. Colonel, 16th June 1944.  As Lt.-Colonel, C.O. of the 4th Battalion, 5th Gurkha Rifles, during the Battle of Pakokku, wounded, 10th February 1945. Died, 11th February 1945 ("History of 7th Duke of Edinburgh's Own Gurkha Rifles", J.N. Mackay, Blackwood (1962); “Short History of F.F.3” by Major J.H. Turner, WO 203/5702 (Short History of F.F.3 - WO 203/5702); “War Services of British and Indian Officers of the Indian Army 1941”, Savannah (2004); British Army List; Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Indian Army List; London Gazette).

[52] WO 203/5697

[53] WO 203/5697

[54] WO 203/5697

[55] “Narrative of the Burma Campaign, 1 Glosters”, War Diary of the 1st Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment, WO 172/861; War Diary of the 1st Burma Infantry Brigade, WO 172/547; WO 203/5697.

[56] WO 203/5699

[57] Little is known about this F.F.7 column.  The Headquarters F.F.7 and two columns (one Chin and one Gurkha) had been evacuated by sea from Rangoon to India on 7th March.  By mid-March F.F.7 was encamped at Elephant Falls, near Shillong in Assam, India.  In May, the Chin column, under Captain H.E.W. Braund, went to join the Chin Levies.  It is not known what became of the Gurkha column under Captain C.A. McDowall (“Distinctly I Remember: a personal story of Burma”, Braund, H. E. W., Wren (1972)).

[58] WO 172/403.

[59] “Indian Armed Forces in World War II, The Retreat from Burma 1941-42”, Prasad, B, Orient Longmans (1954); WO 172/547; WO 172/861; WO 203/5697.

[60] WO 172/547.