The Burma Campaign

Wartime Expansion of the Pool of Officers for the Burma Army

Before the separation of Burma from India on 1st April 1937, the infantry units which came to be included in the Burma Army, the Burma Rifles and the Burma Military Police, were officered exclusively by British regular officers of the Indian Army.  On separation, the Burma Military Police were divided into five battalions and one training (or reserve) battalion of the Burma Frontier Force and three battalions of the Burma Military Police, which were placed at the disposal of the Civil Authorities.

From 1st April 1937, officers for the Burma Rifles, the Burma Frontier Force and the Burma Military Police were found by the secondment of both as Indian Army and British Service officers, for a tour of four years, extensible to five.  All officers were placed at the disposal of the General Officer Commanding Burma who decided the officer postings between the three forces (Burma Rifles, Burma Frontier Force and Burma Military Police).  Apart from British regular officers, Governor's Commissioned Officers (G.C.O.s), the equivalent in Burma of Viceroy's Commissioned Officers in India, served with the battalions of the Burma Rifles and the Burma Frontier Force.

Following the outbreak of war, many officers serving with British infantry battalions in Burma and those serving with the Burma Forces were posted away, to help with the expansion of the British and Indian Armies.  Replacements for these officers and the additional officers needed to support the expansion of the Burma Army were found by the appointment of officers from the Army in Burma Reserve of Officers (A.B.R.O.).  The A.B.R.O. included Europeans resident in Burma granted King's Commissions and a number of Burman gentlemen who were also granted King's Commissions.  A considerable number of the officers in this reserve had previously been members of the Indian equivalent - the Army in India Reserve of Officers.  Burma Army also employed a certain number of officers of the Indian Regular Reserve and of the Special Unemployed List, the latter on censorship duties.

In addition to this, further officer requirements were met by the creation of an Officer Cadet Training Unit (O.C.T.U.).  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 O.C.T.U. course, with a view to appointment to Emergency Commissions in British service, in the case of Europeans, and in the A.B.R.O. in the case of Burmans.

It was planned for the first batch of 60 officers coming from the O.C.T.U. to be available by about April 1941 (in fact 61 cadets were commissioned on 28th April 1941.[1]  This was to be followed by further batches at six monthly intervals.  This approach was expected to produce more than 200 officers.

Men who were not successful in passing O.C.T.U. remained members of the Burma Auxiliary Force, available for service if and when required in the event of an emergency.

19 November 2017



[1] Supplement to the London Gazette, 1st July 1941