The Rangoon Battalion,
Burma Auxiliary Force
battalion was raised on 30th November 1877 as the Rangoon Volunteer
Rifle Corps. On 23rd November 1883 it incorporated the Akyab
Volunteer Rifle Corps, formed on 12th March 1880, before being retitled
the 18th Rangoon Battalion on 1st April 1917.
In 1920, following the creation of the Indian Auxiliary
Force, it became the Rangoon Battalion. The battalion was transferred to
the Burma Auxiliary Force on 1st April 1937, following the transfer of units
to the Burma Army with the separation of administration from India.
January 1940 the battalion was composed of a Headquarters, three rifle
companies, one machine gun platoon and one armoured car section.
Detachments were at Syriam and Akyab. This
same establishment was reported on 8th February 1941, when the battalion had a
strength of 30 Officers and 757 Other Ranks.
War Diary of the Rangoon
Battalion, BAF 1939-1942
document WO172/310 – consisting of three sections of photo-statted
notes, one section hand-written, the remaining two typed, presumably in India
after the retreat. The first two sections deal with the activities of
the battalion. The
third section covers the Armoured Car Section.]
written notes copied in Simla, India, presumably
after the retreat.]
the outbreak of war, 3.9.39, the battalion with some 9 officers and 400 ORs
was embodied. Guards were provided for:
RET ….. Power
and Pumping Station
Telegraph and telephone exchanges
Crisp Street …….
Company was also sent to Syriam to … guard the refinery.
company remained here until the middle of 1940 when it was relieved by one of
the newly formed garrison companies.
time, the battalion was relieved of 1. and 2. above
by 1st Glosters.
Further VPs [Vital Points] were
however allotted to the battalion when it ceased to be embodied as a whole but
an embodied company was maintained to look after VPs in Rangoon.
This gave employment to many jobless or poorly paid members of the
1940 the battalion relieved 1st Glosters
of duty at Dry Tree Point, a platoon being sent there for its close defence.
many years prior to the outbreak of war, the European community, with the
exception of a few enthusiasts, showed little or no interest in the Auxiliary
Force. The backbone of the whole
force was the Anglo-Burma – Anglo-Indian community.
The outbreak of war lead however to the enrolment of a large number of
Europeans to whom the Auxiliary Force presented the only form of military
service then[?] available.
tempo of its training and activities underwent a tremendous increase.
July, August and September 1940, a three-month intensive course of training
was held, which stood many of those who attended their first military course
in good stead. It is not without
significance that over 400 members of the battalion received commissions
either in HM Land Forces or in the ABRO [Army in Burma Reserve of Officers].
This fact alone, quite apart from its own activities, fully justified
the existence [?] of the battalion.
the Japs came into the war, the battalion was again embodied as a whole except
for those who were released from service by reason of the importance of their
December 1941 an AA Company was formed to take over the ground defence[s]
at Mingaladon aerodrome and the satellite aerodromes.
In January the armoured car section was sent to the Mingaladon and
the 23rd and 25th December air raids, the battalion was given the …..[?]
unpleasant but vitally necessary job of clearing up
the streets. It also provided the
labour for the distribution of vital foodstuffs in Rangoon under the orders of
the Controller of Food. It also
supplied guides for military reinforcements coming into[?]
the civil evacuation of Rangoon, Battalion HQ and the remnants of the
Tenasserim Battalion were ordered to Yenangyaung at the end of February.
Its AA Company remained at Mingaladon and the detachment at Dry Tree
Point remained there until finally evacuated by sea on March 6th/7th.
the 23rd March, the three infantry battalions, Rangoon, Tenasserim
and Upper Burma, were amalgamated into one battalion with HQ at Mandalay.
Apart from static duties it was largely employed in the manning of
steamers and launches for river communication. It finally evacuated from Burma
by march route.
addition to the above, the battalion raised ….[?]
ordnance companies (light aid detachments) which in January 1942 were handed
over to the Rangoon Field Brigade. It
also raised a clerical company which provided the clerks for a rapidly
expanded divisional HQ. It had,
including reserves, a strength of just on 6000 men.
War Diary of Rangoon
notes, also copied in Simla]
the declaration of war on 3rd September 1939, a company of two
officers and 150 ORs were embodied and sent to
Syriam to guard the refinery. The
Rangoon Battalion provided VP Guards at the following places:
Wireless station, Monkey Point
Garrison Battalion, Burma Rifles and the Gloucestershire Regiment took over
the guarding of the Syriam Refinery and all the above mentioned posts with the
exceptions of items ii), iii) and iv) after about four and a half months.
The remaining posts were guarded by the battalion up to the time of the
evacuation of Rangoon. In
addition, from the declaration of war with Japan on 7th December
1941 bodies of men were maintained at HQ, Godwin Road to deal with low-flying
aircraft and paratroops. These men
were sent to Mogul Guard in trucks on the sound of an air-raid warning and
were also on duty until the evacuation of Rangoon.
the declaration of war with Japan two platoons with one officer were sent to
Dry Tree Point to act as guards over the booms across the Bassein
and Mawun Creeks and also as protective guards for
1st Coast Battery, against air and land attacks.
These troops were eventually evacuated from Burma by sea along with the
Coast Defence personnel.
the outbreak of war with Japan the Armoured Car Section and a platoon of Bren-gunners
were also sent to Mingaladon airfield to assist with the ground defences of
the 13th January 1942, the AA Company of the Rangoon Battalion was
formed consisting of five officers and 130 ORs.
This company was sent to Mingaladon where it relieved the Bren-gunners
referred to above. The company was
completely detached from the parent unit and was placed under direct command
of Brigade HQ. The company took
over the Browning .5” AA machine guns which were originally intended as part
of Lease-Lend material from America to China and after eight days training at
a base camp near Mingaladon airfield, the company manned eight gun positions
on that airfield. At the end of
January a further seven gun positions were manned at Zayatkwin
airfield. The company survived
innumerable bombings of both airfields with only one casualty which occurred
when an NCO was killed during a night raid on Zayatkwin
company claimed two enemy fighters at Mingaladon and it was admitted by the
RAF authorities that the defence provided by the company was of great
assistance in preventing low flying attacks.
days after the RAF evacuated Zayatkwin airfield at
the end of February the platoon stationed there was transferred to Highland
Queen airfield at Hmwabi.
at Mingaladon the company also undertook the training of two platoons of RAF
ground defence personnel in the use of Browning .5 machine guns.
about the time of the evacuation of Rangoon till the day left Mingaladon on 1st
March 1942, men were kept in readiness to deal with paratroops and they were
armed with LMGs and Brens.
On departure from Mingaladon, the company proceeded to Magwe and enroute
collected the personnel of the company at the Highland Queen, Hmwabi.
There were only two tricks provided for the unit and although
additional transport was promised, it was not received.
The unit, however, did not wait for transport to be sent and collected
the damaged and abandoned trucks left on the roadside etc. and put them into
commission again. When the company
left the airport it had to requisition all the cars it could get in addition
to the trucks salvaged by the unit.
arrival at Magwe, the company was first ordered to set up gun positions on
Magwe airfield, but after a stay of only a few days was ordered to Yenangyaung
for reforming with the remainder of the Rangoon Battalion.
Whilst at Yenangyaung, the company’s transport was used to evacuate
European women and children from Mandalay and Maymyo to Magwe airfield from
where the evacuees were sent to India by air.
a short stay at Yenangyaung the company was moved to Mandalay and were
stationed in the Fort until reformed with the remainder of the old Rangoon
Battalion as the Rangoon Company of the Burma Battalion.
the AA Company guns and ammunition were successfully delivered to Magwe
airfield despite transport difficulties and were handed over to the RAF before
the company moved on to Yenangyaung.
Mandalay at about the middle of March 1942, the Tenasserim Battalion, Upper
Burma Battalion and Rangoon Battalion were reformed and became known as the
Rangoon, Tenasserim and Upper Burma Companies of the Burma Battalion.
This new battalion performed garrison duties in Mandalay and also
supplied officers and men for movement control whilst all its transport with
drivers were attached to the Brigade Transport
the end of March 1942, the Burma Battalion provided officers and men to man IF
Company launches whose crews had absconded.
The Rangoon Company provided the crew for the SS ‘Japan’ and the
Upper Burma Company for the SS ‘Warrago’.
These launches plied on the Irrawaddy as far south as Magwe,
Yenangyaung etc. with supplies and troops.
the 24th April 1942, the Burma Battalion left Mandalay, after the
bombing, on the ‘Japan’ for Katha.
The ‘Japan’ at the time was towing two flats and had about two
thousand troops on board mainly Burma Rifles.
The deck and engine crew of the launch were still members of the
Rangoon Company. Without any
mishap and for the first time in the history of the IF Company, a launch of
the size of the ‘Japan’ was navigated through the defiles to Katha
which place was reached on the 1st of May 1942.
Here everyone except the staff of the launch left the boat and on the
morning of 2nd May 1942 orders were given to march to India.
The photographs were kindly provided by John Hodge, grandson of the commanding
officer of the Rangoon Battalion, BAF, Lieutenant Colonel William M
Hodge. When the Japanese invaded, Lt Col Hodge was wounded and evacuated
to India on the back of a mule. He survived the war. John Hodge can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Burma Army List January 1940.
"Sons of John Company", Gaylor
J, Parapress, Tunbridge Wells (1992 & 1996)
08 February, 2015