Rangoon Field Brigade
The Rangoon Field Brigade was formed originally
as the Rangoon Volunteer Artillery on 20th October 1879.
The brigade became the Rangoon Defence Volunteers on 30th
September 1892 and the Rangoon Port Defence Artillery Volunteers on 19th
May 1905. During the First World
War the brigade became the 3rd (Rangoon) Port Defence Group, Garrison
Artillery (Auxiliary Force India). The brigade was reconstituted on 1st
October 1920 and on 1st September 1928 was increased in size to two
Field Batteries, Royal Artillery and No. 14 Machine Gun Company.
When reorganised on 1st April 1933, No. 5 Field Battery,
Royal Artillery, the Rangoon Fortress Company, Royal Engineers and a Wireless
Section were added to the establishment. The
unit designation, the Rangoon Field Brigade, was given when the Brigade came
under the Burma Auxiliary Force in April 1937, following the transfer of units
to the Burma Army with the separation of administration from India.
The Wireless Section was designated the Rangoon Artillery Signal
Section, Royal Signals on 30th September 1937.
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 man the Examination
Battery at Dry Tree Point, on the Rangoon River, together with a
searchlight section from the Fortress Company and the artillery signal
In May 1940, the guns at Dry Tree Point were
replaced by two 6-inch Mk VII guns from England, which together with a further
6-inch training gun at Monkey Point, close to Rangoon, formed the 1st
Heavy (Coast Defence) Battery, RA, BAF (Rangoon Field Brigade). The
18-pounders returned to Rangoon. At the same time, three HCD coastal
artillery searchlights were installed at Dry Tree Point.
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. On 8th February 1941 the unit strength was 23
Officers and 476 Other Ranks.
In December 1941, the battery was in the
Southern Shan States near Taunggyi, at Takaw with
the 2nd Battalion, KOYLI, under command of the 1st Burma Brigade. Late
in January 1942, the 5th Field Battery moved south to join the 17th Indian
Division. Between 15th/16th February a section of the battery, supported
the 16th Indian Infantry Brigade defence of the Bilin River line, with two
18-pdrs in the anti-tank role. The battery took part in the defence of
the approaches to the Sittang bridge, on the east
bank of the river near Mokpalin. The guns were lost following the
premature destruction of the bridge.
In December 1941, "B" Troop of the
5th Field Battery was formed without guns but on 27th December sent a
detachment of one British Officer and 20 British Other Ranks with six Austrian
65mm mountain guns to Mergui for beach defence and one NCO and six other ranks
with two 65mm guns to Tavoy, also for beach defence. 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 handed over
to an Indian antitank battery on 17th February 1942.
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 20 light machine guns. This was commanded by Major Hogan and remained as
part of the Rangoon Field Brigade until 15th August 1941 when the battery was
detached to form part of the 1st Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RA, BAF.
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
On 22nd February 1942, HQ Rangoon Field Brigade
and detachments left Rangoon for Yenangyaung, leaving behind the Dry Tree
Point garrison, manning details at the power station at Ahlone
and guards on the oil refineries at Thilaun and Seikkgyi.
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.
Of the survivors to reach India, some BAF men
were formed into the 5th Field Battery at Mhow, which was offered to India and
the remainder would have joined other BAF personnel at Mhow. Many BAF
men were assigned to the Burma Intelligence Corps and the expansion of this
unit led to the eventual disbandment of the 5th Field Battery during 1943.
Sources: WO 172/640; IOR L/WS/1/1313
Note: The record obtained from the National
Archives refers to the 1st Heavy Battery however this is believed to be one
and the same unit as 1st Coast or 1st Coast Defence Battery whose men
eventually reached India and reformed the battery as part of the defences of
This unit occupied the Examination
Battery, together with a section of the Rangoon Fortress Company
(engineers) and the Rangoon Artillery Signal Section. The battery was
armed with two 6-inch Mk VII guns, one 12-pdr naval antiaircraft gun, three
HCD coastal artillery searchlights and two Lewis antiaircraft guns. For
local defence, a section of the Support Platoon, 1st Gloucesters
was attached. Shortly after hostilities began with Japan, the Glosters'
section was withdrawn and replaced by twp platoons from the Rangoon Battalion,
As a result of a visit by the GOC Burma Army,
Lieutenant-General TJ Hutton, in January 192, the defences were extended by
the construction of a picket line about 1000 yards from the perimeter and
orders were given for the construction of a series of pill boxes 400 yards
from the perimeter. There were two pickets approximately 3000 yards from
the perimeter covering booms across the Hmawwun
and Bassein Creeks and the hinterland of the fort
was patrolled by night.
There were naval patrol boats patrolling the
Rangoon River by night at the extreme effective range of the
searchlights. There was also a naval patrol on the Bassein
Creek. These patrol boats were subsequently withdrawn owing to a shortage of
personnel in the Burma Navy and the only early warning approach available to
the Battery was provided by four signallers in a motor boat anchored
downstream by night.
On 22nd February, orders were received to put
the demolition scheme into effect and abandon the fort. The Officer
Commanding Dry Tree Point refused to accept these orders unless confirmed by
higher authority and the orders were subsequently cancelled, though not before
a considerable amount of demolition had been carried out. The garrison
was finally withdrawn under direct orders of Rangoon Fortress on the night of
7th/8th March 1942, the demolition scheme drawn up by C.F.D.(?) being put into
effect with the exception that none of the buildings were fired under orders
of Rangoon Fortress as the embarkation of the Rangoon garrison was taking
place under the guns. For the same reason it was impossible to burn
cordite as had originally been intended, but this was thrown into the Rangoon
River. Neither the coastal artillery guns nor the antiaircraft defences
were in action at any time. The 12-pounder antiaircraft gun having no
instruments was not available for firing on heights of more than 1000 feet and
there were no antiaircraft searchlights or G.L.(?)
equipment for night-firing.
A certain number of desertions were suffered by
men whose families had not been evacuated either by military or civil
On reaching India, the 1st Coast Defence
Battery went Mhow and was later offered to India. The offer was accepted
and the battery went to Diamond Harbour, Calcutta. Some of the balance
of BAF men remaining at Mhow formed a reserve of men for the battery.
Sources: WO 172/640; IOR L/WS/1/1313
Source for this section: The Fortress Study
Group; Clements, B (2006), "Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Artillery
Fortifications in Burma", FORT 34, pp59-80"
In June 1939 as war in Europe loomed, the
British government ordered an Examination Service to be set up at all major
ports to control access by all shipping. At each port an inspection anchorage
was to be established where officers of the Examination Service would board
and inspect all merchant vessels and this anchorage was protected by a battery
known as the Examination Battery.
At the request of the governor of Burma a
Colonel Baynham RA reported on the establishment
of an Examination Battery at Rangoon. Colonel Baynham
held the view that in the light of the increased ranges of modern naval guns
it would be necessary to establish any Examination Battery at least 25,000
yards (c22.8km) downriver from Rangoon. The position Colonel Baynham
selected was Dry Tree Point on the right bank of the Rangoon River just north
of Hmawwun Creek. He proposed a battery of two
6-inch BL Mk VII guns on 15 degree mountings in concrete emplacements. Because
the ground was so low-lying and marshy Baynham
recommended that no magazine should be built but that 100 shells and
cartridges should be held for each gun in the shell and cartridge recesses of
the two emplacements.
The War Office accepted Baynhamís
report with the exception of his proposal for a range finding tower for the
depression range finder. In his report he stated:
The War Office substituted a two-storey house
and an 18ft (c5.5m) Barr & Stroud rangefinder in its place.
The battery was to be manned by personnel of a
new coast battery formed from III (Rangoon) Field Brigade RA, Burma Auxiliary
Force [The Rangoon Field Brigade] and the government of Burma ordered
two 6-inch BL guns and a training gun in March 1939. The training gun was
provided for use at the unit headquarters in Rangoon because it was considered
that the situation of the new battery was too far from Rangoon, particularly
in view of the poor road system, for Auxiliary Force personnel to train on a
regular basis at the battery site.
The two gun-emplacements were complete by May
1940 and the guns were installed in August 1940. Prior to that date the duties
of the Examination Battery were undertaken by Auxiliary Force personnel using
two 18-pdr QF field guns positioned at Dry Tree Point.
The Dry Tree Point battery had a very short
operational life, a mere 19 months from August 1940 to March 1942.
 Burma Army List January 1940.
08 February, 2015