The Burma Campaign

[Transcribed from National Archives File WO 172/977, War Diary 4th Burma Rifles by:  Steve Rothwell - The Burma Campaign web site.]

 

W A R   D I A R Y

4 Bn. The Burma Rifles

 

Date.

Place.

Summary of Events & Information.

Novr. 41

MOULMEIN to KAWKAREIK

Under 2 Bde.

The Bn. Proceeded to the KAWKAREIK – Myawaddi district for training and reconnaissance about the 10th Novr.  This was the tail end of the malarial season and the Dawna Range was notoriously bad for malaria at this time of year.  I asked for a postponement of a fortnight which, if granted, would have prevented a lot of casualties later on.  The move was by M.T. [Motor Transport] as a test of the road and the two ferries.  Normally in a single Car the run of about 120 miles could be done in about five to six hours.  The move took three days and resulted in the death of two Mules, injuries to several men, the collapse of nearly all bridges, and the desertion of a number of Ferry Coolies.

During training the Bn. concentrated on its probable role in case of War, but was not allowed to dig defensive positions.  These, however, were reconnoitred, marked, and lanes cleared.  About 10 or 14 days before the attack on Pearl Harbour there was a scare which I think originated in Singapore, and the Bn. took up battle positions.  From this date Patrols were kept up Night and Day on all the approaches from Thailand.  We were not allowed to go to the actual Border, except in small parties, so as to avoid incidents with the Thai Gendarmerie.

A scheme for an attack on Meshod Aerodrome was laid on, and a route etc., thoroughly reconnoitred.

There was no efficient intelligence system in the Area which for decades had been peaceful, and after some delay I was authorised to take over and organise it.  I enlisted the services of a local Officer, Mr. Raymond Hall, (Steel Bros), and with the help of some subordinate Police and Forest Officers – and efficient Cis and Trans Border – local intelligence Corps was started.  The British Officers with the Bn. at this time were Lt. Col. P.P. Abernethy Comd. [1], Major J.B. Brookmen [Brookman] 2nd-in-Comd. [2], Captain J.D.H. Hedley (Adjt.)[3] Captain A.N. Kingslay [Kingsley] (Q.M.) [4], Major M.E.W. Thackeray [5], Captain P.R. Boyle, Captain J.H. Gemmel [6], Captain J.C. Bruce [7], Lt. H.V. Hinds [8], 2/Lt. L.R. Martin [9], 2/Lt. J.D.L. Gwillin[10], 2/Lt. B.O. Thang.

Decr. 8th

KAWKAREIK

Up to the week end Dec. 8th the date of the attack on Pearl Harbour, and the invasion of Thailand, and Malaya, information showed that although the Thais on our Border were pro-British, the Prefect, Army, and Police, were suspicious of our intentions and inclined to be anti-British.  Some refugees, British, Indian, and Chinese commenced to come through from Bangkok and other parts of Thailand, and reported that they received kindness and assistance from the Thais.  This assistance continued after the collapse of Thai resistance to the Japanese.

The Comdt. (Lt. Col. P.P. Abernethy) was absent in Rangoon on Court Martial duty during this critical week.

About this time a Message was received from 2nd Bde. (Moulmein) stating that Patrols may cross the Border if the situation demanded such action.  The Officer acting for me misunderstood the nature of this permission and immediately sent a Patrol of 1 Platoon under a British Officer across the Border.  This Patrol set off in daylight on the route selected for the attack on the Aerodrome at Meshod.  It had no real object, and achieved no result.  It had a few casualties, left one wounded prisoner, and had many unfortunate repercussions.  The Thais became very antagonistic, and traffic and information from across the Border stopped.  The Thai Armed Forces fired at every movement on our side of the river resulting in alarm, stampede, and wild rumours all along the Border.  The Villagers took to the Jungle and an exodus of Indians started towards Kawkareik.  The flow of refugees from Thailand stopped, and with it, useful information.

On my way back through Moulmein the Comdt., 2nd Bde. ordered me to start digging defences, to try to restore confidence in the Area, and normal relations on the Border.  The object of restoring normal relations on the Border was to make it easier for our agents to cross and collect information.

December 15th to 30th, 1941

MYAWADDI SUKHLI.

The Bde. Order issued was a withdrawal instruction, with the intention of delaying the enemy as much as possible, and covering certain demolitions which were being prepared on the Kawkareik Road.  It was not a defence order.

From this time on, The Bn. was employed on patrolling the border on the line of the River Thuangyin, a lateral distance over all of about 40 to 50 Miles, and 20 Miles forward of the main position at Sukhli.  It had to dig delaying positions on the main Pass, as well as, on two subsidiary Passes (Kwingale) to the South, and Tichara to the North.  Various dumps were being put in at Kawkareik, and these had to be protected as well as the jetty at Kyondo, again 20 to 30 Miles to the West of Sukhli.

Traffic through the Area was stopped at night, and strict control and a Pass system introduced by day.

Myawaddi was in a salient of the Thuangyin River, and had a Telephone office and Police Outpost.  I considered it a dangerous place for a small Outpost, and advocated its removal further back behind the Ye-U River.  This was refused, and an order received to maintain a Patrol of 1 Platoon permanently in Myawaddi.  The Telephone was required as far forward as possible, to give Rangoon warning of the approach of Aeroplanes.  Thus the need of Rangoon imposed an unsound tactical Outpost in the most forward Area.  At this time a visit to the Telephone Office (which was under Military control) disclosed the fact that the line extended into Thailand, and that all conversation throughout Tenasserim could be heard by the Thais.  The Line was cut, but later my action was over ruled, the line was joined up and a separate Switch put in at the office.

Officers and men were working night and day throughout this period, patrolling wide areas, constructing defences, and manning them, helping in the preparation of demolitions, and blocking subsidiary Passes by felling trees, demolishing Bridges, etc.  The weather got much colder, and extra Blankets, etc., were not available.  Many men now started to go down with Malaria, and at one period it rose as high as 50%.  Hospital accommodation was limited, and treatment and attention was not adequate owing to the lack of Medical personnel.  This lack of proper treatment tended to aggravate and increase the number of casualties, as men were returning without having been properly cured.

A Medical Officer and a section of the Field Ambulance was now sent out from Moulmein to Kawkareik, and the situation improved but the number of cases remained alarmingly high, and threw an extra strain on the remainder of the Bn.

 

 

 

Dispositions towards the end of December were as follows:

One Coy.  Kwingale Passes.     10 Miles South of Sukhli,

                                    (One Pl.  Myawaddi.    15 Miles forward.
            One Company.            (One Pl.  Mepale.         15 Miles North.
                                    (Two Pls.  Patrolling Thaungyein river  (40 to 50                                                         Miles).
            One Pl.    on Guards Kawkareik and Kyondo.  20 Miles West.
            H.Q. – M.G. & Mortar, and about 2 Coys.  in Main Area Sukhli

December 30th to Jany. 19th

Dawna
Range.

Towards the end of December early January confidence had been restored, and a number of Villagers returned; a letter to the Thai Prefect had the desired effect of stopping the Thai Gendarmerie from firing at villagers.  Information started to come in again and showed that Japs. were arriving at Meshod in increasing numbers, from Raheng, and also pack Convoys.  The numbers kept on rising steadily from 50 until the numbers were estimated at 3,000 to 4,000, as well as an increase in Thai Troops.

Thai troops began to appear on the east Bank of the Thaungyin River, and started to dig defences.  No Japs had been seen, but their effect was apparent in the increased aggressiveness of the Thais, and even of the Thai Villagers.

Action had now to be taken to curb the enemy on the opposite bank.  Two successful ambushes were laid.  One at a Village about 15 miles South of Myawaddi.  At this place an enemy Patrol was in the habit of appearing in the opposite village and firing at villagers on our bank.  A couple of Platoons lay doggo for hours at a time for several days, and were eventually rewarded for their patience.  The enemy patrol duly arrived, sat on the wall of a Temple, or Mosque, and began to open fire on stray Villagers.  Our patrol opened up and accounted for at least 6 of the enemy.  The Village was not molested again until the invasion day.

At Myawaddi there was a Rice Mill, and each time it started up, the enemy from the opposite bank opened up, and kept up fire until the Mill stopped working.  An ambush was laid and the Mill was started up, but drew no fire from the enemy bank.  It was noted that when our troops were present the enemy did not take action, but if troops were not in the vicinity, they immediately opened fire on the Mill if it started to work.  It was never discovered whether the information was given by signal from enemy agents on our side or whether Scouts in trees spotted our Ambushing Troops.  The Mill was in the Myawaddi salient, and approaches to it were overlooked from the opposite bank.

Another Ambush was laid at night, this time with every available weapon including Mortars.  The Mill was started up next morning, but again no enemy action, and the Mill continued to work for several hours.  A Smoke Bomb was then fired by us into the River, and the enemy who were in houses in the opposite Village began to occupy their trenches.  Our Ambush opened up with all they had, and information showed that about 20 enemy were accounted for, and after this the working of the Mill was not interfered with.  There were a number of other minor patrol encounters which had the effect of driving the enemy from the banks of the Thaungyin River.  During this period the Battalion Area was visited by Comdr. 2 Bde. Brigadier Bourke, C.O. 1/7 Gurkhas, Col. B.G.H. White; Comdr. 16 Bde. Brigadier Jones., G.O.C. Burma General Hutton, and lastly, the G.O.C. 17 Div. General Smythe.  At each of these visits the danger of the Outpost at Myawaddi was discussed and at each, except the last, my plan was approved to remove it, and the Telephone, to the West of the salient.  On the arrival of a new Comdr. at Moulmein the decision was reversed, and was due to the interference of the D.S.P. [Deputy Superintendent of Police] of the Area who always got the ear of a new Comdr. to have a Myawaddi post re-established to protect his Police Outpost.  About the 2nd week of January it was not clear what formation the Battalion was under, as up to date the BN. was in the 2nd Bde. while the Comdr. of the 16th Bde., and one of his C.Os. was in the Bn. Area. This was cleared up on the 14th January after I had addressed a message to all three Commanders, (viz., 2. Bde.  16 Bde.  & 17 Div.)  On the matter of the Outpost at Myawaddi, which I had again been ordered to re-establish, GOC Burma, 2 Bde Comdr and 2 Lt Cols had agreed with me that the Myawaddi platoon was a danger and having visited the place reversed their decisions into line with my dispositions[?].  Because of this message I collected the displeasure of the new G.O.C., 17 Div. before I had actually met him.  On the 13th or 14th during his visit to the Bn., it was decided to have a Company in the Myawaddi Area.  This Coy. was thus 15 Miles forward of the main Area, and without Wireless.  Two sets only were available, one at Bn. H.Q., and one with the Dett. on the Kwingale Passes.  The establishment of this Coy in its isolated position was against my advice and it had a direct bearing on the subsequent battle and withdrawal from the Dawna Range.

January, 14th up to 19th

SUKHLI AREA. (Contd.)

Under 16 Bde.

The Comd. 16th Bde. took over about the 14th, and the Bn. passed into that Brigade.  For a few days previous to this O.C. 1/7th Gurkhas being the senior on the spot had taken over Command of the Area.

The original order for the Area which was a withdrawal order i.e., delay and cover demolitions on the road was not altered by the 16 Bde.

During this period enemy Air Activity had been on the increase.  Enemy Squadrons attacking Rangoon, and later Moulmein almost invariably passed over the Area, and the information was flashed through to Headquarters.  The thanks of the A.O.C. was received more than once for this timely warning.  Information which led to the destruction of enemy planes on the ground was also given, and the thanks of the A.O.C. received.  An interesting sidelight on this action was that the information given was that a concentration of Aeroplanes had landed at Meshod Aerodrome.

After the message had been sent the enemy planes took off and went East.

Our planes evidently attacked them at RAHENG Aerodrome about 60 miles further East.  One of our planes was forced down in this encounter, and we were asked to send a patrol to the rescue of the Pilot – 60 to 100 Miles inside Thailand.  The Air Force thought they were attacking Meshod which was one mile across the border.  The situation of both aerodromes was rather similar – On the West of each was a strip of jungle, then a river, and then a range of hills – all somewhat alike but 100 miles apart.  About the 12th the Enemy attacked the landing stage at Kyondo and put it out of action, and as well they sank a Steamer just off the jetty.  Next day they dive bombed the Sukhli, and Misty Hollow Areas.  Both places were marked by a rest house.  The Misty Hollow Area had been full of troops up to a few days previous to this bombing, as it contained Sappers, Transport, a Section of the Hospital, as well as B Echelon of the Bn.  The bombing was heavy, and on that day it happened there were no troops in the Area.  Sukhli which was a Coy. Area received attention daily after that date.  There were a few casualties after each raid but nothing heavy.  The Chin Coy. in the Sukhli position stood up to these raids very well.  It was noticeable that the Bn. H.Q. which was in a re-entrant away from prominent land marks was never spotted although the Japs. reconnoitred the Area daily.  It was evident the Japs. were concentrating on our Communications, and our supposed H.Q.

January 16th.

- do -

On the 16th the Comdr. 16th Bde. had a C.Os. Conference at his H.Q. and a relief was arranged.

The 1/7th Gurkhas were to take over from 4th Burma Rifles in the Sukhli Area, with a Company of the 1/9th Jats at the Kwingale Passes to relieve the 1/7th [Gurkhas] Coy. out there.

One Coy of 4th BURIF was to remain on the left flank in the Mepale Area until a Coy of the 1/9th Jats had relieved a Coy. of the 1/7th Gurkhas at Three Pagoda[s] Pass – 60 miles away to the South.  The 4th Burif Bn. would thus be in reserve, but with one Coy still at Mepale, and one Coy out at Nabu, West of the Dawna Range.  Owing to a lack of transport the relief was to be done one Coy. at a time.

January 18th.

- Do -

On the evening of 19th I had handed over charge in the Sukhli Area to O.C. 1/7th Gurkhas, and brought my H.Q. down to a reserve position at the 19th Mile just outside Kawkareik, leaving two Companies still under O.C. 1/7th Gurkhas, one at Sukhli, and one at Mepale.  The former was to be relieved on the 20th, and the latter about a week later.  One coy. at Nabu, West of the Dawnas, blocking approaches to Kyondo.  Remainder H.Q., and One Coy at 19th Mile.

January 20th.

- Do -

On the morning of 20th from my H.Q. at 19th Mile I was called to Bde. H.Q. at 3rd Camp at 1100 hours, and told that the enemy were reported to have crossed the border.  The position was obscure, the Coy. in the Myawaddi Area had apparently been wiped out.  Col. B.G.H. White, and Lt. Raymond Hall[11] (Intelligence Officer) in attempting to relieve it had been killed.  I was instructed to proceed at once to take over the 1/7th Gurkhas and the remainder of the Troops in the Sukhli Area, and that my remaining Coy. would be sent up to me, thus leaving only my H.Q. at 19th Mile.  I proceeded at once to Sukhli followed by the Bde. Comdr. and found the situation as follows ------ The Japs had crossed the border at about 0500 hours.  The first intimation came through a villager who informed the Intelligence Officer, Mr Raymond Hall at Thingannyinaung.  At Myawaddi firing broke out which was not unusual, and the Platoon Comdr. went to the Telegraph Office to find out what it was about, accompanied by his reserve Section.  He found some people standing at the Office whom he took to be the local Police.  One of them flashed a torch on his Section and the Section were immediately laid out with a burst of Tommy Gun fire at close range.  The Platoon Commander (a Gurkha) got away in the confusion and reached H.Q. at Sukhli with a very garbled version of the incident.  Thus my telegram which had collected a “displeasure” was proved correct – it stated that “the maintenance of a platoon in Myawaddi would result one day in handing it over to the enemy.”  The remainder of the Coy. which was in a strong point near Myawaddi was attacked about the same time.  At about 0600 hours the last message received from it was that it had been surrounded and was running short of ammunition.  Col. B.G.H. WHITE went forward to Thingannyinaung, collected the Coy. which had just come from the Kwingale Passes, and with Lt. RAYMOND HALL was proceeding to relieve the Myawaddi Coy.  He also had 1 Platoon 4 B. Rifles and [a] Platoon of Jats.  This force ran into opposition a few miles further on and suffered some casualties including Lt. RAYMOND HALL killed.  Col. WHITE was reported killed but this was not correct.  It was now 1400 hours and other than this there had been no information from the forward companies since about 1000 hours.  Nothing was heard from the Coy 1/9th Jats at the Kwingale passes to the South, and there was no news from the Coy. Burma Rifles at Mepale to the North.  “A” Coy. Burma Rifles forward at Sukhli had been dive bombed continuously throughout the morning and had just had another bombing at about 1300 hrs.  I tried to get communication with all these detachments; but in vain.  An Officer’s patrol was sent forward to get information.  The Bde. Comdr. instructed me to send a message to ‘D’ Coy Burma Rifles at Mepale warning him that he may have to withdraw, and to be prepared to put a previous plan into operation which was to withdraw through the northern passes (Tichara) to Nabu.  This message was sent and acknowledged but, in fact, never reached the Company.  This Company “D” Kachins had engaged about twenty enemy attempting to advance on Mepale, inflicted casualties and drove the party to Thailand.  Later a Jap. patrol of 4 men was engaged by one man of a patrol from this Company, and three of them killed.  Some valuable identifications were collected and sent into to [sic] H.Q. by lorry.  (The Coy. Comdr. was unaware of the situation in the main area.)  The lorry party ran into Japs. at Thingannyinaung, and in making their escape they unfortunately left the Jap. papers and identifications in the lorry.

At about 1500 hrs. the Bde. Comdr. arrived and informed me that my “B” Coy was on the way up the hill.  The dispositions now were – Myawaddi. One Coy 1/7th Gurkhas reported wiped out; Thingannyinaung. One Coy 1/7th Gurkhas.  One Pl. 4 Burif, One Pl. Jats; Kwingale passes.  No news of Coy of 2/9 Jats [sic – 1/9thJats] although it had wireless; Mepale 1 Coy 4 Burif – no news.  Sukhli Area A Coy 4 Burif, 1 Coy & H.Q.1/7th Gurkhas, B Coy 4 Burif on way up, C Coy. 4 Burif Nabu, 20 miles S.W. & no communication) H.Q. 4 Burif at 19 mile Kawkareik.  It will thus be seen that all three Bns. were mixed up, and that they were all in scattered detachments with no communication other than runner which meant at least a day or more for a message to get to some of them.  Bde. H.Q. was at third camp (23rd mile) and 1/9th Jats less Coys in the vicinity.

COL. WHITE (1/7) returned about 1600 hrs. and reported that he considered his forward Coy. at Myawaddi wiped out, and that his remaining force was withdrawing to Sukhli covering demolitions which were being blown by the Sappers.  The Bde. Comdr. returned to his H.Q., and instructed me to remain at 1/7 Gurkhas H.Q. and retain command so as to give Col. WHITE a rest during the night.  I took the opportunity of going forward to visit my “A” Coy. at Sukhli and I found them in excellent spirits in spite of their bombing.  They had about six casualties only, although nearly every trench in the area had been hit.  B Coy (LT. HINDS) arrived about 1800 hrs. and was put into position on hills east of Bn. H.Qs.  The Gurkha Coy, Pl. Jats and 1 Pl. “D” Coy. Burif with Sapper party arrived about 2000 hrs. having blown demolitions between Sukhli and Thingannyinaung.  At 2300 hrs. Bde. rang up and told me to return to my H.Qs. [sic] at 19th Mile, and to bring with me the Gurkha Coy and Pl. of Jats which had returned from Thingannyinaung.  (Note:- Not one of my own Coy.)  It took some time to collect this Coy. as they had gone to rest, and feed, in reserve in the jungle.  I got down about 0130 hrs. and called at Bde. H.Q. (3rd Camp) for more information as I had been told to take up a position at the 19th Mile.  I knew of a good position at 20th mile but none at 19th.  I found Bde. H.Q. had moved to Kawkareik.  I stopped my force at the 20th mile and went in search of Bde. H.Q. and found them at the S.D.O.’s [Senior District Officer] bungalow in Kawkareik.  It was now about 0300 hrs.  (20th/21st).  The Bde. Comdr. informed me that I was to take a position at the 19th mile forthwith, and that Bde. H.Q. were moving to about the 12th mile on the Kyondo road.  All 2nd Ech., etc., was to be sent in rear of 12th mile.  I informed the B.C. that I knew a good position at the 20th mile but of none at the 19th mile.  The B.C. did not appreciate this sound advice which was the result of recces by at least one Brigadier and two C.Os.  I collected another “displeasure”.

January 21st.

- Do -

He told me to find the 2nd i/c of the 1/9th Jats who would show me where the position was at the 19th Mile, and that it was ready and dug.  I found this Officer about 0500 hrs. and we had to wait until dawn.  This Officer informed me that some men had returned from the Kwingale passes and reported that the Jat Coy. had been surrounded and had dispersed into the Jungle.  I asked him if he had informed the Brigade Commander and he said “No”.  I told him to do so at once, as it left the whole right flank open, and enemy could reach Kawkareik quickly by a short route.  I took the precaution of sending my own Adjt. with the information as I had the impression that the Officer was reluctant to send in this information, which considering the run of the ground – was vital.  This explained why there was no information from this Coy. all day on the 20th and the passes had been open to the enemy for nearly 24 hours.  They could easily have got to Kawkareik in the time.  This Coy. had only just arrived in the Area, and it was its first experience of Jungle.  The Bde. Comd. sent the remainder of the Jat Regt. to block the passes at the West End.  The position shown to me was bad, was not dug, and was at 18th Mile, not on the 19th.  I later took up a better one about 17½, and informed the B.C.  I now had my own H.Q. and 1 Coy. of 1/7 Gurkhas.  My Companies were now as follows.  One Coy. “D” Mepale Area under 1/7th Gurkhas at least 50 Miles from me.  Two Companies “A” & “B” Sukhli under 1/7th Gurkhas.  One Company “C” at Nabu 20 Miles from me and no wireless.  About 1400 hrs. on the 21st my Q.M. arrived with a Message from Bde. to say that all dumps and equipment which could not be carried were to be destroyed, and that the Bde. would withdraw to MOULMEIN that night.  I was to cover the 1/7th through my position and report when they were through.  As the Q.M. had no information about the enemy or our own Forces I went off to Bde to get more details and reasons.  I was informed that there was no information about the enemy but that he appeared to be in great strength.  I asked the Bde. Comdr. if he intended to stand on the 13th Mile position which was a strong one.  He said “Yes”, and that the order to blow everything was merely a warning order.  I informed him that some Units were already blowing their dumps.  I returned to my H.Q. and prepared my dumps for blowing and got out draft withdrawal orders.  At about 1750 hrs. it was reported to me that the Gurkha Coy. under my command was withdrawing.  I managed to halt ¾ of the Coy.  but one Platoon went straight on to Bde. H.Q. 6 miles back, and gave an alarming report.  The Coy. reported that they had been pressed back by superior enemy.  There was sound of firing in front, but it did not appear to be coming in our direction.  I sent an Officers patrol to investigate, and the cause of the panic was an ammunition dump which had been set off by the Jat Regt.  Mortar Bombs, Grenades, and Rifle Ammunition were going up.  The Gurkha Coy. had no rest for about 72 hrs and the men were definitely shaky.

January 21st.

KAWKRAIK [sic]

The effect of the Jungle on these young soldiers was now most marked as they, including B.Os. & I.Os., actually showed me enemy moving in the Jungle which was nothing more than the effect of light, and shade, on trees, and undergrowth.  There were no enemy in the vicinity.  A patrol later confirmed this, and the information was passed to Bde.

At about 1900 hrs. troops from the Sukhli Area commenced to come through my position and this was the first intimation I had that the withdrawal orders had been confirmed.  The passage of troops went on without incident, by foot to 3rd Camp (23 Mile) and then by lorry in relays to Bde. at 12th Mile.  O.C. 1/7th Gurkhas passed through about 23.00 hrs, and reported to me that his last troops would be passed my position in about half an hour.  The two 4th Burif Companies A Chins and B. Karens passed through in rear of the Gurkhas.  No definite rear party commander had been appointed and it was difficult to know whether all troops were passed or not.  I sent an Officers patrol forward to 3rd Camp and about 0300 hrs. it reported that all troops were clear.

January 21st.

18th Mile

The demolitions had been blown and the enemy did not follow up or interfere with the withdrawal from Sukhli.  The dispositions at midnight 21st/22nd were, - 18th Mile position – 4 Burif H.Q. and 1 Coy. 1/7th Gurkhas less one platoon.

Left flank Nabu – “C” Coy. (Karens) 4th Burif

Right flank & Kawkareik – 1/9th Jat Regt. less 2 Coys.

Remainder (incl. 2 Coys 4 Burif) – 12th Mile less the following:-

1 Coy. 1/7th Gurkhas reported annihilated at Myawaddi.

1 Coy. 4 Burif – Mepale no communication.

1 Coy. 1/9th Jats – dispersed in Jungles [sic] Kwingale.

1 Coy. 1/7th Gurkhas – Three Pagoda Pass, 6 miles away South, & 1 Coy. 1/9th Jats on way as relief.

Battalions were thus mixed up and the story of 4th Burif cannot be told without reference to all three battalions.

I sent an officer to report to Bde. that all Sukhli troops were through my position.  He returned, and said the orders were “Beat it to the 12th Mile”.  This was not good military phraseology and was later eclipsed by such orders as “Skin out”.  Ten lorries had been sent up for us to the rear of the position and we set off for the 12th Mile. 

Night 21st/22nd January.

KAWKAREIK

We halted just outside Kawkareik, as I wanted to assure myself that my dump had been destroyed.  We were setting off again when we heard a burst of firing in Kawkareik just in front of us.  After the firing, transport mules of the 1/7th Gurkhas & 4 Burif came charging out of the village.  Some men came back and reported that the transport of both battalions had been fired on when passing through Kawkareik, and that the animals had stampeded.  The latter fact was self-evident, as the roads and jungle all around was a mass of animals charging about in the darkness, dragging mortars, brens [sic], ammunition, & etc.

I went forward slowly towards the village and waited to see if the firing would die down.  I considered that some of our own troops holding Kawkareik had fired on our mule transport, as up to that moment lorries with head lights on had been passing through without incident.  The firing continued and some more men came back and were of the opinion that there was some enemy fire as well as our own.  Firing also broke out in the direction of the 12th Mile.  The 1/9th Jats were supposed to be holding Kawkareik but we could not get in touch with them.  I still doubted the report that there were enemy troops in the villages, but could not risk taking a lorry convoy through the villages in case enemy had got into it.  To deploy or march down the road would simply add to the confusion.  A way round the village to the 12th Mile was blocked by a large lake which ran between the Western exits of the village and the 12th Mile.  I, therefore, decided to go back and go round the lake to the Bde. rendezvous.  This meant a long walk but there was no alternative, and time was short, it was now about 0400 hrs.  We were fortunate in finding a good turning point for the lorries and drove back past our dumps (now burning fiercely), and our original position, and nearly as far as 3rd Camp.  After debussing the lorries were set on fire and any stores we could not carry were destroyed.

We had returned some eight miles along the road (Kawkareik-Myawaddi) of the enemy advance & some six hours after the last of our troops had passed along it, but no enemy were seen.  At about 0530 hrs. we set off for the Bde. rendezvous East of Kyondo.  This march turned out to be a very stiff one.  It was every inch of 28 miles.  We had a bad start as very few of us had any rest or sleep since the 19th/20th (i.e. 48 hrs.). We had no food difficulties as the villagers were only too happy to feed us.  About 1700 hrs 22nd, having marched all day, we arrived at the edge of a clearing and could see Kyondo in the distance across the dried up paddy fields.  We had a stretch of about 4miles to the river across this open country and as there were rumours that the enemy were in Kyondo I decided to wait and rest, until after dark.

January 22nd.

March to Gyaing River.

We set off after a good meal provided by the local Pongyi Chaung.  During a halt half the party slept and got lost.  This happened on other occasions later on also owing to sheer exhaustion.  On reaching the river we found the rear half of the party had actually marched parallel with the forward half for about an hour without seeing each other.  We had some difficulty in getting sampans as the ferry men had run away, but managed to cross by about 0200 hrs.  We then had a few miles march to the Bde. rendezvous, - but the Brigade had gone to Moulmein and left no orders.

January 22nd/23rd.

Kyondo Area.

Villagers told us that all our troops had left for Moulmein and that there were none East of our position.  On the morning of the 23rd January, we witnessed the bombing of Kawkareik by both sides – R.A.F. & JAPS.  I think this indicated that the Japs were not in Kawkareik.  Officers and men with me were now pretty well all in.  They had been going all out without rest for over 72 hrs. and had just done a 28 Mile march over difficult country.  Walking on dried up paddy fields day and night is very hard on mens’ feet as the surface is uneven, yet as hard as tarmac.  It must be remembered that full military precautions had to be observed at all times, and it was not a mere march across country.  Exhaustion and strange country produced the most uncanny effects on young soldiers.  Bullock carts were reported as tanks, and stumps of trees became guns.  When I say young soldiers I include young officers as one young officer who had never been in Jungle pointed out an enemy horseman to me at ten yards distance.  It reminded me of what I saw when I first sat up for tiger at night and I was glad I had been through that training.

January 23rd.

 

I decided to halt for the day, and once during the afternoon visited the front line, I found washing hanging out an [sic] every bush and tree and my command bathing in the river as if on a peace time halt.  That was soon stopped.

No launch arrived so we marched in the morning of 23rd/24th towards Zat ya bin.  We had no rations, but again had no difficulty over food as from both Karen and Burman we got all we needed.  Headmen were reluctant to take money as they said it was the first occasion they had the honour of entertaining the Army.  We passed through one Karen recruiting area and many relations turned out to help us.  Not a single man asked to remain or deserted.  We had to leave sick and wounded at villages on the way and these were later brought on to us in bullock carts or in sampans.

The march to Zat ya bin was done under cover of darkness and as it was across country and over baked paddy fields; it was difficult going but quickly covered.  I cannot remember the exact date of our arrival but it was either 25th or 26th January.  “C” Coy. (Karens) from Nabu joined us at Zat ya bin.

January 25th/26th.

Zatya bin – Martaban.

This Coy. had come in from a Northerly direction via DAULAN.  We were now separated from Moulmein by two large rivers, the Gyaing and the Ataran, and from Martaban by the Salween.  I sent information to Moulmein and later got orders to be ready to move to Martaban that night.  A launch arrived after dark and transferred us to Martaban.  We went into a reforming camp West of Martaban and were joined by “A” Coy. (Chins) and “B” Coy. (Karen).  The Coy. of 1/7th Gurkhas under my command rejoined its unit further west on the Martaban road.

The battalion, still less ‘D’ Coy. Kachins, was concentrated under my command for the first time since November, and we were to have our first rest for two and half [sic] months.  I approached the Bde. Comdr. and the Div. Comdr. with regard to the recall of ‘D’ Coy., but was informed that a plane could not be spared for this duty of dropping a message, I called for volunteers and eventually got a plain clothes patrol sent to find the Company.  After about 12 hours’ rest the Bn. was ordered to proceed to Paon [Pa-an; modern Hpa-An] on the Salween.  This order was later cancelled and the 1/7th Gurkhas went to PAON and we went to Thaton to relieve a Baluch Bn. of the 46th Bde.

February 1st to 7th.

THATON and Salween River.

The “annihilated” company of the 1/7th Gurkhas arrived back from Myawaddi about this time, and except for the lost platoon in the village, it had very few casualties.  It had not seen our “D” Coy. but raised our hopes that it would get back safely if the Coy. Comdr. could be apprised of the situation in time.

The battalion now got a rebuff more severe than anything the enemy could administer.  We had succeeded in bringing all our arms intact and were ordered to hand over our mortars, Brens, and Tommy Guns, to the other two battalions – the 1/7th Gurkhas and the 1/9th Jats especially the latter battalion which had lost a lot of its equipment.  I protested, but without avail, and the effect on the battalion was most disheartening.  I was promised that we would not be used in the front line again until we were rearmed, and that arms were expected very shortly.  We were not re-armed and were in the front line again on the Salween about 24 hours later.  I was ordered to send two companies to patrol the Salween between Martaban and Paon with their Headquarters where the Donthami river joined the Salween.  ‘D’ Coy. (Kachins) reported in about this time, having returned via Hlaingbwe and Paon.

The movements of this Company will now be described –

On January 20th, the date of the JAP invasion, the Company met a superior enemy force, and after a sharp engagement drove it back to Thailand.  One the 21st a small Jap patrol was encountered and destroyed.  Identifications and papers were sent in to Headquarters by lorry by the usual route through Thingannyaung, where the lorry ran into a party of Japs.  The escort dispersed in the Jungle and some of them got away, but unfortunately had left the Jap, identifications in the lorry.  At this time, of course, our main force had withdrawn from the area.  The Company continued to dominate the Mepale Area for several days more until the Coy. Commander got suspicious that something was wrong, as he was getting no answers from Headquarters.  According to a previous plan he withdrew slowly through the Tichara passes to Nabu.  All the time he was trying to get information by signal and runners from Sukhli.  He had no wireless.  When he reached Nabu he found that ‘C’ Coy. had gone and the village had been looted and burnt by hostile burmans [sic].  He was informed by villagers that the remainder of our forces had left the area, and that the Japs were ahead of him.  He had two engagements with guerrilla bands and then set off North-West for Paon.  This was a march of about 120 miles across two unbridged rivers.  He arrived at Paon with mules, equipment, and reserve ammunition complete, about 14 days after the main force.  ‘C’ & ‘D’ Companies of the Battalion were the only units of the brigade which had succeeded in saving every item of equipment and transport.

February 1st to 10th.

Salween

The battalion was once more split up into penny packets.  Two Coys: on the Salween (15 Miles by road and 6 hours by sampan from Headquarters)  One Coy. less 1 platoon Kwyethwathaung (15 miles from HQ.)  One Platoon Kadu (8 miles from H.Q.)  One Platoon Shwegun (20 to 30 miles North of Paon and 1 week from H.Q).  Bn. H.Q., H.Q. Coy. and 1 Coy was at Thaton Railway Station in Bde. Reserve with one pl. from this Coy. at Kamamang, 20 Miles North of Shwegun.  The battalion thus had several missions, and was sent on these various “off the road roles” because we knew the country and could live on it.  We had no wireless and the quickest a message could arrive from the forward Companies was twelve hours.  Reports from Kamamang and Shwegun had to go through another Brigade on the Bilin River and took anything up to 3 or 4 days.  The only reason that my H.Q. was at Thaton was because I was on the telephone and all efforts to move my H.Q. forward were in vain, as at the time it was the only reserve the Brigade Commander had at his disposal.  I was not allowed to visit my forward Companies as it would mean being a night absent from my Headquarters.  It can be guessed that this was a hopeless situation from the point of view of Command of the battalion.  We were still in our emasculated state without automatics and mortars.

The 16th Brigade was relieved by the 46th Brigade during the first week of February.  The relief orders issued by the 16th Bde. contained no reference to the 4th Burif and on enquiry I found we had been forgotten, and before it was put right we had passed under command of the 46th Bde. [12]  It was unfortunate that this happened as the battalion was in need of a rest and refit.  It had been in the line since the middle of November, that is, six weeks before the arrival of the 16th Bde.  In the course of the fighting the battalion had now passed through three Brigades, the 2nd, the 16th and now the 46th.  This was unsatisfactory as it belonged to many masters but no protectors - for instance the 16th Bde. had walked off with our automatics and mortars.

The change to the 46th Bde. had one good result in that I was allowed to move my H.Q. forward to the Donthami river in touch with three of my Companies.  The remainder of the third Coy. ‘C’ Karens was unfortunately detached from me and sent to Shwegun.  The platoon at Kamamang was relieved by a Coy. of the 8th Bn. and withdrawn to Shwegun.  I never again saw this Coy. until a few remnants reported to me at Imphal in India.  Part of its history as known to me will be reported later in this diary.

Just before moving from Thaton we had a severe bombing and a few casualties, the men stood up to it very well.

‘D’ Coy. on the Salween reported that enemy were probing and crossing nightly North of Martaban.  Patrol clashes became more frequent and enemy concentrations on Kado island were seen.  This concentration was duly reported and Air action was taken but unfortunately the Air Force bombed and machine gunned an island occupied by ‘A’ Coy at the mouth of the Donthami and not Kado island on the mouth of the Salween River.  The battalion was now patrolling a front of 30 miles between Martaban and Paon, as well as stopping penetration along the line of the Donthami River.  In addition to this detachments were maintained with the battalions at Martaban, Paon, and Duyinzeik, as the men of these units were unable to speak Burmese. [13]  Plain clothes patrols were constantly called for and sent East of the Salween to discover the Jap. intentions.  Some valuable information was brought in by these patrols including the Jap. Burmese rupee notes already printed and in circulation.  The information pointed to a Jap. move North along the line of the Salween.

The battalion had received no reinforcements and was now down to about 450 all ranks.  The strain of constant work was beginning to tell on both Officers and men.

February 11th. at 2300 hrs.

Donthami & Salween Rivers.

Previous to this we had been left out of more than one Bde. Order and instructions as we were birds of passage and not one of the permanent units.  I, therefore, kept a liaison officer permanently at Bde. Headquarters to keep me in touch with events.  At 2300 hrs. on the 11th this liaison officer arrived at my H.Q. and informed me that Martaban was in the hands of the Japs and that Bde. had no information of the 3/7th Gurkhas – the garrison of that strong point.  I was ordered to withdraw and concentrate my battalion at Kwyewathaung [Kyettuywethaung?] to protect the flank of the Baluch battalion at Paon, and to endeavour to get in touch with the 3/7th Gurkhas on my right.  At that moment I had two companies forward on the Salween, one patrolling towards Martaban, and one towards Paon.  It was not an easy matter to get in touch with them at night and ‘D’ Coy. towards Martaban might at any moment get engaged with enemy forces if they were following up the Gurkhas.  Withdrawal orders were got through and the battalion less the Coy. at Shwegun was concentrated at Kwyewathaung by about 1000 hrs. on the 12th.

The 3/7th Gurkhas were found later in the day withdrawing to Thaton.  As soon as they were clear we were ordered to withdraw to a gap in the Martaban hills covering Thaton.  This was completed by about 2000 hrs. on the same day [possibly this day was 12th February].

February 13th-14th

Thaton - Bilin River.

The Japs. had attacked the Baluchis on the 12th, overwhelming them, and threatened the battalion at Duyinzeik.  We were ordered to move to a position on the Duyinzeik road to protect the force at Duyinzeik and to watch the crossings at (?) Pinbon on the Donthami.  It was in this position on, I think, the 13th or 14th, we got orders that there would be no further withdrawal and that the Bde. would fight it out with the Jap, as we were then placed.  It was about 1100 hrs. and I conveyed this “last round last man” order in person to my companies.  On my return at about 1600 hours I got orders to withdraw at 1900 hours as the Brigade was to withdraw immediately to a position west of the BILIN River.

Companies were some miles distant and again on patrol but runners were successful in getting through, and except for one small recce patrol, the battalion was concentrated East of Thaton in touch with the KOYLI regiment by about 2000 hrs.  Firing broke out in our rear in Thaton, caused by fifth columnists who had infiltrated.  This caused some confusion amongst the transport but the situation was restored and the withdrawal continued according to plan.  The force rested at Thinzeik for a day and continued that night to a position west of the Bilin river. Next day we moved by rail to Kyaikto from Nimpale.

February 15th.

Nimpale

During these night marches the officers and men were so tired that the moment they sat down at a halt all went to sleep immediately.  On one occasion I found the entire battalion had slept for half an hour instead of a ten minute halt.  On another we slept for 25 minutes and on numerous occasions for 15 minutes.  One night we lost half the battalion as it failed to wake up.  Sentries were found asleep leaning on their rifles or against trees.

In order to combat this a percentage of officers and N.C.Os. were detailed to remain standing up during a halt and this duty was taken in turn.  Another difficulty was feet; many men had no boots, others no socks and other articles of clothing were in a like condition.  We were still without mortars and automatics.

Owing to the sudden withdrawal, ‘C’ Coy. (Karens) at Shwegun was now in a dangerous isolated situation.  The Coy. was not directly under me and indeed it was difficult to discover if it had an immediate Commander.  Commander 46th Bde. said it was under 16th Bde. at Nimpale and on interview 16th Bde. Commander said he thought it was directly under 17th Division.  On my own initiative I sent the Coy. instructions to withdraw to Kamamang and then to Papun.  I later learned that this was the correct instruction as Div. had sent a like instruction to the 2nd. Burif by wireless and asked them to forward it to ‘C’ Coy.  I have never discovered which message got through as the plain clothes runners were directed to remain with ‘C’ Coy. and did not rejoin me.

February 16th.

Kyaikto.

The Bn. arrived at Kyaikto on February 16th and hoped for a rest and refit.  The Bde. Comdr. told me to expect a rest of about three weeks and to concentrate on drill.  We were immediately detailed for duty on a long stretch of perimeter.

February 17th.

 

Changed position on perimeter.

February 19th.

 

Marched to new positions on perimeter.

February 20th/21st.

 

Jap attack on perimeter 0500 hrs. Japs. drew off at dawn.

February 21st.

 

At 1500 hrs the Bn., under orders, withdrew to a position 5 miles West of Kyaikto.  The Bn. had to cross 2½ Miles of open paddy country and on the way was bombed and machine gunned by our own Blenheims and Tommyhawks [P40 ‘Tomahawks’] and Hurricanes.  The Bn. was in its covering position astride the road by dusk.  The position was about 2 miles wide with no depth.  The night was quiet except for one encounter with a Jap. patrol about 0200 hrs.

February 22nd.

Sittang

The Bn. moved to Mokpalin at first light.  It moved along the line of the railway as right (South) Flank guard to the 46th Bde.  A battle was in progress at Mokpalin on our arrival about 1300 hrs.  Every effort was made to find the Bde., but in vain.  In fact what had happened was that the rest of the Bde. had got held up by a block just East of Mokpalin.  Comdr. 16th Bde. was in Mokpalin and ordered the Bn. to take up a position on the Sittang side of the village between the KOYLI and a Gurkha unit.  The battle went on all day and throughout the night, 22nd/23rd.  The mass of transport between Mokpalin and the Sittang Bridge could not move, as the bridge was blocked, and in any case the drivers had bolted.  About 0500 hrs. 22nd/23rd there was an ear splitting crash.  It was the bridge which in some-body’s words “had been well and gallantly blown”.  The Comdr. and Staff of the 46th Bde. arrived in the morning and the Bn. made its fifth change of Bde. Commanders in a little over a month.

February 23rd.

Sittang

The Japs. drew off, after the bridge had been blown, but mortar, artillery fire and bombing went on throughout the day.  At 1430 hrs. the Bn. was given orders to withdraw as best it could.  Thinning out and the evacuation of casualties by raft was started immediately.  Large numbers of men were drowned and the remainder marched to Waw [across the Sittang].  Two officers, Capt. Gemmel, Capt. Hedley, and a few good swimmers remained throughout the night 23rd/24th helping non-swimmers of other battalions to cross the river.  My adjutant an officer of less than one year’s standing gave the following description of the Sittang battle which is, I think, worth recording:-

“We moved to Mokpalin where we were to witness what was qualitatively the biggest ‘balls up’ of all times!  In scope, of course, it probably can’t compare with the retreat from Moscow, or the rout of France, but for quality I’ll guarantee it will hold its own with any operation in the history of the world’s armies …..”

February 24th

 

Remains of Bn. marched to Waw and lorry to Pegu arriving there about 1600 hrs.[14]

February 25th.

 

Refitting Pegu and bombed by Japs.

February 26th.

 

Marched to Taukhyan [Taukyyan]. No arms available.

February 27th.

 

Zayatkwin, 250 strong, about 20 rifles.

March 2nd.

 

Marched to Hmawbi and train to Prome.

March 3rd.

 

Prome and left on 4th by launch.

March 6th.

 

Meegyanwye.

March 7th.

 

Yenangyaung.

March 9th.

 

Minbu.

March 11th.

 

Mandalay.  Bn. was now about 250 strong all ranks.  It was less ‘C’ Coy. (Karens).

The moves of ‘C’ Coy. as known to me will now be related.  In accordance with orders the Coy. withdrew North along the Salween to Kamamang, and then to Papun 60 miles North.  The complete actions are not available but during this time it disposed of one Jap. patrol and sank a Jap. gun boat.   Under orders the Coy. marched to Shwegyin and just before entering it was informed by wireless through 2 Burif that the town was in the hands of the Japs. and was ordered to make for Toungoo.  Dates are not available but the Coy. arrived at Toungoo about the time the rest of the Bn. arrived at Mandalay on the March 11th [sic]. The Coy. was taken over by 2nd Bde. and later posted to the 7th Burma Rifles. [15] Army Headquarters ordered the return of the Company to its own unit on two occasions but the order was ignored and it was retained by the 7 Bn.  The Coy. Commander was killed at Yenangyaung [16] and the 2-in-Charge was reported missing.  A few of the remnants reported to me at Imphal, NOT even with a chit of thanks for their borrowed services.  It is surely unique that a battalion commander could rob another battalion of one of its companies and yet get away with it.  This was not an isolated case as the same BN. also took a complete company of the 3rd Bn. which on re-organization should have come to the 4th.

March 12th.

 

The Bn. less ‘C’ Coy. was from now on under the Comdr. Mandalay Area.  Some reinforcements arrived but completely unequipped and without arms.  Some recruits arrived in mufti clothes.  After some time we managed to raise about fifty rifles which were used by men in rotation.  Ordnance could supply nothing so unauthorised methods of re-equipping were resorted to with some success.  After a time we had every form of weapon, Brens, L.Gs. Italian rifles, .38 revolvers and .45’, mortars and etc.  Headgear and equipment were even more varied.  The battalion formed a column to deal with enemy parachute landings, and took on train guards from Mandalay to Toungoo, Lashio, and Myitkyina.  The battalion had many engagements with fifth columnists on train duty.  A few guards did not return as they were killed or injured in the bombing of railway stations or in train crashes.

April

Mandalay

The bombing and burning of Mandalay on and after Good Friday made heavy calls on the battalion for guards, patrols, and reserve parties.  The burning of this City was an awesome sight.  The fire brigades of Rangoon, Mandalay, and other big cities in Burma were present in Mandalay at the time but their combined efforts could not stem it.  The city was burnt out but the suburbs were still burning when we left it on April 26th.  The Fort, the Hill Barrack Area, and the Police barracks area were left intact as they were taken over by the Chinese.

About the end of March Army Headquarters ordered the re-organization of the Burma Rifles.  The 4th Bn. was to become a class Karen battalion and was ordered to send its Chins and Kachins to the 1st, 2nd, and 5th.  The 3rd & 6th Bns. were disbanded.  The Chin and Kachin companies were sent off but returned a week or ten days later under orders of Corps Headquarters.  It was quite obvious from the start that such a re-organization could not take place, but Army ordered and Corps counter-ordered.  I could not get my own ‘C’ Coy. back so there was not much hope of an inter-transfer between battalions.  The battalion was now filled up to about 500, all unarmed, or some in mufti clothing.  They were either recruits from the 10th [Training] Bn. or deserters from other units who had arrived at Meiktila and were sent on from the 9th [Reserve] Bn.

About the middle of April the battalion was warned for a move.  On the 26th the Bde. Comdr. had a conference and informed us that he had heard unofficially that 17th Div. would cross the Ava bridge that night.  He said he had no orders to move, but quite correctly decided to do so on his own initiative.  Units, (and there were in all some 90 to be moved,) were given a destination somewhere in Upper Burma and left to arrange transport as best they could.  The 4th Bn. was given Bhamo and instructed to go by launch.  The shore was bombed twice on that day and was littered with corpses or wounded.  We (less about 100 men absent on train duty) got on board the S.S. “JAPAN” and moved off about 1700 hrs.  The launch was the one of the largest [sic] of the I.F.F. Coy’s [Irrawaddy Flotilla Company] fleet and towed two lighters.  It was packed tightly with troops and must have had about 50 Officers and 2,500 troops on board.

May 1st.

Katha.

We arrived at Katha on May 1st after a most uncomfortable trip.  On the way we were out of touch with the situation in Burma except for the daily news broadcast from London.  At Katha I tried to get into communication with Headquarters at Shwebo, or also at Myitkyina, but all lines were down and we had no wireless.  The launch crew refused to go North of Katha.  The Katha-Bhamo ferry crew had deserted.  The telegraph line to Bhamo was intact and I informed the O.C. there that I could not get up the river, but would try to go by train via Myitkyina.  It was fortunate that we did not go as if we had gone by launch we would have arrived at Bhamo one day after the Japs. had taken it.

May 2nd.

Naba.

My only reliable information from now on was news from London, as the air was a buzz of wild rumours.

On the 2nd we marched to Naba, where  I found a number of senior railway and civil officials.  It was impossible to get a train to Myitkyina.  The railway telegraph to Myitkyina was intact and after some-time I got a message through and a reply from Area.  The reply approved of my decision not to go to Bhamo, but ordered me not to come to Myitkyina, but to defend Naba and expedite the dispatch of hospital trains.

May 4th & 5th.

Naba
Indaw

Dispositions were taken up to defend Naba and Indaw.  The ambulance trains were got through and about 6 or more trains were got out of a block south of Indaw.  These included the families and rear echelon of Army Headquarters, the ladies of the Burma Auxiliary Service, Chinese Corps Headquarters, and various units.  The rail service was chaotic, and if we had not arrived many of these train loads would not have reached safety.  Our presence and help had a steadying effect on civil and rail staff.  I organised daily conferences which officials of the Civil, forest, and rail services attended.  During the next few days much valuable work was done.  Ration dumps were pushed ahead on the road to India for both Army and refugees.  A rationing post was established outside Indaw, and a stragglers post because the country-side was full of stragglers from nearly every unit of the Army.  The refugee problem grew to immense proportions as boat loads were arriving daily at Katha.  A few more days of these activities would have brought relief to many thousands more, both army personnel, and refugees, but arrangements were upset by the arrival of Chinese troops who proceeded to loot everything they could lay their hands on in the area.  They were responsible for at least three disastrous train crashes.  They put the director of railways and some of his staff under arrest, so as to ensure that they would not leave for India.  This had the effect of stopping all work on the railway as the subordinate staff went in case they were put under guard.  After a night of consultations with the Chinese Commander, the Director of Railways was released and he lost no time in living up to the Chinese appreciation, as he left for India before I had a chance to see him.

On the 5th General Stilwell with his Headquarters passed through Indaw on his way to India.  I met him and talked to him but as he was not wearing badges of rank, I did not know that it was the General until after he had gone when a young officer of his staff told me his name.  I thus missed an opportunity of being put in the picture as I still had only rumour and news from London to work on.

The Chinese Corps Commander followed General Stilwell, but I could get no help or information from him or form his staff.

May 6th.

 

I decided to march to India on May 6th.  Before leaving I paid a last visit to Naba station to make sure it was clear of troops and found about 50 British ranks with some officers in a siding.  They had recently arrived from India by plane and were on their way South as reinforcement.  I took them with the battalion as far as Homalin.  Naba was the scene of a very bad train crash two days previously and the dead and dying were still lying about the station yard.  We had done all we could for them and unfortunately had to leave them to their fate.  The battalion moved to Tokka on the 6th and filled up with rations.  We bought four bullock carts to carry some extra rations.  I managed to get a Jeep and went ahead up to the road to inspect the dumps.  The heavy Chinese lorries had collapsed most of the bridges and I was not able to get very far, but I got far enough to see that the officers I had sent on ahead had gone, and that the dumps were being looted by stragglers and refugees.  This was confirmed later during one march, as there was nothing left for us in any dump.  The officers and Ors were not men of the Bn.

May 7th.

 

Marched to Banmauk.

May 8th.

 

Marched to Pinbon.

May 9th.

 

This was the end of the bullock cart road for us and we struck across country.  We were joined by Officers and men of the Burma Sappers and Miners, under Lt Col. R Stack [?], RE, who had done invaluable work on bridges and remained at their task although they had been passed by thousands of troops heading for India.  The road from here led to Mansi and I carried out a reconnaissance in the Jeep but it was full of Chinese who could not make up their minds which way they intended to go.  They were looking for roads with bridges to India on which they could take their lorries.

We gave the bullock carts to a headman who helped us and used the bullocks as pack.

May 9th.

Nantabeik

Night march to bypass Chinese.

May 10th

Mang pawn

Difficult march.

May 11th.

Mankaing.

Villagers very cheerful and helpful[?] on way but Mankaing deserted as Chinese had arrived[?].

May 12th

½ Way to Homalin from Mankaing.

Good track

May 13th.

Homalin.

The Chinese had not arrived in great force and we were able to get some rations; but only rice.  The Civil administration had left but some subordinates and a detachment of the Chin Hills battalion were carrying on their duties.  The senior civil staff had not informed them of their intentions to go to India.

May 14th.

 

Crossed the Chindwin and rested.  Life was normal on the West bank of the river and we found we could get all the rice we required.  The detachment of British ranks left us here as they preferred to float down to Tamu on a raft.  Their feet were in a dreadful state.  I sent a B.O. and twenty men of my own by this route, as they were unfit to take the hills and the Tamu route was reported as being easier.  The O.C. Burma Sappers & Miners reported that his Burmans did not want to come to India and that he had allowed them to stay in Burma.

It was difficult to get information of routes to India as the Civil Officials had gone and the local villagers knew the country only one day or two days from their own villages.  They pointed with fearsome awe towards the Naga hills.

In deciding which way to go my chief problem now was food and water.   I had nearly 400 Officers and men to feed on a route on which already people were dying of starvation and exhaustion.  It would have been relatively easy with a small party.  There were many tracks and the problem resolved itself to a choice between three – One to the North used by General Stilwell, one via Tamu to the South, or by a lesser known route, difficult, but shorter and directly West, in the Centre.  I sent the sick and weak via Tamu, and took the centre route.

May 15th.

 

Marched to Gwedagon.

May 16th.

 

Movail up.

This was the worst march of the lot.  On the map it measured 12 miles.  Local people said it was 28 and it took us from 0500 hrs to 1900 hrs. on very stiff going.  There was no water and it was a walk over range and range of hills.

May 17th.

 

We were now in India and on the 17th rested and celebrated it by killing a bullock and having a peg from a much treasured bottle of Black Label.  There were more refugees on this route than I expected and the water everywhere was badly fouled by them.  We had, however, got  away from the incessant sound of rifle fire.  Up to Homalin this had been a great nuisance and it was impossible to tell if enemy were in the vicinity or not.  It went on at night, as well as by day, and was caused by stragglers and refugees firing at every form of bird and animal for the pot.  Every effort was made to stop it including shooting at culprits but it was impossible to stop it once the indiscipline had started.  It had the effect of scaring away the local villages and so made it more difficult to obtain food.

May 18th.

Chasad.

Another very stiff march and from now on we were marching at heights varying from 5000 ft. to 7000 ft. It was raining and bitterly cold and we had only ½ blanket per man.  Fever now began to make its appearance and we had to leave men in villages.

May 19th.

Maku.

Difficult march cold & rain

May 20th.

Ukrul.

The British Officers got a very welcome addition to their rations here as some tinned stores had been left by General Stilwell’s party which had passed through this village.  We were able to get more rice for the men and a few chickens.  Both officers and men had been living on rice only since we left Indaw and thoroughly appreciated any little change.  The Naga villagers were poor and had little to spare, except an occasional pig which the Nagas were prepared to sell if we could catch the pig.

The Nagas provided us with rice beer which was quite warming. At Ukrul and at other villages action had to be taken to stop looting by stragglers of other units.

The only outpost we had met so far was a patrol of 1/3 of the Assam Rifles a few miles Eats of Ukrul.  We rested one day and slaughtered our last bullock.

May 22nd

 

Marched to Litanmekong[?].  It had been raining now for about a week and the track was very slippery.  It was a hard march but mostly down hill and getting warmer.

May 23rd.

Sawanbung

The road was inches deep in black cotton soil mud.

EMPIRE DAY.     IMPHAL.     Detachment via Tamu rejoined.

May 26th – to 29th.

 

Halted at Imphal.

May 30th.

 

Lorry to Mile 107 Manipur Road.

A total of about 450 all ranks had left Mandalay.  It was a matter for congratulation that 345 all ranks of the indigenous races of Burma arrived safely in India. A detachment had been left with families met on the road and had not reported.  Some sick had to be dropped in villages and their fate is not known.  There were some desertions influenced by men of other units who had been allowed to go by their commanders, such as territorials and garrison units.  These were chiefly Kachins, as I found later that one influential Kachin of another unit had paid my men a visit near Indaw.  We were justly proud of this effort especially when we found that only one other battalion of the Burma Rifles, the 2nd, had succeeded in bringing a like number to India.  Circumstances were not the same, as I think the 4th had seen more fighting, and in the last march out did not have the encouragement of being part of the main army.  It was mixed up with undisciplined stragglers, Chinese, and refugees.

It was not without difficulty, as for instance, outside Indaw we passed a Garrison Company of Kachins sitting on the roadside, who derided our men with taunts, such as – “Why are you going to India?  Come home with us.  The Sahibs only want you with them to see themselves safe”, etc.

Again a “pep talk” I gave to each class at Banmauk was somewhat negatived [sic] by the following incidents.

(i) -             When talking to the Chins a squadron of Jap. planes came low overhead and we had to disperse for cover.

(ii) -           Karens – a shot rang out just across the road and in the presence of the men it was reported to me a British Officer had shot himself (not one of ours).

(iii) -         Talking to the Kachins the Jap. planes (all of them) returned low overhead having presumably bombed IMPHAL.  The scarcity of rations etc. on this route was especially difficult.  The men did ask to be allowed to remain in Burma but when the conditions of their enlistment were explained it showed a fine spirit that so many lived up to their side of the terms.  They did not grumble that their families had been left behind unprotected by the Government which they, loyally, continued to serve.  Some of the men with me had families in Tenasserim and had fought loyally throughout the campaign although they had seen the fate of refugees and could guess that their own families were striving for comfort and safety in the same way.

The battalion had passed through the following formations – 2nd Bde., 16th Bde., 46th Bde., back to 16th Bde., and then again 46th Bde., Mandalay Area, Myitkyina Area, and at one time for about one day it was “17th Div., Recce Unit”.  As a fitting climax it arrived in India nobody’s baby and when recommendations for awards were called for no copy of the letter was sent to us.

June

Mile 107 Manipur Rd.

The battalion was to suffer just another blow, especially the British Officers who had strived so hard to get their men to follow them, and the G.C.Os. who had so loyally supported them.  We were informed that we were to offer the men terms to return to Burma if they wished to do so.  The terms offered amounted to an encouragement.  I consider this was a great mistake as the men had made up their minds to come out and continue to serve until we returned to their country.  They would be invaluable to our reconquering Army and only a few days after they had gone some intelligence officers were looking for just the type we had sent back to Burma.

It was a mistake to send them back without first giving them some idea of the power and strength of India.  Instead they took back as their only impression of India a week without shelter in an Assam Jungle in the rain, on half rations, and an obvious shortage of everything, even socks, of which they were allowed only one pair for their return journey.

June 6th.

Mile 107.

75 G.C.Os. and other ranks elected to return to Burma and the remainder were transferred to other units of Burma, in all about 261 up to the time I left the Battalion.  The majority went to the Composite Bn. later named the 2nd Burma Rifles.  It might well have been named the 4th Bn. as the majority in it came to India with the 4th.

The names of the B.Os. and G.C.Os. who ended up with the battalion are as follows:-

Lieut. Colonel P.P. Abernethy, Comdt.

Major M.E.W. Thackeray, Coy. Comdr.

Captain P.R. Boyle,                      “ .

Captain J.H. Gemmel,                  “.

Captain J.C. Bruce,            Adjutant.

Lieut. J.D.L. Gwillin,          Q.M.

2/Lt. Chit Khin.[17]

Major J.L.T. Widdicombe[18]            2/I Command.

 

G.C.Os.

Hony. Lt. Mang Tung Nung, S.M. [19]

Chins  Sub. Thangza Kai

Kachins

* Sub. Tin am

Sub. Maji Tu

* Jem. Pum Ko Ghin

Sub. Moran Gam

* Jem. Pum Thu Hussain

Jem. Agu Di

* Jem. Kim Khwel

 

* Jem. Hnan Ling

 

 

 

 

 

Karens

Karens.

Sub. Dhee Toc

Jem. Ba Oh

Sub. Ba Than

Jem. Cameron

Sub. Po Bin

Jem. Tha Nyunt

Sub. Charley

* Jem. Johny Htoo

Jem. Bal Sein

* Jem. Sein Lewin

Jem. Ba Kyine

* Jem. M G Tut

Jem. Tun Aye

Indian Jem. Subramanyam

 

(* indicates G.C.Os. who elected to return to Burma)

June 12th.

June 25th.

August.

Ranchi.

Hoshiarpur.

Hoshiarpur.

The Head Clerk who was with the Depot in Maymyo arrived some time after the Bn. and brought with him a Form “A”, a statement of men’s Savings Credits, as well as all our securities.  This enabled us to hand over complete accounts for every man (except C.M.A.’s Field Accounts which were his responsibility) to the Administration Burif Accounts.  Likewise Bn. accounts and invested monies were handed over to him.

 

 

Of those who arrived in India, the following B.Os., G.C.Os., and men, were recommended for the awards shown against their names –

Major M.E.W. Thackeray        --         MILITARY CROSS.

Captain J.D.H. Hedley            --         MILITARY CROSS.

Captain J.H. Gemmell             --         MILITARY CROSS.[see note 6]

Sub. Maj. Tu                           --         ORDER OF BURMA.

Jem. Agu Di                            --         ORDER OF BURMA.

Sub-Maj. Mang Tung Nung     --         ORDER OF BURMA.

Jem. K.V. Subramanyam        --         CERTIFICATE OF MERIT.

6334 Hav. Harnam Singh        --         CERTIFICATE OF MERIT.

Capt. P.R. Boyle                      --         MENTION IN DESPATCHES.

Capt. J.C. Bruce                      --         MENTION IN DESPATCHES.

Jem. Bala Sein                         --         MENTION IN DESPATCHES.

Jem. Columbia                        --         MENTION IN DESPATCHES.

Sub. Dhee Htoo                       --         MENTION IN DESPATCHES.

5235 Bn. Q.M.H. Put Pa          --         MENTION IN DESPATCHES.

5712 Naik Tin Chan                --         MENTION IN DESPATCHES.

4410 L/Nk. Law Cyaw            --         MENTION IN DESPATCHES.

5279 Naik Kham Chin Pau     --         MENTION IN DESPATCHES.

5143 Naik Slmo                      --         MENTION IN DESPATCHES.

3514 Naik Taday Khawa        --         MENTION IN DESPATCHES.

3763 L/Nk. Dabang Gam        --         MENTION IN DESPATCHES.

?873 Nk. Manuel                    --         MENTION IN DESPATCHES.

5520 L/Nk. Robert                  --         MENTION IN DESPATCHES.

4053 R/m.[20] Surjaman             --         MENTION IN DESPATCHES.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I regret that I have no honours or awards to record as up to the time of writing not a single honour or award has been granted to an officer or other rank.

[Signed] P.P. Abernethy

LIEUT. COLONEL,

COMDT:          4 BURMA RIFLES

RAWALPINDI

23/25 DECEMBER, 1942.

 



[1] Peter Paul Abernethy born Ireland, 29th June 1897.  Commissioned to the Unattached List for the Indian Army as 2nd Lieutenant (IA 491), 30th January 1917.  Appointed to the Indian Army as 2nd Lieutenant, attached to the 63rd Palamcottah Light Infantry (disbanded 13th September 1922), 7th February 1917.  Served as Company Officer with the 58th Vaughan's Rifles from 13th June 1917.  Served Egyptian Expeditionary Force, October 1917 to 31st October 1918.  Promoted to Lieutenant, 30th January 1918.  Attached to the 58th Vaughan's Rifles, served Waziristan, 1920-21.  Served as acting Captain, while commanding a company of the 58th Vaughan's Rifles (later 5th Battalion, 13th Frontier Force) until, 27th June 1920.  Acting Captain, while commanding a company of the 58th Vaughan's Rifles (later 5th Battalion, 13th Frontier Force) until, 29th January 1921.  Promoted to Captain, 30th January 1921.  Served as Company Officer with the 5th Battalion, 13th Frontier Force Rifles following redesignation of the 58th Vaughan's Rifles, 1922.  Mentioned in despatches for service in Waziristan, gazetted, 1st June 1923.  Mentioned in despatches for service in Waziristan, gazetted, 12th June 1923.  Instructor (Class 2) Small Arms School, India, 18th January 1925 to 5th October 1926.  Promoted to Major, 30th January 1935.  Seconded to the Burma Defence Forces as Company Officer with the 4th Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 8th November 1937.  Acting Lt. Colonel, Officiating Second in Command, 4th Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 25th February 1941 to 24th May 1941.  Commanding Officer of the 4th Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 25th May 1941 to June 1942.  Temporary Lt. Colonel from 25th May 1941 to 29th January 1943.  Served with the Sindh Police Rifles, 1943 to 1945.  Promoted to Lt. Colonel, 30th January 1943.  Retired from the Indian Army on account of ill health, 23rd August 1946  ("War Services of British and Indian Officers of the Indian Army 1941", Savannah (2004); British Army List; Burma Defence Services List July 1941; Indian Army List 1919, 1923, 1942, 1943, 1945; London Gazette).

[2] John Brookman, born 30th August 1898.  Commissioned into the Army, 2nd Lt., 1st May 1917.  Assigned to the Indian Army as 2nd Lt., 3rd December 1917.  Promoted to Lieutenant, 1st May 1918, acting Captain 1st July 1918 to 18th September 1919.  Served Afghanistan, N.W. Frontier, 1919.  Acting captain from 26th October 1920 until 12th December 1920 and again from 4th January 1921 until 18th January 1921.  Served Waziristan, 1921.  Promoted Captain, 1st May 1921 and to Major, 1st May 1935.  Permanently seconded to the 4th Burma Rifles.  Promoted from Major to Lt. Col. on 1st May 1943 (London Gazette; Indian Army List; British Army List; “War Services of British and Indian Officers of the Indian Army 1941”, Savannah (2004)).

[3] John Duncan Halliday Hedley (ABRO.97or ABRO.48?).  Appointed 2/Lt. (ABRO) 10th November 1939; Lieutenant, 11th May 1941; as Captain (temp) ,‘Mentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in Burma’, 26th April 1945; as Major (temporary) awarded D.S.O. on 7th November 1946 “ in recognition of gallant and distinguished services while engaged in Special Operations in South East Asia” (London Gazette).

[4] Alan Nepean Kingsley, born 16th October 1914.  Commissioned as 2nd Lt. to the Unattached List, 30th August 1934, assigned to the Indian Army, 21st October 1935, 8th Punjab Regiment.  Served 15th Lancers, 21st October 1935.  Appointed to 20th Burma Rifles, 21st April 1936.  Promoted to Lieutenant, 30th November 1936.  Company Officer, 3rd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, Maymyo, July-October 1937.  To the 4th Burma Rifles, 1938.  Acting Captain, 1st January 1941 to 31st march 1941; temporary Captain, 1st April 1941.  Promoted from Lt. to Captain, 30th August 1942 (London Gazette; Indian Army List; British Army List; “War Services of British and Indian Officers of the Indian Army 1941”, Savannah (2004)).

[5] Martin Edward Walter Thackeray, born 23rd November 1904.  Commissioned (30950), South Staffordshire Regiment, 2nd Lt., 30th August 1925.  Promoted to Lieutenant, 30th August 1926, to Captain, 20th June 1936 and to Major, 30th August 1942.  Seconded to the Burma Defence Force, 22nd July 1938 and to the  4th Burma Rifles, 24th August 1938.  Maj. M. E. W. Thackeray (30950) (attd. The Burma Rif.) “Mentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in Burma during the period December, 1941 to May, 1942”, 28th October 1942; Major to be Lt.-Col., 27th Oct. 1946 (London Gazette; Indian Army List; British Army List).

[6] Lieutenant James Hunter Gemmell.  Born Bassein, 8th December 1914.  Emergency Commission from Cadet to the General List as 2nd Lt. (189611), 28th April 1941.  Served with the 4th Battalion, The Burma Rifles from 28th April 1941 to June 1942?.  War substantive Lieutenant, 15th November 1941.  Temporary Captain, 26th January 1942.  Arrived to join the 2nd Battalion, The Burma Rifles as a reinforcement, Karachi, 5th July 1943.  Whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, attached to the 1st Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) for the Second Chindit Operation, 23rd October 1943 to July 1944.  Wounded, May 1944.  Served as Major, late-1944?.  Served with the 2nd Karen Rifles, 1945-46?.  As a resident of Auckland, New Zealand, awarded Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG) for services to manufacturing and export, 16th June 1979 (British Army List; Burma Defence Services List, July 1941; FindMyPast; Glasgow Academy Roll of Service 1939-1945; London Gazette; War diary 1st Battalion Cameronians, WO 172/4873; War diary 2nd Burma Rifles, WO 172/2658; War diary 4th Burma Rifles, WO 172/977)

[7] James Charles Bruce.  Commissioned to the General List, Regular Army Emergency Commission as 2ndLt. (189617), 28th April 1941.  War substantive Lieutenant, 12th December 1941.  As Captain, part of the Composite Burma Rifles Battalion, India 1942. Temporary Captain, 5th April 1943.  As temporary Captain, 2nd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, awarded The Military Cross, 16th December 1943, citation follows: 

Brigade:                 77th Indian Infantry Brigade
Corps:                    4th Corps
Unit:                       2 Burma Rifles    

Rank and Name: Lieutenant James Charles BRUCE 

Action for which recommended :-

On 28th February 1943, Lieut. BRUCE was sent forward to arrange for the crossing of the IRRAWADDY River by Headquarters No.1 Group, No.1 Column and No.2 Column. He was accompanied by one section of Burma Rifles. Reaching the Steamer Station of TAGAUNG, with his small force he blocked the river preventing the movement of all traffic, and held the area for four days. On the 3rd March he entered the town accompanied by only four men, disarmed the local Burma Police Force, destroyed 7 rifles and kidnapped a Burman Customs Official who was a Japanese nominee. Owing to his efficient block of the river he was able to collect a large number of river craft and great quantities of food, sufficient to feed the whole force of 1,000 men for several days. Unaware that part of the force had been ambushed with and the plan changed, Lieut. Bruce continued with his inadequate party to hold the area far beyond the period originally ordered. Hearing at last of the fate of the main body, he finally abandoned the position which he had so boldly held and, rejoining his Platoon Commander, took part with him in a remarkable march across the Irrawaddy through the Kachin Hills and eventually back to India. During the whole period his courage, cheerfulness and unfailing sense of humour was a remarkable source of inspiration          

Recommended By:             Capt. G.P. Carne, Burma Rifles
Honour or Reward:             M. C.

Signed By:                            Brigadier O.C. Wingate, Comdr. 77th Ind. Inf. Bde.

 As temporary Major, The Burma Rifles, awarded Bar to the Military Cross, gazetted 26th April 1945 (British Army List; London Gazette; War Diary 2nd Burma Rifles, WO 172/975(War diary 2nd Burma Rifles); Chindits Special Forces Burma 1942-44 - Awards).

[8] Hugh Vivian Hinds.  Commissioned to the General List  from Cadet, to be 2/Lt. (189618), 28th April 1941.  War substantive Lieutenant, 1st October 1943.  Temporary captain, 28th January 1945.  As Deputy Conservator of Forests, Burma, made Officer of the Civil Division of the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.), 1st January 1948 (British Army List; London Gazette).

“Hugh Vivian Hinds was born at Eynsham, Oxfordshire and received his early education at the City of Oxford High School. After graduating B.A. (Forestry) with distinction from Oxford, he joined the Burma Forest Service in 1931. After a short period of orientation he was given charge of the Thayetmyo Forest Division, about 250 miles up the Irrawaddy River from Rangoon, for three years; and then of the North Pegu Forest Division in the Sittang River basin. In 1940 he was commissioned in the Burma Rifles. In the fighting which followed the Japanese invasion of southern Burma he was seriously wounded. Upon recovery he undertook Army intelligence duties and was then posted to the Civil Affairs Service (Burma). His immediate task was restoration of the district administration system in Toungoo, a location not without its hazards from Japanese stragglers still on the offensive. Later, he returned to the Forest Department, becoming personal assistant to the Chief Conservator of Forests until Burma was granted independence. His services were recognized by the award of the O.B.E. The second phase of his career began in mid-1948, when he joined the New Zealand Forestry Commission” (N.Z. Journal of Forestry).

[9] Laurence Riley Martin.  Commissioned to the General List from Cadet, O.C.T.U., as 2nd Lt. (189637), 28th April 1941.  Initially served with the 4th Battalion, The Burma Rifles before transferring briefly to the 9th Battalion, The Burma Rifles on 2nd February 1942 and then transferring to the 3rd Battalion, The Burma Rifles on 22nd February 1942.  Subsequently formed part of the Composite Burma Rifles Battalion, India, June 1942.  Promoted war substantive Lieutenant, 1st October 1942.  As war substantive Lieutenant, transferred from the General List to the Highland Light Infantry to be war substantive Lieutenant, 19th June 1944, retaining current seniority (British Army List; War Diary 2nd Burma Rifles, WO 172/975 (War diary 2nd Burma Rifles); War Diary 9th Burma Rifles, WO 172/981 (War diary 9th Burma Rifles)).

[10] Actually J.D.L. Gwillim (possibly John David L, born 1916).  Emergency Commision as 2nd Lt. (217688), 26th October 1941.  War substantive Lieutenant, 1st October 1942,  transferred from the General List to the Welch Regiment as Lieutenant, 3rd March 1943, retaining seniority (British Army List; London Gazette).

[11] Raymond Edward Hall.  Before the war, an employee of Steel Bbrothers or Rangoon.   Commissioned as 2ndLt. (ABRO), 1st January 1942.  Died 20th January 1942, commemorated on the Seaford War Memorial, Sussex (Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Roll of Honour - Sussex, Seaford).

[12] A reorganisation was ordered on 5th February 1942 as part of the relief of the 16th Indian Infantry Brigade by 46th Indian Infantry Brigade.  This was to take place between 6th and 8th February and 4th Burma Rifles, less one company, was to form part of the 46th Brigade.  The 4th Burma Rifles’ ‘C’ Company at Shwegun remained under command of 16th Brigade.  However a further reorganisation on 9th February saw the Shwegun-based ‘C’ Company of 4th Burma Rifles come under command of the 46th Brigade (Indian Official History, The Retreat from Burma 1941-1942, pp.121-2).

[13] An instruction issued by 17th Indian Infantry Division, in command of 16th and 46th Indian Infantry Brigades at this time, ordered Brigade Commanders to ‘obtain from their affiliated Burma Rif. Bns. 1 NCO and men for each Indian Bn. to act as interpreters and guides (Indian Official History, The Retreat from Burma 1941-1942, Appendix 35, p. 471)

[14] The war diary of the 10th (Training) Battalion, Burma Rifles, records that a total of 42 men from the 4th Burma Rifles, presumably stragglers, arrived at the 10th Battalion in Burma between 24th and 27th February 1942 (War Diary 10th Burma Rifles, WO 172/982 (War diary 10th Burma Rifles)).

[15] The War Diary of the 7th Burma Rifles records on 17 Mar 42, at Gonde, that ‘Approx 45 KARENS of 4 Burma Rifles under Capt. F. MACDONALD also war posted as reinforcements to this unit’ (WO 172/979).

[16] Ferguson MacDonald.  Commissioned from cadet to the General List as 2ndLt. (189613), 28th April 1941.  War substantive Lieutenant, 22nd December 1941.  Temporary Captain, 22nd December 1941.  Attached Burma Rifles, died, age 28, on 18th April 1942.  Captain MacDonald had been a company commander with the 4th Burma Rifles and his company subsequently became attached to the 7th Burma Rifles – see entry for 17th March 1942 above. (British Army List; London Gazette; Commonwealth War Graves Commission).

[17] Saw Chit Khin (Kyin).  Commissioned 2ndLt., ABRO(ABRO 595), 15th April 1942.   Awarded The Military Cross, 16th December 1943, later Captain with 2nd Burma Rifles (1944); ‘Mentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in Burma’, 26th April 1945 (Anglo-Burmese Library; London Gazette).

[18] John Line Templar Widdicombe,  Commissioned to the Unattached List as 2ndLt., 27th October 1916.  Served 10th Gurkha Rifles, February 1918.  Attached 2/9th Gurkha Rifles, 12th March 1918, acting Captain as Adjutant, 2nd February 1919 to 9th February 1919, and as acting Captain from 9th March 1919.  Served Iraq, February 1918 to March 1919, Mentioned in despatches, gazetted 21st February 1919.  Conferred Chevalier of the Order of the Star of Roumania, gazetted 3rd October 1922.  Served Afghanistan, N.W. Frontier, 1919; Waziristan, 1919-21.  Promoted to Captain, 27th October 1920.   Attached 7th Gurkha Rifles, 10th February 1928.  Adjutant, U.T.C., 1st April 1934 to 31st October 1935.   Promoted to Major, 27th October 1934.  Appointed to the Indian Army, Special Unemployed List, 1st November 1935.  Seconded to the 4th Burma Rifles, 5th December 1937, appointed 1st April 1938.  As Lt.-Col. (242 I.A.) retires on account of ill-health, 11th June 1945 (London Gazette; Edinburgh Gazette; British Army List; Indian Army List;“War Services of British and Indian Officers of the Indian Army 1941”, Savannah (2004)).

[19] Maung Tung Nung (ABRO), appointed 2/Lt. 4th April 1943 (Anglo-Burmese Library; London Gazette).

[20] “R/m.” – Rifleman.