OPERATION BEAN, Arakan Coast, Burma, 23rd
In late October 1944 3 Commando Brigade
concentrated at Teknaf which lies on the Bay of Bengal coastline in today’s
Bangladesh, near the border with Burma (today called Myanmar). The Brigade was positioned there ready for an
amphibious assault further south on the Myebon Peninsula east of Akyab (today
named Sittwe). South-east of Teknaf the
74th Indian Infantry Brigade of the 25th Indian Division
was facing the Japanese on the Arakan coast.
74th Indian Infantry Brigade Headquarters
needed to withdraw units from the line in order to train them for forthcoming
operations down the coast, and 3 Commando Brigade offered to take over some of
the Indian forward positions whilst the training took place in a rear
area. This offer was welcomed and for
three weeks during November the Commando Brigade held a patrol base at West
Chiradan. As the India/Pakistan Official
History states: “Under the command of 74th Indian Infantry Brigade
the Commandos did some extremely good patrolling and had to their credit the
first Japanese prisoner of war taken by 25th Indian Division”.
Above: Map showing Chiradan and Hinthaya
BEAN – the participants
The Commando Brigade mounted OPERATION BEAN
over the 22nd and 23rd November and allocated a total of
22 officers and 293 men from Nos. 1 and 5 Commandos. The breakdown from these two units was:
Commando HQ, 3 and 6 Troops complete, one section of 4 Troop and one Medium
Machine Gun detachment of 2 Troop.
5 Commando: 4 Troop complete and one mortar detachment of
Supporting units were ‘W’ Battery of 8th
Field Regiment Royal Artillery, and ‘V’ Force.
The gunners provided Forward Observation Parties to accompany the
Commandos on the ground, whilst the guns were positioned safely to the
rear. ‘V’ Force, a covert unit, provided
one officer and 10 local scouts.
The enemy troops in the area were a brigade
sized force known as the Sakura Detachment, named after its commander Major
General T. Sakurai, supported by groups of renegade former Indian Army soldiers
commonly referred to as ‘Jiffs’ (Japanese-Indian Fifth Column). Most of these
Indians had been taken prisoner in Malaya or Singapore and for a variety of
reasons they had elected to serve on the Japanese side in a force titled the
Indian National Army.
BEAN – the fighting
At 1730 hours on 22nd November
the OP BEAN group moved south-eastwards towards the enemy positions. Headquarters 1 Commando split the force into
three groups each with different objectives.
This narrative follows the activities of 3 Troop under the command of Captain
John Garner-Jones, Welch Regiment, whose objective was a Japanese-defended village
named Hinthaya, and whose mission was to bring back a prisoner.
Doubtless with the help of ‘V’ force guides,
3 Troop, accompanied by the gunner observation party and the Medium Machine Gun
detachment, moved through the dark jungle unchallenged and waded across a river
named the Ton Chaung. On the far bank a
defensive perimeter was established for the remainder of the night. Thirty minutes before dawn 3 Troop moved and
positioned itself 500 yards east of Hinthaya.
At first light the gunner Forward Observation Officer brought accurate artillery
fire down on the enemy location and the Medium Machine Guns joined in. Two ‘Jiffs’ were seen to run out of the
At 0715 hours John Garner-Jones, leaving
his wireless and 2-inch mortar with Nos. 1 and 3 Sections, led his Troop
Headquarters and No. 2 Section in a spirited attack on the north end of
Hinthaya, clearing it of enemy as far as a track crossing the village. Beyond the track enemy opposition stiffened
and the remainder of the Troop was called forward and deployed. Covered by No. 1 Section, No. 3 Section
advanced and Private Leslie Cyril Olver, The Buffs, enthusiastically and
impetuously got ahead of the remainder of his sub-section which was moving in
extended order. Leslie Olver saw a group
of up to a dozen Japanese on his left and fired at them with his Tommy Gun
(Thompson submachine gun), hitting one who appeared to be an officer; the other
Japanese dragged the wounded man under cover.
Olver’s immediate commander, Corporal Jenkins, called for the extended
line to be straightened and as he turned to comply Leslie Olver’s magazine
dropped off his gun.
At the same moment he spotted a V-shaped
trench 30 yards away containing four enemy; instinctively Leslie Olver immediately
lobbed a grenade into the trench, and the resulting explosion gave him time to
re-load his gun. Then, supported by fire
from his sub-section, he fired 16 rounds into the trench. A ‘Jiff’ Sikh was shot in the stomach and two
Japanese were hit in their backs, a fourth Japanese was unwounded but
stunned. Immediately seizing this
opportunity, Sergeant James Crowe, Seaforth Highlanders, dashed forward and pulled
a Japanese out of the trench but saw that this man was dying. Noticing the stunned Japanese soldier in the
trench, James Crowe and two of his men pulled this enemy soldier out and
restrained the man to prevent him from committing suicide. No. 3 Troop had taken its prisoner.
But the task now facing John Garner-Jones
was to get the prisoner back alive and extract his troop from what was now a
fierce fight. For the next 30 to 40
minutes Garner-Jones deployed his men and machine guns to fight against enemy
trenches and bunkers, Japanese snipers tied into tree tops, and against
longer-range light machine gun and sniper fire that was trying to kill the
prisoner. These longer-range snipers
were accurate and were probably ‘Jiffs’ as the Indians were better marksmen
than the Japanese. A group of Japanese
attempted to outflank the Commandos on their left, but a sub-section positioned
there by Garner-Jones stopped this enemy move.
Meanwhile the prisoner, a strong man, was struggling violently and had
to be gagged to stop his shouts; finally he was trussed and carried off the
battlefield. No. 1 Commando Headquarters
then gave 3 Troop the order to withdraw, and John Garner-Jones fought a
withdrawal action back over the Ton Chaung; the Medium Machine Guns being used
effectively against the Japanese tree-snipers.
Doubtless the ammunition expended during the fighting, particularly by
the Medium Machine Gun detachment, led to lighter loads and an easier march
back except for the unfortunates carrying the prisoner.
Above: Thompson submachine guns
BEAN – other tasks and withdrawal
Whilst 3 Troop had been fighting its
private battle at Hinthaya two other troops had been sent on different
tasks. No. 6 Troop reconnoitred other
enemy positions and then covered 3 Troop’s withdrawal from the north. No. 4 Troop of 5 Commando, again probably
using ‘V’ Force guides, made a very slow and difficult night march to a village
named Kaingyi along a pig track in dense jungle where the mud was two or more
feet deep. The Troop needed three hours
to cover one mile of track. When Kaingyi
could be observed the estimated enemy defences near there were fired upon for
an hour by the Forward Observation Officer with the Troop; the Troop then
withdrew to No. 1 Commando Headquarters location.
When the OPERATION BEAN force was assembled
back at 1 Commando HQ a head-count established that no casualties had been
suffered. One enemy prisoner had been
taken, and verified enemy casualties were 6 killed and eight wounded, including
an officer; there was a strong possibility that 6 other enemy soldiers had been
hit. The force then withdrew on foot and
reached its base by noon. The prisoner
provided useful information, as in fact did most of the few Japanese captured
in the campaign once they realised that they were not going to be killed. (However it has to be said that in less
well-disciplined British units Japanese and sometimes ‘Jiff’ prisoners did not
stay alive very long.)
for the three awards made to 1 Commando personnel for gallant conduct displayed
on OPERATION BEAN
MILITARY MEDAL to 6286825 Private Leslie
At HINTHAYA, ARAKAN on 23 November ‘44
this young soldier, in action for the first time, in his excitement got ahead
of his sub-section. A party of some ten
Japanese crossed his front. He engaged
them with his TMC, wounding their leader who was an officer. He then saw an enemy section post about 30
yards to his left manned by four men. He
threw a grenade at them, stunning one, and then killed the other three with his
TMC. This enabled his sub-section to
capture a prisoner, who was not much hurt and who gave most valuable
information. His skill-at-arms and his dash were a magnificent example to the
men of the sub-section.
MILITARY MEDAL to 313358
Corporal (Acting Lance Sergeant) James CROWE.
At HINTHAYA on 23 Nov 44 L/Sgt CROWE
was commanding a sub-section in action for the first time in an attack on
strongly held enemy positions. His tasks
were to secure identifications and to take a prisoner. When a hand grenade was thrown into an enemy
trench and appeared to have disabled the occupants, this NCO rushed forward and
pulled out one Japanese who died almost immediately. Another had been temporarily stunned. L/Sgt CROWE tackled him and after a hard
struggle secured him with the aid of two of his men, preventing him from
committing suicide. During this
engagement he was under constant fire from enemy machine guns and well
concealed snipers. His coolness and
determination in carrying out his tasks were an inspiring example to his sub-section
and resulted in the capturing of a prisoner, who was in excellent physical
condition and who has given valuable information.
C. MILITARY CROSS to 92411
Lieutenant (Temporary Captain) John GARNER-JONES
On the night 22/23 November this
officer by a skilful night march crossed the TON CHAUNG and surrounded a
Japanese platoon in HINTHAYA. He led his
troop to the assault at dawn, achieving complete surprise. He drove the enemy from strong bunker
positions. His Troop killed six, wounded
eight and took one live Jap prisoner. Captain
GARNER-JONES himself accounted for several of the enemy. During this action he was everywhere exposing
himself without the least regard for personal danger. He inspired his men by his courage and by his
sound tactics. After this success he
withdrew his men without loss being himself the last to leave.
Official History. The Arakan Operations 1942-45
edited by Bisheshwar Prasad (Pentagon Press, New Delhi, reprinted in 2012). British
Official History. The War Against Japan. Volume IV.
Edited by Major General S. Woodburn Kirby. (A reprinted version is available in
paperback from Naval & Military Press). The
Forgotten Army by Peter Ward Fay. (University of
Michigan Press 1996). The best book on
the Indian National Army. Citations from The National Archives. Documents displayed on the CVA website.