and the Special Service Detachments (Commando) in Burma
Come you back to Mandalay, Where the old Flotilla lay: Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin' from Rangoon to Mandalay? On the road to Mandalay, Where the flyin'-fishes play,An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!
Bush Warfare School, Maymyo, Burma
In October 1941 a Royal Engineers officer,
Major Michael Calvert, was posted from a Training Centre in Australia where he
had been preparing Australian and New Zealand soldiers for Commando missions in
the Pacific. Calvert’s new posting was
to be Chief Instructor at the Bush Warfare School in Maymyo (now named Pyin Oo
Lwin), a pleasant hill station north-east of Mandalay in Burma (now Myanmar).
On arrival Calvert found that the role of
the Bush Warfare School was to covertly train suitable troops for British
Mission 204 to China, and that the Mission’s role was to provide 15 squads of
guerrilla warfare instructors for attachment to Chinese military units who
would fight the invading Japanese. The
British would not be in command and would act only as instructors and advisors. Many British troops were sent to the school from
the Middle East where they had been serving operationally in Layforce, a Middle
East Commando formation, and Mission 101, a British-sponsored guerrilla force
that had fought the Italians in Abyssinia.
Other troops came from Hong Kong, Malaya and Australia. Calvert had served in China and unlike many
other British officers he respected the abilities of the Japanese forces.
Japanese troops had been operating in
Manchuria since 1931 and had been fighting in mainland China since 1937; in December
1941 Japan attacked the USA at Pearl Harbour, following this up with invasions
of the Philippines, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaya and Burma. This aggression radically changed the role of
the Bush Warfare School as many trainees were formed into Special Service
Detachments (SSDs) Nos. 1, 2 and 3, all with the title ‘(Commando)’. The Order of Battle of the British Army in
Burma dated 1st April 1942 locates the SSDs as No. 1 being in Corps
Troops, No. 2 in 1 Burma Division and No. 3 in 17 Indian Division (1).
Colonel Orde Wingate, the former Commander
of Mission 101 (also known as Gideon Force) was placed in charge of the SSDs
with the intention of carrying out Long Range Penetration operations behind the
Japanese front lines. Wingate, although
a tactical visionary and an inspirer of troops, was never an easy man to get on
with but he and Calvert found that they had much in common; this association
was to last until Wingate’s death in 1944 in the second Chindit operation.
However the chance to mount Long Range
Penetration missions during 1942 never materialised, nor could the British and
their American allies then provide the air resources to sustain such
operations. Also whilst the Burmese
Christian and Animist hill tribes generally supported Britain for the
protection she provided against lowland Buddhist Burman aggression, the Burmans
did not want Britain in their country, and they especially did not want the
large number of Indians who had migrated to Burma under British rule. As will be seen Burman collaboration with the
Japanese would have made long range penetration an extremely difficult
task. Before the war commenced the
Japanese had taken advantage of this anti-British sentiment and Burman
nationalist officers had been covertly trained on Japanese territory; this led
to the rapid formation of the Burma National Army (2) which operated alongside Japanese troops during the 1942 British retreat from
In the end Wingate flew back to India to
promote his vision for future Chindit operations, leaving two SSDs operating in
the east of Burma where Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Sheck’s Chinese Nationalist
troops were entering in an attempt to block Japanese advances northwards. These two SSDs, lightly armed and equipped,
carried out minor operations and demolitions and then either withdrew into
China or made a long, arduous and hazardous march north towards the Myitkyina
and Fort Hertz areas in northern Burma, from where the survivors crossed into
Assam. The other SSD under Calvert
operated on the Irrawaddy River, withdrawing with the main British forces up
the Chindwin River into the Indian Princely State of Manipur.
Meanwhile the role of Mission 204 was not
neglected as three dedicated Commando contingents from the Bush Warfare School
crossed into China to support the Chinese, and their frustrations and
tribulations will be briefly summarised later.
The only records of serious fighting performed by the former students of
the Bush Warfare School are those of Calvert’s SSD No. 3, and those actions are
raid on Henzada
In March 1942, before he had met Orde
Wingate, Calvert requested a tasking for his SSD from the Headquarters of 17
Division near Prome, and he was told rather vaguely by a harassed staff officer
to ‘look after the west bank of the Irrawaddy River’. Feeling rather pleased with the scope that
this offered his pleasure increased when he came across Captain Duncan
Johnston, Royal Marines. Johnston
commanded Force Viper, a unit that totalled 106 Royal Marines and a Surgeon
Lieutenant, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Force Viper had come from Ceylo, (3),
now Sri Lanka, and possessed its own small craft, a Vickers machine gun, 13
Bren guns, 24 Tommy guns, four 2-inch mortars, and rifles. On arrival in Burma Force Viper’s initial
task had been to patrol the Gulf of Martaban between Rangoon and Moulmein to
prevent Japanese sea-borne infiltration, but now due to the enemy advance north
from Rangoon the Marines were operating on the Irrawaddy and they had arranged
the use of a civilian river steamer named Hastings
to complement their four government motor launches and three motor boats.
Left: A Prewar Photo of Orde Wingate
The former Bush Warfare School trainees all
wore Australian-style slouch hats, and as it was rumoured that an Australian
division might appear in Burma Calvert decided on a deception plan to suggest
to the enemy and their local sympathisers that the Australians were already in
the country. Concurrently demolition
teams would destroy targets such as railway bridges, oil installations and
boats that could be useful to the Japanese; these teams would be transported to
and from the river banks by Force Viper’s motor launch Rita. The overall aim of
this mission was to slow down the enemy advance up the west bank of the
Irrawaddy. The Captain of the Hastings, William Rea, a reserve officer
who had served on minesweepers in the Great War, agreed to risk his steamer and
civilian crew on the operation.
The town of Henzada, 60 miles downstream
from Prome, was chosen as the main target for the raid which took place on 17th
March. The journey downstream was
uneventful and suitable targets were demolished, but trouble began when Calvert
landed his men at Henzada and began telling the townsfolk, through a local crew
member of the Hastings who acted as
an interpreter, that the Australian Army had arrived in Burma. Behind the civilian crowd a unit of the Burma
National Army supported by Japanese soldiers prepared itself to capture the
Marines and Commandos.
Eventually a voice from the crowd shouted
in English “Lay down your arms. You are surrounded”. It is believed that a corporal named Maddox
shouted “Bollocks” in reply and the crowd dropped to the ground as a heavy
firefight broke out between the British and Burman troops. Calvert withdrew his men under fire to the
riverbank where a support party had been positioned to provide covering fire;
this fire was effective and it cut down many of the attackers who were running
forward to kill the Commandos and Marines.
When Calvert had got all his party aboard the Hastings, which was moored to the river bank, it was discovered
that some men were missing. Calvert
immediately took a party ashore, covered by fire from the Hasting’s upper deck, and retrieved his stragglers.
Captain Rea then had to turn his steamer
around against the current and both Hastings
and Rita exchanged heavy fire with
the Burmans. Fortunately on the upper
deck of the Hastings sacks of food
and other goods could be used to protect the Commandos and these sacks absorbed
much of the enemy fire, however the crew of the Rita was less well protected and two Marines were wounded. Total casualty figures for the Henzada raid vary
according to the source consulted, but Calvert lost three men killed and up to
seven wounded. The enemy was believed to
have lost over 100 men killed, but it is more than probable that several if not
many of these were civilians caught in the cross fire.
The Captain of the Hastings was later awarded the Military
Cross with the citation: 2nd Lieutenant
(Acting Captain) William Rea, Army in Burma Reserve of Officers, Inland
Waterways Transport, did excellent work as tugmaster at Rangoon in placing
flats and barges. This enabled the whole
of the petrol, ammunition and military stores which had been loaded to be
evacuated. During the operations from
Prome to Mingyang he volunteered to be a steamer captain and was employed
continuously in the forward areas. He consistently
showed great gallantry and devotion to duty in the construction of booms across
the river, the ferrying of troops under fire and enemy air action. He also took part in operations with the
Royal Marines. It was due to his example
of fearlessness that he was able to retain his civilian crew that was not
trained for war.
On the return journey upriver Calvert
reported the success of his mission by radio but he was ordered to report to HQ
17 Division immediately. There he was
verbally reprimanded for risking the steamer crew, the steamer itself which was
the property of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, and for destroying oil
installations that were the property of the Burmah Oil Company. Feeling angry and dispirited Calvert strode
away from the Headquarters but then he met Orde Wingate, and the course of
Calvert’s war changed irrevocably.
Left: Orde Wingate showing the strain of war
action at Padaung
The Commandos continued operating with
Force Viper for a further two weeks, but in an action at Padaung on 30th
March the British fell into an enemy trap.
Calvert was not involved in the operation and Johnston was in command,
but once again the British were operating without adequate local
intelligence. A Japanese company had
occupied riverside Padaung village before the Commandos and Marines arrived,
and the villagers successfully concealed the Japanese in their houses. After the villagers had prepared a succulent
evening meal for the British, who then put sentries out and went to sleep, the
Japanese emerged, surrounded the Commandos and Marines, and attacked them.
The Royal Marines No. 3 Platoon Commander,
Lieutenant Peter Cave, got the Vickers machine gun firing and stopped the enemy
frontal assault, but other Japanese attacked from the rear, grenading and
bayonetting the machine gun crew (4) to
the ground. The British were split into
several small groups involved in desperate hand to hand fighting, using weapon
butts, steel helmet rims and in one case a sword that was seized from a
Japanese officer. Johnston ordered his
surviving men to withdraw to the launches.
But the Commander of No. 2 Platoon, a
peace-time school teacher named Douglas Fayle, hid beneath a hut with two other
Marines, and killed many unsuspecting Japanese.
He later was awarded a Military
Cross with the terse citation: Lieutenant Douglas Ronald
Fayle, Royal Marines (Force Viper).
PADAUNG 30th March 1942.
Commander of the reserved platoon which was surprised at 0030 hours by a
large force of Japanese. He, with
Corporal Winters, Royal Marines, and Marine Shaw, hid beneath a hut and
inflicted casualties estimated at twenty-five to thirty at very close range on
the enemy, using a tommy gun, a bren gun and grenades. Was charged twice and ordered to surrender,
but crept out at 0430, and made his escape with his party, having run out of
ammunition. Rejoined the launches six
miles upstream at dawn.
The same citation was used for the awards
of the Military Medal to EX.2294
Marine (Acting Temporary Corporal) Harry Winters and to CH,X.2973 Marine Jack Shaw
who had accompanied Douglas Fayle throughout the action (5).
But Padaung had been a bad defeat for the
Marines and Commandos. Around twenty men
had been killed in the fight whilst others were captured or missing, including
Peter Cave and his platoon. At dawn the
Japanese found a dozen wounded British troops and a day later used them for
bayonet practice (6).
SSD during the withdrawal to India
Calvert had been rejuvenated by his
discussions with Orde Wingate, and also when he met the new British theatre
commander Lieutenant General Sir Harold Alexander, who was pleased to find an
officer who wanted to take the fight to the enemy. Calvert was allowed to recruit more men for
his SSD No. 3, and this he did by unorthodox but speedy methods, scouring the
Provost Company, base hospitals, reinforcement camps and other rear echelon
units; there was little time for effective training and whilst some of these
new men proved to be good others were bad.
Whilst retreating up the Irrawaddy and
Chindwin Rivers many British units lost cohesion with stragglers being left
behind, whilst other men deserted to steal vehicles and to loot and rape;
Calvert’s SSD was no exception. But the
SSD was involved in one planned operation when in early May it was detailed to
cover the lower stretch of the dry Maukkdaw Chaung (river bed) on the south flank
of the Ye-U – Shwegyin track that was being used for the British retreat. The mission was to ambush any Japanese
crossing the Chaung and to radio that information through to Brigade HQ. This was an important task as just beyond
Shwegyin lay Kalewa which had to be held until the last retreating unit passed
through it, and Army HQ did not want Shwegyin to be outflanked from the west by
the leading Japanese units.
The Commander of 48th Indian
Infantry Brigade which had so far probably killed more Japanese than any other
British formation in Burma considered that the Commando force needed
strengthening and he allocated one company from 2/5th Gurkhas and
another from the 7th Gurkhas composite battalion to the task. Major Eric Stephen Holdaway MC commanded the
7th Gurkhas company and also the complete British party, probably
much to Calvert’s chagrin; Captain M.C. Willis commanded the 5th
Gurkhas company. What exactly happened and
what was said at the Maukkdaw Chaung has never been satisfactorily established,
but three days later Japanese troops were observed crossing the Chaung.
Above: Crossing the Chindwin River at Shwegyin
It appears that Calvert wanted to
immediately engage the enemy, but Holdaway did not as he had just received an
order from Brigade HQ to withdraw, so a new position a tactical bound north of
the Chaung was occupied for the next night.
Calvert still wanted action but Holdaway did not as he considered that his
whole force was too exhausted to survive a serious encounter. Brigade HQ was now on the move and not
receiving radio messages, and Holdaway decided that it was more important to
get a verbal message back to Brigade HQ than to risk losing the entire
force. Eric Holdaway was a brave man and
had been awarded his Military Cross for fighting his company out of a Japanese
encirclement on the Salween River in Lower Burma; he ordered a withdrawal to 48th
Brigades’ last known location.
By then three Japanese battalions were on
the move in the area, all heading for Kalewa; Holdaway ordered everyone to
leave the track they were on and to move through the jungle in small groups in
an attempt to avoid the enemy. In small
parties the SSD quickly lost its unit identity, but once when halted by the
Chindwin with a few men Calvert decided to bathe his dirty aching body; however
a Japanese officer had made a similar decision and the two men fought each
other bare-handed for several minutes in the water until Calvert drowned his
opponent. Calvert then sent his men to
locate any adjacent Japanese, which they did, killing the soldiers who had been
accompanying the enemy officer.
On another occasion Calvert with two other
Commandos heard from villagers that Gurkhas were in a hut and he entered it to
find it full of Japanese troops; the three Commandos turned round and sprinted
into the jungle. Calvert’s final
adventure was when he and two men (7) who could hardly swim tried to cross the Chindwin which was 400 yards wide and
swollen with Monsoon rain. Calvert had
to abandon the weapons and clothing bundle that he was pushing in order to
assist his two companions to get across the river. All three men survived the crossing and were
sheltered by a group of Oriya (8) tribespeople from India who had been timber workers in Burma but who now were
walking home (9). The Oriyas insisted on the three Europeans
wearing female Indian clothing as disguise, and it was thus attired that
Calvert finally caught up with HQ 48th Brigade. He then marched with the Brigade into Manipur
to new employment with Wingate’s Chindits.
Of the other troops who had been at
Maukkdaw Chaung Captain Willis did an excellent job in getting his company back
to his battalion a fortnight later. Only
a handful of the 7th Gurkhas got back to their battalion and Eric
Holdaway MC was not one of them; it is assumed that he was killed whilst fighting
his way towards Kalewa. Calvert and his
biographer appear to be critical of Holdaway’s decisions at the Chaung, but the
Gurkhas had been fighting Japanese before the SSDs had been formed, and they
knew the score. By not standing to fight
at the Maukkyan Chaung Holdaway probably saved Calvert’s life. The argument of the critics has some validity
in that the Japanese units advanced without warning to make a surprise attack
on 17 Indian Division on the ‘Basin’ position just south of Kalewa. However hard fighting by 1st Royal
Battalion 9th Jats, 2/5th Gurkhas and 7th
Gurkhas stopped the Japanese; in this fighting the British field, anti-aircraft
and anti-tank artillery and the remaining tanks expended their ammunition
before destroying their weapons except for a handful of mountain guns that were
mule-packed into India.
Service Detachments Nos. 1 and 2 (Commando)
SSDs Nos. 1 and 2 operated east and west of
the Salween River in Lower Burma, No. 1 being commanded by Lieutenant Colonel
John Milman and No. 2 by Lieutenant Colonel H.C. Brocklehurst; both men had
served operationally in Abyssinia. SSD
No. 1 was abandoned by both 1st Burma Division, who it reported to,
and the Chinese 6th Army troops who entered eastern Burma. When Milman realised that Japanese troops
were north of his location he marched east into China from where SSD No. 1 was
flown to India in late July. The SSD
does not appear to have fought ground actions against the Japanese although
Captain Frank Raymond Jocelyn Nicholls, a former Layforce officer, was killed
when a Japanese Zero plane shot-up his vehicle.
In China SSD 1 did not become involved in the activities of Mission 204 (10). Captain William Seymour served with SSD 1 and
his Daily Telegraph obituary provides some information on his time in China (11).
Major (Temporary Lieutenant Colonel) John
Alexander Ralph Milman was later appointed to be an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) with this
citation: This officer was in command of 1st
Special Service Detachment operating in the front of 6th Chinese
Army in Burma from Jan to May, 1942.
After the Japanese broke through to Lashio the detachment was unable to
rejoin the British forces and had to withdraw via KENTUNG to KUNMING through
unhealthy and inhospitable country.
During the march, which lasted several weeks, Lt. Col. Milman displayed
the highest qualities of leadership and determination and finally brought his
contingent to safety with remarkable few losses. By his personal example and hardihood he kept
up the morale of his troops throughout this ordeal in the face of hunger,
thirst and disease.
Right: Japanese troops occupying the Yenangyaung oilfields, Burma.
SSD No. 2 had a much rougher time before
the survivors reached Assam in north-east India. This SSD had been deployed west of the
Salween River and China was a much more difficult sanctuary to reach. Brocklehurst and his Adjutant, Captain
Lancaster, kept the SSD together whilst crossing the upper Irrawaddy plain but
split the unit into small groups when jungle was reached (12). Brocklehust and many of his men were killed
or died on the trek northwards. Some
members of SSD 2 marched with extreme difficulty through the Chaukan Pass into
Assam, and this writer has placed a description of that route plus a photograph
of some of the Commandos on the website Harry’s
Sideshows (13). It is likely that as they attempted to march
out of Burma more members of SSD 2 were killed by starvation and the elements
than were killed by the Japanese.
operational activities of Force Viper
Only 58 of the original 106 Force Viper Marines
got out of Burma alive. Cecil
Hampshire’s book On Hazardous Service
provides the best description published of Force Viper’s operational activities
in Burma. Seven out of the eight Marines
aboard one of the boats were drowned when a sudden storm on the Irrawaddy
quickly capsized the vessel. Johnston
took his remaining men up the Irrawaddy, destroying all Burman river craft that
they found, before ferrying withdrawing troops across the broad river. Travelling up the Chindwin he performed
similar tasks at Kalewa and Shwegyin.
Then the Marines transported a Gurkha brigade upriver to Sittaung where
the boats were destroyed, the Marines acting as rearguard on the brigade’s
march into India. Johnston and three
Marines were sent further upriver to Homalin on a special mission delivering
cash to a British official to pay head-hunting tribesmen for allowing British
and Chinese troops to transit tribal territory, but the official was no longer
there to receive the money and most of it was thrown into the river. After destroying his boat Johnston and his
team walked over the high Naga hills into Manipur.
Major Duncan Johnston, Lieutenant Peter
Cave (posthumous award) and Ex.2340 Marine John Hilton Marriott were Mentioned in Despatches. Two members of the Burma Royal Naval
Volunteer Reserve had been attached to Force Viper during most of its
adventures and one of them, Lieutenant William Guthrie Temple Penman was
awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (14).
The unit reached Calcutta on 25 May,
followed three weeks later by a Sergeant and seven Marines who were thought to
have been killed but who had marched out of northern Burma into Assam. Another Marine, William Doyle, although
wounded by shrapnel in the lower legs pluckily walked out of Burma from
Myitkyina to Assam through the deadly Hukawng Valley. His varied challenges and adventures are
well-described in James Leasor’s book The
Marine From Mandalay. Major Duncan
Johnston later joined Detachment 385 (HMS
Lanka) which contained Royal Marine Commando assault troops specialising in
small-boat deception raids and agent insertions and extractions, but he was
accidentally shot and killed by one of his own men off the Burma Arakan coast
in February 1945; he was buried at sea.
three Mission 204 contingents
Two books, Iain Adamson’s The Forgotten Men. Commandos in war-time
China and John Hay’s well-illustrated On
Big Flowery Hill. A soldier’s journal of a secret mission into occupied China,
1942 graphically describe the soul-destroying marching and lack of
operational activity endured by the three contingents who went into China as
dedicated Mission 204 troops. More
photographs can be found on the Commando Veterans’ Association website (15). The Nationalist Chinese government did not
provide the promised support for Mission 204 and the local Generals who often became
violent with each other wanted the British on the ground so that fictitious
victories could be proclaimed leading to more weapons, equipment, ammunition
and money being requisitioned.
Regrettably the original commander of
Mission 204, Major General L.E. Dennys MC, was killed in an air crash (16) in
March 1942; he was replaced by Major General J.M. Bruce. General Dennys had sponsored the concept of
Mission 204 from the start and had committed himself to it; General Bruce looked
at the situation dispassionately and recommended a withdrawal as the objective
of the Mission was not being achieved. One
Mission 204 contingent appears to have been Australian (17),
another manned by the British trainees who came from Malaya, and the third from
British troops in Burma. The Australian
War Memorial link in the Sources list below provides an excellent commentary on
the mistreatment and under-employment of the three Mission 204 contingents.
In his postscript John Hay, describing the
Burma group, states: “Of the 46 men in the Burma contingent who left Kiyang for
the forward base, 72% had been stricken by malaria, 40% had suffered from
severe diarrhoea or dysentery, and 13% had contracted venereal disease. . . .
With only 5 officers and 14 soldiers of the Burma contingent fit for active
service, and the two other contingents of Mission 204 equally reduced in number
. . . The decision to withdraw was finally made on September 14th,
and Mission 204 flew out for India from Kunming, China, on October 29th, 1942.”
This writer recollects meeting one of the
Mission 204 Commandos on the Zambian Copperbelt in the mid-1960s. This man said, with some pride for his unit
in his voice, that on one occasion he and his fellow Commandos were so
exhausted on a march in China that their officer took off his belt and flogged some
of the men forward to prevent them from falling out on the line of march. The men completed the march and so did not
become victims of the harsh winter elements or of local assailants.
next employment for the Commandos
Some men went with Calvert to Wingate’s
Chindits where they were mostly placed in 142nd Commando Company in 77th
Indian Infantry Brigade. Others,
particularly officers who had operated in Abyssinia – and John Milman was one
of those - avoided Wingate as their experience had taught them that large
long-range insertions of men rapidly became counter-productive. Quite a few of these Commandos found
employment with Force 136, the Special Operations Executive arm in the Far East
that was based in Calcutta. In Force 136
they were inserted back into Burma in small groups by parachute to raise, arm
and train hill tribesmen for guerrilla operations.
There can be no doubt that those men who
completed Commando training at the Maymyo Bush Warfare School were significantly
prepared to cope with the hazards of their marches into China or out of Burma
into India. The investment of military
resources into the Bush Warfare School did pay some dividends.
Iain Adamson. The Forgotten Men. Commandos in War-time China. (G. Bell & Sons
Ltd, 1965). Anonymous. History of the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force) Volume II: 1929
to 1947. (Gale & Polden Ltd 1956). Australian War Memorial. Australians in Mission 204. On line at: https://www.awm.gov.au/images/collection/pdf/RCDIG1070118--1-.pdf Tim Carew. The Longest Retreat. The Burma Campaign 1942. (Hamish Hamilton
1969). Francis Clifford. Desperate Journey. (Hodder and Stoughton 1979). Cecil Hampshire. On Hazardous Service. (Kimber 1974). John Hay. On Big Flowery Hill. A
soldier’s journal of a secret mission into occupied China, 1942. (Two
Rivers Press 2000). Major General S. Woodburn Kirby (editor). British Official History. The War Against
Japan. Volume II. (A reprinted version is available in paperback from Naval
& Military Press). James Leasor. The Marine From Mandalay. (James Leasor Publishing 2015). Colonel J.N. Mackay DSO. History of 7th Duke of Edinburgh’s Own
Gurkha Rifles. (William Blackwood and Sons Ltd 1962). Charles Messenger. The Middle East Commandos. (William Kimber 1988). (Read Chapter VI). Bisheshwar Prasad (editor). Official History of the Indian Armed Forces
in the Second World War 1939-45. The Retreat from Burma 1941-42. (Pentagon Press, New Delhi, reprinted in
2014). David Rooney. Mad Mike. A life of Brigadier Michael Calvert. (Leo Cooper 1997). William Seymour. British Special Forces. The Story of Britain’s Undercover Soldiers.
(Grafton Books paperback 1986).
Prasad, Appendix 5 – Order of Battle, Army in Burma, 1 April 1942. However sometimes other sources say No. 2 was
in 17th Indian Division. This article
stays with Prasad’s Order of Battle.
Burma National Army (BNA) was also known as the Burma Independence Army and
many British referred to it as the Burma Traitor Army. Later in the war when it was obvious that
Japan was going to lose, the BNA switched sides and theoretically operated
alongside the British, but it fact it preferred to practise banditry and the
elimination of political opposition.
3- Force Viper personnel had volunteered for
hazardous duties whilst serving in Mobile Naval Base Defence Organization No. 1
which had been deployed from England to Egypt, Crete, India, The Maldive
Islands and then to Ceylon.
Cave died, presumably of wounds, on 24th April 1942. He is commemorated on the
Portsmouth Naval Memorial.
5- These three gallantry awards were published in the London Gazette
Supplement dated 5th March 1943, page 1135.
6- In his book The Longest Retreat Tim Carew states that two men, named
Sergeant Nealon and Private Williams, survived the bayonetting and later
escaped into the jungle.
7- Tim Carew names the men as
Private Medally, a cockney, and Corporal Sergeant; Sergeant had been with
Calvert in the hut full of Japanese troops.
8- Now spelt Odia; these people constitute a majority in the Indian eastern
coastal state of Odisha, with minority populations in Andhra Pradesh, West
Bengal, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
They are predominantly Hindu.
9- The Japanese sometimes allowed Indian refugees to proceed home provided
that they had no contact with British troops; the lowland Burman villagers were
the big murderers of Indian civilian refugees.
10- This information is gleaned from Chapter VI of Charles Messenger’s fine
Middle East Commandos.
12- In his very descriptive and gripping book Desperate Journey Francis
Clifford describes his meetings with several of the Commandos during his own
900-mile trek out of Burma. Clifford was
awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his gallantry and leadership during