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    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Apologies for the length of this — it’s about 4,000 words, don’t start reading if you’re easily bored.

    This is a transcription of selected elements of a National Archive document entitled “82 (West African) Division Artillery: The Arakan Campaign Dec 1944 to May 1945”. I think it is interesting because it includes information about the division’s artillery orbat and tactics, and contains a few unusual incidents. And, of course, it’s about one of the two West African divisions to take the field, considered by General Slim to be the finest jungle fighters of all, but still they remain the most forgotten element of the Forgotten Army.

    I have preserved the rather terse military style throughout (it would be even longer if all the abbrvns were expanded). I assume that anyone interested in reading this will either know, or easily be able to find out, the meaning of the abbreviations used and the odd words like “chaung”, “clino” and “basha”, but do ask if you get stuck on something.

    Everything in quotes is taken verbatim from the text, with minor corrections to a couple of obvious spelling errors. Any errors that remain are mine.

    On arrival in INDIA during Jul-Aug 44, the Div as a whole was reorganised to bring it into line with the Indian Standard Div. Bde Gps were discontinued and Div Tps units were formed. The three Lt Btys were now regimented. The Mortar Regt began forming.
    Complete reorganisation of the Div Arty took place and was finally approved as:-

    102 Lt Regt WAA (Lt Col MUNRO)
    A three bty regt equipped with 24 x 3.7″ Hows jeep drawn. Its WE was based on that of a standard Fd Regt.
    The formation of the new regt was carried out by splitting off the 3″ Mortar Tps (for the Mortar Regt) and doubling up the existing 3.7″ How Tps. The drain on personnel particularly signallers and specialists was very considerable.

    22 A Tk Regt WAA (Lt Col FRASER)]
    A three bty regt equipped with 36 x 57mm A Tk guns tractor drawn.
    The reorganisation involved the disbandment of the fourth bty whose personnel were used to complete the numerous vacancies created in the Lt and Mortar Regts. Bty HQ was transferred complete to form the nucleus of a new Mortar Bty.
    The secondary role of the A Tk regt was infantry and NOT 3″ mortars as in the Indian Standard Div.

    42 Mortar Regt WAA (Lt Col LIDDELL)
    A three bty regt equipped with 24 x 3″ Mortars.
    This was an entirely new type of regt, moving completely headloaded and hence capable of accompanying infantry columns anywhere.
    The basis of the newly formed regt was the 3″ Mortar Tps of the old Lt Btys, augmented by personnel from the disbanded LAA Bty. Initially only two btys and RHQ could be formed. The third bty could not be formed until the very end of Oct for lack of personnel of all ranks.

    HQRA (CRA: Brigadier HILL)

    Arty Sigs Secs
    A normal signal section was formed for HQRA (H Sec) and 102 Lt Regt (E Sec).

    The ATk regt, with two roles to train for, seems to have worked particularly hard. The diary also records that during a practice camp at Ranchi ranges, they fired a 36-gun feu-de-joie for the Emir of Katsina.

    On arrival in SEAC under 15 Ind Corps, 5 Ind Fd Regt was placed under command of the Div. The A Tk Regt seems to have operated almost entirely as infantry, a section of two 57mm guns accompanying 82 Recce Regiment but the rest being left in the rear area.

    On 13 Dec 4 Bde, with 101 Lt Regt less one bty and 105 Mortar Bty under command, commenced their adv SOUTH along the EAST bank of the KALAPANZIN towards BUTHIDAUNG. Jap opposition was not great but consisted of determined rear guards. During their first day in action 105 Mortar Bty sustained their first battle casualties. Major REEKIE the Bty Comd, Lieut PALMER and Sgt ROWLEY were returning from a fwd recce when they ran into a strong party of Japs — all three were killed.

    On 14 Dec:

    For the Div’s first major op in conjunction with 53 Ind Bde the artillery available consisted of 5 Ind Fd Regt (24 x 25 prs) 102 Lt Regt WAA (24 x 3.7″ Hows) and one tp 27 Ind Fd Regt (4 x 25 prs) under comd CRA and a Med Gp comprising two btys less one tp medium guns (12 x 5.5 guns), one tp 3.7 HAA guns (4 guns) and one tp Bofors (6 x 40mm) all in sp both 82 (WA) Div and 53 Ind Bde. In addition one bty of 27 Ind Fd Regt was available at call.

    Also mentioned are an Air OP flight, a CB office, and a battery from 2 Survey Regt providing flash spotting OPs. Mention is made of the usefulness of AOP in reporting positions of enemy forward infantry.

    Regimental transport caused substantial delay in crossing chaungs – 102 Lt Regt WAA having over 100 15cwt trucks. On 03 Jan 45 the regiment was reorganised on a jeep-drawn basis.

    The majority of jeeps eventually received by the regt were transferred from 101 Lt Regt and had all done one campaign in the ARAKAN already. EME shuddered, but with an LAD of three jeeps did wonderful work in keeping the old things going.
    The reorganisation of the regt on a jeep basis with so few jeeps and trailers entailed a drastic reduction of equipt. It was decided to discard the tp organisation and adopt a six gun bty controlled by a single command post. Every bty retained its full OP resources and carried 52 rpg spread over 16 jeeps and 6 amn trailers. On the march every officer and man except jeep drivers walked carrying their kits. It might be recorded here that the gunners hold the Div record for total distance marched on
    foot during the campaign.
    As a result of six months’ ops this organisation proved highly flexible and convenient and later when cooperating again with 25 prs the Lt Regt was always well within range of all tgts.

    33 Ind Mtn Regt
    33 Mtn Regt less its RHQ and one bty arrived from 25 Ind Div to come under comd at HTIZWE on 3 Jan. The regt’s mules crossed the KALAPANZIN at BUTHIDAUNG and marched down to HITZWE. After a brief rest and refit the regt did very good work in lifting supplies into the KANZAUK track prior to the moves of the Bdes. Throughout Lt Col ELLIS commanded his regt without an RHQ.

    22 A Tk Regt WAA
    On arrival at AFAUKWA the regt crossed the KALADAN leaving one tp to guard the large supply dump on the WEST bank. One bty only was deployed in defence of the Dakota strip.
    On 26 Jan the regt moved SOUTH to MYNZEGYAUNG leaving a tp to hand over supplies to the outgoing 81 (WA) Div. The enemy were contacted for the first time when a patrol spotted five Japs. One of the AORs fired his 2″ mortar at point blank range into them,
    grenades followed and the very satisfying total of four Japs were killed and one wounded.

    On 10 Feb the btys of 33 Mtn Regt moved into action on the EAST of KANI and later the same day the regt [102 Lt Regt WAA] moved forward to the same area. RHQ did not move but remained at PAGODA HILL near to 2 Bde HQ. The Mtr and Lt Btys were now formed
    into a Light Group under comd Lt Col MUNRO.
    Whilst in these positions the Jap used, for the first time, his trick of firing rounds onto our fwd infantry positions at the same time as our own guns were firing thus making the infantry think that our own rounds were falling short.

    The Japanese fire included at one point 10 rounds of 25 pr AP, which caused no damage or casualties.

    The Jap-used 25pr was recovered a few days later and salvaged by the regt. The buffer/recuperator and piece were in very good condition and were handed over to 8 Fd Regt RA.

    This period was a perfect example of the value of good lateral comns – in this case in the form of CRA’s comd net to regts. Throughout the advance each coln knew the locations and activities of the others. On several occasions the RA net was the only means of comn to the fwd tps.
    A single cable was laid by Div Sigs in rear of 102 Lt Regt and this remained through – except when villagers removed large pieces for house building – right up to the time the regts arrived at KANI – a good fifteen miles.

    The mountain gunners had further adventures during a hard pursuit of the Japanese in February and March:

    33 Ind Mtn Regt
    Under comd 2 Bde the regt moved to RUYWA on 22 Feb but was without its mules until late 23 Feb. At RUYWA small part of its long awaited RHQ joined from India.
    On 24 Feb the regt moved fwd into action at KYAUKSALAUNG. Unfortunately one of the mule colns was ambushed by a party of Japs with an LMG and two mules were killed.
    No firing took place until 25 Feb when patrols to pt 1262 reported a strong enemy position. This was engaged but owing to the nature of the country results were not observed.
    In sp 2 GCR the regt moved fwd to KUTYMA on 27 Feb. The going was very bad and mules had to be assisted up several steep slopes. From the KUTYWA posns Jap strong points just NW of SARAGYI were engaged. On the 27/28 Feb the enemy put in four coy attacks on 1 GCR these were neutralised by 100 rds of DF fired by 34 Bty. By the following morning the enemy had dispersed.
    In sp 2 GCR the regt again moved fwd into posns about 100 yards NE of KUTYWA on 3 Mar. From here concs in conjunction with Fd and Med were put down on the Jap block at pt 222.
    Between 4 and 6 Mar the regt moved NORTH along the KUT Ch at pt 868 into a firm base held by 1 GCR.
    The adv further NORTH to pt 1269 was opposed and positions were slowly cleared by air strikes and arty concentrations. NAPALM was used on several occasions but was not too successful owning to the nature of the jungle. These moves were spread over about
    six days during which the posns were constantly shelled. In spite of this HF programmes were carried out and of course normal DF tasks were registered. Owing to failure of air drops (the Japs were covering the only possible drop zone) amn was limited and at a later stage only sufficient amn was left to cover DF commitments.
    Worse still was the shortage of food. At one period the gunners were too weak from lack of food to handle the amn dropped. Mules were kept alive on bamboo shoot.
    On the night 17/18 Mar the bty and RHQ area were heavily mortared and a direct hit on the RHQ comd Post most unfortunately killed both the 2 i/c and the Adjt.
    Two 75mm guns which the Japs had brought very close up were engaged over open sights and later by the air OP using the mediums. One gun was destroyed (found later by 1(WA) Bde).
    The regt continued to actively engage all tgts within the limitation of its amn supply.
    On 28 Mar the regt moved complete into harbour at THE Ch and after a brief rest period marched to TAMANDU and embarked for AKYAB on 2 Apr.
    For these ops the CO (Lt Col ELLIS) was awarded an immediate DSO.
    His unremitting labours and courage largely contributed to the result that success was achieved and imminent disaster averted.

    Brief attention is given to air and naval aspects:

    Close air sp for 2 Bde was almost without exception excellent and contributed largely to the destruction of much Jap MT and equipt. In spite of RAF protests a VCP was organised on a mule basis and proved invaluable. MA mules were provided by 33 Mtn
    Regt. No other mules could carry the loads.

    Progress of Ops
    25 Ind Division
    Pushing NORTH from the RUYWA beachhead tps of 74 Ind Bde met constant and determined opposition. Every feature along the ridge was heavily contested and strong Jap counter attacks occurred each night.
    By 26 Feb fwd tps had reached the DONEKAN Ch. Throughout Jap arty had been active and a 105mm and several 75mm were harassing the RUYWA beachhead and airstrips. On one occasion HMIS NARBADA, which had been doing some close HF tasks from the main chaung was engaged and hit – fortunately no major damage was done. Constant CB and Air OP sorties were caried out. A SR base was established and produced some excellent comparator and other CB shoots.

    During the adv north from RUYWA, 74 Ind Bde estimated that they had caused 500 plus Jap casualties.
    The above ops were supported by 8 and 27 Fd Regts RA and by one tp of 6 Med Regt RA as well as by 102 Lt Regt from NORTH of the DALET Ch.
    In addition HMISs NARBADA, FLAMINGO and CAUVERY carried out considerable long range harassing programmes.

    Now a reminder of how many guns CRA is playing with – I have no idea where the medium battery found its buckshee gun, no explanation is offered.

    Available Artillery
    On 11 Mar when 82 Div assumed comd from 25 Div the following arty was under comd

    of the CRA:
    8 Fd Regt AR (24 x 25 prs)
    102 Lt Regt WAA (18 x 3.7 Hows)
    Bty 6 Med Regt (5 x 5.5 guns)

    The 25-pounders of 8 Field Regiment seem to have been kept busy:

    From 14 Mar onwards the regt’s main efforts were heavy harassing programmes fired each night onto the Jap L of C in the area of 2 Bde. Tasks were asked for by CRA’s rep with 2 Bde each morning. On an average 700/800 rds 25 pr were fired each night – the peak being reached on 21/22 Mar when 1020 rds were expended. As afterwards proved by wreckage found by 1 Bde, these HF programmes paid very high dividends and were well worth the long sleepless hours spent in firing them.
    Throughout the day innumerable close sp tgts were engaged and CB and destructive shoots carried out with the Air OP.
    On 25 Mar one sec moved to out of action in order to take on a strong Jap bunker over open sights. This shoot was done in conjunction with three tanks and the infantry reported the shooting effective.

    And what about our West African gunners?

    As already noted the regt was in action at TAMANDU NORTH on 6 Mar, with a very valuable OP on the high feature at the tip of the peninsula. From these posns the regt was able to give valuable support to tps of 74 Ind Bde by engaging the reverse slopes of STRONG and pt 582.
    The crossing and initial advance of 4 Bde along the LETMAUK rd was also given effective close sp. The total number of rds fired was 3026.
    On 14 Mar the regt commenced crossing the DALET Ch; RHQ and 1 and 4 Lt Btys to DEVONSHIRE and 2 Lt Bty to TAMANDU.
    2 Lt Bty remained in TAMANDU under comd 74 Ind Bde until 18 Mar when it moved SOUTH to join 22 EA Bde at RUYWA.
    From DEVONSHIRE the regt (from now on less one bty) engaged many targets mostly registered by the air OP. On 16 Mar 1 Lt Bty moved fwd to SHANKCHON and the following day RHQ and 4 Lt Bty moved straight through to THE Ch being joined later the same day by 1 Lt Bty.
    For the next fourteen days the regt was constantly active being shot by Fd, Mortar and Air Ops as well as its own. The RA line and wireless nets fwd during this period worked extremely well.
    On 20 Mar the regt took part in a fire plan in sp of a successful attack by 2 Bde onto a feature called HULL. Inf found many abandoned LMGs and much equipment when they occupied the feature.
    On 22 Mar an OP of 1 Lt Bty joined 1 NR on feature pt 838. A tgt was registered (P111) on a section of the road between THINCHAUNG and LETMAUK which was being used as a very active Jap L of C to his fwd positions. The tgt was made a ‘snap’ tgt and one section remained permanently laid onto it. From 22–28 Mar over 400 rds were expended on this tgt and definite casualties were observed from the OP. A visit to the tgt area later showed considerable damage, much equipment and the stench indicating many hurried burials. A V Force report later gave the figure of 200 casualties evacuated from this area.
    On 29 Mar 1 Lt Bty moved fwd to sp a further adv of 1 Bde. Without any warning a move of 2000 yards was completed and the Bty ready in action in 50 minutes.

    Nor do the mortarmen seem to have been left out of the action:

    105 Mortar Bty moved under comd 4 Bde to TAMANDU NORTH, on 8 Mar one tp came into action so as to sp the crossings of the DALET Ch and on night 8/9 Mar the fwd Tp’s posn was frequently jittered and attacks to clear the feature dominating DEVONSHIRE were put in by 10 NR. Sp was given to these attacks by the Tp remaining at TAMANDU NORTH.
    On 13 Mar the Bty concentrated and commenced moving to LETMAUK and on 22 Mar came into action in LETMAUK village in sp 5 NR. The following five days were very active and the btys carried out many heavy close sp shoots as well as HF and DF tasks.
    On 1 Apr they passed to under comd 1 Bde and together with 104 Bty were deployed SOUTH of LETMAUK village. 105 Bty accompanied 3 NR fwd. On 5 Apr the bty est a gun posn on pt 990 and until 8 Apr was constantly in action in sp both 2 and 3 MRs. On 9 Apr the bty disengaged and moved back with 3 MR to LETMAUK air strip. HF programme was fired that night and the following day an enemy conc in the LETMAUK Ch was successfully engaged. DF tasks were registered around the bde perimeter and the bty less Tp moved to the area THE Ch in sp 82 Recce Regt. Throughout the night 11/12 Apr jitter parties were very active.
    On 12 Apr the Tp on the LETMAUK strip whilst bombarding a Jap posn was fired on by a Jap LMG from about 300 yards – the Jap posn was cleared by 1 NR after being engaged by the Tp at THE Ch.
    104 Mortar Bty at dawn 11 Apr found small party of Japs marching almost into the perimeter. When fired on they took cover in some old slit trenches 30–40 yards from the bty perimeter. Small arms fire was exchanged throughout the day. Meanwhile 2 NR engaged a much larger party on the SOUTH of the Bde perimeter and called for sp fire. The OP had the unusual and satisfying experience of seeing Japs running in all directions and was able to chase them with rds of Gun Fire. At the end of the shoot it was estimated that 70 plus casualties had been caused.

    Close air support seems to have been plentiful:

    A summary of close air sp gives some idea of the excellent work put in by the pilots of the sqns operating:-

    In sp 2 Bde 14–25 Mar 43 strikes 237,000 lbs (106 tons)
    In sp 1 Bde 25–24 Apr 11 strikes 64,500 lbs (29 tons)
    CB sorties on 7 days
    Daily Tac/R sorties along the rd and AN areas.

    The following Sqns took part :-
    2 Sqn (all Tac/R and Photo sorties)
    3 Sqn Hurricanes
    4 Sqn ”
    9 Sqn ”
    10 Sqn ”
    67 Sqn Spits
    177 Sqn ”
    615 Sqn ”

    As soon as the LETMAUK strip had been completed the air Ops commenced operating from here and later were joined by their ground staffs who came up by road. Pilots lived with 102 Lt regt. The LETMAUK strip continued in use until 27 Mar when enemy infiltration and shelling made it unsafe and the section moved back to a new strip at KANTAUNG YI.
    Three unusual tasks were carried out by them during this period:
    (i) Acting as airborne VCP indicating the tgt visually to Hurricanes by circling and diving on to the target area (carried out by Lt BARRY).
    (ii) To stop accidental strafing of own fwd troops by firing red very lights across the attacking a/c (Lt HUTT).
    (iii) Registering Sherman 75mm on to long range HF tasks (11,000) (Lt JENKINS).

    Back to 103 Lt Regt:

    On 19 Apr two strongly held Jap positions were engaged as MIKE tgts. Results were not observed.
    Moving to TAIKYWA on 20 Apr the regt again had to exercise its chaung crossing ingenuity as the fords were all very deep and swift flowing. For the first time the 6 prs were used against an HB which was well out of range of the 3.7 Hows. After checking with HQRA the TA of the 6 pr at the required range the gun was laid by field clino (Lt Col MUNRO) and compass (Maj JERVIS). Although results could not be observed the hostile shelling stopped.

    Air OP.
    On the 1 Apr, an air OP (Capt McCLYNDON) completed no less than 40 registrations with three different natures of eqpt (Med, 25 prs, 3.7 Hows) in readiness for the fireplan for 22 Bdes attack the following day. 102 Lt Regt share amounted to 15 registrations these were actually completed in one sortie of 90 mins. This was agreed to be a Corps record for the whole campaign and the air OP officer was most complimentary on the accuracy and speed of 102 Lt Regt response.

    An incident in the area of 4 Indian Brigade:

    On 10 Apr a successful ambush accounted for 13 Japs and captured a mortar. Booby traps in the same area were set off by the Japs who then engaged in spirited fighting amongst themselves.

    An update on arty under command:

    On taking over comd of ops on 5 Apr the following artillery was under comd CRA:-
    102 Lt Regt WAA
    7 Ind Fd Regt
    18 Med Bty less one tp
    One sec 97 LAA Bty

    It’s goodbye to the Indian gunners, but not all their guns:

    After handing over 12 x 25 prs to 102 Lt Regt the regt embarked for KYAUKPYU between 15–18 Apr.

    1 Lt Bty WAA
    After a very stiff march SOUTH from TAMANDU the bty rested at KIDAUNGGYI for fourdays. On 4 May, in very heavy rain, the bty marched to TAUNGUP. Before moving it had reorganised into one tp of 4 x 3.7″ Hows and one sec 25 prs. It came into action at MS 104 on 5 May and thus for the first time West African dets fired the 25 pr in anger.

    A Sqn 146 Regt RAC
    Two tps of LEE GRANT tanks (8) were placed under comd CRA on 17 Apr for employment in a Fd Arty role using their 75mm guns. These came into action in a specially prepared gun posn alongside the Medium Tp. This was most necessary as the tks had no fire control instruments and no method of working out tgt data.
    On 18 Apr they were shot for the first time by the air OP (using a previously agreed procedure) who reported that accuracy and response to fire orders were carried out most satisfactorily. Several further shoots took place and on each occasion were reported good. An OP of 106 Mortar Bty which fired them reported that the rds were very easy to observe.
    From 19–27 Apr they took part in normal HF programmes and their salvos sounded most impressive.
    On night 27/28 Apr the tks moved out of action to come under comd 4 Bde in their normal role.
    On completion of the TAUNGUP ops they were eventually driven back and handed over to 22 A Tk Regt who in the meantime had attached drivers to learn to drive and maintain them ready for anything. For some days one of the tks was ‘missing’ to HQRA – it was later found being used as a taxi for the CO.
    As they had come to the end of their running life they were evacuated to KYAUKPYU for salvage of any useful parts.

    Air Sp
    Several very effective air strikes were put in along the TAUNGUP Ch and daily Tac/R sorties were flown along the TAUNGUP – PROME rd.
    One very valuable strike was made on a reliably reported Jap HQ at HMANNI. This was indicated by smoke grenades dropped by the flying VCP. During this indication he had one really good shot which went straight through a basha roof and set fire to a Jap sitting inside. The latter’s frantic dive into the nearest ch was of no avail as the tide was out and the ch bone dry. Later many documents were found in this area all indicating its use as an Arty HQ.

    Proposed Reorganisation
    Although not approved it is intended to reorganise the Div Arty as follows:-

    102 Lt Regt WAA
    To be 102 Fd Regt WAA, of three btys each equipped with eight 25 prs. The tpt detail is not yet known.
    Twelve guns were taken over from 7 Ind Fd Regt on their departure and a further twelve are now in the Ord fd Pk at KYAUKPYU awaiting shipment in.

    22 A Tk Regt WAA
    To be 22 Lt Regt WAA, of three btys each equipped initially with six 3.7″ Hows and if personnel (particularly signallers) become available later eight 3.7″ Hows.

    42 Mortar Regt WAA
    No change except internally to cut down the number of personnel required to accompany a fwd inf coln.
    The regt may be equipped with 4.2″ mortars later.

    No change.
    Brigadier J H H WILLANS is to take over CRA in place of Brigadier R H M HILL who is going home on repatriation.

    Avatar photoJemima Fawr

    Fantastic!  Thanks John!

    The excellent divisional history ‘War Bush’ by John Hamilton covers 81 (West African) Division, but only mentions 82 WA Div where their paths crossed during the 2nd Kaladan Campaign.  Information on 82 WA Div has (until now!) been very thin on the ground.

    It’s worth mentioning that the 81 WA Div also adopted this organisation at the time, less one brigade, which was detached to Special Force.  The organisation was largely based on their experiences of the 1st Kaladan Campaign.  The 82 WA Div joined them in mid-1944 and the two divisions fought alongside each other for a time until 81 WA Div was withdrawn at the end of 1944/early 1945.

    Interesting detail re the 3-inch mortars being an established secondary role in standard Indian AT Regts.  There have been numerous discussions on this in the past, but I’ve never seen it described as a formal secondary role before.  Doubly interesting to see that the West Africans AT gunners’ secondary role was that of infantry (presumably because the 81 & 82 Divs uniquely had a Mortar Regt).

    What isn’t really explained (and might therefore confuse some readers) is that the West African Light Batteries had previously been organised with a unique organisation, consisting of two Troops with 4x 3.7-inch howitzers and one Troop with 8x 3-inch mortars.  There was no artillery regimental organisation; each battery was theoretically independent and reported to an infantry Brigadier.  In practice, these ‘independent’ batteries fought as a Gun Group consisting of the 3.7s and a Mortar Group consisting of the Mortar Troops (sometimes with the infantry battalion 3-inch mortar platoons added), all under the command of the CRA.  So artillery regiments in all but name.

    Following the conclusion of the 1st Kaladan Campaign, this ad hoc structure was largely formalised, with a Light Regiment and a Mortar Regiment being formed and the numbers of 3.7s being doubled, as shown in the 82 WA Div history.  The 81 WA Div had already been working this way, but this clearly came as a surprise to the newly-arrived 82 WA Div!

    The AT Regt had previously been an AA/AT Regt, with two batteries of 2pdrs and two batteries of Bofors.  During the 1st Kaladan Campaign, 81 WA Div had actually flown one Troop of Bofors into action via a jungle strip and had then flown them out again.  So the switch to three batteries of 6pdrs was quite a marked change in organisation.  Perhaps they were anticipating a renewed Japanese tank threat with the advance into Burma proper?  They certainly encountered quite a few tankettes along the Arakan coast.

    Thanks again John! 🙂

    My wargames blog: http://www.jemimafawr.co.uk/

    Avatar photoJemima Fawr

    If anyone is still awake and is interested, I’ve got an orbat for 81 (West African) Division in the 1st Kaladan Campaign here:


    And their opposition is here:


    Note that these are ‘wargame’ organisations for ‘Battlefront: WWII’ by Fire & Fury Games, so each vehicle or heavy weapon represents 2-3 real ones and each infantry stand represents a section/squad.

    My wargames blog: http://www.jemimafawr.co.uk/

    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    It’s nice to be appreciated; I thought you might be interested. Apart from you I reckon Martin R will read it, and Tim 2 3 might if we tell him it’s got tanks in it.

    Apart from “War Bush” I have seen depressingly little in print on the West Africans. I have just orderd Davd Killingray’s “Fighting for Britain”, which covers all African troops (It’s not as if the East Africans are over-documented; there’s “Monsoon Victory”, and we could do with more books like Nunneley’s “Tales from the King’s African Rifles”).

    Whenever I get to Kew again I might have to see what there is in the way of war diaries for the 81st and 82nd.

    All the best,


    Avatar photoJemima Fawr

    Agreed on all points.  If only Kew were a little closer to Pembrokeshire… 🙁

    Another interesting point is that a detachment of 6pdrs was attached to 82 Recce Regt, while the rest of the AT Regt were permanently roled as infantry.  That does tend to suggest that 82 Recce Regt preserved their mechanisation.  81 Recce Regt was initially mechanised, though became ‘waterborne’ light recce after the 1st campaign.

    I’d love to know what vehicles 81 & 82 Recce Regts employed.  81 Recce had Universal Carriers and an unidentified LRC during the 1st Campaign (when they were detached as XV Corps Recce Regt), but I haven’t a clue re 82 Recce.

    My wargames blog: http://www.jemimafawr.co.uk/

    Avatar photoEtranger

    Bookmarked for further reading!

    Avatar photoWhirlwind

    Whilst in these positions the Jap used, for the first time, his trick of firing rounds onto our fwd infantry positions at the same time as our own guns were firing thus making the infantry think that our own rounds were falling short.

    A very small point, but was this ever documented from the Japanese side?  It seems a little odd.

    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    I’ve seen the practice mentioned elsewhere, but never from a Japanese source. However material from Japanese sources seems to be about as rare as rocking-horse manure, so I think I’d have a hard time justifying anything if forced to rely on Japanese sources. Unfortunately there seems to have been no post-war fascination with the Japanese conduct of the war after the end of it to parallel that shown in the Germans.

    All the best,


    Avatar photoEtranger

    Whirlwind wrote:

    Etranger wrote:
    Whilst in these positions the Jap used, for the first time, his trick of firing rounds onto our fwd infantry positions at the same time as our own guns were firing thus making the infantry think that our own rounds were falling short.

    A very small point, but was this ever documented from the Japanese side? It seems a little odd.

    Not me guv! Far too erudite. Isn’t this just a different interpretation of standard defensive fire practice during an attack?

    It doesn’t seem to cover that specific question, but this is the US Army Field Manual on the Japanese Military http://www.lonesentry.com/manuals/handbook-japanese-military/index.html

    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    I should like to briefly resurrect this thread to annoy Jemima Fawr by mentioning that I have just taken delivery of a copy of “Arakan Assignment: The Story of 82nd West African Division”, 44 pages, undated, and (it says on the back) printed for P.R. Services (West Africa) by M. L. Sabharwall at the Roxy Press, New Delhi.

    Obviously one cannot expect much in a mere 44 pages, and it does include a divisional orbat, a fold-out map of the Arakan showing the routes followed by the division’s brigades, and a scoreboard of honours and awards won by the division, which is “up to 28 Feb 46” and carries the note “48 recommendations for periodic awards remain outstanding at the date of publication.” This still does not tell us the date of publication, but we can assume it was shortly after 28 Feb 1946. There is an obvious bias in favour of the “European” members of the division:

    Award     European     African
    DSO          7
    MC          21
    Bar to MC    1
    DCM          3           4
    MM           5          32
    Honour    European     African
    CBE          1
    OBE          4
    MBE          7
    BEM                      2

    There are hand-drawn portraits of two of the African DCM winners, captioned as follows:

    “NA 29660 SJT. YAYA CHIKENA, D.C.M., 1 NIGERIA REGT. crossed open paddy to kill the crew of a Japanese LMG holding up his platoon’s advance. Later he took command of two platoons when their commanders became casualties.”

    “GC 13781 SJT. SIDA HAUSA, D.C.M., 1 GOLD COAST REGT. was commanding a small patrol when attacked by twenty Japanese. Standing up under heavy fire he killed two, wounded four, and drove off the rest with grenades.”

    Apart from this the book is a fairly dry account of which units moved where and did what, and clearly the writing of someone trained in staff work rather than creative writing. However, it ends rather pleasingly with this:

    “It is fitting to end with a tribute paid by the Japanese themselves to their African adversaries: it is a translation from a captured diary :-
    “The enemy soldiers are not from Britain but are from Africa. Because of their beliefs, they are not afraid to die, so even if their commanders have fallen they keep on advancing as if nothing had happened. It makes things rather difficult. They have an excellent physique and are very brave, so fighting against these soldiers is somewhat troublesome. At any rate, they do not know the true worth of our soldiers!””

    All the best,


    Avatar photoWhirlwind


    Would that reflect a typical officer-soldier bias in awards or is it more pronounced than that?


    Avatar photoJemima Fawr

    Nice one!  ‘Arakan Assignment’ is referenced in the excellent ‘War Bush’.

    Re the awards: DSO, MC, CBE, OBE and to a large extent MBE, were officer-only awards anyway and there was only one African officer in the division – Captain Seth Anthony.  Oddly enough, Seth Anthony was awarded the MBE following his actions at Myohaung, during the 2nd Arakan Campaign, but doesn’t seem to be listed here.

    My wargames blog: http://www.jemimafawr.co.uk/

    Avatar photoJemima Fawr

    Sorry, brain-fart: Seth Anthony was of course in the 81st WA Div.

    My wargames blog: http://www.jemimafawr.co.uk/

    Avatar photoShahbahraz

    Thanks very much for this. I read it with interest.

    --An occasional wargames blog: http://aleadodyssey.blogspot.co.uk/ --

    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    I should add that I have just discovered that the text (although not apparently illustrations and maps, don’t know about tables) of “Arakan Assignment” is copied, en bloc, in James Luto’s “Fighting with the Fourteenth Army in Burma: Original War Summaries of the Battle Against Japan 1943-1945”, published by Pen & Sword in 2013. This also apparently includes two similar booklets published on 81 (WA) Div, the second of which is entitled “Kaladan Return”, and quite a few others.

    It seems to me that proper facsimilies of the originals would have been a much better way of re-publishing this material if, as appears to be the case with Luto, the re-publisher was not going to add any corrections, interpretation, or additional material.

    All the best,


    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Would that reflect a typical officer-soldier bias in awards or is it more pronounced than that?

    I don’t really know, because I don’t know what counts as a “typical” rate for these things, and gallantry awards inherently acknowledge the atypical.

    However, I will observe, as I am up to my elbows in trying to make sense of it at the moment, that their battle for Port-en-Bessin earned 47(Royal Marine) Commando 2 DSOs, an MC, and 9 MMs wholly or partly attributable to that action. That’s a ratio of 1 officer award to every 3 for ORs. Admittedly Commandos might be expected to show more initiative than other troops, but their organisation also has a greater proportion of commissioned officers than occurs in a line battalion. For 82(West African) Division, we see 29 officer awards and 44 to ORs, more like a 2:3 split, so double the proportion of officer awards. Of course all the officer awards are to Europeans. Looking at the OR awards, 8 of the 44 go to Europeans, or about 18 per cent. I don’t have any information on the split between African and European ranks overall, but, as the recce and support arms were from WAAC, WAA, and WAE rather than Recce Corps, RA and RE, I doubt that the proportion of Europeans was as high as 18 per cent.

    All the best,


    Avatar photoFredd Bloggs

    It may also ge a reflection that in commonwealth forces, the officer casualty rate was higher than US or German, as they were expected to be in the thick of it, and therefore had more opportunity to earn awards as well.

    Avatar photoWhirlwind

    I don’t really know, because I don’t know what counts as a “typical” rate for these things, and gallantry awards inherently acknowledge the atypical.

    I guess I was thinking of the bit in Stress of Battle (which I have read but don’t own – I wish someone would reprint it!) when Rowland examined the question of awards (as a proxy for ‘heroic performance’ IIRC and found them disproportionately awarded to officers and SNCOs).

    Avatar photoWhirlwind

    It may also ge a reflection that in commonwealth forces, the officer casualty rate was higher than US or German, as they were expected to be in the thick of it, and therefore had more opportunity to earn awards as well.

    Is that true about the rate being higher?  I guess I wouldn’t be surprised about the German figure since lots of their platoons ended up being commanded by sergeants.  I can’t think of any reason why the US figure would be lower though.

    Avatar photoFredd Bloggs

    Yes, same from ww1 as well.



    Avatar photoWhirlwind

    Yes, same from ww1 as well.

    That is interesting.  I was just re-reading Alanbrooke’s Diaries and a constant refrain is how weak the senior (divisional and above) leadership was in the British Army in WW2 was, as a result of losses in WW1.  I couldn’t really see his point since presumably the Germans and Russians had lost equally as heavily, but if the officer casaulty rate in the British Army in WW1 was higher that might explain it.  Could you let me know where you saw it, please, if you can remember?  I’d like to pore over the figures a little more.

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