Force 136 was an elite group of soldiers of all Nationalities, who spent much of their time behind enemy lines, on missions that until recently have been secret. This page will be added to as information becomes available, and any input that you can give, would be much appreciated. Please e-mail and information to the firstname.lastname@example.org
We are also after contacts for this group and if possible at the Public Records Office. If you can help, please let us know.
The Special Operations Executive was established by a War Cabinet decision of 22 July 1940 to create a new organisation demanded by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, 'to co-ordinate all action, by way of subversion and sabotage, against the enemy overseas'. Its headquarters were in Baker Street, London.
TASKS AND OUTLINE HISTORY
Placed in overall charge in 1940 was the Labour politician Hugh Dalton, the Minister for Economic Warfare, who was replaced in the Cabinet re-shuffle of February 1942 by Lord Selborne, a Conservative and close friend of Churchill. SOE co-ordinated activities previously carried out by (a) Military Intelligence (Research) (b) the Department of Propaganda of the Foreign Office, known as EH (c) Section D of the Secret Intelligence Service. By the end of the war it had also established regional headquarters in the Middle East (Cairo) and Far East (Meerut, then Kandy), where it was known as Force 133 and 136 respectively. A branch in Australia operating into the south-west Pacific was known as Force 137, and a Special Operations branch of British Security Co-Ordination in New York handled its affairs in the Americas. Force 266, staffed by SOE and OSS (its American equivalent), supplied Tito's partisans and Mihailovic's chetniks in Yugoslavia until it was absorbed in June 1944 by Force 399 of the Balkan Air Force, based at Bari, the co-ordinating HQ for all special operations across the Adriatic. After July 1941 SOE also had a mission in Moscow for liaison with the Soviet authorities.
Strategically, SOE came under the Chiefs of Staff and was subject to Foreign Office veto on operations into neutral countries. SOE was officially dissolved early in 1946 and special operations were returned to the control of the Secret Intelligence Service. At its peak, SOE's total strength was 10,000 men and 3200 women. About half the men and far fewer of the women were active secret agents operating behind enemy lines, or in neutral countries.
MPAJA/Force 136 Resistance Against the
Japanese in Malaya, 1941-1945
The Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) originated from four battalions of Overseas Chinese-including Communists recently released from Changi Prison-trained by the British before the fall of Singapore. Though MPAJA and its parent organization, the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), suffered initial setbacks in 1942, they were able to regroup their forces with new recruits and reinforcements from British Force 136. By the end of the war another four battalions had been mobilized for a total of some 3-4,000 soldiers, who were supported by tens of thousands of sympathizers.
Beginning in 1943, Force 136 sent agents and supplies, first by submarine and later by air drops. These agents were largely KMT soldiers trained in India and Sri Lanka. They waged anti-Japanese activities while laying groundwork for a planned Allied invasion of Malaya. The MPAJA operated in every Malay state, harassing the Japanese with hit-and-run guerrilla warfare, but the Third and Fourth Battalions, in Johore, and the Fifth Battalion, in Perak, were most active. Accordingly, these two states were described as "security risk" areas.
Though the Japanese military were kept busy maintaining peace and order, the enemy resistance posed little serious threat to security. Nonetheless, the skill in mobilization and guerrilla warfare tactics MPAJA acquired during the resistance served them in good stead in fighting against the British during the postwar period of emergency from 1948-1960.
The OSS Mission to Ruth:
Establishing Contact with the Free Thai Underground
In late August of 1944 a prolonged China-based effort by OSS to establish contact with Regent Pridi Phanomyong (codenamed "Ruth"), the known leader of the Free Thai movement in Thailand had produced no results. Concerned that the British would attempt to claim Thailand as its exclusive territory because of Force 136 success in reaching Pridi, frustrated OSS officials in Kandy, Ceylon made hurried plans to drop two Thai agents into northern Thailand while keeping this mission secret from the British. After two abortive attempts, the two parachuted in. Although separated from each other and their equipment in the forest, both eventually reached Bangkok.
The first to arrive, Wimon Wiriyawit, gained transport to Bangkok by claiming he was a policeman on a secret mission. He discovered that several OSS Thai agents from China were being held incommunicado as a result of Pridi's mistrust of Police General Adun Adundetcharat. Wimon's appeal that the two men work together led to the agents being allowed to utilize their captured radios, eventually paving the way for the dispatch of two American officers to Bangkok in January 1945.
This paper examines this key mission, based on OSS records, memoirs, and interviews with participants. Its circumstances reveal much about the rivalries between Allied and intelligence agencies and the divisions within the Free Thai movement inside the country.
FORCE 136 - S.O.E. In Asia- Extract from the Veteran Affairs Canada site - see http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/general/sub.cfm?source=history/secondwar/courage/asia - Link not working
In Asia, where S.O.E. was known as "Force 136", the life of a secret agent was quite different. Here there was no solid, well-organized group of local people fighting the invaders, such as the French Resistance movement in France, with whom S.O.E. agents could align themselves. Most of the native peoples in the Japanese-occupied countries (Hong Kong, Malaya, Burma, the Netherlands East Indies, Siam, French Indochina and the Philippines) were either indifferent or antagonistic towards the Europeans who they felt were attempting to re-impose colonial rule. There was also much hostility among different factions within the countries. Most of the time, S.O.E. had to enlist the support of local communist guerrillas in the fight against the Japanese.
Furthermore, European agents could not move about in these Asian countries disguised as local people because of their skin colour and inability to speak the local languages. Therefore, European agents were forced to operate away from the main population centres, primarily in the jungle. This exposed them to a whole new set of dangers, including many tropical diseases. Rather than disguising themselves as local people, S.O.E. agents in Asia often wore a green jungle uniform, high canvas boots and an Australian type bush hat.
The surrender of the Japanese after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, changed the role of undercover agents in the Asian countries. Their role shifted to one of accepting the surrender of Japanese units and keeping public order until civil government could be restored. Force 136 also played a key role in assisting prisoners of war in these countries.
We are also trying to find anyone from this section, in particular anyone who knew Lt. Claud Hibbs who was in Burma and India until 1946. Could anyone who may be able to help, contact email@example.com Many thanks
LIEUTENANT-COLONEL DAVID ALEXANDER 1918-1997 Born in Montrose and educated at Montrose Academy and Edinburgh University, he volunteered for the Royal Scots in 1939 and was sent to the Far East where in 1941 he was commissioned into the 12th Frontier Force in India. Here he volunteered for Force 136 and was parachuted into Malaya to operate with the communist Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army. Once Japan surrendered Alexander found himself leading operations against his erstwhile allies who were now determined to throw the British out of Malaya. For this work he was awarded a military MBE.
SIR ANDREW GILCHRIST:- Home in later life at Lesmagahow, Lanarkshire - same village as birthplace of John Cairncross . Entered the Foreign Office in 1933 and served in British Embassy in Bangkok. Interned by Japanese December 1941, released December 1941. Volunteered for SOE and arrived in Calcutta August 1944. Intelligence Officer of Force 136's Siam Section, where he played significant part in clandestine contacts with Luang Pridi, the anti-Japanese Finance Minister of the Bangkok government. See his Bangkok Top Secret (1970).
MACKENZIE:- SIR) COLIN MACKENZIE (1898-1986), headed its Far East
operations (known as the India Mission, or Force 136) from 1941 to the
end of the war. The son of a general, Mackenzie attended Eton and won a
first-class degree in economics at King's College, Cambridge. He served
with the Scots Guards in France during the First World War, was
seriously wounded, and lost his left leg. Soon after he joined J.&
P. Coats, the Glasgow cotton firm and initiated a vigorous policy of
expansion of its factories into Asia and South America. It was largely
due to a fellow director of Coats and personal friend, Lord Linlithgow,
the Viceroy of India, that Mackenzie was appointed to run Force 136 in
the first place. Its first headquarters were at Meerut, forty miles
from Delhi, but in December 1944 it moved to Kandy, Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
alongside Lord Mountbatten's South East Asia Command (SEAC)
headquarters. Force 136 covered Burma, Malaya, Thailand, French
Indo-China, China, Sumatra.
BILL NIMMO:-1918-1997 Born in Falkirk, educated at Fettes College and Trinity College, Cambridge and Edinburgh University. A solicitor, he was commissioned in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, trained as a Commando, and took part in Orle Wringate's two Chindit expeditions in Burma. Then he joined Force 136, where he took part in several operations behind enemy lines, for one of which in Burma he was awarded the Military Cross.
LEONARD PEARSON MM Aug.1921-May 2001
Len was born inYorkshire on the 8th August 1921. After joining the Army ,he enlisted as an apprentice at Chepstow, and was quickly promoted, becoming a Boy Sergeant Major before being posted for service in Persia. It was feared the Germans might try to link up with the Afika Korps from the Caucasus and Len was improved mining possible line of approach. In 1944 whilst helping to transport Kenya bound Polish POWs released by Starlin, Len contracted typhus and almost died. He was sent to Poona, where he was recruited by Force 136. He was awarded a MM for the work as a demolition expert in Burma, where he operated behind enemy lines as a Staff Sgt/Sapper with the Special Operation Executive`s force 136. He had been sent to Burma in 1945 initially to train Karens and Burmese in the handling and use of small arms and explosives. His skills were such, however that he soon became an operative, completing, a parachute coarse in such hast that his final training jumps was made operationally.
Len`s group was charged with recruiting Karens whilst also disrupting enemy supply lines and communications as a prelude to General Slim`s final assault on the Japanese. They had been operating for 9 months when a decision was made at HQ to take the town of Tongoo before the monsoon, in order prevent the Japanese from reinforcing it and blocking the way to Rangoon. The intention was to inflict maximum damage of the enemy, destroying their morale by ambushing convoys and rendering roads and bridges unusable by blowing them up. Len`s job was to lay explosives in potholes on a 5 mile stretch of road, remaining close by and waiting for the leading vehicles to drive directly over the charge before setting it off by hands. Once the convoy had been halted, Len`s Karen soldiers would shoot the Japanese troops as they piled out of their vehicle. Len accounted for more then 100 Japanese vehicles, demonstrating extreme bravery and behaving with great coolness and determination in exceptionally difficult conditions. He was seen to be operating well beyond his rank and was offered an immediate commission. But Len, an unfailing modest man declined, judging himself to be from the wrong social background.
The loss of his home to a fire, and the death of his wife after prompted his decision to move to the Royal Hospital Chelsea At the time of his death he had contended with the effects of a stroke for more then 30 years but he was independent. Len was proud to wear the uniform in the Royal Hospital Chelsea and was one of nine holders of the Military Medal living there. He is survived by his three children.
Submitted by Willie Chong