The Badge of this unit was a black ace of spades on a green background The Division was formed in Southern India in August 1943, under the Command of Maj/Gen HL Davies (CBE DSO MC). They were part of 15th Corps, The Division first saw action in the Arakan in March 1944 where it fought with distinction notably at Kangau which was one of the fiercest fought Battles in the Arakan Campaign.
In January 1945 the Division took part in the first large scale Amphibious Operations in South-East Asia, They were ferried across the Four Mile wide Mayu Estuary to land on the Northern beaches of Akyab Island, in the course of the following weeks they Occupied Myrbaw, and Ruywa.
They were commanded by Maj/Gen HL Davies (CBE DSO MC)
Structure of the Division
Maj/Gen. HL Davies (C.B. CBE DSO MC)
Maj/Gen. GN Wood (CBE DSO MC)
7th Btn 16th Punjab Regt
8th 27th Field Regt (Royal Artillery)
5th Indian Field Regt (Indian Artillery)
33rd Indian Mountain Regt (Indian Artillery)
7th Indian A/Tank Regt (Indian Artillery)
51st Indian Infantry Brigade
8th Btn York and Lancs Regt
2nd Btn 2nd Punjab Regt
16th Btn 10th Baluch Regt
8th Btn 19th Hyderabad Regt
Brig. TH Angus (DSO MC)
Brig. RA Hutton (DSO and Bar O.B.E.)
53rd Indian Infantry Brigade
9th Btn York and Lancs Regt
12th Btn 5th Maharatta Light Infantry
9th Btn 9th Jat Regt
4th Btn 18th Royal Garhwal Rifles
Brig. GAP Coldstream (DSO)
Brig. AG O'Carroll-Scott
Brig. BCH Gerry (DSO)
74th Indian Infantry Brigade
4th Btn Ox and Buck's Light Infantry
14th Btn 10th Baluch Regt
3rd Btn 2nd KEO Gurkha Rifles
Brig. JE Hirst (DSO)
Brig. JCW Cargill (DSO)
3rd Commando Brigade
42nd 44th Royal Marine Commando's
1st 3rd Army Commando's
Royal Indian Army Service Corps
18th 39th 59th Animal Trt Coy's (Mule)
68th 81st 101st GP Trt Coy's
Composite Supply Unit's
Inland Water Trt Coy
I.M.S R.A.MC I.M.D. I.H.C. I.A.MC
51st 52nd 53rd Indian Field Ambulances
25th Indian Division Provost Unit
25th Indian Division Signals Unit
Indian Army Ordnance Corps
125th Ordnance Sub-Park
Indian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
76th 77th 78th Infantry W/Shop Coy's
25th Indian Division Recovery Coy
Indian Engineers Sappers and Miners
63rd 425th Field Coy's (Q.V.O. Madras)
93rd Field Coy (Royal Bombay)
325th Field Coy (Q.V.O. Madras)
Report in SEAC Souvenir Newspaper
With the distinction of having concentrated more misery and hardship of the battle-field in its first spell of fighting than any other Indian division during the same length of time, 25 Div is also the most nicknamed of the Indian divisions.
It has been known at various times as the “Anonymous Division,” the Unknown Division” and the “Spade Division,” a name derived from its divisional flash bearing the sign of the highest colour suit in a game of cards.
Soon after first going into action in March 1944, in the Arakan, the division presented the Japs with two headaches—one arising out of its mysterious identity which was kept obscure for security reasons, and the other due to the tenacity and hard fighting qualities of its fresh, young troops.
Battle maps of enemy commanders showed a question mark wherever troops of the division struck. All attempts to gain identification met with failure. The dead carried no revealing papers and not one prisoner was taken.
Under security silence its hard-won achievements remained unsung while the heroes of the Indian and British divisions up north, at Kohima and Imphal, were being proclaimed on the front pages of the world’s newspapers.
Regiments which comprised the division were: The 10 Baluch Regiment, -the 19 Hyderabad Regiment, 5 Mahratta Light Infantry. 18 Royal Garhwal Rifles, 2 Gurkha Rifles, 16 Punjab Regiment. York and Lancaster Regiment and the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.
The division was formed in August 1941 at Salem, Madras. At that time a Jap invasion attempt on the Madras coastline was considered a possibility and the division was earmarked for an anti-invasion role.
In April 1944 the division took over from 36th British Division in the area of Maungdaw-Buthidaung. Its task was to guard the “ Maungdaw Keep,” maintain the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road, which runs across the Mayu range horn east to west, and watch 15 Corps’ southern flank.
Rains ended, the division left its Monsoon positions and started spreading out. In December they captured Buthidaun, with the help of the 82nd (West African) Division. Men of the Baluch Regiment, 2nd Gurkha Rifles and the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry took part in this operation.
With Buthidaung in our hands the division began their advance down the Mayu Peninsula, and 11 days later they had reached Foul Point at its tip.
Troops of the 5th Mahratta Light Infantry, the 18th Garhwal Rifles and the York and Lancaster Regiment advanced down the west bank of the Mayu river with the 82nd on the east bank.
By the time the West Africans had captured Tinwa, north of Kyauktaw on the Kaladan river, it was obvious that the Japs were pulling out faster than expected. The rate of our advance surprised the enemy and it was decided at this stage to press home the attack as expeditiously as possible.
Akyab was the next objective — a fair reward for long months of patient waiting. To save time, 25 Div was embarked across the Mayu estuary, early in the New Year. On 3 January 1945 the division landed unopposed on Akyab and began the long advance southwards.
Although Akyab was an easy victory; fierce fighting lay ahead of the division when five days later it took part in the amphibious landings on the Myebon Peninsula. Position after position fell to Commandos and Indian and British troops as they swept on, strongly supported from sea and air.
Pressing inland, the division was soon launching its attack on Kangaw in the bloodiest battle fought since the operations began. The 10th Baluch, the 19th Hyderabad and the 2nd Punjab were employed in this battle and for four weeks, from 22 January to 18 February, fighting continued.
Kangaw, being on the direct supply line and line of retreat of the Jap forces operating further north, against the 81st (West African) Division. The Japs knew that it must be held at all costs if their forces were not to be cut off and surrounded.
In the four weeks they put in repeated attacks to try to throw 25 Division back, and on two successive nights poured 600 and 800 shells into our positions.
Fighting their way foot by foot up the hill slopes north-east of Kangaw, Indian troops encountered a “Siegfried Line” of bunkers and trenches defended by concentrations of artillery and machine guns. Recovering from their initial surprise, the Japs fought back with all they had got — and probably more than they could spare.
Most determined counter-attack of all occurred when the Japs attacked our salient in an attempt to sever our supply line. The charge melted away only 50 yards from its starting point under a withering concentration of fire, leaving the field strewn with bodies.
Tanks of the 19th Lancers, the first Indian tanks to take part in a sea landing, did great work in the Kangaw area, where the division cut the Jap main escape route from the Arakan.
On 16 February a formation of 25 Div landed across the bay at Ru-Ywa. The landing was another shattering surprise to the Japs, and men of the 5th Mahratta swiftly captured the village. Within a few hours more infantry arrived and the bridgehead was consolidated.
Even after men of the York and Lancs had got astride the enemy’s escape route to Taungup, and the Mahrattas had occupied the dominating features around the bridgehead for more than 24 hours, the enemy was still sending out patrols in a bewildered attempt to find out what 15th corps intended.
Meanwhile ships of the Royal Indian Navy, from a fantastic anchorage in the middle of acres of mangrove, had been battering Jap strong points with devastating fire. Many of the twisting inland waterways were uncharted. Ships were moored fore and aft with ropes lashed to mangrove trees to steady their fire. Without doubt this was the most fantastic battle front that had till then developed in the Burma theatre of war.
Next came Taniandu, a pre-war river ferry station which made a valuable supply base for the army.
The Japs here threw in a new trick, hurling mines attached to grenades into the Gurkha’s positions. While one Gurkha platoon was working desperately to dig in on the hillside in the failing light, Jap jitter parties came up in trucks. The Gurkhas were caught before their trenches were ready. Until one a.m. this “war of nerves” went on, and then the Japs came in with a full-scale attack. The Gurkhas held them off till their ammunition gave out.
At three p.m. next day the Japs came back for more. Gurkha casualties were heavy — but the Japs paid dearly. The toil and tumult of this fighting was followed by a few “light” days -then 25 Div, after a solid year of action, was given a rest.