Burma Star Association
Burma Star Association

5th Indian Infantry Division

The Badge of this unit was a red ball on a black background, it has been said that it was derived from the fact that the red ball was painted on hurriedly to comply with the order that the formation sign was to be displayed on all vehicles for recognition purposes, later on it was referred to as "The Ball of Fire".

 

Returned to India in May-June 1942 from the Middle East the 5th Division had only the 9th and 161st Brigades complete at the time, it moved into the Arakan Area and became one of the two forward Divisions of the 15th Indian Corps advance. 

 

The 5th Division took part in the Defence of Imphal and in the reoccupation of Tiddam. it formed part of the "Fourteenth Army" in the final stages of the Occupation of Burma.

 

In April 1945 the division was withdrawn from the north of Rangoon to take part in mopping up operations, until it embarked for Malaya, the division was the first ashore in Singapore, to reoccupy the city on the 5th Sept 1945, two months later the formation moved to Java where it was engaged in restoring peace among the Indonesian people.

 

They were commanded by Maj/Gen M.H. Briggs (DSO).

 

5th Indian Division

Major-Gen G C Evans (? - Sept 23, 1944)

Major-Gen D F W Warren (Sept 23, 1944 - Feb 9, 1945)

Major-Gen E C R Mansergh February 22, 1945 - ?

 

Divisional Recon

3/9th Jat Regiment

 

Divisional Artillery

Brigadier G B J Kellie

 

4th Field Regiment, RA

28th Field Regiment, RA

56th Anti-tank regiment, RA

24th Indian Mountain Regiment

 

Divisional Engineers

2nd Field Company, IE

20th Field Company, IE

74th Field Company, IE

44th Field Park Company, IE

 

Divisional Signals

5th Indian Division signals

 

Headquarters Battalion

7/14th Punjab Regiment (? - March 1945)

4th Jammu and Kashmir, ISF (March 1945 - ?)

          

Divisional Machine-gun battalion

17th Dogra Machine-gun battalion

    

9th Indian Infantry Brigade

Brigadier J A Solomons (? - March 26, 1945)

Brigadier H G L Brain (March 26, 1945 - ?)

 

2nd West Yorkshire Regiment

3/2nd Punjab Regiment

4th Jammu and Kashmir, ISF (? - March 1945)

1st Burma Regiment (March 1945 - ?)

 

123rd Indian Infantry Brigade

Brigadier E J Denholm-Young

 

2nd Suffolk Regiment (? - March 1945)

7th York and Lancaster Regiment (March 1945-?)

2/1st Punjab Regiment

1/17th Dogra Regiment

                

161st Indian Infantry Brigade

Brig E G C Poole (? - March 3, 1945)

Brig E H W Grimshaw (March 3, 1945 - ?) 

    

4th Royal West Kent Regiment

1/1st Punjab Regiment

4/7th Rajput Regiment

 

 

The Part Played by 5th Division in the Final Push

from the Souvenir S.E.A.C. Newspaper

 

Fifth Indian Division well remembered by the Jap as a division which fought him successfully from November 1941 until December 1944 and concluded these operations by driving him back down the Tiddim Road to the River Chindwin, returned to the battle area in March 1945 after resting and training in Assam.

 

The division’s immediate task was the clearing of the Japs from the Taungtha Hills, Southwest of Mandalay, to open a land L of C (Line of Communication) for 4 Corps to Meiktila, where 17th Indian Division, after their rapid advance from the Irrawaddy, were engaging the main Jap forces in Central Burma.

 

The plan was for 5th Indian Division to pass through 17th Indian Division in the Meiktila area and advance south down the main Ran­goon Mandalay trunk road as the spearhead of 4 Corps’ advance on Rangoon.

 

The enemy-held air fields at Pyinmana, 95 miles South of Meiktila, and at Toungoo, 70 miles further South, were vital objectives to be captured by this division with the least possible delay.

 

In four days the Jap was defeated and driven from his strong position in the Taungtha Hills, where he lost 200 men and 7 guns. The road from Pakokku on the Irrawaddy to Meik­tila was thus opened on 31 March with the link up of 5th and 17th Indian Divisions.

 

17th Indian Division were now able to give their undivided atten­tion to the Jap force just South of Meiktila, while 5th Indian Division carried out operations to the East and West of the town and operated on the flank during the battle of Pyawbwe.

 

On 11 April, 4 Corps advance on Rangoon from Central Burma began, with 5th Indian Division in the lead. The Jap, as future events showed, failed completely to appreciate the speed and weight of this attack and was completely routed.

 

The first Jap attempt to stem our advance was made at Yamethin, 35 miles South of Meiktila, where he succeeded in holding the division up for two days. However, by the early hours of 14 April this town was cleared and the advance continued.

 

Between Yamethin and Pyinmana the trunk road runs alongside hilly country and thick jungle for some distance and in this area, known as the Shwemyo Bluff, it was known that the Jap would attempt to make a strong stand. Captured orders have since shown this to be his inten­tion. That 5th Indian Division beat, him to it is shown by their speedy forming of a bridgehead over the chaung and their clearing of  the Shwemyo Bluff.

 

Pyinmana was reached on 20 April.  The town which was held by the enemy, was by-passed and the airfields to the South secured. Once again the Jap was taken by surprise and this time the armour with 5th Indian Division — the Gordon Highlanders and the 7th Cavalry — got among the Headquarters of the Jap 33rd Army, killing hundreds and, as we learned later, missed capturing or destroying the army commander by a matter of minutes.

 

The strike South continued, and within 48 hours of the capture of Pyinmana, our leading troops were in Toungoo, 70 miles away. The all-important airfields were in their hands. The capture of these were vital to the success of a sea-borne landing against Rangoon. Thus the capture of the capital was assured.

 

Still led by an armoured column of Indian Armoured Corps units, the advance continued for a further 34 miles to Penwegon where the lead­ing battalion of 5th Indian Division (a battalion of the 17th Dogra Regi­ment) were established. The road was opened for 17th Indian Division to pass through and continue the dash to Rangoon.

 

In all, 5th Indian Division covered 200 road miles in 14 days, killed over 2,000 of the enemy and captured many prisoners, guns and equipment.

 

This epic advance through heat and torrential rain was led by the Royal Armoured Corps and Indian Armoured Corps units – the 7th Cavalry, Gordon Highlanders and Probyn’s Horse  and supported by many famous regiments of the Indian and British Armies.

 

Men from Northern and Southern England — The West Yorkshire, The York and Lancaster, The Royal West Kents — vied with their Indian com­rades of many arduous operations in their drive and enthusiasm — Pathans, Punjabis, Dogras Sikhs, Rajputs. Jats, Mahsuds, men from Jammu and Kashmir, gunners from UK and India, with 25 pounders, anti-air­craft, anti-tank and medium guns, gave support whenever required.

 

The supply services—transport companies, RIASC, RE3IE. and IEME units—without which the ad­vance could not have been main­tained, added their considerable quota to the effort. Field ambul­ances and surgical teams, with light aircraft evacuation, assisted by American field ambulance detachments cared for the wounded and sick.

 

The Jap had carried out every form of demolition and destruction, at which the Sappers toiled unceasingly— lifting-mines and booby traps, bridging chaungs, repairing railways. All came in the day and night’s work.

 

Overhead the RAF, USAAF covered us throughout the 24 hours — striking, bombing, strafing continuously, while  transport planes dropped essential petrol, ammunition and food.

 

This thrust by 5th Indian Division, another instance of this famous divi­sions drive and enterprise is well in keeping with its earlier success established over years in Eritrea, Middle East and, since joining Fourteenth Army, in the Arakan, at Imphal, Kohima and Tiddim Road.

 

This division, the senior Indian formation in S.E.A.C. possesses a more varied operational experience than any other Indian formation and has indeed contributed nobly to the liberation of Burma.

When you go home

tell them of us and say,

For your tomorrow,

we gave our today

Lt Gen Slim at Fort Dufferin, Mandalay, in March 1945 Lt Gen Slim at Fort Dufferin, Mandalay, in March 1945
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