The Burma Campaign, 1st Battalion The Seaforth Highlanders, 23rd Indian Division
By PM Torrance
Chapter 1 - 1942
The Battalion entrained at AGRA bound for KOHIMA. Our Transport consisted of: 30Cwt Trucks, Brengun Carriers, Mules, Camels. We stopped at ETAWAH for Lunch and CAWNPORE for our evening meal.
Stopped at MOGAL SERAL for Breakfast, GOYA for Lunch, and ASANSOL for our evening meal.
Stopped at ISHUNDI for Breakfast, PARBATIPUR for Lunch, and LUBMANISHAT for our evening meal.
The Bn. embarked on the Ferry at AMINGOAN to cross the BRAHMAPUTRA River, then continued to MANIPUR ROAD (DIMAPUR), which was the Railhead for KOHIMA and IMPHAL. We had Breakfast and Lunch on the Ferry and our Evening meal at MANIPUR ROAD.
At MANIPUR ROAD.
After Breakfast at MANIPUR ROAD we proceeded in local buses to KOHIMA, being played in by the Pipe Band of the Assam Rifles.
I was bitten by a snake, whilst writing letters home, which was identified as an Assam Viper. A young Medical Officer with no previous experience of Snake bites, sucked out the venom, lanced the bitten area and stitched me up.
Stitches removed. Our Regimental Pipe Band beat Retreat for the first time in Kohima.
Recce Patrol. VISWEMA - KID1MA - KEKRIMA – KIGWEMA, all small Villages around KOHIMA. I left main Patrol at K1DEMA and went on to KEKR1MA with 4 Volunteers. An extremely arduous climb. Arrived 7 p.m. that night and slept with NAGA family. The 4 volunteers mentioned above were Cpl Thrower (now Chairman of Leicester branch Seaforth Highlanders Regimental Association), Ptes Davison, Bagshaw and Dawson.
During this Patrol met Douglas Matcham patrolling deeper into ASSAM/BURMA Border.
(Douglas died of pneumonia when on a Course in Shillong later on in the year. He, along with David Hughes and myself were commissioned into The Seaforth Highlanders from 163 O.C.T.U., St Mary's Bay, Dec. 1939).
Entry in my diary states - “Rained most of the day” –“Wind Rising” - “Night Pitch Black.”
Left KOHIMA for Company Weapons Course at SAUGAR.
COLOMBO - CEYLON (now SRI LANKA) bombed from Japanese Aircraft Carrier in Indian Ocean.
Left SAUGAR - Company Weapons Course finished.
Arrived MANIPUR ROAD from SAUGAR.
IMPHAL bombed - Many Refugees killed.
Left MANIPUR ROAD for PALEL.
Took up post of 23rd Indian Division Liaison Officer to General Savoury at LEPA.
Left LEPA to rejoin Regiment at SHENAM (THE SADDLE). Spent night at PALEL.
Rejoined Regiment on SADDLE.
Commenced Special Escort Patrol. SHENAM - KAMPANG. Distance 19 miles.
Continued KAMPANG to MINTHA, a distance of 25 miles.
MINTHA to bank of River YU - making for MYOTHIT but couldn't cross river because of current. Distance 6 miles.
Bank of river YU to bank of river TARAT. Distance 4 miles.
Bank of River TARAT to MINTHA. Distance 2 miles.
MINTHA to bank of River TARAT, distance 2 miles. Diary reads: "Tried whole day to cross River TARAT with rations for "A" Company, marooned at MYOTHIT but due to spate of river could not make crossing".
Alternative route to MYOTHIT via MINTHA - HLEZEIK - HTONKEDIN – NANDALIN (SHIDUMJAR) & PAGWE. Distance 24 miles. The outward journey to MYOTHIT from SHENAM took from 27th June to 3rd July during which we covered just 80 miles. I had a Corporal and 10 men with me, carrying extra rations for "A” Company at MYOTHIT where Company Commander, Capt. Battle, was down with malaria and his second in command, Lieut. David Hughes had gone off with a party to get a boat which would have had to be carried through the jungle between rivers.
The return journey to SHENAM commences. This time consisting of "A” Company and my "Escort" Patrol. The going was hard, particularly as we had a number of Stretcher cases to carry, including a 13 year old Indian girl who had been found by "A” Company sitting by her dead family, all of whom had trekked from RANGOON. She had Malaria and Dysentery and was in a very bad state, but was very useful as she spoke 7 native languages including Burmese. We travelled just the 4 miles back to PAGWE on this day.
We travelled under very heavy going conditions just 6 miles to NANDALIN where the locals were extremely helpful, in complete contrast to the locals of PAGWE.
The river TARAT had overflowed its banks to a depth of 2 - 3 feet but Burmese guides from NANDALIN bridged streams for us and blazed a trail through the jungle. Unfortunately Pte Campbell died from Malaria at 0611 hrs just outside NANDALIN. Distance covered 12 miles.
Got lost in jungle for one and a half hours with Piper Sutherland so distance from MINTHA to KAMPANG was 30 miles!!!
Completed journey from KAMPANG to rejoin the Regiment on the "Saddle" - distance 19 miles. The total distance on this Patrol was 151 miles in 12 days but we got “A” Company back safely but much the worse for wear. The little Indian Girl unfortunately died in the Forward Field Hospital just 6 weeks later. The length of time it took to do this Patrol was mainly due to the difficulty in crossing the Rivers YU and TARAT, both tributaries of the River CHINDWIN as these and many of the smaller "chaungs" we also had to cross were all in spate and it rained and rained and rained.…
Healthwise this Patrol took its toll on me as I went down with Malaria and was admitted to 24 Field Ambulance in SHENAM.
Was transferred to Casualty Clearing Station IMPHAL.
Moved to 37 Field Ambulance IMPHAL
Moved into Accommodation used by fellow Officer Douglas Matcham who had got himself a "cushy" job with H.Q. 23 Indian Div.
Rejoined Regiment on "Saddle". Recuperation period over.
Sent to WAITHOU on a "Watermanship" Course. As if I hadn't experienced enough water already!!!
Rejoined Regiment on "Saddle".
Diary reads "PALEL bombed".
Regiment moved from "Saddle" to PALEL.
Once again took up post of Liaison Officer to General Savoury, 23 Indian Div. From this date to 17th October, when I returned to the Regiment, then in SHENAM I carried out Liaison duties, visiting KOHIMA - DIMAPUR - TANGNUPAL - DAMPOL – JORHAT and TORBUNG.
General Wavell visited H.Q. 23 Indian Div.
Rejoined Regiment in SHENAM.
Left SHENAM for "leave" to OOTACAMUND. Arrived MAO 1800 hrs.
Left MAO 0700 hrs. Arrived DIMAPUR 1730. Left DIMAPUR 2300.
Arrived GHAUHATI 1130 hrs. Left GHAUHATI 2100hrs.
Arrived DHUBRI 0830 hrs. Left DHUBRI 2030hrs. Arrived GOLANGANJ 2130 hrs. Left GOLANGANJ 2350 hrs.
Arrived PARBATOPUR 0530. Left PARBATOPUR 0600. Arrived CALCUTTA 1340 hrs.
Left CALCUTTA 1510 hrs.
Arrived MADRAS 0930 hrs. Left MADRAS 2000 hrs.
Arrived OOTACAMUND 1220 hrs.
November 2nd to 13th
On leave in OOTACAMUND.
Left OOTACAMUND 1435 hrs.
Arrived MADRAS 0630 hrs. Left MADRAS 1715 hrs.
Arrived CALCUTTA 2130 hrs.
Left CALCUTTA 1200 hrs.
Arrived DIMAPUR (MANIPUR ROAD) 0230 hrs.
Left DIMAPUR 0600 hrs
Arrived back at SHENAM 2000 hrs. The outward journey from SHENAM to OOTACAMUND had taken 9 days and the return journey 10days. Individual train times have been given above to illustrate the immense distances that have to be covered on the Indian Continent.
Spent at Sergeants’ mess at KAKCHING where a good time was had by all!!!
Spent at "Rest Camp" at KANGLATONGBI recovering from the 25th!!!
Chapter 2 - 1943
Commenced Vehicle Maintenance Course at GOLAGHAT.
To JORHAT to see Gordon Harker in "Mail Train''.
Purchased new watch. (Still in my possession – never been cleaned or serviced and still keeps good time - in spite of being immersed under the Chindwin on a few occasions).
To JORHAT to see Margaret Sullivan in "So Ends the Night"
Vehicle Maintenance examination.
January 12th - 15th
Carrier Course, GOLAGHAT.
GOLAGHAT - DIMAPUR on Studebaker Lorry (60 miles in 2hrs 40 mins.)
DIMAPUR - IMPHAL . (132 miles in 15 hrs).
IMPHAL - SHENAM. (36 miles in 2 hrs).
SHENAM - TAMU. (26 miles in 6 hrs). A total of 254 miles over a period of 4 days!!!
To Mobile Cinema to see "Champagne Waltz."
Pte Kershaw died of wounds from 3” Mortar bomb during exercise. (Sadly a case of "friendly fire").
February 1st - 6th
Platoon commanders Course.
Visited by Field Marshall Wavell.
TAMU - MYOTHIT.
Left MYOTHIT on "Lion Patrol" to east of Chidwin River. Crossed at TONHE. Spent Night near INTHA. 16 miles. Carried in back pack: 6 Days light rations, Mosquito Net, Cardigan, Gym Shoes, Washing & Shaving Kit.
Left INTHA and vent N.W. for about 12 miles. Some villagers hostile. Ptes Wilson and Shadbolt fell to rear of Patrol, former with stomach cramp and latter with damaged knee. Camped in Jungle. Saw light nearby about midnight. Sent patrol to investigate but nothing found.
Set out on compass bearing of 120 through jungle to NATHAN. Entered village that evening. Japs had been there. Got some Japanese currency from Burmese - also 10 parachutes. NATHAN is on Jap patrol route and was last visited by them 3 weeks ago. They had 5 elephants and were carrying Mortars. Distance travelled 10 miles.
Left for WETKAUK and NAUNGANA. Got lost in jungle with C/Sgt Robertson. Distance travelled 10 miles.
Moved out of WETKAUK on small Recce Patro1. Took 5 Burmese for interrogation. Small Pox in PINGUQET. Tried to signal Regt H.Q. but this impossible due to height of trees. Distance covered 4 miles.
Left WETKAUK and met 2 other patrols. Then went on to NYINGBINTHA. Two of our planes came over low to see who we were. This was at KAMAING. Extremely HOT. Villagers very friendly. Distance covered 14 miles.
Left NYINGBINTHA for SETTAW, a distance of 8 miles. Crossed Chindwin River and continued down bank to LEPANTHA. Again extremely HOT. Harboured for night at LEPANTHA.
Left LEPANTHA for SEDAW, a distance of 12 miles. Purchased fresh vegetables and rice in THAUNGBUT and NYANTHIT. Grand change from normal rations. Pte McGhee got drunk on native wine (rice) and shot his finger. This I amputated with a razor blade (Wilkinson Sword?)
Left SEDAW for MYOTHIT. Extremely hard climb especially with Chindits elephants coming in the opposite direction. (Mules and elephants don’t mix!!) Arrived back at Regt H.Q. 1620 hrs. Distance covered 14 miles.
Built new “basha" for D Coy Office.
Left MYOTH1T for TONHE. Took 2 days hard rations on men and 4 days light rations on mules. Distance covered 14 miles.
Ordered out to Pt25R near LEU. Took 5 days light rations and 1 days hard rations. Crossed Chindwin river at TONHE. Spent might near NAMPAMAUNG.
Went on the banks of Chindwin and tried to get to NAMPAHOK but took wrong track. Spent night on River bank.
Went on to Pt 25R to meet Lt. Hughes but he hadn’t been there at all. Met Lts Mackintosh and Black in Jungle near Pt25R. Remained at Pt25R for the might in the hope that Lt Hughes would send runner there.
Went with Mackintosh, Black and McFarland to WETKAUK to see if any trace of Lt Hughes there and ran into Davies on banks of Chinthe Chaung. Returned to KYA-IN that night.
Left KYA-IN for PENGAKET track where Hughes was lying in ambush and stayed in ambush position that night.
Hughes went reccying near WETKAUK area. Major Costens came and gave good information about Jap Whereabouts. Moved during night to vicinity of PINKAGET as we had seen some Burmese acting suspiciously there.
Went to new harbour on banks of Chinthe Chaung opposite WETKAUK.
“A” Coy joined us there.
Went to KAMAING to get food for Coy.
Went again to KAMAING to get 2 cows but they escaped. Got more rice and bananas instead.
Burmese brought cows into our harbour which were slaughtered for meat for the Companies.
Companies left harbour for THAPANZEIK. I was taken to SETTAW with the sick and the mules by a Burmese guide.
Left for SEDAW. I sent the sick by boat. I went overland, crossing to the opposite bank of the Chindwin at THAUNGDUT. Some difficulty in getting the mules over the river.
Returned to MYOTHIT with 1 Mule and driver and Ptes. Chipston, Nicholl, Anderson and McFarland, Left SEDAW 0740; arrived MYOTHIT 1610.
Remainder of Company returned to MYOTHIT.
"B" Coy bumped into Japs 0900. Lt Barnard seriously wounded and 3 of his Platoon were killed and 14 missing.
Lt Frost’s Platoon bumped Japs at KYA-IN. Frost and 9 members of his platoon not heard of since.
Left MYOTHIT for SEDAW. Heard there were Japs in TONHE, but this report proved to be false. Lt. O’Neill bumped into Japs at NAMPANAUNG. Imphal bombed.
Took over from "B" Coy at NANTHAGIT. LIMMU bombed.
Left NANTHAGIT for MYOTHIT and banks of River TARET, a tributary of the Chindwin).
Arrived banks of TARAT.
Arrived MINTHA area.
Returned to TAMU to take over P.R.I.
Went to IMPHAL for beer etc.
Stayed over at WAITHOU.
Left for TAMU.
Arrived TAMU - Went to MOREH and then returned to TAMU.
Went to Bn. harbour at m. s. 13.
Issued beer and other canteen goods.
Returned to MOREH.
To IMPHAL for more beer etc.
Returned to MOREH; issued beer etc.
Left MOREH - Road in terrible condition - Supply trucks had to be continually dug out.
Admitted to 41 Indian General Hospital at KANGLATONGBI with Malaria and Dysentery.
Discharged from Hospital.
Bn. arrived WAITHOU.
July 8th – August 7th
Bn. left WAITHOU for SHILLONG.
August 9th – October 17th
Left SHILLONG 1400. Arr. PANDU 1830. Left AMINGAON 2010.
Arr. PARBATIPUR 0715. Left PARBATIPUR 0815. Arr SEALDAH Sta 1530 (Calcutta). Left HOWRAH Sta 2030 (Calcutta).
Arr. AGRA 0430. Left AGRA 1730. Arr. DELHi 2130.
Left DELHI 1810
Arr DEHA DUN 0820. Left DEHA DUN 1000. Arr. MISSOURI 1145.
October 24th – 31st
On leave on MISSOURI.
Went to SHUGANU Rest Camp m. s. 30.
Nov 20th – Dec 12th
No diary notes but must have returned to WAITHOU during this period.
Dec 14th – 20th
Arrived CALCUTTA and stayed there.
Admitted B.M.H. Calcutta with B.T. Malaria.
Dec 22nd – 31st
Being treated in Hospital.
Chapter 3 - 1944
January 1st – 7th
Still in B.M.H. Calcutta. (Malaria).
Left Calcutta for Dimapur. (Manipur Road).
Arrived Shenam (The Saddle).
Jan 11th – Feb 6th
Still In Shenam.
Father died in Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
Visit by Lord Louis Mountbatten.
Feb 9th – 19th
Still In Shenam.
Was granted Compassionate leave to go to Colombo to see my Stepmother. Found I could not fly from Imphal due to evacuation of casualties from Burma, so I travelled by Road, Rail, River and Sea.
Arrived Colombo 10 a.m.
First day of Leave.
Visited the graves of my Father, Mother, and Brother in KANATTA General Cemetery COLOMBO.
March 3rd – 8th
Left COLOMBO 1935 for TALAMINAAR.
Crossed PALK STRAITS to DHANOSKHODI in Southern India.
When changing trains at MADRAS I met a Madrasi R.I.A.M.C. Officer who had just returned from the U.K. having spent the whole of the war in a hospital in EDINBURGH.
March 12th – 18th
Return journey by Rail, River and Road from MADRAS to WANJING where the Bn had moved to in my absence.
March 19th – 31st
Japs astride MANIPUR Road between DIMAPUR and IMPHAL. (At this time the KOHIMA garrison were holding out against the Japanese). We had 6 weeks supplies of Food ammunition etc in the IMPHAL area. More was to come in by air later.
April 2nd – 9th
Still in WANJING.
Left WANJING 0700; arrived Pt 2727 read aide 1600. I went by Jeep but the Coy had an 18 mile march.
Left Pt 2727 0700. Had a terrible climb for the first couple of miles after which the gradient became less steep. Arrived track/dried up stream channel. Pt 6466
Left Track/stream channel at Pt 6466 0630; Left this position at 1900 and marched all night.
Left the point we reached (Pt 7275) at 0600. It was a terrible night march in spite of there being a bit of a moon. Rested up for the day. Left this Pt 1830.
Arrived at bottom of spar. Rested up for the day and then marched along bed of stream (dried up) to arrive at Pt 7483 at 1730 hrs.
Attacked KASOM 0530. 'C’ Coy led the attack. Killed 2 Japs and wounded 2. Own casualties Nil from the attack but Lt. Roxburgh killed by Jap sniper afterwards.
Took over from ‘B’ Coy at 'Hot Spot' at 1600 hrs. Japs attacked our perimeter all night. Estimated Jap casualties 30 killed. Own Casualties 2 killed 3 wounded.
Six Jap bodies were found outside our perimeter in the morning. I got a Mauser Pistol off one and Pte McFadd & 13 platoon a Sword each. Took over 'A' Coy position 1600 hrs.
13 platoon blitzed. Became peaceful except for some small fire by our enemy.
Took up Ambush position 2230 hrs. Unfortunately no Japs came.
Took up new position on PUNJABI HILL.
Nothing much happening.
Still all quiet.
Left KASOM 0700. Held up by enemy fire near LAMMU. More Japs killed. Own casualties 1 killed 7 wounded. "C" Coy attacked and took LAMMU 1700hrs.
All quiet. Except that the Japs opened up with their Bn Artillery from behind overlooking hillside. No casualties.
Left LAMMU 1600 for "Hot Spot".
Left 'Hot Spot" for Bn. harbour at Pt 6988 1830 hrs. Terribly hard going.
Arrived Pt 6988 0530 left 0730. Arrived Paddy Field near RINGU 1300 hrs. Harboured for the night.
Left Paddy Fields 0830. Arrived Pt 6426, RK 6593 1900 hrs. Terrible Journey through very thick jungle.
Left Pt 0593 0600. Contacted 'A’ Coy 1030. Left "A" Coy position 1130. Bumped Japs Pt 6339 1600hrs. More Japs killed (7 certs); Own casualties 1 killed 5 wounded. (The one killed was, I think, a L/C Fox, my Bren Gunner who was killed by a sniper who we managed to deal with. I buried L/C Fox on the hillside by the track. Whether he was ever transferred to the Kohima Cemetery 1 do not know, although I have enquired.)
Left Pt 6339 0945. Arrived back at Bn. Harbour 1300hrs. Had a marvellous 'snack-up' as we had had no food for 2 days.
Left Bn Harbour which was in a dried up chaung at Pt 612882 at 0730. Arrived at WANJING 1630 hrs.
May 3rd to 8th
Transferred to "A" Coy as 2 I/C.
May 10th to 14th
Still at WANJING.
Moved to YAPO.
Left YAPO and returned to WANJING.
May 18th to 20th
Returned to YAPO.
My 25th Birthday. Went to SHILLONG HILL.
May 23rd to 28th
Back again at WANJING.
Went on to SCRAGGY.
May 30th to 31st
Still on SCRAGGY.
Left SCRAGGY for PATIALA HILL.
June 3rd to 5th
Still on PATIALA HILL.
OUR SECOND FRONT OPENED. Applied for appointment as G.S.O.II to Consulate Secretariat S.E.A.C.
Still on PATIALA HILL.
Left PATIALA HILL for SHILLONG HILL.
June 9th to July 4th
Remained on SHILLONG HILL. (Our trenches on one side of this hill linked with the Jap trenches on the other!!!)
Left SHILLONG HILL for a place near KAKCHING.
June 6th to 21st
Remained near KAKCHING.
Left Brigade Hill for River Bank prior to attack on NIPPON and MORGAN’S Peak.
Lay up at foot of PEPPERPOT.
"D” Coy attacked NIPPON and MORGAN’S Peak. Took both objectives, the latter unopposed.
Remained on PIMPLE between NIPPON and MORGAN’S PEAK.
Left PIMPLE to lie up on MOMBI/TAMU read track, but held up by Jap sniper so had to bed down on the road.
Pressed on and occupied HARVEST HILL which was unoccupied and which overlooked the LOCKCHAU River.
Returned to BULLOCK BOX prior to proceeding to CALCUTTA and NEW DELHI.
At BULLOCK BOX.
Left BULLOCK BOX for DIMAPUR.
Travelling from DIMAPUR TO SEALDAH (CALCUTTA).
Reported to No 42 War Office Selection Board (Permanent Commission) at No 3 G.H.Q. TALLYGUNGE, CALCUTTA.
Left HOWRAH (CALCUTTA)
Arrived DELHI & reported to Rear H.Q. 11 Army Group.
Reported to Colonel Phillpots, Director of Army Welfare.
Started an Staff Captain (Welfare) Rear H.Q. 11 Army Group.
Aug 14th to Nov 2nd
Staff Captain (Welfare), New Delhi.
Went down with another dose of Malaria.
Nov 4th to 13th
Still down with Malaria.
Filled in repatriation Form.
Nov 16th to 26th
Still in NEW DELHI.
Left NEW DELHI for DEOLALI.
Arrived DEOLALI and was vaccinated.
Left DEOLALI for Bombay but returned to Deolali the same day. Don’t know why but could be the Army System?
December 1st to 7th
Still at DEOLALI.
Left DEOLALI for BOMBAY and EMBARKED FOR U.K ON R.M.S "Strathaird".
(Charlie Reeves, of our Coventry Branch was also on this vessel and also had Malaria and Jaundice. Didn't know this until we met up at our Branch Meetings. Small World, isn’t it?)
The End of my Burma Campaign and that of the 1st Bn. The Seaforth Highlanders, who also left BULLOCK BOX in August and returned to INDIA to train for the recapture of MALAYA.