Burma Star Association
Burma Star Association

Major Basil Neale's Memories

With grateful thanks to Colin Neale for typing out the information contained on this page, from his father's records - his father being Major Basil Neale who was one of Wingate's staff:-

 

Diary of Bde Cmdr’s dispersal group from time Bde. H.Q. split up by dispersal groups on 30/3/43 to crossing of CHINDWIN on 29/4/43.

 

The Bde Cmdr’s dispersal group was composed as follows:-

Brigadier Wingate

 

Major Anderson

 

Major Jefferies

 

Lt. Spurlock

 

Lt. Rose

 

Sqn/Ldr Longmore

 

F/Lt. Tooth

 

Capt. Aung Thin

 

Capt. Katju

 

And 34 other ranks from 142 Coy, 2/Burifs and Gurkhas along with followers.

 

30/3

Bde. H.Q. had successful S.D. in area of KYAUK TAUNG SN 2162 and after an address by the Brigadier split up into five dispersal groups commanded respectively by The Brigadier, Major Couron, Capt Hosegood, Capt Moxon and Capt Paton. The split up took place in the afternoon our party after watering on the NALO CHAUNG went into bivouac for the night about half a mile away from the Chaung. We still had eight mules, and one horse.  A W/T set was carried.

 

1 / 4

Moved off early to find secure bivouac on upper waters of the THAYET CHAUNG SN 1357. On making our way to this bivouac we discovered a large open space about 1500 yds long which would with a very little work make an emergency aerodrome.

 

2 / 4

Moved bivouac to upper waters of TOKPAN CHAUNG with intention of remaining there for five or six days to regain strength and allow situation on Irrawaddy to settle down again before attempting a crossing. Our W/T had sent a final message to Corps the previous day and the station was now closed with the exception that we received the News as long as the battery lasted. Our bivouac was shady and pleasant but we had to dig water holes.

 

7 / 4   

Lay up all this period on TOKPAN CHAUNG where we ate all our mules.

 

7/4

Moved from lying up on TOKPAN with intention of crossing at KANNI or WEGYI SM 9754. In the late afternoon when in the neighbourhood of  CHEIKTHIN SM 9951 we discovered fresh foot prints on the main track leading to CHEIKTHIN and deduced that CHEIKTHIN was probably garrisoned by the Japs.

 

We accordingly went into bivouac for the night. The changed plan was to move SOUTH the following day towards spot height 1271 SM 8125 from which to observe the IRRAWADY with a view to crossing at INNET.

 

8 /4

Moved SOUTH towards MYAUK CHAUNG. Very hot and we were short of water. In the late afternoon we found a marsh where we got water. We held and interrogated two peasants whom we found here. They stated that there were boats at MAUNGGON SM 8434 and although very tired we decided to push on with the aid of guides. We eventually reached THABYEYLA on the river where we found that the Japs had moved all boats on the EAST bank up to TIGYAING. We were exhausted by this time and at daybreak went into bivouac EAST of MAUNGGON.

 

9 / 4

In the early afternoon we descended on MAUNGGON and eventually with local aid  found two boats in a backwater. Later we stopped a third boat which was moving upstream. We began crossing about 1530 hrs but when half the party was over automatic fire was heard from the NORTH and our native boatmen made off with the boats leaving half our party on the EAST bank. The Brigadier’s party then consisted of B.C; BM, Jefferies,  Aung Thin  and Katju with 24 other ranks. We had apparently landed on an island and we immediately pushed on towards NYAUNGBINTHA where we got a large boat and crossed at dusk.

 

We lay up for the night about 2 miles N.E. of NYAUNGBINTHA. The mosquitos were intolerable and we got little sleep.

 

10 / 4

Crossed Meza river moving to the west and about noon farmed the village of Wabogyaung Sm 7339.

 

We had left our lying up bivouac with about 5 days carefully hoarded hard rations  and in this village we got an ample supply of rice.  Later in the day we moved NORTH along the foothills and at dusk crossed the TAWMA motor rd. The Japs were reported to be at TAWMA.

 

11 / 4

After a stiff climb on an old timber track we found bivouac near the KYAYAT. TAT  CHAUNG where we spent the night.

 

12 / 4

A day of mountaineering.  After very bad going in the PYINDE R.F. we went into bivouac for the night on a tributary of the WABO CHAUNG.

 

13 / 4

Followed in WABO CHAUNG WEST towards DOBIN-YWA then struck NORTH by track. Good going. We approached the rly. Line with great care our main trouble being the noise caused by treading on dead leaves. We crossed the rly. Successfully about 2 ½ miles EAST of NANKAN R.S. and bivouacked on a chaung about SM 5175.

 

14 /4

Crossed NANKAN motor rd. and struch WEST into hills.  No recent traces of M.T. on rd. We were very exhausted today and found the going too much for us so we descended the mountains again and spent our mid-day halt on the SEYWA CHAUNG at SM 5278. During the night of  14 / 15 we moved very quickly NORTH by track and farmed the village of PINKA - AIK SM 4986. We got a young buffalo in this village and we made off to cook our spoils in a small chaung SOTH of SHINPA  SM 4988. We learned that the Japs had been in PINKA – AIK the previous day and we had the satisfaction of taking a large number of chicken which had been reserved for the enemy. At dawn on the 15th we moved into bivouac 1 mile SE of SHINPHA where we spent the day and night 15 / 16.

 

16 / 4

Spent the day on the LINNE CHAUNG  N.E. of SHINPHA where we had our first wash for some days. At this stage of the journey we were all feeling weak and exhausted. This may have been due to the change to a rice and salt diet. In the evening we found the track running NORTH from SHINPHA and marched NORTH throughout the night via KYINGYI, PULA and LEGYIN  SG 4601.

 

During this march Spurlock who had been failing for some days with dysentery had to fall out near KYINGI  SM 4995. On the morning of 17th we went into bivouac on the KWELON CHAUNG.

 

 17 / 4

In the evening climbed up the first stage of the MANGIN range. The going was fairly easy.

 

18 / 4

Climbed to top of MANGIN range and moved easily along the top to the N.W.  We tried to contact our aircraft with Thor Seven but failed. Heard heavy bombing from direction of PINBON. Bivouac made for night near SG 3313. It was delightfully cool up here and we all had an excellent night’s rest and felt much better.

 

19 / 4

Pushed along range to N.W. and observed for some hours the village of ALEYWA  SG 2713 which we entered and farmed in the afternoon. The villagers were very friendly and said we were the first troops of any kind that they had seen. At this point the indications were that there were few Japs between the IRRAWADDY and the MU valley. After farming Aleywa  we pushed on towards the PINBON – PINLEBU motor via NYAUNGGON – NAMAKAUK and YAYU. All these villages were by-passed. The main rd. was crossed about one mile NORTH of SAKHAN  SG 1914. The enemy were reported to have a post here. Thereafter we moved N.W. and after daybreak made an insecure bivouac S.E. of YESHIN  SG 1622

 

20 / 4

where we spent a very hot and uncomfortable day. There were signs that native labour is being used in this area for road building. Signs of work were seen in a paddy field near NAUNGMALIN. In the evening we moved through YESHIN, where we  (got?) fresh fruit, and made bivouac for the night on a small chaung EAST of the NANKASA CHAUNG.

 

21 / 4

Moved off WEST  onto SANWINDAUNG RANGE and follwed this to the SW. In places the going was difficult and there was a good deal of climbing. In the late afternoon we found the upper waters of the SHWEGYN CHAUNG.

 

22 / 4

Follwed down the SHWEGYN. Going abominable because of cut bamboo blocking the chaung. Crossed MU river, which is easily  fordable and entered MUTHA SF 9608 thereafter WEST to LETHAGON, which we farmed and into bivouac for the night. S.E. of MAGYIGON SF 8408. This was a long and tiring days march.

 

23 / 4

Entered PINMAUNG for fruit. We then intended to move across country over the escarpment but outside this village we met a providential guide who lead us over the escarpment by a very quick route which is however unsuitable for animals other than elephants. We intended to reach THETLA  SF 6108 the following day and by late afternoon we were on the THETLA CHAUNG  some seven miles from THETLA. After crossing the escarpment we had followed the line of the KYAUKPYA CHAUNG which is much used by Salt sellers. These salt sellers gave us good information about both Jap and British positions on the CHINDWIN. They stated that aBritish force of 300 had been EAST as far as THETLA and that the British were still on the EAST bank of the CHINDWIN.  In fact this information was a few days old and no British troops were now on the EAST bank.

 

24 / 4

Moved through THETLA  on to INGON  SF5611 and went into bivouac 2 miles EAST of the latter village. We were all very exhausted and urgently in need of rest so accordingly remained in bivouac in this area the following day 25 / 4.

 

25 / 4

Meantime we had collected some rice from INGON and also another guide. The guides stated our best chances of crossing the CHINDWIN were a MYAING.U   SF 3605 where they said there were no Japs and boats were available.  At dusk on 25 /4  we moved off WEST, via SHWEDIGON and KYEBIN and made bivouac for remainder of night SOUTH of KYA-IN.

 

26 / 4

Moved S.W. on to a tributary of the TAWET CHAUNG  where we lay in hiding for the day. The guides meantime went off via WUTKYAING to make arrangements for boats. They returned at dusk stating that the Japs patrolled through MYAING-U but that they  thought we should make an attempt that night. We moved off towards WUTKYAING which the guides entered to find the lay of the land there being Jap agents there. We remained a mile outside till 0300 hrs 27/4 by which time the guides had failed to return probably because they had taken fright.

 

27 /4

We moved off again and by 0900 hrs 27/4 were inhiding NORTH of INGYINTHA  SF 4207.  Our general condition was now one of weakness, we had little food, and our boots were worn through. It was thus impracticable to attempt a crossing further NORTH because of the length of march. We decided therefore to attempt a crossing on the large sandbank lying SOUTH of MINYA  SF 3208.  The Japs were known to be at THAYAUNG and PAUNGBYIN and between these two points there were patrols. The plan was to send across a small party, composed of the Brigadier, Jefferies, Aung Thin and 2 ORs, who would arrange boats for the remainder who were under command of Anderson. At 1730 hrs on 27/ 4 the whole party made off towards the river. We crossed the motor rd. from PAUNGBYIN running NORTH but then struck almost impossible country. Two hours of darkness only remained so accordingly the main body under Anderson retraced steps EAST while the Brigadier and his four swimmers pushed on with a few to arranging boats for the night of 28/ 29.

 

 

 

 

 

28 /4

The swimming party after awful going through long grass eventually reached the river by 1200 hrs and at once crossed. They later contacted a Company of Gurkhas under Major White NORTH of MINYA and arranged boats for the non-swimmers. Actually the non-swimmers still had four or five good swimmers from 142 Coy. And were lying up for the day near INWAING. In the late afternoon they moved off and found frequent tracks of Japanese patrols both in the jungle and on most tracks. After very bad going

 

29 /4

the Chindwin was reached at 0400hrs. 29/ 4. The recognition signal was made but not answered so the remainder of the swimmers were sent over. The rest of the perty under Anderson went into hiding a mile from the river in elephant grass. At 1830 hrs. Capt. Katju was shot, believed killed, while entering a small village to contact our Burif havildar who was trying to arrange boats. The party returned to the river by dark, made the recognition signal which was answered at once and a boat was promptly pushed over and took the party off. About one minute after leaving the EAST bank the Japs arrived there and opened fire with dischargers and automatic fire.

 

Notes for War Diary of Bde  HQ from crossing of Chindwin to abandoned crossing of Irrawaddy at Inywa

 

FEBRUARY

 

16 /17

Began crossing Chindwin about 2200 hrs. All men and loads over by daylight but mules did not cross till driven over in afternoon about 1 mile SOUTH of TONAE

 

17

spent day organising  loads on EAST bank of DOKTHIDA and went into bivouac for night.

 

18

Moved off to MYENE where night dropping took place. Took 5 days rations and still ahd balance of previous allotment amounting to two days. Spent night 18 /19 N.E. of MYENE.

 

19

Moved off 1000 hrs. Stopped for W/T 1200 – 15.30 hrs. Reached area of METKALET early hours 20th.

 

20

Long night march 21/ 22 via NAM NIT and NAM  TAINGGWIN reaching area of TADAN 0100 hrs. where we slept till daylight. A daylight  pushed EAST into jungle 3 miles where opened W/T and spent the day. Marched off in evening through PANGSCHWEHLAW and spent remainder of night in jungle one mile EAST of there.

 

22

Moved at dawn and reached  NAM CHNW. Met 4colm.  On route.  Spent night 22/ 23 on NAM CHAW

 

23

Moved off towards TONMAKENG to Bde. R.V. at pt 996 and spent night South of TONMAKENG on NAM SAGA. Bde. Conference held at pt.996 and orders given for 7 & 8 columns to R.V. with 3 colm and attack SINLAMAUNG

 

24

Moved to bivouac in jungle about 2 miles NE of TONMAKENG. 7 & 8 Colm moved off to R.V. with 3 colm. 5 colm. Have task of defense of S.D. area at TONMAKENG. Dropping took place.

 

25

Same bivouac. Colms return from SINLAMAUNG. Japs have fled. More dropping.

 

26

Same bivouac. More dropping. Moved down to S.D. area late afternoon and collected stores. In bivouac till moonrise on NAM SAGA near SD area. Had been Bde Conf. that day  giving order of march for next stage. 4 Colm. Have gone ahead to break trail on casstins track

 

27

Satrted on Casstins trail moonrise. Follows bed of stream at first and steep in places. Later follows forest boundaries. Several nasty ledges for A.T. A waterless and tiring march. Reached NAM KADIN 1700 hrs.

 

28

Left daybreak. Trail follows bed of NAM KADIN to miles then very steep climb. Trouble with loads. Reached NAM THAMI and spent night there. Caught up with four Colm.

 

March 1

 

Crossed escarpment . Not nearly such a climb as anticipated. Moved SE towards NAMKASA and in late afternoon reach bivouac on EAST bank of KADAUNG CHAUNG. 5,7,8, 2 Sp. HQ and Burif HQ in same area.

 

Burif patrol bump Japs at KYAUNGLE and shots exchanged.

 

2

March SOUTH. Exchange of shots heard, afterwards known to be brush between Japs and 4 Colm patrol. 4 Colm leave us to lay ambush on motor rd. NORTH of PINBON.  Known PINBON is strongly held. Heavy rain sets in and we take to the main PINBON – PINLEBU rd. blowing the bridges as we go. No M.T. can use it at this moment. We joined the main rd. NORTH of PEINHNEGON and move SOUTH  with all speed 5 Colm. Leading. Reach SACHAN where we halt from 1700 to 2300 hrs then on again through the night. 5 Colm. Branch off into the “happy valley” en route for BONCHAUNG. At daylight leave rd. and make bivouac on DIDAUK CHAUNG.

 

3

Spent day and night  3 /4 on didauk. 8 Colm. Ordered to PINLEBU to trail coal.

 

4

Move to new bivouac on chaung at SM 1297. Arrange  S.D. at AUNGGON. PINLEBU bombed.

 

5

Same bivouac. Difficulty with W/T in arranging S.D. Receive garbled message purpoting to come from 4 Colm. Fear they have met trouble. No contact for some days with 1 Gp.  Hear mortar fire from direction PINLEBU presume 8 Colm. In action.

 

7

Colm. & 2Gp HQ move to S.D. area.

 

6

Supply dropping at AUNGGON. 7 days rations. 8 Colm. Returns having lost part of a platoon. Moved from S.D. area 1100 hrs to MAWKWIN into bivouac.

 

7

Moved to bivouac at KAINMAKHANG VIA  MAGYBIN. No word 4 colm. Or 1 Gp. Both 3 & 5 Colms. Have reported success on the railway. It is mooted whether we should no go on and cross the IRRAWADDY or go into permanent colm. R.V.s with a view to further ambushes on the railway. 3 & 5 are asked for opinions and later send messages that they wish to go on.

 

8

Same bivouac. Lt Jones 4 Colm. Arrived having followed our tracks and reports colm. Ambushed and has returned to CHINDWIN. Left late afternoon for bivouac EAST of AUNGBIN.

 

9

Move dto bivouac SW of spot ht. 1691 via PEGON. Received news of 1 Gp. For first time for day (?). 2 Colm. Have been cut up. 1 Colm. With 1 Gp HQ are crossing  IRRAWADDY. This decides the day are we are going on.

 

10

Same bivouac. An operation at WUNTHO is mooted and Burifs are sent off to observe the town through glasses.

 

11

Same bivouac. Runners return from WUNTHO and bombing targets are passed to Corps.

 

12

Moved bivouac onto BANBWE TAUNG in morning. An S.D. has been arranged for the following day at KYUBIN. At about 1800 hrs shots are heard from SW – automatic fire and mortars. Capt Petersen (7 Colm.) for some days has been with 3 Colm. and is due back today. Presumed this firing is directed at him. His old bivouac is attaked and he has no casualties. We move out 2 miles NE and bivouac for night. 2 Gp. HQ 7 & 8 Colms have left for the S.D. area. Runners are sent to O.C. group to investigate firing and say whether S.D. can reasonably take place or not.

 

13

No word from O.C. 2 Gp re prospects for S.D. so S.D. cancelled. Further isolated mortar fire and small arms fire is heard this morning. The S.D. planes come over but do not drop. Battle groups are sent out and a skirmish ensues. All groups finally move  into bivouac at NWALABO. We farmed TAWSHAW on route.

 

14

Moved via SHINPHA – PEINNEGON – THETKEGYIN and crossed rly about 2300 hrs near milestone 560. Crossed PILE C. and went  into bivouac about 1 mile EAST of there. A very long march done on little or no food.

 

15

Crossed PYINDE R.F. to EAST then via KYAUKSIN, MEZA RIVER, BUDALET, SHWEGYAUNG, ZIBYUGYIN. Marched all day and all night and reached ZIBYUGYIN 06000hrs on 16

 

16

 S.D. at ZIBUGYIN. Blocks out on main track to NORTH and SOUTH. Japs arrived from MEZA at 1530 hrs and began mortaring S.D. area. They were too late and there are no casualties. Spent night in WUN-U TAUNG. Order of the day issued.

 

17

Crossed GANGAW RANGE and got our first sight of the IRRAWADDY. Followed course of INTAMUT CHAUNG and crossed  IRRAWADDY night  17/ 18 at HLEBO. 5 Colm. Some days previously had crossed SOUTH of TIGYAING 3 Colm at NYAUNGBINTHA, and  1 Gp at TAGAUNG. At HLEBO Bde HQ were all over with most of their animals by 0300 hrs 18th and Burif HQ 2Gp HQ 7 & 8 Colms were complette by 1800 hrs. a large nunber of native boats were available.

 

18

Moved to bivouac on TOKPAN CHAUNG where we found water by digging. It is apparent that water is going to be a difficulty.

 

19

moved to KYWEGAW CHAUNG near CHEIKTHIN. We farmed this village and got some rice. At this stage it is becoming increasingly obviously that fatigue, heat and lack of water are affecting the men nd it will be difficult to carry through the original programme of moving further EAST and still have sufficient strength to get back.

 

20

Left KWEGAW C. in early afternoon. Crossed NAMPAUNG track about 1900 hrs and then halted three hrs. Pushed on thro’ very bad country during night to spot height 564. Made bivouac HINTH C. 1000 hrs. Found Japanese bivouac.

 

21

It is very hot and we are feeling the pace so remain in same bivouac to rest.

 

22

Moved to SHWEGYIN C where found water in upper reaches by digging. Arranging S.D. at BAW. 3 5 &1Colms. Now all report themselves in area of NAM MIT.  All S.D. have for last two droppings had to be arranged through 4 Corps and not direct with AGARTALH. The RAF is unable to as a rule to get AGARTALA.

 

23

Moved to SALIN C. where found a good supply of water. Catch up with 7 8 & 2 Gp HQ. Corps have stated that air support further EAST will be impracticable so in view of this, the heat, shortage of water, and condition of men it is decided  to turn back. 5 Colm ordered to R.V.  3 Colm. Report heavy but successful engagement.  3 Colm & 1Gp ordered to get out, suggested route BHAMO – INDAYGI LAKE - CHINDWIN

 

24

Japanese open fire on platoon moving to S.D. area and battle ensues, I morning planes drop a certain amount of food in jungle then make off. In the afternoon they return but half stuff dropped not collected. Two parachute W/T operators dropped. Spent night 24/ 25 on the southern HETIN C.

 

25

The S.D. was completed today. Certain comforts dropped such as bully, cheese and rum. On  completion move to (?) on northern HEHTIN  C.

 

26

Joined in early hours by  5 Colm. Japs visit S.D. area but come no further. Spent day destroying papers and animals.

 

27

Left 0300 hrs N.W. to MYENE TAUNG then to HINTA CHAUNG where we are attacked with grenades at mid-day halt. 5 Colm. Drop off as a diversion remainder push on. Spent night on KYAUKTALON TAUNG

 

28

Moved 0200 hrs and march all day on a bearing. Finally reached INYWA early on 29. Found a number of boats but few oars or rowers available. Japs opened fire from WEST bank with automatics and mortars at first light after one platoon had crossed. Native oarsmen turned back and crossing is finally abandoned.

 

25/ 5

 

Lt Col Cooke

 

Major Andela (?)

 

Capt. Couhlan

 

Lts. Carbomel (?)

 

“     Roberts

 

“     Kelly

 

“     Edge

 

“     Wilkinson

 

“     Blow

 

“    Jellis

 

“     Oakes

 

 

Post script

 

This has been typed exactly as read, including original errors. The original document is in the form of a small, unlined school-type exercise book, marked SECRET (later erased). It is in good condition in November 2000. Where real doubt exists as to the text, this has been shown by means of red question-mark.

 

It is believed that this forms part of “Report on Operations of 77th Indian Infantry Brigade in Burma, February to June 1943, by Brigadier O.C. Wingate.

 

I hold Copy No 11 of this in bound form. I also have the original draft edited in pencil by Orde Wingate, marked “Brigadier’s original copy”. I have most of the original Appendices, with the report.

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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