16th Battalion of the 82nd West African Division (Royal West African Frontier Force)

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by John Melling, Feb 4, 2019.

  1. John Melling

    John Melling New Member

    My mum has recently been transcribing my late grandads (William Cowell) diary pages\stories

    He managed to write down a bit about his time in the Army

    I have tried to look for 16th Battalion of the 82nd Division. But not found anything yet !

    Thought you would like to read his brief story...………

    John Melling

    To be excused from going to war, I had to face The War Agricultural Committee, but for some unknown reason declined, thus three months after my eighteenth birthday I was conscripted into the army, on the
    eighteenth of April 1944.
    In some ways I was naïve of the outer world, and being only 5ft 4 1/4 inches, and weighing only
    eight stone four pounds, I did not think of myself as fit. I was amazed when the doctors at my army
    medical asked me was I an athlete, or a boxer and said I was very fit. I was sent to join the Green
    Howards regiment at Gallowgate Camp near Richmond Yorkshire. I liked the army life, was used to
    living away from home, enjoyed the food, was taught discipline and many things which even today
    play a part in my everyday life. After six weeks I was asked what I would like to do in the army. I
    said join the Veterinary Corps. They laughed and posted me as a rifleman, in the Kings Royal Rifle
    Corps, at the KOYLE Barracks at Strensal, Nr York.
    I made several friends there, became a marksman with rifle,machine gun, etc, for which I was paid
    6p per week. I qualified as a radio driver operator, for which I received another 6p per week. We
    moved to Darlington, to do exercises on the moors prior to going to fight in France. (HE NEVER ENDED UP GOING TO FRANCE)
    I got vaccine fever, just when my company was going abroad. I was in hospital, and when I came out all the
    people I knew had gone. I started life anew, in a different company and along with seven other men
    was promoted to full corporal, and sent to join the Royal West African Frontier in Assam.
    It was a long voyage to India, which I enjoyed. Aboard ship our quarters were cramped and
    crowded, but I spent most of my time on deck. When we reached Bombay I was quite excited. I
    could smell India, it was my first time abroad, and everything and everybody was different. Jeans
    and trainers had not yet made an appearance here, and all native dress was traditional except for the
    Anglo Indians. E were sent to a transit camp called Kalyan, and were taught how to live and
    behave, in India. I thought the army in general behaved rather harshly towards the lower caste
    Indians, and decided this would not be my way.
    Our next move was to Calcutta by train to me an aye opening journey. We went the long way across
    the plains of India. The train had wooden seats like park benches, and there was no glass in the
    windows but the temperature was high, so it didn't bother us. The engine was fired by wood so we
    had to make many steps to load up with wood.
    When we got to Calcutta we were taken to a camp called Barrackpore Bridge, beside a river, a
    holding camp. We went into the city often, rode the trams, which in itself was a feat of endurance.
    They were packed inside and out, on the roof, everywhere. Saw the race course by Chewringi, and
    in all had a good time.
    We left Calcutta by train, and after a couple of days went up the Brama Putra by ferry, but to be
    honest it looked and felt more like a pirate ship. Then by tram to Comilla in Assam, and by wagon
    from there to the West Africans Camp. The 16th Battalion of the 82nd division. We were split up and
    assigned to companies, given a 'boy' servant and left to our own devises for a couple of days. The
    camp was primitive straw huts, known as Bashes, rope and wood beds, known as chargoys, and
    imitation goatskin type bags to hold drinking water. I soon settled in. we were sent on a course to
    learn the Housa language, which was like a trade language used in West Africa.
    I stayed with the West Africans till the end of the war with Japan. I was offered a war substantiated
    rank of Colour Sgt if I would go to the Gold Coast with the West Africans, but I declined as it was
    known as the white mans grave. Thus I was sent back to the British Army with the rank of private.
    I was sent all over the place, Bengal, Calcutta, Singapore and Malaya, eventually ending up making
    a camp for the 2 nd Buffs, who were coming back from Sumatra. I ended up with them in Singapore,
    and was eventually released from the army on B reserves to do work of national importance.( farm
    Charley Fortnum and PackRat like this.
  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

  3. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Rothy likes this.
  4. idler

    idler GeneralList

    '16th' may be a misread of 10th Bn. The Nigeria Regiment but the only way to be sure is his service record.
  5. Maureene

    Maureene Well-Known Member

    The Burma Operations for the West Africa Frontier Force are included in the following book available online

    The History of the Royal West African Frontier Force by Colonel A. Haywood and Brigadier F.A.S.Clarke. 1964. lib.militaryarchive.co.uk, now archived at Archive.org. Originally required Flash turned on, this requirement may still apply - if you see a Flash icon, click it. Transcribed version.

  6. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Thanks as always Maureen. This is a very timely link, as I am currently in conversation with three Chindit families all of whom have an interest in the 12th Nigerian's of 3rd West African Brigade (Chindit 2).

  7. John Melling

    John Melling New Member

    Thank for the replies, Yes it looks like my Grandad may have got a little confused.
    I have found his records at my mums house
    When I get chance I will upload some of the pages for you to look at :D

    I will have a look at the above links as well

    Something that did make me wonder was, he was doing training in 1944 to go to France, aka D-DAY etc and ended up in hospital instead !!
    Missing out on D-DAY and therefore fate intervened , otherwise I would not be here today.


    John :flaguk:
    Hebridean Chindit likes this.
  8. Maureene

    Maureene Well-Known Member

    The following is a review of a book
    Tales from the King's African Rifles by John Nunneley London Askari Books 1998

    Review by Timothy Parsons African Affairs, Vol. 98, No. 393 (Oct., 1999), pp. 599-600

    John Nunneley was an officer in the 3/6 KAR during the Ethiopian and Burma Campaigns.

    "Although the book has its share of harrowing war stories, Nunneley is also a keen observer of military life. Social historians will be particularly interested in his recollections of day-to-day life in the KAR, which include discipline, camaraderie, clothing, rations, accommodation and even the debate over sanctioned military prostitution".

    "Finally, the most striking and thought-provoking sections of the book deal with Nunneley's experiences in the jungles of Burma. Where Moyse-Bartlett's official history makes little mention of African perspectives on the fighting, Nunneley provides an unvarnished first-hand account of his battalion's encounters with the Japanese".

    davidbfpo likes this.
  9. Maureene

    Maureene Well-Known Member

    There is reference in the following link to a Journal called Journal of the Royal West African Frontier Force

    Issue 2 published in January 2012 included an article ‘White City, Major-General Orde Wingate’s Special Chindit Force, Burma 1944′ . "The Chindits, who were trained to infiltrate behind Japanese lines, included many West African servicemen".
    Royal West African Frontier Force – Cambridge University Library Special Collections

    A second part appeared in issue 3
    BRITISH COLONIAL AFRICA RESEARCH - RWADD JOURNAL Note this is only a reference to the article, not the actual article.

    Issues 2-3 appear to be available IWM.

  10. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Thanks as always Maureen. I will pass these details on to my recent family enquiries with RWAFF connections. They will be thrilled by the existence of the Journals.


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