Kohima Casualties from 24 Reinforcement Camp

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by Skoyen89, Nov 9, 2020.

  1. lionboxer

    lionboxer Member

    Amongst the diaries that I have (that you probably supplied me with!) I'm sure I read somewhere the date when 20 Rft Camp were no longer able to accept new reinforcements from base and hospitals. 20 Rft Camp diary is not extant, presumably lost during the action at Lion Box so would have been in one of the higher formation diaries, possibly HQ 20 Division. Obviously, they couldn't accept reinforcements during the fighting when they were cut off, but this would have been in the period after their fighting withdrawal to Imphal (7th April) when there would have been confusion and major problems with the locating and accommodating of around fifteen hundred men. I should imagine that the other three officers, 2nd Lt's Simpson, Moore and Astrop, posted to 2nd Border with Lt Young on 11th April were already present in 20 Rft Camp at the time of the fighting. Quite why it seemed so urgent to get Lt Young back to his unit at this time of disruption, especially with his recent convalescence and wounding at Kohima I'm not sure, and as you correctly state we'll probably never know! Maybe his service record could throw more light on this but quite how it can be accessed is another problem.
    Keep digging away with this Tony.
  2. lionboxer

    lionboxer Member

    Trawling through the war diary of 100 India Infantry Brigade has revealed a message stating that 2nd Border were eleven officers deficient and required urgent reinforcements and to send any available to complete numbers. Now we know why Lt Young was rushed back to 2nd Border via 20 Rft Camp. The other three officers posted with him on the 11th April left Comilla on 6th April with three others leaving Gaya after their air passage to Imphal had been urged as high priority!
    Further looking through 100 Bde diary reveals that on the 6th April a message from 4 Corps stating that for operational reasons (the fighting at Lion Box) no reinforcements can be moved from 20 Rft Camp before 10th April at the earliest. Movement after that date would be only authorised by 4 Corps.
  3. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    Royal Artillery Casualties remembered on the Rangoon Memorial

    I have been going through the CWGC looking for Royal Artillery men who are commemorated there and who have no known grave to identify if any could have been part of the defence of Kohima. There are a number who were part of the 1944 Chindit expedition and some who I could identify as being involved in other battles, such as Imphal and the Arakan. A small number remain unclear and I will keep working on them but I believe the following were part of the defence of Kohima:

    WRIGHT Frederick Theodore

    Gnr, 1684440

    53 HAA Regt, RA

    Killed in Action on 12 April 1944 and commemorated on the Rangoon Memorial. His RA Casualty Card confirms he was killed at Kohima.

    Aged 32 he was born in Holloway, London and was the son of Robert George and Susan Wright. He was the husband of Kathleen Rosaline Wright of Harringey.

    MATTICK Kenneth Vaux

    Gnr, 1141468

    28 Field Regt, RA

    Killed in action on 9 April 1944 and remembered on the Rangoon Memorial.

    He was born on 4 Feb 1921 to Reginald and Hilda Mattick of Manor Farm, Chilcompton Somerset. He was their eldest surviving son at the time of his death.

    In 1939 he was single and a Farm Assistant living and working at Gatcombe Farm, Long Ashton. In the summer of 1942 he married Gwladys Parry locally and she lived at Kennel Farm, Long Ashton in 1944 when a notice was placed in the Somerset Guardian on 19 May 1944.

    There is no mention of a casualty on 9 April 1944 in the War Diary of 28 (J) Field Regiment and ‘little activity’ around that date. The Regiment was in the area east of Kanglatombi with 5th Indian Division at the time and other casualties were mentioned and named, such as Gnr Beattie who was KIA in an OP at about that time. It was too late for the Lion Box at Kanglatombi which had been evacuated by that time so it is reasonable to assume he was killed at Kohima.

    DOWNIE Harry

    Gnr, 1097889

    158 Field Regt, RA

    Killed in Action in the period from 6 to 18 April 1944. He is commemorated on the Rangoon Memorial as he has no known grave. He appeared on Casualty List No. 1461 (with effect from 1 June 1944) with the same date range and given those dates it is likely he was killed at Kohima.

    He was aged 32 at the time of his death but there are no family details on his CWGC entry. His RA Casualty Card says he was born in Pendleton, Salford, Lancs and was living there when he was attested in 1940. He is also commemorated on the headstone of his mother who is given as Anne Downie and seems to have died before the war.

    Based on the above Harry Downie was born on 20 Sept 1911. He married Sarah Jane Chadwick in the summer of 1936 in the Salford area – she was born on 14 June 1918. In 1939 they were both living at 47 Chaney Street, Salford; he was a builder’s labourer and she was a cotton doubler. They may have had a child by that time and she appears to have remarried at some time after his death and took the surname Corrie.

    WILSON Robert

    Gnr; 1714509

    78 LAA Regt, RA

    Killed In Action 5 to 8 April 1944 and remembered on the Rangoon Memorial. His death was recorded in Casualty List No. 1451 dated 20 May 1944 but the date was not recorded (DNR).

    78 LAA Regiment was serving in the Imphal area at the time of Gnr Wilson’s death, having moved there in March 1944 from Assam. There is no direct evidence of Wilson having been at Kohima but the date range recorded suggests he was not with his unit and coincides with the start of the siege.

    Wilson was aged 35 and born in London 15 March 1909 in Liverpool. He married Barbara P Bartlett of Cirencester in Q3 1939. In the 1939 Register he is shown as living in Cirencester at 17 Dollar Street with his wife who was born in 1920. He was a General Hand in a milk factory. After the war his wife remarried and took on the name Brennan.

    GAMMONS Robert John

    Gnr; 952196

    158 Field Regt, RA

    He is recorded on the Rangoon Memorial as having no known grave. He first appeared on the Casualty List on 29 Nov 1944 (No. 1616) as Missing Believed Killed on ‘Approximately 18 April 1944’ – a full seven months after his death. This was subsequently amended to ‘Presumed Died of Wounds On or Shortly After 18 April 1944’ by Casualty List No. 1960. As a result his RA Casualty Card says he died of wounds ‘on or shortly after 18 April 1944’.

    However in the War Diary of 158 Field Regiment there are two copies of Form W-3009 for 8 April and 8 May 1944 and in both of them he is noted as not being with the Regiment and in a small list of ‘Other Ranks’ whose return to the unit is requested. In Gammon’s case he was believed to be at 24 Reinforcement Camp. This, the date of death and the delay in recording his death, suggests that he was at Kohima when he was killed.

    Aged 26 he was born in Woodford Wells, Essex to Herbert and Kate Gammons. He was the husband of GM Gammons of Buckhurst Hill, Essex.

    TOWN Albert Charles

    Gnr; 941223

    9 Field Regt, RA

    Gunner Town was Killed In Action on 14 April 1944 and is commemorated on the Rangoon Memorial. Six months after his death he was recorded in the Casualty List No. 1574 with a date of 1 – 14 April 1944 but this was amended a month later to 14 April 1944, as used by the CWGC. His RA Casualty Card confirms he was killed at Kohima.

    His CWGC record gives his age at the time of his death as 25 but otherwise has no details of his family. However two newspaper postings give more detail; his marriage in 1941 was detailed in the paper and newspaper 'in memorium' posting in 1948 by his family states he was killed at Kohima on 14 April 1944.

    In 1941 he is described as Driver Albert Charles Town, known as Jim, and he was the youngest son of Mr and Mrs A Town of Marshall Cottage, Chart Sutton, Tonbridge. He was born on 21 Nov 1918 in Hollingbourne, Kent. In 1939 he was living in Maidstone at 20 Albert Street with the Shoebridge family and was employed as a Lorry Driver’s Mate; Mr Shoebridge was a Lorry Driver. ‘Jim’ Town was single in 1939 but in February 1941 he married Doris Downing of Macclesfield at St Johns Church in Macclesfield.

    Attached Files:

  4. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    On my recent trip to Kew I concentrated on the smaller units involved in the defence of Kohima. I had found that there was a file for the convalescent depot at Kohima that was mentioned in a number of the papers and books as a source, with 24 Reinforcement Depot, of the 'odds and sods' who made up the composite companies. There wasn't a list of names but WO177/2053 21 ICD (Indian Convalescent Depot) provided some information on how many of the men got to be involved in Kohima when their unit was involved at Imphal.

    21 Indian Convalescent Depot (BT)

    This was in Kohima from at least November 1943 and taking convalescent patients from 49 and 53 Indian General Hospitals which were also located in Kohima. Its task was to rebuild the soldier’s physical capability after a period of time spent in hospital. It was commanded by a RAMC Officer but otherwise had a staff of up to a dozen NCOs attached from British units in the area. It also had a staff of about 50 Indian soldiers and non-combatants to help run the camp.

    On 9 March 1944 the Kohima area was being put into a state of defence and the Depot was called to provide 100 comparatively fit men for active duties as a Company, led by a Company Commander who was himself a convalescent. It was also to provide 50 men to man static defence positions at Battalion HQ (?).

    The 100 men were to be drawn from Grades I and II and the 50 were to be drawn from the remainder of Grade II and the fittest of Grade III. The remainder of the men in the Depot were to defend the Depot camp area.

    There were some challenges to this as the men would not know their officers or the ground on which they were to fight. There was a challenge in getting enough men at the same fitness level. Finally the scratch Company would not have the same weapons, support and logistics as a normal Infantry Company. For instance on 13 March 250 rifles were delivered to the Depot from the stores for issue to the combatant parties, and these were degreased and made ready.

    On 10 March the War Diary notes ‘ Large scale evacuation of forward medical units appears to be taking place’. That day 93 men were admitted to the convalescent depot but some were in very poor condition and 6 had to be re-hospitalised. 60% of those admitted were new malaria patients and they were being treated with mepacrine and pamaquim. The remainder were made up of patients with dysentery or gunshot wounds. It had been noted in January that the number of patients received who had been hospitalised with typhus had increased.

    In 19 March there was a practice manning of defences and all the defences were led by convalescent officers. At 1600hrs the next day the defences were to be manned and this was achieved in 45 minutes. The Company was stationed two miles away from the depot at FSD and the two platoons about ¾ of a mile away at ‘Bn HQ’. The Camp Defence Group pulled back to inner defence positions around the Treasury at dusk. (This suggests that the Depot may have been on Treasury and BN HQ could have been on Summerhouse Hill).

    On 21 March all patients in hospitals and all convalescents not fit enough to fight were to be evacuated in the next 36 hours but the staff and equipment of the Depot would remain. The next day all ‘unfits’ in the in the BN HQ Detachment were withdrawn and replaced by Grade II men.

    On 23 March the defence of the Depot was handed over to the Assam Rifles who occupied the positions that had been created. The unfit convalescent patients started to be evacuated at 0930, twenty to a truck, and in all 242 left. A roll of those leaving was maintained and given to the officer accompanying them in the last truck.

    At the same time, all convalescents from the Depot who were to remain as part of the defence of Kohima were discharged, on paper, to 24 Reinforcement Camp. The Depot staff were allocated a small area to defend under the command of the Assam Rifles. The main task for those remaining on 23 and 24 March was to take down tents and clear fields of fire.

    However on 24 March the Depot and its staff were warned they would be relocated to Manipur Road as soon as transport was available but within ten minutes it had arrived and was waiting! The trucks were packed and left, starting at 1240hrs on 25 March and the last leaving that night, arriving at the railway station at 0530hrs. The equipment and personnel of the Depot was loaded onto trains for Dilemgargh (or Dibrugargh?) which they reached on the morning of 27 March. The Depot set up there in an unsatisfactory location but did not stay there long as on 9 April it was moved to Comilla where it set up near 23 Reinforcement Camp and 14 BGH.

    Meanwhile the convalescent soldiers left at Kohima prepared to take part in its defence. They were recorded as part of 24 Reinforcement Camp but most had not actually visited or been part of the camp which was outside Kohima at Merema.
  5. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    I haven't found any records on 24 Reinforcement Camp but in the 202 LOC File there is an interesting letter ion 30 Jan 1944 asking for officers to be posted to the camp. The one officer mentioned by name in it (Lt JA Patrick) was actively involved in the defence and won a MC so it is likely that others posted as a result of this were involved as well.

  6. lionboxer

    lionboxer Member

    Well done Tony, very interesting.
    By this time, early 1944, 24 Rft Camp had become responsible for the reinforcements of 256 Sub Area L of C, with the newly arrived 25 Rft Camp near Imphal taking over the holding of reinforcements for 23 Division originally held at Kohima with 24 Rft Camp.This most probably means there were more L of C troops held there than infantry reinforcements, making the defence of Kohima even more remarkable.

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