Mission 204 - Special Service Detachment 2

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by Alanlweeks, Nov 18, 2012.

Tags:
  1. Alanlweeks

    Alanlweeks Member

    I am researching the life of one Henry Courtney Brocklehurst. He ended WW1 as an army captain, and resigned his commission in 1919. In 1940 he joined up again and was sent on a couple of special missions as a (temporary) Lt-Col; the first to Ethiopia where he crossed swords with Orde Wingate, and the second to Burma.

    In Burma he was in charge of one of the units which took part in Mission 204. His was Special Service Detachment 2, or SSD2. Both SSD1 & 2 stayed in Burma (unlike the others that were sent to China) where they were supposed to operate with Chinese units defending Burma against the Japs. In April 1942 they were forced to retreat from Taunggyi, apparently with a load of silver and bank notes, and various other people in tow, including some Indian soldiers.

    The group split up by mutual agreement near Bhamo and Brocklehurst and several others tried to make their way to India. However, he disappeared when trying to find his way down river in the mountains, and was presumed drowned.

    I would be very grateful if people could suggest good sources of information where I could find out more about his time in Burma. I have already read WO 361/185 in Kew (Burma: Special Service Detachment No. 2, Lieutenant Colonel Brocklehurst; statements of Corporal Cornec and others; ...) and the book "The Long Trek" by John Friend, one of the survivors from SSD2.

    There is more on Mission 204 at Kew, most of it about China and some closed for another 29 years. Most books on Mission 204 seem to be about China too.

    All suggestions welcome.

    Thanks.

    Alan
     
  2. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Alan, what was known as the China Commando Group had a School at Myamo in Burma where personnel were trained for missions in China, with the invasion of Burma the role of people at the school changed - some troops previously earmarked for China were employed in Burma. Try looking at the HS1 file series at the TNA
     
  3. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi Alan,

    I have always been interested in Brocklehurst as well. I include him in my research under the umbrella of the Maymyo Bush Warfare School men, some of whom became members of Chindit 1.

    To be honest having read the WO361/185 file and 'The Long Trek', I think you have dug deeper than most in regard to his story.

    This is what I have in my notes for him (nothing new for you I'm sure):

    Kenya born game warden. Died in the Burma retreat disrupting the Japaense advance. Officer I/C 2 Commando in Burma from Maymyo BWS. Involved with Wingate in Ethiopia, mutual dislike. Mentioned in books 'Fire in the Night' and 'Helen of Burma'. See also WO361/185 diary. Reportedly a nephew of Queen Mary. Remembered on the Rangoon Memorial, Face Panel 1. Taukkyan War Cemetery.

    I have a photographic copy of WO361/185, so if you ever need to go back to it then let me know.

    Steve
     
  4. Alanlweeks

    Alanlweeks Member

    Hi Alan,

    I have always been interested in Brocklehurst as well. I include him in my research under the umbrella of the Maymyo Bush Warfare School men, some of whom became members of Chindit 1.

    To be honest having read the WO361/185 file and 'The Long Trek', I think you have dug deeper than most in regard to his story.

    This is what I have in my notes for him (nothing new for you I'm sure):

    Kenya born game warden. Died in the Burma retreat disrupting the Japaense advance. Officer I/C 2 Commando in Burma from Maymyo BWS. Involved with Wingate in Ethiopia, mutual dislike. Mentioned in books 'Fire in the Night' and 'Helen of Burma'. See also WO361/185 diary. Reportedly a nephew of Queen Mary. Remembered on the Rangoon Memorial, Face Panel 1. Taukkyan War Cemetery.

    I have a photographic copy of WO361/185, so if you ever need to go back to it then let me know.

    Steve

    Steve, Many thanks for your reply.

    I was aware Brocklehurst was at the Maymyo Bush Warfare School, with Calvert, though I have found out little about his time there. I was NOT aware of the book "Helen in Burma". I found 8 references to him in this book on Google Books so have ordered a hard copy already. Thank you for that.
    I have “Fire in the Night” already, thanks. Brocklehurst appears briefly in a few other books that I know of: Orde Wingate by Christopher Sykes, Orde Wingate - Irregular Soldier by Trevor Royle, and The Middle East Commandos by C Messenger (his time in Abyssinia get a mention too). Unfortunately the info is not entirely consistent nor sufficient to get a really good picture of what he was doing.
    ___________________________________________________________________
    Re WO361/185 I too have digital photos of most of it, but looking through the other month I appear to have a page missing, and maybe more, though it's possible it was just not there. If you have it/them I would dearly love to have a copy:
    There is a statement by Sgt G F Amey - most easily recognised by the stamp top left
    MICROGRAM
    D/554/ 8
    SIMLA
    Firstly it says top right on this sheet “1/2” so there must have been a second page, but I don’t have it. Maybe there was something on the back I didn’t see?

    Secondly half way down the page he says: “In my previous report I gave details of the time, place, and apparent cause of death …”
    I don’t have his previous report anywhere – do you by any chance?
    ________________________________________________________________

    Regarding Brocklehurst’s earlier life I have a great deal of information and keep finding more. What you wrote is not entirely accurate.

    He was born in Swythamley on the Staffordshire/Cheshire Border (only a mile from where I’m writing this text – his life story is one of the projects of the local history group of which I am a member and we gave a talk on his life last year, but more and more info keeps turning up). After Eton he joined the 10th Hussars in India and fought with them in France and Flanders in WW1. In 1916 he joined the RFC and spent time in GEA and Palestine.

    After the war he became Game Warden of the Sudan for nearly 10 years (though occasionally one sees Kenyan Game warden on the ‘net – that is simply wrong). In 1935 he was the first Brit to shoot a giant panda and round here he is known for having a zoo on the Roaches in the late 1930s, from which wallabies escaped in WW2 – they were seen all over the Peak District until this (21st) century.

    He wasn’t related to Queen Mary in any way (the Brocklehursts made their money in silk in Macclesfield). However his wife, Lady Helen Mitford, nee Ogilvy, was daughter of the Countess of Airlie, who was Lady in Waiting to Queen Mary.

    Thanks again.

    Alan
     
    Smudger Jnr likes this.
  5. Alanlweeks

    Alanlweeks Member

    Alan, what was known as the China Commando Group had a School at Myamo in Burma where personnel were trained for missions in China, with the invasion of Burma the role of people at the school changed - some troops previously earmarked for China were employed in Burma. Try looking at the HS1 file series at the TNA

    Thanks, HS1 is not something I'm familiar with. Having had a quick look in the catalogue there certainly could be something there. I will have a closer look.
     
  6. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi Alan,

    I'm glad you got something from my rather poor level of knowledge on this fascinating gentleman. The book 'Helen of Burma' is a very good read in it's own right, so I hope you enjoy it.

    I do have the second page of Amey's report, but there is no sign of a previous report from him in my files. I will send you a pm and that way I can get the missing page over to you.

    I was considering including Brocklehurst as an extra curricular subject on my website, so if you fancy making a contribution to the cause that would be fantastic.:)

    Steve
     
  7. Alanlweeks

    Alanlweeks Member

    Hi Alan,

    I was considering including Brocklehurst as an extra curricular subject on my website, so if you fancy making a contribution to the cause that would be fantastic.:)

    Steve

    Steve, Happy to provide some info.

    Let me know what you're looking for. We're planning on writing a book about him but you won't want that much!

    Alan
     
  8. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Thanks Alan,

    Perhaps a potted history and a photo.:) Nothing to steal the thunder of your book of course. Seriously, it would be great to add him to the site at some point. I can sneak him in due to his Calvert, Wingate etc connections.
     
  9. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    ... but you won't want that much!

    ... but he will almost certainly post a link to your project if it works within his own research, which it sounds like it does... ;)

    Good luck with the project...

    Ken
     
  10. Pete Keane

    Pete Keane Senior Member

    If you havent already, have a look on the Commando Veterans Association website, where you will find info on Maymyo.

    I did have a war diary for it but gave it away as it was beyond my interest in a South Lancs officer - think I sent it to you, Steve?

    Regards

    Pete
     
  11. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    If you havent already, have a look on the Commando Veterans Association website, where you will find info on Maymyo.

    I did have a war diary for it but gave it away as it was beyond my interest in a South Lancs officer - think I sent it to you, Steve?

    Regards

    Pete

    Hello Pete,

    Good shout there.142 Commando Bgd

    You did send it to me you are right!:D WO172/611 at Kew.
     
  12. Alanlweeks

    Alanlweeks Member

    If you havent already, have a look on the Commando Veterans Association website, where you will find info on Maymyo.

    Regards

    Pete

    Thanks Pete,

    Been there, done that, but thanks anyway for the suggestion. Made contact with two guys who's father/great uncle were in Brocklehurst's group. They have sent some interesting info, and one is writing a book based on his father's notes from the time. That should prove illuminating.

    Some good photos of SSD1 and the Bush Warfare School on the Commando Vet website, but nothing of SSD2, alas.

    Alan
     
  13. In Helen of Burma, by Helen Rodriguez, she says on p.36

    'The next day Colonel Brocklehurst, who commanded Special Service Detachment 2 - a commando unit which had been trained at the secret Bush Warfare School under 'Mad Mike Calvert' and which specialised in the demolition of bridges - turned up at the hospital and warned me that they had been detailed to carry out an extensive programme of bridge-blowing as the Japs were quite close. Their task was to delay the advance and thus give the retreating army with its attendant mass of refugees as long a period of grace as possible. They had been operating quite near Taunggyi and had witnessed the horror of the first Japanese attacks. The colonel, a tall, raw-boned man with a huge revolver strapped to his side, resembled a fictional hero from some school boy's adventure book. He spoke quietly with a well-bred, well-educated voice, but his tones could not disguise the tungsten strength beneath the almost nonchalant exterior. He was, I learned later, a nephew of Queen Mary, and had been big game hunting with the Duke of Windsor when he was Prince of Wales. He had fought with Wingate in Abyssinia, and had a distinguished war record in the Middle East.'

    She goes on to describe 6 men the colonel detailed to help her at the hospital, especially a sgt called John from the East End.
     
  14. Alanlweeks

    Alanlweeks Member

    Thanks, I purchased Helen of Burma at the suggestion of Bamboo43 and indeed the second chapter is interesting re Brocklehurst and SSD2. I like the description of him personally, particularly the revolver strapped to his side (something I've read elsewhere too).

    As I said before he wasn’t related to Queen Mary in any way (the Brocklehursts made their money in silk in Macclesfield). However his wife, Lady Helen Mitford, nee Ogilvy, was daughter of the Countess of Airlie, who was Lady in Waiting to Queen Mary.

    The Sergeant called John was John Friend who wrote the book "The Long Trek" which is definitely worth reading.

    Alan
     
  15. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Thanks, I purchased Helen of Burma at the suggestion of Bamboo43 and indeed the second chapter is interesting re Brocklehurst and SSD2. I like the description of him personally, particularly the revolver strapped to his side (something I've read elsewhere too).

    As I said before he wasn’t related to Queen Mary in any way (the Brocklehursts made their money in silk in Macclesfield). However his wife, Lady Helen Mitford, nee Ogilvy, was daughter of the Countess of Airlie, who was Lady in Waiting to Queen Mary.

    The Sergeant called John was John Friend who wrote the book "The Long Trek" which is definitely worth reading.

    Alan

    Hi Alan,

    I wondered if that might be Friend. It's funny how you can read a book three or four years ago, then a person mentioned, in this case as 'John' can suddenly be identified and his story completely expanded, as has happened here.

    This is the true value of forums such as ours.
     
  16. I just read Trek Back from Burma by WG Burchett, which was really good. Annoyingly, I am trying to re-call if he mentions Brocklehurst. Still worth a read though.

    John Friend's book is at the unfriendly price of £16 + p&p on Amazon. I would like to get it, but not for that price...
     
  17. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    All Burchett's books are worth reading he was quite some journalist in his day.
    I picked up 'Long Trek' last week, hardback copy £14.60p. I was happy to pay that for the photograph alone.:)

    There is something in the air in regard to SSD2 me thinks!:D
     
  18. Alanlweeks

    Alanlweeks Member

    All Burchett's books are worth reading he was quite some journalist in his day.
    I picked up 'Long Trek' last week, hardback copy £14.60p. I was happy to pay that for the photograph alone.:)

    There is something in the air in regard to SSD2 me thinks!:D

    I just read Trek Back from Burma by WG Burchett, which was really good. Annoyingly, I am trying to re-call if he mentions Brocklehurst. Still worth a read though.

    John Friend's book is at the unfriendly price of £16 + p&p on Amazon. I would like to get it, but not for that price...

    Thanks for the suggestion on Burchett. Google Books does not reveal any references to Brocklehurst, alas. :(

    Got my paperback copy of The Long Trek for a fiver inc delivery :D, and told a friend to get another from Amazon at a similar price. Looks like there are only hardbacks at the moment.

    Steve, You have me intrigued about the photo. :confused: There's no photo in the paperback version of The Long Trek. Can you please tell me what the photo shows? Ta.

    Alan
     
  19. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi Alan,

    There is a photograph of the author and of a travel chit for their expedition into China in 1942.:)
     
  20. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    I have just finished 'The Long Trek' which I thoroughly enjoyed, although I am slightly frustrated that Friend used aliases for some of the men involved.

    I did manage to match up names in the book to CWGC entries for some though. It was interesting to read the early chapter about Taunggyi and match it up with the chapter from 'Helen of Burma'. Amazing to think that two separate people have written cross-over stories about their time in Burma which describe each other without either really knowing the other's full or correct name.:)
     

Share This Page