RWAFF in India & Burma 1944

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by Richard2058, Oct 24, 2014.

  1. Richard2058

    Richard2058 New Member

    I wonder if anyone can help.
    My father, Herbert Heginbotham, was originally commissioned into the RASC in 1943, No 292223. In February 1944 he was sent to Nigeria, to take charge of a platoon of the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF). After training for a while, they went to India, and in October I believe they started to move towards Burma. Also in October, he was made to transfer to an infantry regiment - and he chose the Lancashire Fusiliers, as he was a Lancashire lad. I have a zillion of his letters home (and my mother's replies), but he was always totally scrupulous about not revealing anything about role or geography - the only thing I have is his postal address - Lt, C Coy, 6 Aux Gp, GCR, RWAFF, SEA Command. He talks of an "interesting journey" on 22nd October, and a "busy fortnight" on 14th November, but then the amoebic dysentery struck again, and on 22nd November he writes "I can now tell you about the Burma frontier, long march, holes in ground, jungle, in the hills, waterways etc." He says he is back in hospital - in India, but does not say any more about where he was. I remember as a small child him telling me about a group of them living in tents in the jungle, including Alf Pinn (why his name should stick in the memory I do not know!), who was a (Grenadier?) guardsman - musi have been a motley crew! Stupidly, I failed to ask him again about his war service when I was more interested, before he died in 1995.
    My wife and I are off on holiday to Burma shortly, and would love to know where he might have been. I've tried googling a few of the obvious things with no result, so is there anyone here who could shed any light, both on where he might have been, and what the 6th Aux Group GCR would have been doing with a platoon of Nigerian soldiers commanded by an RASC officer?
    Thanks in anticipation.
  2. idler

    idler GeneralList

    The Auxiliary Groups were basically porters that carried supplies for the fighting elements of the two West African Divisions - 82 WA Div went as far as incorporating the porters' headband into their divisional sign:


    In fact, as they are not mentioned in 81 WA Div's history, it looks like 6 Aux Gp were with 82 WA Div. There is a potted history of the Div here to get you started, but no specific mention of 6 Aux Gp.
  3. Charpoy Chindit

    Charpoy Chindit Junior Member

    GCR stands for Gold Coast Regiment, so not Nigerian. They were the Auxiliary Group that provided porters for 2 WA Brigade, also consisting of units of the Gold Coast Regiment. They were indeed part of 82 WA Division.
    If he was back in an Indian hospital by 11/44 he may not have seen much of the campaign, which was then just starting. He may have rejoined, of course. The heaviest fighting was in 02/45-03/45, tailing off thereafter.
    The area of Burma in which they were operating was the Arakan, the coastal strip along the Bay of Bengal. The authorities have never been that keen on allowing foreigners to travel there; this is especially true now due to the recent outbreaks of ethnic violence, which you may have seen on the news. Good luck if you are thinking of a visit!
    Rothy likes this.
  4. zahonado

    zahonado Well-Known Member

    Interested in the LF connection. 1/8 LF were involved at Kohima, Ist Bat with Calverts 77 Brigade at White City and Mogaung. Any troops were described as infantry there, even if they were artillery originally. The LFs ended up in hospital at Dehra Dun, but I guess he could have gone back to original regiment.
  5. zahonado

    zahonado Well-Known Member

    Could he have been in this group?

    3rd West African Brigade
    Commander Brigadier A.H. Gillmore, succeeded by Brigadier A.H.G. Ricketts DSO
    Column 10 HQ column, 7th West African Field Company
    Columns 39, 66 6th Battalion Nigeria Regiment
    Columns 29, 35 7th Battalion Nigeria Regiment
    Columns 12, 43 12th Battalion Nigeria Regiment
    3rd West African Field Ambulance

    (FRom Chindit 2 order of battle)
  6. zahonado

    zahonado Well-Known Member

    Sorry, not sure the dates fit, so none of the above will be relevant if your dates are correct.
  7. Charpoy Chindit

    Charpoy Chindit Junior Member

    Yet another example of the Chindit obsession.
    Perhaps we need a new thread on "How important were the Chindits in the overall scheme of things?"
  8. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member


    Stepping back a bit, there was an Alfred William Pinn commissioned into the RASC in August 1943. Service number 292899, could be the man your father spoke about.

    London Gazette entry below:

    View attachment Pinn.pdf
  9. Richard2058

    Richard2058 New Member

    Many thanks to all for your informative and speedy replies - magnificent!
    In no particular order, thanks to idler for solving the mystery of what an RASC officer was doing with a platoon of African soldiers. Also for the potted history, which gives me some locations to investigate.
    Thanks to Charpoy Chindit for solving another riddle - my father often talked about being in the Gold Coast (as indeed was my father in law for a short time), but all I seemed to be finding out about the RWAFF was focussed on Nigeria. I don't believe he was ever fit enough again to rejoin the action, being still in hospital in January and March 1945 - the former being at 127 IBGH, wherever that was. He stayed in India, and from August 1945 was able to put his prewar professional skills to use as a personnel selection officer - staying there (and in and out of hospital) until demob in mid 1946.
    Thanks to bamboo43, whose Alf Pinn must be the one who's name I had remembered. I see he was commissioned on the 28th August 1943, exactly one week after my father. I've attached a photo of my father's OCTU passing out photo, complete with a number of signatures, but Alf, of course, is not on this one. HH Passing out 28.8.1943 OCTU.JPG My father is in the back row, right hand end. He and Alf must have met then though, and it looks from my second photo as if they travelled out east together. This is harder to see, but again HH is at the back, and Alf Pinn, AH Jones (?), and GA Anderson are marked with an X front right - but I have no idea who is which - only their signatures on the back. HH Far East.JPG
  10. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi Richard,

    I cannot be 100% sure of this, but I think 127 IGBH was at Secunderabad. I'm positive someone will know for certain.

    Best wishes

  11. Charpoy Chindit

    Charpoy Chindit Junior Member

    Yes, Secunderabad. Indian Base General Hospital (British Troops).
  12. Shiny 9th

    Shiny 9th Member Patron

    Richard, I have read the name Pinn before and have been looking through my papers to try and find it. I can now tell you that a Cpl [SIZE=13.63636302948px]640779 [/SIZE]Albert John Pinn served with the 9th Battalion, The Royal Sussex Rgt. in Burma. He is mentioned in Murray Gilling's Book, "The Shiny 9th " on page 51 where the Battalion were in Shillong, prior to moving into Northern Burma and action. He is said to have been part of a Concert Party during the last week before moving.I do not have exact date to hand but it would have been around May 1944. Sadly Cpl. Pinn was killed later that year on 16.8.1944 in Northern Burma. The above book has descriptions, quoted from an account by one Ron Reynolds of West African Chindits being dug in on Hill 60,and bombarded by Chinese artillery. Your research is in a pretty complicated area. If you think this Cpl Pinn was the one referred to I can give more info on where to find copies of " The Shiny 9th"
  13. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    Have you thought about trying the War Diaries of the units you have identified at Kew? If he was an officer they are more often mentioned (rarely is a private soldier) and there are sometimes a monthly list of the officers and their postings, trips to courses, hospitalisation etc etc
  14. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Far East is not my field but looking at the TNA for RWAFF provides :

    'History of 3rd Battalion, The Gold Coast Regiment RWAFF in the Arakan Campaign, October 1944 - May 1945'.
    Reference: Stockwell 5/7/4
    Date: [1945-46]
    Held by: King's College London: Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, not available at The National Archives

    CO 820/55/13
    RWAFF: writing of an official history
    Date: 1945-1947
    Held by: The National Archives, Kew
    Former reference in its original department 34545
    Legal status: Public Record

    CO 820/55/2
    RWAFF and KAR: commissioned and non-commissioned officers; reinforcements
    Date: 1944
    Held by: The National Archives, Kew
    Former reference in its original department 34438
    Legal status: Public Record

  15. John Salkeld

    John Salkeld New Member

    Yes, my father was serving with the R.A.M.C. at 127 I.B.G.H at Secunderabad from May 1942 until No 1945.
    Colin Benton and Rothy like this.
  16. Rothy

    Rothy Well-Known Member


    The 82nd (W.A.) Infantry Division arrived in India from West Africa on 1st June 1944 and undertook training in the Deccan region of southern India. By October 1944 it was at Ranchi from where it first moved to Chiringa, about mid way between Chittagong and Cox's Bazaar in what is now Bangladesh. (British Official History)

    According to Joslen, the 2nd (West Africa) Infantry Brigade entered Burma on 18th October 1944. The 2nd Brigade was the first brigade of the division to arrive in the operational zone and began to concentrate in Taung Bazaar (Bazar) on the Kalapanzin River, to the north of Buithidaung, on 8th November. This was complete by 11th November and the Brigade assumed responsibility for the Kalapanzin area. The 2nd (W.A.) Brigade remained at Taung Bazaar until relieved by the 4th (W.A.) Infantry Brigade sometime on or after 29th November. (Indian Official History)

    The 1st Lancashire Fusiliers were at Dehra Dun during this period, acting as GHQ Troops under Central Command. The Battalion was stationed at Lucknow by/on 1st January 1945 under Lucknow District. (Joslen)

    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  17. Colin Benton

    Colin Benton New Member


    Whilst this is off topic I thought John Salkeld in particular would be interested in this photo. My father, Douglas Benton, (or Bidwell-Benton, I'm not sure which name he used at this time) was with 127 IBGH (and attached squadron?) in Secunderabad. There is no date, however it would be somewhere between 43-45. I'm not able to make out the first three words at the bottom of the picture.

    My father is in the back row, second from the left

    127 IBGH (BT) and att sqdn.jpg
    bamboo43 likes this.
  18. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Thanks for posting the photograph Colin and for your message on my profile.
  19. Colin Benton

    Colin Benton New Member

    You're welcome :)
    bamboo43 likes this.

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