Taukkyan War Cemetery (Burma) - Capt F C N Gwatkin & Lt A W Gwatkin, both died 14 Mar 1945.

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by Carl, Jan 7, 2016.

  1. Carl

    Carl Now resident in Belgium...

    I am in the process of doing some research on the Burma conflict prior to visiting the country later this year. As part of the trip I will be visiting the Taukkyan War Cemetery in Yangon. During a check of the casualty records for those commemorated in the Cemetery I came across the following entries. The two brothers, the sons of Major General Sir Frederick GWATKIN, Kt, C.B., D.S.O., M.C., serving with different regiments, fell on the same day and are buried side by side in the cemetery.

    I wondered if anyone had any more detail on the circumstances of both of their deaths. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

    Surname GWATKIN
    Initials A W
    Age 21
    Date of Death 14/03/1945
    Rank Lieutenant
    Regiment 19th King George V's Own Lancers, I.A.C.
    Country Myanmar
    Serv No. 'EC/6638'
    Cemetery Memorial TAUKKYAN WAR CEMETERY
    Grave Ref 20. A. 2.

    Surname GWATKIN
    Initials F C N
    Age 22
    Date of Death 14/03/1945
    Rank Captain
    Regiment Royal Deccan Horse (9th Horse), I.A.C.
    Country Myanmar
    Service Number 'EC/4681'
    Graves Reference 20. A. 3.


    Many thanks in advance,


    Attached Files:

  2. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi Carl,

    I saw your post and was hoping to be able to provide some info for you, but have failed to do so from books on the Burma campaign that I possess.

    However, from the extra documents now provided on the CWGC website for WW2 casualties, there are original burial forms for both brothers.

    Archibald was originally buried at Akyab War Cemetery (see attachment).

    Whilst Frederick was originally buried at Meiktila War Cemetery. These locations are very much part of the drive by the 14th Army to expel the Japanese from Burma and might give you a clue as to where the brothers served and of course, sadly died.

    Other members on the forum are excellent at pinpointing where a particular unit served at a particular time. Hopefully, they can add more to the story.


    Carl likes this.
  3. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

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  4. Carl

    Carl Now resident in Belgium...

  5. Matt Poole

    Matt Poole Member

    Hi, Carl,

    All I can say is...it's a small world.

    My original research, started in 1990, was to find out the story of 29 February 1944, when two RAF 159 Sqn Liberators were shot down over Rangoon. My mom's first husband, Sgt George Plank, was one of the nine from BZ962 (the entire crew) never seen again. Among the missing was Ansel Stout, who was raised in India.

    Lo and behold, the Stout family eventually found me via the Internet, and I was put in touch with Ansel's brother-in-law, Tony Lumb. Tony, during the war, was in the Royal Deccan Horse. Post-war he went with Pakistan at the time of the Partition (he was raised in Lahore) and rose to the rank of Brigadier. He emigrated to Canada and died in 2013. A real gentleman.

    Digging through my files, I found two letters he wrote me: 17 Sept and 23 October 2001. From the first letter:

    After leaving Teachers' College I taught for a year at St. George's College in Mussourie, India, before applying for a commission in the army. Was commissioned into the Royal Deccan Horse, saw action in Burma with the 14th Army, was wounded at Meiktila, opted for the Pakistan Army in 1947 at Partition, commanded an armoured brigade in the 1965 War with India. Left for Canada in 1967.

    And from the second letter:

    The 'Road to Rangoon' brought back some happy and some sad memories. My regiment, the Royal Deccan Horse, was a part of 255 Independent Tank Brigade that crossed the Irrawaddy at Pagan (the place of a thousand temples) and then dashed for Meiktila which was captured after a week of bloody fighting. With their line of communication between Rangoon and Mandalay cut by the loss of Meiktila, Japanese forces closed in on the town, and we spent the next fortnight doing sweeps of the countryside breaking up concentrations of enemy forces. It was on one of these operations that I received a Japanese grenade at the back of my head. Edward House, Freddy Gwatkin, and Jim Smith also bought it on these sweeps. Guy Nixon was killed in the fighting for Meiktila.

    This spurred me into asking Mike Sharpe, my Royal British Legion Rangoon Pilgrimage roomie in '93, to take grave photos during his later visit to Taukkyan War Cemetery (where his brother is buried). Maybe I didn't ask Mike for the Nixon grave photo, but I did receive the bonus of a photo of the Gwatkin brothers' side-by-side graves.

    Now that's SAD...the loss of brothers, on the same day -- but they are buried together, each grave marker bearing the same inscription chosen by the family. I hope there was a touch of comfort for their family that the brothers were buried side-by-side.

    So, here you go...the photos and just a little about Fred's death. Perhaps this will help you to uncover more of the story.

    No doubt you will find your Taukkyan War Cemetery visit to be both stirring and bittersweet.



    Attached Files:

  6. Peccavi

    Peccavi Senior Member

    The 19th KGVO Lancers (formerly Fane's horse) were equipped with Shermans and in January 1945, followed up the Commando landings at first at Mybon and then later at Kangaw. They relieved 44 RM Commando, who had fought a desperate action to successfully hold Pinner. This part of the Arakan campaign culminated in the Commando action on Hill170 on 31st January which again was successfully held, with some help from the 19th Lancers.

    The remnant of the Japanese Army in the Arakan was pursued down the Coastal strip but turned to make a rearguard effort at Tamandu. This was taken by by 25th Division on 6th March of which 19th Lancers were part. It was the DIvision's last action and they handed over to the West Africans.

    So my guess is that Archibald was unlucky enough to be KIA at this point since his death is recorded as 4th March.

    It would be logical to bury the dead from this battle at Akyab since this is the main port and key to the Arakan.
    Carl likes this.
  7. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    Just in case it's been missed... dates of death can often be "common" as part of the Military requiring records be kept in order... when you look up records you can often find "groups" of people lumped together where there is no certain date of death, just for the sake of good order...

    My father noted the names of the deaths of two comrades that fell during the "Blackpool" conflict, but the records shifted them... one by circa 3 weeks, the other by nearly 2 months...

    Good luck with the research...

    Carl likes this.
  8. Carl

    Carl Now resident in Belgium...


    The letters you received from Brig (Retd) Lumb certainly explain the action which Frederick was involved in, an insight that would have otherwise been very hard to find as I am learning when trying to research I A C regiments. Thank you for sharing.

    I was going to offer to take a photo of the grave of Guy Nixon, however, I cannot see him on the casualty records for the cemetery. Perhaps he was missing.
    Let me know if there is anything else you would like me to look into while over there. If I get time I will try to help where I can.

    Thanks again,

  9. Carl

    Carl Now resident in Belgium...

    Thanks Kenny. Yes, 100% agree with your observation on the dates of death. I'm not saying this was the done thing, I'm sure 99% are recorded accurately, however, you can see how dates could get mixed up or batched. Your statement reference your fathers colleagues is quite shocking though, 2 months!?!

    Usually war diaries can be invaluable to pinpointing specific days when individuals were lost, especially for officers as they are usually named (unlike other ranks). I'm in the process of trying to find the war diaries (if they exist) for the KGVO Lancers and the Royal Deccan Horse, however, not come across them yet.

    Best regards,

  10. Carl

    Carl Now resident in Belgium...


    Thanks for this. Its given me a starting point on researching Archibald. The date of death is recorded as the 14th March (not the 4th). This means he died after the action you mention above. There could be a number of reasons for this; 1. he wasn't actually serving with his parent regiment, 2. the date of death is wrong, or 3. he was killed in a later action or follow up skirmishes.

  11. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member


    I had a quick look around the National Archives search engine and a few hits came up for Royal Deccan Horse and KGVO Lancers, but annoyingly not for 1945:

    WO172/2252-Deccan Horse January 1943
    WO172/4610-Deccan Horse Late 1944
    WO172/10057-Deccan Horse 1946

    WO172/4612-KGVO Last quarter 1944.

    I wonder if the diaries for 1945 are hidden amongst the numerical cavalry papers for Indian units. These diaries begin with reference WO172/7346 and continue on numerically from there.

    Carl likes this.
  12. Peccavi

    Peccavi Senior Member

    Hi Carl - sorry about wrong date.

    Scanned your write up too quick. I believe that the last of the fighting at Tamandu died down around the 10th March. The Japanese were pursued to An but now by the West Africans. I don't think these had a tank unit. So maybe 19th Lancers were attached.

    I would be careful about accepting dates of death - I found my uncle's death, Kangaw, was incorrect by 4 days.
  13. Carl

    Carl Now resident in Belgium...

    Peccavi. No problem at all. Thank you for your contribution. Hopefully I'll find a little gem somewhere that will clear things up, not that it matters too much.

    Steve - Thanks also, I've had a quick look at the National Archive Site and unfortunately they're not available digitally. Never mind, already got some brilliant information from yourself, Matt and the likes above as well as from elsewhere. Besides, got an even bigger task of putting together a piece on the Fall of Mandalay before I travel there..... a lot of reading to do! All very interesting and eye opening though.

    p.s. Does anyone know how to change the Member Title wording above your avatar? I'm no longer resident in Sudan :)
  14. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    I think that these are war diaries you are looking for

    WO 172/7350 - 9 Indian Cavalry, 1945 Jan.- Nov.
    WO 172/7355 - 19 Indian Cavalry, 1945 Jan.- July, Sept.
    WO 172/7356 - 19 Indian Cavalry A. Sqn., 1945 Jan.- May
  15. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member


    I know this information will have come too late for your trip, but both brothers medals are up for sale next year, possibly along with those of their father:
    Lot Preview, Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (1 & 2 March 2017) | Dix Noonan Webb

    From the info with the medals:

    Frederick Charles Nicol Gwatkin was born in 1923, the elder son of Major-General Sir Frederick Gwatkin, Indian Army, and served with the Royal Deccan Horse, the Regiment of which his father was Colonel, during the Second World War. He was killed in action at Meiktila, Burma, on 14 March 1945, on the same day that his only brother Archibald was also killed in action, and they are buried alongside each other in Taukkyan War Cemetery, Burma.

    Archibald Willoughby Gwatkin was born in 1924, the younger son of Major-General Sir Frederick Gwatkin, Indian Army, and served with the 19th (King George’s Own) Lancers, Indian Army, during the Second World War. He was killed in action at Shaukchon, Burma, on 14 March 1945, on the same day that his only brother Frederick was also killed in action, and they are buried alongside each other in Taukkyan War Cemetery, Burma.

    Last edited: Dec 9, 2016
    Carl likes this.
  16. Carl

    Carl Now resident in Belgium...

    Hi Steve,

    Great find with the medals! My Burma trip seems like such a long time ago, although only Feb this year! I told the story of the Gwatkin brothers to the other people on the trip at their grave side. Taukkyan Cemetery has so many stories such as this hidden amongst the graves and the memorial. Burma itself is a stunning place, we did extensive studies into a number of the battles and key stages of the conflict travelling right around the country. Much of my own personal contribution to the trip came from the prior research I did using this site. The information provided by some of the members, including yourself was extremely useful for which I'll be forever grateful. Thank you.

    My focus has now switched to Belgium where I am currently living and happen to have an in-law who is commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial. Next year is the 100th anniversary of his death at Polygon Wood so I am busy reading war diaries and studying the area and the battles so that I can lead a battlefield tour for the family on around the anniversary of his death.

    Best, Carl
    bamboo43 likes this.
  17. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi Carl,

    I'm so glad you enjoyed the trip to Burma. I will keep an eye on the medals and see how much they fetch next March. The auction catalogue is only at preview presently, but it sounds as though their father's medals will also feature. I hope that whoever secures the medals will be the proud possessor of all three groups. I personally feel that all three groups should be sold together in the first instance.

    Best wishes

  18. Al Howie

    Al Howie New Member

    Dear Carl,

    This is quite remarkable! The benefits of modern communication. Quite by chance I have been referred to this forum by a childhood friend, who is researching Burma in preparation for a visit later this year.

    Freddy and Archie Gwatkin were my Mother's 2 brothers, my Uncles, who as you know died on the same day in different actions fighting the Japanese in Burma on 14th March 1945. My name is Alastair Howie and my mother who died 4 years ago was Agnes (Nan) Howie nee Gwatkin. My Grandfather was Major General Sir Frederick Gwatkin and my Grandmother Lydia Gwatkin.

    I'm not sure where to begin with all of this. I was born in 1949, 4 years after their deaths and grew up with the knowledge from an early age of what had happened to them. My Mother was the only other sibling and was born on 15th August 1921. She was a year older than Freddy who was a year older than Archie. All 3 were incredibly close.

    My Grandfather travelled to Burma in the early 1950's to help bring back the boy's bodies from their battle graves to Taukkayan Cemetery. My Father Nigel Howie never flew and so my Mother never made the trip to Burma. Mum really got the travel bug after he died. I had always hoped she might get a chance to go to Burma and so in March 2005 I managed to arrange a trip through British Legion Tours and aged 83 she flew with me to Yangon/Rangoon and we visited her Brothers' graves at Taukkayan Cemetery. It was an amazing trip and Mum was wonderfully looked after. We had the benefit of 2 visits to the Cemetery, and seeing their graves together was both a deeply moving experience and not a little emotional. John Skinner, Archie's great friend and comrade in arms is buried alongside them.

    My sister Jean and I have many pictures of her 2 Brothers, letters etc. and I have some personal knowledge of what happened to Freddy and Archie and their is a tale in that as well. My Grandparents received a telegram back in England soon after Freddy was killed and my Mother wrote to Archie telling him the sad news and urging him to be careful. A week or more later Mum's letter finally reached Archie's base in the jungle and the Officer in command who had sent word to England realised that the message they had also sent to my Grandparents had not got through. A second telegram was sent which reached them more than 2 weeks after the event.

    It may be easiest if I provide you with my e mail and mobile number as I would be delighted to chat further.

    My e mail........al@alastair-howie.com

    My mobile........ 07850 518 810

    I hope to hear from you.

    With kind regards
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  19. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    Hello Al

    best remove you phone number and replace @ with at in your email (or just remove it)
    i have sent a message to Carl who was last on in Dec 16

  20. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

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