Thomas Sharpe, Indian Civil Service killed in Manipur April 1944

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by Skoyen89, Apr 20, 2019.

  1. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    I recently came across some newspaper articles telling of the death in Manipur in April 1944 of Thomas (Timmy) Sharpe from Chesterfield . He was employed by the Indian Civil Service. I have put together a brief history from internet sources but does anyone know any more about his death? He was captured and executed by the Japanese after his party was ambushed.

    ‘I am directed by the Secretary of State for India to inform you that a telegram has been received stating that your son, Mr TA Sharpe (Indian Civil Service) has been captured by a Japanese patrol on his way from Imphal to Tamenlong. Both the Secretary of State and the Government of Assam regret that your son has been captured and that India has been deprived of a very useful officer’

    Thomas Arthur (Timothy) SHARPE was born on 14 Nov 1913. He was the son of Thomas Arthur and Emma Elizabeth Sharpe of ‘Ellesmere’, The Green, Hasland, Chesterfield and later moved to Hill Crest, Stretton Road, Morton, Chesterfield. His father was under manager at Bonds Main Colliery, and also at Morton Colliery.

    He attended Chesterfield Grammar School and Emanuel College, Cambridge where he had Major and State Scholarships. He studied mathematics and physics. In the Indian Civil Service Examinations he was 25th out of 600. He joined the Indian Civil Service on 15 Dec 1937 and studied oriental languages and then left the UK with three others in September 1938 to drive overland to India, via Persia, in a 30hp car. He arrived in India on 15 Dec 1938 to take up his first position.

    He was stationed first at Sylhet as assistant commissioner the following year he transferred to Sadiya in the same role and as assistant to the political officer. In Feb 1939 he moved to Dibrugargh as assistant commissioner and in the summer of the same year served for two months in Kohima before moving to Imphal in August 1939 where he became the President of Manipur State Durbar roughly equivalent to a local governing commission. Shortly after moving to Imphal he was involved in riots by Metei women over rice availability and was held hostage for a short period, albeit in a non-violent situation. Other senior British figures in Imphal at the time were Christopher Gimson (the Political Agent), LT Wilson (SP of Manipur) and Lt Col Hurrel, the Officer Commanding 4 Assam Rifles.

    Sharpe was in Imphal during the period in 1942 when it came under enormous pressure as large numbers of refugees and the retreating Army from Burma converged on Imphal having trekked out of Burma. General Stilwell and the party from the Baptist Mission under Col Seagrave were also walking out of Burma to evade capture and although they had signalled their intention their whereabouts were unknown. Sharpe was sent from Imphal with soldiers, pack ponies and supplies to try to find Stilwell in the Chin Hills, which he did on 14th May 1942. The group still had a further week of walking but were aided by Sharpe’s team and supplies that he had cached for this eventuality. On 18th May, after a walk of 21 miles that day over difficult terrain, they reached Sharpe’s base at Ukhrul and stayed at his house “a red sheet iron roofed white stucco place” where the American and British officers were quartered whilst the Seagrave group stayed in the guest house. The next day they carried on to a suspension bridge 23 miles from Imphal and were picked up by trucks there on 20th April for a ‘slippery slithering ride’ to Imphal. Sharpe was awarded the MBE and promoted for this, and was invited by Stilwell to be his honoured guest at his headquarters in China.

    Sharpe’s work seems to have involved him travelling around Manipur and he enjoyed the adventure. Just before Easter 1944 the authorities decided that after seven years in India it was time ‘Timmy’ had a leave in England and on April 18th his parents received a letter from him stating that he was going on one special mission to the frontier after which he expected to be returning home. He was en route from Imphal to Tamenlong when he was ambushed by the Japanese. He was said to have been captured and shot by the Japanese. Correspondence in the India Office suggests he was missing, presumed killed, as of 12th April but, according to the CWGC he died at Haoching on 9 May 1944. He is commemorated on the Roll of Civilians who died in WWII in Westminster Abbey and presumably has no known grave.

    Attached Files:

  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Just to throw another pebble into the pond

    Global, Find A Grave Index for Burials at Sea and other Select Burial Locations, 1300s-Current
    Name: Civilian Thomas Arthur Sharpe
    Death Date: 9 Apr 1944
    Cemetery: Assam Province, Civilian War Dead
    Burial or Cremation Place: Jalandhar, Punjab, India
    Has Bio?: N

    26 Feb 2020 - just read the comment that the link was not working so have added this one below which hopefully does work
    Thomas Arthur Timothy Sharpe (Unknown-1944) -...

    and in the same database:
    Name: Thomas Arthur Timothy Sharpe
    Death Date: 9 Apr 1944
    Has Bio?: N

    Last edited: Feb 26, 2020
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  3. Blutto

    Blutto Plane Mad

    TD Those links appear to be truncated.
  4. CL1

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

  5. Gonegirl

    Gonegirl Member

    This is on forces war records, but I don't have access to it sorry, maybe you could go to the library or someone on here does. IMG_20190421_081608.jpg
  6. lionboxer

    lionboxer Member Patron

    Tony, I helped Raj with this some time ago. He has the details.

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  7. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member


    Thanks for the responses. This is the info from Rajeshwor Yumnan on the ground in Imphal:

    'The Japanese were cutting the Tamenglong path at Haochong for the seige of Imphal. Sharpe was on official tour and unluckily met the Japanese Soldiers at Haochong. I am 99 % sure that he is now buried inside Governor's campus. Last year (2016) we have discovered his initial burial place in Haochong and found out that after the war his remains were exhumed and taken to imphal.'

    It is clear that he was known to be dead by June 1944 although the India Office were treating him as Missing - Presumed Dead until 1945.
  8. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    Found something which explains what Sharpe was doing in War Diary for V Force Assam Zone 1944 (WO172/4587).

    Attached Files:

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  9. Manipurean

    Manipurean Member

    Thank you for this background.

    I am an American journalist seeking more information on Mr. Sharpe, and what happened to him in Haochong, Manipur, India, in April 1944. I am writing an article about the incident--and the Battle of Imphal generally--for an online publication.

    I walked through Haochong, west of Imphal, in July of last year. I stumbled across the story of the ambush of Sharpe's party when it was mentioned by a group of community elders who had convened to relate the history of the village. Two very elderly gentlemen claimed that Sharpe was still buried in the village and pointed out the location of "the sahib's" unmarked grave. They also asserted that "many" British or Indian troops escorting Sharpe had been captured and executed by the Japanese--not by shooting, but by sword and bayonet--after brutal interrogations. They put the number of British dead at "60 or 70." Community leaders took me to the alleged execution site outside the village along the now-disused Imphal-Tamenglong foot track and a farmer who works that land produced coins he found there, which included coinage from 1943. (Attached photo.)

    I have four questions:

    1 - While I'm aware of many atrocities reported during the Burma Campaign, I want to be careful about about the details provided by villagers. I haven't seen any such behavior reported about the Hoachong ambush. (It could be that it's simply too remote and obscure an incident.) Can anyone point me to any supporting documentation?

    2 - The villagers' casualty figure seems very high. Would anyone with knowledge of the Battle of Imphal have an informed idea of how big a military escort would have accompanied Sharpe on such a mission?

    3 - The villagers claimed that the bodies of the dead were never recovered, and likely remain buried at the execution site. Is this possible? It seems unlikely, but I don't know post-war remains recovery protocols for this theater.

    4 - Is it possible to identify the unit or units of the troops who might have escorted Sharpe? Were they soldiers from the UK? India? Both? (It's unclear to me from the War Diary.)

    Many deadline is fiendishly tight: Friday. (Feb. 28.) I appreciate you keeping the substance of this query private until publication. Of course, I'll be happy to post the link here once the story goes live.

    Again, many thanks for any assistance.

    Attached Files:

  10. lionboxer

    lionboxer Member Patron

    Rajeshwor Yumnam has been informed of your request and will soon get back to you.
  11. Manipurean

    Manipurean Member

    Thank you. Much obliged.
  12. Manipurean

    Manipurean Member

    Thank you. Much obliged.
  13. imphalcampaign

    imphalcampaign Active Member

    Hi everyone,
    I am back here after a long time. My apology. Thanka to Lionboxer fo the PM regarding this post.
    Tony, has the info and the sitrep i have gather and he has shared.
    Now for Manipurian, ( the name suggest we belong to the same place), ICS Thomas Sharpe was returning from his Tamenglong tour with his few Gurkha guards, and he met the Japanese who came for road block. The Japanese outnumbered the gurkhas and Sharpe was executed the japanese way with the Katana ( sorry i cant find a sober word). The bodies of many Gurkhas were thrown down the ravine and Thomas Sharpe was buried adjacent to the village ground.
    Later his body was exhume( in 1945) and taken back to Imphal. I am sure his body is buried in imphal( most probably inside the Raj bhawan). I am searching for his burial location. And if required, i will enquire the governor's office.
    If any other information we need to search, we shall difinitely do it if specific requirements are provided.

  14. Manipurean

    Manipurean Member


    Thanks so much. These details are very helpful. Especially the detail that Sharpe's remains were exhumed and possibly relocated to the Raj Bhawan. I think I'll have to leave it there, given that I'm out of time.

    Question: May I attribute this information to you? If so, how may I obtain your name and affiliation (if any)?
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  15. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    Hi Manipurean

    Raj is the local expert and I started the thread when going through some of the UK records. Happy to send you what I found if it is of interest. I will

    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  16. Manipurean

    Manipurean Member

    Tony, you've done a remarkable job of digging.

    I'd love to see the primary materials. I've contacted Sharpe's old school, Emmanuel College at Cambridge, to ask if there is even a whisper of a chance that they might help me locate his descendants through their alumni association. (Some of the details of the aftermath of the ambush are quite traumatic, and I want to share that information with any descendants first, out of respect.) Please send whatever is appropriate to share to:

    Here's the last piece I did for NG: Outsiders don't venture into this lush corner of India. Could that change?

    And here's my project:

    Any of your materials I end up using, I'll attribute to your research.

    Many thanks again.
  17. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    You firstly mention that Thomas was returning with FEW Gurkha guards, but then state that the bodies of MANY Gurkhas were thrown down the ravine... Is there a way to establish what escort he had?
    From what I read of Gurkhas I can't see how they'd walk into a road block, perhaps an ambush, and then to surrender meekly doesn't seem to fit their warrior profile.
    Perhaps they were Assam Rifles, and may have been less loyal to the UK than to "liberation" under the Japanese (but it didn't happen, more likely exchanging one "oppressor" to one that definitely would....
    Well done on amassing all that information, there probably more ICS casualties in somewhat similar circumstances, that we yet don't have this amount of detail for.
  18. lionboxer

    lionboxer Member Patron

    A quick search on the CWGC data base for the Rangoon Memorial (for those with no known graves) shows very few Gurkhas and even less Assam Rifles on the 8th, 9th and 10th April. Hmmm!
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  19. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    A lot of the support for V Force etc in Assam came from 3 and 4 Battalions of the Assam Rifles. The War Diary I found was the only real detail on Sharpe's demise from an official perspective. I read that some of the Assam Rifles men came from Gurkha (or Nepali) stock but they may have lived in Assam or elsewhere for years. This may account for them being described as Gurkhas - rather than they served with a Gurkha Rifles Battalion. Like Lionboxer I could only find one member of the Assam Rifles who died on the day(s) in question in the CWGC database.
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  20. lionboxer

    lionboxer Member Patron

    Raj agrees with me that these "Gurkhas" may have been Militia types of Nepali's rather like the Manipur police. Sharpe had only recently been given an honourary rank of Major. Raj is checking further documentation.
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