Discussion in 'British Army Units - Others' started by DParks, Dec 11, 2017.
That's some serious research you have put in regarding these actions, PackRat, congratulations.
Thank you, bamboo. It has got a bit out of hand (thanks to this forum!)... I started off just asking for help in deciphering the abbreviations on my grandfather's service records, then that led to war diaries from Andy, then 5 or 6 visits to the archives myself, and has expanded from looking at his regiment to the regiments around him at the same time to get a wider picture of what was going on, trying to get an accurate view of the day-to-day stuff most histories just skate over.
And then it's hard to stop... grandad had an anecdote about one of the ships in his convoy getting torpedoed on the way out to India although the war diary didn't mention it, so that led me to convoy records, and then you can find out which U-boat it was that attacked the convoy and all the details of its patrols... What was supposed to be a quick summary of his war service is running to 100 pages already and I'm only up to early 1943, still got his whole time with 36 Division to explore yet.
You don't have to tell me PackRat. I began my research off the back of my brother's interest in our family tree. In 2007, all I was attempting to do was find out what happened to my grandfather in Burma, ten years later.........................Chindit Chasing, Operation Longcloth 1943
Your website is truly a resource to be proud of, bamboo, fantastic work.
Once I've finally finished my research (which may take some time...) I'll aim to upload it as an ebook to the forum in case it can help others with their own research. Although if I keep getting taken off on tangents I'm not sure I'll ever be finished... latest ones are the war art of Anthony Gross (who sailed on WS14, the convoy immediately before my grandfather's WS15 and then was briefly in the Arakan at the same time as him, and did a series of paintings covering both) and the inter-communal violence in East Bengal and the Arakan going on at the same time as the war fighting and causing all sorts of security and collaboration concerns, of which you get little echoes in some of the War Diaries. This forum has helped me rediscover a real love of history and also given so many pointers on research, and I'm very grateful to all the wonderful members who share their time and knowledge.
I think this poignant letter just shows the horrific nature of the fight against the Japanese in Burma....it really drives home the horrors of what our family members went through. It's no wonder my Grandfather never spoke of his experiences
My Great Uncle James McCarron Sgt was along with his half brother Edward Laird Private when they were surrounded by the Japanese. I don't know exactly what happened but the Japanese decided to make an example of Edward. He was bound by his hands and feet above bamboo that had been cut and sharpened. As you may know already bamboo grows very fast. As the bamboo grew it penetrated his body and lead to an agonising death! Once deceased Edward's body was left there to be picked by the vultures and whatever other wild animals that were about. His body was never recovered and all that remains is the mention of his name on the war memorial in Rangoon War Cemetery.
Packrat I can't thank you enough for your help and for your the time you took out of your visit to record all the information that you have provided. I too started researching my family tree and then it has led to a journey of discovery into the Great Grandfather John James McCarron who served with the 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusilliers in Autheille France during WW1 and was killed in action on 10th March 1916.....this then led to finding out about his 2 sons James McCarron Sgt and my Grandfather Emerson McCarron Cpl during their time within the royal Inniskilling Fusilliers, as well as their half brother Edward Laird Private.
I have seen on a closed Facebook page that I'm a member of (WW2 Burma Research) another Facebook page advertising a war diaries copying service. Having read through the information that you have provided I am definitely going to get copies of these. As I said previously my Grandfather rarely spoke of his time in Burma and my father said the only time you heard any details was in the Legion in Omagh when he met up with others he had served with. My dad is in his 70s now and I know he would really appreciate it if he could read these diaries and understand exactly how awful it was for our boys fighting the Japanese.
I also recently read an article on the WW2 Burma Research group about an Army Dr from N Ireland serving in Burma. Due to the large number of casualties and the complexity of the nature of their wounds, it wasn't possible for all casualties to be removed. This same Dr talked about the agony of what action should be taken. I can't begin to imagine having to make such as choice, but it was either leave them for the Japanese or do something to end their pain and suffering. This same Dr would administer large doses of morphine and their comrades had the awful task of firing the final bullet. It really puts things into perspective and shows the difficult decisions that had to be made.
Lest we forget.
You're very welcome, wish I'd been able to find a bit more information for you. I think those two war diaries would be worth getting, and better photos would make the hand-written sections easier to decipher - I took those ones with my phone camera, but someone with a decent 'proper' camera using the stands provided at the archives could get clearer shots and not be at the mercy of shaky hands and auto-focus like me! A couple of guys on this forum do photography services way cheaper than the official archive costs too. As I say, at a very rough guess they're each something like 200 pages or so with all the field returns and appendices to give you an idea of the costs. There may well be a reference to one of your relatives hiding in there somewhere that I missed on my quick skim through.
The other files (the ones on the missing Innisks) I guess wouldn't be too useful as you know what happened to poor Edward - though as that letter shows, for many families they might have been better off not knowing the terrible truth of what happened to their loved ones out there. What happened to your other two relatives? Did James end up in Rangoon when he was captured?
There might possibly be other files hiding in the archives that could be useful, and if you turn anything up that you'd like checked send me a message - I'll be making another trip up there sometime in the next few months and I'd be happy to have a look for you.
From the research I've been doing the First Arakan Campaign that our grandads were involved in it sounds like a particularly bad experience, even in terms of Burma. Col. Nicholson (the CO of my grandad's regiment, 130th Field) wrote an account that runs to a hundred-odd pages, and he gives an impression that it was doomed from the start. Writing about the run-up to the advance he says:
No acid for batteries was available. Wireless sets were giving endless trouble after the Monsoon period. Everyone concerned on the Div Staff did their utmost but the long and inadequate Line of Communication proved too difficult a problem to overcome - especially at this time when the disturbed conditions in Bengal were upsetting all railway moves. It was, however, irritating to learn that units in Calcutta were finding little difficulty in obtaining full scale equipment, whereas units about to enter operations were starved of many essentials. Large consignments of urgently required stores were often frequently discovered waiting at some station - incorrectly addressed - and no action being taken.
It can truthfully be said that few operations can have been started under such unfavourable conditions with regard to the training of troops, and equipping them on an adequate scale. In so far as the Arty were concerned, it was soon discovered that Ordnance Depots did not contain personnel with a knowledge of 25-pr equipment.
The general effect of all this was one of extreme irritation on the part of all those whose main anxiety was that units should at least start the operations properly equipped. The knowledge that not one single proper Brigade Group exercise had been carried out - or could be carried out before the date of operations - was a source of amazement to many.
The natural result of all these facts was that the impression gained ground that an operation of some sort had to be undertaken, but that its success or failure was apparently of such minor importance that it did not matter whether the troops were trained properly or were properly equipped.
He makes comments later to the effect that British units who were not particularly well trained or equipped were facing the cream of the Japanese army. The other day I found mention in the 5/8 Punjabs diary of some Indian troops being evacuated with scurvy in late Jan. due to the diet, and 1/7 Rajputs report their automatic weapons frequently jamming in February for want of gun oil.
The main actions that the Innisks took part in around Donbaik were the big assaults on 8th Jan and the 18th/19th. They were pulled out before the third frontal assault (involving tanks) on the 1 Feb and then (I think) moved to the inland side of the Mayu Range to defend the flank, so were part of the rearguard that took the brunt of the Japanese push as they tried to cut off and surround the whole British force still trying to take Donbaik in April. I'm not too sure what was going on with the inland side at that time (as I'm concentrating on my grandad's experience on the coastal sector, as his unit was in action there from the end of December, getting passed from brigade to brigade), but hopefully the full diaries should give a clearer picture.
This old map of Burma might be useful to you tracing the progress of the actions, as many names have changed on modern maps. This is a zoomed in section on which I've highlighted some of the main areas my grandad was serving in, but there's a much bigger version available here:
The one you want is called NF 46-14 Akyab
Akyab with its airfields and port, which was the objective of the campaign, is a little further to the south east (I think it's called Sittwe now).
Thank you again for all the information you have shared.
With regards to James...thankfully he didn't get to Rangoon. After the Japanese had surrounded them they were left to fight their way out as you know. My Grandfather Emerson evaded capture along with some others. Having regrouped it was decided that a rescue mission be put into action. Obviously the Japanese and the POWs must have still been in the locality. The Japanese camp was stormed, James along with other soldiers from a Belfast regiment were helped to escape. My Grandfather Emerson went in with a Bren Gun...due to the amount of ammunition used and the length of time it burnt the inside of his hand! My dad told me that in the early 80s he had the opportunity to meet some of the soldiers rescued who hailed from Belfast and Portadown when they visited the Legion in Omagh. It was during this that my dad learnt of his father's heroics and the rescue mission.
Thankfully both James and Emerson made it home from Burma. Their mother blamed them for the death of their half brother Edward right up until her death. James moved to England soon after the war, he only returned home to buried. My Grandfather Emerson lived with guilt of Edward being killed at just 22. He continued as a full time soldier after the war serving from 1933 to 1951 and a further 3 years on the T.A. He suffered terribly from spinal disc problems and recurring bouts of malaria. This obviously took it's toll on his health and unfortunately he passed away from a massive heart attack not long after his retirement from psychiatric nursing at 65 in 1980.
Just for information, here are the 30+ Skins that ended up as POW's in Rangoon Jail. if you would like any details on any particular man, just let me know.
That's amazing story, though heart-breaking to hear how their mother blamed them for Edward's death. In the chaos of the Arakan it's lucky that any of them got out. Not sure who the Belfast lads would have been, wonder if anyone on the forum would be able to identify what regiment they came from, possibly an anti-aircraft or other support unit?
The actions of 'Other Ranks' is where the war diaries so often fail for us all these years later; the details of such-and-such an officer going on a training course at a certain date was invariably recorded, but of events like these generally nothing gets mentioned if no commissioned officer was present. Had an officer led that brave rescue it would have been medals all round. At least we have a chance to share and record them before they pass out of memory altogether.
Thank you Bamboo43...all help gratefully received.
Totally agree but I knew that LCpl Lieutenant Heron Bernard Lowry Corry had been captured as confirmed by Bamboo43 post on the 1st Battalions POW list in Rangoon. Medal for his heroics aren't needed...he was my Grandpa and a hero both!
As far as I know the Belfast regiment was Heavy Aircraft Artillery from recollection. The guy from Portadown walked the 25mile distance to join up! Another guy that my dad met was a boxer with the nickname Rocky. There is a website regarding this particular regiment...I must contact them to see if this rings a bell with anyone. My Grandfather was a boxer too and was known as Wiper McCarron for his renowned left hook. As family it's up to us to keep their service and their memory alive.
I have just come across this forum and would like to thank you all, and particularly PakRat, for all his efforts in bringing this information to us.
My father, Michael McGinley, was a sergeant at the time in the 1st Inniskillings. Towards the end of his life, he spent a lot of time reading library books about the war in Burma. He wanted to understand what had happened and why. Now I understand why. I wish he had had access to all this information. I wish I had understood myself what he had gone through.
Incidentally, his best friend (and my brother's godfather), was Barnie Harney, a piper who at some stage became the pipe major.
Welcome to the forum, Francis.
I wish I could have shared my research with my grandfather, I think he would have been fascinated to see the names and places in the War Diaries and all the other stuff that I've been able to find thanks to the internet. It's turned up some tragic events too, though, things that he never mentioned to me when he talked about the war and things that he probably struggled to leave behind as he got on with his life. On one hand I wish I could have asked him about them, but on the other I was always wary of stirring up painful memories for him on the rare occasions we talked about it.
The war was always there for him to some degree, I think. He found a newspaper ad listing a reunion of 130th Field Regt shortly before he died, and he cut it out and kept it, though he never went. Being a Londoner transferred from his local regiment to a Scottish regiment after Dunkirk it was at the other end of the country for him, but he was still fit enough to make it up there if he wanted to. Something held him back.
Have you applied for your father's service records? Armed with more information on his dates and units you'll be able to get a better idea of where he was during the war, and lots of help is available on this forum.
Yes, my mother, applied for his service records in 2009, and eventually received some documents, but not enough to know his postings in any detail. We already had his service book. They said that some original service documents had been sent to the Veteran's Agency and lost - with the suggestion that they were destroyed some years ago. As a result, I am trying to put it all together with information, like yours, scoured from the internet. There is also a chance of one day contacting the family of his friend, who may have more information to share.
Incidentally, my father's service records include a few abbreviations that I don't understand. I wonder if you can shed any light on them (shown in bold text) ?
1 Posted 2/R In F - Rank Fusilier
2 Posted Df R In F - Rank Fusilier
3 XII List
4 Trans 30 JCD( or ICD) from Cawnpore
5 Granted Renleave
6 Irish GP ITC
7 To R/D Depot Inniskillings
As a note, if possible, it is best to post copies of his record so that the abbreviations can be seen in context. This will help tremendously in the interpretation of the above abbreviations.
His 'X' list entry will likely be a period of illness or injury. Different codes were appended to the 'X' like X (ii) and X (iv). My grandad had both of those on his record and these are the notes I made on the 'X' list while trying to find out what they mean:
The X (ii) List comprises all ranks evacuated on medical grounds beyond the RAP (the Regimental Aid Post, which could provide basic medical treatment in the field). Personnel so evacuated cease to be on the effective strength of their units. In some cases, the man would recover without having gone far from his unit; he might then be discharged directly back to his original unit. He would transfer from the X (ii) List and be taken back on the strength of his original unit.
Alternatively, the man might have required treatment that left him far from his original unit. He might have been evacuated to hospital, and might then have spent some time in a Convalescent Depot. Eventually, he would be deemed fit to return to service, and at this point he might be sent on to a Reception Depot. He would remain on the X (ii) List until the Reception Depot classified him as fit for posting, at which point he would be transferred to the X (iv) list of his corps and sent to a Training Depot or Base Depot.
Once on the X (iv) List, a soldier was eligible to be posted to a unit. A unit that valued a particular soldier could request that he be sent back to them, when he became available. There was, however, no guarantee that this request would be granted. Once a man reached the X (iv) list, he could be used as a reinforcement for any unit in his corps.
Your explanation makes sense since the first Xii list appears a week or so after Donbaik, and then another soon after he gets back to India.
As suggested by DRyan67, I am attaching his postings sheets to provide context for the remaining abbreviations mentioned above. (NOTE that almost all the information in Posting 3 is contained in Posting 4, and does not really need to be read; the only difference that I can see is that it mentions Cawnpore).
Something else that I don't understand is that he was married in Coimbatore in early January, 1944, at a time when his papers suggest he was with his Battalion which was stationed in Cawnpore (2,000km away).
Any thoughts will be very welcome.
You probably already know that Clement Town (page 2 of your service records) was a garrison town in the Dehra Dun district. Many British battalions used the location, especially after returning from active service in Burma. Many of the Chindit battalions, or what was left of them, congregated at Clement Town after the 1944 expedition.
Clement Town - Wikipedia
Clement Town: Dehradun
Separate names with a comma.