WW2 India Map Reference (Imphal)

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by 5thindiandivision, Oct 29, 2012.

  1. BritishMilitaryHistory

    BritishMilitaryHistory Junior Member

    For your information, I have written a biography on a Major 'Sandy' LAMBERT, who was a company commander in the 3/9 Jats, and Brigadier Bernard GERTY who was commanding officer of the battalion in April 1944. I have had access to the official history of the 9 Jats, and used that to plot (to the best of my ability) the movements of the 3/9 Jats. The position you mention is where Jemadar ABDUL HAFIZ was awarded the V.C. Please do not hestitate too contact me directly if I can assist further. Regards, Rob PALMER
  2. Matt Poole

    Matt Poole Member

  3. Bob Turner

    Bob Turner Senior Member

    So ten miles north of Imphal? The feature we had been looking at, was about five miles north east of Imphal. We could use the ruler tool in google earth to find likely candidates, then download the nasa shuttle radar topological map.
  4. Matt Poole

    Matt Poole Member

    Bob, on Google Earth the hilltop I'm guessing to be associated with the grid ref number RK416790 James found in the 5th Indian Div war diary measures exactly 10 miles "north" of the center of Imphal. From Imphal, the compass heading to that hilltop is actually 21 degrees -- not due north, not northeast. Of course, at this point my guess is based solely upon the grid ref plotted on the later 1955 map whose grid could be different than that used in April 1944.

    Until the grid ref is plotted on the wartime map, this is all speculation. And I suspect that at Kew or elsewhere there will be much more paperwork available on the 6 April 1944 action. Maybe even a map? Is there a file with paperwork associated with Abdul Hafiz's VC?

    James, in your first posting you said the grid ref was about 4 miles from Imphal. I suspect that this is a few miles short.

    Is your interest in relation to the Abdul Hafiz-led attack, James? Seems to be.



    Attached Files:

  5. 5thindiandivision

    5thindiandivision Indian Division


    Yes I some how had it in my head that it was 4 miles north of Imphal (senior moment as they say). Sorry Bob. I am looking into a DCM that awarded around the same time, the gentleman in question was the FOP for 4th Field Regiment and met Hafiz that morning of the attack and it was him who was calling in smoke and he to support the Jats on that hill. This is where the map reference came from, the miles was my mistake.

    Hi Rob, Any info on the JATs in April for here and Numshigum would be great if its around, I know Fred would love to see it as well as he holds all the Indian Troops in very high respect.

    Matt, your knowlege is second to none, thank you very much for that, I will dig out the maps and let you know what I have and scales etc.

    All thank you for this help


  6. Matt Poole

    Matt Poole Member

    [Edit: I initially posted this after your last posting, James. Thanks for the background. Nice to make progress on this issue! And thanks for your compliment. I'm a professional mapmaker. Cheers to all. Matt]

    Doing some more snooping, I found on-line an Imphal map from the book "Ball of Fire" by Antony Brett-James which identifies the hill I had tentatively linked to RK 416790 as "Runaway Hill". Definitely the same feature. The map is found here (and I attached a copy, too):


    Then, on the Burma Star Association website I found the excerpt from the Brett-James book which describes the assault led by Abdul Hafiz on 6 April. The author said that because of the fleeing of the Japanese from that hill, it was named "Runaway Hill". The excerpt:

    Ball of Fire - Imphal

    Instead, the battalion continued its patrolling across country, the very openness of which made this a difficult task. But when our patrols found that two important hills were unoccupied by the Japanese_Point 3938, and Runaway Hill, a very steep little feature guarding the road that ran up the left-hand side of the Numshigum massif—both were occupied by the 3/9th Jats.

    It was by Runaway Hill that the Division’s third Victoria Cross was won. Before dawn on April 6, during this original encircling movement, at a time when we could not be sure when they would appear next, the Japanese attacked one of Colonel Gerty’s standing patrols. By driving the Jats off, they secured a hillock that over­looked the main company position. Jemadar Abdul Hafiz was ordered to recapture the hill with two sections of his platoon. After an artillery bombardment by Bastin’s 4th Field Regiment, Abdul Hafiz led his Jats in to the attack. They charged up the hillside that was bare of cover, sh6uting their war-cry as they neared the top. Then the waiting Japanese opened fire with machine-guns. On the approaching Jats they threw down grenades. Jemadar Abdul Hafiz was wounded at the outset. A bullet struck him in the leg. Yet he dashed forward and seized the enemy machine-gun by the barrel, while another Jat killed the Japanese gunner.

    The jemadar then took up a Bren gun dropped by one of his men who had fallen wounded, and notwithstanding the heavy fire from the enemy positions on this hill and on a feature to the flank, he shot a number of the Japanese soldiers. And so fiercely did he lead his men that the enemy ran away: hence the name Runaway Hill. But Jemadar Abdul Hafiz was mortally wounded in the chest, still grasping his Bren gun. To his men he shouted in his own language, “Reorganize ! I will give you covering fire.” But ‘he died, without having been able to pull the trigger. He was awarded the Victoria Cross, posthumously, and was the first Muslim soldier to win this decoration in the Second World War.

    James, presumably your initial inquiry regarding RK 416790 does have to do with the 6 Apr 1944 battle on Runaway Hill. In Google Earth, holding the cursor over the highest point of Runaway Hill gives a reading of 3128 feet. The plain below the hill is right around 2600 feet.

    I think someone early in this discussion suggested RK 416790 was related to elevation. While this is not so, perhaps four-digit references, such as "Point 3938" in the Brett-James book and in war diaries and such, were, indeed, elevations in feet.

    NOTE: The scale on the attached is WAY OFF!! Per this map, the distance from the center of Imphal at the bottom of the map to the top of Runaway Hill is less than 3.5 miles. I just double-checked this measurement on Google Earth, and it is definitely 10 miles.

    Just a pointer for anyone who might be stumped... After clicking on the attached thumbnail image of the map, one will get an enlargement on the screen. After clicking once on this enlargement, one will get a further enlargement - but not the maximum enlargement possible. At least on my computer if I hold the cursor over this enlargement, I will see a "+" mark. Clicking upon the map again, I get a further considerable enlargement. For reading the detail on a map, this level of enlargement is a must.

    So that's three clicks of the cursor to get to a maximum enlargement.



    Attached Files:

    bamboo43 likes this.
  7. Bob Turner

    Bob Turner Senior Member

    This might be of some use. Download the maps and do a google search for a free app called 3dem. Once you have a grey scale image of the topo map, you can overlay, and scale that last map Matt gave, and crop it in something like photoshop. Then bring the map up again in 3dem and use the cropped overlay.

    Coverage map viewfinderpanoramas.org
  8. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi All,

    Just wanted to say to you guys how impressed I've been by how well and how quickly this thread has grown and the wealth of knowledge expressed within it. This proves the value of our forum and those similar to it.

    It's always good to Poole our combined resources (pun very much intended).:)
  9. Matt Poole

    Matt Poole Member

    Bob, thanks for your pointers. I'll have to try that. I usually use Google Earth and drape things like maps and wartime imagery atop the modern satellite photos. Have not tried it yet for the Numshigum Hill or Runaway Hill areas.

    Yes, Steve, it's good to Poole our resources and not to Bamboo-zle one another with false info. (Um...pun very much intended...)

    James, regarding Numshigum, there is quite a bit more in the "Ball of Fire" book found at: Ball of Fire - Imphal

    It is fascinating to see Numshigum Hill on Google Earth (referenced to the "Ball of Fire" map identifying the hill) while knowing from "Ball of Fire" what nasty fighting took place here.


  10. Bob Turner

    Bob Turner Senior Member

    Hi matt, you should also download the free google Sketchup program. With that you can pick a place anywhere in the world and import the topology from google earth. The topo, will come in with the google earth image as a texture. When it first comes in, it will be a flat oblong, press a button and it shows real height data. There's also a free plugin for it that will draw contour lines at your chosen marks. (the data's not as good from google as from the shuttle radar topology maps but close enough)

    Because you have a real 3d terrain, you can then do fly through animations, and set the time of day and shadows. There's even a "sandbox" feature. You can draw the footings of buildings, then press them into the 3d mesh, creating shaped cellar affair in the mesh. Great for putting buildings on hills.

    Can I pick your brains for a moment? A look at the history slider on google earth, suggests that there's an awful lot of land slip on those hills. That must say something about the soil and people's efforts to control it. I assume they are going for means of controlling the slips by planting. I don't think the place can afford to build levis. It looks to me like a plain created over a few thousand years by rivers meandering, rather like the Mississippi delta.

    The question is, how fast is this terrain changing? Will we see marked changes, in hills over a seventy year period?
  11. 5thindiandivision

    5thindiandivision Indian Division

    James, thanks for your interesting info. Maps in Burma/India such as those you have are rare! Curious Matt asks -- can you give two or three examples of scales and locations? Any Rangoon 1:25,000 maps?

    Hi Matt

    These are some of the maps I have, sorry my friend but no Rangoon 1:25,000 Map!

    all Army / Air Style 1:1,000,000 1943

    Mandalay sheet 6
    survey HQ 14th Army 1944

    All 1:253,440 1945

    Swebo, Katha and Mandalay districts attached to Mandalay and Northern Shan State
    1:63,360 1943

    I will dig the others out and let you know what they are.


  12. Matt Poole

    Matt Poole Member


    You have some good maps there! Thanks for letting me know. Oh well, no Rangoon, though.


  13. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    These maps sometimes come up on EBay and I have bought some, mainly where they are relevant to the Northamptonshire Regt. I have one (No 83L) which covers the Tamu area and is printed in Oct 1943 by No. 9 Survey HQ. In the top left hand corner it covers the area in question in this thread. I have attached an image but basically it is the same area as in Matt Poole's post earlier in this thread and the maps he recreated.

    I also have a map of Rangoon at 3 inches to the mile from 1945 - was someone looking for that?

    Now if anyone has a map for Bishenpur I would be very interested!?

    Attached Files:

  14. Matt Poole

    Matt Poole Member

    Hi, Skoyen89,

    Bingo! I think you have the map used for determining the RK 416790 grid reference to Runaway Hill. Can you confirm the scale and the RK grid zone (from the margin)? I do believe map 83L is at a scale of 1:126,720, right?

    What a pain it must have been for the fighting forces in the miserable conditions of Burma and India to piece together adjoining maps, as was the case for the Imphal area and Runaway Hill, too. The "4" easting grid line (running north-south), for example, is on the map adjoining the west sheet limit of 83L. I see that 83L had been folded along the north map edge, in order to be visually abutted against the map to the north of 25 deg N. Lat.

    Attached are the limits and grid lines of sheet 83L transferred to the black & white book map.

    Also attached are my notations made onto your 83L excerpt. The margin note says that Imphal is 10 miles away -- agreeing with Google Earth (which was a straight-line measurement, though). The contour lines around Runaway Hill don't define the hilltop as a separate feature from the topography to the north, but that's typical of maps of this scale and photogrammetric methods used to compile the contours. Clearly, as you stated, 83L covers the Runaway Hill point.

    James, note also that Numshigum Hill is on 83L, too.

    Skoyen89, I also have a Rangoon map from 1945 at a scale of 3 inches equaling 1 mile. That translates to a scale of 1:21,120. My copy, just a photocopy, came from the version held by the US National Archives and which is entitled "RANGOON BACKGROUND MAP". I don't have a scan to attach at the moment. The date of this map: Nov 1945.

    The map of Bishenpur that you want -- I can't seem to find this spelling. Do you mean Bishnupur, about 17 miles southwest of Imphal in Manipur, India? If so, can you figure out which map number covers this town from the margin of sheet 83L? Perhaps the British Library holds the 1:126,720 scale wartime map covering Bishnupur??

    Thanks, Skoyen89, for your excellent contribution.



    Attached Files:

  15. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    Hi Matt et al

    Re: 83L - yes that scale is right.

    Re: Rangoon map - yes mine seems to be the same but from July 1945. I bought some medals recently and this came with it....plus a map of the Saigon area that 20 Div moved to after hostilities ceased in Burma in 1946 and two maps of Kashmir....plus loads of other ephemera. It all adds to the medals and creates a picture of the man.

    Yes Bishenpur is south - west of Imphal on the Tiddim Road - it was the scene of much fighting by 17 and 20 Indian Divisions in the first half of 1944 in the defence of Imphal. Ideally I'd like as small scale as possible.
  16. 5thindiandivision

    5thindiandivision Indian Division

  17. Matt Poole

    Matt Poole Member

    It has been fun delving into this, James. The group approach via this message board is fantastic.

    Skoyen89, can I bug you for the numbers of the three adjoining map sheets adjoining sheet 83L's northwest corner, as illustrated in the legend of 83L? These, if available via the British Library, could be of use to James.


  18. lionboxer

    lionboxer Member

    Coming to this particular party a bit late but even as I'm writing this my friend is now climbing Nungshigum in his capacity as an amateur battlefield researcher. He is hoping to plot and record any trenches etc on this large feature (something that as far as we are aware has not been done before) but we do not have any accurate maps of the time. The maps I have (RK Kangpokpi South and RK Molvom) do not go far enough eastwards but with these maps and other information we have already discovered the actual trenches that my father fought in at Lion Box (RK2984). My friend has also done something similar at Sangshak.
    I also have another map Burma and India 83H which was surveyed 1924 and 1933 and printed in 1943. The scale is one inch to four miles. Not being a cartographer I don't understand all the numbers but it is centered just south west of Imphal and shows the junction of four of the prefix letters i.e. RJ, RK, RO, and RP.
    If anyone has any RK maps or any other detailed maps, sketches etc of the Nungshigum area I would be most pleased to have a copy to help with this project.
  19. lionboxer

    lionboxer Member

    DSCN2690.jpg The peaks of Nungshigum that the tanks climbed
  20. Matt Poole

    Matt Poole Member

    Hi, Lionboxer,

    What your friend is accomplishing in India is exciting -- great stuff!

    At least most of Numshigum Hill is on 1:126,720 (1" = 2 miles) map sheet 83L, in the upper left corner. You can just see it in thread #33 (from skoyen89, who posted the map segment) and thread #34 (my annotated version). Also you can see the hill in the annotated book map attached to #34.

    I don't know the number/letter of the map sheet to the west, but it would be in the margin of 83L. Skoyen89, can you check your map's margin for this?

    The British Library hopefully has the other maps you need. Contact them by mail/phone/fax at:

    Map Collections
    The British Library
    96 Euston Road
    NW1 2DB
    United Kingdom
    Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7702
    Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7780

    This website has a link to a direct digital contact form:

    Ask the Reference Team

    Via this contact form route I contacted the BL a couple of weeks ago, and I received an informative e-mail reply a day later. Unfortunately, they can't provide a photocopy of just a small bit of a Burma map that I need. Instead, mail orders only offer very expensive digital scans (over 50 pounds for my map). And I was told no digital cameras can be used at the Library.

    Maybe you can acquire regular photocopies in person, to suit your needs, for a not-too-outrageous price.

    Keep sending us photos and things!



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