1/4 PWO Gurkha Rifles casualties

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by Skoyen89, Mar 25, 2020.

  1. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    In Mid May 1944 the 1/4 Prince of Wales' Own Gurkha Rifles were part of 63 Brigade of 17th (Light) Indian Division. They were committed to the fighting on the Silchar Track west of Bishenpur and suffered a number of casualties - both Gurkha soldiers and British Officers.

    Using the CWG database I thought I would look for more detailed locations of the fighting as the war diary is limited in the map refs it gives - I was working on the premise that in the Silchar Track fighting often the casualties were buried near their place of death because they could not be got back to Imphal.

    I ran an Excel spreadsheet and the results were really interesting: of the 343 on it from WW2 from the 1st/4th 291 of them have no known grave and so are commemorated on the Rangoon Memorial! That large number is more than likely affected by the fact that many were suffered in the Retreat from Burma in 1942 then the fighting at Tiddim in late 1943/early 1944 and the withdrawal up the Tiddim Road in March 1944.

    However just over 100 were suffered in the subsequent fighting in the Bishenpur area from April through to June 1944 (the period I am particularly interested in) and of these only 3 were buried. I guess those three were 'Died of Wounds' in hospitals in Imphal. Even on the Silchar Track other units buried their dead in makeshift cemeteries and many of these (far from all) were recovered after the war and now lay in Imphal War Cemetery.

    Can anyone suggest why this would be the case? Does anyone have accounts of the 1/4 PWO Gurkha Rifles that could add more detail on their fighting?
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2020
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  2. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    I'm not sure about the men in question here, but of the casualties/lost on Chindit 1, very few Gurkha graves were ever recovered after the war. I wonder whether the effort in trying to locate British soldiers resting places, was not so ardent when it came to other nationalities? I certainly hope this was not the case.
     
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  3. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    Alan Warren's book "Burma 1942", for 1/4th PWO Gurkha Rifles gives losses of one British officer, 3 Gurkha officers and 103 other ranks killed, died of wounds and missing presumed dead during the First Burma campaign. Battalion also suffered casualties while fighting in the Chin Hills during 1943-44, at the Basha East and MS 52, and later on the Tiddim Road while retreating to Imphal after Japanese offensive started.
     
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  4. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Makes me wonder about literacy rates of the Gurkhas - what percentage of Gurkha Officers and NCOs would have been able to record locations?
     
  5. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    I would have thought all of the Gurkha Officers would have been able to - most were British in the Gurkhas. You may have a point for NCOs but somehow I doubt that it is not being able to record map locations that is the root of the missing dead.

    I have just run an Excel for the 3-8 Gurkha Rifles who were also on the Silchar Track and it is showing the same thing. A friend in Imphal is suggesting that the Gurkha dead may have been cremated in the field. If that is the case would they not have been recorded on the Imphal Cremation Memorial rather than the Rangoon Memorial?
     
  6. JITTER PARTY

    JITTER PARTY Well-Known Member

    The term 'Gurkha Officer' is confusing me; isn't it a post-war British Army term for what were known as VCOs in the Indian Army of WW2?
     
  7. idler

    idler GeneralList

    I'm still trying to get to the bottom of that distinction. The term VCO only came in to differentiate the original IOs from the properly-commissioned KCIOs. That wasn't an issue with the Gurkhas as far as I can tell - all GOs were VCO equivalents.
     
  8. JITTER PARTY

    JITTER PARTY Well-Known Member

    OK, you're confusing me even more now. My understanding (for what it is worth) involves no equivalence; all Jemadars, Subedars, Risaldars, etc. were VCOs the same as the rest of the Indian Army.
     
  9. idler

    idler GeneralList

    I will try to remember to double check a couple of the Gurkha histories, I'm sure they were mostly referred to as GOs.

    The other angle to this is badges of rank. Before the advent of the KCIOs, IOs and GOs wore 'standard' pips and crowns - it was easy enough to tell who wasn't a BO. Once colour alone could not differentiate between an IO and a KCIO, the now-VCOs officially wore smaller pips/crowns with each device on a horizontal red/yellow ribbon. Some units, however, appear to have stuck to the old style except for a single ribbon at the base of the epaulettes, similar to modern Indian Army practice. It's a nightmare!
     
  10. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    But where were they buried?
     
  11. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    As idler pointed out, they are mostly referred as GOs, even the WDs refers them as GOs, not VCOs.
     

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