2759635 Sgt George Stewart Ballantine. 2nd Black Watch.

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by High Wood, Mar 18, 2021.

  1. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Whilst trawling through the newspapers looking for articles regarding members of the 1/King's Regiment who served in Burma, I came across this short mention of a N.C.O. in the Black Watch, whose story is worth telling.

    Home from Burma.
    Just in time for last week’s burst of seasonal weather, two Brechin “red hackle” lads wearing the coveted Chindit badge on their sleeve stepped from the train on Tuesday morning. They were back in the old home town after their share of adventure in the Burma fighting. C.Q.M.S. George S. Ballantine, since he last saw his home in Market Street, has won a medal for gallantry in the flood disaster in India in October 1941, undergone a severe course of training for jungle warfare, was wounded near Mawlu, then with two dozen other Chindits he manned a flying boat base on the Brahmaputra road, and since then he has been actively engaged in operations about which he is not giving much away.

    With C.Q.M.S. Ballantine was Pte. William Smith, of Albert Place, who has also done yeoman service with the Black Watch.

    Brechin Advertiser. 23rd January 1945.


    2759635 Sgt George Stewart Ballantine. 2nd Black Watch, later 7th (Airborne) Btn. K.O.S.B.


    LG 002.JPG
     
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  2. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Just eight short months later this article appeared in the Dundee Courier.

    Brechin Sergeant Dies from Accident Injury.
    Information has been received by Mrs Ballantine, 89 Market Street, Brechin, that her son, Sgt. George Ballantine, has died in an English hospital as the result of an accident.

    Before joining up he was manager with Messrs J. Belford & Son, bakers, Brechin. He took part in Tobruk, Alamein, Crete, Greece and Burma campaigns, and was also in Norway.

    He was awarded the B.E.M., and was one of the soldiers entertained by Lord Wavell in India. He was 29.

    Dundee Courier. 29th September 1945.

    There seems to be some inaccuracy regarding the report as another account states that he was accidentally killed in Norway.
     
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  3. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

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  4. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    The Brechin Advertiser printed a eulogy from his Commanding Officer.

    “An Outstanding Soldier.” C.O.’s Tribute to the late Sgt. George Ballantine. B.E.M.

    “I have only just heard of the tragic accidental death in Norway of Sgt. Ballantine,” writes Lieut.-Col. G.G. Green, D.S.O., 6th Battalion, The Black Watch. As his former commanding officer, and one who has known him since the earliest days of the War in the 2nd Battalion, The Black Watch, I would be most grateful for the hospitality of your columns to publish this short appreciation of an outstanding soldier and citizen.

    “I do not wish to dwell overmuch on his purely military qualities, remarkable as they were. His gallantry and resource were recognised by the award of the B.E.M. He served as a non-commissioned officer in every campaign in which the 2nd Battalion The Black Watch was engaged both in the Middle East and in S.E.A.C. In 1944, when the battalion was forming part of the late Major-General Wingate’s “Chindit” Force in Burma, Sgt Ballantine commanded a platoon until he was wounded, with the greatest distinction. He was the leader “par excellence” in that he led his men not only in battle but out of the battle too, which is more often the more difficult problem. To my knowledge, he twice refused the offer of commissioned rank.

    “But it is rather on his character I would wish to dwell, and the influence for good which he exerted throughout the battalion. He was possessed of a burning zeal for all things connected with his duty and the Regiment. He was possessed of a quiet confidence in the faith in which he had been reared. Such was his character and reputation that men from all platoons and companies in the battalion used to take their troubles to him, and no man ever went away without feeling that he had been helped and truly advised. I can say with absolute conviction that, although there were officers and other ranks in the battalion whom I respected and admired as much as I did George Ballantine, there was no one whom I admired and respected more.

    With his passing The Black Watch has lost a fine soldier and Scotland one of her most worth-while sons.”

    The Brechin Advertiser. 29th January 1946.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2021
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  5. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    No less a person than General Lentaigne also wrote a eulogy for George Ballantine.

    “A very Gallant Scot.” Chindit Leader’s Tribute to the Late Sgt George Ballantine, B.E.M.

    The impress which the character, qualities and gifts of leadership of the late Sgt. George S. Ballantine made on his commanding officers have been evident in the tributes which have been paid to his memory. The other week we published a warm appreciation from the Colonel of his Battalion. Since then we have received the following from General Lentaigne which speaks for itself. General Lentaigne, it will be remembered, succeeded General Wingate in command of the Chindits. General Lentaigne who had a very high opinion of Sgt. Ballantine, was informed of his death by Major Archie Wavell of the 2nd Black Watch, son of the Viceroy of India.

    “I only met George Ballantine once for a few hours back in 1944 in Burma during the height of the monsoon. He arrived unannounced at the advanced-headquarters of the Chindits at a spot on the map in the depths of the jungle called Shaduzup, which is in the dreaded Huwang Valley. With him was Private Anderson of the same regiment. To get there these two men had flown over the hills from India in an American Dakota plane to the advanced air-strip hacked out of the jungle at Tinkawk Sakan. They had no authority for this flight, but both of them had previously been evacuated sick and wounded from their regiment by light plane to hospital in India, and on recovery had been told that no reinforcements were being sent back into action. This decision was not acceptable, so armed with three articles for the officers of the regiment they set out to make their own way back. There was a pair of spectacles for a short-sighted officer, a special pair of boots for an officer with an outsize in feet, and last but not least, a bottle of Scotch for the Colonel. Armed with these credentials they had persuaded the Americans to fly them to Tinkawk Sakan. From there the way ahead lay through the jungle with two feet and more of mud and water at its roots. Through this nightmare country was slashed the trace of road that was eventually to lead to China through Myitkyina. It was at that time a red scar waist-deep in mud and stinking of putrefying vegetable matter. For ten miles they had squelched and waded and dragged their feet, arriving at Chindit H.Q. at nightfall completely exhausted, wet through and caked with mud. We had no spare clothes, but a bonfire, hot tea and supper soon put them to rights.

    Next morning, the Camp Commandant was firm that they must return to Air Base the way that they had come, but George Ballantine was not to be put off, and persuaded him to put their case up to me. He told me frankly of his wound, his Colonel’s high-handed action in evacuating him, his recovery, the impossibility of getting back by official channels, the precious cargo he was carrying, and his conviction that his Platoon would be needing him sorely. This last argument clinched the matter. I realised that he was a man of determination. Reliable too, else why had Air Base entrusted him with these stores for the officers of the battalion? I knew also too well how short the battalion was in officers and N.C.O.s of the right stamp. I agreed therefore to see them both on their way, since Ballantine was emphatic that Anderson was as important to the unit as he was himself.

    To implement my promise was another matter. I could get the battalion by wireless whenever they were halted and opened up with their set. To get to them physically depended on their being somewhere in that nightmare country of hill jungle where the ground was flat enough and above all, hard and dry enough to land a light plane. Even then I had to find a spare light plane on a strip that was in working order and not flooded, and finally get all these factors interlocked at one and the same time.

    The three of us set of accordingly for Wazarup, the next spot on the map, ten miles to the south. This was a comparatively easy stage of the journey since the trace of the road ran over the high ground and was passable for jeeps and six-wheel drive trucks, except for three river crossings which had to be traversed by ferries and followed by a hitch hike by American or Chinese truck on the far bank to the next break. It took us six hours to do that trip, and during that time I got to know George Ballantine. He was reserved and shy, but so obviously determined to do his duty by his battalion that my heart warmed to him. He told me little or nothing of himself except that he had been slightly wounded and the Colonel had no right to send him out. His Platoon however, was a bunch of young lads new to Burma who needed his guidance and help in the difficult time they were passing through. It was this insistence on the welfare of his men that made me realise that he was the born officer, and I asked him if he had ever thought of going up for a commission. He replied quite simply, “No, I am not worthy.” That I feel, was the keynote of the man. He was willing to go to any length to help another. His whole mind was bent on doing his best for his men and his unit. He had all the attributes of a leader and an officer but he was humble and content. He never said a word of his past service in the war. He went through the evacuation of Crete with the battalion. Before joining the Chindits he was with his battalion in Bengal and was awarded the British Empire Medal for his work in the cyclone that cut off his platoon in rising flood water. I only learned of all this later on when I wrote to his Colonel and asked why he was not made to take a commission.

    When the three of us got to Wazarup we found everything in our favour and I saw George Ballantine and Anderson into light planes that would deliver the men a few minutes to the headquarters of the Brigade of which the Black Watch formed a part, 25 miles to the South West. I said goodbye and never met him again though I hoped to see him shortly as an officer of the battalion he loved so well.

    Of his doings with the Chindits I know little beyond that his courage, endurance and unfailing quiet cheerfulness were outstanding among a body of men whose equal has not been seen for many a day. His Company Commander has told me that his bravery in action was almost foolhardy and his men would go behind him wherever he led. I am more than sorry that he has passed on. He will be remembered for many a day by all his comrades of the Black Watch and all those others of the Chindits who had the good fortune to meet him and know him for what he was, a very gallant Scot.”

    The Brechin Advertiser. 12th January 1946.
     
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  6. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    George Ballantine was briefly reported missing in Crete during the evacuation but later managed to rejoin his unit.

    Ballantine reported missing.png
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2021
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  7. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    The Casualty List report of the wound that led to his unwilling evacuation from Burma to India. I am not sure where the 2nd Black Watch were on the 6th May 1944.

    Ballantine wounded Burma.png
     
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  8. CL1

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

  9. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    By chance, I have turned my attention to the 2BW and there part on Chindit 2. On my return home from work, I will look through the war diary.
     
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  10. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    They were with the 14th Infantry Brigade whom I know very little about, so anything that you can tell me will be appreciated.
     
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  11. CL1

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

    His brother died as per headstone in December 1940
     
  12. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Ballantine's BEM recommendation and the war diary page for May 6th 1944. Looks like he may of been wounded during a planned ambush of a Japanese patrol (White City hinterland).

    Ballantine BEM.jpg 2BW May 6:44.jpg
     
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  13. AndyBaldEagle

    AndyBaldEagle Very Senior Member

    Can I thank you all for this post and replies, I have him on my 'list' and have wondered for a while about the circumstances of his death. Also from all the tributes to this man from various ranks why was he only awarded a BEM. Sounds as though he should have got a DCM/MM for bravery in battle at least, and maybe an MID for his dedication etc.
    Regards to all
    Andy
     
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  14. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    You are welcome and I think that this combined effort is a fitting tribute to a fine, brave soldier and leader of men who died far too young. I am still unsure of the events that caused his death and whether it occurred in Norway or England. But I am sure that further research will yield further details. It would also be good to locate a photograph of him if we can.
     
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  15. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    A start (maybe, and only maybe) for possible next steps.

    Last paragraph from page (link Below) from "The Pegasus Archive";

    "After Arnhem the 7th KOSB flew with the 1st Airlanding Brigade and Divisional HQ to accept the surrender of the German forces in Norway. The weather during the flight was very bad and one of the Battalion's Stirlings crashed after colliding with a large pine tree. There were survivors, but four men drowned, including an Arnhem veteran. Upon returning home the Battalion was officially disbanded on the 28th November 1945, its men scattered amongst the 2nd KOSB, the 4th Battalion The Black Watch, No.10 Infantry Holding Battalion at Edinburgh, and various units serving with the British Army of the Rhine."

    Here's the link to said page: 7th King's Own Scottish Borderers

    It's thin, but again, maybe something worth following up (some book storage box searching beckons for me tomorrow).

    Kind regards, always remember, never forget,

    Jim.
     
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  16. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    More on the crash of the Stirling mentioned above here;

    James McA Davidson | ParaData

    I guess it's possible that Sgt Ballantine was onboard said aircraft, and injured in the crash?

    Kind regards, always remember, never forget,

    Jim.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2021
  17. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    Last one from me tonight folks.

    An archived page from "RAF Commands" website: RAFCommands Archive :: Stirling MkIV LJ899

    No complete passenger list for Stirling Mk IV LJ899 unfortunately.

    I'll spread the search further afield tomorrow, should this aircraft's loss prove to be a red herring re Sgt. Ballantine.

    Kind regards, always,

    Jim.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2021
  18. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Jim,

    many thanks for the update and I think that the Stirling crash is a likely possibility for Sgt. Ballantine's death, particularly if he was badly injured. He died on the 27th September 1945, many months after the crash, but it might explain the "died in an English hospital" comment in the newspaper report.

    Simon
     
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  19. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    Agreed absolutely Simon.

    I did carry on searching into the wee small hours, and on one of the scandanavian based websites I read "two passengers injured and hospitalised" (presumably in Sweden given proximity/border to the crash site).

    If Sgt Ballantine was badly injured in this crash, and the outcome looked bleak at the time, I'm sure he would have been repatriated to the UK.

    I should have book marked the page (as I did with these below).

    If I can find the quote again I will post it up.

    Kind regards, always remember, never forget,

    Jim.

    Stirling Røgden

    RAF Forced Landing - Short Stirling A.IV - Serial # LJ899
     
  20. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything


    And no soon as mentioned webpage located again (marbles are not completely loose this morning!)

    "Two were hospitalized" link below (oh for a Swedish hospital records archive expert!)

    Accident Short Stirling Mk IV LJ899, 10 May 1945

    Kind regards, always remember, never forget,

    Jim.
     
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