Beginning my research journey on my G Grandfather (1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers)

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by bridgetw, Apr 13, 2024.

  1. bridgetw

    bridgetw New Member

    Hi all!

    I am just beginning my journey on gathering information on the life my G Grandfather would have lead during his time in the British Army, from 1937 until the end of the war. His name was Alexander Smyth and his army number was 6979055. My family requested a copy of his army records in 2006 after he died and all the most of the information I have comes from this.

    When he first enlisted in 1937 in Londonderry, he originally joined the Royal Irish Fusiliers. In December of that year, he was transferred to the 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers but in 01/1939 he was again transferred to the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was then took part of the Burma campaign, was injured on the 20th May 1943 (an A.F.B 117 was filed??) and returned home to the UK in 03/1944.

    He was then sent to NWE where he joined the 6th King's Own Scottish Borderers were he spent the rest of the war. He was discharged in 1946 and eventually moved to Australia with his wife, my G Grandmother.

    He died when I was young, so I never had the chance to speak to him about his experiences in the War. I understand that he didn't like to talk about it much, but did speak a little of some experiences in both Burma and NWE. I know he said he was once caught in fire by the Japanese - apparently they had dressed in Chinese military uniform, waved them over and when they were waist high in water, released fire on them. He then said he was captured by the Japanese, sent to a POW camp but escaped with some others when Chinese Soldiers attacked the camp. I have no idea how accurate this information, this was told to me second-hand by my father who is his grandson.

    I have been doing a little bit of reading on this forum about the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, particularly about the operation at Donbaik. I know that he lost a friend there based off a letter he recieved from someone he knew in the 1st.

    This has been a bit of a ramble but I was just seeking some guidance on where to start my research on his time in the war, I am just so lost. I would also like to get a hold of his casualty report about his injury and will apply to get it via the National Archives. Any help on where to get information about his time in the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers or the 6th KOSB would be so greatly appreciated. I really just want to know what is time during the war would have been like.
  2. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    From your description of his service it sounds as if he was involved in the retreat from Burma in 1942. At the battle of Yenangyaung the 1st battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were involved in heavy fighting, some were cornered and captured by the Japanese but were freed when Chinese troops counter attacked.
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  3. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Welcome aboard. There is plenty of knowledge and expertise here.

    It might be worth checking if there is a local newspaper article about him. Most public libraries have access to the British Newspaper Archive when in the library, not online. Assuming you know where he was before emigrating.

    On your current information he has not appeared here before today.

    The forum's search facility is basic, one word only! Using "1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers" there are x24 thread here. If you alter the text within "..." e.g. "1st battalion" + "Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers" I had x62 results.

    Some help via PM next; which is a now four pg. PDF. Also available on: WW2 Soldier Research - Tips and Links for New Researchers (update) Plus: How to Start a new Thread / Edit Post / Upload Image
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  4. bridgetw

    bridgetw New Member

    Thank you so much for your reply, I have just read about the battle you mentioned and everything about the A and D company of the 1st Inniskillings in that battle matches what my G Grandfather used to say. So thanks so much!!
  5. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the forum. If you are able to post photos of his records and any other documents or letters you have, forum members might be able to dig out more clues from them.

    On 20th May 1943 the battalion was back in camp at Namkum near Ranchi, though many of the men were scattered around India on post-Arakan leave or still receiving treatment in hospital. The AFB117 may be "Army Form B117: Report on Wounds of Injuries Received Otherwise than in Action". Here's the page covering that day from the battalion war diary:

    Innisk May 1943.jpg

    This suggests that Alexander could have been injured in an accident rather than in action - bad luck considering what the Inniskillings had been through in Burma. They suffered badly in the 1942 retreat, were reconstituted for the First Arakan Campaign, then again suffered heavy casualties. They bore the brunt of the early fighting at Donbaik in Jan/Feb 1943 (essentially trench warfare employing WW1-style tactics), then in March/April were surrounded in the jungled hills of the Mayu Range and forced to break out in small groups.

    Edited to add: Just in case you didn't find it in your searching, some years ago I posted a chunk of the war diary and some sketch maps on this thread:

    War Diary for 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusilliers during Operation Longcloth, Burma
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2024
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  6. bridgetw

    bridgetw New Member

    Thanks so much for the write-up! I have read many of your posts on this forum the last couple days :) they have all been very helpful!

    I will definitely scan some of his army record to post for people to see later!
  7. bridgetw

    bridgetw New Member


    Just posting some scans of the important pages of my G Grandfather Alexander's army records as others have suggested, in case anyone can glean any information from it that my family and I have missed. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks :)

    WR1.jpeg WR2.jpeg WR3.jpeg WR4.jpeg WR5.jpeg
  8. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    I have made these a little bit easier to read.




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  9. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    We discussed the fate of a soldier from the 1 RIFs about 6 years ago. He was killed at Yenangyaung after a large group of 1 RIFs were captured by the Japanese and held in a large barn building. There is a book, All Hell on the Irrawaddy written by an officer from the 1 RIFs that has some good info about this period of the battalion's Burma service.

    See thread here, especially post 15:
    6976962 Nicholas RENTZOS, 1 Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers: btwn 18/4/42 & 20/4/42
  10. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    If I remember it correctly, Gerald Fitzpatrick also mentions the incident in No Mandalay, No Maymyo.
  11. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    He does HW, just re-read my notes for NMNM.
  12. Charpoy Chindit

    Charpoy Chindit Junior Member

    1 RIF = 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers
    1 Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers = 1 Innisk

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