Special Forces in Burma

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by Sushil Talwar, Sep 7, 2009.

  1. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    2nd Lt., W.S. Capt, Temp.Major Samuel Newland
    Intelligence Corps India
    Attached GSI (Z) General Headquarters (I)

    Awarded with the Distinguished Service Order

    Patrolled during the campaigning seasons of 1942-43 and 1943-44 in the South Chin Hills in advance of our froward troops. Produced most valuable, meticulous and consistent information throughout regarding enemy troops movements and dispositions. The accuracy of his information regarding important Japanese troop movements to the Arakan was later confirmed in detail by captured Japanese documents. When the Japanese occupied the south Chin Hills, he remained behind enemy lines constantly hunted by the Japanese, carried out numerous daring reconnaissances, and continued to produce most valuable information. He consistently refused to come out until he reached a state of absolute exhaustion. On one occasion he penetrated alone at night into Haka then held by the Japanese in order to obtain accurate information. He exercised considerable influence amongst the Chin Chiefs, and did much to keep many of them loyal during a most difficult period. One of the most gallant and valuable officers in the present Z Force. He shown consistent gallantry and qualities of leadership throughout two years' operations.

    LG. 16.08.1945
  2. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    2nd Lt., W.S. Capt, Temp.Major Dennis Wilmot Rae
    Indian Army General List
    Attached GSI (Z) General Headquarters (I)

    Awarded with the Military Cross

    Patrolled during the two campaigning seasons of 1942-43 and 1943-44 in the South Chin Hills as a worthy Second-in-Command to Major Newland, and shared all the latter's dangers and hardships behind the enemy lines during the Japanese occupation of the south Chin Hills. Continued to carry on despite severe bouts of fever, and did not come out until, like Major Newland, he too reached a state of complete exhaustion. He has shown consistent gallantry throughout two years' operations, and is now a Patrol Leader in Z Force.

    LG. 16.08.1945
  3. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    Whitehound, I guess this is your work

    Denis Wilmot Rae, born 1908

    If you want I can post rest of the citation for officers of the Z Force.
  4. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    I seek information on the Special Forces operating in Burma during WWII, namely:

    D Force
    FLEW Force
    V Force
    WOOD Force


    While I couldn't find any mention of some special unit with the name "Wood Force" it's possible that this referred to "Woodforce" which was temporally created during the battle of Imphal. When the Japanese created block north of the Bishenpur, near HQ of the 17th Indian Division, for the purpose of destroying this block the Division put all units designated for this task under command of HQ of 50th Indian Parachute Brigade, which at that moment didn't have its own units. CO of the 50th Indian Parachute Brigade was Brigadier E. G. Woods, DSO, MBE (former CO of 1/17th Dogras) and this unit was named as "Woodforce". After the task was successfully accomplished unit was broken and infantry battalions were returned under the Division's command.
  5. whitehound

    whitehound Member

    Bamboo43 and Sol, thanks, I somehow missed your posts before. Yes, that's my page on Denis, and yes it was me in the Burma Star newsletter.

    A chap called Vivian Rodrigues, who is studying the Army in Burma Reserve of Officers, has suggested that my grandfather might have been involved with HNC Stevenson. Sushil, this is another one for your list of clandestine forces.

    Stevenson was Assistant Superintendent at Kutkai in the Northern Shan States. He was an expert on Karen culture, sympathetic to the rights of native people and engaged during the war in organising Karen and Kachin levies, apparently independently of other groups.
  6. whitehound

    whitehound Member

    I know that as at late 1942 my grandfather was collecting information about the Japanese in the hills north of Burma, and by April 1944 he was with the Civil Affairs Service.

    The Civil Lists show him as a District Superintendant of Police in 1940 and a member of the Civil Affairs Service in 1944, but I did not previously have access to any Civil Lists for 1941-43. In the 1944 list, Bertie's membership of the CAS is listed in the column headed "Remarks".

    The Digital LIbrary of India has just uploaded the Civil List for April-June 1943. In the column headed "Remarks" it says "S.O.D.D.". If it's following the same format as the list from the following year, this must be the name of the service he was working for before he was working for CAS. Very probably, it's the same service he had been working for six months previously, when he was passing through the Chin Hills.

    Can anybody think of a branch of service current in 1942/43, under whose aegis a senior police officer could be collecting information on Japanese movements from field agents in the hills between Burma and Assam, and which had the initials SODD? Probably Special Operations Something Something?
  7. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Whitehound PM me your postal address and I can send you the final report on Z Force from 1945.

  8. whitehound

    whitehound Member

    I doscovered by trawling through the Civil List that Cecil Bruce Orr (later
    DIG CID for Burma) was also listed as being in SODD in 1943. Cecil Bruce
    Orr wrote an unpublished memoir which includes the war years and which is in
    the India Office collection, so next week I will order a photocopy of it and
    then I'll be able to see from that who and what SODD was.
  9. whitehound

    whitehound Member

    I kind of drew a blank with Orr - he says very little about his wartime service. He does say however that he was working in sticky situations in Arakan, and my grandfather passed through Hakha in autumn 1943 heading inthe general direction of Arakan and then returned three weeks later, so it looks as though who or whatever SODD was it/they were working in Arakan.
  10. Webby962

    Webby962 Member

    I am new to both this forum, and to be honest, also to tracing information on these kind of operations in Burma. I only discovered some of what went on when tracing my family tree. One thing I did discover was that my grandfather's brother was Capt (Temp Maj) FV Webster who received the MC for operations in Burma during the dry seasons of 42-43 and 43-44 along with a Maj Castern. I have tracked down his citation at the national archives, tracked down his Regt Number, and I think I may have tracked down a photograph of him on a web site set up about a "Denis Wilmot Rae'. Can anyone help me further by either pointing out further areas of reading, or where I can maybe confirm if the photo is of my great uncle? I am also keen to read up and discover more of what these Z Force 'Johnnies' actually did. Any help is greatly appreciated.

    Kind Rgds
  11. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    Welcome to the forum.

    I guess you are talking about Frederick Vernon Webster. If you don't have recommendation for his Military Cross just give me a note because I could have it somewhere in my files. Man on the photo you are referring on Denis' website had three pips on his shoulder so he is either a captain or colonel. I don't think that he is a colonel so there is a great possibility that he is your man. And you should try to find a book "The Johnnies" by Sir Geoffrey Charles Evans. Good luck with your research.

  12. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    From "The Worcestershire Regiment 1922-1950":

    This decision involved a certain amount of general post, in which 64 Brigade were to lose their long-familiar partnership and assume a new identity, to be known as "Flewforce". Accordingly a composite force under Brigadier Flewett, which included the Battalion and six other units with attached troops from 17, 19 and 20 Indian Divisions, concentrated at Nyaungbintha, thirty-eight miles south of Towngoo, on 19th July [1945], its role being to control operations between Pyn and the Kun Chaung.

    Along the units of 64th Indian Brigade to this unit was attached 1/19th Hyderabad Regiment from 20th Indian Division and probably one squadron from 116th Regiment RAC (The Gordon Highlanders). I guess there were also some other units but I couldn't find which units. Unit was disbanded in August 1945.
    CL1 likes this.
  13. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Welcome to the forum,

    My interest is the first Chindit operation in 1943. Bertie Castens was very influential to Wingate in the planning and recce for the operation. In fact there was a team of men that were used as pre-operational intelligence and reconnaissance for Operation Longcloth, they were: Dickie Wood, Bertie Castens, Robin Stewart and a Captain Webster. So, there must be a strong chance the last man is your relative.

    The Chindits used a 'secret track' in early 1943 which allowed them to move quickly and pass the first Japanese garrison in the Tonmakeng area of Burma. This track was named 'Castens track', because it was identified by Bertie Castens.

    If you click on my website hyperlink below and then type Castens into the search box at the top right hand corner of the page, some info will come up on the subject.

    Best wishes

    CL1 likes this.
  14. Webby962

    Webby962 Member

    Thank you for your prompt and enlightening reply. I do have the citation report for Freddie's MC, but it wouldn't hurt to confirm if it is the same file you have, if that is possible? I have also tracked down a copy of the book 'The Johnnies' which I am awaiting delivery off. I agree that the photo doesn't look like a half colonel, as most captains I have ever served with were scruffy, yet the colonels were somewhat smarter LOL.

    Rgds Adie
  15. Webby962

    Webby962 Member


    Your web site was very informative and very interesting. Thanks for the heads up.
  16. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Hi Adie,

    I'm trying to get some more info for you in relation to the potential involvement in planning and surveying the route for the Chindits of 1943. In the meantime here are two more citations, including Bertie Castens for work with Z Force.

    I'm interested in Captain Webster too, he qualifies for my Chindt 1 personnel listing for the pre-operational work, so hopefully we can add to his Army detail here.


    Castens HE. MBE.jpg Sa Baw Gam citation..jpg
  17. Webby962

    Webby962 Member

    Cheers Steve, this is what I have on Freddie with regards the MC and his time in Burma as special operations.


    Attached Files:

  18. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    That is exactly what I have. But maybe this additional pages could be interesting for you


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  19. Webby962

    Webby962 Member

    Many thanks. Very interesting and i will add it to my Freddie file :)
  20. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Hi Adie,

    With the help of another forum I can add a small amount of information in relation to Captain Webster and his involvement with Wingate in 1943.

    It centres around the service of Havildar-Major Sa Baw Gam. The source of the info was Sa Baw Gam's wife, but the reason it was obtained is a sad tale in itself. A few years ago there was an incidence of Gallantry medals being purchased from the recipient or his family in Burma and then being smuggled out of the country and sold, at great mark-up to collectors in the west.

    This is why Mrs. Sa Baw Gam gave her testimony, which acted as provenance to the medal when it was bought from her.

    Enough of the background; here is what she remembered, I have left it as written:

    Burma Gallantry Medal named 61314 A/HAVILDAR-MAJOR SA BAW GAM. THE BURMA REGT.

    London Gazette, 19 July 1945, p. 3719, "in the field": "No. 61314, Havildar-Major (acting) Sa Baw Gam, The Burma Regiment". He was a Kachin, from village Jakhandap, district Bhamo.

    Wife's testimony:

    This B.G.M. medal. He attended for 6 months training at Pyanbwe. The Japs entered Myanmar [Burma] in 1942 and to prevent them from bombing the British Force, they burnt the huts in Yangon [Rangoon] and were protected by the smoke. They fled to India by boat in 1942 on the 3rd of August from Ayriam Harbour and arrived at Calcutta, starving for 8 days. At Deradon [Dehra Dun?] a (Z) Force was organised and 20 members including my husband attended a Gas training, the Parachute training and Intelligence education.

    After they entered Myanmar [Burma] with Major Caston and Capt. Webster’s with orders to investigate the Japanese on the 1st Wingate Troop. So they were able to give exact information on the Japs from Homelin, Kyauk Koye, Chang Wa, Hakatta, Nawng Po Aung, Sinna Maung, Tong Magyine, Pamawk, Pyinbone, Mansi and Indawgailay to the G.H.Q.

    My husband landed by a parachute from a plane and investigated the Japs along the Chindwin River for 7 times and floated like a log for 3 hrs every night losing sleep and strength. That is why he has kept his B.G.M. medal for [50] years because he had to risk his life for it.

    This is followed by an interpretation of the wife's information, presumably by those who acquired the medals:

    Name – Sabaw Gam, Rank – Havildar, Service No. – 61314 (5740), Date Enlisted 1940, Date Discharged – 1945.

    He joined Burma Frontier Force in Bhamo in 1940. In 1941 Japan invaded Burma and bombing from the air everywhere in Rangoon. Some parts of Rangoon are burnt. He returned to India by ship at night. Some ships were destroyed by the Japanese.

    In India, Daradon [Dehra Dun?] Town courageous and healthy men are chosen to form (Z) Force. Major Castan ordered them to serve as intelligence for military. Sabaw Gam was included in the (Z) Force. He attended Parachute one month training in Poona. Then he returned to Burma through Homalin.

    His duty was enquite to Chyak Chyo, Chaung Wa, Naung Po Aung, Sin Na Mawng, Ton Ma Kyiang, Ban Mauk, Pyin Bone, Man Si, Indaw Lay Village. They enquired about the movement and number of soldiers of Japanese and reported to [G.H.Q.] daily. He reported 4 times before 1st Wingate troops entered Burma. Because Sabaw Gam enquired well he was rendered the B.G.M. medal and was promoted to Havildar.

    His officers were Major Caston, Captain Webster, Subadar Zau Gawng, Subedar Kareng La Roi. After World War II he joined the 3rd Kachin Rifles, his rank rose to 2nd Lt. He retired. He died on 13-2-1992.

    I hope this will be of interest Adie, I realise it is an unconfirmed source of information, but hopefully it gives some background to the activities of the Z Force unit commanded by Bertie Castens.

    Best wishes


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