Special Forces in Burma

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

  1. Webby962

    Webby962 Member

    That was very interesting, I thank you again. Yet one more small piece to the jigsaw is put in place.
    Again, my thanks.

  2. Webby962

    Webby962 Member

    Well the book "The Johnnies" turned up yesterday. The photos tell a story before I even began reading. I think I can confirm the photo on the Denis Wilmot Rae website is infact Freddie. If the cocker spaniel is Freddies (and not Sam's) then that clinches it; as does the 3 pips, as Lt Col CEC Gregory is in the book with only a pip and a crown (which would make sense, as a full Col. is 2 pips and a crown). There is also a photo of Freddie and Bertie Castens having lunch, and the cocker spaniel is in that photo too. I'm sure as I dive into the text, some more snippets will emerge....

    Thanks again all.

  3. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron


    Thanks for the info on the book. I have never got around to getting a copy myself, I might have to remedy that now.

    Best wishes

  4. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Apologies if there's a specific thread for this sort of thing (I can't find it if there is), but I stumbled across this on ebay and thought some of you chaps might be interested:



    I'd thought to buy it myself, but I will be skinned alive by my other half if I buy any more military books this month and I'd like it to go to a good home - the kind that is occupied by a charitable soul who might post the contents on here [hint-hint].

    Edit: the auction has a day and a half to run.
  5. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Thanks for the heads up Charley Fortnum, there have been one or two nice booklets up on eBay over the last few days. I picked up something Gurkha related last week, thanks to a similar tip from our forum member 'sol'.
  6. Charpoy Chindit

    Charpoy Chindit Junior Member

    Please, can we NOT do this sort of thing?

    Ebay is expensive enough without every bloke on this forum bidding against each other. If you see something you fancy, by all means bid on it, but you don't need to advertize it on here. Before long Ebay vendors will realize that they can bump up their takings with this sort of advertizing, and we won't be able to move for "Have you seen this on ebay..." type posts. This is not what this forum is for, is it?
  7. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Sorry that it has irritated you.

    My motivation was merely that I'd rather see the contents read and discussed on here than sitting in a box waiting to be resold or exchanged by another militaria collector - I wouldn't have posted it if it were a regular book that had been publicly published.

    I take your point about inadvertently inflating prices,but that is the nature of auctions.

    The forum has threads dedicated to booksellers/dealers, so I thought it would be fine; if, however, a moderator would prefer I didn't post such links I will happily desist.

    And for the avoidance of doubt, I have no connection whatsoever with the seller.

    Edit: I've just found that there is a sub-forum precisely for such posts and would be grateful if a moderator/admin would move my post there.

  8. zahonado

    zahonado Well-Known Member

    I never look on e bay so it is invaluable when someone spots something...not that I have ever bid....sometimes, as recently , another forum member got something which they have allowed me to use....
  9. zahonado

    zahonado Well-Known Member

    Having seen that this item went for £63 perhaps you are right, Charpoy Chindit. However if any forum member bought it, perhaps they could share!
  10. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Yes, I was rather surprised by that.

    I'd thought when I was considering it that I might stretch to £30 - no chance!
    Anyway, I too am interested to know the contents if anyone here is the fortunate and deep-pocketed individual in question.
  11. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    I was surprised to see it reach such a high price. :eek:
  12. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    I recently won a batch of Dekho souvenir programmes for the Burma Star Association annual reunion at the Royal Albert Hall. Whilst looking through the programme for the final reunion in 1995, I noticed a plan showing where the various veteran groups were seated and to which bar they might wish to congregate.

    See attached plan. I would have loved to have been present in the Balcony Central Bar that day, oh what stories would have been overheard.

  13. zahonado

    zahonado Well-Known Member

    Ha ha Steve...I really like that you were not allowed access to the bars...Before the Show!
  14. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    What is it they say zahonado………."all publicity is good publicity."
  15. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    As the beginning of this thread mentioned D Force, I thought I would place this video link here. It is an interview with Peter Homfray who was involved in battle deception in India and Burma and briefly worked for Wingate as the Chindits established their Broadway stronghold.

  16. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Some more info on Peter Homfray:

  17. Jonathan Sheed

    Jonathan Sheed New Member

    I've decided to look into the stories I've heard as a kid about my great uncle
    My grandfather was born in Burma in 1940 as the son of a petroleum engineer, his uncle "John Henry Mackay"worked for the forestry service.
    My granddad told me John Mackay was one of the johnnies and died during the war in the jungle. With such limited information on the johnnies available their story is yet to be told, however i have managed to find pages on the internet that listed some names and was devastated that his name wasn't listed in the British Officer Johnnies .

    Until last night , I stumbled across this page, which was fascinating
    Bertie Castens' Secret Track

    ""while a new ‘Johnnie’ Captain John Henry Mackay teamed up with Bertie Castens. Sadly, Mackay became seriously ill with fever later in the year. Whilst out on his own reconnaissance patrol with Kachin NCO Hpawpaung Maw, Mackay and his group almost bumped into a Japanese patrol and had to retreat back into the jungle. In his growing delirium, Captain Mackay had to be supported as the party moved towards one of their jungle camps hidden behind a waterfall. Fortunately, the noise of the cascading water masked Mackay's fitful cries and the enemy patrol passed on by.

    Two days later, on Christmas Eve, John Mackay died. The Kachin Levies laid out his body according to their own custom with all his valued possessions alongside him. They then moved away in search of Major Castens.

    To view Captain Mackay's CWGC details, please click on the following link: ""
    http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2516209/MACKAY, JOHN HENRY

    John's wife died of cancer in burma and his children came to London in 1945, although he is recorded in the national archives as Captain John Henry Mackay and the forces archives recognised him as a "British office Johnnie" ...his children never received the honours/ medals that the others johnnies did.

    I know it's a long shot, but if anyone knows any more information on John Henry Mackay, please let me know, i have reserved the book by Geoffrey Evans , and hope to retell the story one day,

    if anyone has any information of the Johnnies in particular please email me as i'm collating stories, tales, information and memoirs to help write the screen play, as it stands i'm applying for the film rights so as much information will be helpful at this time.

    email : jonathan.sheed@warnerbros.com
  18. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron


    I'm pleased that the small piece of information about John Mackay on my website was of interest. Evans book is the way forward for you in your endeavours, but others on the forum may have more details. Do keep in touch as your research moves forward.

    Jonathan Sheed likes this.
  19. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    Good afternoon folks,

    Hopefully this may add something to this fascinating thread and be of interest to all.

    From Lord Ashcroft's "Special Ops Heroes" published 2014. Lord Ashcroft has quoted fairly extensively from "The Johnnies", and given I can't find the copy I have at present (yes, it's the "which box" problem again) then hopefully this may suffice.

    Major Cecil Gerald Merton MC and Bar.

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    Jonathan Sheed and bamboo43 like this.
  20. Jonathan Sheed

    Jonathan Sheed New Member

    Thank-you Steve, i'm looking forward to reading the book, and thank-you Jim for that fascinating extract from lord ashcrofts' book, i have also ordered it too. Currently i have managed to get my family to collate as much as they can to assist in me.

    As I read in that extract from Jim, Z force was "one of the most highly decorated special forces united of the second world war" these were civilians, asked to do the unthinkable behind enemy lines in the face of what was inevitability a suicide mission be-it via the hands of the enemy, or the living in jungle itself.

    As I find myself standing on the doorstep each week during isolation applauding the heroics of our key workers during this pandemic of covid-19, I will also ponder on those whos heroics and unimaginable bravery helped to save and protect many thousands of men have been forgotten.

    These are the everyday men (foresters, timber man / petroleum engineers) , who found their homes and their lives turned into some of the wars deadliest battlefields.And with their families moved into safer emergency housing across the border they find themselves turning back towards a land so war torn, and dangerous that the thought of ever seeing their families again must have merely been a fantasy in their darkest hours.

    As general slim called them himself " you are very much braver men, than can ever hope to be"

    I'm not a writer, an author, or a historian but even if this takes me 20 years, with the help of people like you we will get this story told.
    bamboo43 and JimHerriot like this.

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