Training in 14th Army Burma

Discussion in 'British Indian Army' started by mcgrunt, Aug 3, 2006.

  1. mcgrunt

    mcgrunt Junior Member

    I was reading a book about the 9th Bn , the Border Regiment the other day (Quartered Safe out Here) it is no accident getting that tough , they were conditioned and trained . The 17th Indian Div. was mauled when the Japanese invaded Burma, what training did Gen Slim use to make those units such splendid infantry ?
  2. spidge


    The 17th Indian Div. was mauled when the Japanese invaded Burma, what training did Gen Slim use to make those units such splendid infantry ?

    Maybe not so much training but rather building their confidence with him as the head. Some facts on Slim.

    General Slim may not have had the high profile however he was one of the best Generals of the war. He served in <st1:country-region w:st="on">France</st1:country-region>, Gallipoli and <st1></st1><st1>Mesopotamia</st1> during the First World War. He transferred to the Gurkha Rifles in 1920 and became a regular officer. In 1940-41 he led British and Indian troops in <st1:country-region w:st="on">Eritrea</st1:country-region>, <st1:country-region w:st="on">Syria</st1:country-region>, <st1:country-region w:st="on">Iraq</st1:country-region> and <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1>Iran</st1></st1:country-region>. Slim was sent to take up and maintain morale and discipline as a corps commander in <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1>Burma</st1> </st1:country-region>in 1942, where British forces were reeling under the Japanese onslaught. The situation was desperate but Slim conducted a steady withdrawal during the retreat from <st1><st1:city w:st="on">Rangoon</st1:city></st1> to Imphal while in close contact with the enemy.

    Promoted to army command, commander of the Fourteenth Army in December 1943, Slim concentrated on improving the welfare of his men, reducing disease and building up an adequate supply chain.

    He cleverly repulsed the last Japanese assaults against Imphal and Kohima in 1944, before going on the offensive himself. Outflanking the Japanese on the <st1><st1>:placename w:st="on">Irawaddy</st1>:placename> <st1>:placetype w:st="on">River</st1>:placetype></st1>, Slim regained the strategic initiative. The subsequent British advance through central <st1:country-region w:st="on">Burma</st1:country-region>, in which Slim used armour and mechanized formations in extremely difficult terrain, was a masterpiece of military skill, rewarded by the capture of <st1:city w:st="on">Rangoon</st1:city> and the defeat of the Japanese in <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1>Burma</st1></st1:country-region>. The culmination of Slim's military career was his appointment in 1948 (48-52) as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, the first Indian Army officer ever to serve as the professional head of the British Army. He was made Field Marshall and became a very popular Governor General of <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1>Australia</st1> </st1:country-region>without retiring from the army.
    <o></o><o>He was also a Generals, General. </o>
    NCAC (Northern Combat Area Command)<o></o>
    In Reference to General “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell.<o></o>
    At a meeting to sort out the operational chain of command for the three fronts in <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1>Burma</st1></st1:country-region>, Stilwell astonished everyone by saying "I am prepared to come under General Slim's operational control until I get to Kamaing."<o></o>
    Under a general less gifted than Slim this could have caused serious problems, if Slim had not been able to command Stilwell at an operational level without disagreement (which given Stilwell's proven track record was more than likely). But at an operational level Slim was able to work with Stilwell and "this illogical command set-up worked surprisingly well".
    To know the man who commanded respect and loyalty try and get your hands on a copy of:

    <o></o>Slim the Standard-bearer: A Biography of Field-Marshal The Viscount Slim, KG, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, GRE, DSO, MC.<o></o>

    (By Ronald Lewin. 1976; reprint, Wordsmith Editions, 1999. 350 Pages. Reviewed by Lieutenant Colonel Harold E. Raugh, Jr., <st1><st1:country-region w:st="on">U.S.</st1:country-region></st1>Army, Retired).

    Our bill likes this.
  3. Brownag

    Brownag Member


    I'm not taking anything away from Slim (I have a well thumbed copy of Lewin's book) who I agree was Britain's best general of the Second World War but Mcgrunt's post relates to training and that was the responsibility of the Army in India. Slim inspired them and led them but it was Auchinleck who had trained them.

    There were two training Divisions in India, 14th and 37th Indian, staffed by experienced jungle fighters and they were used to get men accustomed to jungle warfare in large formations before they were sent to 14th Army.Time very well spent.


  4. mcgrunt

    mcgrunt Junior Member

    Thanks for info on 14th Army and General Slim . I will look for Lewin's "Slim-
    The Standard Bearer" .Gen Auchinleck had been in the Eygpt, so 14th Army profitted from that experience as well .

    I am reading Allen's " Burma the Longest War " . Fascinating
  5. spidge


    Thanks for that Brownag. You have answered his query with the Auchinleck training.

    My inclusion (poorly presented) was meant to point out that the training no matter how intense is wasted if supply lines are inadequate. A soldier runs on his stomach (they were poorly supplied) yet they had disease and the worst possible conditions (except for New Guinea), equipment that suited nearly everywhere else but the monsoonal regions of Burma (Slim traded trucks for Mules) and gave them the chance to use that training through brilliant planning.
  6. mcgrunt

    mcgrunt Junior Member

    Spidge ,

    You are correct of course in that training alone is not the whole answer as to why an army like the 14th was successful. It is supply , cordination , leadership and the time to bring all of the threads together .

    I was reading "Spearheader" Merrill's Marauders some time ago and got a pretty good idea of what did not work . They were "used up " and not supplies properly . ( Apparently K rations were one of several mistakes that
    were made .)

    Thanks Spidge for your learned explanations .
  7. Shiny 9th

    Shiny 9th Member

    Hi all, This might add a little to the search for the type of training that went on in India. My father sailed out in 1942, to India and spent most of 1943 training in Combined Ops and other things so as to be ready to enter the fight back against the Japanese in Burma. I know some of the training was amphibious, with Battle Innoculation as well. There were also Jungle Expeditions which actually sounded quite good fun! There is a description of some of this training in " Not Forgetting The 9th"-see below for details. This covers the 9th Battalion, Royal Sussex's role for 1944 and 45.
  8. Charpoy Chindit

    Charpoy Chindit Junior Member

    There's an excellent book on this subject;
    Strongly recommended.

    I'm a great admirer of Slim, but I think he is given too much credit for the turn around in fortunes in this theatre. For example, 17 Ind Div began analysing the reasons for their defeat in Burma as soon as they got back to India, and immediately began a regime of training and experimentation aimed at correcting the problems. The time taken for that attitude to reach the higher echelons may be a reflection of other factors, Wavell's continued command, for instance. As hinted at above, the replacement of Wavell by Auchinleck may have had more to do with the improvement than the promotion of Slim or the arrival of Mountbatten.

    It was 14 Ind Div and 39 Ind Div, not 37. Both of these divisions had been comprehensively defeated by the Japanese, in 1943 and 1942, respectively.
  9. lionboxer

    lionboxer Member Patron

    Another important aspect in the training and re-training of the army that's been overlooked is the role of the Reinforcement Camps. In the good old bad days these were just backwaters for men to languish in until required but under the command of Lt Col Graddage (?) these places were then staffed by instructors, men of experience, and a rigorous routine of training was put into place. This was a kind of continuation training from the training battalions. Later when these reinforcement camps were aligned with a specific division then particular training for that division was employed. By the end of 1944 there were seventeen or so rft camps dotted throughout NE India. Normally these were just administrative units but on two occasions were caught up in the fighting and played a vital part. 24 Rft Camp was involved at Kohima and 20 Rft Camp at Kanglatongbi, Imphal. Obviously with heavy fighting going on the training was curtailed and eventually these units were flown out of the combat area to congregate closer to Comilla, mostly on the Mainamati Ridge in what is now Bangladesh. Their vital work of providing a steady stream of good quality reinforcements continued right through the remainder of the Campaign, even actually being shipped out ready for Operation Zipper, the invasion of Malaya.
  10. Our bill

    Our bill Well-Known Member

    Hi everyone I have loved reading the posts and links on here great reading and a great history lesson.Have just ordered not forgetting the 9th and put the other two books on my list of books to get Thank you Elsie
  11. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Here's another one: academic so expensive but not, I think, quite as expensive as Moreman:

    Phoenix from the Ashes

    Elsie: be warned that's a link to our ABDA/CBI/SEAC/Burma bibliography, book-buying can get addictive...
  12. Our bill

    Our bill Well-Known Member

    Idler Thanks for this one I have bought it. Can't wait to get it AND your warning came too late I am addicted to both the books AND to this site but I am having a great time .
  13. zahonado

    zahonado Well-Known Member

    There's quite a lot in my blog later on in 1943/early 1944 about training at Orchha near Jhansi, where many did their jungle training prior to Op Thursday. But some of the most fascinating reading I have come across was in a report of medical conditions of the various parts of 14th army and different columns ( sorry can't remember the ref but someone will!) One of the main reasons for some diseases were the lack of hygiene in the camps set up along the way, with those passing through later getting the worst of it. Some columns had stricter sanitary routines did better. There is a mass of info out there and on this site with many experts who are happy to spend time keeping us enthralled.
  14. BritishMilitaryHistory

    BritishMilitaryHistory Junior Member

    Excellent question - The turnaround of the performance of the British Army and British Indian Army during the Second World War is remarkable when viewed historically. It must have been remarkable at the time, although I expect many did not realise at the time.

    In summary, the troops that served in Burma, Malaya and Hong Kong in 1941 and 1942 were mainly newly recruited, inadequately trained and equipped. From the beginning of the Second World War, the focus of the Indian Army was on raising and equipping formations for deployment in the Middle East. The Far East was right at the bottom of the priority list. Remember, at this time, India was not an industralised nation, it was mainly agricultural.

    There appears to be little doubt that some key people were dismissive about the intentions and capabilities of the Japanese, but events quickly dispelled that view.

    The key campaign that was the catalyst for change was the First Arakan Campaign in early 1943. A limited advance by the 14 Indian Division was not only held, but was utterly defeated. This coincided with some key people arriving in key positions. AUCHINLECK came back from the Middle East to become C-in-C The Army in India. Vastly underrated in my view, he knew the Indian Army extremely well. General George GIFFARD, also often ignored and vastly underrated assumed command of the 11 Army Group, covering the Eastern Frontier, SLIM took command of 14 Army, with CHRISTISON and SCOONES as his Corps Commanders, with STOPFORD in Southern India.

    This is when the 14 Indian Infantry Division and 39 Indian Infantry Division (formerly the 1 Burma Division) became training divisions. In addition, improved medical care started to reduce casualties from sickness. The improved performance was seen with the defeat of the Japanese advance in the Arakan in early 1944. The two divisions under MESSERVY and BRIGGS did not withdraw, they stood and fought. This was only possible by the fact the Allies now had air superiority over Burma and the resources to supply ground formations from the air.

    The rest as they say is history.
  15. Our bill

    Our bill Well-Known Member

    Sylvia , have enjoyed reading the book not forgetting the 9th
  16. Pete Keane

    Pete Keane Senior Member

    The 7th Bn South Lancs were posted to India in 42/43, initially on internal security duties (some 60 Battalions were similariliy engaged) but then became a Jungle Warfare training battalion - over the years I've helped a few people with service histories where the soldiers are shown as transferred to the 7th for a short period, which I think reflects either their jungle warfare training, or attachment to the actual battalion for some form of experience gathering.

    I cant make any comment on Slim other than that my grandfather (2nd Bn South Lancs) was completely loyal to him and would fight anyone in the pub who spoke differently. On the basis he was in Burma, I'll take his opinion as worthy. On the basis that if theres an afterlife the old bugger will be waiting to give me a thick ear for disagreeing, its probably the safest option for my eternal peace !

  17. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi Pete,

    Nice to see you back on these pages. That's a lovely description of your grandfather and his loyalty to General Slim. I think that I may well be in for a 'thick ear' too, mine from my Nan, and for chasing my granddad's story. :)
  18. Pete Keane

    Pete Keane Senior Member

    Been sooooo busy at work, havent had time to do much at all for last 12 months.

    On the plus side, I'm off to the Smoke tomorrow for 3 days, inc a visit to the IWM.


  19. Shiny 9th

    Shiny 9th Member

    Our Bill, Thanks for the comments re the book
  20. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    The 20th (Indian) Division spent a considerable time in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) training for jungle warfare before being committed to first Burma from Nov/Dec 1943 and later the Imphal fighting from March/April 1944. This undoubtedly readied them for the challenges they faced. Slim's own book 'Defeat into Victory' has a fair amount about the challenges he faced and actions he took to turn around 14th Army - training was one of them.

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