War Diary for 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusilliers during Operation Longcloth, Burma

Discussion in 'British Army Units - Others' started by DParks, Dec 11, 2017.

  1. DParks

    DParks Member

    Hi all

    I was wondering if anyone would have access to a copy of the above mentioned war diary. I've been trying to research my Grandfather Emerson McCarron Cpl...My Great Uncle James McCarron Sgt...and their half brother Edward Laird Private who served in Burma with The Skins during the 1st operation. Any help with this would be very much appreciated.

    Many thanks

    JITTER PARTY Well-Known Member

    1 Innisk didn't take part in Operation Longcloth.
  3. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    I'm researching my grandfather's war, currently up to Jan 1943 in the midst of the First Arakan Campaign, and 1st Inniskillings have repeated mentions in what I've got so far - he was in the artillery supporting them in the fierce fighting around Donbaik that month.

    I was planning on getting 1 Innisk's War Diary for the first few months of 1943 next time I get a chance to go to the National Archives. Would this be of any use to you? I won't have time to photograph the whole thing but I could have a quick flick through and keep an eye out for those names just on the off chance they appear, and I could give you an idea of how long the diary is if you wanted to ask one of the research chaps on the forum to get the whole thing for you.
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  4. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Here's part of what I've summarised so far with mentions of 1 Innisk (using 130 Fd. Regt. & 5/8 Punjab's War Diaries and CO of 130 Fd. Regt. Col. Ronnie Nicholson's account of the Arakan Campaign). The focus is on 494 Battery as that's who my grandfather was with. The carriers and crews from the Innisks that were hit by the captured anti-tank gun were rescued by Parkash Singh of 5/8 Punjabs who won the VC for his incredible bravery (he towed them away under heavy fire). Text in italics is directly quoted from the sources.

    18th January
    Arty Fire Plan for the attack on the area North of DONBAIK commenced.

    Nicholson explains that the first phase of the attack is for 1/7 Rajput Regiment to seize a terrain feature known as ‘Twin Knobs’, an area of high ground at the very coastal edge of the Mayu Range overlooking Donbaik. To support this 494 Battery will fire concentrations on the village itself, while one Troop of 316 Battery along with 8 Mountain Battery will fire on the jungle around Twin Knobs, and the other Troop of 316 will fire smoke shells to blind known enemy positions.
    The second phase is for 1 Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers to push on the village, with the 12 Bren-gun carriers available advancing down the beach in support. To cover this attack all Batteries will switch to firing a ‘creeping’ barrage on the Japanese positions around Donbaik, the barrage moving forward 100 yards every two minutes as the infantry push onwards. Forward Observation Officers from the Batteries will move up with the infantry to call in further targets. Nicholson lists total ammunition expenditure for the guns as 2300 rounds of High Explosive and 330 rounds of smoke from the 25-pounders and 480 rounds of High Explosive from the 3.7-inch howitzers.

    The first phase is a complete success and Twin Knobs is taken with little opposition. Nicholson notes that “traces of blood in the jungle indicated that casualties had been inflicted” by the artillery bombardment.

    The second phase begins at 1230, and by 1240 has ground to a halt. The Inniskillings advance is stopped dead at the chaung (creek) in front of Donbaik by heavy machine gun and mortar fire. Four carriers make an attack on the village area but are driven back by Japanese mortars. By 1415 the Inniskillings are still 300 yards from the enemy positions. ‘A’ Company has managed to work its way to the east of Donbaik through the jungle, and it is decided that they will assault westwards the next day with support from ‘D’ Company of the Rajputs and a further heavy artillery barrage. ‘Zero’ hour for the attack is set for 0900 on the 19th.

    19th January
    0900 A Coy 1 INNISK tried to attack the first objective, a wooded area near the coast, from a flank but were shot at by a concealed M.G. to their rear.
    During the day many observed shoots were carried out to assist the inf by silencing M.Gs and mortars. Carriers also assisted, three being set on fire by a British 2-pr A/Tk gun used by the JAP. Captain MUNDIE, the F.O.O. with the carriers was unhurt.

    1530 C Coy 1/7 RAJPUT attacked a Jap M.G. and mortar posn assisted by Arty concentrations but failed to reach the objectives. They suffered heavy casualties from concealed enemy M.Gs. Captain GRAY, the F.O.O. was able to give supporting fire until the Coy were so near to their objective that it became too dangerous.

    [Nicholson] At 1530 hrs C Coy 1/7 Rajputs attacked supported by Arty concentrations. The Coy carried out a most gallant but what appeared to be a very foolhardy attack advancing out of the jungle into the open. They were at once caught by M.G. and mortar fire and lost very heavily, only 12 of the Coy getting back.

    In all aspects it was a most depressing action, as although the Rajputs had succeeded in reaching their objective in Phase 1 they had passed over - in the jungle - several enemy posts which gave trouble later. The interval of the night had allowed the Japs to further strengthen these posts and infiltrate into the RAJPUT positions, an opportunity he was quick to seize. The unlocated M.G. post which came to life so close to the INNISK forward positions disclosed a grave fault in patrolling prior to the battle.

    Other companies of the Inniskillings and Rajputs are drawn into fierce fighting with the Japanese defenders and are ultimately forced to withdraw. Nicholson notes that the artillery has done well today, but the day has ended in failure; by midnight all British units involved have been driven back to their Phase 2 starting positions.

    ... [later in the month]

    At 1115 on the 25th, 494 Battery are again firing on targets for the 5/8 Punjabs at Laungchaung. In the afternoon an N.C.O. from the Inniskillings, who has been trapped behind enemy lines since the battle of the 19th January, manages to make his way back to British positions and reports that he has seen a large amount of Japanese mule transport in the jungle south-east of Donbaik; 494 and 316 Batteries fire a total of nine concentrations (each of 64 rounds) onto the position.
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  5. DParks

    DParks Member

    Hi Packrat

    Thank you ever so much for the information that you have provided....it gives real insight into my relatives time in Burma. I would be most grateful if you could check out if any of the above names appear in 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusilliers war diary. Unfortunately I am unable to travel to the National Archives myself due to chronic ill health....so any help accessing information from the relevant war diaries would be of a great help.

    Thank you once again for taking the time to type up all of the info above . Your kindness is very much appreciated.

    PackRat likes this.
  6. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Hi Denise,

    You're welcome, it's nice to be able to share some of the research I've done. I'm hoping to make a trip to the archives later this month and I've made a note of those names to keep an eye out for. I'll aim to get pics of the first few months of the '43 diary (which should cover the Arakan campaign) and have a quick read through the rest of the year - with a bit of luck your relatives might show up somewhere in the diaries or field returns. I'll post what I find on this thread, hopefully sometime in the next few weeks.
  7. DParks

    DParks Member

    Thank you Packrat....you're a star!
  8. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Hi Denise,

    I was able to get up to the Archives for a few hours today so as promised I had a look for your relatives. I added these files to my order for the day:

    WO 172/2513
    1 Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 1943 Jan.- Dec.

    WO 172/863
    Burma 1942: Infantry: 1 Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 1942 Feb. - May, July - Dec.

    WO 361/203 & WO 361/202
    Burma: 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers; missing personnel

    First off I had a quick look through the two diaries. I didn't see any of your relatives mentioned by name in them, but then that's common: they often only bothered to mention the officers. There weren't any nominal rolls or embarkation lists attached, which sometimes allow you to find Other Ranks by name if you're lucky.

    In WO 361/202 I did find Fus. E. Laird, though. He's on two missing lists, and also mentioned on a witness statement from a Lt. of the regiment (pics hopefully attached). He might possibly be mentioned elsewhere in that file but it's a real jumbled mess of notes, letters and other stuff that would take a few hours to go through properly.

    DSC_0176.jpg DSC_0177.jpg DSC_0178.jpg
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  9. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Also in that file I found this very poignant post-war letter from a major of the regiment who seems haunted by what happened, and at the end of his tether with relatives contacting him for information. His closing line is blunt to say the least, I've not seen anything like it before.

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  10. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    I took some pics of the diaries too. I wasn't able to get too much as I only had a few hours there, and my camera-work certainly isn't up to the standard of the chaps on this forum who take orders for diaries! If you wanted to get the full copies of these two diaries from them I'd guess that they are (very roughly) about 150-200 pages each, a mix of typed and handwritten. WO 361/202 is maybe 250-300 pages, many of them notepaper scraps and letters.

    My internet connection is a bit rubbish so I'll see how many I can get uploaded here. First some from the 1942 diary that hint at the serious unrest in eastern India at the time.

    DSC_0039.jpg DSC_0041.jpg
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  11. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Here's January 43, leading up to that action in the Arakan I wrote about above. The Inniskillings were making the Brigade's first (of several) attempts to take the 'FDL Chaung' [FDL=Forward Defended Locality, Chaung is a local word for a tidal creek] out in front of Donbaik, and suffered badly, it being much more heavily defended than expected.

    DSC_0045.jpg DSC_0046.jpg DSC_0047.jpg DSC_0048.jpg DSC_0049.jpg DSC_0050.jpg DSC_0051.jpg DSC_0052.jpg
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  12. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    DSC_0053.jpg DSC_0054.jpg DSC_0055.jpg DSC_0056.jpg DSC_0057.jpg DSC_0058.jpg DSC_0059.jpg DSC_0060.jpg
    More Jan 43
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  13. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    And more

    DSC_0061.jpg DSC_0062.jpg DSC_0063.jpg DSC_0064.jpg DSC_0065.jpg DSC_0066.jpg DSC_0067.jpg DSC_0068.jpg
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  14. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Jan 43 continues: looks like the diarist went into a lot of detail on this action

    DSC_0069.jpg DSC_0070.jpg DSC_0071.jpg DSC_0072.jpg DSC_0073.jpg DSC_0074.jpg DSC_0075.jpg DSC_0076.jpg
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  15. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    More Jan 43

    DSC_0077.jpg DSC_0078.jpg DSC_0079.jpg DSC_0080.jpg DSC_0081.jpg DSC_0082.jpg
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  16. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    And these sheets were added as an appendix to January's diary:

    DSC_0083.jpg DSC_0084.jpg DSC_0085.jpg DSC_0086.jpg DSC_0087.jpg
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  17. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Finally, I found this sketch map on a piece of notepaper in February's diary that gives an idea of the FDL Chaung. This sketch was made after the January attack, by which point they had located two strong-points that became infamously known by their artillery target names, S4 and S5, which you can see marked on the map. 'Sugar 5' in particular was virtually indestructible and resisted every attempt to storm or shell it. The last desperate efforts (in March) included digging a trench and gun pit and moving a field gun up to some 50 yards from the bunker to fire directly at it with armour-piercing rounds, and then sappers attempting to drag a trolley of explosives on to it, but nothing was able to crack it.The tank marked on the sketch map might be one of the Valentines from 'C' Squadron, 146 Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps, which got ditched in a second attack attempt on 1 Feb (I think the Inniskillings had been temporarily pulled back to Maungdaw to rest at this point). 8 Valentines joined an attack by 1/17 Dogra and 2/1 Punjab - it was hoped that they would provide an unstoppable surprise element, but 3 got stuck in front of the chaung during the advance and were abandoned, others were hit by an A/Tk gun, and then the rest pulled out in error when the lead tank had wireless problems. My research is only up to the end of Jan so far so I need to do a lot more diary reading to be sure.

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  18. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    And here's a good wider view of the FDL Chaung that I found today in 99 Field Regiment's diary - it was one of their Batteries that dragged a field gun to point-blank range of 'Sugar 5' on 23 March. Donbaik is just to the south (left side) of this map:

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  19. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    And this is an overview map of the area that was in the 1943 diary for 130 Field Regiment (my grandfather's unit):

    Donbaik Feb43-3.jpg
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  20. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    PackRat, your photographs are just as good as mine. :)
    PackRat likes this.

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