Men of the 2/9th Gurkha Rifles training in the Malayan jungle, October 1941.

In Burma British and Chinese forces were falling back in a fighting retreat. They were now without air cover and very much on the back foot. Many accounts give the impression of utter confusion, yet one man managed to maintain some semblance of an overview. General William Slim faced the very difficult task of managing the fall back to India, with the Japanese constantly seeking to outflank the retreating troops. Yet he makes clear that this was very far from being a one sided battle:

During the night, 63 Brigade with its tanks came through and moved on to hold the Myitnge crossings. Early on the 29th flank patrols had brushes with armed Burmans and rescued more Indian refugees, but not before some had suffered atrocities.

There was a brisk little action between our own and Japanese tanks, some ten miles down the main road, in which one enemy tank was destroyed and ours were bombed from the air. However, with the arrival of large Japanese reinforcements, our detachments fell slowly back to Kyaukse.

At 2200 hours in bright moonlight, the Japanese launched a fierce attack on our positions astride the road. The Gurkhas held their fire until their yelling assailants were a hundred and fifty yards away and then let them have it. The attack withered away, leaving many dead.

At midnight, a Japanese column of motor transport and bullock carts blundered almost on to our defences, and was heavily shelled and mortared. Half an hour later another attack was met with close-range fire and destroyed.

At 0515 hours next morning in pitch darkness, a third attack was flung back in confusion. At dawn on the 30th April, tanks and Gurkhas sallied out and cleared a burnt-out village in front of our lines. Many Japanese in it were killed and several mortars and light automatics captured. The Gurkhas were particularly pleased at trapping thirty-eight of the enemy who had taken refuge in a culvert under the road.

The enemy belonged to the 18th Division – one we had not previously met. The general opinion in 48 Brigade was that, compared with their old opponents, the 33rd Division, these newcomers were much inferior in both courage and fighting skill. The Japanese throughout the day shelled our positions heavily but not very effectively, except Brigade Headquarters which they appeared to have located exactly.

See Field Marshal William Slim: Defeat Into Victory

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Apr

28

1942

Hitler seizes even greater powers

28th April 1942: Hitler seizes even greater powers for himself

The concentration of hate has this time turned into utter madness. Not England or the USA or Russia – only in everything nothing but the Jew. Pay attention to the hide-and-seek and open threat. 11:59, but shall we live to see the end of the day?

Apr

27

1942

City of Norwich next on Baedeker list

27th April 1942: City of Norwich next on Baedeker list

Then amidst a turmoil of noise, doors and everything else reasonably moveable became wrenched by an invisible force to go flying out into the garden. Pieces of ceiling rained down and by now, more than likely, the blow on my head was taking effect. I may have run instinctively beside my mother to the underground shelter in our garden, but the next thing I knew was the family huddled together in our small, damp, underground dungeon.

Apr

26

1942

End of the Bataan death march

The camp was large, dotted by hundreds of grass and bamboo shacks, which were merely poles of bamboo with a grass roof. The ground flowed and undulated through the camp in tiny hills. Beside each of the shacks were stacks of bodies pullled there by the living , for they had nowhere else to put them. In the hot tropical sun the bodies swelled and bloated until they were no longer recognizable as the bodies of men.

Apr

25

1942

‘Baedeker raiders’ hit historic city of Bath

There were rumours that Churchill himself and high ranking marine planners from the Navy were in Bath. It was not just the Dornier DO.217 bombers from Kampfgeschwader II, that were ordered to attack, but also at least two other squadrons with Junkers Ju88 and Heinkel He111 were involved in the raids. My target was the city centre. I was not informed how Bath was protected.

Apr

24

1942

Promotion for a Desert Rat

Certainly it’s nice to drink tea out of cups and eat off china plates and be served by a waiter instead of having to queue up for food. However – I don’t know – I was quite happy as a bombardier! This afternoon I moved out of my homely sub-section tent and into the sergeant’s tent, which, I notice is situated cunningly convenient for parades, mess, and early morning tea issues!

Apr

23

1942

The propaganda war goes on

23rd April 1942: The propaganda war goes on

One special leaflet explained to the French people why it had been necessary to bomb the Renault works, and contained excellent reproductions of air photographs showing the damage inflicted on the works. Over 2 million of these were distributed over Paris and the industrial areas of France.

Apr

22

1942

Norwegian SS troops fight off Russian assault

22nd April 1942: Norwegian SS troops fight off Russian assault

From the Russian side they must have used over 1000 soldiers to storm us in the attack. Since the attacking forces were not the regular forces we had been looking at over the frontline for some time now, they were unable to break through our lines as they seemed completely unaware of our positions and any weaknesses our lines may have had.

Apr

21

1942

Spitfire versus Me 109s over Malta

21st April 1942: Spitfire versus Me 109s over Malta

Ahhhhh! A huge part of a Ju 88, nose and engines, flashes out from under my left wing: must have been right on top of him! Gone now. Easing gently out of my dive, watching my graceful target flying backwards towards me, larger and larger in my gun-sight. Quick search in all directions: lots of 88s but no enemy fighters.

Apr

20

1942

Spitfires for Malta are flown off USS Wasp

20th April 1942: Spitfires for Malta are flown off USS Wasp

The deck ofiicer began rotating his chequered flag and I pushed forward my throttle until I had maximum rpm. His flag then fell and I released the brakes and I pushed the throttle to emergency override to get the last ounce of power out of my Merlin. The Spitfire picked up speed rapidly in its headlong charge down the deck but not rapidly enough. The ship’s bows got closer and closer and still I had insufficient airspeed …