Gurkha’s fighting retreat in Burma

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

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Graham smith August 9, 2014 at 2:45 pm

I am trying to find out my fathers regiment e.t.c, finding it hard without any regiment numbers, his name was Cecil Smith he fought in ww11 in Burma , he comes from Scunthorpe Lincolnshire. Have tried various websites.

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