Japanese brutality as they overrun hospital

An Indian infantry section of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Rajput Regiment about to go on patrol on the Arakan front, Burma.

An Indian infantry section of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Rajput Regiment about to go on patrol on the Arakan front, Burma.

In northern Burma the clashes between the Anglo-Indian forces and the Japanese were becoming more frequent. The Japanese were now building up in strength and attempting to infiltrate the British lines. On the 7th February they broke into a Field Hospital run jointly by the Royal Army Medical Corps and the the Indian Army.

It was a widely dispersed series of buildings and the Japanese force, which appeared to be searching for medical supplies, shot or bayoneted patients in their beds when they were found.

They did not discover everyone – and a party of doctors and patients lay undiscovered overnight. They were not spared for long. Lieutenant-General Sir Geoffrey Evans was subsequently able to piece together what happened:

When day came, they lay still so that the Japanese might not notice them. During the morning they heard a shout outside and the RAMC Captain asked: ‘What do you want?’ The shout – it sounded like ‘You go’ – was repeated. The Captain shook his head and lay down again. ‘Who is it?’ asked the Lieutenant.

‘It’s a Jap,’ said the Captain. At that moment one of the Japanese soldiers appeared and shot him through the right thigh. The Captain shouted: ‘I am a doctor – Red Cross – I am a medical officer.’

The Japanese shot dead the Captain, the Gurkha Major, two British soldiers and a mess servant. The Lieutenant and the three surviving British soldiers lay still. They stayed like that all day, and when darkness came they managed to leave the hospital and find the safety of the nearest West Yorkshire post.

A British private of the RAMC – one of a party of twenty – survived to describe his experience. He was tied by his neck to another man – as they all were – kicked, cuffed and cracked over the head by rifle butts, and used as a shield on top of a trench by the Japanese when the carrier attacked. Just before dark on February 8 a Japanese officer told the twenty men: ‘Come and get treatment.’

They were taken along a dried-up watercourse to a clearing with a running stream. Through the whole hot day they had been allowed only two bottles of water between them. And now they stood by the stream. But they were not allowed to drink. The Japanese opened up at them with rifles. Seventeen of them were killed.

That night Lieutenant Basu and nine men who had been wounded when a mortar exploded near them lay in a watercourse, some dying, some crying for water. The Japanese shot one man and bayoneted another who cried too loudly. Just before they left, the japanese stood in front of them, their rifles ready. ‘We are Red Cross people,’ said Basu – he and another doctor both had their stethoscopes slung round their necks. ‘We are doctors and hospital workers. We have nothing to do with actual warfare.’ Most of them wore Red Cross badges on their arms. It made no difference. The Japanese shot them all.

Lieutenant Basu was shot at twice. He was left stunned. At first he was not sure whether he was alive or dead. He felt at his ear, but there was no blood on his fingers. He could still see and his thoughts became clear once more. He realised how vulnerable he was lying there still alive.

So he reached out to the body of one of his dead friends and put his hand on the wounds until it was covered With blood, and then he smeared the blood over his face and head and down his shirt front, so that the Japanese would think he, too, was mortally wounded. He slipped groaning into a trench, and there he spent the night.

See Sir Geoffrey Evans: THE DESERT AND THE JUNGLE

Doctors tend a wounded soldier of the 81st West African Division in an improvised operating theatre in the Kaladan Valley, Burma.

Doctors tend a wounded soldier of the 81st West African Division in an improvised operating theatre in the Kaladan Valley, Burma.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

thomas otho-briggs September 11, 2016 at 1:33 pm

I refer back to my recent addition to this page (LT. Edward otho briggs. RE ) as on the citation of his award was mentioned the name of AN iNDIAN OFFICER- JAMADAR BHAGWANTRAO MORE.
I believe the Lt. refered to in the previous statement regarding the dressing station murders, may well have been my uncle. please contact me on tothobriggs@gmail.com, if you are able to add additional info. Thank you
I

Pete Baker August 19, 2016 at 7:34 pm

My father, Lt. A.D.Baker 6th Medium RA fought at the Admin Box. As far as I
can gather, his position was on the eastern perimeter.
He was also involved in the pursuit of the retreating Japs all the way
down to Ramree Island, where the enemy were so desperate to get
away they built rafts to cross to safety, presumably unaware of the salt
water crocs, which inhabited the area.
Like many others, my father never spoke much of his time during the war,
in fact the above is about it.
In 1995 we watched him march down the Mall in the VJ Parade. We only
found out later that he’d fainted twice beforehand due to the heat . I
suppose he was just as determined to march with his old pals again as he
had been originally, all those years ago. Looking back, I believe he
shouldn’t have marched, but doubt anyone could have stopped
him. There was so much pride on display that day.
He fell Ill soon afterwards and died in 2000. Sadly missed.

thomas otho-briggs April 30, 2016 at 5:12 pm

My uncle Edward Otho Briggs Royal Engineers awarded posthumous M C, action with B sqn div R.E. and crossing of 55 Dragoons just E of NGAKYEDAUK PASS with JAMADAR BHAGWANTRAO MORE.
Any further info of burial location would be most appreciated. his memorial is in Rangoon along with 100 000 others!!

Nick Spencer April 5, 2016 at 1:22 pm

My father, Trooper John Edmund Spencer, who died a few days ago on the 27th March, 2016, aged 92, was a tank driver with the XXV Dragoons tank regiment at the Battle of the Admin Box. He spoke practically nothing about this desperate night-and-day battle against the Japanese, except to shake his head sadly and describe it as “a bloody mess”. During his time in Burma, John was nearly killed three times, on each occasion his life being saved by men of different nationalities, two of whom were West Africans who, setting up a Bren gun, shot up a Japanese sniper who was picking off John’s comrades one by one. In a display of his courage, John, under mortar fire, went to fetch field dressings for a comrade whose leg had been ripped from knee to thigh by shrapnel. He drove an American M3 Grant tank that had already seen service in North Africa before being embarked for Burma.

Andy Bailey January 9, 2016 at 1:55 pm

My grandfather, Charles Edward ‘Chuck’ or ‘Charlie’ Woolford was there as a Corporal in the West Yorkshire Regiment involved in the defence of the Admin Box. It’s a little known battle, with few online references to it, but I did have a copy of the West Yorkshire regiment history, written post war, which records this incident and that Lt Basu escaped and alerted the defenders to this atrocity.

Revenge was had on the Japanese who had a fixed re supply point which had been compromised by Gen Messervy’s defenders. A party of men waited for the next Japanese patrol to collect their supplies in the jungle and gunned them down to a man, showing no mercy. According to the offical history this happened on a number of occasions, the loss of so many patrols did not seem to register with the enemy.

My grandfather never really spoke about his time there but expressed a profound admiration for the Gurkhas he fought alongside in the Burma campaign and sadly died in 1982. If anyone has any more information about this battle I’d be interested to hear it.

Peter Manners August 17, 2015 at 8:40 am

My father Ernest Walter Manners was the 25th Dragoons quartermaster in the Admin Box and heard the screams from the men in the Dressing station and has never forgotten the cruelty of the Japanese soldiers while he was in Burma. He joined the army in 1920 and died in 1976.

Ian Kirkpatrick April 28, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Thank you for the information. It is very helpful. My father was a private RAMC soldier. He did not say much at all about his war service but I recall as a very young boy him showing me his Chindit patch. He told me he was on a water patrol and when he returned with two other soldiers the field hospital had been massacred. He then went on the run, chased by the Japanese, with the other two soldiers for three days until they came to a beach littered with army rations from a sunken supply ship. The struggled to open a tin of marmalade, their only food since their escape. This is a vague childhood memory and I do not know if I have the story right. Please, if anyone can help me find out more please email me.
Thank you,
Ian Kirkpatrick son of Private Harold William Kirkpatrick (known as Sid) RAMC

Brig (Retd) Dr Ketoki Kapila, Ex AMC,India March 30, 2014 at 3:14 pm

I am the eldest daughter of Lt (later Brigadier) Sudhindra Nath Basu of Indian Army Medical Corps who is mentioned in the Battle of the Admin-box. I have often heard the whole story from my father. They were a brave lot of doctors who withstood all odds until the very end. Just before being shot at, they exchanged each others’ addresses so that if anyone survived, he would inform their families. It was sheer luck that saved Lt S N Basu. Yes, he was shot at twice: one bullet went past his ear (he remained hard of hearing in that ear to the very end of his life) and the other went through the shin of his left leg. He fell and was thought to be dead. It was a chilling tale how he reached his own camp after three days of “crawling” through enemy ridden territory. He was presumed dead and when he reached home in Dum0Dum West Bengal, no one at home could believe that he was alive! They had already received information that he was “missing in action”.

I wish I could get more information regarding my late father Brigadier (Dr) S N Basu who was one of the lucky ones to have survived Japanese firing and came back to his camp to tell the tales of terror. He was caught in the Battle of the Admin Box at Arakaan in Feb 1944 (Feb 7 1944). If anyone has any information about this, do please write back.

Chuck February 10, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Mike, Thanks for sharing!

Mike Worsnip February 9, 2014 at 9:57 pm

This happened during the Battle of Admin Box. The Hospital in question was the Indian 7th Div Dressing Station within the box.
My Grandfather, Lt Robert Hooper was there. He was commissioned into the Royal Artillery then seconded to 7 Div HQ because he spoke Urdu. He died in 1978 and never spoke about the war to his family or anyone. We found out last year when his son (my uncle) found his record.

Bob February 8, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Unfortunately MacArthur protected many of these killers after the war and now the new right wing leaders of Japan are denying that this and every other barbarity they committed ever happened. This is what happens when you don’t purge the monsters from society…

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