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9th Border: In Assam

by tikhaiall

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sam wilson
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16 January 2004

Stuart Emery, the "News Chronicle" war Correspondent wrote his piece for his newspaper after visiting the Burma Front late in 1943.
Local Radio and Forces Newspapers were non-existant, but the Battalions Sigs Officers helped by tuning in "18 Sets"to the BBC and issuing newssheets.
Although no proof is available, it is possible that this article resulted in the coining of the phrase "The Forgotten Army" generally associated with the Fourtenth Army, wich Mountbatten was quick to realise its publicity value.
The North Country Regiment wich security regulations forbode mention at the time was the 9th Bn The Border Regiment, then occupying Kennedy Peak in the Chin Hills, some 9,000 feet above sea level,not 7,000 as incorrectly in the article.

They call themselves Britain`s "forgotten army." It is not that they mind being buried away in the wide belt of jungle-covered hills along the frontier tracts of India and Burma, where until this war, few Europeans had set foot. They do not mind very much - the hardships of the life, hot days panting up mountainsides and cold nights shivering under a single blanket, leeches and jungle sores, mosquitoes and snakes, monotonous diet and lack of newspapers.They can take the rough but they are depressed by the feeling that few people in Britain know where they are or what they are doing.
One day they will move forward to re-conquer Burma and then they will come into the headlines in a big way, but for the present their job of guarding passes into India from Burma is that of one deadly monotony.
Lately I have travelled more than a thousand miles by air, lorry and jeep, around the borders of Burma and I`ve seen a lot of the "forgotten men" and the magnificent job they are doing.
The word hills is a misnomer. These so-called hills consist of range after range of jungle-clad mountains running north-south and are divided by valleys, into which you could drop an inverted Snowdon and still have a three thousand foot valley left. To get to this front our "forgotten men" travel by train for several days across Bebgal and Assam, and trans-shipped across ferries and finally after leaving the metre-gauge railhead in Assam,they transfer to lorries.The lorries start the journey along the road, which has been built into the heart of the hills.
After two days we came to the front-line area. Here some 7,000 feet up the mountain, in what might have been an English wood we meet the "White Gurkas" (9 Border)as they call themselves. They operate with the stocky little Gurkha warriors from Nepal. British and Gurkha troops get on famously together, both having the highest regard for each other`s characteristics and qualities.
Out of regard for the Gurkhas many British troops (9 Border) have shaved their heads, Gurkha-fashion, leaving only the characteristic little Gurkha quiff on the crown.
From an observation post (Kennedy Peak) we looked across a valley to Jap positions on another height (MS52)where the enemy were digging strongpoints.The air is crisp and cold at this altitude and the Company we watched preparing to raid the enemy looked in their woolen caps and sweaters, more like an expedition to the Lofotens rather than a patrol in the tropics.
Below us in the valleys floated sunny carpet-white clouds and through a break we could see the Myittha Plain, which is one of the gateways into Burma. A couple of Hurricanes circled Jap positions. The following day we heard that the company`s raid had ben successful. Men from the North Country (9 Border) and their Gurkha comrades had got among the Japs and killed at least thirty of themand wounded a number more. Here the "forgotten men" either sleep under the stars or build themselves little huts, roofed with tarpaulins and walled with branches and leaves. Stuart Emery "News Chronicle" Late 1943.

Very early in January 1943 the two Gurkha brigades were in camp a few south of Bishenpur South of Imphal.Brigadier Cameron (48 Brigade, 17 Indian Div))made no secret of his contempt for British Troops. 9 Border were to join Camerons Brigade later that year and the story reached 4 Border that after an unfriendly welcome and some months later,when 9 Border had proved their exellence in battle, Cameron announced that in future he would consider 9 Border as "white Ghurkhas". Now that is praise.

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Posted on: 17 January 2004 by tikhaiall

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