- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Ann Birch
- Location of story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 15 November 2003
It was early 1942 and we were stationed in Maymeo, Burma. The Japanese were attacking the country and the decision was made to evacuate the garrison.Most of the women and chidren were organised into groups to walk to India but,as my mother and another lady had great difficulty in walking, we were to be flown out with the expectant mums.
The walking parties had left,we were told to stay in our quarters and await further instructions.We waited and waited and waited. About 10pm there were footsteps, a passing guard was checking as to why there were lights on in an evacuated quarters. The expectant mums had left without us, in fact everyone had left without us.The guard collected the other family, put us all and our few belongings into a vehicle called a box garry took us to the local railway station and told us we had to fend for ourselves.He advised us to 'follow the locals'and try and get ourselves to India. When the train arrived the soldiers found seats for our little party, 2 adults and 4 children aged 12,11,5 and 2, and we were off to we knew not where.
After 13 hours the train stopped and everyone got off and started walking. Luckily we saw an R.A.F.lorry and learned there was a refugee camp nearby at Shwebo. When we had been at the camp for a week our names appeared on the list for the relief flights which came 'as and when' but we had to be prepared. The same day we learned that Burma had capitulated and there was little hope of any more planes coming in. Many people disappeared into the jungle but we had to stay as walking was not an option. Luckily for us a last plane came in a few days later and took us to Chittergong.
There we were cared for by local families who then took us to the railway station and we were on our way yet again.Soon after midnight the train stopped and it was again a matter of'following the locals'.After walking back along the railway for quite a while we took a path which led down to a river where there were a number of paddle steamers. On to the steamers for a few hours sail, off the steamer, up another bank and yet another railway line. Eventually a train came along which took us into Calcutta. Here we reported to the Railwat Transport Officer who in turn sent us to the Fort in Calcutta.
At this point I (the 2 year old) was taken ill and hospitilised therefore my mother and I had to remain at the Fort whilst the other family was taken to quarters in the Murray Hills.It would be another forty years before the adults met again and exactly sixty years before all four children were reunited.
This is a very brief outline of our story, it is about 12 pages in total. It was written for me by my mother so that I would know what we went through. The details of our life before, of the dreadful crowding, panic and conditions on the trains and in the refugee camp are all included.How we managed when our food and clothing were stolen, her horror and dispair when her spare surgical shoe was discarded as unnecessary baggage on the plane and joy when her friend rescued it are all included.The kindnesses shown by the R.A.F.driver and the people in Chittergong and Calcutta are also included. I suppose the happiest moment was one evening when she was alone in the fort she was awoken by her friends who had made the organised walk and had arrived safe and sound. Theirs is another story which should betold.
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