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15 October 2014
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159 Parachute Light Regiment R.A/44th Indian Airborne Division

by Worcestershire Libraries and Information Service

Contributed by 
Worcestershire Libraries and Information Service
People in story: 
Les Lister
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Contributed on: 
20 October 2004

Early in 1945 the 44th Indian Airborne Division was formed to consist of two parachute brigades, one airlanding brigade (Glider borne) and supporting arms and was to head the expected invasion of Singapore later in that year.

The division was based on the 50th Indian Parachute Brigade (formed 1943). This Brigade had fought a very heavy battle the previous year at Sangshak in Burma. Whilst attacking the 14th Army at Imphal, the Japanese detached their 31st Division to march round through the jungle to capture Kohima. Their route took them via Singshak where they met the 50th Brigade (weakened by the transfer of 151 Battalion to the British 1st Airborne Division) and were held up for 6 days before the remnants of 50 Parachute Brigade had to break up at Imphal due to lack of supplies. Although it was not understood for many years after the war, this battle saved Kohima because it delayed the Japanese main force long enough to enable reinforcements to reach Kohima just ahead of the Japanese. I volunteered to be a paratrooper whilst most of the 44th Indian Airborne Division was still based at Secunderabad in India and joined the 159 Parachute Light Regiment R.A. as a Driver/Wireless operator. This I found to be a very fine unit which proved to be the only parachute artillery regiment in the army, the others being mainly glider borne. We were equipped with American 75mm pack guns which could be taken to pieces into several loads to be dropped by parachute. Within 10 to 14 days the bulk of the Regiment were sent on their parachute training course, but I was one of the drivers retained to transport the unit's guns and equipment etc. across India to our new training area called Bilaspur, a journey of about 8 days. When the regiment reformed, the rest of us then went up to Rawalpindi for our parachute training. Following which, the Division got down to serious work-up ready for the future.

Soon after this, a 'scratch' Brigade numbered the 50th, landed at Elephant Point in support of the assault on Rangoon.

Soon after this Japan surrendered and the War was over.

Subsequently, my regiment was moved back to Karachi. Early in 1946 a part of the Royal Indian Navy mutinied, including a ship in Karachi harbour, the HMIS Hindastan. My troop. 'C troop' was sent together with a company from 15 para. The mutineers were given until 10.15am next day to surrender. When they did not, an engagement took place which lasted about 20 minutes. I have some photographs taken aboard the ship afterwards.

After a short time, the regiment moved up to Quetta where we took part in various schemes. At this time the 44th Indian Airborne Division started to become fully Indianised and was re-numbred as the 2nd Airborne Division, which as far as I know it still is.

One day we were mustered and we quickly entrained and travelled on a fast train to the Karachi docks where we boarded a troop ship called HMTS Devonshire. Following a pleasant cruise across the Indian Ocean we landed in Egypt where we were in tents with no canteen or facilities whosoever and nothing to see except miles of sand. After about 10days we moved out to Palestine, where we encamped in a place called Biryamia (?) about 30 miles south of Haifa. We were now part of the British Airborne Division and were re-numbered the 87th Airborne Field Regiment R.A. We undertook a number of anti-terrorist duties in Palestine and, much to our amazement, were granted a month's leave in England. Home leave was not given east of Suez.

Shortly after my return from leave, my group number came up and I returned home to be demobilised.

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