- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Mr William Knight
- Location of story:
- Bombay, Arakan in Burma
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 09 June 2005
Our unit then went to Bombay and continued Combined Operations training. But the landing craft were wanted first for North Africa, then for Sicily, then for Italy and then for Normandy so although we trained for Combined Ops, we trained a whole load of Indian troops for that, but we couldn't actually do any until we got some landing craft. So in the mean time just to employ us usefully some of us went up to Imphal and I went to the Arakan coast (in Burma) to be normal gunner and we spend most ot 1944 there. That's when the Normandy thing was on but as soon as the landing craft were released and come over then we could start sorting the Japanese out. In 1941 and 1942, well 1942 in the main, they were absolutely top of the world and we were ill prepared for it all. But they had exhausted themselves, first in the Arakan (Burma) and then at Imphal and Kohima, I think then they realised they were on a loser and we intended to make sure that we gave them some stick. Well in the Arakan they got into a field hospital and they bayonetted all the wounded, took out the doctors, shot them, took the Indian orderlies got them to carry their Japanese wounded back to their base and having done that they shot them. So we thought, well, if that's their way of playing we'll play just as rough and so we did.
It was decided then, we formed a proper unit in Bombay, it was Combined Op. Bombardment Unit, COBU, we were number 5. It was decided that every observation party would have a Captain in charge, Lieutenant under him, a jeep and a trailer and a driver, two naval telegraphists and one naval signalman. Well I'd done everything on my own up to then! So we started off, we went from Chittagong, we sailed from there to take Ramree, just off the Burma coast. They wanted somewhere they could build an airfield so that the planes with stores and stuff from Calcutta could stop there, re-fuel and then fly on. So on the night before the landing Second in Command went up on deck and tripped over a rope and smashed his kneecap on one of those winches. So having done everything on my own up to that point I continued, he had to go off on to a hospital ship. I carried on, i never did see the jeep and trailer for about 5 days, it was walking all the way and we did various shoots in support of the infantry, the Garwhalis, they are like Ghurkas but they come from a slightly differend part of the country. The 24th Rifles, big, tall craggy men from the North West Frontier and we did a landing on the top of the island and that went well. Went half way down and they moved inland and naval guns were out of range inland so we went back to the top and back in the ships and went to do another landing on the bottom end. Then it was round through the mangrove swamps to catch the retreating Japanese trying to get away. We caught them at that end as well.
Ramree got taken and the airfield was put into action and we did another landing on the main Burma coast. I'd still no Second in Command so it was a do-it-yourself job. Then another one further down the coast and I thought this was a funny one - they said "Oh we want you land about 4 hours before the main landing. There's a hill there and if you land there, we'll put you ashore in a boat you can get up the top of that and then you can watch the other landing and give any support that's necessary. Any questions?" I said "Well, do you think there are any Japanese on that hill?" "Doubtful! Oh, well you'll have to sort that out when you get there". I thought, oh thank you very much, that was a short straw if ever there was one! Anyway, come on chaps we've stuck it so far we can do this one. Again I didn't have any Second in Command plus these 3 sailors, so we went, the hill was unoccupied thank heaven and we had a ring side view of the landing from there. But it was all mangrove swamp - it's wretched stuff. The roots of the thing go like that. At high tide the trunk comes straight out of the water, at low tide a mass of roots, you've either got to step over them or trip over them. And then the mud sucks onto your boots with an 80lb pack and mud on your boots, your legs are like jelly at the end of it. But anyway that went alright. The Janpanese were in full retreat.
We went back to Chittagong to prepare for the final 'do' at Rangoon. I had a Second in Command there, he said "Look, would you mind if I went with the first wave, with the Infantry
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