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27 August 2014
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WW2 - People's War

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I joined the 4th Bn. ten weeks after my six and half months at the Officers Training School, where I learnt little more than what I had already gathered during the three previous years of most week-ends with the Calcutta and Presidency Battalion of the Indian Auxiliary Force. The sum total of my military knowledge was square bashing with the Lee and Enfield 303 Rifle. My new Unit had won many gallantry awards including one posthumous V.C., but was depleted in numbers after eighteen months in action at Sidi Barrani, in 1940 and Eritrea, Sollum and Gazala during 1941. I was put straight away in charge of a Rifle company.. I had to learn enough about radio communication, the Tommy, Bren, and medium machine guns, 2 and 3 inch mortars, tracked carriers, Jeeps, 15 cwt. trucks,3 ton lorries, etc. etc. double-quick during our rest period in Palestine. When Rommel struck again on the 26th of May 1942, we had to rush back to the Egyptian and Libyan border to stem the German and Italian push to Alexandria and Cairo. Most of us escaped the encirclement at Matruh, and fought from the trenches of the Ruweisat Ridge for four months afterwards, and took part in the battles of Alain Haifa and Alamein.

In February,1943, I was transferred to our 6th Bn who were fighting the Faqir of Ipi near Razmak, on the North Western Frontier of India. I was sent on a three months course of studies to the Army Signal School in Poona, and rejoined the Unit in Jamrud, near the
Khyber Pass. We went on fighting patrols and did road convoy protecting duties on
Tuesdays and Thursdays. In February, 1944 we moved to Ranchi, in Central India for jungle training, and afterwards joined the 26th Indian Division of the 14th Army.

In May 1945,we were with the 26th Indian Division on the Island of Ramree off the Arakan coast in Burma, with one company taking part in the landing on Rangoon. Our 14th Army had overcome the Japanese who had now commenced their withdrawal further east towards Malaya. We were under Naval command, and were fully aware of the few Japanese stragglers still on our island. I had been four years in the Army, and had some experience in Desert, Mountain and Jungle warfare. I forecast the correct date of the Normandy landing of the previous year, and had won eight pounds sterling in a battalion lottery, and following closely the advances of the allied forces, now nearly a year later, we were gambling on the date of the end of the war in Europe. We had put aside sufficient hooch for the commemoration of the great event. Eventually we were overjoyed when the day did dawn for the end of Hitler, but I was way out in my forecast of the date this time.!

At dusk, we opened several bottles of alcoholic refreshment, and got into the mood for one great party. The Colonel ordered the Battalion to line up along the beach, and fire off our first line ammunition into the sea. We were enjoying the great shoot and getting more and more merry, when a jeep appeared on the horizon , headlights blazing, the horn blaring and charging towards our assembly.” Who is responsible for this?” shouted a Naval commander from the Jeep. “What do you want?” replied Col. Butcher. “Stop this nonsense at once. You are under arrest, Sir, the Admiral wishes to see you” was the response. Thus the party came to a rather abrupt end Four weeks later, we were evacuated from the island, and taken to near Bangalore in South India to train for the invasion of Malaya .But who should welcome us but our very good C.O. who told us that he carried on the party with the Admiral, who was a mate of his, from his old school!

During our training for the invasion of Malaya, code-named “Zipper”, we were told that the Japanese forces in that area were mostly short, bow-legged, and second grade, and our superior training, fitness, weapons, and the solid support from the naval and airforce contingents accompanying us guarantee the successful liberation of Singapore in record time. Meantime, the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki made the Japanese surrender. The War ended. Zipper and all other probable grandiose schemes of invasions were scrapped. We were sent to organize the release and repatriation of the allied civilian prisoners of War from Dutch East Indies. As our convoy was approaching Sumatra, Japanese patrol boats joined us to negotiate through their minefields in the approach to the Belawan Harbour. At the docks, a company of the Japanese Imperial Guards, spick, span erect and tall, and under the command of a General, bowed and welcomed us, the conquering heroes. Just as well, the war ended when it did ,because our Japs still looked formidable and we would have had a hard time bringing them to heel. We were escorted to our lines and made to feel at ease .As I was the Quartermaster, a Japanese Captain reported to me every morning at nine for three days to ensure that we were not short of an~ necessities. We were told later that when the Japanese army first marched into Medan the Capital, they beheaded one of the Indonesian onlookers, and carried his head on a pole with a poster which read “This man did nothing to offend us, so BEWARE!” The Japanese would not stand any nonsense, and peace prevailed during the three years of their occupation..

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