- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Dennis Bell
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 08 June 2005
THE BURMA CAMPAIGN - PART 2 - LIFE IN BURMA
People in story : Dennis Bell
Location of Story : Burma
This story is transcribed by me Graham Shepherd , from notes and discussions with Dennis Bell , and will be added to the site with his permission . He understands the sites terms and conditions .
Having settled into our quarters in Chittagong , we experienced our first Jap raid on the docks and airfield on 9 August when we brought down 2 Jap fighters , but lost the 67 Sqd. C/O . We were entertained on 21 April by Vera Lynne at the airport about 4 miles away .
On May 2 I was sent into the mountains for a break due to health reasons , having experienced temps of 122 C on the Bengal front . I left Chittagong for the hill station at Shillong which was over 4000 ft. above sea level . This involved a 2 day train journey to Silchar followed by a further day by truck to the camp . With the three days journey back to base , travelling was a significant chunk of the leave .
When back in Chittagong we had further air raids and on May 21 our Spitfires shot down 17 of the 31 strong attack force .
The major front which we were supplying was the Arakan Front , and since May the Dakotas of Air command SEAF 224 Group had parachuted in over 70,000 tons of supplies . During this same period over 93,000 men were deployed . Unfortunately over 25,00 men had to be air lifted from the front which was an enormous challenge and over half of them had either Malaria or dysentery .
The Admin Box battle was the turning point on the Arakan Front . But there was a terrible price to pay . One night the enemy overran the medical dressing station on the edge of the " box " . They burst into the place , shouting and howling but their savagery was not that engendered by battle . Forty eight hours after occupying the dressing station a senior Jap officer entered and ordered all wounded to be massacred . The Japs went from bed to bed bayoneting everyone The doctors fared no better , six were shot in cold blood .
This incident was reported in the SEAC newspaper which was delivered to all force stations , sometimes by parachute .
On 28 August I was hospitalised with Dingie fever for 10 days . On 3 Sept the Armistice was signed by Gen . Eisenhower and Marshal Bagoatio .
We were fortunate enough to get a second concert by Vera Lynne at Chittagong aerodrome on 22 April 1944 which was very good .
I was unfortunate to catch malaria for the second time on 17 July and was taken to 62 MFU Hospital at Hill Station Shillong where we received a visit from Air Vice Marshal Baldwin who left us 5000 cigarettes .
On 4 Sept . I was selected to record a message to my family at home and went by train to Dacca radio Station from where the disc was sent to England and played on the Sunday Family Favourites .
No .1 FEU was the central stores for all our Air Force needs from aeroplanes to clothing which were delivered around by land sea and air . We had a mobile Oxygen plant running 24 hours a day for the air crew and hospitals on the Arakan front . The joiners shop was a very busy place having to pack and crate all of the supplies . The amount of timber used was tremendous .
Spirits were very low at the time , and we appeared to be the " forgotten army" so Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatton came to Chittagong Aerodrome to give a pep talk . We put on a little show for him after which he asked us to gather around him and when he had finished he shook hands with several men and I was fortunate to be one of them .
FEU Unit Commanding Officer Wing Commander Cross called me into his office and told me we were moving to Rangoon and told me to get a list of timber required to pack and crate all equipment in store and office furniture . The joiners shop was myself and four other men , so we got four local Bengal men in to help . Halfway through the job I was detailed to go with an advanced party to Rangoon to set up the new stores unit . It was a 2 day journey and just before we arrived a man jumped overboard to commit suicide .
We took over a large bank building in the centre of Rangoon for temporary accommodation and there was a curfew in place but also a lot of rifle fire during the first night . We found a large building in Campbell Road , Rangoon suitable for the stores which was a money printing department for the Government which had a high wall all around it . About a week later we also found a large hut in a park on the outskirts of Rangoon and made this our living quarters .
Following the success of the Admin Box battle , the 5th & 7th African Division marched up from the Arakan Front to Chittagong Aerodrome with mules carrying field guns on their backs to be put on Dakotas and transferred to Imphal in the North of Burma for the Kohima battle . 21 , 000 Japs were killed in that battle and the African troops only had field guns and large knives to defend themselves .
We felt that the war was now coming to a close with the Japs being driven to the south . The atom bombs had now been dropped on Japan and this was the final surrender . I heard that the Japs were coming to Rangoon to surrender at Government House just up the road from my Billet , so went to see them and got a photograph of the truck which had the curtains drawn .
It was now time to move out and return home , but the Army had control of all force movements at sea and they were taking all ships for the army . The RAF thought they would fly all RAF troops home so I got my ticket for 19 December 1945 and flew from Rangoon to Dum Dum Aerodrome in Calcutta , a three hour journey by Dakota . We were put into Nissen Huts in Victoria Park in the centre of Calcutta , but the aircraft flying us to the UK were all breaking down so it was not possible to move a large number of personnel . The army used the Queen Mary to take G I’s back to the USA , so we called a strike .
Major Woodrow Wyatt came out and fought valiantly on our behalf in Parliament and we eventually got HMS Gorgick and sailed for home through the Suez canal .
I had a two week leave at home before going to West Drayton , a station replacing radio equipment World wide , since there were a lot of radio stations which had to close down during the war .
I was mentioned in Despatches in January 1946 in the London Gazette following a letter from the Records Office dated 14 May 1948 , for service with No . 1 FEU Burma .
I was demobed on 23 August 1946 with demob number 39 , and my war service was from 5 June 1941 until 23 August 1946 .
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