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15 October 2014
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Timeline - 1939-1945

Fact File : British Enter Rangoon

14 April to 6 May 1945

Theatre: South East Asia
Area: Southern Burma
Players: Allies: British 4th Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Frank Messervy; British 33rd Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Montagu Stopford; Elements of 15th Corps and Gurkhas. Japan: 15th Army and elements of 28th and 33rd Armies.
Outcome: Rapid British advance south through Burma was reinforced with Operation Dracula, the amphibious assault on the south Burma coast that liberated Rangoon on 2 May.

'Green and khaki-clad figures advancing towards us in open order. Only their bush hats were familiar to us... The first man I met came from a place two miles away from my own home. "It's a good job we were told what to look for," he said. "Otherwise we'd have taken you for Japanese!"' - Diary of George A Ratcliffe, 2nd Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, PoW in Rangoon, 30 April 1945

The Allied success in capturing Mandalay and Meiktila meant that the road to Rangoon was open, and with it the reconquest of Burma. Rangoon was just under 500km away, but the coming monsoon and a lack of transport aircraft threatened the Allied supply chain, so time was of the essence.

Preparations began for Operation Dracula, an amphibious assault by a division from the 15th Corps, a regiment of tanks and a Gurkha parachute battalion.

Meanwhile, William Slim, commander of the 14th Army ordered the 4th Corps to drive south from Meiktila, while the 33rd Corps would proceed down the banks of the River Irrawaddy. Tired and outnumbered, the Japanese could provide only light resistance and the spearhead of the 4th Corps reached Toungoo, halfway to Rangoon, on 22 April. A week later it reached Kadok, where it was temporarily stalled by more determined resistance.

On 1 May, Operation Dracula began at the mouth of the Rangoon River. With the news that the Japanese were evacuating Rangoon, the force moved up the river, entering the city the following day. Messervy's 4th Corps arrived on 6 May. With the capture of Rangoon, Burma was effectively liberated.

The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.

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