The Burma Campaign

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These pages contain order of battle information for the Burma Campaign, 1941-1945, historical details and other items of interest.



The Current Situation In Burma

To help understand the background to the conflicts within present day Burma, you may find these sources of interest - please click here - Modern Burma Since 1946.



What's New    updated 30 July 2014

Battalions of the Burma Auxiliary Force
Burma Railways Battalion; Tenasserim Battalion; Upper Burma Battalion
4th Battalion, The Burma Rifles - Summary of Operations
Operational summary drawn from the battalion war diary.
War Diary of 4th Battalion, The Burma Rifles
A transcription of the file, to view or download, together with extensive footnotes gleaned from other sources.
1st Battalion, The Burma Rifles - Summary of Operations
Operational summary drawn from the battalion war diary..
War Diary of 1st Battalion, The Burma Rifles
A transcription of the file, to view or download, together with extensive footnotes gleaned from other sources.
War Diary of 3rd Battalion, The Burma Rifles 
A transcription of the file, to view or download, together with extensive footnotes gleaned from other sources.
3rd Battalion, The Burma Rifles
Brief history of the 3rd Burma Rifles until disbandment on 12th April 1942
Burma Army Expansion - Strength Return Tables by Class
Strength returns by class for September 1939 and April 1941
Expansion of the Officer Corps
Description of how officers were found to replaces those posted away and to support the expansion of the Burma Army 1939-1941
Strength Returns for the Burma Auxiliary Force and the Burma Territorial Force
Strength returns for October 1940 and February 1941 (BAF only)
Burma Army: Order of Battle for 19th June 1941
Major organisation and location statement of fighting units for 19th June 1941
1st Battalion, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
War Diary of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers - 1st February - 30th April 1942
The Burma Intelligence Corps
Photos of men of the BIC, courtesy of the Anglo-Burmese Library.
The 2nd Burma Rifles
Photos of men of the BIC, courtesy of the Anglo-Burmese Library.
ABRO - the Army in Burma Reserve of Officers
An introduction to this scheme and links to full listings of those enrolled via the Anglo-Burmese Library web site.
Reorganisation of the Burma Army - India May 1942 - November 1943
What became of the Burma Army following the 'Longest Retreat'?  The story of reorganisation in India has now been added.
The Burma Regiment
Further details of formation and subsequent re-organisation now added.
The Burma Intelligence Corps
Brief details of the formation and composition of this corps.
The Anglo-Burmese Library
A site dedicated to the collection, indexing and preservation of records and histories of families in colonial-era Burma.  
The link above takes you to the 'War Against Japan' page. Details available include lists of officers in the Burma Army.
The Burma Auxiliary Force
Updates to the history of the BAF, including eventual disbandment with the expansion of the Burma Intelligence Corps.
The 1st Heavy or Coast Defence Battery, BAF 
Forming the coast artillery defences of the Examination Battery at Dry Tree Point on the Rangoon River.  
Later to join the defences of Calcutta.
The Rangoon Field Brigade, RA, Burma Auxiliary Force
History of the various units of the Rangoon Field Brigade, BAF
'Elephant Man' who staged daring WWII rescues - External link to BBC News story - opens in new window
British tea planter Gyles Mackrell organised the evacuation of hundreds of people from Burma in 1942.
New Book about Kohima:  "Road of Bones"
 A new book by journalist Fergal Keane.  Read reviews and listen to the author at Amazon here: 
Road of Bones: The Siege of Kohima 1944 - The Epic Story of the Last Great Stand of Empire
The Battle for Burma
 A new book by Roy Conyers Nesbit available from Pen & Sword.  Read a review here

New Bookstores - UK visitors please click here 

The Kohima Museum, York, England 
A collection commemorating the 2nd Division and the battle for Kohima. A new website has just been launched - see:
Demolitions at Rangoon, March 1942
Dramatic photographs of the British destruction of the docks and warehouses at Rangoon. Thanks to John Hodge.
3rd LAA Regiment, IA - Christmas Card 1944
Thanks to Chris Mabbott for this Christmas Card
17th Indian Infantry Division - Christmas Card 1945
I'm indebted to Paul Lamprill for photos of the divisional Christmas Card for 1945.  Paul - please contact me.
George MacDonald Fraser - In Memoriam 
Burma veteran and famous novelist.
Summary of the famous battle and the order of battle of the Kohima Garrison.
The Retreat to India
The final episode of the 1942 campaign.

3rd Light Antiaircraft Battery, RA, Burma Auxiliary Force.

A short history and photographs of the pre-war BAF and the survivors of the "3rd AckAck" in India, May 1942.


The Burma Campaign - Introduction

The campaign was the longest fought by the British in the Second World War.  In December 1941 it began, for the British, with disaster, retreat and irreversible loss of face in front of the subject population. It ended, in August 1945, in triumph with the total defeat of the occupying Japanese army.

Why was the campaign fought? Allied aims were to keep open an overland supply route to the Chinese, thus pinning down a large Japanese army, and to re-conquer a part of the British Empire. However by the time the Burma road had been reopened and extended the war was nearly over and aircraft had taken over, carrying more  supplies over the "Hump" than could be carried by land. Furthermore, once reconquered, Burma soon became independent and within three years had left the British Commonwealth, being the first country to do so.

And yet the campaign was not a failure. It had to be fought to ensure that the Japanese had no opportunity of securing any kind of peace with the United States and her Allies by virtue of possessing a large mainland empire. A Japanese invasion of India was key to achieving such a position and the defence of Burma was key to the defence of India. There can be few who would accept that the displacement of the British Empire by that of the Japanese was in the long term interests of the local populations, especially given that the British had already committed themselves to a process that would, in time, grant independence.

In the end Japan suffered her greatest defeat on land in her history and the chief instrument of that defeat was the Indian Army. Largely officered by Britons but manned by representatives of every race from pre-partition India, the Indian Army had a unique character and in 1945 achieved its finest hour, setting many proud traditions for the current Indian and Pakistani armies. Fighting alongside the Britons, Indians and Gurkhas, there were also East and West Africans, Burmese, Karens and Kachins, Americans and Canadians, and Chinese.

The story of the Burma campaign is multi-facetted. The fighting took place not only in jungle but in mountains and across the arid Burmese plain, baked as dry as a desert in the summer sun. Men often fought face-to-face and hand-to-hand but the campaign became very much a modern war seeing the airlifting of entire divisions, aerial re-supply, landings by glider, casualty evacuation from small jungle airstrips and the deployment of landing craft in support of sea borne invasions and river patrols.

The country and its climate were the enemy of both sides. Disease and infection could and did decimate armies - tick-borne scrub typhus, malaria, leeches and "jungle ulcers" representing just a few of the medical hazards faced by the combatants. Nor must one forget the monsoon - a period of months when the rain falls in steady sheets day after day, creating conditions where a soldier’s clothing would literally rot off his back.








Major Subjects

Burmese Battleground Burma Army 1937-1943 British Army in Burma Campaign Outline Orders of Battle Links Sources UK Book Store Book Reviews Modern Burma Since 1946 George Macdonald Fraser Pen & Sword Books


with acknowledgements to Louis Allen.



Please e-mail Steve Rothwell with comments, additional information and requests for help

British & Commonwealth Orders of Battle Website