1st Battalion, The Burma Regiment
The battalion was raised in India in October 1942 from mainly Indian former members of the 7th and 8th Battalions, The Burma Rifles who had survived the retreat from Burma. The first Commanding Officer of the battalion was Lt.Colonel Thomas Ivan Bowers who had commanded the 8th Battalion, The Burma Rifles throughout the 1942 campaign.
In March 1944, the battalion was preparing to fly to Fort Herz to reinforce units already operating in that area when the seriousness of the Japanese attempted invasion of India was realised. The battalion was diverted to guard the vital supply base at Dimapur, under the command of 202 Line of Communications Area, XXXIII Indian Corps. By 1st April the battalion had moved to Nichuguard, near Kohima and on 9th April established a detachment at Milestone 23, four miles short of Zubza, near Kohima, to cover the attack of the 2nd (British) Infantry Division.
The battalion now came effectively under the command of this division, reverting to XXXIII Indian Corps command on 23rd May 1944. On 30th May, the battalion joined the 33rd Indian Infantry Brigade (7 Indian Division), replacing the 4/15th Punjab Regiment which had suffered heavy losses. Later, the battalion supported the 6th (British) Brigade in the attack to clear the Aradura Spur. The Kohima-Imphal road was soon reopened and the battalion, with the rest of the division, enjoyed a period of rest and reorganisation. Then, on 23 June 1944, the division was ordered to recapture Ukhrul which had been used by the Japanese as a major base. The battalion joined the advance, reaching the outskirts of Ukhrul on 7th July and meeting up with the 89th Indian Brigade units in the town centre the next day.
Soon on the move again, this time towards Kamjong, the advance was first stopped by a Japanese roadblock, north of Maoku, on 12th July. After the first attack failed, a company was sent to outflank the position, and the battalion quickly cleared the road. However, further forward movement ceased on 23rd July, the battalion having a company as far forward as Milestone 30, due to impassable terrain. The 33rd Indian Brigade then withdrew back to Kohima, reaching nearby Zubza on the 28th.
In early January 1945, the brigade was in the Zahaw area, near Gangaw in Burma, training for the Irrawaddy crossings. The brigade moved forward on 5th February 1945 and by the 14th, the 1st Burma Regiment was in brigade reserve, ready for the assault crossing. The next day, the battalion crossed over into the Nyaungu bridgehead and was given the task of clearing the catacombs or tunnels covering the town which were infested with Japanese. It was decided to seal the tunnels on the 16th and the battalion remained in the Nyaungu area until 24th February. Moving first to Palin and then Nyin, the battalion joined the advance towards Myingyan, reaching just south of that town by 5th March.
As it prepared for the attack, the 1st Burma Regiment was suddenly ordered to withdraw and to clear the Japanese from astride XXXIII Corps line of communications to Miektila, east and south-east of Taungtha. The town was captured on 6th March and the battalion remained in the area until relieved by the 161st Indian Infantry Brigade on or around 17th March 1945. Moving back through Nyaungtha to Nyaungu, the battalion left the 33rd Indian Brigade and joined the 9th Indian Brigade (5th Indian Infantry Division) around 1st April 1945, probably at Miektila. This town was left on 17th April for Taktan and the next day the battalion joined in the attack on Pyinmana, capturing the airfield there on 21st April.
On 29th April, the 1st Burma Regiment was airlifted by Dakota aircraft from Lewe to Pyintaza airstrip in the Waw area. The battalion was to spend the next two months on the Waw front, attempting to block the Japanese breakout across the Sittang River. Having spent some time in Shwegyin, the battalion moved forward to link up with the rest of the 9th Indian Brigade at Nyaungkashe. The battalion took up positions in here and on the western approaches to the Sittang Bridge, a scene of disaster in 1942. On 19th June 1945, the battalion came under fire on the west bank of the Sittang across from Mokpalin.
At the end of June 1945, the 5th Indian Division moved to Mingladon, to begin preparing for Operation Zipper, the invasion of Malaya. The operation went ahead despite the Japanese surrender and the 1st Burma Regiment embarked at Rangoon in mid August for Singapore. The first units of the 5th Indian Division landed in Singapore on 5th September 1945.
The division was soon needed to help with the South East Asia Command mission in Indonesia. On 17th October 1945, the 9th Indian Brigade was relieved in Singapore by the 5th Parachute Brigade and left for Indonesia. The battalion was detached from the brigade and landed at Palembang, Sumatra, on 25th October 1945.
After almost exactly a year in Sumatra, the 1st Burma Regiment, left for Burma and arrived in Rangoon on 17th November 1946. Officially designated part of the new Burma Army, the battalion was earmarked for disbandment, presumably because of its largely Indian composition. The battalion provided the guard for HQ Burma Command at Rangoon during January 1947 but was disbanded sometime in mid 1947.
25 November 2015