Burma Frontier Force
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The Burma Frontier Force

The Burma Frontier Force was formed following the separation of Burma from India from units of the Burma Military Police, resulting in six battalions.  These battalions, manned largely by Gurkhas and Indians, were administered by the Defence Department of the Government of Burma and came under the command of the GOC, Burma Army.

Before the separation of Burma from India on 1st April 1937, the infantry units which came to be included in the Burma Army, the Burma Rifles and the Burma Military Police, were officered exclusively by British regular officers of the Indian Army.  From 1st April 1937, officers for the Burma Rifles, the B.F.F. and the B.M.P. were found by the secondment of British Service officers as well as Indian Army officers for a tour of four years, extensible to five.  All officers were placed at the disposal of the GOC Burma who decided the officer postings between the three forces (Burma Rifles, B.F.F. and B.M.P.).  Officers serving with the B.F.F. and B.M.P. served as Commandants and Assistant Commandants.  Apart from British Regular officers, Governor's Commissioned Officers (GCOs), the equivalent in Burma of Viceroy's Commissioned Officers in India, served with the battalions of the Burma Rifles and the B.F.F.  Following the outbreak of war, additional officers were found by the appointment of officers from the Army in Burma Reserve of Officers (ABRO).

Before the war, the B.F.F. was involved in settling internal disorder and, as the name suggests, frontier guard duties.  There was no intention that the B.F.F. were to be used as regular troops in a modern war.  Immediately on the outbreak of the war in 1939, the B.F.F. took over guard duties for the airfields on the air reinforcement route to Singapore.  Additional detachments were raised, together with those of The Burma Rifles and the armed civil police, to take up further guard duties for new airfields, supply dumps and the supplies at Lashio destined for China.  In October/November 1940, the Kokine Battalion, B.F.F., was formed to carry out these duties but was poorly trained and equipped.

By February 1941 the strength of the B.F.F. was 7,712 infantry and 471 mounted infantry.

In 1941 mobile units were raised to perform specific outpost and scouting duties.  Initially four such units were formed, F.F.1, F.F.2, F.F.3 and F.F.4.   Their role was to give warning of any hostile advance and to harass and delay enemy troops until the arrival of regular troops.  Some motor transport was available and F.F.2 was supplied with motorised native craft for its duties in the Tenasserim and Mergui Archipelago.  Each F.F. unit was organised into a unit HQ, two troops of mounted infantry and three infantry columns of around 100 men each. 

After the outbreak of war with Japan, the firepower of each column was boosted by five Thompson sub-machine guns and a single mortar, each platoon also having a light machine gun.  However there was little time for the units to train with the new weapons.  Later other units and detachments were hurriedly formed, notably F.F.5 and F.F.6, but these were inadequately equipped and trained.  A short history of F.F.7 can be found here.

As elsewhere, the raising of additional units could only be achieved by drafting men from existing units and the effectiveness of units providing drafts suffered accordingly.

With the Japanese invasion the Allied retreat from Burma began and by April 1942 the units of the B.F.F. had disintegrated, firstly through desertion and casualties and later as a result of the decision to allow men to return to their homes if they so wished.  The majority of the Indians and Gurkhas continued the retreat into India where it was later decided to form them into The Burma Regiment.


The Burma Frontier Force

Formed from battalions of the Burma Military Police in 1937.

Southern Shan States Battalion  Taunggyi
Northern Shan States Battalion  Lashio
Myitkyina Battalion Myitkyina
Bhamo Battalion Bhamo
Chin Hills Battalion Falam
Reserve Battalion Pyawbwe
Kokine Battalion Raised October/November 1940.  HQ and reserve at Rangoon, detachments at airfields in Tenasserim and the Shan States.  Reorganised as 2nd Garrison Battalion, The Burma Regiment, January 1943
Independent Columns: FF1-FF7
Mounted Infantry Detachment

Some interesting tales are to be found on the Burma Frontier Constabulary web page.  The B.F.C. was the post-war successor to the B.F.F.


18 December 2014


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

British & Commonwealth Orders of Battle Website