Burma Intelligence Corps
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The Burma Intelligence Corps

Formation

The Burma Intelligence Corps was raised in November 1942 as a result of conversations between Lord Wavell, then Commander-in-Chief India, and the Governor of Burma, then in exile at Simla.  The Corps was to provide a body of men who spoke Burmese and who knew Burma for use by commanders in the field.  Experience gained during the first Burma campaign proved the value of such personnel to act in liaison between the Army and local inhabitants.  A somewhat similar force had been hastily improvised, largely from men of the Burma Military Police. [1]  

From around March 1942 the Burma Military Police were used to gather intelligence of Japanese movements.  They were valued for their knowledge of Burmese and of local customs which proved invaluable when talking to local village headmen to obtain information. [2]   Following the successful withdrawal of the British-Indian forces to India consideration was given to the forming of  a permanent force to support the Army in the field.  By September 1942, a proposal had been made for the formation of "Burma Intelligence Units" consisting of one "group H.Q." and four "sections".  Formation was to begin in October and the units to be ready during December 1942.  Later the proposal was amended to refer to the creation of the group Headquarters and four “platoons”, with the possibility of raising a further four. [3]

Lt. Colonel A.H. Phipps was appointed commander of what was now officially called the Burma Intelligence Corps and raised the first four platoons which were ready by November 1942. [4]   The platoons were earmarked one each for the 17th and 23rd Indian Infantry Divisions and two for the 14th Indian Infantry Division. [5]   The 23rd Division had been covering the Eastern and South-Eastern approaches to the Imphal Plain and in November was operating at the Northern end of the Kabaw Valley and patrolling forward to the Chindwin River at Sittaung.  The 17th Division, having been rebuilt since its epic retreat from Burma, had been held in reserve at Imphal and was now ordered to cover the construction of a road to Tiddim.  The 14th Division was serving in the Arakan with four infantry brigades under command and was conducting an offensive against the Japanese there. [6]

[Brief, fragmentary histories of the platoons of the Burma Intelligence Corps may be viewed here.]

Role and Organisation

The Burma Intelligence Corps was raised as a body of guides and interpreters to support military formations.  The term "intelligence" was misleading as the purpose of the Corps was to help the military establish good relations with local Burmese in their area of operations and to act as interpreters.  The Burma Intelligence Corps was the responsibility of the Government of Burma, who administered the Corps but placed it at the disposal of the Indian Army for operations. [7]

The duties of the Corps were to: 

(a) Act as interpreters in Burmese

(b) Act as guides in areas which they knew; and to procure and administer local guides in areas which they did not

(c) Represent the needs of the local inhabitants to military commanders

(d) Pass on to Intelligence Staff intelligence as may have been acquired in carrying out the duties listed above. [8]

Later in the war, the Corps was also required to implement minor administration of local inhabitants as military commanders may have ordered on the advice of the Civil Affairs Officers (CAS(B)) attached to them.

In practice, these duties involved: 

(a) Accompanying reconnaissance patrols with the mission of making contact with local inhabitants, to interpret, to arrange local guides and generally to assist the patrols

(b)  Assisting Field Security Sections and Intelligence Officers when urgently required

(c) When remaining in an area for a period of time, carrying out minor administration of the locals, arranging prices for the purchase of supplies and local purchasing

(d) Operating local espionage and running the agents. [9]

In order to perform the role of interpreters and interrogators in Burmese and liaison between forward troops and Burmese civilians, a high standard of Burmese-speaking was required.  In addition, given that much of the work undertaken was without supervision by their own officers and often as individuals, the men needed to be of a higher calibre than a standard infantryman.  They had responsibility for the lives of the men of the patrols they guided and for the value and reliability of the information they brought back.  It was stressed that the supply of qualified men was very limited and that casualties were to be avoided wherever possible.  They were never to be used in all-B.I.C. patrols except in cases of extreme operational need, they were not reconnaissance troops.  Instead they were to be attached in ones and twos as interpreters and guides to patrols from other units.  They were not to accompany a unit in the attack.  Apart from this the men were regular fighting soldiers and were to wear military uniform at all times.  Personnel were given special training in interrogation, minor administration, local Burmese political and administrative organisation and the operations of the Japanese occupation administration.  The knowledge they had of specific areas of Burma as a result of their individual experience, was supplemented with general information on Burmese geography and communications. [10]  

The men were classified into two categories.  The first category was “Burma Auxiliary Force Other Ranks”, referred to as “BORs” or sometimes just “British”.  These men were largely Anglo-Burmans with a proportion of educated indigenous Burmese, generally either Burmese or Karen.  They were trilingual, speaking English, Burmese, Urdu and in some instances other ethnic languages or dialects.  They had the status, pay and privileges of British Other Ranks.  The second category was “Burma Army Other Ranks”, referred to as “BAORs”.  These men were largely indigenous Burmese or Burma-born Gurkha Sepoys drawn from the Burma Regiment and later the 2nd Battalion, Burma Rifles.  They were usually only bilingual, speaking Burmese and Urdu, although many spoke English of a kind and a few spoke a little Kachin.  Officers were either British, Anglo-Burmese or Burmese and all had lived for varying periods in different parts of Burma.  They knew well the language and customs and for the most part were trilingual, speaking English, Burmese and Urdu.  Many also spoke one or more of the Burmese dialects and had specialised knowledge of different parts of Burma. [11]

The original September 1942 proposal was for a "group" headquarters and four "sections".  Each "section" was to consist of a Section Headquarters with a Commanding Officer, three Liaison Officers and three sub-units, one British, one Burman and one Indian. The term "section" was quickly dropped and the units to be formed were formally referred to as "platoons". [12]   The platoons were each organised of three sections.  A section was led by a Captain and had one Sergeant or Havildar, one Corporal or Naik and nine Lance Corporals or Lance Naiks.  There was also a small platoon headquarters with a Captain as Platoon Commander, a Major as Division Liaison Officer and eight Other Ranks. [13]

Platoons were normally attached one per division.  Small detachments or individuals would then be assigned to infantry battalions and patrols as needed.  In practice however the assignment of personnel was varied and dependent on the situation at hand.  The Division Liaison Officer, a Major, was an advisor to the Division Commander.  The section officers, normally Captains, advised the Brigade Commander and accompanied the more important officer-led patrols. [14]

Deployment and Expansion

Between 1942 and 1944, Burma Intelligence Corps personnel were attached to all kinds of formations on all Burma fronts (the Arakan, Central and North Burma).  In addition to being attached to British, African and Indian infantry divisions they also worked with the brigades of Special Force (the Chindits), the Special Service Brigade (Commandos), “V” Force, Force 136 (Special Operations Executive) and the American O.S.S.  Many officers and men had served previously in the first Burma campaign. [15]

The initial raising of the Corps appears to have been formalised after the event when a further four platoons were authorised.  In January 1943 G.H.Q. India and the Government of Burma were requested to raise a further two platoons, one each for the 39th Indian Infantry Division and "V" Force.  Given the existing shortfall in establishment this new requirement meant that a total of 30 British officers, 63 British Other Ranks and 173 Burman or Indian Other Ranks needed to be found.  At the time the existing platoons were formed of a mixed establishment of men drawn from the Burma Auxiliary Force and Burmans and with Burmese-speaking Indians from other sources.  Two problems were felt to exist.  Firstly the men drawn from the B.A.F. were on higher pay scales than those from elsewhere which gave rise to some dissatisfaction.  Secondly it was desirable that the Other Ranks should be of the highest possible standard so as to give the best advice on dealings with local inhabitants encountered by the units being supported.  The solution adopted was to replace non-B.A.F. personnel in the existing four platoons with B.A.F. men and to raise the additional two platoons also from the B.A.F.  To meet this demand it was agreed to disband both the 1st Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery, B.A.F. at Mhow and the 5th Field Battery, B.A.F. at Ranchi.  The decision was authorised by the Governor of Burma on 26th January 1943. [16]  

The decision to expand the Corps further by two additional platoons followed later that month.  In February 1943, the Central Headquarters and eight platoons of the Burma Intelligence Corps were authorised to be raised (retrospectively) on 26th January 1943.   The authorisation extended with retrospective effect to the appointment of certain key staff from 1st October 1942.  The Headquarters and platoons were raised at Calcutta and granted accommodation arranged by the Headquarters, 352 Line of Communication Area.  The units were to be completely mobilised by 15th May 1943.  The provision of officers and men was the responsibility of the Burma Government, delegated to the Headquarters, Burma Army.  The men were to be provided by the Burma Auxiliary Force and also from qualified civilians enrolled into the Corps.  It was planned to retain a reserve at the Burma Auxiliary Force Depot at Mhow, amounting to 20 percent of the sanctioned strength of the Corps, to provide reinforcements when needed.  The Burma Intelligence Corps was administered by the Government of Burma and placed at the disposal of G.H.Q. India. [17]

It seems that the Burma Intelligence Corps did not accompany Wingate's Chindits on their first expedition, Operation “Longcloth”.  However the Corps did support their withdrawal to India during April 1943.  Captain A.T. Sloan, who after the war became the Commanding Officer of the Corps, was badly wounded in a patrol across the Chindwin River whilst doing so. [18] [19]

In June 1943 sanction was given to raise four additional platoons, giving twelve in total.  Two of the additional platoons were to be raised from men of the Burma Auxiliary Force and the reserve of 20% of the sanctioned strength of these platoons was to be maintained and continue to be held at the Burma Auxiliary Force Depot at Mhow.  The remaining two additional platoons were to be raised from the Burma Army, forming all "BAOR" platoons, and a similar reserve was to be held for them with the 10th (Training) Battalion, The Burma Regiment at Hoshiarpur. [20]   Given this mix of unit categories, British and African divisions were given an all “BOR” platoon and Indian divisions were given a mixed “BAOR” platoon.  In theory the Platoon Headquarters, with the Division Liaison Officer, was attached to the Division Headquarters and a section attached to each Brigade Headquarters. [21]

At this time the establishment of a Burma Intelligence Corps Platoon was:

1 Chief Liaison Officer (Major)

1 Platoon Commander (Captain)

3 Liaison Officers (Captains or Subalterns)

1 Subedar

1 Jemadar Quarter Master

51 NCOs and Other Ranks.

The platoon was organised into a small headquarters and three sections, each of twelve NCOs and men. [22]

Control of the Burma Intelligence Corps continued to be retained at the highest level.  When the Headquarters 11th Army Group was formed on 16th October 1943, the Corps became Army Group Troops and remained so when 11th Army Group became Headquarters Allied Land Forces, South East Asia (ALFSEA) on 12th November 1944. [23]  

Reorganisation and Ongoing Deployment

By the beginning of 1944 platoons were attached to operational formations.  No. 4 Platoon was serving with the 17th Indian Light Infantry division on the Tiddim Road and withdrew into the Imphal defences with the Division when the Japanese offensive was launched in early March. [24]   No. 6 Platoon was serving with the 23rd Indian Infantry Division at this time and also withdrew into the Imphal defences. [25]

Four Burma Intelligence Platoons were attached to Special Force - the Chindits - for the Second Chindit Operation, between March and July 1944. [26]   Small parties of Burma Intelligence Corps men were attached to the intelligence sections of Chindit columns.  The 2nd Battalion, King's Own Royal Regiment, which formed No.2 46 and 47 Columns, received five such men - a Corporal and four lance corporals. [27]

This group of BIC men served with the Chindits in 1944.  Courtesy of the Anglo-Burmese Library.

Sanction for a reorganisation of the Burma Intelligence Corps to a revised war establishment was given in May 1944, with effect from 11th April.  However it was pointed out that a reorganisation of the Burma Intelligence Corps onto establishments similar to those proposed (“Spl WE SEA/17/1”) had taken place in May 1943.  One feature of the proposed revised war establishments was the release of "BAF" men employed as batmen within the Platoons for more active employment.  They were to be replaced by Burma Army personnel from Hoshiarpur thus making the most effective use of available manpower.  The Central Headquarters and the ten British or "BOR" platoons of the Burma Intelligence Corps were reorganised with effect from 11th April 1944 (the new establishment was “SEA 15/44”).  The April reorganisation was modified on 24th May 1944 to place the Platoons on the Special War Establishment SEA/17/1/1944. [28]  

During April and May 1944 there was discussion of the possibility of making Burma Intelligence Corps personnel available to support United States combat troops operating in North Burma. Some men were later provided on a temporary basis. [29]

By May 1944 there were ten "British" or "BOR" Platoons and two mixed "BAOR" Platoons.  In terms of maintaining the existing units and creating new ones there were concerns over the shortage of suitable men.  It was recognised that the pool of suitable Burma Auxiliary Force men was now empty.  The constraint on reinforcing or expanding the Corps using "Burma Army", or "BAOR", men was felt to be the limit of the number of Indian Divisions and thus their requirements. One correspondent on the subject estimated that of a proposed 21 platoons, twelve might be required to support Indian formations and nine to support British or other non-Indian formations.  Two new war establishments were authorised, to become effective on 27th June 1944.  These allowed for two types of platoon - a "BAF", "British" or "BOR" Platoon and a so-called "Mixed BAOR" Platoon of both Burma Auxiliary Force and Burma Army men.  The "BAF" or "British" Platoon included only men who could speak at least one Burmese language and English.  The "Mixed" Platoon included men who could speak one or more Burmese language and Hindi/Urdu, these being drawn from the Burma Army.  The Platoon organisation was retained except in the "Mixed" Platoon where two of the three sections were manned by Burma Army men. [30]

The rationale for this new organisation was to create two types of Platoon, the all "BAF" Platoons for service with British, American, African and Chinese formations, and the new mixed “BAF/Burma Army Other Ranks" Platoons for service with Indian formations.  At the time the reorganisation was proposed the existing war establishment allowed only for either all "BAF" or all "BAOR" Platoons. In practice the all "BAOR" Platoons were found to be unsuitable because Indian formations included British units for whom "BAF" personnel were necessary.  It was also found that the all "BAOR" Platoons were of lower standard and would benefit from inclusion of more efficient and effective "BAF" men to "stiffen" the unit.  The proposed expansion of the then twelve platoons to 21 to meet the planned operational commitments of the latter half of 1944 and 1945 was also a factor.  Given the shortage of Burmese speaking Burma Auxiliary Force Other Ranks it would become necessary to employ more Burmese speaking Burma Army men in the Burma Intelligence Corps.  In July 1944 authorisation was given for the reorganisation of the twelve platoons of the Burma Intelligence Corps on to new war establishments.  The date of the reorganisation was 27th July 1944. [31]

The Ongoing Search for Qualified Men

There were never enough Burmese-speaking officers and men to meet all requirements.   In October 1944, a meeting was held between involved parties to establish likely sources and priorities for Burmese-speaking interpreters in the coming months.  At this time the Burma Intelligence Corps was faced with the requirement to create further platoons to support the divisions of 14th Army, amounting to seventeen platoons in total.  It was assumed that further operations would be conducted by 'Special Force' in 1945 and that the 2nd Battalion, Burma Rifles would be required in support.  Also competing for Burmese-speakers were Force 136 (Special Operations Executive) and the Civil Affairs Service, Burma, known as CAS(B). [32]   CAS(B) was ahead of the Burma Intelligence Corps in priority ranking.  Attached to the headquarters at Army, Corps, Division and Brigade level were staff of the Civil Affairs Service (Burma) or CAS(B) as it was known.  The role of CAS(B) was the re-establishment of administration and reconstruction in areas re-occupied by the advancing British forces.  CAS(B) Officers were mostly former Burma and Indian Civil Service or other Government staff who required Burmese-speaking personnel to help them interact with local civilians in re-occupied areas. [33]  

Although changes in administration and organisation were considered, it was agreed to leave things as they were.  Instead efforts were focused on establishing priorities for the allocation of Burmese-speaking personnel.  In October 1944 the strength of the Burma Intelligence Corps was 628 officers and men, made up of 500 "B.A.F." and 128 "B.A.O.R.s".  On the assumption that some 182 personnel could be transferred from the 2nd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, it was felt that seventeen platoons could be created, together with a 10% reserve to replace casualties.  In addition, 22 officers were needed to replace those who had become unfit. [34]

In January 1945 the order of priority for the allocation of Burmese-speaking officers and men detached from the 2nd Battalion, The Burma Rifles was: CAS(B); the Burma Intelligence Corps; bringing the 2nd Burma Rifles up to war establishment; Indian Field Broadcasting Units (from any surplus). [35]

Consideration was also given to the inclusion of more Burmese-speaking Gurkhas, drawn mostly from the Burma Regiment.  The Burma Intelligence Corps was keen to keep the standards for language and knowledge of Burma as high as possible.  Burma-born Gurkhas were included, transferred from the Burma Regiment, and together with indigenous Burmese these made up the 'BAOR' element of the mixed platoons. [36]  

In mid November 1944, the Commanding Officer of the Burma Intelligence Corps requested that he would like to have call on the 300 or so Karens then serving with the 2nd Battalion, The Burma Rifles. [37]

The shortage of qualified men was never completely resolved and the search for suitable men continued into 1945.

In November 1944 sanction was given to raise a further two mixed 'BAOR' Platoons, No.s 13 and 14.  In order to provide the BAF personnel for these platoons, two existing platoons were to be reorganised as mixed 'BAOR' platoons, releasing the necessary 'BAF' men for the new platoons.  The platoons selected to be reorganised were No.s 4 and 10 and pending further confirmation of expansion of the Corps, these platoons were to remain all British 'BAF' platoons, less one section.  The effective date for the raising of No.s 13 and 14 Platoons was 23rd November 1944. [38]  

Members of the 4th Platoon, BIC, courtesy of the Anglo-Burmese Library web site..  Names of the men are available at the Anglo-Burmese Library web site on the War Against Japan page.

At the end of November 1944 Headquarters Special Force, in a letter to H.Q. ALFSEA, set out a case for the retention and increase in the numbers of Burma Intelligence Corps personnel allotted to the Chindits.  The personnel of the Corps were described as trained specialists in intelligence and public relations work in Burma.  Given that they were bi- and sometimes tri-lingual (English, Burmese and Urdu), the men of the Corps provided an irreplaceable link between Burmese sources of intelligence and the local population on the one hand, and the intelligence staff and commanders in the field on the other.  At the time of writing there were only sufficient Burma Intelligence Corps men to assign three per column, the standard tactical unit employed by Special Force.  The letter went on to define the difference between Burma Intelligence Corps personnel and those of then 2nd Battalion, Burma Rifles.  The latter were described as 'Burman' infantry who were employed in a reconnaissance role, usually in platoon strength, one platoon per column, in advance of British, Gurkha and West African infantry.  They were not trained in intelligence and public relations duties and usually only spoke their own language.  The advantage of the Burma Rifles was that they could move through areas occupied by Burmese civilians causing less disturbance than British, Gurkha or West African troops whilst gaining information on local routes and food and water sources.  In short, men of the 2nd Battalion, Burma Rifles could not be substituted for those of the Burma Intelligence Corps and that an increase in the allotment of Burma Intelligence Corps was required.  As a result, the expansion of the Burma Intelligence Corps to seventeen platoons was recommended, providing three full platoons for Special Force. [39]

Final Expansion and Deployment for the 1944-1945 Campaign

On 19th December 1944 the Headquarters of the Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia confirmed to H.Q. ALFSEA that three platoons of the Burma Intelligence Corps were to be retained for service with the 3rd Indian Infantry Division, the cover name for Special Force - the Chindits. This was an obvious reflection of the importance of the having suitably qualified interpreters to accompany the long range penetration operations conducted by Special Force.  However this instruction was soon rescinded and during January 1945 the platoons involved, No.s 3, 7 and 8, were given orders for attachment to other formations.  By now it was apparent that there were unlikely to be any opportunities to deploy Special Force once again behind the lines in Burma and the formation was disbanded. [40]

The allotment of platoons at the beginning of December 1944 was: 

No. 1 Platoon - 2nd British Infantry Division

No. 2 Platoon - moving to join XV Indian Corps

No. 3 Platoon - 'Special Force'

No. 4 Platoon - at Mhow; earmarked for reorganisation as a mixed 'BAOR' platoon; one B.O.R. Section and H.Q. to help complete No.s 13 and 14 Platoons

No. 5 Platoon - 81st West African Infantry Division

No. 6 Platoon - 11th East African Infantry Division

No. 7 Platoon - 'Special Force'

No. 8 Platoon - 'Special Force'

No. 9 Platoon - 36th British Infantry Division

No. 10 Platoon - at Mhow; earmarked for reorganisation as a mixed 'BAOR' platoon; one B.O.R. Section and H.Q. to help complete No.s 13 and 14 Platoons

No. 11 Platoon - a mixed 'BAOR' platoon, with 20th Indian Infantry Division

No. 12 Platoon - a mixed 'BAOR' platoon, with 19th Indian Infantry Division

No. 13 Platoon - a mixed 'BAOR' platoon, moving to join 14th Army

No. 14 Platoon - a mixed 'BAOR' platoon, moving to join 14th Army.

A section attached to the 3rd Special Service Brigade, XV Indian Corps in the Arakan. [41]

By December 1944 the Burma Intelligence Corps was being expanded to provide a platoon for operation with each division in Allied Land Forces, South East Asia, for the ongoing re-conquest of Burma.  The allotment of platoons to the 14th Army in December 1944 was:

No. 1 Platoon - 2nd British Infantry Division

No. 6 Platoon - 11th East African Infantry Division in IV Corps reserve

No. 11 Platoon - a mixed 'BAOR' platoon, with 20th Indian Infantry Division

No. 12 Platoon - a mixed 'BAOR' platoon, with 19th Indian Infantry Division

No. 13 Platoon - a mixed 'BAOR' platoon, with 5th Indian Infantry Division

No. 14 Platoon, less one section - a mixed 'BAOR' platoon, with 7th Indian Infantry Division

No. 14 Platoon, one section - with 268th Indian Infantry Brigade

The allotment of platoons to the XV Indian Corps in December 1944 was reported as:

No. 5 Platoon (less one section of 1 Officer and 9 ORs) - 81st West African Infantry Division

No. 5 Platoon (one section) - 82nd West African Infantry Division

One section - 3rd Special Service Brigade

Shortly to arrive was No.2 Platoon which was to be allotted:

The Platoon less one section - 26th Indian Infantry Division

One section - 82nd West African Infantry Division. [42]

However as the XV Indian Corps was planning to advance into Burmese-speaking areas of the Arakan, the Corps requested that an additional two sections of the Burma Intelligence Corps be provided so as to give an absolute minimum of two sections per division, of which there were four under command,  and one for the 3rd Special Service Brigade. [43]

Authorisation was given by the Governor of Burma on 18th December 1944 for the reorganisation of two Burma Intelligence Corps platoons from the British 'B.A.F.' establishment to that of mixed 'BAOR' platoons.  On 16th January 1945, the Headquarters Allied Land Forces South East Asia wrote to the Central Headquarters of the Burma Intelligence Corps to confirm that although the future requirements were for seventeen platoons, only fourteen were to be formed and maintained at the then present time.  It was anticipated that this would help the Burma Intelligence Corps obtain a higher standard of personnel, avoiding the possible dilution in quality if the higher number of platoons were to be raised. As a result of this new policy, it was decided that two of the existing 'British' platoons would be converted to the mixed 'BAOR' establishment.  This would then provide for eight 'British' platoons and six mixed 'BAOR' platoons.  The two platoons identified as being most suitable for conversion were No.s 7 and 10.  No. 7 Platoon was then attached to the 'Special Force' and somewhat under strength due to sickness.  It was ordered to proceed to the Burma Auxiliary Force Depot at Mhow at the earliest date for subsequent conversion.  No. 10 Platoon was already at Mhow and had already given up many of its personnel to reinforce other units. [44]

The allotment of the fourteen platoons in January 1945 was:

No. 1 Platoon - 2nd British Infantry Division

No. 2 Platoon (less one section) - 26th Indian Infantry Division

No. 2 Platoon (one section) - 82nd West African Infantry Division

No. 3 Platoon - GHQ (India) requested to send this platoon to join the 17th Indian Infantry Division

No. 4 Platoon - in transit to join the XV Indian Corps

No. 5 Platoon (less one section) - 81st West African Infantry Division

No. 5 Platoon (one section) - 82nd West African Infantry Division

No. 6 Platoon - 11th East African Infantry Division in IV Corps reserve

No. 7 Platoon - release from 'Special Force', to convert to a mixed 'BAOR' platoon at Mhow

No. 8 Platoon - to move to XV Indian Corps

No. 9 Platoon - 36th British Infantry Division

No. 10 Platoon - at Mhow, to convert to a mixed 'BAOR' platoon

No. 11 Platoon - a mixed 'BAOR' platoon, with 20th Indian Infantry Division

No. 12 Platoon - a mixed 'BAOR' platoon, with 19th Indian Infantry Division

No. 13 Platoon - a mixed 'BAOR' platoon, with 5th Indian Infantry Division

No. 14 Platoon - a mixed 'BAOR' platoon, with 7th Indian Infantry Division. [45]

There continued to be a great shortage of Officers and men suitable for assignment to the Burma Intelligence Corps.  Throughout January and February 1945 (at least) there was much activity to identify Officers with the requisite knowledge of Burmese languages and to have them interviewed for assessment.  In early January 1945, Major Watson, the Second-in-Command of the Burma Intelligence Corps visited the depot of the 2nd Battalion, Burma Rifles at Dehra Dun to assess Burma Army personnel.  He subsequently submitted a list of 107 Other Ranks found to be suitable and on 14th February it was confirmed that these men had been made available for the Burma Intelligence Corps.  It was also hoped that additional men might be found a further 'comb out' of Burmese-speaking men of the 1st Coast Battery, Burma Auxiliary Force at Calcutta and a representative of the Burma Intelligence Corps was sent to interview candidates.   However the Corps remained short of 27 officers despite requests being raised with the Administration Branch of the Army in India.  Ongoing efforts to fill this requirement continued over the next few months. [46]

Attempts to attach men to units and organisations outside of the planned allotment were also challenged so as to maintain the maximum number of Burmese-speakers for the B.I.C. platoons.  For example, when in February 1945, the American O.S.S. requested the services of eleven B.I.C. men, their requirement was challenged when it was thought that only three men were required for actual interpreter and interrogation work.  It was also pointed out that a small number of B.I.C. personnel were on loan temporarily to O.S.S. from XV Indian Corps.  It was requested that Burma Intelligence Corps personnel should not be allotted to O.S.S. permanently.  In fact four men on loan to O.S.S. since 31st May 1944 were requested back in March 1945. [47]  

In February 1945 a further change was ordered which brought about the creation of Reserve Platoons, one to be attached to each of the three Corps, IV, XV and XXXIII, within the 14th Army.  The role of the Reserve Platoon was two-fold: one to act as a reserve to platoons attached to divisions within the Corps; two, to act as Corps Troops by providing Burma Intelligence Corps personnel for attachment to forward operating units not part of the divisions, such as independent brigades, commandos, 'V Force', the American O.S.S. and so on.  The role of the Division Liaison Officer of a Corps Reserve Platoon was amended and he would henceforth act and be known as the Corps Liaison Officer.  He was now to be in charge of the Burma Intelligence Corps platoons with the Corps and to co-ordinate their activities.  He was to remain with the Corps and on no account to be sent to reinforce the platoons attached to the divisions.  The Reserve Platoons were to be found by redesignation of No. 10 Platoon and the creation of two new platoons, No.s 15 and 16, from the existing manpower forming the 20% Burma Intelligence Corps reserve.  This would amend the mix of platoons within the Burma Intelligence Corps to be nine 'British' and seven mixed 'BAOR. [48]   

Owing to the limited number of reinforcements available within the Burma Intelligence Corps it was decided that they would be held at Mhow and Hoshiarpur and not dispersed in reinforcement camps, as per the normal practice with other units. [49]

A further instruction dated 14th February 1945 amended the creation of Reserve Platoons to include a platoon to act as Army Reserve at 14th Army headquarters.  Three mixed "BAOR" platoons - No.s 7, 10 and 15 - were allotted to the Headquarters 14th Army, with one to be the Army Reserve and the remainder to be Corps Reserve Platoons, one each for the IV and XXXIII Indian Corps, all in addition to the allotment on one platoon to each division.  The three platoons were expected to ready at Mhow for deployment by early to mid-March.  Three further platoons were confirmed as being allotted to the Headquarters, XV Indian Corps, one as the Corps Reserve Platoon and one each for the two divisions planned to remain operational with the Corps from March 1945, the 26th Indian and the 81st West African Infantry Divisions. [50]

On 18th February, as part of ongoing attempts to provide suitable Burmese-speaking personnel to maintain the strength of the Burma Intelligence Corps, it was agreed to transfer twenty men from the last remaining operational unit of the Burma Auxiliary Force, the 1st Coast Battery which was serving at Calcutta.  The search for suitable officers and men continued throughout 1944 and into 1945.  In the event only sixteen men were listed.  It was subsequently made imperative that the men of the Coast Battery must be replaced by men of the Burma Intelligence Corps who had been classed as unfit. [51]

Victory in Sight - Draw Down

A conference held on 26th March 1945 to come up with a new policy for the provision and retention of Burma Army personnel for internal security duties in the newly liberated areas of Burma, and those expected to be liberated in the near future.  In addition to considering the retention of personnel for the new Army units being raised, the conference also considered the options to meet the demand for Burmese speakers.  Those involved in intelligence gathering and similar with organisations such as Force 136 and 'Z' Force were fully occupied.  The demand for Burmese speakers to work with CAS(B) in reconstruction and rehabilitation were reaching a new high.  On the other hand the Burma Intelligence Corps, expanded to sixteen platoons, now found itself with three platoons allotted to divisions that were not committed to operations, and a further platoon due to be withdrawn with whichever division of the 14th Army was withdrawn from Burma next.  It was proposed that these four platoons might be disbanded, releasing twenty Officers and around 200 Other Ranks for redeployment.  It was further proposed that additional platoons might also be disbanded in future as other divisions were withdrawn from Burma as the re-conquest came to a close. [52]

The allotment of platoons proposed at the time of the conference was:

14th Army - No. 15 Platoon as Army Reserve

IV Corps - No. 10 Platoon as Corps Reserve

5th Indian Infantry Division - No. 13 Platoon

7th Indian Infantry Division - No. 14 Platoon

17th Indian Infantry Division - No. 3 Platoon

XXXIII Indian Corps - No. 7 Platoon as Corps Reserve

2nd British Infantry Division - No. 1 Platoon

19th Indian Infantry Division - No. 12 Platoon

20th Indian Infantry Division - No. 11 Platoon

36th British Infantry Division - No. 9 Platoon

XV Indian Corps - No.2 Platoon as Corps Reserve, following the withdrawal of the 26th Indian Infantry Division

82nd West African Infantry Division - No. 8 Platoon

26th Indian Infantry Division - No. 4 Platoon

Platoons with Uncommitted Formations

11th East African Infantry Division - No. 6 Platoon

23rd Indian Infantry Division - No. 16 Platoon

25th Indian Infantry Division - nil

81st West African Infantry Division - No. 5 Platoon

Based on this proposed allotment, the conference proposed that No.s 5, 6 and 16 Platoons might be disbanded.  However it seems no immediate action was taken and it was not until June that reorganisation and disbandment began. [53]

Rangoon was re-occupied against no opposition on 2nd/3rd May.  Three days later the lead troops of IV Corps, advancing Southwards down the Sittang Valley, met their counterparts of the 26th Indian Infantry Division which had landed at Rangoon.  The troops of the XXXIII Indian corps which had advanced down the Irrawaddy Valley were forty miles South-East of Prome on the same date.  Whilst British attention now turned to preparations for the invasion of Malaya there were still considerable Japanese forces operating in Burma.  The size of the British-Indian forces needed to defeat the remnants of the Japanese was reduced to the minimum thought necessary and placed under the command of H.Q. 12th Army.  The balance was to be withdrawn to India and, under H.Q. 14th Army, begin preparations for Operation 'Zipper', the invasion of Malaya. [54]

The troops that remained in Burma now came under the command of Headquarters 12th Army Group, been formed at Rangoon on 28th May 1945.  Taking Headquarters, XXXIII Corps under command, the role of the new Army was to take control of the Army in Burma, freeing the Headquarters 14th Army to prepare for the re-occupation of Malaya. [55]   

The requirements for the Burma Intelligence Corps had by now changed.  Fewer platoons were needed to support the formations and units of 12th Army.  However Burmese-speakers were urgently required by CAS(B) and men were needed by the Burma Army which was in the process of reformation, under the control of the Burma Government.  In June plans were made for the reorganisation of the Burma Intelligence Corps to meet the demands of the new situation.  It was proposed to reduce the Corps immediately to ten all "BAF" platoons.  Nine were already in existence and the tenth was to be formed from the B.A.F. sections of the seven mixed 'BAOR' platoons which were to be disbanded.  The ten platoons were then allotted to H.Q. 12th Army and its formations. [56]

The proposed reorganisation, redistribution and disbandment of platoons was: 

Mixed "BAOR" Platoon to be Reorganised

No. 7 Platoon, then with XXXIII Indian Corps - to be reorganised as an all "BAF" platoon and attached to the 268th Indian Infantry Brigade

Mixed 'BAOR' Platoons to Be Disbanded

No. 10 Platoon, then attached to IV Corps as Corps Reserve, was to be disbanded

No. 11 Platoon, then attached to the 20th Indian Infantry Division, to be replaced by No. 9 Platoon, then in Maymyo having previously been attached to the 36th British Infantry Division

No. 12 Platoon, then attached with the 19th Indian Infantry Division, to be replaced by No. 6 Platoon, then in IV Corps reserve

No. 13 Platoon, then attached to the 5th Indian Division, to be replaced by No. 2 Platoon, then in Rangoon with the 26th Indian Infantry Division

No. 14 Platoon, then attached to the 7th Indian Infantry Division, to be replaced by No.  4 Platoon, then forming an additional platoon attached to the 82nd West African Division

No. 15 Platoon, then with 14th Army in Army reserve, was to be disbanded

Remaining "BAF" Platoons

No. 1 Platoon, then in Calcutta, was to be moved to Rangoon, reunited with its detached section (attached to the 6th British Infantry Brigade) and assigned to internal security duties under Headquarters, 12th Army

No. 3 Platoon, then attached to the 17th Indian Infantry Division, was to remain attached to that formation

No. 5 Platoon, then at Mhow, was to be moved to Burma as soon as possible and attached to the 11th East African Infantry Division (which in fact did not return to Burma having been withdrawn earlier in December 1944 and since then had formed part of 14th Army reserve)

No. 7 Platoon (having been reorganised from a mixed 'BAOR' platoon) was to be attached to the 268th Indian Infantry Brigade

No. 8 Platoon, then attached to the 82nd West African Infantry Division, was to remain attached to that formation

No. 16 Platoon, then in transit to the Manipur Road, was to be attached to the Lushai Brigade. [57]

Upon release by their allotted formation, the mixed 'BAOR' platoons were to revert to the command of the Central Headquarters, Burma Intelligence Corps for disposal.  Surplus Officers not required by the remaining platoons or by CAS(B) were to be returned to the Burma Regimental Central at Hoshiarpur.  Burma Army Other Ranks infantry personnel, depending on their race, were to be released for future inclusion in new units of the Burma Army then being raised.  The Karens were to report to Major Vallance, the Officer Commanding Advanced Headquarters, No. 5 Holding and Enquiry Centre (Burma) at Toungoo.  The Chins were earmarked for the 1st Chin Rifles based at Falam (formerly the Chin Hills Battalion, Burma Regiment.  The Kachins were sent to Bhamo where the 2nd Kachin Rifles was being formed.  Burmans, Shans, Padangs, Wa's and other Burman races were sent also to Toungoo.  The Gurkhas and men of all other arms and services were to be returned to the Burma Regimental Centre at Hoshiarpur. [58]  

Surplus men of the Burma Auxiliary Force were to be concentrated at Rangoon, the new headquarters location of the Burma Intelligence Corps.  These men were to form the tenth 'B.A.F.' platoon, No. 7 Platoon.  The remaining balance was to be retained by the Burma Intelligence Corps to form a reserve of up to 20 percent of the authorised strength of the Corps.  Thereafter, as and when 'B.A.F.' platoons were no longer needed by formations they were to be transferred to internal security duties under the command of H.Q. 12th Army.  These platoons would be allotted to Area and District commands inside Burma for internal security work and assistance with the maintenance of civil law and order.  In the event of this resulting in a surplus to requirements, the men were to be allotted to CAS(B) or other formations needing B.A.F. Burmese-speakers. [59]

The Corps was placed under the command of Headquarters 12th Army by H.Q. ALFSEA from 2nd August 1945, although H.Q. ALFSEA continued to retain control.  In October 1945 Headquarters 12th Army became Headquarters, Burma Command. [60]

The Burma Intelligence Corps was retained after the Japanese surrender to help Burma Army deal with internal security problems.  The need for Burmese speaking interpreters to accompany the Army in the field continued up until independence in 1947.  Lt. Colonel Phipps was succeeded as Commanding Officer of the Burma Intelligence Corps by Lt. Colonel A.T. Sloan.

[Brief, fragmentary histories of the platoons of the Burma Intelligence Corps may be viewed here.]

 


[1] “Burma Intelligence Corps: Administration”, WO 203/48

[2]  In Operational Order No.7 dated 29th March, the 17th Indian Division noted that the Burma Military Police were by now relied upon for all information on the situation on the West bank.  They were seen as the best means of getting information from local villagers and that this capability should be exploited to the full.  (“War diary of the 17th Indian Division”; WO 172/475)

[3]  “Burma Army”, IOR/L/WS/1/1313 : 1942-1943

[4]  Albert Henry Phipps born, 22nd February 1899.  District Superintendent, Burma Civil Police, appointed, 11th January 1922.  Burma Civil Police, Assistant Superintendent, Moulmein Town, 1925.  Burma Civil Police, Superintendent, River Division, Rangoon Town Police, 1930-31.  District Superintendent, Burma Civil Police, Myaungmya, 1940.  District Superintendent, Burma Civil Police, Katha, 1941.  Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, ABRO (ABRO 752), 1st October 1942.  Raised and commanded the Burma Intelligence Corps, October 1942 to 1945.  War substantive Major, temporary Lt. Colonel, 1st January 1943.  As temporary Lt. Colonel, awarded the O.B.E. in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in Burma, gazetted, 11th September 1945.  Relinquished commission with the ABRO and granted the honorary rank of Lt. Colonel, 20th January 1946.Officiating Deputy Inspector General of Armed Civil Police - Pegu, Burma, 1947  (Burma Army List 1943; Burma Civil List 1942; London Gazette; WO 373/80/22; Thacker's Directory, Combined Civil List for India and Burma - November 1947).

[5]  Burma Intelligence Corps”, FO 643/2 

[6]   The War Against Japan”, Vols 1-5, Woodburn Kirby S., HMSO (1965) – the “British Official History”.

[7] Burma Intelligence Corps”, WO 203/999; FO 643/2   

[8] WO 203/48 

[9] WO 203/48 

[10] WO 203/48 

[11] WO 203/48 

[12] IOR/L/WS/1/1313

[13] WO 203/48 

[14] WO 203/48 

[15] WO 203/48 

[16] FO 643/2 

[17] “Burma Intelligence Corps”, WO 203/999 

[18] Alexander Tennant Sloan born, 7th April 1912.  Attended the Glasgow Academy, 1919 to 1926.  Country of last permanent residence given as Arabia when travelled from Aden to Plymouth aboard S.S. "Strathnaver", arriving, 30th April 1936.  With the occupation of "merchant", travelled from Liverpool to Rangoon aboard S.S. "Shropshire", departed, 11th September 1936.  Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, Burma Auxiliary Force, 10th March 1939.  Served with the Rangoon Field Brigade, Royal Artillery, Burma Auxiliary Force, 10th March 1939 to November 1942.  Listed as serving with the Royal Engineers, Rangoon Field Brigade, Royal Artillery, Burma Auxiliary Force from October 1940.  Employed as Staff, Macgregor & Co., Rangoon, 1941.  Promoted to Captain, 4th October 1941.  Served with the Burma Intelligence Corps from November 1942.  Wounded as part of a patrol across the Chindwin in support of the First Chindit Operation, May 1943.  Attached to the 7th Indian Infantry Division at Nyaukyidauk Pass during the Arakan campaign, February-March 1944.  Attached to the 2nd British Infantry Division, early 1945.  As temporary Lt. Colonel, Commanding Officer of the Burma Intelligence Corps, 1945 to 1946.  As Captain, temporary Major, Burma Auxiliary Force (BAF 21), serving with the Burma Intelligence Corps, awarded the Military Cross, gazetted, 17th January 1946.  Employed by  Macgregor & Co., Rangoon, 1947.  With occupation recorded as "Orchardist", and nationality shown as UK/New Zealand, travelled with his wife, Madeleine Cecilia, a New Zealand citizen, to Bombay aboard the S.S. "Arcadia", departed London, 22nd October 1957  (ancestry.co.uk; Burma Army List October 1940; Burma Army List 1943; FindMyPast; Glasgow Academy Roll of Service 1939-1945; WO 373/42/397; London Gazette; Personal Correspondence; Thacker's Directory).

[19] WO 373/42/397; “Loyalty & Honour, The Indian Army, September 1939 – August 1947”, Kempton C., Military Press (2003)

[20] WO 203/999 

[21] WO 203/48 

[22] WO 203/999 

[23] “Burma Intelligence Corps: Organisation”, WO 203/467 

[24] “Burma, The Turning Point”, Lyall Grant I., Zampi Press (1993); “War diary of No. 4 Platoon Burma Intelligence Corps”, WO 172/6289

[25] “The Fighting Cock, The Story of the 23rd Indian Division, 1942-1947”, Doulton A.J.F., Gale & Polden (1951); “War diary of No. 6 Platoon Burma Intelligence Corps”, WO 172/6290

[26] WO 203/999 

[27] “War diary of 2 King’s Own Royal Regiment, 1943” WO 172/2530

[28] WO 203/999 

[29] WO 203/999 

[30] WO 203/999 

[31] WO 203/999 

[32] WO 204/48

[33] WO 203/467

[34] WO 204/48

[35] WO 204/48

[36] WO 204/48

[37] WO 204/48

[38] WO 204/48

[39] WO 204/48

[40] WO 203/467;British Official History

[41] WO 204/48

[42] WO 204/48

[43] WO 204/48

[44] WO 204/48; WO 203/467

[45] WO 204/48

[46] WO 204/48

[47] “Burma Intelligence Corps”, WO 203/49

[48] WO 203/467

[49] WO 204/48

[50] WO 203/467 ; “Loyalty & Honour, The Indian Army, September 1939 – August 1947”, Kempton C., Military Press (2003)

[51] WO 204/48; WO 204/49

[52] WO 204/49

[53] WO 204/49

[54] British Official History

[55] Loyalty and Honour”

[56] WO 203/467; WO 203/49

[57] WO 203/49

[58] WO 203/467

[59] WO 203/467

[60] WO 203/467; “Loyalty and Honour”

01 April 2016

 

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