The Burma Regiment
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The Burma Regiment was formed in India on 1st October 1942, mainly from non-Burmese survivors of the retreat from Burma.  Composition was personnel of the 7th and 8th Battalions Burma Rifles (the men for these battalions originally largely having been found from the Burma Frontier Force and the Burma Military Police), units of the Burma Frontier Force and the Burma Military Police. The men were all Indian. The Burma Frontier Force was abolished.

Prior to this, a of number of companies had been detached to on escort duties in the frontier areas and it was proposed to form an escort battalion from these (details not available).

The initial plan was to raise seven battalions. These were:

1st Battalion Sikhs and Punjabi Mussalmans, from the 7th and 8th Battalions, Burma Rifles
2nd Battalion Remaining battalions Sikhs, Punjabi Mussalmans and Gurkhas 
3rd Battalion
4th Battalion 50% Gurkha
5th Battalion
6th Battalion
7th (Mounted Infantry) Battalion

A further unit, 10th (Training) Battalion, Burma Regiment (Burma Army Regimental Centre), was also formed.  It was nominated to serve as the depot for the Burma Regiment and other Burma Army units not provided with any other parent depot.

The regiment began forming at Hoshiarpur.  Two brigades were formed to command the battalions of the new regiment, the 2nd and 5th Burma Brigades.  Of the six new infantry battalions of the Burma Regiment being formed it was expected that only one would be ready for active service by 1st December 1942, if sufficient equipment were made available. The readiness of the remaining battalions was dependent on equipment, training and stores.

The class composition of each of the battalions was intended to be consistent, based on: one company of Gurkhas; one of Punjabi Mussalmen; on of Sikhs; one mixed; and a mixed HQ company.  However the 1st Battalion was made up of almost 50% Sikhs and 50% Punjabi Mussalmen.  The 4th Battalion later became 100% Gurkha.

A report in February 1943 proposed that the six infantry battalions of the Burma Regiment, though not at full readiness, could be made ready by April 1943 if full equipment, stores and transport could be provided. The battalions would by then be fully trained for mobile operations in any country except thick jungle.

The same February 1943 report concluded the Training Battalion to be ready to train around 720 recruits and expansion was considered so as to provide reinforcements sufficient to maintain infantry battalions in a more or less static role.  However, due to anticipated recruiting difficulties, the new regiment would compete with the Indian Army for the same group of men, it was decided in June 1943 to reduce the battalions of the Burma Regiment from six to four from 1st July 1943, to provide a reserve of replacements. Burmese speaking personnel were earmarked for further expansion of the Burma Intelligence Corps.  The 10th (Training) Battalion was converted into the Burma Regimental Centre.  By October 1943 this unit was acting as the Depot and Records Office for all Burma Army units other than the BAF and BIC Depots.  It was authorised to hold 20% reserves for all arms based on it, namely the Burma Regiment and all Garrison and Escort Detachments of the Burma Regiment.

With effect from 1st November 1943, the 1st,  2nd and 5th Battalions, under the command of 5th Burma Brigade, were assigned to Indian Army Command, together with 2nd Burma Brigade.  The 4th Battalion was allotted to XIV Army in Assam and was by then an all Gurkha battalion.  The remaining 2nd Burma Brigade was disbanded.

By November 1942, the 7th (Mounted Infantry) Battalion had been deemed to be ready for service, though it lacked horses.   However in February 1943 it was reported that the battalion still lacked animals and one third of personnel still required training in riding. It was assessed that the battalion would be ready to serve as mounted infantry at about five months from the point that mounts were received. Alternatively the battalion might be broken up to provide several remount units for the Indian Army for which there was an urgent requirement. The latter role was the most favoured.  Burma Army received such a request which was agreed by the Burma Government and three advanced remount depots, three field remount sections and a remount reinforcement pool began forming from 1st May 1943 and transferred to the Indian Army.

The Chin Hills Battalion

Formerly of the Burma Frontier Force, the battalion was redesignated as part of the Burma Regiment on 1st October 1942. The battalion operated under Eastern Army (IV Corps?) command in the Chin Hills.  It had been reorganised in March 1942 on the war establishment of a Burma Rifles battalion plus a depot, training centre and four outpost detachments.  In October 1943 the battalion was organised with a battalion HQ, HQ Company, 7 Rifle Companies, 2 troops of mounted infantry, a Rear HQ and Depot.

Garrison Battalions

Also sanctioned on 1st October 1942 for formation were the 1st and 2nd Garrison Battalions of the Burma Regiment.  The 1st Garrison Battalion initially formed with 6 companies of 3 platoons each. Battalion HQ and 4 companies were sent to relieve the Kokine Battalion on the Assam-Burma frontier to allow that unit to form the 2nd Garrison Battalion, Burma Regiment.  Formerly a Burma Frontier Force battalion, a detachment of the Kokine Battalion arrived in Indian from Rangoon in Feb/March 1942, together with the 7th Mobile Detachment, Burma Frontier Force (BFF 7). These detachments were amalgamated into the Kokine Battalion, BFF and sent to Assam to perform garrison battalion duties.  Following relief by the 1st Garrison Battalion, Burma Regiment, in November 1942 at Hoshiarpur, the Kokine Battalion began to form the 2nd Garrison Battalion together with the balance of men from the 1st Garrison Battalion.

A company of the 1st Garrison Battalion fought at Kohima.

Later in the war - July 1944 - these two battalions were redesignated 25th and 26th Garrison Battalions respectively.

Fort Herz Detachments

Up until 1942, Fort Hertz was maintained as an outpost of the Myitkyina Battalion of the Burma Frontier Force. During the 1942 Japanese invasion of Burma, various retreating soldiers of the British/Indian Burma Garrison remained in the Fort Hertz area. The military authorities in India had no direct contact with Fort Hertz during most of the summer of 1942.  Contact was re-established in August 1942.  Later the garrison was made up in part by company-sized detachments drawn from the six battalions of the Burma regiment.  The battalions providing these detachments were later made up to full strength and the Fort Herz detachments were to come under command of the Holding Battalion following return from Fort Herz. 

Around July-October 1943 the detachments were:

Kabaw Valley Detachment
Somra Tracts Detachment
Arakan Detachment returned to Hoshiarpur on 27th July 1943
Hukawng Valley/Fort Hertz Detachment
Fort Hertz Detachment
Guerilla Detachment

1944-1948

Later in the war, the composition of regiment's battalions was:

1st Battalion Sikhs and Punjabi Mussalmans
2nd Battalion mainly Gurkha
4th Battalion Gurkha
25th (Garrison) Battalion Indian, ex 1st Garrison Battalion
26th (Garrison) Battalion Indian, ex 2nd Garrison Battalion
The Chin Hills Battalion mainly Gurkha

1st Battalion, The Burma Regiment fought at Kohima as Corps Troops to XXXIII Corps and in the re-conquest of Burma with first 33 Indian Infantry Brigade (7 Indian Infantry Division) and then 9 Indian Infantry Brigade (5 Indian Infantry Division).  At the end of the war the battalion went first to Singapore and then went on to serve at Palembang, Sumatra, landing on 25 October 1945 and leaving a year later. 

The 5th Burma Brigade Headquarters was disbanded in March 1944.

In 1944 the Chin Hills Battalion served as Corps Troops to IV Corps. 

After the end of the war, the fate of the battalions of the Burma Regiment became thus:

1st Battalion disbanded mid-1947
2nd Battalion wholly Gurkha by early 1947
4th Battalion Gurkha
25th Battalion disbanded July 1946
26th Battalion disbanded August 1946
The Chin Hills Battalion became 1st Anti-Tank Regiment in September 1946, reverted to infantry as 1st Chin Hills Battalion in August 1947

In 1948, the regiment transferred to the new Burma Army on independence.

29 February, 2012

 

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

British & Commonwealth Orders of Battle Website