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The WW2 Diary of

~  Sidney Ernest Wright  ~

a personal account

photographs to go with the diary

1805 - 1806 - 1807 - 1808 - 1819 - 1843 - 1852 - 1861 - 1868 - 1877 - 1880 - 1890
1901 - 1907 - 1908 - 1910 - 1912 - 1918 - 1924 - 1932 - 1943 - 1951 - 1960
1913 Tel. directory    1824 Pigots (Belfast)  &  (Bangor)   1894 Waterford Directory    1898 Newry Directory  Bangor Spectator Directory 1970


This diary is the exact words of Sidney Ernest Wright as he wrote them, they are his words, his thoughts and his opinions, there are spelling mistakes which I have left in as I'm sure Sidney didn't give two figs about spellings when he was writing this in a war situation.


  Sidney Ernest Wright


Foreword by Stephen .......

Dad was attested in the Territorial Army and posted as a Gunner (979066 Gunner Wright SE) to 41 Survey training Regiment (Larkhill) 17 May 1940. He embodied and joined on13 June that year. I don’t know anything about his basic training but he used to tell a story about guarding the seafront at Brighton without being provided with any weapon. I recon he was probably put in charge of the “Novelty Rock Emporium” (Warmington-on-Sea!).

He was posted to the School of Survey  (again Larkhill) on 18 July.  He became a T/Surveyor RA Class III on 11 Oct. On 10 May he was discharged as a Gunner and posted to 124th OCTU (Officer Corps Training Unit) as Llandrindod Wells. Commissioned 2 Lt. SE Wright R.A. (207964).

On 8th May 1941 he was held (probably notionally) on the strength of 9th Reserve AA Regiment.

He was posted to “8th HAA Regt RA” as a 2nd Lt on 10th October 1941. His record of service says they were stationed in Dorset. It doesn’t state which Battery this was.

Embarked for service oversees 29 Jul 42. Strangely enough it says he disembarked India on the same date! Beam me up Scotty!!!! It states that he was posted to RHQ 8th (Belfast) HAA Regt RA on 1 Jan 43.

Dad was posted to 15th (Indian) HAA Regt (I.A.) on 1 Oct 43 at which date he was struck-off-strength 8th (Belfast).

He was promoted to Captain (Acting) and appointed Adjutant of 15th Indian on 11 Oct 1943. He became a Temporary Captain on 10 Jan 44

Finally he was appointed a Battery Commander on 20 Jun 1945 and promoted Major on that same date.

He disembarked from India on 10 Dec 1945 and was discharged at the RA Depot Woolwich on 11 December 1945 being finally struck-off-strength of the RA Depot on 16 Jan 1946.

Mother moved around with dad in the early days. They lived in a wooden cottage on Salisbury Plain while he served at Larkhill as a Gunner. He also ‘lived out’ while he was at the OCTU in Llandrindod Wells. The main home address was, however ,72 Pine Tree Avenue, Leicester.

His documents list his civilian occupation as being an Insurance Inspector, Commercial Union Insurance Company. Prior to the outbreak of war he was the local inspector for Kettering. On discharge he went back to the CU moving not far away to Northampton, the town of my birth. In 1951/52 he was moved to Coventry as a local manager. In around 1955 we moved to Streetly, Sutton Coldfield when dad was promoted to Assistant Manager Birmingham. He was promoted to Branch Manager round about 1959 on the death of his predecessor and stayed there until he retired (age 59) in 1970.



August 1942


     .......just before sunset on the lovely evening of 28th May, the giant liner slowly nosed it's way past the torpedo boom at Gourock, and moved slowly down the Clyde.
       It was a Sunday and people on their way to chapel stopped on the road by the great river's bank and waved their handkerchiefs and scarves to us. I suppose they'd seen many troopships moving out the same as we were.
The highlands and hills of Arran looked simply lovely at the close of that perfect English spring day.
We all felt rather sad and didn't feel like talking much, except for a few less sentimental one's who soon found the ship's bar and bought their tot of whisky or gin for three pence - there was no duty to pay here .
It darkened rapidly as we entered the Firth of Clyde but we could just see the shores of Ireland, low and rugged on the horizon in the dusk of the evening. In the morning we were well to sea and the convoy had martialled itself into position.
     Our home for the next two months was the M.V. Britannic. A liner of 27000 tons, she was a very comfortable ship with one serious drawback. She was designed for the North Atlantic crossing and our journey was mostly through the tropics. A number of the men in my regiment had been employed in her construction - she was a Belfast ship.  It was a large convoy. Thirty ships in all, comprising a number of well known liners, supply ships, and a naval escort of two battleships (the Rodney & Nelson) an aircraft carrier, a cruiser and four destroyers.  At no time during the voyage was any enemy opposition encountered, but it was something of a relief to have such powerful naval support.  Once or twice there was some excitement when the destroyers dropped depth charges, but we did not hear of the reasons why.
     The voyage which took us from Gourock to Bombay was 12000 miles long, and this did not include the large extra distance covered by the continuous alteration of course taken as avoiding action against possible enemy subs.  On board the Britannic were 5000 troops. Space was very limited. In particular the sleeping accommodation for the other ranks was a night-mare. They were put in all the decks below the top one, and the hammocks stretched side by side over large areas, whilst below mattresses were laid on the floor sides touching sides. All port-holes were closed on account of black-out. The stench was just about unbearable. Heaven knows what would have been the consequences down there if we had been struck by a night torpedo.   The officers were crowded up in the cabins, but apart from that the conditions were exactly the same as if we were on a pleasure cruise. Our fare was the finest I have ever tasted.
     To me, the voyage was a delight. I enjoyed every minute of it. One or two worrying moments perhaps on the first night or two out, when everyone had to sleep completely dressed and with life jackets on.
There are many things to remember of the journey - the schools of flying fish and porpoises, that ugly looking barracuda in Freetown harbour, the whales right down below the Cape of Good Hope, the delights of the sunrise and sunset over tropic waters, and beautiful vivid bl
ue of the South Atlantic, the phosphorescence gleaming like a million tiny lights at night ..  so many things.
     We had all sorts of recreations to entertain ourselves with.  Boxing tournaments, deck-tennis, dances (there were a few nurses on board), bridge, an excellent dance band provided by the Foresters and our own unit, and a first rate library.
     After fourteen days at sea we touched land at Freetown, Sierra Leone.  The convoy anchored in the river here for five days, and refueled with water.  There was a great number of Allied ships laying in the estuary of the river.  Sierra Leone is a wild country, hilly and timber covered, and is notorious for it's bad climate.  All the fevers live here.  All of us suffered severe discomfort during the stay at Freetown, it was our first taste of heat and humidity combined.  Many people slept on deck at night, but the mosquitoes were troublesome.  We were very pleased when the convoy set off again.

     Three days later the ceremony of crossing the line was observed with great gusto.  Most people came under the fire of numerous hoses wielded by fancy dressed pirates, and Mr. & Mrs. Neptune, etc.  The traditional barber was there leathering the faces of unfortunates who had been captured by the pirates with a concoction having a base of whitewash.  The weather was cool and fresh, and surprised most of us who had not met the Equator before.

     After another twelve days, we reached Durban, having made a wide sweep around the Cape.  The previous convoy had lost two ships as a result of mines off the Cape, and consequently we moved very far south of it.  Durban in June and July is at the height of it's holiday season.  A delightful resort.  It has a modern town, built rather on American lines, a delightful sea-front, and beautiful surrounding countryside.  It is semi-tropical.  Everyone in Durban had the firm intention that the City would be remembered for it's hospitality.  Everyone had numerous friends after a day or two there.  I remember the skyscrapers along the promenade, the general magnificence of all the houses, the rickshaw boys, the Durban Country Club, the marvellous dinners there, the surf riding.

     Repairs to the Britannic gave us a few extra days in Durban.  We arranged a trip on one of these days to the Valley of a Thousand Hills.  This is some thirty miles inland, very wild country, occupied as a Zulu Reservation.  We saw and talked to a number of Zulu men and women, and were shewn around their kraals.  No clothing coupons to worry these folks!  The part we were shown was definitely a tourist centre.  The Zulus were mostly interested in Baksheesh which is not usual among this race.  Consequently to the delay at Durban, we left for Bombay without any naval protection.  The convoy having departed several days previously.  Thus we had to cross the Indian Ocean alone, and at a time when the Japanese sea power was making itself felt in this theatre of war.  However nothing happened and after another fortnight we dropped anchor off Bombay on 27th July 42.

     It was raining heavily.  The monsoon was at it's worst !  We lay about a mile from the docks, and could just see the Gateway of India through the mist/  It did not look very inviting ...

     The Regiment had a very brief stay in Bombay. Times were rather unsettled, and the August Riots instigated by the Congress Party were just to commence......

     However, we had a brief introduction to India's teeming millions. And it's dirt .' We met the bazaars for the first time, the cattle roaming the streets,  the numerous beggars - religious or mal-formed, and the odours
     Bombay in common with most Indian cities can be divided into three districts. European, Indian upper class, and the "rest". There are about two hundred per cent more people to the square yard in the "rest", than the first two-named.  The European part of the town is very pleasant, luxury houses and flats, expensive shops, city offices, and tropical gardens.  Everything to make life comfortable.  The second named is in some ways pseudo European.  However there is the love of blatant colouring so characteristic of the Indian; in his houses you'll find the walls of bright blues and pinks, and intricacies of decoration in the architecture. The Indian will have all branches of the family living in his house, and always, grandfather and grandmother are "boss".

     The quarter of Bombay which contains the "rank and file" is by far the greatest.  It stretches for miles in all directions.  A honeycomb of filth, poverty, and squalor. Over crowded hovels of mud and brick and corrugated iron, surrounded in dust, refuse, flies, excretia, more tattered shirt-dressed Indians than you can ever imagine possible, cows, goats, hens, all seta'/my and emaciated, stench, disease, birth, deaths, noise, scorching heat.    In this area is one of the most notorious brothels in the world...The Cages. Where the women sit in cages along the filthy alley, and you "take your pick".  There seems to be no indication of organised life in the native quarters. Nobody seems to do any work. I suppose they must do something. There are thousands of little shopkeepers in their dirty little hole-in-the-wall shops. Perhaps everyone makes some sort of a livelihood by selling something to someone else.

     The dusty unmetalled streets swarm with naked children, scavenging dogs, cows and goats, carrion crows and kite hawks, half-clothed men lazing in doorways or lying on the road itself.   The characteristic smell in these quarters is based on the following ingredients - the beedie, a brown leaf cigarette selling at 25 for a penny; joss sticks, and burning cow dung, the latter being the cheapest form of "flit" to keep the flies down.  I suppose the two most noticeable features of Bombay are - The magnificent Taj Mahal Hotel, and the lovely tropical Malabar Hill with it's panorama of the whole city.


     Oxford and Cambridge being otherwise engaged, an Extraordinary Boat Race was held at Sierra Leone on ??? of June 1942.  There were four entries - two boats from the 8th (Belfast) H.A.A. Regiment, R.A.  (Commanded by Major A. H. Bates, R.A., and Captain D. C. B. Holden, R.A. , respectively), one from the Sherwood Foresters and one from the two remaining groups known popularly as the O's and S's.

     The programme was sketched by the Ship's Staff Captain - who brilliantly justified his reputation as a humourist - appeared absurdly easy - paddle to the stern of the "MEXICO", the starting post, and then back at racing pace - whatever that might prove to be.  Speed after all is a purely relative term.   The embarking of the reluctant crews, the unrelenting work of the press gang, the journey to the starting point, all were fraught with interest.  In describing the start of the 1895 Boat Race, the poet Tennyson has written :-

    " Push off!  And sitting well in order strike the sounding furrows! "

     So here, after a brief struggle between the "Britannic" (27000 tons) and an amateur bo'sun (ten stone seven pounds) the boats moved off amid a flurry of blows delivered, some in unison and others from the most unexpected angles. Arrived at the "Mexico", reaction set in and a semi-official communiqué was at once issued expressing concern at the prospect of a return trip.  A snap round showed that at this stage Major Bates' boat was leading by 14 blisters to 11, and there was a certain amount of feeling in favour of a stand-up strike.

     The start, when it came, was unexpected and signalled in original fashion by the breaking of a boat-hook.  At once all boats began to drift swiftly in the wrong direction and a race instinctively began.   Of the race itself there is little to be told.  Using superb judgment and keeping the other crews in constant suspense, now by employing all twelve oars and now by allowing two or three to pass harmlessly over the surface of the water, Captain HOLDEN's boat drew steadily away and eventually reached the vicinity of the winning post with two lengths to spare.

     At this point the umpire, deciding that a clear-cut decision had been reached and honour satisfied, stopped the race.

     The composition of the winning crew is not without interest and was as follows:-

                     Starboard                                                    Port
   Bow.    Capt. Holden                                            Mr. Bennett
        2.     Mr. Wright                                                Mr. Elliott
        3.     Mr. Seglias                                                Capt. Reade
        4.     Mr. Clarke                                                 Mr. White
        5.     Capt. Miller                                               Mr. Newman
 Stroke   Capt. Bringloe                                           Mr. Ashforth

     It was thus, as will be seen, an admirably balanced crew, blending dash with experience and ready for any eventuality from a sudden burial at Sea (the Padre) to sending an S.0.S. by heliograph (Mr. Newman, less toupee).  All were trained to the minute - the first minute - and in the pink of condition - especially after the race.  Capt. Reade's toupee was by Truss & Co. and the boat by courtesy of Cunard White Star Line (ADVERT).

     A word of praise must however be given to the fine seamanship of Major BATES.   In a boat in which mutiny more than once raised its ugly head, this grand old Sea Dog displayed consummate judgment, boldly laying a course for the open sea with the intention of allowing the tide to carry him past the winning post.  This brilliant stratagem with its implicit knowledge of tides, compass bearings, binnacles, barnacles, etc., was thwarted only by the premature conclusion of the race.

     Unfortunately, the subsequent proceedings degenerated so quickly into a farce that Mr. PORTER was twice asked for his autograph by a young gunner who had mistaken his technique for that of GROUCHO MARX.  Truth to tell, the task of  bringing the boats to their respective slings in the face of a 4 knot tide was too much for the exhausted crews.    The watching crowd did its best to show its sympathy by showering down tit-bits gathered from the mess decks - now the unexpired portion of a rice pudding, and now a part worn apple. Few of them failed to fall within the boats.

     So the great race ended, but little deeds of heroism still linger in the memory:  Mr. CLARKE coolly taking an improvised shower bath at the height of the action, Mr. WYATT unselfishly giving up his oar at the half-way stage, Mr. PORTER's gallant performance as a temporary acting boat-hook (unpaid), Mr. SEGLIAS racking his memory for an A.C.I, covering the issue of motor, outboard, in lieu of oars, wooden long,  Sierra Leone may not be Henley, but it is the spirit that counts, and, after all, a refill costs very little onboard ship.

"Old Blue"

     As I have mentioned, there was a certain amount of unrest in India, and four days after our arrival this culminated in many of the Congress Party, including it's leaders, Mahatma Ghandi and Pandit Nehru being detained under the Defence Regulations.   Rioting and disturbances broke out throughout India, and the Army was brought in to quell disturbances in many places.  The Regiment carried out a number of preventative patrols in certain towns and villages but force was not resorted to on any occasion.  The disturbances consisted mainly of bottle throwing by mobs which gathered for no reason whatsoever, and there was a certain amount of incendiarism, and pillage in certain areas.   The civil police acted very promptly and are worthy of a word of praise.   A number of them were burnt alive, and in one case the crew of an RAF plane which made a forced landing in Bihar were brutally killed.

     The Congress Party had a rude shock when it found that the Army had no qualms whatsoever in opening fire, and this action very quickly broke up the mobs, no matter how big the patrol was, or the mob.  It is reasonable to presume that the majority of the participants had no idea as to what it was all about.  The average Indian is very susceptible to mass hysteria.


Sept  42 

     The Regiment landed at Bombay complete in personnel, but the guns and M. T. came by another ship and were disembarked at Karachi.  This equipment soon became absorbed in various Ordnance Supply Depots, and track of it was lost.  Whilst officers of the unit were sent to the four winds to find it, the Regiment itself was accommodated in a Rest Camp at Deolali.  This is some seventy miles East of Bombay, is approached by one of the finest electric, railways in the world, is a second class hill station, and is a noted Spa for convalescents and lunatics . Ever heard of "Deolali Tap" ?

     Within three days of my own commencement of the "cure" at Deolali I was in hospital with dysentery !
      A good start.

     And very soon the whole Regiment were victims of diarrhea and constipation alternately, and this state of affairs continued during the period of our stay at Deolali. I wonder if any British officer or other rank has ever stayed at this place and escaped these afflictions ?

     General training and hardening were the order of the day, and with daily route marches, swimming, lectures, and a passable Garrison Cinema in the evenings the time passed quickly and pleasantly.  Everyone spent too much money, usually becoming victims of the local curio  dealers, whose wares we were soon to find were worthless.  At the end of August I was sent on a mission to Poona, to clear up some difficulties in regard to pay and accounts.  Poona was rather disappointing. The town consisted mainly of luxury houses and bungalows, expensive clubs, staff officers and prospective "retired colonels" and not much else.  The shopping centre was very poor, and bazaar-like.  I could find no accommodation in the town, as the races were on, but eventually solved the difficulty by commandeering a large  empty bungalow previously occupied as a Sikh Mess. I fixed my camp bed up in one large room and simply used the place to sleep in.  I had all my meals at a nearby Chinese restaurant.  And by the end of my stay was getting a little tired of  noodles !

     The railway between Poona and Kalyan Junction is a fine piece of engineering work.   There is a long steep climb here, and the track runs high up along a range of jungle covered mountains.   There are over twenty tunnels in the same number of miles ,each one bringing you onto the opposite side of the range.   Great waterfalls pour their cascades almost onto the lines.   I saw the wrecks of two trains by the side of the lines, and wondered if they were the result of sabotage. The Pay Dept. is run by thousands of Indian babus (clerks) and I felt that anything might happen here.  Later on, I found it did !

     Reverting to Deolali, the Regiment had a most successful time in the field of sport.  After a run of victories on the soccer field we sent a rugby team to Bombay and brought back the Bombay Cup.

     There were no social amenities outside the camp. Apart from a very I rural Officer's Club which had facilities for riding, swimming and golf.  And celebrity concerts once weekly on a radiogram, where one listened to Beethoven and drank numerous gins.  I employed a very decent j man as a bearer. By name, Bhima Khadam. He was a lowcaste Indian, Hindu turned Christian.  Very intelligent and honest.  At the end of September, news came through that our equipment had been located, and soon after we were moved by train to Calcutta.

         Indian Religions

                                     The following are the main religions of Indian  -
     a. Hindu
     b. Muslem
     c. Buddhist
     d. Christian

     Hinduism sprang up in India, and is by far the strongest of the four, having a following of some three hundred million.  The remained are all "imports", possibly with the exception of Buddhism, and are all much smaller.   Hinduism  A strange religion to Western eyes, originating with three Gods, it has been changed and altered as a result of word of mouth record and the superstitions of the Indians until at the present time it numbers over three hundred deities.   The social fabric of the Hindus is based on the "caste" system.  Under this system, Indians are divided by birth into the following classes - Brahmins (priests) Kshatryas (warrior) Vaisyas (merchants), labourers (Sudras} and the untouchables.  The Sudras are sub-divided into hundreds of sub-castes of varying religious and social importance.  To the Hindu, an untouchable is a man who has been expelled from his caste for some misdeed, or a follower of another religion.   But the untouchable is claimed as Hindu for political purposes.  He is not necessarily restricted to a menial life, and might in fact accumulate great wealth in any business enterprise (as often happens).   The Gods worshipped by the Hindus vary according to the religious importance of the castes.  For instance, the Brahmins are only allowed to worship the most important gods, the Kshatryas a lesser one, and so on down the scale.   Apart from the "man-type" God, the Hindu will worship any of the following - animals, trees, men of note in past history (including Englishmen who have perhaps killed the local tiger !) and even stones. I have seen men bowing down to a tree.  Probably the cow is the most obvious of animals which is venerated by the Hindus.  It wanders anywhere at will, and is regarded as the "mother".  Much of the transport in India is by bullock cart, and I notice a singular lack of devotion towards the animal from the average driver.  He steers by twisting the animal's tail in the direction he wants to go, and often he'll pull the tail right off !  The monkey is another animal much venerated.   Hindus believe that before one reaches perfection spiritually one must go through millions of re-incarnations, the final one finishing in the shape of man.   If a soul misbehaves itself,  it returns to earth in a lowlier shape than before.   For example if a donkey doesn't make the "grade" it might return as a chicken, and be eaten for it's sins !   One reason for the unpleasant callousness towards animals in this country is that by giving them a hard time, the Hindus believe they are helping in the salvation of it's soul !     A Hindu will not take life, and worse, will not bury their dead.


     The Muslem religion spread into India by conquest. The Arabic marauders came into the country from the North West spreading destruction across the land, and bringing their religion into the various parts into which they finally settled.  It is a fighting religion, and Moslems as a whole are of tougher fibre than the Hindus.  Considerable strife is always happening between the two religions, and is the main cause of Indian disunity. The followers of each religion will not mix one with the other.  This entails serious difficulties of administration, difficulties one would only meet in India. Eating, sleeping, travelling, trading, marriage, education, and so on are all kept quite separate.  Clashes between the two parties are frequent and violent.  Moslems number some sixty millions, they exert a strong influence on the control of the country, despite their smaller numbers.  The main centres of this religion are Punjab, Bengal and the states bordering the North West Territory.


     Form a very small minority, although originally the religion was an offshoot of Hinduism.  It is found in far greater strength in the countries East of India, and in Ceylon.  The Buddhist priest is a strong influence in the rural village, and his word is law.


     The Christians come mostly from the low caste Hindus who have been converted by the local Roman Catholic priest, or have worked in European service and see a higher social level in this new religion.   Mostly found in Southern India, particularly among the Madrassis and Goanese,

     There are other religions in India, apart the above.   There are the Parsees - the Jews of India, they came originally from Persia and keep much to themselves, from came originally from Persia and keep much to themselves, and the bearded Sikh, but his religion is basically Hindu. In out of way places the religion is almost animist - the worship of Idols.

          The Regiment, less M.T. party left Deolali for Calcutta by special troop train.  The journey took four days (it is covered in 36 hours in peace time) and was very enjoyable.  The officers travelled first class, and the men in troop carriages.  Rations were provided for the troops on a system known as "road/rail rations.  These comprised mostly tinned foods, fruit, and biscuits, and  the necessary ingredients to prepare tea at wayside stations.   The officers relied on having station restaurant meals, and these were reserved through the guard several hours before we were due to arrive at a station which had a restaurant.  I was in a carriage which contained four births.   The berths run along the side of the carriage like the old tram seats, the bottom one being used as normal seating accommodation during the day, and the top one being folded into the side of the carriage when not in use.   There was a bathroom and lavatory attached.  It was rather dingier than it sounds. The windows are not the same as our own in England.  Each window in fact has three different types  to pull up.  The glass one, a wire anti-mosquito one, and a slotted one for privacy at night.   There were six fans in the carriage ceiling, and they were a necessity and not a luxury.

The scenery across India (we travelled via Nagpur) was rather monotonous.   Endless plains supporting rice, corn, sugar and various other crops that I was unable to identify.  Here and there we came through a little hilly country, noticeably in Bihar where we passed through a section of jungle with thick swampy undergrowth,  bamboos, and gnarled trees.  In this jungle I saw spiders whose webs were stretched between the trees, and the spiders themselves were as big as saucers in the body.   I should imagine their webs measured about fifteen feet across.  There were also some aborigines out hunting with bows and arrows.  The dwellings of the land-workers were all very primitive - mud and thatch huts, and they lived in the lowest of conditions.   Some of the little villages were surrounded by high mud walls to keep out marauding robbers, and animals.  It is a strange thing to travel over hundreds of miles and not come across one road.   All the travel is local along bullock tracks.  We spent a good deal of the time playing Bridge, and I finished the journey financially better off than when I started.   The train ran into Howrah Station Calcutta a mere five hours behind schedule which is rather remarkable in India.


     The Regimental transport is being driven by our drivers from Karachi to Calcutta. New guns are being picked up at Cal.   Whilst this is being done, and battery commanders are recceing sites further East, the Batteries are to occupy sites for the defence of Calcutta, and the airfields nearby.   It is anticipated that our stay here will be a brief one.

     A word about my own position in the unit.  I came to India as Troop officer in B. Troop.,22 Battery, but whilst at Deolali was attached to RHQ in my old role of Assistant Adjutant.  I remained at Regiment during the whole time I was with the 8th Belfast  in India.

     During our stay at Calcutta, RHQ deployed into two positions.  The first one was situated twelve miles North of the City in quarters at Dalhousie Jute Mill Semonpore, on the banks of the great Hooghly River.  The approach to  Semonpore from the famous Willingdon Bridge was appalling.   Narrow winding alleys thick in dust, and teeming with natives and dirty scrawny domestic animals.  Horrible whiffs, poverty-unbelievable, noise, and corpses (mostly pi-dogs)  On the first trip to Headquarters we had to circumvent a vary dead and nude Indian laying on the road with his brains smattered about.  None of the passing throng took the slightest notice of him. All along the route were dirty bazaars and huge jute mills, interspersed with open paddy, palm groves and fresh water lagoons.  The land stood about three feet above sea level.

     During our brief stay at the Mill we lived in luxury in flats previously occupied by the European overseers, now in the army.  We had all the little conveniences which count in India - electric light and fans, bathrooms with running water, pleasant gardens, and ..... even a refrigerator !

     However, operationally it was not suitable, being too far out of touch with the guns.   Col. Dearden tactfully displaced a Sikh unit from their quarters in the centre of the European quarters - in fact a house on the corner of the famous Chowringee and Upper Circular Road, and we moved in.

     This new Headquarters had not all the comforts of our previous one, but it was a pleasant one for all that, well situated from a military point of view, and close to the amenities which Calcutta has to offer in the shape of cinemas, shops, and clubs.   It was here that I suffered a few unpleasant days through Dengue Fever. Familiarly known as "Breakneck Fever" owing to the pain in the joints of the body and particularly the back of the neck.  It is caused through the bite of a species of mosquito, which differs from the malaria anopholie by biting during the daytime and not at night.   A point to remember is the swarms of fireflies which hovered around the trees at nights, turning them into gigantic Christmas Trees.

     Calcutta Itself has not much to commend itself on.  The Second City of the Empire and to many, a disgrace to the name.  It lies at the delta of the Hooghly River, being peculiar in that it is a branch of the Ganges from further North and joins it's parent river again below Cal.  There is a familiar saying in these parts - The Hooghly is the "arse of the world," and Calcutta is fifty three miles up it ! Very descriptive indeed.  No one would deny that the centre of the City is very fine.  Chowringee as a thoroughfare almost rivals Princes Street, Edinburgh, and the parkland of the Maiden which runs along one side is lovely.  The great gleaming white edifice of the Albert Memorial, the famed Grand, and Great Eastern Hotels, the Saturday and Bengal Clubs - all quite striking.  There are some snaps of the Albert Memorial attached.   This was built by voluntary subscription in India as a present to Queen Victoria in memory of the Prince Regent.  The building itself is in marble, set in a beautiful park of close shorn turf.  There are tropical flower beds and trees which give the park an exotic colouring.  And square cut ponds containing bright tropical fish, and surfaced with water lilies. The Memorial is sill incomplete

     Around the modern centre of the town sprawls mile upon mile of foetid slums.  I cannot describe them without repeating the phrases that have been used before.  Teeming population .... simply teeming.  There is a fine zoological garden near the Maidan, and also the biggest Banyan tree in the world - a tree whose many trunks cover an enormous area of ground.  There is also the famous Kali Ghat, where the Goddess Kali (the Destroyer) is worshipped by many pilgrims.  The Black Hole of Calcutta is simply marked by a plaque at the side of the General Post Office.   The climate is pleasant for the winter months, but from April to October it is extremely uncomfortable.  The humidity factor is very high, and one's clothes are constantly wet with perspiration.

     The Motor Transport arrived complete, after a journey over India of a thousand miles or more.   In view of the fact that our transport numbers nearly two hundred vehicles, it speaks highly of the drivers that they were able to complete the journey without a casualty.   At Lahore there was a hold-up of several days at the transit camp there, whilst authority to move on was awaited by the Brigadier in charge, from G.H.Q. After several days, Major Cunningham became rather impatient, and decided to do a moonlight flit.  They started out of the camp before anyone was up, but unfortunately came across the Brigadier with his Brigade Major several miles down the road!  They were having their early morning ride.   The Brigadier wanted to know what is was all about, and Major Cunningham informed him that the authority had arrived, taking out his pocket book and reading the number of the authority from it.  In fact he simply quoted his Belfast telephone number !  The Brigadier turned round to his B.M., ,and asked "is this correct, Smith?" The poor B.M. who could not admit ignorance of the matter replied "quite correct, Sir" and the convoy proceeded with the Brig's "Godspeed" !

     Most of the travelling was done during the cool of the day.  Commencing at about five in the morning, and finishing at noon.  After that the troops bivouacked by the roadside until three o'clock a.m., when breakfast was served, the tents struck, and the journey resumed.  Everyone enjoyed the trip, which was an experience not tasted by many people.

          At this time the composition of the Regiment was as follows -

|              |             |             |             |             |
21 Bty    22 Bty    23 Bty    Sigs    RAOC    REME
|                 |    
A   Troop   B    
|                 |    
J   Section  K    
Each section having four 3.7 Hy.A.A. Mobile Guns.


NOV 42

     On the sixth of November, the Regiment moved East from Calcutta, and deployed as follows -

RHQ - Maynamati, Nr Comilla.

21 Bty. - Chittagong.                           

22 Bty. - Feni.                                      

23 Bty. - Agatarla.                              

     The Batteries were engaged in the defence of airfields running in a line roughly North/ South, about fifty miles apart on the West of the great river Brahmaputra.  Headquarters were situated in the middle of the line.
     The journey to these new locations was roundabout, in view of the difficulty in crossing the estuaries of the rivers Ganges, Padna, and Brahmaputra.  The latter is five miles wide, and is constantly changing it's course, which makes bridge construction impossible.   The railway changes from broad gauge to metre gauge before reaching the river, and this entailed the arduous task of unloading and loading all the unit's stores in the broiling sun.   All personnel crossed the Brahmaputra by a ferry, rather of the 'old man river' type, and the goods waggons were shipped over by train ferry further north.   This move was made in the middle of a black night, and was not helped by the fact that the train stopped a considerable distance from the jetty.

     On arrival on the West bank the men piled into a rickety narrow gauge train on the Bengal Assam line, and here we stayed for many hours until the goods waggons finally arrived over.  Thence onwards we jogged along at an average of twenty miles an hour or slower, and the Headquarters portion finally arrived in Comilla at first light.   We soon found our way through the paddy by the Chittagong/Dacca Grand Trunk Road, which is not nearly as grand as it sounds, to Maynamati some five miles from the town.   Maynamati was in a way an oasis in a desert of paddy.   It stood rather higher, and consisted of rolling little hills and grassland, well covered with trees and bushes.   RHQ was, to my mind quite delightful, it nestled among the trees and overlooked the countrysides on all sides.  The accommodation was quaint little bamboo huts with thatched roofs, and standing clear of the ground by means of bamboo stilts.   The Mess was a tiny little two-roomed building, complete with hand-punkahs.

     At this season the days were delightful.  Warm sunny but fresh.  With the setting of the sun, however the mosquitoes came out in their swarms, and flit-guns, and anti-mosquito cream failed to keep them at bay. Later on we brought in a number of things to make life a little more civilized.  We covered the windows of the Mess with mosquito netting, installed electric light, by getting juice from a predictor battery, and invested in a G.E.C. radio which ran off a car battery.  Rations were far from good, but we managed to supplement them with purchases from the bazaar.  We had our own duck and goose farm for eggs and the table.

     The Regiment was fairly early in the field in this part of the war theatre.  Only recently the Japs had occupied the whole of Burma, and one arm of their attack had moved up the coast by the Arakan.  We had used scorched earth tactics at Chittagong, only to return there just prior to our arrival, as the Japanese had halted their advance somewhat south of the town.  The number of our troops in the area was woefully small.  Airfields had been constructed out of the jungle at the three places where our Batteries were deployed, and further ones were being made as quickly as possible.  Our job was to defend them from mobile gun sites, to recci for static gun sites, and when the latter one's were completed by the constructional firms, to be relieved by other units, and move south to new airfields.

     We were really in at the birth of the A. A. defences, and as they were not sufficiently large to warrant an A. A. Brigade to command them, our Regiment was in control under the designation 8th Group.  As time went by new units arrived - mostly Indian, and when there were seven Regiments under our command, 13th Brigade under Brigadier Leveson Gower was brought in from Madras.

          However this is going on ahead a little too fast.

     Animal life At Maynamati was varied and interesting.  Here are some of the various kind which were about, NOT all of them were common to the area though !

          Snakes - Python, cobra, and kraits.

          Giant iguana lizards, four feet in length.

          Hyenas and jackals.......in their thousands.

          the friendly little mongoose.

          Leopard and tiger (but these were mostly about forty miles north)

          Eagles and kites, vultures.....the scavengers of India.

          Bee-eaters, kingfishers, amethysts, the cursed brain-fever bird.

          Fish - in abundance in the ponds, including the queer walking fish, and barking fish.

     Most evenings after we had finished in the office, Col. Dearden and I would take a stroll into the surrounding palm groves with their inevitable pond, and watch the birdlife through field glasses.   He was an authority on Indian birds.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.

     We were discussing India in the Mess last evening, and the point was made that it is a land of sharp contrasts.   Topographically it is a country of vast flat plains ..... and then suddenly, without warning shaggy precipitous mountains, with their sides running almost vertically to the plain.   The climate - part of the year hot, burning hot, and rainless; and then the monsoon with torrents of rain day in, day out, for month on end until the land is a vast lake.  And the air becomes cooler and fresher, and the bright green young stems of rice burst out into the sunlight.   Outside the cities, there is the land of the small farmer and coolie labourer. Living under a feudal system, earning a few rupees a month - barely sufficient to keep them in their mud hovel. Contrarily the wealthy - the great landowning rajahs, the mill-owners, the Parsee business man, fabulously wealthy men.

     The flowers, and the trees, all exotic, brilliant, and garish.  There is no merging of the colours similar to our own, no daintiness.  The gardens strike the eye with brightness ..with crude scarlets, blues, and yellows.  And the blossoms themselves are large and bold with little or no perfume.  The butterflies are much bigger than our own, and very distinctly marked in bright hues.  Some specimens are as much as nine inches across.  The birds are either very big, or very small, the ugly king vulture or the tiny honey sucker; the kite or the kingfisher; the great waterfowl, the tiny bee eater.  And none of them have a song, except perhaps the bul bul, and he does not compare with any of our own song-birds.  Yes, the contrasts are all here, but the proportion of bright is far less than the monotony of all the dull things.  Everything strikes one as being a little tawdry.   One longs for the "normal" forms of nature in our own England.

     This diagram is intended to shew the dispositions of the Regiment when it first deployed in the field in South East Bengal.

     Interesting and useful information comes to us from time to time from people - Indian or Burmese who have come into India from Burma as evacuees.  Some of the information is good, and some emanates from the purveyor's own fertile imagination.  I was amused at the report which came from an Indian who stated that he had been employed by the Japs as a doorman at one of their clubs.   The concluding remarks of his information was ... in his own words "The Japanese Commander is a huge man, seven foot high, he is bald headed and has a beard a CUBITT long !"

     I have mentioned that part of our duty was to make reconnaissances for new positions to install static A.A. guns.   Much of my time during November was in fact employed in searching out likely places for this purpose. Presumably I was detailed for the job on account of my previous activities with R.A. Survey.  It was very interesting.  As an example of the work necessary to build a gun site, and the cost, below is given a typical example -

          l. To build a road to the site through marshy paddy, and jungle, a mile and a half in length. This road must be over water level in the monsoon, i.e. it MUST be built up over the surrounding land.

          2. Removing the village which occupies the proposed site. If there is any suitable ground, it is a foregone conclusion that there is a village there. Compensation must be given to the swarming villagers and a new plot of ground found for them.

          3. Felling hundred of palms and other trees to provide the necessary field of view for the guns. And payment of compensation to the owners.

          4. Building up a large area to provide suitable ground for -"basha" huts, the- guns, and the fire control instruments.

          5. Construction of the huts for accommodation offices, etc.

          6. Total cost £15,000, !

     All these things may sound excessive, and expensive, but it must be remembered that the whole of the countryside becomes submerged to a depth of about two feet during the monsoon, apart from the hundreds of little settlements that are dotted over the countryside and from which we must chose our gun position. Furthermore the position must be large, because all the stores and rations will have to be kept there, the nearest depot being possibly twenty miles distant.


DEC 42

     At Chittagong, 21 Battery have been fortunate, and have been in action frequently during the past few weeks.  Our guns there have already accounted for a number of Jap planes, the Army 97 Bombers; however in some cases they were seen to crash some miles away, and the wreckage was not found owing to the thick jungle.  The enemy raids have not been effective, and in view of the fact that most bombs have fallen clear of the target it is clear that our fire is having a marked effect on the air-crews.

     Frank Waterton was G.P.O. on one site during an action, and during firing it was observed that a group of fighters  were peeling off to dive-strafe the gun-position.  He ordered the guns to engage the fighters without instruments, and as the muzzles swung round onto the Japs they evidently saw what was going to happen, drew out of their dive & flew away.  During this engagement one of the fighters was hit and disappeared over the trees with smoke bursting from it's engine.

     The RAF have not had too happy a time.  The Allied fighters available here do not seem the answer to the Jap "Zero".  The Hurricane is not manoeuvrable enough, and the Mohawk, too slow.   The Japs come over in formation which is the Hy. A.A. gunner's dream of heaven.  They fly in tightly packed formation, and on a level straight course.  They seem to have little imagination as regards their tactics.   One fighter was brought down, and made a forced landing.   He didn't give the game up immediately however.  During the whole of the following night it was impossible to approach the plane as he fired off his guns at all and sundry.   In the morning though, he tamely surrendered, and it was found that he had not even destroyed his documents. The Jap mentality.

     My old Troop at Feni have also seen action, and had a "shoot" last week.  They brought a bomber down, and claimed several other hits.   To be in action again,  after such a long period is acting as a tonic on all our men, and they are in fine spirits.   Incidently it was reported that one Jap who crashed was found to be 6 feet 7 inches tall !

     Every effort was made to capture the Xmas spirit this year at Maynamati.  This in spite of the weather being somewhat akin to a really hot spell at home, only more so.  We arranged quite a comprehensive programme, with sports, football matches, concerts, and a Xmas party.   The troop's Xmas dinner was the largest I have witnessed yet .... and this in a temperature of seventy degrees or over !  Each man had half a chicken, and half a duck, with half a dozen varieties of vegetables to go with it, puddings which had been sent from England, fruit, and sweets, a bottle of beer a head, and rum and cigars.  As usual we did all the waiting, and as usual the cryptic remarks at our expense flew fast and furious.  During the feast, there was music provided by a gramophone via a microphone and loud speaker; records by Vera Lynn, and Deanna Durban !

     In the evening I ran a party which was attended by two hundred men.  Most of whom came from a nearby reinforcement camp, and another Lt. A.A.RHQ.   We had a novelty whist drive, inter-unit darts matches, side shows and a "brains-trust" in which the officers took the stage.  The officers were well lit-up by this time, and the bibulous wit was really funny.   As is always the case with these parties, the evening finished up with everyone going onto the stage and giving a turn.  There was no backing out, once someone had suggested a name !   Altogether it was a very enjoyable evening, the Christmas flavour was not entirely lost by being in such strange surroundings, and so far away from our families.

     I received my second pip on the 27th of the month, the promotion dating back to the 1st October.  A new order has been published whereby a second lieutenant is promoted to full lieut. after six months commissioned service.  A big improvement on the previous one whereby he had to serve eighteen months before getting the promotion.  In fact, I had served thirteen months on the date of the publication of the order, so that it did not make any difference to me.  It's a good thing to put up that second pip.  After all, a one pipper IS the lowest form of life !


Jan 43

     I started the new year in fine style  ....  by falling foul of Dengue fever again !  This is what the hospital record states, although I am rather doubtful as to the correctness of the diagnosis.   I was admitted to Commilla Hospital with a high temperature - one always developes this with almost any complaint, and later a swelling came onto the back of my neck, over the head, and finally down the forehead into both eyes.  I had two black eyes for a time, and then the fluid drained away out of them, and I was well again.   It was a "new" one to the hospital, and I was asked if I had ever suffered from It before.  When I told them "yes", they enquired what the diagnosis was, and said "Dengue".  So what was all right last time, was all right this time, so they put "Dengue" on the sheet !   As a result of this illness, and the fact that I was generally run-down it was decided that I should go away for leave.  By some diplomatic wangling I managed to pursued the Regiment to release Frank Waterton too, and arrangements were made to spend the leave in Darjeeling.

     Darjeeling is situated in the extreme North of Bengal, and in the Himalayas.  It is, of course, the centre of the great tea plantations.  Darjeeling tea is about the finest produced.   The journey there consists of travel by rail, river, and more rail.  Reservations were made in advance for berths on the trains, and a cabin on the river boat.  This facilitates travel in India enormously - when it works.   Frank and I rendezvoused at Chandpur, the starting place of the boat.  We slept the night there is a comfortable two-berth cabin and had a good dinner on board.  An uncomfortable moment when I was reading in the cabin, and a gigantic cockroach ran up my trouser leg !

     The boat moved off at first light on the following morning, and we had a delightful eight hour trip down the Brahmaputra.   All the surrounding country is flat paddy, studded with the numerous palm groves in which the native families live in their primitive huts.  Many of the villages live by fishing and their huts go down to the river edge.  One passes the morning , sunning one's self on the deck, reading a magazine, and observing the local beauties having their ablutions at the side of the river !   The boat itself resembles the one's which go up and down the Mississippi.  Tall funnelled, with paddles at both end, very shallow draught with considerable upper structure above the water-line.  They look rather top heavy, in fact.  Most of the space is taken up with cargo accommodation, and Indian passengers (ten to the square yard), but there is an upper deck forward for first class passengers, with dining room, cabins, and deck space.  The boat has huge search lights fore and aft for travelling by night.  They frequently get stuck on the ever moving sandbanks.

     The river is full of traffic - mostly picturesque but extremely filthy junks and sampans.  These craft travel under sail with a following wind, but are man hauled along in a head wind.   The hauling rope is attached to the top of the high bamboo mast, and is pulled along by half a dozen coolies.   A back breaking sort of occupation.   The river teems with fish - huge one's, of a type known as "Bekti" to the Indians, and a much fouler name by the BOR's who get it so frequently in their rations.  It is full of bones that seem to lie in no order whatsoever.   We disembark at Goalando, and push our way through the milling coolies, trusting our baggage to four of them, but wondering if we shall ever see it again.  The amount of equipment that these men can carry on their heads is amazing.   Each man will take a couple of large suit cases, camp- kit, and an odd box or two, and still look for more !

     We board the Calcutta Mail, and wait hopefully for it to start, which it eventually does after the engine driver has had his dinner, and they have rooted the stokers out of an old hut in which they were sleeping.  Fifty miles along the line we alight .... at the wrong station.  It does not make any difference to our connection, but if we had travelled on further we should have reached a station with restaurant and waiting room.  As it was we dug the station master out, and he in turn got a so called cook, and we had the worst meal I have ever tasted.  After which we tramped the little smelly platform for five hours until our train arrived at 1 o'clock in the morning. About seven o'clock on the following morning we arrived at the end of the broad gauge railway.   At a place called Silitguri.  We had an excellent breakfast there and then got into an observation car on the tiny Darjeeling line.  One of the finest examples of railway engineering in the world (I believe the line was surveyed by a woman)  The carriage as I say was very tiny, but it was very modern having easy chairs which yon could move about at will, a "bar" at one end, and glass windows covering the entire lengths of the sides.

     The gauge of the railway is 2' 6", and included in the "staff" of each train are men who sit on the front buffers dropping sand on the line where the gradient is so steep that the wheels would otherwise refuse to take it !  It climbs 7000 feet from Silitguri to Darjeeling - a distance of some fifty miles, winding it's way through the mountains in a most alarming fashion.  At one moment it travels along a ledge cut sheer in the cliffs with thousands of feet drop to one side, and then you find yourself going along another one with the drop on the other side.  It is just impossible to describe the things that train does, and equally so the situations it finds itself in.  The views are just like those one sees in a photograph taken with a telescopic lens.  The countryside is varied as one climbs higher and higher.  One passes through dense jungles with gigantic trees; craggy slopes devoid of vegetation; and then ..... neatly laid out tea gardens, hanging on the steep slopes in a series of steps.

     The journey takes six hours, during which there are two stops for refreshments at attractive restaurants on the mountain side.   The inhabitants changed in appearance as we ascended the hills, and changed from the lean humourless Bengali to a cream coloured type who obviously originated in Mongolia, was industrious, cheery, and quick witted.  The temperature gradually drops, and when we reach our destination the thermometer shewed 50° as compared with 78° in the Plains.  The air was very "thin" too, and we noticed the cold very much.  I believe this Himalayan trip is noted for it's panoramas and thrills, and it is one which I shall  long remember.

     The town of Darjeeling itself is on the Swiss style.  It forms a semi-circular amphitheatre which clings to the side of a basin of hills, street above street.  Below the town the tea gardens run down to the valley, three thousand feet below.  It is a town of clubs and bungalows, where the people in tea all foregather and the European population of Calcutta retire to, in the hot season.  The Governor of Bengal has his summer residence there, as do a number of Indian potentates.  The beautiful thing about Darjeeling is that it commands a magnificent view of some of the famous mountains of the world.   To the North is the great range separating India and Tibet, containing Kinchenjunga which is only a few feet less than Everest.  These great snow-capped crests are fifty-six miles away, but the air is so rarified that they appear to be quite near.  Everest lies a similar distance to the West.

     There are numerous entertainments In the town - tennis, squash, billiards, dancing, curio shops, quaint cafes, and  .... ponies.  These latter being the main source of attraction to the holiday making British soldiery.  The ponies are little sure-footed Tibettan one's, and an hour's ride on them is both exciting and enjoyable.  If your seat stands up to it.  Which mine didn't !   Our home was at the Gymkhana Club, where the food was the nearest approach to English I have had in India.  It was a very comfortable place with every amenity on the spot.  The bitter cold soon effected our innards, and for several days we spent much valuable time in a certain humble room, each vieing with the other as to who should be first !   Near the Club is a rather unusual shrine Hindu and Buddhist combined.   The priests are cheery and talkative, and insisted on praying for my well-fare and fastening some flowers to my shirt, and sprinkling large quantities of water over me.  They refused to accept any Baksheesh for this noble act.  A thing very strange in India  !

     We had a good time during the fortnight, but really the cold was too much for us.  At the end of the time, neither of us were sorry about leaving, and personally I was delighted to get back to the hothouse atmosphere of Siliguri.

     There have been several Japanese bombing raids on Calcutta in the last month.  The formations that came over have been small ones, and the bombs were dropped indiscriminately.  They were so small that the damage done was negligible - fifty or a hundred pounders, I should imagine.  The British night fighters have been most successful, one pilot shooting down three out of four in one evening.  The amazing thing is the effect it has had on the population.  The majority of two million people have moved out of the city en masse - with the ARP services at the head !  The eastern people do not seem to face up to air-raids with the same phlegm as has been shewn elsewhere.  At Feni, a small bomb was dropped near the airfield, and three thousands coolies engaged on constructional work disappeared at speed into the jungle.  Nor were they seen again for the next week !  The only way to keep a check on the native labour when these raids are on, is to let loose with every gun in the area.  This has a two-fold effect.  Firstly the coolies consider the raiders could not possibly approach through such a hail of fire (which is quite erroneous because the height of most of the small arms fire is about 20,000 feet below the raiders) and secondly the noise from the ground is so great that it over-powers the sound of any bombs exploding.

     Reverting to Calcutta, most of the staff of the big hotels and clubs have fled the city, and one is now attended by a very jungly looking individual who is receiving a fabulous salary, and has probably never seen a European establishment before.  The scenes which take place in the erstwhile "select" dining rooms are comic to witness. To watch ARP workers on the auxiliary fire engine is even more humorous.  They are dressed in a uniform which is the last word in style and warlikeness, and number about a score to each engine.  In action they do justice to an old silent comic film, and rush round at such speed that they even knock themselves over "  I suspect they volunteer for the duty so that they can be in the "know" as to the whereabouts of the nearest shelter !

     The Regiment has had half a dozen actions in the past six weeks, mostly by 21 Battery at Chittagong.
          Eastern Army have officially credited us with the following "birds"  -

                                  Destroyed                         5
                                  Probably destroyed        3
                                  Damaged                           7

     The difficulty in proving complete destruction of the planes is due to the fact that they may crash in the jungle and often are not found again.   Since the A.A. defences were increased, the Jap planes have raided the area at much greater heights, and they are now coming in at heights around 23,000 ft., as compared with 13,000 ft. when we first arrived.

     I liked the topical "tale" of the subaltern who was bitten by the poisonous krait whilst using a "thunderbox" in his basha one dark night.  Whilst he was making all speed to the nearest M.I. room, another officer went along to investigate the position, well armed with stick and pistol to kill the snake ... and found a broody hen sitting in the pan, extremely annoyed at the intrusion !

     Ghandi has undertaken another of his periodical fasts.  He seems to be under the misapprehension that this will effect the policy of the Government, and that he will be released from his "harsh" imprisonment in one of the Aga Khan's palatial residences in Poona.

     Ghandi has an amazing influence on the Indian - both illiterate and learned.  He is deitized by them all.  I read his articles in the press and find them quite bewildering.  I think it difficult for anyone to understand his line of thought ...  if he has got one, which I doubt !

     I mentioned earlier that the Regiment's responsibility as 8th Group was eventually taken over by the 13th A.A. Brigade who moved into the area from Madras.  As a result of the good work which our C.O., Frank Dearden had put in, during the time we had been in operation here, he was promoted to Brigadier and assumed command of the 9th A.A. Brigade in Assam.   His promotion was well-merited, but there is no doubt that he will miss the Regiment, after such a long period in command of it, and that the Regiment will miss him.   As one of 23 Battery gunners said to him, in his broad Belfast voice "We congratulate you, Sorr, on your promotion, and be gad we'll be missing ye, you haven't given us a bit of trouble !"  His place is being taken by Col. Saunders, who is coming to us from A.A. School. Karachi.  He is the C.I.G. there, and is well thought of.

     We have had a grand Sports Meeting in Feni.  All branches of the service were represented there, also the Feni police and ARP service.  22 Battery succeeded in winning every event except one; they have got some great Irish athletes in the unit.  Norman Brann, the Battery Captain succeeded in laying out three of the opposition at different times, as a result of which they were all taken to hospital.   Two of the casualties occurred during the final of the football competition, and the third one during the "throwing-the-weight" competition.  Norman threw the weight with great vigour and 'crowned' an admiring Indian spectator with it "

          I reproduce an epistle written by a babu to his employer, the local district officer on the occasion of his dismissal for sleeping on duty, for what it's worth -

     Mr. F. Symonds.
     District Officer

                   Kind Sir,

                                   On opening this epistle you will behold the work of a dejobbed person, and a very bewifed and childrenized gentleman who was violently dejobbed in the twinkling of your good self.  For Heaven's sake, sir, consider this catastrophe as falling on your own hand and remind yourself on walking home at the moon's end to five savage wives and sixteen veracious children with your pockets filled with non-existant £.s.d. and a solitary sixpence.   Consider my horrible state.  When being dejobbed and proceeding with a heart and intestines filled with misery in this den of doom, myself did greedily consider culpable homicide, but with him who protected the Devil (poet) safe through the lion's den protection is granted to his servant in his hour of evil.  As to the reason given by yourself esquire for my de-jobment the incrimination was laziness.  No, Sir.  It were impossible that myself who had pitched sixteen infant children into the vale of tears can have a lazy atom in his mortal frame and a sudden departure of £11 per mensem has left me on the verge of destitution and despair.  I hope this vision of horror will enrich your dreams this night and the Good Angel will meet and pulverize your heart into neither milestone.  And that you will awaken with great alacrity as may be compatible with your personal safety and hasten to re-jobulate your servant.
                                                                        So mote it be, Amen.
                                                                                      Yours despairfully,
                                                                                                       Akuka Subash.

     This picture is typical of the country in the low lying delta of the Ganges, or rather to be more accurate the Meghna delta, because the great rivers Ganges, Houghly, Brahmaputra, and Padna all have their deltas together, and it is called the Meghna.   These rivers after winding their way for huge distances spread their yellow waters into a host of tentacles, cobwebbing the land around their mouths into a thousand waterways.  The country is completely flat, and lies a few feet over sea level.  It came into being as a result of the silt deposits from the rivers.  Superficially the scenery is attractive.  Tropical palm groves, thatched dwellings, picturesque sampans, bright kingfishers, yellow orioles, the blue sky reflecting on the surface of the streams and pools.  But in fact, life is far from the idealistic standard one expects.  The typical exotic film and novel of the tropics is far, far from real in actual fact.  What about the climate itself?  About the worst in the world, with eight months of heat and humidity, and a bare four months of temperate weather.  During the four months of monsoons, the land becomes completely submerged in flood water, and the squalid hovels become tiny islands supported over the fetid waters by bamboo stilts.  And the humidity is so high, that the perspiration pours away day and night; there is no respite from it.
     And the people themselves ?  About the lowest form of life !  The average Bengali is a scraggy undersized hollow chested individual who spends his day coughing and spitting.  Our own M.O. holds that the Bengalis who are not tubercular are syphillitic, and he is not far out !  He is an addict to the betel nut, and consequently his mouth and whickers are stained in a bright red hue.  He keeps his women in purdah, although I cannot conceive why - no one would run away with them - they are much the same as him in appearance and habits !  He is over ridden with malaria, so much so that he becomes immune to the anophile mosquito.  He makes his living by tending his patch of paddy, or by fishing and river trade.
     The stench of the damp steaming villages is appalling, the bugs and insects are in their millions, and too, the snakes - cobras, kraits, python; and roaming among the villages are the baboons - big fellows, who are venerated by the people.  On one occasion a baboon jumped onto the running board of our car as we were travelling along, and we were thankful that it was not aware of the fact that the sunshine roof was open !  And in the delta of the Meghna, with it's climate, it's disease, poverty, sordidness, lives more people to the square mile than in most other densely populated areas of the world.  It looks all right - from the seat of a cinema.

     The new C.O. Lt. Col. J. W. Saunders arrived in the area on the 30th March.  He has not yet arrived at RHQ, as he is reporting first to Brigade at Chittagong, and then moving Northwards, inspecting the Batteries as he comes up.

                           More about Bengal

     Bengal is almost completely occupied in the growing of rice.  It is not a high grade rice, and is not exported. (The best Indian rice comes from the Central Provinces, around Delhi)  It consists of a vast plain, running into the Himalayas in the extreme North.  This plain has formed the sea bed at some time, and the land has been reclaimed by nature by the gradual building up of the alluvial deposits of it's great rivers.  Nowhere is the land many feet above sea level, and it is highly fertile.  From May until October it is mainly submerged in the waters of the monsoon.  This has the effect of fertilizing the soil.   The climate is bad for Europeans, (and for the Bengalis too, I should imagine) having an extremely hot and humid hot season, and a warm winter with rather cold nights.  It abounds in all the worst tropical diseases - malaria, dysentery, smallpox, cholera and many others.  How can a population live in a country which becomes a vast lake for a third of the year?  The system is this - each prospective settler with his family dug what is known as a "tank".  This may vary in size from that of an ordinary pond, to quite a large sized lake.  It would be perhaps ten foot deep, and shaped either square or oblong.  The soil which is removed, would be used for two purposes.  Firstly to be a sloping wall around the tank, and secondly as foundations on which the tiny settlement will be built, and which will be a few feet above monsoon water level.  Thus scattered throughout Bengal are these self contained oasises, situated perhaps a mile to two miles apart.  And between is just one thing - paddy.

     Each village consists of a huddle of a dozen or more mud and bamboo huts used as living quarters for the villagers and their domestic animals, built among betel nut, and coconut palms, plantain trees and bamboos, in which dwell the family with it's numerous branches, and their shoals of progeny.  There will also be a bony cow or two, some oxen, hens and ducks, and usually a few goats.  There is no sanitation, no lights, no furniture, no eating utensils, no beds.  Life is primitive to the extreme.  Food is prepared in gourds made from huge melons, or out of clay.  There may be a crude temple nearby, with a roughly modelled figure inside.  Worship is almost idolatrous and animist.  From the age of five onwards the children become working members of the family.  They will scare the birds away all day, or gather the grain, and generally make themselves useful, which makes one often wonder what our own children would do under similar circumstances.  The only form of recreation seems to consist of singing and beating drums.  This usually starts in the night and goes on for several hours.  It is strangely oriental and rhythmic.  The sound carries for many miles.  In addition to the several plots of paddy, each settlement will till, there will be a small compound surrounded by a plaited fence, in which will be grown curry, chillies and the other spices for the staple curried rice diet.  The "tank" serves many purposes - washing, or dhobi-ing, bathing, and it's supply of fish.  The fish which are bred in the tanks, rapidly multiply, grow to maturity quickly, and live off the larva of the mosquito.  The menfolk are accustomed to bathing in the tank several times a day, and often there is a covered bamboo corridor to the water's edge along which the purdahed women go to wash and bathe.

     As I have said previously, the soil of Bengal is rich silt, and it is naturally fertilized by the monsoon floods.  As a consequence more than one rice harvest a year can be obtained, in fact in many places three are raised.  And so it has been going on for thousands of years, and there is little sign of progress to be seen anywhere.  Even the oxen-drawn ploughs are carved out of wood.  It sometimes seems though, as if the rural Indian obtains a contentment out of life, that cannot be obtained in the modern world as we know it.

                         This is another Propoganda leaflet which was dropped by the Japs over Chittagong. (note the spelling error in the penultimate line)


April 43

     The Battery Headquarters of 22 Battery in Feni have suffered the first casualties of the Regiment in India.  On the first of the month there was a Jap raid over the town and unfortunately a stick of anti-personnel bombs straddled the Headquarters.  The bombs dropped soon after the "alert" sounded, and the noise of these, plus that of a Jap fighter and bomber in flames was terrific.   Most of the men were in the slit trenches, but the tiny splinters of a bomb ran along the length of one, causing a number of casualties.  Another bomb fell onto the cookhouse killing the cook and the boot repairer instantly.  The latter had been a boot hand in Leicester, and the former, an old soldier had previously lost first his two children, and then his parents in blitzes in England.  There was a sports meeting in progress in the bamboo canteen at the time and several men attending it were badly hurt.  Lionel Burrows, the M.T. Officer was in the canteen, and got peppered.  The new C.O. Major "Jimmy Cunningham, and Major Mitchell the Battery Commander were coming out of the Mess as the bombs fell and hurriedly threw themselves into a heap on the ground by the side of the bungalow wall.  Unfortunately, the C.O. and Jimmy allowed their feet to protrude around a corner and a bomb which dropped about twenty feet away splattered their legs with splinters.  The C.O. had a small piece penetrate the sole of his foot, and it took a piece of the bone away.  In spite of his injury, Major Cunningham did a magnificent job of work among the wounded.  Within five minutes of the incident he had them all dispatched in a lorry to the hospital nearby.

     The turmoil was increased by fire.  All the Q stores, the dining room, and canteen became quickly ignited and there was petrol and oil burning furiously, whilst small arms ammunition was bursting in every direction.  At the height of the excitement a man was bitten by a scorpion !   It was interesting to note the effect of the anti personnel splinters.  They lashed across the grass cutting it down as cleanly as a lawn mower.  A person can get little protection by laying flat in open ground.  The engagement was a short one and our guns only fired off 28 rounds at the raiders, which were flying at a height of 23,000 ft.   Three were brought down.  The RAF intercepted the force later and for another four.  The C.O.'s injury whilst not serious is likely to keep him in hospital for at least three months, as a piece of new bone has got to be grafted in his foot.  Not a good start in a new regimental command to be wounded after two days !  The men in hospital are in good spirits, inspite of loss of arms, fingers and burns.  Five have died.

     On the 30th of April it was decided to move RHQ to Chittagong.  In addition to the vehicles held by Head Quarters, a further four three tonners were imported from 22 Battery in order that personnel and stores could move by road.  Even with this additional transport our goods and chattels over flowed, and most of the men did the journey on the top of the vehicle hoods.  We seem to have deteriorated from a highly mobile unit to a super static one !  The poultry farm presents a grave problem.  There were hens, ducks and geese protruding from most of the trucks, and thinking little of the journey !   The convoy moved south along the one road in this part of the world - the Chittagong/Dacca Grand Trunk Road.  The distance - a hundred miles.  This road belies it's name.  One conjures up visions of a highway like the great arterial roads at home.  But in reality it is simply a sandy track, a track that has been used by countless generations for transport by bullock cart, and donkey.  It has never seen a motor vehicle before this war came along.  The villagers flock out of their huts and come running over the fields to see a lorry go by.  In parts it has been improved by surfacing with a layer of bricks, but these will not stand up to the strain of modern military transport for long.  Each vehicle leaves behind a dust cloud which would do credit to a battleship laying down a smoke screen.  The personnel following behind, are soon layers deep in the yellow particles of sand.

     The road is without any special feature of interest except for the Feni River Ferry; it just winds itself southwards through the paddy and occasional village, and there is never a semblance of a hill.  The Feni River, like so many rivers around here has a habit of changing it's course every month or two.  Consequently it is not possible to bridge it, and all traffic has to be ferried over on rafts made from bamboos resting on dug-out canoes, and punted over to the other side.  A very primitive procedure.  The time one gets across varies - it might take half an hour, or it might take three hours.  It depends on the tides and the baksheese you give the boatmen.  Mostly the latter.  On this occasion we were fortunate, and the whole convoy was over in two hours.  We left Maynamati at first light and arrived at our new Headquarters in the mid afternoon, after a successful journey.  Our new home (inaptly named "The Retreat") is a complete change.  It is situated on the outskirts of Chittagong on the Southern edge of the Chittagong Hill Tracks.

     The site consists of two lovely bungalows and a house perched on the top of a steep hill.  The whole of the hill is part of the gardens to the houses and is private.  The houses were occupied before the war by executives of the Burmah Oil Company; they are well appointed with modern conveniences, electric light, and European sanitation.   The surrounding countryside looks very attractive in an oriental sort of way.  The top of the hill commands a magnificent view in all directions.  To the South of the town of Chittagong, with the wide Karnaphuli river winding it's way to the sea in the distance, to the East the great belt of jungle with large rugged hills on the skyline, and to the North and West the flat palm studded paddy land, and the blue of the Bay of Bengal.  The hill as I have said is a garden of sorts - one that has run wild since it has been occupied by the military forces.  Even now, though there are flowers shrub and flowering trees of a most exotic nature, and the colours of the blossoms are striking.  We even from our own pineapples on the premises. And the perfume of the camellias in the evening are delightful.  There is also a large variety of birdlife, coloured finches, bul buls, the magpie robins, even tiny humming birds.  And at night the huge flying foxes come over in droves, hanging from the branches of the fruit trees like huge vampire bats.

     In the cool of the evening the garden is changed into a fairyland with the fireflies, and just below us, over the shimmering velvet of the sea, hangs the Southern Cross.

                         A letter from G stating that she does not like the look of things in this part of the world.  I'm inclined to agree with her.  The Japs are starting to in filtrate around the back of our troops in the Buthidaug/Maundaw area.  This is forty or fifty miles South of us.

     The hot season here is just starting, and an unpleasant five months lie ahead of us.  The thermometer hovers around the hundred mark day and night, and with a high humidity factor there is no respite.  We feel as though we are slowly dissolving away.   Fortunately situated as we are on top of a hill, we catch what little breeze there is, this helps matters somewhat.  In the early evening I usually climb on to the flat concrete top of the bungalow to enjoy the breeze, and watch the sun go down in a blaze of glory, and  ...  think.  The sunrises and sunsets in India are surely the most beautiful in the world.  All the time perspiration oozes out of every pore in a million globules and runs in rivulets down the body.  One must change one's clothes at least twice a day, and at night in bed, with a mosquito net to make things worse it becomes almost intolerable.  To combat against heat stroke it is necessary to consume salt in large quantities.  Compulsory parades are held to ensure that a glass of water with a teaspoonful of salt added is drunk by all personnel.  It has a remarkable effect on the vitality.

     We hold a swimming parade most days, and bathe in the Chittagong swimming pool (a huge tank which is kept as a reserve reservoir for the town)  The water is about twenty foot deep, and milk warm.  Swimming is the ideal exercise under these climatic conditions.  Most men suffer from prickly heat.  Uncomfortable enough as it is, but much worse when it turns septic as it often does.  The complaint is due to the sweat glands being unable to cope with the flow of perspiration.  The body becomes covered in red pimples which irritate and itch.  There is no cure, although the B.O.R.'s swear by washing in their own urine.  In another fortnight the monsoon will break, a lesser evil from this heat to which we look forward.  It will put a stop to the campaign in the Arakan too ... a stalemate campaign to date.


May 43

     The war in North Africa was concluded early this month by the capitulation of the German and Italian forces.  Over 300,000 prisoners were taken as a result of the surrender.  The end came suddenly after two years of alternate gains and losses by both sides.  Perhaps the war in Europe may conclude equally unexpectedly.  This morning a force of 26 Army 97 Jap Bombers with an escort of Fighters raided Chittagong.  It is the first raid for several weeks.  We had a grandstand view of the action, RHQ commanding a view over the whole of the area.  First came the early warning alarm, and then ten minutes later bedlam was let loose with all the Heavy guns in the area firing, as the bombers came into range.  Occasionally we were able to see the flash of silver in the bright blue sky as the raiders' wings or air-screws glinted in the sun.  Then came the whine as the bombs were dropped, and brown fountains of dust from among the trees.  Suddenly all the guns ceased firing.  Our Fighters had got among the enemy.  They brought down three over the Chittagong area, another three as the Japs were speeding back, and damaged another three.  A.A. claimed another two, one of which was seen to fall into the mouth of the Karnaphuli River.

     The Japs pattern bombed the airfield (at a signal from the leading plane all the bombs are dropped together) No damage was sustained on the strip, but ten coolies were killed.  One bomb was a near miss and hit the road adjacent to the runway.  There is no doubt that the Jap air force in Burmah cannot stand up to such high losses.  And always, the damage they cause is negligible.  Allied air strength is becoming greater every week, and it looks as though before long we shall have complete mastery of the air in  this theatre.

     I suppose that every unit has it's queer characters, but the 8th, being an Irish regiment must surely have more than average.  To give two examples there is a man in 22 Battery who is quite below normal intelligence, but the powers that be in the regiment will not have him boarded unfit, because he is supposed to bring good luck to them.  He married a woman on embarkation leave - a prostitute, who was after some marriage allowance.  And he then spent the first night with the bridesmaid !  And the one we call "Friday" in the same Battery.  On one occasion his Major found him sitting very disconsolately in his billet and asked him the trouble. Friday replied, with tears streaming down his face "Surr, Sorr, but I'm sick.  Me innards are all blocked up, and I'm urinating through me mouth"!

                      The Famine in Bengal

     The famine which came upon Bengal, and which later was to develop into such tragic dimensions came down on the country quietly and almost un-noticed by most of us.  Possibly this was due to the fact that at all times the Bengali looks upon the soldier as being a man of wealth, and tells a pitiful tale in order to extract baksheesh from him.  So, it was a case of crying "Wolf" too often, and when he really needed helping all he got was "jilda jao" - clear off, from "Tommy"   The famine was due, of course to a failure to get rice onto the market.  Rice is the staple food of all Indians, and particularly in Bengal.  He does not touch the wheat "chappati" of the Punjab.  In spite of the vast acreage of paddy under cultivation in India, nevertheless it is still necessary to import more for home consumption.  And it comes in the main from Burmah.  Burmah is in Japanese hands, and the market is closed to India.  If the matter had been handled scientifically - say on the basis of rationing in England no doubt every one would have had less, but would not have gone really short.  In actual fact this was not done, and the following was the consequence.
            1. Big merchants bought up all the stocks, hoarded them, and released at a price.  This price ranged up to twelve times and more of the pre-famine cost.  Thus the mass of the people simply could not afford to buy it.  The price of rice for a poor family for a day was more than the income for a month.
            2. Farmers and small holders were themselves afraid to part with their crops, and buried the rice under their huts.
            3. The population starved.

     Everywhere is Bengal people were dying in their hundreds, everywhere they flocked to some place where food might be forthcoming, to the towns and cities, and to the railway stations.  The matter got completely out of control.  And people were dying.  Living skeletons everywhere.  The Bengal Government tried to place the responsibility onto the shoulders of the Central Government.  But even six months earlier, the latter had sensed that things were not as they should be, but the Bengal Government had declared that they had firm control, and refused assistance from the Higher Authority.  The Bengal Government is to all intents and purposes Indian.  Wheat was imported in lieu of rice to stave off hunger, but the Bengali had lived on rice for generations, and his stomach refused to assimilate this new cereal.  Graft, dishonesty, and fraud were rampant.  The Punjabi Government sent free supplies of rice to Bengal.  Ministers of the Bengal Government actually sold this rice at the exorbitant market price, pocketed the proceeds, and when found out blamed it on an arithmetical error in the accounts department.  And all this time, men were living skeletons; dying at home with no one to know, dying on the roads, in the streets, in the country, on the railway platforms, and the only men to help them out were the British Troops.  And the Indian who could afford to be well fed stepped fastidiously over his brother Indian's dying body.

     At the local railway station of Laksham, it is reported that there is an average of six corpses to be removed every morning - men who have died in their sleep.   Men, women and children are a mere bag of bones, with their skin pulled tightly over the frame, and stomachs swollen up like balloons.  They cannot even afford to buy clothes, and lay about half naked in the dust.  The British soldier is doing wonders in his rough sort of way.  He is giving away his pay - although that will be little help, and he is giving away his rations.  Outside every site at meal times there is long queues of people with their empty "bully" tins hoping to get what scraps are going.  How can anyone eat their meals with such pitiful humanity watching with starving eyes.  No, the Indians get the majority of them; such a tiny portion after it has been divided out.

     A further trouble is the disappearance of small change from the market.  Copper coins have almost completely disappeared.  And so the coolie who needs his pice, and annas, is paid in one rupee notes, and he is unable to get change for the notes, and consequently is also unable to buy his small but essential needs. The Banks are now giving out small change on three days of the week.  On these days there are great queues outside all the banks.  Wizened old men and women, naked children, mothers, fathers; all waiting patiently to change their own rupee notes.  And then they come near to the counter, and the excitement becomes too great, and they all push, shove, shout, quarrel, and wave their notes aloft like tiny flags.


     A letter from "G" today expressing anxiety about the "Forgotten Front" (Us!) and quoting the press as stating that Chittagong has been evacuated and the British have retied to the Ganges Delta.  Nobody ever told us about it !   And we must be a long way in front of the front line.  The position in fact is that a retirement has been made north of Maungdaw, which is eighty miles south of us.  The withdrawal has been carried out to shorten the long and difficult Lines of Communication during the monsoon season.  The omission of any publicity in the home press and on the B.B.C. is causing some very caustic remarks to be made by personnel out here.  Publicity will not win the war, but it might help improve the morale of the British and Indian Troops out here, if the world expressed a little appreciation of the fine work they are doing, and if people at home were told a little more about the trying climatic conditions, terrain, and of course the enemy.


Aug 43

               Sicily has been taken after amphibious landings, and operations lasting 38 days.

               Italy itself has now been invaded at the South, and good progress towards Naples is being made by the 8th Army.

     I had an opportunity to go inside an interesting temple today.  During an evening stroll with out Medical Office, we came across a Hindu temple of rather startling appearance.  It was not big - the size of an ordinary bungalow perhaps, and it was painted bright red, and white alternately.  It nestled in a small dell, surrounded by tall betel palms, and plantain trees.   The priest - a Bengali in spotless dhoti, invited us inside the compound.  There were plumb naked boys running around - the temple boys, whose purpose there I will not deal with here.   Inside the temple it was cool and rather solemn - in the matter of any church or chapel.  It was an oblong room, and plain - a gleaming white floor, and marble pillars to the roof.  At one end there was an entrance to another small room, and in this room was the Goddess herself.  She was Kali - "Kali the Destroyer", the Goddess which in earlier days had been worshipped by the "thugs".  Their mission in life was to kill people by strangulation, using a kind of silk handkerchief - a propitiation to Kali.  Kali is the wife of Shiva, also a God of Destruction.  We saw the Goddess herself, squatting in the little annex to the temple.  She was jet black (representing the unknown which follows death) but her features were painted in vivid colours.  She was clothed in long streamers of newly cut flowers.  She looked very unpleasant and repulsive.  We were not allowed in the small room.  The priest had a small cut on his breast, with a little blood congealed on it.  Symbolic of her lust for blood.  He was an educated man, and had given up his career as a doctor in the army to enter the temple.  He sprinkled a little holy water on us, and gave us two flowers which he took from the idol, in order, so he said that a great defeat would be wrought upon our enemies !
            There are only 51 Kali temples in the whole of India.

     The Regiment has three gun sites on the Patenga Peninsula, a long strip of land below Chittagong, which has the sea on one side, and the Karnaphuli River along the other.  The Peninsula is low lying, and many tidal creeks criss cross the land.  Dirty little rivulets, evil smelling, full of offal, and the home of water snakes and horrid little crabs.  The gun sites are situated in such a way that the creeks are in close vicinity to them, and sometimes the streams wind through the camps themselves.   As a result of the famine, dead bodies are being disposed of, by throwing into the river.  They are carried up the creeks by the tide, and flo back again with the ebb.  Some of the bodies are paying such frequent visits that the personnel know them by pet names.  The stench is over powering.  In order to alleviate this trouble two arrangements have had to be made -

                 1. The civil authorities have got a flying squad of "corpse removers" who go to the scene of our complaints and remove the bodies.

                 2. Fatigue parties are detailed in site orders to "launch" the corpses who are left high and dry on the site by the receding tide.  They use a long bamboo pole with a home made mop on the end.

     On one site a stench perviated through the camp for several days, and could not be traced.  Finally it was found to come from a bamboo hut some distance away.  A woman had died, no one had removed the body, and she was "running" all over the floor.   On the same site, some coolies were living close by, and one had died.  He was pushed out of the hut, and the remainder stepped over his body every time they wanted to enter the building.

          I visited Calcutta for a few days this month, on business.  The business - to buy a stock of liquer !  The journey each way was bad. Overcrowded carriages, reservations not made by the R.T.O.'s and starvation at every station.  I saw three bodies floating down the Brahmaputra.  The fish had been at two of them, and a vulture was in process on the other.  Calcutta is most unpleasant at this time of the year.  It is so hot and humid.  One has no vitality at all, and loses one's appetite.  The "Grand" is always overcrowded and the food is mediocre.   There are Americans everywhere.  They have money to burn.  The rickshaw boys, and taxi drivers sometimes refuse to take British fares.  They don't pay enough.  Some Americans are paying ten rupees for a ten minute ride - fifteen shillings in English money.  They have no sense of values.

     I bought all my Xmas presents for the family. Prices are exorbitant.  Two awful ties for Dad!  Calcutta is full of starving people.  Eighty thousand destitutes in the City.  Hundreds of people laying from one end of Dharamtolla Street to the other - a distance of one and a half miles.  There is a gruel kitchen there.  Deaths are averaging well over a hundred a day on the streets.  The City was bad enough in normal times with it's lepers and maimed beggars whining for annas, but now it is pitiable.

          I was glad to return to  Chittagong

     I was admitted into hospital ten days after returning from Calcutta, with Malaria.  And I KNOW the mosquito which caused the trouble.  It bit me on the rail journey between Cal., and the river !  My temperature was 103 on admittance, but after a day or two of quinine it went down to normal.   The food was so un-eatable that I applied to return to my unit after five days, and to finish the remaining ten days cure there.  The wards were so full of malaria cases that this was agreed to.  I think that if I had remained in hospital for the full spell I should have developed jaundice.  B.T. Malaria is not re-curing unless one is bitten by the same type of anophile again.  But one is subject to a relapse for some months after.

                         Italy surrendered to the Allies in September, and it's fleet sailed into Allied ports.  The Germans are still in control of much of the country though, and the victory in Italy is by no means won.

     However this capitulation does mean that the Allied fleets in the Mediterranean are released to fight.

     A new Command has been set up in this theatre of war.  Henceforth all forces employed East of the Brahmaputra are separated from India Command, and become South East Asia Command.  Admiral Mountbatten is our new chief.

          To jump ahead a little - The famine raged for several months, and finally after the Central Government had stepped in, controlled the purchase and sales of rice, and arranged a rationing scheme, matters started to improve rapidly.   The Viceroy, Lord Wavell completed the satisfactory organization by placing the distribution of the food grain into the hands of the Military Forces.   Afterwards with this rigid control, everyone had sufficient for their needs and the famine was over.


Oct 43

     On the 3rd October, a posting order from GHQ Delhi was received instructing me to report to the 15th India Heavy A.A. Regt. I.A., which was raising at Malir.  Near Karachi on the last of the month.

          I was appointed Adjutant.

     The order had been delayed en route, and the unit had already been in being for three days, with the adjutant two thousand miles away !   My duties as assistant adjutant with the 8th Belfast were hurriedly taken over by Bill Hales from 22 Battery, and after another two days I left them for good.  It was rather sad to go after having spent two years with them.   The journey over India was bad.  Long halts at Calcutta and Lahore awaiting a connection, and then a crush to get onto the train.  I was not well at the time, being on the last lap towards jaundice as a result of the malaria I had suffered from previously.  I could not get onto the Punjab Mail at Calcutta, and caught a non-military passenger in lieu.  I travelled via Benares, Lucknow, Cawnpore, Amritzar, and Lahore.  The view of the riverside temples at Benares is an excellent one as the train goes over the high bridge spanning the Ganges.

     The journey from Lahore to Malir is almost completely through the great Sind Desert.  Unpleasant travelling is it, too.  The temperature is over the hundred mark, and dry.  Dust is everywhere.  All the windows are kept closed in spite of the stifling heat in a futile endeavour to keep the sand out of the carriage.  The train draws it in as it travels over the desert.  It is well worth paying the extra seventeen rupees and travelling in the "freezer" - a sealed air-conditioned carriage.   My spirits dropped to previously uncharted depths as the train pulled into Malir.  Although we were only twelve miles from Karachi, we were still in the midst of the desert.  Not a tree to be seen - just flat wastes of sand.  And a new sight to my eyes - camels, lots of them.

     On arrival at the training camp, some five miles away as the camel walks, I met the nucleus of the officers of the first battery.  This was 42 Battery which formed in October.  43 and 44 Battery were to form on the first of the following two months respectively.   Most of the officers were newly arrived in India from home.   The Regiment was unusual in a way.  It was called a mixed British/Madrassi Regiment.  It was not an "all Indian" unit.  The Officers and N.C.O.'s were British, and the rank and file - recruits, were Madrassi.  The idea behind the scheme was that as the Indians developed into soldiers they could replace the British N.C.O.'s.  Among the senior N.C.O.'s each British soldier had his counterpart in an Indian rank.

     For example -

                       Regimental Sergeant Major   -   Subedar (Madrassi V.C.O.)
                       Battery Sergeant Major           -   Jemedar (   do.                   )
                       Artillery Sgt. Clerk                    -   Jem. Head Clerk  (do. )

     The Madrassis had received their initial training at a basic training centre nearby.  They were taught there how to wear boots, tuck their shirts inside their shorts, and generally have their tails lopped off.  They all come from the South of India.  They speak four different languages - Tamil, Telegu, Malyalam and Canarese, they are mostly short slim fellows, although after a month or two of army food, they filled out and became stocky.  They vary in colour from jet black to light brown.  They are cheery individuals, and are recruited into the army as sappers, drivers, and gunners.  They have very mechanical minds.

   Malir itself was not nearly so bad as the first impressions lead one to believe.   In particular the accommodation was first class.  Two years previously a huge camp had been built to accommodate an armoured division.  With the threat of the Germans breaking through from Russia into the Middle East, and thence through Khyber into India vanishing, the camp had been taken over as an A.A. Training Centre, and by the Americans as a reception camp for troops, and a Chinese Air-School.  We lived in nice bungalows with electric light and fans, and furnished by the M.E.S.; and the offices and lecture rooms were all modern and adequate.  There was a Garrison Cinema in the lines, and a swimming pool in the American Section which could be used by us.

     The desert is undoubtedly healthy.  Within a week or two of my arrival at Malir, the jaundiced feeling disappeared and I was fit and well.   The rainfall averages about four inches per year.  This usually falls in the first few days of July.  The climate is very dry, and these is no humidity whatsoever, so dry in fact that the nails in one's boots fall out, and the soles come away; and everything becomes impregnated with particles of sand.  During the day in the hot season the temperature averages about a hundred, and it drops perhaps ten degrees during the night.  The desert winter is delightful - warm and fresh, with cold nights. The heat is not noticed in the same way as further East, and it certainly does not impair one's vitality. October and May are the two hottest months of the year.  During my first fortnight at Malir, life was anything but easy.  I was supplied with an office, a huge pile of correspondence that had arrived over the previous month, a bottle of ink, a box of thorns in lieu of pins, a few sheets of paper - and carry on !   No staff though.

     Raising a new unit is rather a complicated business, and with the million and one things I had to deal with, I was working until late every night, and continuing to wrestle with the problems in my sleep.  Of my office staff which should have comprised - RSM, 2 VCO's, a British Sergeant Artillery Clerk, and five Madrassi Havildar (sgt. rank) Clerks, the only one who had arrived was the first-named.  And I was not much impressed with him.  However between us, we got the wheels started, and day by day our hair for greyer, and mine got sparser too !   And then the Havildars appeared.  And another rude awakening.  They had been in the army for two or three months, and were untrained in office routine.  They were to cause some worry until finally they were sorted out, and the weak links disposed of.

     However, at the psychological moment a gentleman with a long beard appeared and informed me that he was my VCO Head Clerk.  He was Jemedar Partap Singh - a Sikh, and an old soldier who knew just how everything went.   From then onwards life became a little easier.  And later when Sgt. Morrissey the British Sergeant arrived from H.Q.R.A. Eastern Command we never looked back.  It was decided that we should Mess on a regimental basis, in order that all the officers should get to know each other.  This worked very well, and achieved it's object.  The Mess had originally been built as a large Officer's Mess, and  was ideal.  We employed a contractor to attend to the messing side, and made ourselves comfortable with a wireless and plenty of reading matter always at hand.  My pay had been increased to rsll, 500 a year - £850 in English currency.  But I'm earning it !

     The powers of the C.O., and adjutant of a unit in which the personnel is subject to Indian Military Law is far greater than in a British unit.  The Commanding Officer can convene his own court martial, and administer punishment up to two years rigorous imprisonment, without reference to higher authority. I promulgated my first court martial sentence in November.  It was on a Madrassi bombardier (or 'naik' as he is called in the Indian Army) who had deserted his unit prior to it's embarkation overseas.   He was given

              5 years rigourous imprisonment,
              discharged from the army.
              forfeiture of 161 days pay.

                         He didn't blink an eyelid !

     43 Battery formed in November.  Frank Waterton joined this unit as subaltern.  He has returned from a month's sick leave after spending the previous few months in hospital with appendicitis, and amoebic dysentery.  He does not look at all well.  The O.C. of this Battery is Major Willis - a great swashbuckling character who is known in gunner circles from one end of India to the other.  He is a Lloyd's underwriter.   The third battery - 44 Battery were due to raise on 1st December.  We have all the Indian Troops, the British N.C.O.'s, and stores in readiness.  But not a single officer !  A cypher telegram has been received from GHQ - "44 Battery will not now form "  We cannot understand if it will not form NOW, or whether it will not form at all.

   This cypher is somewhat worrying.  Recently A.A. policy has been changing daily.  Some units are being converted to Infantry, some to combined ops, whilst others are being disbanded.  The situation as regards A.A. in India has been radically changed with the arrival of a brigade of West African A.A. Gunners from the Middle East.  Most gunners are wondering what is in store for them.


     Xmas passed rather quietly this year.  The festival has not got the same significance with an Indian unit. Although it is celebrated by all the religions.  The Indian soldier may be strict Hindu or Moslem as regards his food and so on, but he does not hesitate to celebrate any festival which is going, provided it means a holiday and some "khana"   A party of us had our Xmas dinner in rather different surroundings.  A Chinese Restaurant in Karachi.  It was a special meal for the occasion, with numerous of the strange courses these restaurants provide.  It was excellent.  In the evening there was a whist drive in our sergeant's mess and I distinguished myself by winning first prize.  Xmas dinner proper was held in our own mess on Boxing Day.  Notable for a very tough turkey, and the best pudding I have ever tasted.  The reason for the outstanding pudding was that everyone insisted on it being lighted in traditional style.  Brandy was poured over it, but apparently Australian type is not inflammable.  Canadian Rye whisky was tried - equally unsuccessfully Indian gin; and finally some prized scotch.  And what a blaze there was !  And what a pudding !

     From now onwards, the days were occupied in training - technical, and all the other branches.  By January 42 and 43 Battery were ready for Practice Camp.   Each unit spent a week at the A.A. School in Karachi, firing each day.   Very good results were obtained, and right sleeves were shot down.   Satisfactory reports were issued by the School to GHQ on the unit's progress.   The shooting was certainly of a higher standard than one would expect from a young Indian regiment.  It was more consistant and accurate than the 8th Belfast when I saw them fire at Practice Camp.  It now remains to see what will be their reaction to action against enemy targets.  After this camp, the Batteries return to Malir and concentrate on the weaknesses which were found in the firing.  After a further month of training they return to A.A. School, and take the final Practice Camp before mobilization of the Regiment.


Feb 43

     No further communication had been received on the question of the third Battery forming, but on the 5th of February a Major arrived with posting orders appointing him O.C. of this Battery.  And quickly following him came a number of subalterns who were also posted to 44 Battery.   By coincidence, it happened that the A.A. Training Centre in Malir was closing down at this time.  The Colonel and I decided to form 44 Battery on our own !  We had sufficient of the permanent staff of the Training Centre transferred over to us to start the unit off.  We commenced training.  We informed GHQ of our action.  No reply was received to our letter.  But from then onwards, 44 Battery figured in the distribution of all official correspondence from higher authority.  But in fact, 44 Battery have not officially raised to this day !

     After the second practice camp it was decided that the whole Regiment should have it's annual war leave en bloc.   We are arranging special military trains to take the personnel to Madras.  This is a sound idea, because rail travel in India is chaotic even to the much travelled European.  Indian troops are the least thought of, on the railways.  It is unlikely if they would get to their homes within reasonable time if they went under their own steam.  It is usual to have a fairly high percentage of deserters on the first leave of a new Indian unit.  Some decide they do not like army life, some re-enlist in other arms, in order that their previous training will stand them in good stead, and they are chosen as being above average, and made into N.C.O.'s.  Others find themselves tied up with domestic troubles - illness at home, the necessity of having children, marriage festivals, and so on.  The police are encouraged to arrest deserters and inform their unit.  They are remunerated by the sum of two rupees per head.  But if the deserters are prepared to pay three rupees, the police will not report them.  The police run a lucrative side line on these lines.

     I have decided to accompany one party of Troops, and get an idea as to  what Madras is like.  It has been arranged that Frank and I take  party to Bezwada, which is two hundred miles from the city of Madras itself.  After we have dispersed our men, we are continuing on to a hill station in the Nilgiris - Ootacamund, which is not far away from Mysore.   I am remaining there for ten days, and shall return to Malir alone.  Frank is staying for a month and is escorting the troops back from Bezwada.


                                                                              Journey to Ootacamund

     The first lap of this journey was mainly across the Sind Desert.  We were going to Bombay via the Jhodpur marrow gauge railway, which joins the Karachi/Lahore line at Hyderabad.  It was hot as usual, dusty and wearying.   Departing from Malir at seven o'clock, we moved northward to arrive at Hyderabad, a hundred and ten miles away by lunch.   There was a five hour wait here, whilst the connection on the narrow gauge railway was awaited.   We arranged food for the troops at a free rest camp, and obtained lunch ourselves in the station restaurant.  We decided to have a stroll around the City.  It is out-of-bounds to British Troops.

     Hyderabad is the most untouched of Indian cities I have been to.  It is just like walking into a biblical scene.  It is the same today as during the Great Sind Wars of last century.  The huge fort of mud, still stands in a predominating position in the town.  It's walls must be sixty feet sheer.   It is said that some of the most beautiful women in India come from here.  I didn't see them.  The town was filled with "beduin" like people muffled up in bright scarves in spite of the over powering heat.   During our wait on the station, one of the numerous pi-dogs there, got tangles up in the brake of a carriage of the Karachi Mail just as it was setting off.  This caused a great diversion among the local inhabitants (who seem to spend their time on the station)   The howls of this dog, together with all it's pi-friends who joined in, plus the shreiks from hundreds of excited spectators made a tremendous din.  Finally it had to be cut away in small pieces, and the train pulled out, the spectators resumed their siestas on the platform, and the pi-dogs ate their unfortunate comrade.

     For the whole of the second day we jogged quietly over the grasslands of Rajputana.  The country we passed through was rather dull.  There were some bugs in my berth.  Large one's.  And hungry.  The most interesting fact to relate were the wild peacocks one sees from time to time.  Peacocks originate from Rajputana.  We also saw some enormous storks - over six foot in height.  Then at one place there were some apes with white faces.  They sat by the side of the line and watched the train go by.   They were difficult to distinguish from the inhabitants.  In the evening we changed onto a broad gauge railway at Ahmedabad - the home of the cotton spinning in India.  During the night the distance between here and Bombay was covered, and we pulled in to the latter just as it was becoming light.   The most ticklish part of the journey now confronted us.  We had to have the troops transferred from one railway system to another.  Rather in the manner of arriving at St. Pancras, and requiring the rolling stock together with it's passengers transferred to Waterloo.  Only this was India !

     After wordy battles with half the board of directors of both railways, and all the station masters that Bombay could muster, we finally took the matter into our own hands.  We commandeered an engine, and shunted our carriages across the Bombay network of lines, remaining on the footboard of the engine to ensure that there were no further delays.  We had the carriages put into a siding at Victoria Station, and obtained food for the men.  Frank and I were getting a little tired of railways by this time.  Our connection did not leave until evening.  Looking rather like engine drivers ourselves, we took a taxi into the town, having issued instructions to the troops that they would "stay put"   We went along to the famous Taj Mahal Hotel.  There among the immaculate duck of the Navy, and the "chair-borne" staff wallahs of Bombay, together with their enamelled lady friends we partook of tankards of beer at three shillings a pint.

     We spent the rest of the day at a cinema, various restaurants, and a visit to the harbour.  We stood under the famous "Gateway of India" and wondered how long it would be before we should be in the fortunate position of seeing it from the blunt end of the ship !  I developed a tearing headache.  That evening, the party moved off in the Madras Mail.  And thence onwards the journey was uneventful and dull.  The Deccan through which we passed is an enormous plateau of bare parched grasslands.  Hyderabad, Deccan is note worthy for some excellent palaces, and temples.  It is the seat of one of the richest, if not the richest, men in the world.

     The train ran into Bezwada on the second morning after it left Bombay.  The troops were disposed of with all speed, we had breakfast, and managed to catch a connection on the Delhi/Madras Express.  It was crowded and uncomfortable.   Within half an hour of arrival in Madras that evening we were aboard the Blue Mountains Express, and on the last lap of the journey.  This train was pleasantly furnished, and few people were travelling on it.  By breakfast the following morning, the train had arrived at the foothills of the Nilgiris, and after a hearty breakfast we commenced a precipitous journey upwards through the mountain on a finecular railway.  The scenery was one of grandeur and beauty.  The climate freshened progressively as we winded around one mountain after another.  After a long absence we were able to hear birds singing again, and to see lush greenery, bright  flowers and butterflies.  We passed by palm jungle, pines and Eucalyptuses, and over rushing mountain streams and waterfalls.  It was a delightful trip.

     By the time the train ran into the tiny station at "Ooty", it was definitely "parky", but the sun was shining brilliantly, and we felt that this place would do us a lot of good, after so long in the desert.   There was a bus awaiting us at the station.  We were soon driven to our home for the next week or two.  It was Arranmore Palace.  Owned by the Rajah of Jhodpur, and lent by him during the was as a leave centre for officers.  I had expected to see a castle of some sort, with seven foot thick walls, and dungeons etc.  Instead, it was a modern mansion with lovely grounds laid out in true English fashion.  Inside, the house was beautifully laid out.  There was a large dining room, lounge, reading rooms, ballroom, billiard room - everything one could desire.  The furnishings were expensive and tasteful.  One could see the Rajah was an animal lover - the walls were covered with trophies of his gun !

     The countryside at Ooty is variable.  To the North and West was mountainous forests - great eucalyptus and pine forests, whilst in the other directions were rolling down-land country stretching to a range of mountains in the distance.  This part was reminiscent of the Dunstable Downs.  The similarity was marked - but here we were but a few degrees off the equator.  Several other officers from the regiment who had come down to Madras on similar missions to us, joined us during the next few days, and we were soon a very good party indeed.  The daily programme was much the same - a hard morning's walking with beer at the end of it at the gold club.  Bed, or billiards in the afternoon.  In the evening dancing, cocktail parties with "abandoned wives" or bridge.  We rarely got to bed before two or three o'clock in the morning.

     I acquainted myself with a young thing of some forty summers (plus!)  A colonel's wife.  She was a fine dancer.  And had a flair for gin and expensive clothes.  On one occasion she arrived at a dance at Wellington in a dress studded along the edges with large opals !

     That would cost the colonel a month or two of his pay !

     The weather during the ten days I was at Ooty was perfect - just like an English June should be.  In spite of this however, I felt definitely the worse for wear by the time I was due to return.  It was certainly the most hectic time I had spent since leaving home.  I returned to Malir with Capt. Torrence, Capt. of the 42 Battery.  The journey was uneventful, apart from the fact that our bookings failed from the very commencement of the trip.  However by bluff and persistance we managed to travel comfortable and covered the two thousand miles back in five days, which isn't too bad in wartime India.

     On arrival back at Malir, information was awaiting us that the future was not as cut and dried as we had expected.  Heavy A.A. is becoming redundant in consequence of RAF and USAAF superiority in the air, and in particular against the high level bombing planes.  It is a fact that A.A. is unemployed on the side which has the mastery of the air, because the opposition cannot bring their aircraft within bombing range without losing many aircraft at the airfields from which they intend to launch their attack.  The Japs bring up their bombers to forward airstrips in Burmah with the intention of raiding the lines of communication of our troops, but recci planes soon discover this information and our fighters and bombers go out and strafe the airstrips until finally the Japs withdraw again.

     Another factor in the redundancy of Heavy A.A. is the arrival of the West and East African A.A. units who themselves have become out of work in North Africa.  It is understood that three alternatives lie ahead of us - to remain Heavy, to change to light, or to disband.  This information leaves everyone much in the air, and unsettled.

     The regiment received mobilization orders as Heavy A.A. from GHQ on the 11th April 44 (?)  This means that GHQ consider us fit for deployment, and that we are to hold ourselves in readiness for moving.

     A fortnight later, Brigadier Pemberton, who is Brig. A.A., GHQ came on a visit to the unit.  His purpose was to ascertain whether the officers were suitable material for Lt. A.A.  He interviewed each officer individually, and afterwards told the C.O. that they were a likely lot, and he considered they were flexible enough to change over into the new role.

     Later in April. a letter came down from GHQ that the regiment would re-train as Lt A.A. Arty.  All officers would take a month's course on Lt. A.A. at A.A. School, Karachi.  All B.O.R.'s to be returned to the Depot, and be replaced by Lt. A.A. personnel.  42 Battery are remaining in a heavy role, and are being regimented with another Regiment.  This is not to be regretted as it is a bad battery.  Due almost entirely to it's O.C., who is a man of 25 years of age and quite incompetent to run it.   The worse aspect of this change is the loss of our British N.C.O.'s  They are a grand crowd of men, and all on top of their jobs.  We are going to propose to Delhi that we retain these men, and retrain  them into Lt. A.A. ourselves.

     The month at A.A. School was an arduous one, but enjoyable for all that.  We were all up at crack of dawn, and spent most of the day between gun park and lecture room.  The drill on a Lt A.A. gun is all for speed, and in the glaring sun, and temperatures around the hundred mark, very tiring.  Perhaps the worst feature of the lot was the miserable hour off for lunch !   This gave us little time for our traditional siesta before resuming duty.  In my spare time, i.e. week-ends and occasional evenings I was also attending to the correspondence and other matters at Malir.  With the change over this had increased rather than otherwise.   Work finished at five o'clock each evening, and most of us after a bath and change commandeered garis and went into Karachi, which was two miles from the school.  There are two or three excellent cinemas there, clubs and restaurants.

     On completion of the course the Regiment was instructed to move to Nehgaon - then the only A.A. Training Centre left.  Mehgaon is in the centre of Indian, and is notable for it's impossible heat and lack of decent living accommodation.  However, by a stroke of luck, the C.O. met the GHQ officer in Karachi who had been in charge of this move, and it turned out to be a very old friend of his.  The C.O. complained bitterly of having to give up perfectly good accommodation at Malir, and within two days the move was officially cancelled.

     On June 6th, two major events took place
          1. The invasion of Europe
          2. The posting of our C.O.

     Both have caused a stir.   The news of the invasion of Normandy is the best tonic the troops out East have had.  They have been waiting so long for it.  They know only too well, that until Germany is defeated, there is little chance of reinforcements being sent here to relieve them.  They know that this is a critical step to final victory.  The loss of the C.O. is a great shock and disappointment to all.  He has been kind and considerate, in fact the C.O. that one can only hope for.  He is going to a Rajput Heavy A.A. Regiment.   The name of the new Colonel is not yet known.


Jun 44

    The following figures are quoted in an official document and are worthy of note -

          Cost to equip a Lt A.A. Regiment                                               =    £500,000

          To equip and maintain a Lt. A.A. Regiment for one year.   =  £1,000,000

     A month after our old C.O. had departed, the new one was posted to us.  I met him at the station.  I was taken back at his youthfulness.  Searching for a potential candidate on this station when his train pulled up, I passed him several times without glancing at his rank. Col. E. J. Cole - that is his name, is twenty nine years of age - four years younger than I am.   He comes from Leicester and is the Chief Constable's son.  He was articled at a solicitors in the City who did business with the C.U.  He must have been office boy there, when I was at Leicester Branch !  He was a territorial officer with the Leicesters.  They turned over from infantry to searchlights, and sometimes later he came to India as battery commander with the 8th Sikh Lt. A.A. Regt.  Before he came to us, he was their second in command.   First impressions are that he will be good.  He knows his business.  Stronger than our late C.O., and with ideas of his own.  There has been a marked spontaneous smartening up through out the unit even after three days.  We have been fortunate once more.

     On the first Saturday in July, the Regiment has it's first ceremonial parade.  We were inspected by the Commander in Chief (India) General Sir Claude Aukenleck.  The spade work necessary to bring the parade into revie? order was terrific.  It included such work as finding a piece of desert to suit the occasion, removing the bushes therefrom, levelling, bridging a monsoon ditch for the C in C to walk over, and another for the parade to march over.  All of which was carried out by the RSM with the aid of enormous fatigue parties.   The ceremony itself went off without a hitch.  The RSM handed to me, I had the officers march on, and in turn handed to the second in command who handed to the C.O.  The troops were brought to attention and stood at ease until one lost count.  They stretched from skyline to skyline, or so it seemed when one was in front giving orders.

     Then came the Auk, with a large and varied assortment of satellites.  He went through the ranks with the speed of a strong dose of salts.  He shook hands with all the officers and asked them how they liked India.  No one told him !   The ceremony was completed by a march past, and the Auk complimented the C.O. on the turn out and smart appearance of the men.  The certainly did look good.  I think the pugris they wear make them look good.   In contrast with the B.O.R., the Indian delights in ceremony, and always rises to an occasion like this.   He never lets one down.   Ten days after he arrived at the Regiment, Colonel Cole was killed.  He died in an aircrash.  He had decided to visit Delhi to discuss matters appertaining to the Regiment, and to avoid the tiresome rail journey he obtained permission to go by plane.  The aircraft - a Hudson, cut out at 600 feet after it's take-off.  It crashed into the ground in a spin.  All the occupants were killed instantly.  There were nine of them.

     They were all buried in Karachi Cemetery with military honours the same evening.  The officers of the Regiment acted as pall bearers.   And so once again, the unit is without a Commanding Officer.  Which means more work for me, and also having to forego a very good course on Military Law at Murrec in the Himalayan foothills just north of Rawalpindi.

     We have had another death in the Regiment - a British sergeant this time.  It occured this way - an invitation was received for the NCO's of one of our batteries to visit the NCO Mess of the Americans on the airfield and be their guests for the evening.  It was in fact a great success and our men were in good fettle by the time the party was broken up.   They had all had plenty to drink, a rare opportunity in India for them.  On arrival back at the camp one man who was rather quarrelsome decided to fight another one.  A third intervened, took one man under his left arm, and hit the aggressive one for six with his spare hand.  The latter fell down and died on the spot.   It was an awkward situation to be in, and unfortunately I had to charge the peace maker with manslaughter.

     However there was the usual post mortem, and it was discovered that the man was suffering, unknown to himself from an aneurism in the brain.  He would have died at anytime.  The blow he received was not sufficiently hard to have caused his death.   The sergeant who was charged was exonerated from all blame, and the Commander Sindist, personally called him in to emphasize this.

     The Regimental Medical Services are under the jurisdiction of two Indian doctors.  They are quite incompetent.  They drive us crazy.  Two examples of their treatment are as follows -

          An IOR reported sick to the ?. I/ room with a bad headache.  The prescription - Excused wearing socks for three days !

          Another developed a high fever and was carried over to the N.? I. room, with an NCO escort.  The latter was rushed into an ambulance and taken to hospital, whilst the patient had to return to the lines by his own steam !

          I should not forget the man who subsequently was discharged from the army with infantile parallysis - our medicos' prescription had been - extra P.T.

          And the man with scabies which was diagnosed as leprosy !

     On the subject of health, it is a fact that one gunner approached the officer's mess cook for a pork bone.  This was the prescription of his local village Brahmin to remove an evil spirit from his sister's body !  In actual fact, she was probably mad.   We get a surprising number of Indian troops who suddenly lose their senses.  In many cases they are discharged from the army as incurably insane.  And often they were good soldiers and intelligent, before.  It is always due to congenital syphilis.   One man manifested every symptom of insanity.  He was an NCO who had not been doing quite as well as his O.C. wanted.  He was found in the latrines one evening, drinking urine, and eating night-soil with great relish.  He was put to bed under guard.  He resumed the practice next day.  In hospital he would not eat - except as above, refused to speak, and took no interest in his bodily cleanliness.  He came before a Board and was discharged from the Army.  In accordance with normal procedure he was taken back to Madras under military escort.  On arrival at the station he was getting out from in Madras he got up, dressed himself, and said to the escort "Cheerio, you ???????, you can keep the ?????? army !"


Aug 44

     It appears that another Commanding Officer has been posted to the Regiment.  Delhi have sent the posting order to everyone but us !   His name is Wright !  This is going to complicate matters, having the C.O., and Adjutant with both the same name.  He commanded a territorial A.A. Regiment in Ceylon, but as has been the case with all Heavy Static units, it has been disbanded.  It is very unfortunate that so many of them are Territorial units, because the officers and personnel have all been together since the war started.  He comes from Sunderland, and is a solicitor there.

     I experienced my first burglar the other night.  He came into my bedroom whilst I was asleep.  This is not difficult, because all doors and windows are left open on account of the heat, and to get what little fresh air is going during the cool part of the day.  It was a dark night, there being no moon, but he succeeded in locating my wallet, and identity card from out of a drawer of the dressing table.  By a stroke of luck U had settled a number of debts the previous day, and consequently was only worse off by 30 rupees.  He also took one or two snaps that I carried around in the wallet.  The worst loss was the identity card.  brigade have no mercy on anyone losing this, no matter what the circumstances.  And the penalty is usually a fate worse than death !   The Colonel also had his bungalow rifled, but in his case the burglar was not so successful, and only secured an old five shilling piece that was kept as a momento.   Fate was kind to me.  On the following morning before going to Brigade to report the loss of the identity card I went out on a motor cycle and rode into the desert in the direction I should have taken if I had been the burglar.  It was a forlorn hope, but it came off.  I discovered it in the scrub about a quarter of a mile from my bungalow.  The red cover caught my eye, as it shone it the sunlight.  I was able to trace him for a further distance by following a trail of discarded snaps and Letters.  If he had only stolen more of my literature I am sure I should have traced him to his lair in this manner !

     The new C.O. arrived at the end of August.  He is a man of forty odd, and a substantive colonel.  He knows nothing of Lt A.A.  I don't quite know how things are going to work out.

     The Regiment took it's two practice camps in the new Lt A.A. role in September.   The general performance of the troops at the first one was fair.  There was room for much improvement.  The B.N.C.O.'s  are a mixed lot.  All our old Heavy one's which we re-trained ourselves produced the right results, but the Lt. A.A. re-inforcements are in the main, not nearly so good.  Four hits were registered, but as I have said there was much to be done before the detachments were up to the mark, both from the drill point of view and also the accuracy in laying the guns.  Lt. A.A. differs from Heavy, in that there is more of the personal element in it.  In Heavy, the firing is controlled to a great extent by the manipulation of instruments and dials.  In Lt. A.A. (now the predictor is obsolete) it is a question of personal observation, accurate laying, and teamwork.

     Three weeks later, the second practice camp took place.  The improvement was marked.  The Indians had responded to the concentrated training, and the British element had profited by the polishing-up that had been given to them by an instructor of gunnery we borrowed from the School for a fortnight.  Thirteen hits were registered during this camp, and some excellent shooting was carried out by most of the detachments.   It is peculiar that British troops who have come to us from forward areas are usually worse than men from home or from rear areas.  Their gun drill is usually bad, and their instruction careless.  It is probably due to superiority complex - they won't be told; and lack of supervision in the field.  When we consider that a British NCO is not up to the mark, we have him transferred as "unsuitable to work with Indian Troops".  This is a determent in most cases, and a certain cure against ill-discipline.  The main reasons for disposing of unsuitable personnel are - wrong temperament (ill tempered, not interested in teaching, Indians, etc.), lack of command - this is a vitally important point, or is not on top of his job - bad instructor, or gunnery knowledge inadequate.  We invariably post a British soldier who catches venereal disease.

     After twelve months of comparative freedom from sickness, an epidemic of malaria has descended upon the Regiment.  The whole of Karachi Area are suffering from it, in some cases far worse than us.  Men are reporting sick every day in batches.  They are going into hospital with temperatures up to 105 degrees.  Three officers are also casualties.  The malaria precautions which are observed at all times are extremely stringent, and are carried out under strict supervision.  They include -

          All men sleep under anti-mosquito nets.  These are inspected by a patrol just before dusk to ensure they are "tucked in" and are free from tears and holes.

          Long trousers and sleeves turned down as from half as hour before dusk.  There is a parade to ensure this has been done.

          Anti-mosquito cream supplied to each man, and rubbed in to the exposed parts of the body during the evening.

          All buildings' are sprayed with flit by a patrol at dusk and dawn.

          All likely places for breeding - pools, streams, drains, etc. are covered with engine oil daily.

     Even with these precautions, the number of men in hospital at the moment are sixty seven.  That is ten per cent of the unit casualties.


October 44

     A Movement Order from GHQ was received on Sunday the 15th October, ordering the Regiment to move to Ranchi? on the following Thursday.  Ranchi is in Bihar.   This meant a good deal of hard work - getting out the strengths of personnel, the weight of baggage and equipment, obtaining the necessary rail rations for a weeks journey by train, sending off an advance party, and handing over the camp and certain of our equipment which was not going with us.  Included in the latter was all our ?? and guns.   The Military Special Train was routed via Hyderabad, thence to Delhi by a cross country route, Cawnpore, Allahabad, Moghulsarai and Barkakhana.  We were to complete the final stage of the journey - fifteen miles by road.

     Two days after the receipt of the above, the Assistant Adjutant, the Sergeant Artillery Clerk, and my faithful orderly Akhbar (or to give him his proper name - B. K. Madaya Penicker)? were all admitted to hospital with B.T. Malaria.  The Capt. Quartermaster had gone by this time, as C.C. ? advance party.   On the following day, the O.C. of 48 Battery, Major Willis was admitted to hospital with severe concussion, the BSM of 49 Battery, with Malaria, and the BSM? of 48 Battery promoted to RSM? in place of my previous one who was posted away, being quite unsuitable.

     The remaining Battery Commander, Major Gordon-Duff was away in the Nilgiris on war leave !

     Major Willis was injured as a result of a motor cycle accident which happened when he was returning in the early hours of the morning from Karachi.  He had been bidding a final farewell to his girlfriend there.  He hit a camel cart.  Or more probably the camel, as part of the latter was adhering to the handlebars of his motor cycle on the following morning.  The motor cycle was smashed up.  The camel cart driver did not stop to see what damage was done - he was travelling with no lights, so thought that the quicker he disappeared the better.  Two Americans came across the Major standing in the middle of the road waving a handkerchief.  They carried him into hospital.  His head injuries were appalling, though later it transpired that no bones were fractured.  He is tough.  Even the Americans said "Gosh, can that guy take it!"  He recovered consciousness thirty hours later, had concussion for three more days, and then came out of hospital, joining the Regiment, without medical permission !

     During the next two days, GHQ vascillated in normal manner.  The move was postponed for two days at the last moment, then the route was changed, and finally we were told that another large party would also travel on the train, and that we were responsible for their rationing, etc.   In the absence of our Battery Commanders, O was made O.C. Train.   We finally departed from Malir on the following Saturday evening.  It was one of the longest trains I had ever seen.  The baggage waggons had been sent two days earlier, and we were able to load up in our own time.  The first matter to be attended to was the taking over of the train.  This entailed an examination of every compartment, and noting all damaged and missing fitments.  It was quite a long job, and a hot one, on such a lengthy train.  At six o'clock in the evening, the troops marched down to the station, and within half an hour everyone was accommodated.  It so happened that the allocation of accommodation worked out at one coach per Troop.  All we had to do was to chalk up on the door the letter of the troop, and the men filled straight in.

     It was a very old train, and dirty.  It had come down to Karachi from East Bengal filled with Americans, who were being repatriated home after two years service in India.  The Indian troops travelled in third class compartments - long carriages filled with wooden benches, and the British N.C.O.'s in a military compartment which was little better.  There were no lights.  Fortunately there was ample room, owing to the number of men who had had to be left in hospital with malaria.  Our own accommodation went by name "First Class" only - the carriage I was in, had a makers name from Coalville on it, and the date 1898.  The wheels were oval !  We started off at seven o'clock - punctually to schedule, and saw the last of Malir disappear into the sunset.  We had left an interesting year behind us there, and a comfortable one too.

     The journey took five days, and we created a record by arriving at Barkakhana twelve hours before schedule.  Frank Waterton remarked - "Trust a Wright to get us here too soon!"

     Rationing throughout the journey was -

          Officers   -   at station restaurants, by reserving in advance
          B.NCO.'s  -   hard rations - tin meats, fruit, cheese, pickles, fresh bread drawn daily, and tea
          T.O.R.'s   -   biscuits, jam and monkey nuts. (It was amusing to see the issue of jam.  The issuer put his fist into the tin, brought out a dollop and slopped it into the other's hand !) and of course, tea.

     Three times a day I stopped the train for an hour, and a man detailed from each compartment took a four gallon petrol can to the engine to have it filled with boiling water from the boiler to make tea.  Some of the best cups of tea in India were made this way !  We arrived at Delhi at four o'clock in the morning, and six additional waggons containing personnel and stores of an Indian workshop section were put onto the train.  By this time it was well nigh impossible to be able to see from end to end of the train.  This is the only time I have been in Delhi.  Two days later we arrived at Moghulsarai, where we were to branch off the main Delhi/Calcutta line.  The workshop party were taken off here, and I received orders to take on another party comprising a Chinese general, three U.S. colonels, and a hundred and ten Chinese cadets.  The only accommodation on our train which was available was the third class, and it looked for a time as though I should have to displace one or two of our officers to make room for the newcomers.  However, it was found that there was a second class carriage undergoing repairs in the railway workshops, so that was commandeered, we put it at the end of the train, and stuck the general and the colonels in it.  The R.TO sergeant was not perturbed about the Chinese general - he said they were treated on a par with British sergeant majors !

     One of the American colonels - a man of over fifty, and dour in appearance spent his leisure moments with a catapult !  He was a crack shot at hitting Indians' bare bottoms with peanuts !  He intrigued us all, particularly the Indians, who had never seen a sahib act this way before !  Leaving Moghulsarai at noon, the train climbed some hundred odd miles to Barkakhana through pleasant woodland and hilly country.  We arrived at Barkakhana on the following morning, and were put into a transit camp for the night.  The C.O. and myself went by road to visit our camp at Ormanjhi, and found it to be a delightful spot.  It was on a plateau of grasslands, about three thousand feet up.  The previous occupiers were the 8th Belfast, who had come out of the line before the monsoon, and had rested here.   On our return, I went to see if the baggage waggons were all right in the siding, and found half of them missing.  Then started an intensive search of hundreds of waggons in the dark, to find the missing one's.  They were finally located a mile or so down the line.  By this time, I was very weary, very hungry and very bad tempered.  I found a shunting engine, brought the stray waggons back to our siding, and then went to the station master and gave him a good blasting !

          The following morning we moved to Ormanjhi by RIASC transport.

     Ormanjhi was hutted accommodation - cane built with brick floors.  It was fifteen miles away from the nearest town - Ranchi.  Frank and I shared a small hut together.  The first thing he did was to de-bug his service cap.  He removed twelve large bugs from the lining.  They had got in there whilst it was hanging in the railway carriage.  In view of being in the concessional area of India, we came onto free rations.  They were excellent, and much improved since I was on this side of India before.   We had barely had time to settle ourselves in the camp before a movement order arrived, with instructions that the Regiment would move to Chittagong on the 3rd November.  During the week we had at Ormanjhi, guns, transport and much equipment had to be collected.  Everything was very rushed.  The guns came to us from another A.A. unit in the vicinity.  They had come out of Imphal with them during the past season's campaign in Assam.  The equipment was in bad condition.  The transport too, is far from satisfactory.  We have no time to inspect and decline to take over defective vehicles.  So long as they will go under their own power, we must take them on our charge.

     When the time came, we departed from Ranchi in three parties.  The main body went by special military train, together with a Survey R.A. unit via Goalando and the river Brahnaputra trip that I have referred to previously.  The luggage waggons went in a goods train, with escort and crossed the Brahmaputra further north by train ferry at Santahar.  The road party with guns and vehicles moved to Calcutta where they were transhipped to Chittagong.  Everyone had plenty of work to do, preparing for the move, and the situation was not helped by the continued absence of the Battery Commanders and B.S.M.'s  Fortunately the weather was delightful - fresh sunny days, and cold evenings, and all the troops were in good spirits and worked with a will.  One of the main worries of Ormanjhi was the white ants.  They are very numerous in this part of India, and will eat through anything.   All our boxes, suitcases, etc. had to be propped up on columns of bricks, whilst chair and table legs fitted into tins filled with water to keep the ants off them.  Towards the end of the week here, Lt. Hardman, the Assistant Adjutant, and akhbar caught up with us from hospital.  However within two days, the former was back again with suspected malaria relapse.

     The railway journey from Ranchi to Goalando was uneventful, but painfully slow.  The climate slowly changed to the hot humidity of Bengal.  At Goalando the train became derailed (an occurrence which happens there about twice daily) and all the luggage was man handled for about half a mile.  An arduous job in the heat of the day, but the troops all responded well.  The military ferry ship left Goalando at dusk, and proceeded along the wide river in darkness.  The boat is fitted with a searchlight so that it can travel at night.  We spent the evening playing bridge, eating mixed fruit salad and herrings in tomato sauce, and sleeping on the floor of a dirty little cabin.  The boat arrived at Chandpur at three o'clock in the morning, and news awaited us here from the B.T.O.? that our destination was changed to Comilla.  The business of off loading and on loading onto the narrow gauge railway was again repeated.  After a hot meal, we left Chandpur on the final stage of our journey at dawn.


November 44

     In Comilla, the Regiment was concentrated in and around the town, whilst we awaited the arrival of the guns and stores.  RHQ moved to Maynamati and occupied the old 8th Belfast RHQ that I had been in two years previously.  It was pleasant to be again on familiar soil, and I could not have asked for a better HQ than at Maynamati.  Comilla is changed since I was here last.  It is now the Headquarters of the 14th Army, and a very busy place indeed.  Maynamatti is no longer the rural spot it was either.  It is built up with basha huts, and cannot be recognised.  There are big re-inforcement camps here, hospitals, and satellite units of 14th Army HQ.   Three days after we had settled in the C.O., and I travelled to Chittagong to report to 13th A.A. Brigade.  All the old faces were there, and I was warmly welcomed back.

     We heard at Brigade for the first time, that our third battery was awaiting us in the area, and would be regimented with us forthwith.  This was a pleasant surprise, as I have always felt rather like a small boy bowling unders with just a two battery regiment.  The new Battery - 43 Battery was deployed at Hathazari, fifteen miles to the N.E. of Chittagong, and in the back of beyond.  It was defending an air strip there.  The road to Hathazari from Chittagong was indescribable - a wide track that had never been surfaced, inches deep in red dust, and pitted with enormous pot-holes.  We spent a day with the unit, and they gave the impression of being good.  I met an old face there - one of the subalterns happened to be my first sergeant in the army !

     Our deployment orders from Brigade were as follows -

                    R.H.Q. and 48 Battery        FENI
                    49 Battery                             Comilla
                    48 Battery                             Hathazari

     There is important airfields at these places, but in addition, certain troops from each battery would defend satellite airstrips to each field whilst they were serviceable during the dry weather.   We returned to Maynamatti by rail, catching the only train of the day as it was moving out of the station, which was due to my having left Brigade Orders, etc. on their table, and having to go back for them.  On the way up, the train halted for half an hour, whilst a search was made for an Indian soldier who had fallen out of a carriage as it was crossing a skeleton bridge over a river.  He was not found.  The journey took ten hours to cover one hundred miles - and in a carriage without lights, and without food.  This trip - I know it so well, is one of the slowest and most monotonous in India.  We got back to Maynamatti at 3 o'clock in the morning, tired and ill tempered.  However hot tea, liberally spliced with whisky and sandwiches soon restored us to normal.

     In the course of the next week, the Road Party arrived and also the Baggage.  The Road Party had lost two 3 tonners en route - the coolies allowed them to fall between the ship and the quay whilst they were being unloaded at Chittagong, and the shafts were badly bent in each case.  The Baggage Party succeeded in losing one of the goods waggons, containing the whole of 48 Battery personnel's kit bags and gun barrels.  However after a day or two's search the waggon was located in a siding at Feni.  The Regiment deployed in the field on 19th October, in the areas previously stated, and R.H.Q. moved down to Feni.   Feni is a squalid little town half way between Comilla and Chittagong, on the main road and rail.  It mostly comprises a bazaar, to which peasants from the surrounding district come to sell their produce and buy whatever they need.  The inhabitants are unlikable - gaunt humourless individuals.  They keep all their women folk in purdah.

     The airfield is occupied by a strong force of Mitchell Light Bombers, and Thunderbolt Fighters, and is under the complete administration of the Americans.  They have made themselves far more comfortable than the R.A.F. were able to do, when I was in this district before.  Their accommodation is comfortable - money seems to be no object in this respect, and they have excellent amenities on the spot.  There are four good open air cinemas run by the Americans, with films flown direct from the States.   Our Headquarters are situated on the outskirts of the town, and comprise four requisitioned bungalows and several basha huts which were built on the site to accommodate all the personnel.  It is in a pretty grove of trees - coconut and betel palms, mango and banana trees, with a number of picturesque pools which teem with sizeable fish.  There is a mosque in the middle of the site, and a procession of Moslems all the day through the premises on their way to prayer.

     Electric light has been installed by us, by running a line off a plant some distance away.  Deck tennis, and volley ball courts have been made, and provide reasonable exercise each evening.   The Headquarters are very comfortable, the only drawback being the fact that they are bound up in a sort of island, with paddy fields all around, and no roads or footpaths to take a stroll and get away from the confines of the premises.  Each day's programme is the same routine - from Mess to Office and back for meals.  We usually visit the films twice weekly, but on other nights there is little to do, and everyone is in bed by ten o'clock.


Dec 44

     The third Xmas I spent in India was probably the jolliest.  This was partly due to improved rations and drink issue, and partly to the co-operative spirit which was shared between units in Feni.   The issue of Xmas fare was an excellent one.  A month before, units had been issued with a plentiful supply of live ducks and geese, and given an opportunity of fattening them up.  Tinned hams and poultry, steak and kidney puddings, Xmas puddings, and the necessary ingredients for mince pies and cakes, sweets, chocolate, and nuts were all issued on a liberal scale.  Unfortunately the quantity of Xmas pudding was limited, owing to the whole consignment for the troops in this theatre having been sunk in the great explosion in Bombay Harbour in the previous September.  Everyone was supplied on payment with a bottle each of Gordon's Gin and Scotch, and two quart bottles of beer, and there was also sherry and brandy for every mess.  Further supplies of spirits were made available from local sources - Indian made.

     On Xmas Eve, we held a party at Headquarters, and 48 Battery, and the local Heavy A.A. unit turned up in force, together with several Americans, and odd officers who were messing on their own - the Garrison Engineer, R.T.O., R.I.A.S.C. Officer and so on.  48 Battery signalled their arrival in festive style.  They brought a hurricane lamp along, and with Major Willis presiding dressed in a Balaclave helmet they took up a position underneath the palms, and regalled us with Christmas carols.  It was much appreciated and annas were showered upon them !  The party was a great success, and progressed through the normal stages to the finale of army and rugger songs - usually very bawdy.  Nine and a half bottles of gin, and three of scotch were accounted for during the evening, together with innumerable sandwiches of chicken, duck, ham, etc., and mince pies galore.  The party concluded at one o'clock in the morning, with everyone in very mellow mood.  Major Willis fell into the pond on the way to his car.  In the sergeant's mess a similar celebration was carried on, and one of the guests - an American had not been found two days after his departure from it !

     On Xmas day, the C.O., and myself went over to 48 Battery Headquarters at noon, and celebrated the occasion with them, meeting all the British Troops who had come into Headquarters for their Xmas dinner.  Afterwards we steered a course back to R.H.Q. and had our own dinner - roast goose, Xmas pudding with brandy sauce and a bottle of dinner wine to wash it down.  In the evening we invited the Havildar clerks, the Jemedars, and a Sikh Havildar Major who was staying with us, to come over to the Mess and listen to the King's Christmas Speech.  They were very thrilled at this.  They all had one or two gins, except Hav. Kandaswamy who is a Brahmin, and became very talkative, aping our conversation on the telephone, and the way we tell them off.  They had to be given the order of the boot at ten thirty as we still had had no dinner !   When it was time for them to depart, my youngest clerk got to his feet, and said very diffidently that the others had requested him to make a speech.  He did so, and it was very nicely put concluding with the hope that as a result of this war in which we are now engaged, people of the different races and colours would be able to sit together as we had done on this Christmas night and be friends one with the other.  He is one of the "moderns" - young awakening India.  His name is Velayadhan, and he came into the army straight from college.

     On Boxing Day, we were asked over to the Battery Headquarters of the Heavy Regiment here - a unit similar to our own, except the coloured troops are East Africans.  It transpired that the British element left home in the same convoy as me, and that previously they had been in the Battery that had relieved my own when we were at Lossiemouth.  The Indians all celebrated the festival, in spite of the majority of them being Hindus and Moslems.  Special funds were allowed for the purchase of extra fare for their feast, and in fact on Xmas Day they had five meals altogether.  They insisted on decorating the Officers' Mess, and made an archway leading to it of plaited palms with coconuts, betel nuts, and flowers hanging from the arches.  It looked rather like a Harvest Festival.  And they purchased coloured papers in the bazaar, and made chains to festoon from wall to wall.  On the morning after Xmas Day, my best lance-naik came up to me and said he wanted a transfer.  I asked him "Why, Ramachandran aren't you happy here?" and he replied "Yes, Sir, I want a transfer from the Hindus to the Christians!" The RSM's orderly and a cook celebrated the occasion by going to the local brothel, paying their one rupee a time and getting V.D. for their trouble.

     Advance notice has been sent to Major Gordon Duff of 49 Battery that he will be repatriated in the near future, having served five years overseas.  He is a Ceylon tea and rubber planter and was called up at the beginning of the war, being on the reserve of officers.  The Commanding Officer has submitted my name to fill the vacancy when Major Gordon Duff goes, and the Brigade Commander has also signified his approval.  The appointment rests with Army, and it is unfortunate that at this time there are a number of field officers out of jobs as a result if disbandments of their units.  However unless they bring in one of these officers I think it likely that I shall get the appointment.   The position with the Battery is far from satisfactory.  There is no doubt that the O.C. is a tired man, and that this is reflected through-out his unit.


Jan 45

     The opening of the New Year brought a busy period to the Regiment, all the Batteries being engaged in moves forward.  These moves were brought about for two reasons - firstly the capture of Akyab, and secondly the disbandment of a British Battery further South.  Incidently the disbandment of this Battery came at an unfortunate time, because it resulted in the Battery Commander being without  a job, and he was transferred to fill the vacancy in 49 Battery at my expense !

     The Regiment were then deployed as follows -

                       43 Battery   -   1  Troop & BHQ at Hathazari
                                                 1  Troop at Ramu, near Cox's Bazaar
                                                 1  Troop at "George" (an airfield which is further south)

                        48 Battery  -   2  Troops & BHQ at Chiringa (also near Cox's)
                                                 1  Troop at Ramu

                        49 Battery  -   2  Troops & BHQ at Feni
                                                 1  Troop at Comilla

     Regimental Headquarters remained at Feni although it would have been easier to administer the Regiment from an HQ nearer the two Batteries located further South.  However, with possible further moves in the near future it was considered advisable to remain where we were, in comfort, until the whole Regiment were more concentrated.  Furthermore, in addition to regimental duties, the A.A. Defences of Feni were under the command of the C.O.   Feni is an important airfield, and at that time was occupied by the American 12th Bomb Group, which comprised three squadrons each of Thunderbolts and Mitchells.

     The progress of the Allied Forces into Burmah had accelerated in the previous few months.  The Force in which were in was making it's way down the coast of the Bay of Bengal through the Arakan towards Rangoon.  This Force moved quickly since the previous monsoon, and the Japs seemed to be on the run at last.  The previous two campaigns in the Arakan had ended in a stale mate.  The other Force of the Fourteenth Army is the one which fought it's way through Assam by the Manipur Road into the middle of the Northern Burmah.  This too was moving forward rapidly in the direction of Mandalay.  Once Mandalay is in our hands, the road to China will be opened again, and supplies will be sent into China in bigger quantities.

     As the armies move forward, the lines of communication, airfields etc., advance too, and we moved forward to defend them.  Although the Regiment is a static one, in fact, it's role is far from static.  It is doubtful if any of our units will remain in one place for more than a month or two.  The usual system we use is to leap-frog the batteries over each other.  The difficulty we have to overcome with these moves is one of transport.  It is not easy to become mobile with a static establishment of M.T.  Each Battery is provided with sufficient vehicles to move one Troop at a time.  Consequently when the whole Battery moves, it has to be carried out in several stages.  This is hard on the trucks shuttling to and fro in view of the impossible condition of the roads, and on the drivers too - especially when the move is a long one.

     In the Arakan, and northwards as far as Dacca there is only one road.  This follows the coast line all the way down, but is a little inland.  Before the war it was a bullock track  M.T. simply did not exist in the country at all.  The track consisted of an earth bund raised several feet above the surrounding countryside, to raise it above monsoon level.  It was inches deep in dust in the dry season, and greasy mud in the monsoon.  When it became necessary to use the road to carry military supplies to the troops further south, the road was bricked.  The bricks were kilned from the earth itself at the side of the track.  Thousands of coolies were employed.  The job took about a year to complete.  For the first month or two after it was bricked, it was a delight to drive along - as India roads go.  It was almost like a winding speedway, snaking it's level course through endless paddy, patches of jungle and small dirty bamboo villages.  However, the soft bricks soon began to show signs of wear, and now after two years it is almost as bad as driving over a ploughed field, with the broken hole-pitted bricks under a two inch layer of dirty grey sand and red brick dust.  One rarely drives along above second gear, and invariably arrives at one's destination bruised from head to foot, and covered in inches of grime.

     Just to the north of Feni, beside one of our Troop HQ's is a little graveyard.  It nestles below a copse of bamboo.  There are two dozen or so identical little crosses in it.  Allied men killed, or who have died in the district.  The names which appear on the crosses are truly international.  There are the graves of Japanese airmen - shot down by the 8th Belfast, and the RAF in 1942, men from the latter Regiment who were killed as a result of pattern bombing by the enemy, British, Australian, Canadian, Polish Airmen, and Americans = almost every grave a different nationality.  And there is one grave of seven unknown British soldiers who were found floating in the river Feni at Fazilpur, just south of the town.,  They had their throats cut.  A lonely pathetic little cemetery, and after the war when the British and American soldiers return to their homes it will remain here, so lonely with only the indifferent Bengali passing by on his business, and the jackal at nights searching for offal to eat.

     There must be hundreds of "Feni's" in the world today.  Places unknown in normal times, but which suddenly become locally important in time of war.  From the A.A. view-point, Feni defences may be of interest, because they are there for precisely the same reason as in hundreds of similar little military installations, and are organised in the same way as most others are organised.  It might be worthwhile to give a brief summary as to how the defences are organised to defend a certain target from attack by air.  It is called a GDA, a Gun Defended Area, and operationally is under command of the senior officer of the local A.A. Defences.  Usually the Heavy A.A.  O.C. is in command, unless the Lt. A.A. Commander is of senior rank.  He is known as the A.A.D.C., the A.A. Deputy Commander (The A.A. Brigade Commander of the whole district is primarily responsible for all units in his Brigade)

     The defences of Feni  consist of a Battery of Heavy guns (Africans) and two Troops of Bofors.   Our C.O. is A.A.D.C.   There are six guns each Lt. A.A. Troop, and they are sited to defend the airfield from attack by enemy aircraft from any direction, and also to give mutual support in the event of any gun site being attacked.  Each Troop has a separate HQ, with two officers, a Troop sergeant and a few admin. personnel.  In the event of any enemy aircraft approaching, warning is received from the Early Warning System when the planes are as far as a hundred miles away.  The plots of their course is broadcast over the telephone from the Master Site (one of the Heavy positions) and it is noted on the maps at all HQ's.  When the aircraft come within twenty five miles of the GDA the air raid warning is given, and all guns are manned.  If the attack is intended for the GDA the planes are plotted on it's own Early Warning when they come into a certain radius of the GDA, and are followed accurately the whole of the time.  The AADC gives authority to fire.  In the case of our own fighters being in the vicinity he will withhold the fire.

     Unlike the Heavy guns, our Bofors are sited singly.  The gun sites are each manned by one or two British NCO's - the Detachment Commander, and Number 1. of the gun, and seven, eight, or nine Indian gun crew.  This latter number varies according to leave, sickness, courses, etc.  In course of time, when the Indian NCO's have proved themselves, they will replace the British personnel.  The site is usually raised on a bund (often ousting a local farmstead) to keep it above water level in the monsoon season.  The gun itself being in a pit built on top of a pimple to get the clearest field of view of the surroundings.  The gun pit is hexagonal in shape, and just big enough to wheel the gun in, and to operate it.  It has thick sand-bagged walls about three feet in height in which are built recesses for ammo., tools, gun wheels, spare barrel, sleeping quarters for the night manning men, and so on.  The floor is bricked if the Detachment Commander can put his hand on any spare bricks.

Accommodation is provided in a couple of bamboo bashas, one for the British and one for the Indians, or in tents.  Each Indian takes his turn as cook.  This is not difficult as the only item on the menu each day is curry and rice.  The feeding of the British is not so easy.  What we do in this Regiment is to provide each gun site with a useful receptacle which resembles a steamer.  It is a common enough utensil in India, as whenever an Indian goes away from his home for the day he carries his food in it.  It comprises four small containers which fit flushly one on top of the other.  The food for each meal is cooked at Troop HQ.  Boiling water is poured into the bottom can, and the different courses places in each of the higher one's.  The six steamers - one per site, are places into a hay box, and the Troop 15 cwt truck is sent round the sites at top speed, dropping a container at each.  In this way, the NC's get their food nice and hot on all the gun positions.  Drinking water is stored in containers called "mules" at each site.  The Troop water truck making two or three runs a day to keep them replenished.

     It is a lonely life for the British soldiers, especially if there is only one on a site.  The Indians cannot speak English fluently, in fact they may even speak different languages among themselves.  The days are not so bad - manning, training, fatigues, care and maintenance, there is plenty to occupy them.  But the nights are lonely one's - no one to talk to, isolated in little worlds of their own, no radio, little reading matter ... they are usually in bed by eight o'clock.  I remember two years ago there were a series of welfare advertisements appearing in the Calcutta Statesman for funds to provide comforts for lonely A.A. gunners in England !  One can imagine the indignation which that raise among the "lonely A.A. gunners of Bengal"!  Their loneliness is second to none, unless it's the lighthouse keepers !

     The C.O. and I have spent a day in inspecting the 49 Battery gun sites on the Feni Airfield.  It will be remembered that they relieved 48 Battery here a week or two ago.  Generally speaking the sites are not up to the standard of 48.  The trouble, or rather the difference, because the sites are not as bad as that, is due to two reasons.  Firstly, the late O.C. of the Battery was too much of an old woman, and did not pay sufficient attention to the administration of his unit, and the general comfort and welfare of his men, and secondly the personnel themselves are of a lower standard.  Most of 49 Battery men came to us from the A.A. Training Centre, and it is my experience that such institutions provide inferior material, whereas one would expect the absolute best.  There is not the same esprit de corps in this battery that one observes in the other two.

     My experience in this war is that one rarely hears a grouse or grumble from an efficient N.C.O. when he is being inspected by his C.O.  I do not say that he hasn't got any causes to grumble.  But he usually keeps them to himself on these occasions, because he feels that he must not let his side down.  The man who is not on top of his job, whose gun isn't as clean as it might be, who has not troubled to make life as comfortable as possible, who has empty tins floating about in the nearby tank; he is the one who usually takes every opportunity to air his grievances to the C.O.  In many cases they are in regard to matters which he could amend himself.  A number of the 49 Battery men are like this - his food is not up to scratch, his hut leaks, his men are not good enough ... and usually it is painfully obvious that he himself is not good enough.  One D.C. complained because he was not getting a sufficient ration of wood ... he was living about twenty yards away from the Garrison Engineer's coal dump !

     Sgt. Landsborough, one of their best D.C.'s asks for a transfer to a mobile unit in the front line.  His sister was in Hong Kong when the Japs took it.  She committed suicide.  He was mentioned in despatches in his previous unit for bravery during the 1942 Arakan campaign.

     While we were inspecting one site, a short way beyond the end of the runway, a plane failed to take off and crashed.  It was a Thunderbolt with three extra petrol tanks suspended under it's fusilage and wings.  We heard a crash, then the sound of an automatic gun firing and immediately afterwards a loud explosion. We rushed through the trees and discovered the plane with it's nose buried in the side of the raised road, burning furiously.  I believe it was so heavily laden that it failed to become airborne, and when he got to the end of the runway the pilot applied his brakes violently.  It did a double summersault, landed on it's wheels again, and ran along until it hit the bank.  We were relieved to hear afterwards that the pilot escaped.  I cannot imagine how he did it because the whole thing was over in a flash and the aircraft was a mass of flames, with ammunition bursting in all directions.  He was a lucky fellow.

     If there is one time when things are not likely to go "according to plan" it is on an Inspection.  Here is a tale of R.S.M. Annally's inspection of a gun site in 43 Battery:-  Having put the Indian troops through their paces he decided to have "gas drill".  The respirators were brought out by the I.O.R.'s, and R.S.M. Annally had them doing gun drill with the cases in the "alert" position.  Suddenly he ordered "gas".  Everyone pulled the masks out of their cases and put them on.  But imagine the chagrin of one gunner who, in pulling the mask out, also pulled out a nest of mice !  There were big one's and little one's running all over the gun pit !  It gave him a good indication as to the last time the detachment had practiced gas/gun drill "

     There is another tale - an earlier one, which occurred when the Regiment was being inspected by a general with the popular name of "swill bin Joe".  The Orderly Sergeant had a quick "last look" at the cookhouse just as Swill bin was bearing down upon it.  Everything appeared to be up to standard until he suddenly observed a very dirty sack lying on a shelf.  Quick as thought he removed it, and emptied it's contents into the bin.  One can imagine the C.O.'s feelings when Joe make his usual bee-line for it, removed the lid, and found half a dozen fresh cauliflowers floating on top of the offal !   Finally the Brigadier inspecting a gun-site who asked the Detachment Commander "Sergeant, there is a Jap Zero flying straight down your barrel.  What are you going to do !.  "Sir", replied the D.C.  "Close the breech and trap the bugger!"

                  The Burmah Road into China was re-opened in February '45.  This is a photograph of the first convoy to travel in to China after the Road had been recovered from the Japanese.


March 45

     The opening months of the year were uneventful but not unpleasant in Feni.  Events of major importance were taking place in all the theatres of war.  The Pacific campaign was moving rapidly, and the Americans advancing island to island in quick succession towards Japan itself.  The British fleet moved into Far Eastern waters, and their first consignments were the shelling of a chain of islands south of the main Japanese island of Shishu.  Giant Super Fortresses from bases in Saipan bombed the chief cities of Japan with regularity, Tokio in particular being a prominent target.  In the Burmah campaign, the Fourteenth Army - the old "forgotten army" captured Mandalay, and trapped the main Japanese army in the plains south of this town.

     In Europe, great battles were fought and won by the Allies.  Early March saw the crossing of the Rhine in many places, and the capture of vast numbers of the enemy on the West side of this river.  By the end of the month, armoured columns advanced into the heart of the enemy industrial country, and the end of the war seemed close at hand.  Simultaneously Russian troops moved into Austria, and in the North captured the cities of Gdynia and Danzig.  In addition to the surge forward of land troops from all sides into Germany, Allied bombers were over the Reich in their thousands daily, and fighters were shooting up jammed transport retreating along the roads, and rolling stock.

     There was a considerable amount of local movement of units in the Regiment, Troops moving to new airfields as they were occupied by the R.A.F., and U.S.A.A.F.   Enemy activity was negligible, and it seemed as thought the Jap Airforce in this theatre has been practically eliminated.  We had a tiger scare in Feni one evening.  The telephone rang just after dinner, and it was reported that a tiger was in the village and had killed six persons.  We armed ourselves with revolvers and brens, and doubled the guard.  If one of the latter had dropped his rifle, the other would have undoubtedly died of fright !  All the Indian troops barrackaded their basha, and the British NCO's placed beds against the doors of their bungalow.  One late arrival hammered on the door in vain, because the men inside refused to open up.

     The Americans went completely mad, and were roving the countryside in jeeps, lorries and on foot, armed with every weapon they could lay hands on.   No one saw the tiger !  If there had been any casualties it would have been a stray bullet from the Americans which caused it.   Rumour had it next day that the tiger had visited the brothel area, and mauled several of the occupants !  Major Willis whose Battery was now in Chiringa some two hundred miles south of us, paid a visit to RHQ on the following day and pooh poohed the idea, as on the previous week he had seen four coolies chasing a tiger with bamboo poles and axes.  He said that he'd never seen anything move so quickly in his life as that tiger did !

     Another amusing incident occured when one of our Madrassi gunners was "captured by the Ghurka guards on the American airfield here.  It appears that the Ghurkas had impounded a cow which had wandered onto the runway, and would not release it to it's owner until he hander over three rupees.  He came tearfully to one of our gun sites and having told the tale to the Indian on guard the latter armed himself with a bayonet, and proceeded to the Ghurka lines to "pursuade" them to hand the cow over.  A violent altication thereupon ensued which resulted in the gunner poking his bayonet into the leg of one of the Ghurkas, and in return being felled with a torch, and rendered unconscious !  Personally, much as I admire the Ghurka, I should not venture in their camp on a mission of this description armed with anything less than a tommy-gun !  The gunner in addition to a large bump on his head, received seven days rigourous imprisonment for his pains !

     A number of changes took place among the officers at RHQ. Alec Taylor, the quartermaster was repatriated after four years service in India, and Peter Holness came from 43 Battery to replace him.  Arthur Hardman, the assistant adjutant returned to 49 Battery as a Troop Commander.  Jim Raine rules in his stead to us - Major Ditchfield, who had previously been with a "Her" Battery (The "Hers" come from the Central Province.)  He is a regular soldier, commissioned at the outbreak of war.  A sound man, but inclined to contrariness in the normal evening discussions and arguments !  All regular soldiers are built in the same mould.  The C.O. became officiating Brigade Commander and disappeared from the regiment for three months, except for occasional two-day visits, when he "came up for air".


April 45

     During April the Regiment had it's first major crime since it had raised.  I was called by 48 Battery to go down to Chiringa, some seventy miles south of Chittagong as soon as possible, as there had been an affray between some of the Indian gunners and civilians.  The road journey between Feni and Chiringa - down the Dacca Grand Trunk Road to Chittagong, and thence along the newly constructed Arakan Road defeats description.  It is a mud road some five feet above the paddy fields, and it's surface resembles the Himalayas in contour, and the Sahara Desert for dust !  At one place, the road bridge and the railway bridge over the Karnaphuli River - some four hundred yards in length, is one and the same.  The bridge is just wide enough to take a single track, and consequently the margin of space between the wheels and the edge of the bridge is about six inches.  Vehicles can only proceed over at three mile per hour, and with a man in front walking along the middle of the track to guide each truck.

     Arriving in Chiringa in the evening, I settled in at 48 Battery Headquarters - almost unpleasant set of bamboo huts in a damp bamboo grove; and put off the question of the affray until the following day,  The Battery were deployed in defence of a British airfield, from which Beaufighters were engaged in straffing shipping off Rangoon.  The trouble which had occured transpired to be a shooting between a gunner and several civilians, in which one civilian was killed outright, and two others seriously wounded.  The case is still far from coming for Court Martial, but it appears as though the facts are as follows - every evening, the British Sergeant on one site left the site to have his evening mean at T.H.Q. some quarter of a mile distant.  The gun detachment was left in the charge of a senior Indian gunner.

     During his absence, the gun detachment went into business in a big way, waylaying civilians returning by a little footpath to their villages with the proceeds of the sale of their fruits and vegetables in the Chiringa Bazaar.  In this way, the men were running a lucrative side-line, in addition to obtaining any of the goods the civilians had failed to sell, to go into the stock-pot.  On the occasion in question, thirty or more Bangalis were returning home, and had apparently prepared for all eventualities by arming themselves with long staves.  Consequently the attack by our Maddrassis failed, and in fact turned into a rout !  Gnr. Shammughan, in charge of the detachment, and probably not aware of what was going on, heard the shouts and scuffling about a hundred yards away in a Wood, and panicking, assumed the gun site was being attacked.  He immediately loaded a sten gun, and rushed into the fray, firing seven rounds, which all found their marks.   The British Sergeant, returning into the gun pit on hearing the firing, found all the men, including Shammughan, blissfully asleep, with bodies strewn all over the landscape !

     I remained at Chiringa for about five days getting completely embroiled in Courts of Enquiry, an d Summaries of Evidence, and having prepared all the facts for submission to higher formation, had to return to RHQ without further delay, information having come to hand that we were to engage in a very important move in the near future.  Two months mater, Shammaghan was still awaiting Court Martial on a charge of murder.


April - May 45

     The news we received delighted all of us, who were in the picture, and it was that Rangoon was to be invaded by sea in the near future, and that our Regiment was to be in a "follow-up" A.A. Brigade which would arrive in the city on D - 7.   The brigade into which we were in was the 3rd Indian Brigade, which was commanded by a Brigadier who had recently arrived in SEAC from Germany.  The other units in the Brigade were the 6th Indian, and 15th Easy African regiments.  Our instructions were that RHQ and one Battery would become mobile, the other Batteries remain on a semi-mobile establishment of transport.  All stores and equipment  to be reduced to a bare minimum, also personal baggage.  We were to concentrate in Chittagong in readiness for the move.

     By the end of the month, all the units of the Regiment were together in a tented camp on the Patenga Peninsula, by the side of the docks - familiar ground to me from the 1942/43 days.  The following days were hectic in the extreme - painting the code name for the particular campaign we were to embark on, and regimental and battery colours for quick identification on dis-embarking.  It was understood that embarkation would be probably by beach landing craft, and M.T. training and deployment schemes were concentrated upon.  The method of deployment was to be as follows -

          1. Recci Party consisting of the C.O., Battery Commanders and myself, together with a few odd bodies.  Our baggage was to be limited to camp kit only.  This party would proceed on about D - 4.

          2. Fighting Party consisting of gun detachments and other operational personnel.

  and 3. the Follow-up Party with all the stores.

     What actually happened was that order cancelled order, counter-orders and dis-orders followed, and eventually by the middle of the month, it was clear that a delay was inevitable.  We were still optimistic however, that the move would start before the commencement of the monsoon, in about a fortnight's time.  Finally however orders came in that the postponement of the move was in-definite.  This came as an unpleasant shock to everyone, and morale generally was to suffer as a result of the dis-appointment.

     The reasons for the change of plan were - The enemy had evacuated Rangoon without a fight, and Jap air activity was negligible.  They had destroyed the drinking water installations of the City, and lastly the harbours had not been dredged since the Japs captured Rangoon, and shipping of any size could not dis-embark at the docks.  Consequent to these things, it was only possible to supply and water a bare minimum of troops, and all re-inforcements were primararily intended to get the life of the City back to normal.

     In the following days, the Regiment passed through a bad patch.  This was particularly unfortunate, because it did not give the new Brigade a good impression.  It is surprising what big things will spring from little one's, and we had a case in question.  One evening an IOR returned to the camp the worse for drink, having applied himself rather too vigorously to the local toddy.  He wanted to fight everyone on the camp.  While one of the British N.C.O.'s was holding him down, some of the Indian troops attacked him from the back, one of them hitting him over the head with his water bottle.

     After long investigation, by one of the usual methods - Punjabi Chutti, which consists of continued pack-drill of the group of men suspected until one of them finally breaks and tells the names of the culprits, it transpired that a lance-naik had done the "crowning"  He was brought up for Regimental Summary Court Martial, and awarded four months in a military prison.  Unfortunately whilst we were awaiting a vacancy in the prison, the Battery Commander committed a grave sin, and broke the first commandment of the Army Act - he put him in a guard room where there were small-arms.

     At the first opportunity the lance-naik, by name (Sammana Gounder) got hold of a sten gun, and put a bullet through his belly.  He was rushed off to hospital, and in no time the surgeon was sewing his liver together, and he did not die.  Thus, we added a further serious court martial onto the waiting list.

     To add to our troubles, the brigadier carried out a ceremonial inspection of the Regiment, and their performance was several degrees below par.  They say that a bad run finishes with the third calamity, and as we had already had one prospective murder, and an attempted suicide, we anticipated the final throw.   Sure enough it came along, when one of the drivers ran over a native woman !  In the last case however, the man was exonerated.

     Things started to improve with the news of the final victory in Europe, an event which was celebrated through-out the Regiment with some heavy-drinking parties.  After one, I regret to say, I dived into our pond fully dressed !

     The remainder of the month was concluded in a whirl of sport, the battery football teams defeating all comers in the Brigade league, and an excellent athletic sports meeting which filled the Brigade Commander with satisfaction.

     The monsoon shewed signs of being nearby, and on a number of days there were tropical thunder storms of great intensity which succeeded in flooding out many of the tents, and blowing the remainder away.  I developed synus trouble inn my nose, and after several weeks of perpetual nose-blowing, an Indian surgeon did the unpleasant task of removing the infection from the naval cavity.  This consisted of boring a hole with a punch through a bone in the top of the nose, and then pumping in copious quantities of liquid.  Very painful and dis-aggreeable !


May 45

     We remained in Chittagong until the end of June, and generally speaking it was about the dreariest time of my stay in India.  There was one bright spot however, and that was the sudden announcement that the overseas tour of service in the Far East had been reduced to three years four months.  This was a reduction of four months on the previous figure, and as I had completed three years service oversees this month, it looked as though I should be due to return to England in September.  All the same, bearing in mind that huge drafts of men had come to India in the first six months of 1942; it appeared to me to be a tremendous task to fulfill this pledge.

     It would decimate the armies here, and I could not see how transit camps and shipping could possibly cope with the traffic each way.  However, the powers-that-be did what they could, and within two months men were going home after three years six,  At this figure, things became impossible, and Lord Louis Mountbatten was compelled to issue an order of the day to the effect that no further reduction would be made for several months to come.  This more or less put me back to the position I was in before, and it looked doubtful if I would see home by Christmas.

     Chittagong was grossly overcrowded with troops at this time, and the outlook became bleak for the Regiment when the monsoon did break.  The flood water soon mounted in the camp, and it looked as though we should be washed away before long.  After considerable agitation, the units of the Regiment were accommodated under cover of some sort all over the town and surrounding country.  By the grace of God, our Brigade Headquarters moved to Rangoon, and we were able to take over their premises as an RHQ.  They were comfortable with electric light and fans, but in the midst of the bazaar and very noisy up to a late hour of every night.

     During this time, there were a number of changes in the command of the Regiment, Lt. Col. Wright went on compassionate repatriation, his wife having supposed to have been on the verge of a nervous breakdown - a wangle if ever there was one !   After this the 2 i/c took over, and was a four letter word of the worst possible type.  He was the perfect example of the regular non commissioned soldier who had risen to a status far exceeding his highest expectations.  Irrational, domineering, incompetent, and in my opinion quite inefficient.  He alienated the friendly spirit of the Battery Commanders, treated everyone like dirt, and was not hated so much as despised by everyone.  He was succeeded by a new C.O., Lt. Col. Shone - a different type, young, keen and very impetuous.

     We had another worry to contend with, as a result of about a hundred I.O.R.'s of 48 Battery making an assault of a nearby Bengali village.  Our Troops cannot stand the Bengalis.  The trouble seems to have arose because the villagers objected to our troops bathing in a tank which they used as drinking water - a reasonable sort of grouse.  However, instead of airing the grievance in the right quarter, they took the opportunity of chasing any odd men who were seen about the tank.  Our lads finally reciprocated by marching on the village in force, and finding most of the villagers were away, they broke into their basha huts, knocked the bits of furniture about, and beat the women who were in purdah on their seats with bamboo poles.  They also burned down two haystacks

     When most of the menfolk returned from their work in the evening, they naturally took a poor view of the proceedings, and in turn mustered a large army together and marched upon 48 Battery lines, a battle royal was about to commence when Major Willis was informed of the position, and bounded between the two armies.  His size, and fluency completely awed the Bengalis, and they were pursuaded to return to base. on the understanding that punishment would be heaped upon the heads of our delinquents.

     The matter finished up in the hands of the civil police, as the Bengalis saw an opportunity of making a good thing out of the affair,  Fantastic compensation was claimed for lost and damaged property, and for the assault of their women.   Identification parades were held, and courts of enquiry, but the settlement of the matter had not been made two months after the occurence.  The court martial of the murder case at Chiringa was finally held, and Shanmughan found "Not Guilty"


June 45

     At the end of June, orders were received that the Regiment was to concentrate in Feni.  The purpose of this was to relieve Chittagong of some of it's congestion, and for us to mark time in Feni until railway facilities were available to transport us back to India Command.   The future of the Regiment had been decided upon by GHQ, and we were to eventually go to Vizagapatam in Madras and train in one of the following roles - Field Arty, Anti-tank Arty, or Mobile AA.  Our own static AA was completely obsolete, as there was not a Jap plane within a thousand miles of the Burma Border in the North.

     The regiment moved to Feni in appalling weather conditions, by rail and road, and were accommodates in pleasant basha sites around Feni which had previously been occupied by the "Earthquakers" - the U.S. 12th Bombardment Group, who had moved back into India to train on the new "Invaders" in lieu of their Mitchells.  Within a month of our arrival there, two of the Battery Commanders returned to England on demobilization, and the third became second in command of the Regiment.   This created three vacancies for major, and they were filled in by myself, Frank Waterton, and Peter Holness.

     There were several other step-ups in lower ranks, notably Arthur Hardman as adjutant, and Jim Raine as Captain Quartermaster.  I took over 48 Battery, and as senior Battery Commander looked like having command of the Regiment in the near future as both the C.O., and 2 i/c were due for repatriation at the end of August.  It was the "close-season" at the time I took over - rain, rain and more rain.  Our policy was one of concentrated training, and in fact each Battery became a "school".  Our efforts were mainly centred on protruding Indian senior N.C.O.'s to replace the British personnel who were steadily leaving us for home, on teaching the men more advanced English - reading and writing, producing wireless operators, turning out twenty new drivers per Battery each month, and gunnery.

     In fact, this very full programme was the salvation of the Regiment, which had definitely become depressed and lost heart as a result of moving back instead of forward.  Morale improved on leaps and bounds, crime became non-existent, and there was plenty of enthusiasm.

In the midst of this effort the bombshell fell - in the second week of August came the news of the atomic bomb, and the Russian entry into the war against Japan.  Immediately following this was the rumour of peace feelers from Tokio, and finally on August 15th - Unconditional Surrender !

     The great news was received by all the British element with a deep feeling of thankfulness, and these were little in the way of hectic celebrations, in comparisons with V.E. day.  The Indians were delighted too, they also would be returning to their villages, and be back among their loved one's.

     Two days holiday was given on the 15th and  16th, the first day being occupied in firing a twenty four salvo salute from the whole of the Regiment's guns, on the airfield - the busiest holiday I have ever enjoyed.  It rained heaven's hard for the whole of the deployment to the firing position, during the salute, and on the return to camp. However, fifty four guns lined up in perfect precision on the runway of an airfield, and firing salvoes is well worth seeing.

     The conclusion of world war "2" once again raised my hopes of an early return home, and I anticipated arriving in England by early November, having twenty eight days repatriation leave, then obtaining indefinite leave until the date of my demobilization in mid January.  Of course, there was also the possibility of the rate of demob. release being quickened.  For my own case, I should have like to enjoy repatriation leave first.