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The Special Operations Executive in Burma 1941-1945

Secret Agents & Guerrilla Armies in the Second World War

SOE / SIS Cooperation

Much has often made of the fractious relationship between the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS,) and the Special Operations Executive (SOE).  The words used to sum up the problem between the two organisations is often something along the lines of SIS... Continue Reading →

Operation Heavy: Burma 1944-45

Map Credit The two SOE operations in Burma which have had the most exposure are Operation Character and Operation Nation.  The former was the largest Force 136 commitment to Burma, and probably the most successful in its support of General... Continue Reading →

Commitments: SOE Burma & Far East

This post is purely about data.  The aim is simply to show the extent of the SOE / Force 136 commitment to Burma and Southeast Asia from their own summary report.  Figures are from July 1945. Burma - Personnel In... Continue Reading →

Working with Slim: Force 136 & XIV Army, 1945

  General Slim & Lt.Col. Cumming At the end of December 1944, as XIV Army were poised to push into Burma and chase the Japanese down to Rangoon, a senior officer of the Special Operations Executive prepared to travel to... Continue Reading →

Logistics: Supplying SOE in Burma

A supply drop to Operation Character in 1945 Based upon reports from late 1942 and the early part of 1943, the following post sets out the problems with supplying SOE's India Mission.  The India Mission was designated the more widely... Continue Reading →

Establishing SOE Para-Naval Organisation

HMS Scarab, from 'The Navy's Most Important Ship' This post is specially for K.T. Lwin, ex Burma Navy. What follows is likely to be a 'Part 1' as I find more archival material to make use of. Para-Naval Resources The... Continue Reading →

VJ Day in Burma: ‘I don’t believe the Japanese Army has surrendered.’

The Japanese Emperor, Hirohito, made his first radio broadcast in the afternoon of  15 August 1945.  In it, he told his nation that he had accepted the unconditional surrender demanded by the Allies at Potsdam.  The next day, 16 August... Continue Reading →

Anglo-American Relations: Early SOE & OSS Relations in India and Burma

Anglo-American war-time relations in the Far East, and particularly in Burma, are often characterised as being fractious.  This is primarily based on divergent strategies for the defeat of Japan, and exemplified by the character of the American General, Joseph Stilwell. ... Continue Reading →

SOE & the Chindits: ‘stormy’ relations

As anyone with an interest in the Chindits will tell you, there was no such column as 'Danforce' as this archive file suggests, but there was a Lt.Col. Dennis Clive 'Fish' Herring.  As a Captain, Herring had been on the... Continue Reading →

Trouble with China

Picture Credit: British Library, IOR L/POS/12/2241 At the beginning of the war against Japan, Chiang Kai-Shek was apparently 'very anxious to give direct assistance to Burma' and offered to send the rest of 93 Division to join its regiment already... Continue Reading →

Operation Flimwell: A First Failure in Burma

On 19 January 1943, Burma Country Section (BCS) dropped their first team back into occupied Burma.  Two Karen agents, Saw Archibald Kino and his W/T operator, Mya Maung, landed in the Myamaung district near the village of Kyungone.  Radio contact... Continue Reading →

From Policeman to Force 136: Major Eric Battersby

  The name of Major Eric Battersby permeates SOE's Burma files.  There are numerous documents signed off 'Eric B, Maj' which put him squarely at the heart of much of SOE's most controversial work, that of recruiting nationalist Burmese for... Continue Reading →

Counter-espionage in Kachin lands, 1944

Map showing Kachin territory. Picture credit Kachin Relief Fund http://kachinrelief.org.uk/kachin.html One of Burma Country Section's (BCS) earliest missions was to the Kachin people in northern Burma. It was originally codenamed Tendon, but was operational as Dilwyn. This operation was launched... Continue Reading →

On War & Loyalty

Some of the faces of those who fought with Force 136 The predominant narrative for the Burma campaign is that the so-called 'martial' races, the 'Hill Peoples', remained loyal and steadfast allies of the British throughout the Second World War. ... Continue Reading →

Historical Breadth versus Historical Accuracy? ‘The Secret War’ & Burma

In 2015, Sir Max Hastings published his 'The Secret War: Spies, Codes and Guerrillas, 1939 - 1945.'  Of course, I was interested to see what he had to say about SOE in Burma.  What I found is what prompted this... Continue Reading →

No Betrayal: Lt. Saw Po Hla & Major Seagrim

The exploits of Major Hugh 'Stooky' Seagrim in Burma were first shared with the world in Ian Morrison's book, 'Grandfather Longlegs', published in 1946.  More recently, in August 2017, Philip Davies published 'Lost Warriors' which tells the story of Seagrim as well as... Continue Reading →

‘Quick, shrewd, cunning and resourceful’: A Panther crossing the Chindwin, 1944.

December 1944, bridging the Chindwin.  Photo credit: IWM open source, click HERE The following are the comments made in the report of Maung Nyein Maung on completion of his SOE / Force 136 training course in India: 'Industry and Keenness:... Continue Reading →

‘Pandas’: Training Kuomintang Chinese

A little while back, I posted the 'The extraordinary Tale of a Chinese Agent in Burma'.  Here is the story of another Chinese agent, one who trained with Li Jui. In September 1943, a group of Chinese men arrived in... Continue Reading →

‘I’d rather be shot at than blown up’: A Jungle Ambush

Photo: Production of Mills Grenades, August 1942. Getty Images The following is a report written by 2/Lt. Joseph Marlam.  Marlam was an Anglo-Indian who had been recruited by SOE to act as an interpreter at the SOE jungle training camp... Continue Reading →

The Burma Gallantry Medal: Havildar La Shi Naw

Photo credit: Steve Fogden's superb Chindit website The Burma Gallantry Medal (BGM) was established by Royal Warrant on 10 May 1940 to be awarded to Burmese personnel serving in the various units formed for the defence of Burma.    Former soldier,... Continue Reading →

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