The Special Operations Executive in Burma 1941-1945

Secret Agents & Guerrilla Armies in the Second World War

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 →

‘If funds short sell rifle’: A glimpse of Operation Heavy

This post was inspired by the record of Jemadar Kolu Ban.  Kolu Ban, it seems, had an alcohol problem, which made him unusual; in no other file (to date) is there a reference to a member of Burma's Force 136... Continue Reading →

Airpower & Elephant Point: Taking Rangoon, May 1945

Gurkhas of 50 Indian Parachute Brigade get ready to emplane.  Photograph credit: Here  In early May 1945, it was the troops of 26 Indian Division who eventually reclaimed Rangoon from Imperial Japan.  Codenamed Dracula, the seaborne invasion forces defied the... Continue Reading →

‘Monkey Nuts are Rotten’

    The Mergui Archipelago: Picture Credit Tom H Trip Advisor upload The title for this post comes from the identification password that was used to exfiltrate the Corton team from Elphinstone Island in October 1944.  The correct reply was... Continue Reading →

Only Rohingya? Burmese Nationalists and Special Operations during the Second World War.

Map Credit The press has been full of opinions about the current crisis in Rakhine State having its roots in the Second World War.  Here is a sample of what has been said: ISCI’s fieldwork reveals a persistent memory... Continue Reading →

The Problem with Charlie: A Chin on Special Operations

Map Credit: Chin Community Ministry Recorded variously as 'Charlie Thangkung', 'Thang Kung' and Lieutenant Thaung Kong, this post is all about the Chin W/T operator who was referred to by these names in the SOE files.  It is not clear... Continue Reading →

On Leadership: the role of ‘Forgotten Allies’

The 'Men of SOE' Roll of Honour on this website has  112 men added to it as of 3 December 2017.  If you are one of the many visitors to this page, you will know that the aim is to... Continue Reading →

SOE Tradecraft: advice for agents going behind the lines

Ramree island entered the Guinness Book of Records for being the place where the biggest crocodile feast upon human flesh is supposed to have happened.  After the Allies invaded in January 1945, the Japanese are said to have taken to... Continue Reading →

Remembrance Sunday in Burma, November 2017.

On the anniversary of VJ Day 2017, the author Philip Davies published his long anticipated book, 'Lost Warriors', about the exploits of two extraordinary Second World War soldiers.  There are, of course, many extraordinary tales of heroism and bravery that... Continue Reading →

‘Not very promising in appearance’: A Kachin on Special Operations

  In my attempt to reveal the diversity of those employed by the Special Operations Executive to help fight the war against Japan in Burma, this next post is all about a Kachin leader.  While his brothers have the 'lion's... Continue Reading →

A Doctor on Special Operations

Frontispiece from Captain Duncan Guthrie's Jungle Diary Very often, on the TV and in books, the jungle conditions of Burma are given prominence for being so inhospitable.  Conditions certainly weren't easy, but perhaps it is all relative.  Special Operations in the... Continue Reading →

[4min read] Mahout 2: The Frailty of Special Operations

This post follows on from Mahout 1 A Second World War Parachutist: Credit here After Sunil Datta Gupta (SDG) landed in June 1943, he was supposed to rendezvous with his fellow Mahout 1 agent, but after months of trying he... Continue Reading →

Mahout 1: An Indian Agent in Burma

The work of Force 136 in Burma was not all about training Karens and Kachins to fight as guerrillas.  In an earlier blog post, the story of a Chinese agent called Li Jui was told.  Here is the story of... Continue Reading →

The ‘Interrogation’ of Rifleman Bhimbahadur Rai

What follows is a transcription from the original found in the National Archives.  I have made no changes from the original except to add in square brackets where one word was unintelligible.  Afterwards, some context and issues with the source... Continue Reading →

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