The Special Operations Executive in Burma 1941-1945

Secret Agents & Guerrilla Armies in the Second World War

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 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 →

‘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 'We... 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 →

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