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 include any man who served in Burma with SOE / Force 136, not just British officers and other ranks. Much good work has been done to (perhaps) move us beyond the epithet of the ‘Forgotten’ XIV Army, allowing space for the contribution of ‘Forgotten Allies’ to be recognised.
There are 29 Burmese NCOs and officers included on the Roll of Honour so far. This breaks down into:
2 Lance Naiks (Lance Corporal)
7 Naiks (Corporal)
5 Havildars (Sergeant)
5 Jemadars (Lieutenant)
1 Subedar Major (Major)
The men who held these ranks represent a cross section of Burmese society, not just the so-called ‘martial’ races of colonial Burma. Many of these men that SOE / Force 136 recruited had been in the Burma Rifles (Burifs), but many had no military experience, for example being recorded as a ‘cultivator’ in civilian life.
It is highly unlikely that Force 136 would have enjoyed such operational success in Burma without these leaders. Take the Gurkha Jemadar Badri Prashad Pradhan as an example. His officer commanding, Major Turrall, recommended him for the award of a Military Medal, writing that his team ‘depended on his sense of duty in seeing that posts and outposts were kept at required efficiency’. Turrall further recorded that
- Jemadar Pradhan was present at most of Hyena’s fighting, including an attack on the town of Kyaukkyi in April 1945
- he helped train and discipline the flood of recruits that came to fight the Japanese
- ‘[h]is training in military hygiene proved invaluable during the time monsoon conditions prevailed, and he was untiring in recceing [sic] for ambush positions throughout the operation’.
The outcome was that soldier 51831, Jemadar Badri Prashad Pradhan, was awarded the Military Cross.
Jemadar Badri Prashad Pradhan has a record in the National Archives, but the Jemadar pictured at the top of this post does not. Like Badri Prashad Pradhan, however, Saw Shwe Aung was awarded the Military Cross, Gazetted in 1947.
To finish, here’s Jemadar Badri Prashad Pradhan account of his part in the attack on Kyaukkyi: