chanRoll of Honour
On-going project: I am aiming to provide a brief biography of all the men who served with SOE in Burma. They are listed in alphabetical order by surname; a picture and any useful links will be added for further information.
Some personnel of Operation Character, team Otter. Photograph TNA HS 7/107
Major Ian Edward Abbey: Born 29 July 1920 in Windsor, Major Abbey joined SOE in February 1944. According to his personnel file, Abbey trained at the Bush Warfare School in Maymyo from August 1941 until January 1942, and then served in China. In 1945, he led an operation in southern Burma codenamed Antelope.
In 1944, Lieutenant Abbey was kicking his heels in Meerut:
‘This officer is young and keen, but at the same time exceedingly “browned off”. He has never had a real job since he joined the Unit. Being energetic he feels the boredom of having no real work more than other officers. He is strong willed and at times outspoken. I recommend that he be given promotion [to Captain] w.e.f. 1st September 1944.’
Personnel file: HS 9/3/6
Signalman Agnal Anan: Born in Manipur, Assam, in 1914, Agnal Anan is recorded as speaking Burmese, Hindustani, English, Tiddim Chin, Haka Chin and Kachin. He was in the Burifs from 1934 before being transferred to Burma Signals where he was a second class W/T operator. Recruited by SOE in October 1942, it seemed Agnal Anan had the skills SOE was looking for, including knowledge of the India-Burma border.
Upon recruitment, he was sent to ME 9 at Meerut for SOE signals training before being sent to the Chin Hills as ‘Station 4’. He was reported AWOL from 27 July 1943 to 11 October 1943, for which he was charged and fined Rs50. It is not clear for what, but Agnal Anan was hospitalised from 12 March. By 20 May 1944, he was on a course of parachute instruction at Chaklala.
On 23 August 1944, he was parachuted into Burma as part of Operation Spiers, leaving the field just 18 days later. Added to his recorded is the following comment: ‘Anan […] is not an operator at all. Is quite hopeless’.
Aik Hein: Aik Hein was recruited by Force 136 on 1 June 1944. He was a Shan Palaung born in 1913, from the village of Taungbangywa in the Lashio district. He was a tea planter. Apart from his height of 5’3″, and the details of a couple of distinguishing marks, there are no further details on his record. It is most likely that he was recruited for Operation Dilwyn.
Captain William Frank Harding Ansell: Born in Devoran, Cornwall, on 13 June 1923, Captain Ansell’s parent unit was 2 Burif. He was parachuted into Burma on 24 February 1945 as 2i/c to Major Poles on Operation Character, team Ferret. He left the field on 22 October 1945.
After the war, Dr. Ansell (PhD 1960) was a zoologist who wrote several books and specialised in mammals of southern Africa. He was Provincial Game Officer in Northern Rhodesia from 1960, and has five creatures named after him, for example the Ansell’s Mole-Rat.
Personnel file: HS 9/40/6
Ansell was granted an emergency commission in August 1943
Brigadier John Anstey: Born in 1907, Anstey completed OTC at Clifton College from 1921 to 1925. He served briefly as a Sub Lieutenant in the RNVR before joining Imperial Tobacco in 1927. Imperial Tobacco released him for war service, serving first in the Somerset Light Infantry, and then SOE from November 1942. Two years later he was working as Colin Mackenzie’s second in command (2i/c) for Force 136. Mackenzie recommended him for a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) for his work in the Far East:
Personnel file: HS 9/41/5
Aung Chit: One of the most incomplete records, Aung Chit’s card has just his name and that he was deployed on 3 December 1944, by parachute, as Lion.
Lion was one of the first three teams to be sent into the Arakan region as part of Operation Billet, Manual. These teams were wholly indigenous in composition, dropped with a W/T to communicate with Calcutta. The idea was that they would see if it was safe for British personnel to follow them, and provide a reception at an arranged DZ.
Aung Din, alias Hla Gyaw: Aung Din was guided through the lines to the British in India by V Force specifically to join SOE. He is recorded as having been recruited on 15 July 1944 as a guide and interpreter. Along with Aung Myint, Aung Din was one of the first overland exploratory Billet operations sent into the Arakan region on 10 September 1944. His instructions were to proceed to Banwa and ‘obtain information about TUN GYAW and to ascertain whether it is safe for AUNG MYINT to go forward.’ Aung Din returned on 25 September and reported ‘good news’.
On 9 October, Aung Din went back, this time with Than Shwe and Tin Nyunt who were to take a W/T set behind the lines. This was the point of the operation, for SOE to get a W/T set behind the lines in Arakan. Three days in, on 12 October, the team reached their hideout and Aung Din went forward ‘to make arrangement for the onward journey’, but instead, Aung Din turned out to be a ‘bad hat’. Instead of continuing with the operation, he ‘indulged in the pleasures of the bottle, the opium pipe and the bed.’
Aung Din ended up being taken back to India by V Force at the end of October, where he sat out the rest of the war: ‘Aung Din will not be used in any capacity.’
Havildar Aung Hla Bya: A Sgaw Karen from the Bassein region, Aung Hla Bya was born in February 1918 and had joined the Burma Military Police (BMP) in 1940. He joined SOE in January 1943. After going through filter course at Eastern Warfare School (India) EWS(I), Aung Hla Bya was sent for signals instruction at ME9, Meerut. Jungle training was next, at ‘RISSUM camp’; this is the first time I have seen this camp name on any record.
From Rissum, Aung Hla Bya joined the team preparing for Operation Corton, completing ‘collective training’ at ME25 in Ceylon. From 1 February until 23 April 1944, Aung Hla Bya was part of Operation Corton 1. In November he was trained to jump out of aircraft at Jessore, which he then did operationally, twice. These two operations were Rendezvous and Ramrose/Rhino.
Major James reported: Aung Hla Bya ‘Is a first class W/T operator. A tireless worker and completely unworried by enemy action. I recommend his promotion to Jemadar.’
Whether that promotion was granted or not is not recorded here.
Aung Myint, alias Htoon Aung Gyaw: Recruited at Banwa for agent purposes in July 1944, Aung Myint is recorded as being Arakanese but not much else. He was sent back into the Arakan on foot in September 1944 with Aung Din, Than Shwe and Tin Myint. The intention was to see if Aung Myint could get to Rangoon and establish contact with the Thakins of the AFO, in particular Thakin Soe. He was successful, and returned with eight Thakins and intelligence from Rangoon in February 1945.
Aung Ngwe: Aung Ngwe was one of the agents parachuted into the Arakan on 3 December 1944 as part of Operation Billet, team Lion. The team, consisting of Tun Gyaw, Aung Chit, Lin Chan and Yau Ching were received by Hound. There is no further information about this agent on his file.
Aung Zan: Not a lot recorded for Aung Zan, but nice to have a photo. A Shan Burman recorded as 4’11” tall from the village of Htemathi, near Monywa. Force 136 recruited Aung Zan, a cultivator, on 1 June 1944. He was apparently 20 years old.
Aura Yung: A Kachin who is recorded as having joined SOE on 1 October 1943, aged 20. He was from the Hting Nukawng village in Myitkyina District.
Major Ba Chit: Born on 11 March 1901 in Bassein, Ba Chit first came into contact with SOE during the retreat of 1942. Ba Chit retreated to Fort Hertz with Captain Thompson, and is mentioned in the latter’s book, Desperate Journey.
Ba Chit served with the North Kachin Levies during 1943 and 1944, and was then recruited by SIS in December 1944 (and promoted to Major). SOE / Force 136 urgently needed more Karen speaking officers, so Ba Chit was parachuted into team Hyena of Operation Character on 9 April 1945. ‘He originally came into the field as an ISLD agent with no military training whatsoever but soon picked up the ethics of guerilla [sic] warfare’ attacking Papun with Mongoose on 28 April.
In Ba Chit we have an example of SIS and SOE working together in the field in the latter stages of the war in Burma.
Personnel File: HS 9/308/3
Photo credit: The Soldier’s Burden
Lieutenant Ba Gyaw: Ba Gyaw was a Sgaw Karen, born sometime in 1908. He had served in the Burma Rifles for 17 years by the time war with Japan began. He was a Subedar in the Burif company led by Captain Arthur Thompson (see entry below).
After fighting a rear guard action along the Toungoo to Mawchi Road which stalled the Japanese advance into northern Burma, Ba Gyaw trekked up to Fort Hertz with Captain Thompson. He left his wife and new born baby behind in southern Burma.
Ba Gyaw was flown out to India from Fort Hertz in August 1942. He was then sent to train Burmese personnel before being sent on various courses preparatory to his being sent on operations in Burma. On 18 February 1943, Ba Gyaw was parachuted into the Karen Hills on Operation Harlington, in order to make contact with Major Seagrim. This he successfully did, but repeated attempts to get a W/T set to the Harlington team failed until eventually, in late 1943, Captains Nimmo and McCrindle were successfully parachuted into Burma.
The Harlington team was compromised, and Ba Gyaw was one of the Karen arrested with Major Seagrim and taken to Rangoon. Ba Gyaw was executed by the Japanese in September 1944.
At the end of ‘Desperate Journey’ (see Thompson entry below), Thompson wrote:
‘Little Subedar Ba Gyaw [is] also dead; captured, and then beheaded by the Japanese after parachuting into Burma. So Ba Gyaw was not to see his young wife again, nor his first born, nor was he to march by the side of his comrade, Kan Choke, in the Victory Parade, which was his heart’s desire. Instead he was awarded a posthumous Burma Gallantry Medal; a small tribute to a great little fighter.’
There is no HS 9 file for Ba Gyaw.
Naik Ba Khaing: Ba Khaing was a Karen born in 1914. He served in the 2 Burma Rifles, being promoted to Naik during the retreat in 1942. He was recruited by Captain Wilson in the Chin Hills in July 1943 to be a W/T operator.
Ba Khaing completed parachute training at Chaklala and W/T training in Ceylon before being parachuted into Burma on Operation Heavy on 1 November 1944.
He was reported as a ‘Very steady type of man. A good operator. Very obedient and trustworthy.’ He was recommended for promotion to Havildar.
Ba Kin: Ba Kin was born around 1920. He was Burmese and worked as a cultivator in the Upper Chindwin area. This was where he was recruited by Major Peacock in February 1944.
P Force was withdrawn from the Chindwin area in May 1944. Ba Kin completed parachute training in September and jungle training by November 1944. He was deployed on Operation Character as part of Hyena team on 20 February 1945, remaining in the field until 20 October.
Ba Kine: Ba Kine was a Burman from the Upper Chindwin area, born around 1908. He was recruited by Major Peacock during P Force patrols in December 1943. He completed parachute and demolitions training before deploying on Operation Character, originally as part of Major Poles’ Ferret Special Group, in February 1945.
Ba Kyaw Gley: A Burman from the Upper Chindwin area of Burma, Ba Kyaw Gley joined SOE on 5 January 1944, aged 18. He served with P Force on operations in the Chindwin area.
Ba Pe: A Shan born about 1914, Ba Pe was a cultivator from the Upper Chindwin area. He was recruited by Major Peacock during P Force patrols in January 1944. Ba Pe completed parachute and demolitions training before deploying on Operation Antelope with team Nutshell in the Kawkareik area of southern Burma in March 1945.
Major Abbey ‘handed him over to Captain HALL’ so Ba Pe was then with Tiger. Captain Hall reported that he was ‘very useful’ even if ‘Inclined to be lazy’.
Ba Saw: Ba Saw is recorded as an ‘educated Arakanese’ who had been working for the Ministry of Information in Delhi before joining Force 136 on 9 November 1944. He went to ME25 in Ceylon for training before going operational. He was part of the Mouse team, parachuted into Burma on 25 January 1945. See blog post HERE.
Ba Thaung: Recruited on 1 June 1944, Ba Thaung was a Burman from Inlay Village in Myitkyina District. Between July and November 1944, he completed a filter course at Eastern Warfare School, India, known as EWS(I), parachute training at Chaklala and ‘Collective Training’ at ME25 in Ceylon.
Ba Thaung was parachuted into Burma on two operations. The first was Rendezvous from 25 November 1945 until 14 January 1945; the second was Burglar as part of team Hippo from 25 January to the 1 May 1945. He was paid off in the field on 12 May.
Ba Thein: A Burman cultivator from Malu Village, Ba Thein was recruited by P Force on 5 January 1944. No training is recorded, but Ba Thein went on to be deployed by parachute on Operation Character as part of team Ferret, commanded by Major Poles.
Ba Thien (probably mis-spelt ‘Thein’): A Shan-Burman cultivator from Auktaung Village in Mawlaik District, Ba Thien completed parachute instruction in India and then proceeded to Ceylon for paramilitary training between August and December 1944. Most probably recruited by Peacock during P Force patrols as Mawlaik is in the Upper Chindwin area. Would have deployed with Ba Pe (above).
On 20 March 1945, he was parachuted into southern Burma as part of Operation Nutshell, team Antelope. He was transferred to team Tiger on 1 May, remaining in the field until 5 October.
Major Abbey reported that he was ‘Above the average intelligence, hardworking and cheerful.’
Naik Ba Thet: Born in 1920 in Yamethin. A Burman, Ba Thet completed parachute, paramilitary and jungle training in 1945, and then deployed on Operation Character on 24 March 1945. He served with Walrus under the command of Major Campbell until 22 October 1945. Campbell described him as ‘A very willing man, cheerful and over conscientious.’
Naik Ba Tun: Ba Tun was a Burman cultivator born in 1917. He was recruited by P Force in December 1943. After serving under Peacock on patrols in the Chindwin area, Ba Tun completed parachute and demolitions instruction in India and Ceylon respectively. He was then parachuted into Burma with Major Poles on Operation Character, team Ferret.
Major Poles described Ba Tun as ‘An extremely staunch and dependable NCO. Brave and reliable.’
Jemadar Badri Prashad Pradhan: A Gurkha who joined the army on 29 September 1935, aged 18. He was serving with 4 Burif in 1937, promoted Naik in October 1942 and Havildar on 1 June 1944. This is all there is on Havildar Badri Prashad.
Later in the same file, however, there is a training card for one Jemadar Badri Prashasad, Army Number 51831. This is the same Army Number as on the Havildar’s papers.
This time, the date of birth is recorded as November 1920. It also reveals that Badri Prashad had served as a Bandsman in 10/20 Burifs and been a ‘Havildar Clerk’. He was recruited by the head of Burma Country Section, Richie Gardner, on 1 March 1944 to be employed as an agent for P Force. By 8 March, he was on his way to the Chindwin.
After Chindwin operations were concluded, Badri Prashad completed training at Chaklala (India) and ME25 (Ceylon) before deployment on Operation Character as part of the Hyena group. His officer commanding was Major Turrall, who recommended him for the Military Medal:
We ‘depended upon his sense of duty’.
Badri Prashad seems to have been an essential part of the Hyena team. He was awarded the Military Cross, Gazetted November 1946:
London Gazette (see bottom left).
Jemadar Bala Gam: A Kachin, Bala Gam joined the army at 16. His record reveals that he completed a Physical Training course in 1930, junior and senior section leadership courses in 1937, and a fieldcraft course in 1938. He served in the rebellion on 1930-32 and the 1942 Burma campaign. What he did with SOE is missing.
Major Eric Battersby: originally went to Burma in 1935 as a 19yr old police cadet. He joined SOE in 1944, during home leave in the UK. Returning to Burma, Battersby was put in charge of Operation Billet. The mission was split into three parts; Manual in the Arakan, Grain in central Burma and Nation in lower Burma. This was one of SOE Burma’s largest operations, and possibly its most controversial. Its aim was to get the nationalist Burmese on the British side,if not actively assisting the war effort then neutral, in order to assist General Slim’s offensive to reclaim Rangoon.
Battersby’s son: @Simonbats
Personnel file: HS 9/103/8
For his (lengthy) post-operational report see HS 7/105
Bauk Naw: Born in 1925, Bauk Naw was a Kachin from the Lashio area. He was recruited in the field on 16 September 1944 and sent for training in India (parachute and paramilitary) which was completed by January 1945. On 20 February he was deployed on Operation Heavy, team Wolf, remaining in the field until 16 October 1945. The last two months were, interestingly, spent in the Spiers area. Spiers had been withdrawn in September 1944.
Major Pennell described Bauk Naw as ‘Trustworthy’ and ‘Good on patrol.’
Havildar Bawm Ting: Born in 1911, Bawm Ting was a Kachin who joined the Burma Rifles on 8 January 1933, serving with 2 Burif. Apart from weapons training, he is also recorded as having completed a butchery course.
Bawm Ting was promoted to Lance Naik 23/6/37, Naik 8/6/39 and Havildar 1/1/42. He remained in Burma after the first campaign and was recruited in the field by SOE on 1 January 1944. He worked on Operation Dilwyn until being exfiltrated to India on 20 June the same year. Bawm Ting returned to Burma on Dilwyn as part of team Monkey, 28 November 1944 to 2 March 1945. On 6 April he was deployed on his third operation as part of Heavy, team Wolf.
Described as ‘Excellent, trustworthy and reliable.’
Captain John Michael Beamish: An Anglo-Burman, John Beamish’s British father came from Fleet, Hampshire (like Eric Battersby, above). Beamish completed three operations into Burma, the first with the American Office of Strategic Services in early 1943, and two more with SOE. His first SOE operation was codenamed Spiers, in the Kokang area of eastern Burma. His second operation in the Northern Shan States was codenamed Dilwyn, on which he was deployed in January 1945. He was recommended for the Military Cross, which was gazetted on 7 November 1946.
Personnel File: HS 9/108/4
Military Cross: London Gazette
Major Alexander Mather Boal: Born 13 September 1918. Trainee architect from 1936-39, joining 1/5 West Yorks Regt. in 1939. Service in Iceland building camps before SOE training. In command of STS 45 by December 1943. In March 1945 he was parachuted in to Burma where he served on Operation Character, team Walrus. Major Boal was awarded the Military Cross:
Personnel file: HS 9/169/8
Major Harold Edward Bourne: Born in Aldershot on 19 December 1909, Bourne joined the army at 18 years of age, serving with the Coldstream Guards. He was in the Sudan in 1932, Egypt in 1933, and was with the BEF in France from 1939 to 3 June 1940. Employed by SOE from 21 September 1943, Bourne was recruited to be an instructor. This is what one of his reports said:
In 1944, Captain Bourne went to the Far East as a Jedburgh. He served on Operation Character from March 1945 for which he was awarded the MC:
The Karen affectionately called him ‘Pa Ma Dai’ which translates as ‘Mr Tentmaker’, because wherever they went, Major Bourne asked them to make bamboo shelters for the troops.
Personnel File: HS 9/191/7
Squadron Leader Arthur Vivian Breen: Breen was born in Hankow on 20 April 1916. His father was British and his mother Chinese. Breen was working in Paris when the war started, later escaping over the Pyrenees to reach Gibraltar in 1943. He originally joined the RAF to fly, but ended up training as an air gunner and W/T operator. Most reports in his PF speak of his intelligence and ability to ‘read’ people. Recruited into SOE, Breen was parachuted into France in July 1944 where operated in the Nancy area for which he was awarded the MBE. He joined Operation Character in February 1945 as a sub area commander for group Otter team White. His W/T operator was Sgt. Ron Chatten (see below). Breen was in the jungle until September 1945 and was awarded the Military Cross.
Personnel file: HS 9/204/9
2015 Obituary for Breen’s wife, also an SOE agent: Michele de Ducla
Capt. John Ernest Briant: Born 29 November 1923 in India, Briant was granted an emergency commission into the 8 Gurkha Rifles in May 1943. After serving with the Chin Levies in northern Burma, Briant was recruited into SOE in December 1944. In 1945, Briant was deployed on operations in southern Burma, codenamed Rabbit.
On 1 August 1945, Briant was shot dead by the Japanese who had surrounded a hut where he and his guide, Tun Yung, were hiding. Tun Yung was captured and tortured, after which it is alleged that the Japanese bayoneted and buried him alive. It was believed that Capt. Briant had been betrayed; the suspect was caught and handed over to 63 Infantry Brigade of 17 Division for investigation.
Image from HERE
Personnel file: HS 9/207/2
Sergeant Ronald Brierley: Brierley was born on 31 July 1921 in Oldham, Lancashire. When war came, he worked in insurance; when SOE found him in 1943, he was serving with 147 Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps. SOE often found their W/T operators in armoured units because of their knowledge of radio procedure.
Brierley was trained as a Jedburgh, and completed two operations in France as part of team Daniel and team Gregory. He won the Croix de Guerre for his work with Gregory. Once his operations in France were complete, Brierley volunteered to go to the Far East looking for more excitement.
In March 1945, Brierley parachuted into Burma as part of the Nation operation. His team was Reindeer, and was under the command of Major Dave Britton. After Major Britton was killed in action, Brierley took a leading role; unusually, this means that the post operational report for Reindeer was written by an NCO rather than an officer. Brierley seems to have enjoyed his time in Burma, despite his difficult task of working with Burmese Nationalist forces. Of his three Jedburgh missions, Brierley’s opinion was that he had caused more ‘damage and mayhem’ in Burma. In his recommendation for the award of an MM, it says:
‘He has taken part in many ambushes and personally led offensive patrols. A man of strong character and cheerful disposition, he has been an example to all ranks.’
Image: ‘The interior of a Burmese hut. A red-headed and bearded Sergeant Brierley studies a map with one of the Burmese Reindeer Force members. Other members of the Burmese team look on.’ (See IWM link above)
Personnel file: HS 9/210/1
W/T training was carried out at Dunbar in Scotland: more from Brierley HERE
Sergeant Thomas Frederick Cain: A relatively sparse personnel file (PF) from which it can be learned that Cain was born on the Isle of Man on 18 January 1924. This means that after his 20th birthday, Cain was parachuted into France as part of Jedburgh team Scion in the Ardeche area. He was took part in the liberation of Lyon, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre.
Cain was serving in the Royal Armoured Corps when SOE recruited him. He had no oversea experience until he was sent to Algiers preparatory to helping to liberate France. Once he had finished in France, Cain volunteered for operations in the Far East. In April 1945, he was parachuted into the Kawkareik area of southern Burma, near the Thai border. He was awarded the Military Medal (MM) for ‘consistent devotion to duty, initiative and personal courage of a high order’.
Personnel file: HS 9/254/3
Lieutenant Calvin Ogh: Calvin Ogh was a Karen who was recruited from retirement into SOE on 1 June 1944. Born on 18 November 1896, Calvin Ogh, the ‘military pensioner’ served in Egypt in 1919, Taiping 1922-24, the Malabar Rebellion 1922 and in the Burma Rebellion in 1932. In 1941 he joined 12 Battalion Burma Rifles, and retreated to India with his unit.
He is recorded as having been in hospital during January 1945, but later he parachuted into Burma with Captain Vivian to join Flight Lieutenant Breen on Operation Character, Otter White area.
Captain Dumont wrote that he ‘undertook the whole of the administrative and ‘Q’ side of our operation, and was invaluable in dealing with the rather difficult Karens in our area.’
According to this website, Calvin Ogh was a Lt.Col. by 1947.
Personnel file: HS 9/256/6
Emergency Commission: London Gazette
Lt.Col Tom Carew: Team Camel (December 1944 – February 1945) and Team Weasel (March 1945 – May 1945). Both parachute drops into Burma were part of the Billet operation overseen by Major Eric Battersby. Camel was part of Billet/Manual (Arakan) and Weasel was part of Billet/Nation (lower Burma). I have kept this brief because you ought to read the book below.
Personnel file: HS 9/268/5
Naik Chang Hring Anan: Chang Hring Anan, also spelt ‘Chang Ring’ and ‘Chanuring’ on his file was a Kuki from the Manipur area. He was born in 1922, and joined SOE at Imphal just short of his 21st birthday in September 1943. Before SOE, he had been a clerk for V Force.
During training in 1944 it was recorded that ‘Although of a different race he got on well with the Chins’ and that he was ‘Jungly and tough physically’. On 22 February 1945 he was parachuted into Burma on Operation Character, team Otter.
Jemadar Chang Sau: Chang Sau was Kachin, born in 1922. He served with 1 Battalion the Burma Rifles and must have remained in Burma for he was recruited in the field by SOE on 1 June 1943. Extracted to India on 20 June 1944 after working with Dilwyn, he completed paramilitary and parachute courses before going back to Burma with Shan Lone as part of Operation Dilwyn on 28 December 1944. Extracted from the field on 26 April, Chang Sau was back in Burma on Operation Character by VE Day (8/5/45) where he remained until 18 October 1945. Shan Lone described him: ‘Intelligent. Good Man.’
Chang Shen: Chang Shen was one of a group of Chinese agents supplied by the Kuomintang in 1943. He is recorded as having completed a thirteen month Special Service Training course in Chine before being flown to Calcutta for SOE to filter. He spoke six languages: Mandarin, Cantonese, Foochow, English, Burmese and Hindustani.
On 27 October 1944, Chang Shen was dropped over Burma for an operation codenamed Wakering in the Pegu area, but his parachute failed to open.
Jed. Team Chrysler, France 1944
Sergeant Ronald Eric Chatten: Born 11 November 1922 near Wymondham in Norfolk. Chatten was working in the timber trade until he and a mate decided to join the army because he was ‘fed up with work’. He passed out as a wireless driver operator in the Royal Armoured Corps.
Responding to a notice calling for volunteers, Chatten joined SOE as a Jedburgh. He parachuted into the Montpellier region of France in 1944 with Captain Sell from London and a Free French officer, Lt Soual. On exiting the plane, he hit his head on the hatch and landed unconscious. Chatten was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his work in France.
In his IWM interview, Chatten says he was given no choice but to go out to Burma. He jumped from a Dakota into Burma in March 1945, joining team Otter of Operation Character. He walked into Mawchi to tell the Japanese about the end of the war, and was kindly received. The Japanese were apparently happy the war was over. Chatten was MID for his work in Burma.
Personnel file: HS 9/302/3
Chen Pan Fee: Employed as a cook for the Spiers operation, Chan Pan Fee’s record is brief. He went overland to Kokang as part of Spiers 6 on 14 May 1944 and returned 10 September 1944. Upon return to India, he worked in the mess for a short time but was paid off as he was ‘Too expensive to keep’.
Chen Yuan Chuan: Part of the group of Chinese agents sent by Nationalist China in September 1943, Chen Yuan Chuan was a W/T operator. Born in 1921, he was described during training as ‘[A]lert and intelligent’, and later by Major Manford as ‘a bit of a smart Alec’.
Chen Yuan Chuan was Chang Shen’s W/T operator for Operation Wakering in the Pegu area of Burma. Chan Yuan Chuan also died, as his parachute also failed.
Cheng Kai: Described as Cantonese and born on 10 October 1917, Cheng Kai has an interesting record. Cheng Kai worked for the R.I.I – Resources Investigation Institute – a Nationalist intelligence organisation (thanks to @Chinaww2 for clarification) Between August and November 1943, he was part of a British reconnaissance of Kengtung area, where he made quite an impression as an ‘invaluable’ member of the party. Consequently, he was selected for SOE’s Hainton operation to the same area in the Southern Shan States in 1944. Operation Hainton developed into Operation Heavy, and Cheng Kai came under the command of Major Pennell.
It appears that Cheng Kai and Major Pennell fell out. On 4 March 1945, Cheng Kai left the operation, and walked out to India where he arrived seven months later. Pennell gave Cheng Kai no letter of introduction nor means to travel; he arrived in India pretty browned off. Major Pennell’s actions were described as ‘entirely wrong’ and explained by his lack of experience of working with Chinese personnel. A written note says ‘Everything, therefore, be done to build up his morale before he is paid off.’ Major Pennell, apparently, did not report anything about the tension between the two men.
Also worthy of note: OSS Det.101 gave significant help to Cheng Kai in his extraction to India.
Paul Cheung (also Chung): An almost empty record card, Paul Cheung was recruited as an accountant and interpreter for Operation Spiers, a mission to the Kokang area of Burma. He was in the field between 5 February 1944 and 24 July 1944.
An addition to the record reveals that Paul Cheung was in all likeliness a spy for the Chinese Nationalists. Signals plans had to be changed when it was discovered that Paul Cheung was in contact with Col. Wang, officer commanding 2 Battalion, 26 Regiment of 9 Division. There was ‘no doubt’ that Paul Cheung was responsible as he worked the office where all coding was done.
Dr. Chia Pee Chyo: Born in Sumatra on 18 January 1918, Chia Pee Chyo studied at the University of Hong Kong, graduating in 1941. In September 1942, he left Hong Kong for ‘Free China’ where he arrived in October 1944. He had no military training, and was taken on by SOE to be a doctor on Operation Spiers. He was in the field from 14 April 1944 until leaving Kokang on 10 September 1944. While in Kokang, he was threatened by Col. Wei Wen Kang, who put pressure on him to stop working for the British.
Jemadar Chin Pau: Chin Pau was deployed on Operation Label, team Rat on 22 January 1945 near Indaing, Burma. The team were compromised, the British officers killed, so Chin Pau led the 16 survivors back to British lines by 28 March 1945.
Rifleman Chin Za Tun: Chin Za Tun was deployed on Operation Label, team Rat on 22 January 1945 near Indaing, Burma. He was one of the 16 survivors led back to safety by Jemadar Chin Pau.
Chit Htoo: A Shan Burman cultivator, Chit Htoo was recruited in Mawlaik District in 1944. Between August and December he completed parachute instruction at Chaklala and paramilitary training at Horana, Ceylon. Chit Htoo was then deployed on Operation Nutshell, team Antelope under Major Abbey from 20 March to 5 October 1945. Major Abbey wrote: ‘An ordinary individual and nothing outstanding about him.’
Chit Tok: A Shan Kadu cultivator from Myitkyina District, Chit Tok was recruited by SOE on 1 June 1944, aged 35 years old. He was just 4’11”. With no proper training card, his record is a bit thin (despite a photo), but it is likely that he was recruited for Operation Dilwyn.
Sergeant Peter McLeod Colvin: Sergeant Colvin never made it to Burma, but he is registered as Killed in Action (KIA) on the strength of Burma Section, Force 136.
Born in Watford on 27 April 1923, Colvin joined SOE in 1943. He had been serving as a Lance Corporal in 112 Royal Armoured Corps (Sherwood Foresters). In July 1944, Colvin parachuted into the Cotes du Nord region of France where he was MID and awarded the Croix de Guerre for his work with the French Resistance. His citation for the CdG reads that he parachuted:
‘sans en uniforme, dans une region infestee d’ennemis‘ (which my school French translates as ‘without uniform into a region infested with enemy’) where he showed ‘courage exemplaires‘
After France, Colvin was shipped out preparatory to a second operation in Europe, but when it was cancelled, he volunteered to go to the Far East. Days short of his 22nd birthday, Colvin, along with Captains G. Marchant and P. Vickery took off from Jessore to be parachuted into Burma as team Hart on Operation Nation. Their aircraft exploded after just becoming airbourne, killing all on board.
Personnel file: HS 9/338/5
Naik Cong Mong: A Chin, Cong Mong was born in 1917, and was recruited to SOE from V Force. Previous to V Force he had served with the Burma Signals. Cong Mong completed parachute training at Jessore and then deployed into Burma to Operation Character’s team Hyena from 6 May to 13 November 1945.
Photo courtesy of Major Cox’s son, Andrew Cox
Major John Howard Cox: Major Cox was born in Thandiani, North India, on 21 May 1919. He lived in India for seven years before schooling at St. Georges, Harpenden in the county of Hertfordshire, from 1928-37.
At the outbreak of war in 1939, Major Cox was one year into his under graduate studies at Oxford, where he attended Wadham College learning French and German. Cox was given an emergency commission into the Royal Artillery in November 1940.
After joining SOE, Cox parachuted into France on 7 August 1944 as part of Jed team Ivor. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his work in France, as well as Mentioned in Dispatches (MiD).
Cox returned to the UK from France on 22 September and left for India on 3 November. By December 1944 he was behind the lines in the Arakan region of Burma with Major Tom Carew and Sergeant Sharpe as team Camel. After the successful completion of this operation, for which he was awarded the Military Cross (MC), Cox was again parachuted behind the lines into Burma to work with Burmese nationalists, this time as team Pig with Sergeant Tack and Major Reid. Taken prisoner by Indian National Army troops, Cox, Reid and Tack managed to escape, and were on the run for about three days before joining up with SOE colleagues.
Training reports before becoming operational described Cox as ‘a very sound and reliable officer in every way’. It was also reported that he needed ‘more punch’ to bring out his latent leadership skills!
Personnel file: HS 9/367/6
Photo courtesy of Edmund Craster, Captain Craster’s son
Captain Oswin Edmund Craster: Captain Craster was born in Oxford on 28 June 1916. After schooling at Stowe in Buckinghamshire, Craster went to Oxford where he studied History. While at Oxford (1934-7), he was in the Officer Training Corps. He was then employed as an archaeologist for HM Official Works, specialising in ancient monuments. In 1937, he was digging at Maiden Castle in Dorset.
In April 1939, Craster joined the T.A., and he was commissioned. His unit was 5 Battalion Oxford & Bucks. Light Infantry. He joined SOE in November 1943 and was trained as a Jedburgh for operations with the French Resistance. He went on operations as part of Team Stanley on 31 August, returning on 20 September. After a brief spell back with his parent unit, Craster left for India on 9 February 1945. He was dropped into Burma as part of Operation Nation, team Zebra, for which he was MID.
There are lots of weekly reports on his progress in training in his personnel file. Opinion was that he would make a good second in command, and regarding weapons training, he was a ‘Good shot’ but ‘Rather clumsy in manipulation.’
Personnel File: HS 9/369/6
IWM Interview: Craster
Critchley, presumably in Zambia sometime between 1952 and 1972. Picture credit: see Special Forces Roll of Honour
Lt.Col. Ronald Ashton Critchley: Born on 8 October 1905 in Edinburgh, Critchley was schooled at Wellington College in Berkshire. Critchley was commissioned into the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC, 13/18 Hussars) on 25 September 1925. In Duncan McNab’s Mission 101, Critchley is described as ‘an imposing figure at 6 feet 6 inches who had ended up in intelligence after unsuccessfully trying to fold himself into a tank.’
His ‘SOE Record of Service’ details the following in his ‘Knowledge of Foreign Countries Section’:
Egypt – 1929-31
Yugoslavia 1939 for two months
Egypt, Abyssinia, Sudan and Kenya 1939-1942
In 1939, Critchley worked for MI(R) in Yugoslavia; MI(R) was one of the three components that went on to form SOE in the summer of 1940. Mission 101 in Abyssinia was Critchley’s first job with SOE ‘proper’ where he won the MC before working for SOE in Cairo and then in India from August 1942 to January 1943. This latter role was ‘organising post-occupational guerrilla warfare on the north-east frontier’ – in other words in Assam with the embryonic V Force. He then went on to join the Chindits.
Critchley was parachuted into Burma in February 1945 as part of Operation Character. He was in charge of the Mongoose area, the most southern part of the operation. His area came under intense pressure from the Japanese in May and June after Rangoon had been recaptured by the allies. For his work in Burma, Critchley was awarded the DSO.
After the war, Critchley worked in conservation in what was Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia. He then moved to Australia where he died in 1999.
Personnel file: HS 9/373/8
Captain William John Cronin: Born 26 February 1900, Cronin joined the army in 1915. He served in the UK and Ireland until 1919 when he was posted to Burma. He remained in Burma until 1942, when he retreated to India. Before being commissioned on 1 September 1941, Cronin had risen through the ranks to RSM.
Employed by Force 136 for his extensive knowledge of Burma in 1944, Cronin ended up as camp commandant for SOE’s tactical HQ in Rangoon from about 27 May 1945.
Personnel File: HS 9/375/2
Getting married in October 1944
Colonel Michael George Marsh Crosby: Born on the island of Jersey on 4 October 1911, MGM Crosby had a remarkable career in the British armed forces. In civilian life, Crosby had been a tutor and, according to his SOE record of service, ‘Latterly – Political Secretary – and Conservative Agent’. In ‘Hobbies and other Interests he declared ‘Motoring’, of which more later.
Crosby served in the ranks from 1939 and was Commando trained at Lochailort before going to Norway where he served with No.4 Independent Company. He returned from Norway as acting Sergeant, but received an emergency commission into the Gordon Highlanders in November 1940. He completed a junior leaders and intelligence officer course before joining SOE in August 1941 where he was employed as an instructor at STS 25. In 1943, he was described as ‘An excellent officer in every respect.’ Later, he was sent to North Africa, where he became operational and was dropped in Southern France as part of Jedburgh team Graham in August 1944.
Crosby then left for India, and after a short spell of jungle training in Ceylon, was dropped on Operation Dilwyn on 27 January 1945 as area commander. He remained in the jungle until September. He was MID and awarded the MC for his command of Dilwyn.
After the war, Crosby trained the new Burma Army, preaching to students that ‘an army should be non-political.’ It got to the point in 1948 where he knew he should take his family to safety, and he left Burma ‘with many regrets.’ While on a month’s attachment to the French Army, Crosby got recalled to the UK – his next destination was the Korean War.
After Korea, it was Crosby who organised the first Army Driving Championships.
Personnel File: HS 9/375/6
Crosby’s excellent book: starting at 1p on Amazon!
Col. Mount Stephen Cumming: Cumming was born in Dufftown, Scotland, on 20 April 1911. He attended OTC as a junior and a senior between 1924 – 1933. He studied Classics and Law at Cambridge before going to work in China for the firm Butterfield & Swire. While in China, he was part of the Hong Kong Defence Force 1934-37.
In 1939, Cumming was granted an emergency commission into 75 Field Regt., Royal Artillery. In early 1941 he was recruited by SOE for work in the Far East, reporting for duty as a Lieutenant in Singapore on 15 April 1941. He was trained at STS 101 and then posted to Burma in November. Cumming trekked out of Burma following the Japanese invasion, arriving in India in July 1942.
Cumming was well regarded:
He was GII Operations and Liaison for Group A of Force 136, then GSO I and, from August 1945, Commander Group A, Force 136. From December 1945, he was Commander, Force 136. For most of the war then, he oversaw SOE operations into Burma, Malaya and Siam as officer in charge of Group A. He was awarded an MBE for his work with SOE.
Personnel file: HS 9/381/2
Sergeant Arthur John Dallow: Dallow was born 3 March 1924, and was recruited into SOE from the Royal Armoured Corps. He served in Finisterre, France from the night of 9 July 1944 where he was lucky to escape having been surrounded by Germans. He was awarded the Military Medal and the Croix de Guerre for his work in Finisterre as part of Team Francis.
Dallow then went to Burma where he deployed on Operation Character, serving with Captains Ford and Williams as part of Mongoose, Red from 26 March 1945. Many of their Karen recruits were those who had served with Seagrim.
Personnel file: HS 9/390/4
Subedar De Bu: De Bu was a Chin in the Burma Army Signals, born in 1921. In October 1942, De Bu was recruited by SOE and went to Nazira for W/T training. This seems slightly unusual as Nazira was made the base of the American OSS. The following month he went for advanced W/T training at ME 9 in Meerut.
Following these two courses, De Bu served in the Chin Hills in the Falam area from January to December 1943. In February 1944, he completed parachute instruction at Chaklala preparatory to being dropped into Burma on Operation Dilwyn in April 1944.
With most of the Dilwyn personnel, De Bu was extracted to India in June 1944. He completed a refresher course in parachute instruction before going back to Burma as part of Dilwyn’s team Badger. He was gazetted in 1947 for a Military Cross.
Major Arthur Du Pre Denning: Born on 15 April 1909 in Birmingham, after attending the Merchant Taylor’s School, Denning became a bank Clerk for Baring Brothers. He joined the Home Guard in 1940, was a trooper in the RAC in 1942, and then became an officer cadet in January 1943. Denning joined SOE in September 1943; his parent regiment was the Hampshires.
Fluent in French having been schooled in Belgium for two years, Denning was parachuted into France as part of team Archibald. He won the Croix de Guerre for leading the Maquis in the Vosges area, taking on the SS, Tiger tanks and German para troopers to assist the advance of the US 35 Division. He was also awarded the MC.
From France, Denning was posted to the Far East where he joined the Burma Country Section. He took part in Operation Character in command of Walrus Red with Major Cockle and Sergeant Smith. Denning was in action so much that throughout his operation he was asking for ammunition drops which came by Beaufighter, Lysander and Dakota. For his work on Operation Character, Denning was recommended for the DSO, for which he was gazetted on 7 November 1946.
Not a bad record for a man who ‘Doesn’t wish to be operational’, which was possibly because he was married and had two children, Mary and John, born in 1932 and 1934 respectively.
Personnel file: HS 9/418/4
Major B.C. Dewanjea: An Indian doctor, recruited by SOE in July 1944. For more, see ‘A Doctor on Special Operations’.
Captain Albert Anthony Dumont: Born in London on 4 January 1921, Dumont had a Belgian father and French mother. He was recruited for F Section, but since he was only recruited to SOE in June 1944, by the time he finished his training it seems he was not needed in France. His instructors noted his intelligence and individualism in 1944, judging him fit for operations.
In November 1944 he left for the Far East. Dumont ended up parachuting into Burma on 30 March 1945, where he served under Lt.Col. Peacock on Operation Character, Otter, White. He was withdrawn from the operation on 1 October 1945.
Personnel file: HS 9/457/4
Captain William Edward Evans: DOB 6 December 1898. Evans lied about his age and joined the army on 23 October 1914; he was just 15 years old. He served in the Royal Engineers, 27 Division, in France, Salonika and Egypt. Evans worked in Burma as an engineer from about 1935, with Steel Bros. initially.
In August 1941 he was commissioned and in September joined the Oriental Mission. Evans trained at STS 101 in Singapore during November 1941 before taking command of No.1 zone in Burma, responsible for an area covering the Thai border.
Evans trekked out of Burma in 1942, and was taken ill with malaria. He was discharged from SOE on 30 September 1942.
Personnel file: HS 9/490/4
Major Dennis Ford: Major Ford was born in Monk Sherborne, Hampshire, on 12 February 1919. After attending the Queen Mary’s School in Basingstoke, Ford joined the Army and served in the ranks from 10 March 1938 until being granted an emergency commission on 9 March 1940. Before joining SOE in May 1943, Ford saw active service in France 1939-40, Crete 1941 and in the first Burma campaign as part of the British Military Mission to China.
After joining SOE, Ford was sent back to the UK for training. His personnel file contains many of the reports from the various Special Training Schools where he completed instruction. From the UK he was sent to Ceylon as an instructor in 1944. In 1945 he was parachuted into Burma on Operation Character as part of team Mongoose in charge of Red area. He is recorded as being Jed team 17, serving with Captain Williams and Sergeant Dallow. During this operation, Ford won the MC:
Personnel file: HS 9/526/5
Ford’s report on his part in Operation Character: HS 7/106
Major Richard Ellis Forrester: born in Darjeeling in 1908, Forrester was the first officer in charge of the Burma Country Section (BCS) of SOE’s India Mission between July 1942 and February 1943. He was transferred from BCS to become Economic Intelligence officer at SEAC headquarters. He was replaced by Captain (later Lt.Col) Richie Gardner, who remained in the post until the end of the war. In his P/F, Forrester is described as ‘Energetic and intelligent. Rather apt to jump to extremes and to change his mind.’
Personnel file: HS 9/527/4
Major Anthony Harold Bevington Franklin: Major Franklin was born in London on 25 March 1916. He loved to ride horses and was quite a Thespian. Before the war, he worked in the London Stock Exchange, a job to which he returned in 1946.
Franklin was posted to India in 1940 to 5 Mahrattas, spending much of the war in Belgaum running the initial training for new Indian recruits. Looking to find some action, he was recruited into SOE, turning down a month’s leave in the UK to do so.
Having joined SOE in February 1945, Major Franklin went to Ceylon to gain an understanding of the training and purpose of Force 136 before going into Burma as GSO II. His role was liaison officer between XIV Army and SOE, serving at SOE’s Tactical HQ.
Personnel file: HS 9/539/5
A wonderful tribute to their father has been written by his daughters, privately published. It is based on Major Franklin’s diaries, starting in 1934.
Sudhir Ghosh: Indian agent sent into Burma on Operation Mahout. For more, see ‘Mahout 2: The Frailty of Special Operations’.
Major John Atkinson Gibson: Born 12 June 1912, went to Rugby school. Worked for Barclays Bank from 1930-34, and then in Singapore from December 1934. Gibson was fluent in Malay, Urdu and French as well as speaking Burmese.
Gibson was recruited by SOE in 1943 and first went on operations as part of ‘P Force’. P Force was led by Edgar Peacock, working in front of 20 Division on the Chindwin front. Gibson was wounded in both legs, both arms and his left buttock when a booby trap went off, but he recovered to go on further operations in Burma codenamed Hippo, Rendezvous & Burglar.
After Burma, newly promoted Major Gibson parachuted into Malaya, for which he was recommended for an MC.
Personnel file: HS 9/580/4
Havildar Gin Za Cin: Gin Za Cin was recruited by SOE on 1 August 1943 by Major Hobbs. He was working as an interpreter, earning Rs 90 per week. He was convinced to go to India believing he would not suffer a loss of income, but he was persuaded to take Rs40 p/m in line with other recruits. He was apparently not very happy about this, and at the same time was worried about his family, particularly his mum. His brother and father were serving with the Chin Levies.
Gin Za Cin is remarkable for having been on four SOE / Force 136 operations during which his operational pay was Rs300 p/m. His four operations were all over Burma: two were in Arakan (now known as Rakhine state), one was in Kokang (Operation Spiers) and his fourth was with Operation Character as part of team Hyena. His operations in Arakan / Rakhine were really important foundational jobs, particularly as Hound which enabled Lt.Col. Carew to get established.
Two reports about Gin Za Gin:
- ‘very enthusiastic, but at times inclined to get excited and rush things.’
- ‘keen and intelligent in his work beyond the call of duty.’
Captain Alan Leslie Goldsmith: Born in Whitton near Ipswich on 16 August 1916, Goldsmith was a Chartered Surveyor working for Westminster City Council by the time the war started in 1939. Commissioned into the Royal Engineers in 1942, Goldsmith was posted to Burma Country Section of Force 136 on 12 May 1945.
Captain Goldsmith was on board Dakota ‘J for Jig’ on 7 September when it crashed on a supply run to Operation Character. Also on board were:
Lt.Col. Wiggington and Kennedy
Sergeants Goodwin, Sowden and Little. Sowden and Little had both served on Operation Character, team Hyena Red.
There were a further 11 personnel on the Dakota. All died. Major Bourne of Operation Character gave evidence at the court of inquiry into the crash:
The son of Lt.Col. Wiggington, Gavin Wiggington, published ‘Wig’s Secret War‘ in May 2017.
Personnel file: HS 9597/4
Frontier Myanmar, December 2016 article
Sergeant S.H. Goodwin: Sgt. Goodwin was on board the Dakota ‘J’ for ‘Jig’ which crashed in the Karen Hills on 7 September 1944. See entry for Cpt. Goldsmith, above.
Goodwin’s PF does not have a lot in it, and on the front it has ‘DOB not known’. His parent unit was the Royal Engineers. Will add more here when/if found.
Personnel file: HS 9/600/8
Sunil Datta Gupta: An Indian Agent parachuted into Burma as Mahout 1. For more, see ‘Mahout 1: An Indian Agent in Burma’.
Captain Basil Sheridan Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 4th Marquis of Dufferin: The Marquis was killed in action in Burma on 25 March 1945. He was serving as officer commanding No.2 Indian Field Broadcasting Unit (IFBU). The IFBUs were forward propaganda units who set up loud speakers within ear-shot of the Japanese, attempting to coax them into surrendering by broadcasting to them in Japanese. Lord Dufferin was hit in the chest by Japanese fire, probably through the lung and heart. Attempts to recover his body were unsuccessful, and it was thought that the Japanese buried him.
Captain Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood was born on 6 April 1909, and educated at Eton and Oxford. Before the war, he had served as Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, 1937 to 1940. He was commissioned in the Royal Horse Guards in 1940 and then he joined SOE in September 1944. He left the UK for India in October 1944.
For more on the Marquis and his service in Burma, see this article in ‘Standpoint‘.
Personnel file: HS 9/454/9
Lieutenant Walter John Hatton: Hatton served in the Great War as a Private in the RAMC in the Dardanelles and Egypt before serving in the Royal Tank Corps in France until 1918. He finished the war as a Sergeant Instructor. He went on to become Battalion Sergeant-Major in the the Shanghai Volunteers.
When SOE sought Hatton out in the middle of 1941, he was working for the Asiatic Petroleum Company. He was 43 years old in 1941 when he joined SOE, and commissioned Lieutenant on 6 November 1941. He was trained at STS 101, the Oriental Mission’s guerrilla school in Singapore before being posted to Lashio in Burma where he ‘organise[d] the depot there for the Antipodes Mission to China.’
After Burma was invaded in 1942, Hatton attempted to escape to India with Captain W.D. Reeve. Reeve made it, but Hatton died on 16 June 1942 ‘owing to exhaustion and heart trouble, aggravated by under-feeding.’
‘Hatton was a capable man; useful in and out of an office; handy with weapons, and a machine-gun expert.’
Personnel file: HS 9/674/7
Major Harold Hall: Born 12 August 1913 in Burton-On-Trent, Hall was recruited into SOE in July 1943. He had previously been commissioned into the Sherwood Foresters before transferring to the Royal Armoured Corps. He apparently ‘tried every possible way’ to get active service, and SOE quickly assessed him as ‘From all accounts, an excellent man for operations’. So it proved.
Hall led Jedburgh team ‘Loch’ in France in August 1944, for which he was MID and awarded the Croix de Guerre. From France, Hall volunteered for service in the Far East. He was parachuted into Burma in April 1945 where he won his Military Cross.
Personnel file: HS 9/646/2
Naik Hay Bay: Hay Bay was a Karen from the Toungoo area, apparently born in 1928. He was recruited by SOE on 17 October 1942 (14yrs old?) to be trained as a W/T operator. He completed signals training at Meerut in November 1942, demolitions and fieldcraft at Poona in January 1943, and then parachute training at Chaklala the same month.
Hay Bay was dropped into Burma with Saw Ba Gyaw in February 1943 as part of Operation Harlington. When Captain Nimmo was successfully dropped much later in the year, it is noted that he was Nimmo’s W/T operator. In February 1944, the Japanese attacked Nimmo’s camp. Hay Bay was able to escape, but after four days on the run he gave himself up.
On Hay Bay’s record, it is written that he was taken to Rangoon by the Japanese where he was sentenced to death with Seagrim: ‘Beheaded Rangoon Gaol 2/9/44’. If the DOB is accurate, he was just 16 years old.
Havildar Hkang Htang: Hkang Htang was a Kachin born in 1923 in the Lashio area. He was a ‘2nd Class Army trained W.T. Op.’ who was recruited by Major Shan Lone on 4 January 1943. After completing paramilitary and parachute training, Hkang Htang was dropped into Burma on 23 March 1943 in the Mogaung area as a W/T operator for Zau June.
In April 1943, elements of the first Chindit operation contacted Hkang Htang, and he was able to report that he was fit, but that his W/T didn’t work. He left the field in October 1944, attended a parachute refresher course and was dropped back on Operation Dilwyn on 28 December 1944 until 26 April as team Badger. In May 1945 he parachuted into Burma for a third time, on Operation Character where he joined Otter, remaining behind the lines until 18 October 1945.
Lt.Col. Ernest Hugo Meggeson Hood: Born in Burnby, Yorkshire, on 27 August 1915, Hood attended Wellington College where he completed officer training in 1933. After study at Cambridge, he was then employed as Games Master and Assistant School Master at St. Dunstan’s School in Somerset from May 1937 to August 1939. Having been given a Supplementary Reserve Officer’s (SRO) commission in February 1937, Hood was posted to the Somerset Light Infantry in November 1939.
Hood applied to join SOE in 1943. During Jedburgh training in early 1944, he was classified ‘D’ – in other words, bottom grading. Potential was seen in Hood elsewhere because this classification prompted a letter to be sent recommending that he ‘be retained in training’ and Hood to be informed that he received a notification ‘sent in error due to a confusion of names.’
After operations in the Balkans were called off, Hood volunteered for operations in France. On 18 August he parachuted into France as part of Jedburgh team Paul in the Cote d’Or region. He contributed to the liberation of Dijon, and for his six weeks in France was MID and awarded the Croix de Guerre. Hood then volunteered for operations in the Far East, and he was shipped out to India in November 1944.
After training at Ceylon, Hood was part of three operations in Burma. In January 1945 he parachuted into the Northern Shan States on Operation Dilwyn, team Cheetah. In March 1945, he dropped as part of Operation Nation, team Zebra, and then he went on to Operation Character in the Mongoose area. For his work in Burma, Hood was awarded an immediate DSO. He returned to Calcutta from operations on 4 December 1945.
Personnel file: HS 9/739/3
Lt.Col. Hugh Warton Howell: Howell was born in Abbottabad on 4 October 1904. Before joining the army in 1940, he was working for the Kailan Mining Company in Tientsin, China. He was commissioned into the King George V’s Own Lancers, only joining SOE in September 1944.
Howell was described by SOE as ‘A somewhat fiery character who I think would do well in an operational capacity.’ He was subsequently placed in command of Hyena area of Operation Character, for which he was awarded the DSO.
Personnel file: HS 9/752/5
Signalman Hsi Tai: Hsi Tai was born in 1924. He was a Karen from the Bassein area of Burma. He was recruited by SOE on 17 October 1942. In the first months of 1943, Hsi Tai completed a W/T course, as well as his paramilitary and parachute courses. He was part of the team that was supposed to be dropped after Ba Gyaw in February on Operation Harlington, but for various reasons the teams which included Majors Nimmo and McCrindle were not successfully deployed until October and December 1943 respectively.
After parachuting into Burma in December with McCrindle, Hsi Tai was McCrindle’s W/T operator until the Japanese attacked their camp. Hsi Tai and his friend, Saw Aaron, were able to escape into the jungle where they hid for some months, looked after by friendly Karen villagers. In February 1945, Hsi Tai joined team Hyena of Operation Character, although he was ill with malaria by this time. He remained in the field with Hyena until approximately 18 September 1945.
Major Arthur John Hunter: Hunter was born in Selangor, Malaya 30 June 1912. From 1933 to 1942, he was employed as a rubber planter by Scottish Malayan Estates Ltd. He served with the Malay Volunteer Forces for nine years, and after the war with Japan began he fought on the retreat down to Singapore.
After Singapore fell, Hunter escaped by fishing boat and made safe landing in Ceylon after a month in Java. He was then trained in guerrilla warfare in Saugor, India, but the O/C, Le Seeleur wrote a poor report on his performance. It was recognised that Hunter had ‘plenty of courage and determination, but [that he] may be somewhat lacking in brains and foresight.’ This does not seem to have been taken too seriously by other officers though, and was put down to his ‘extreme boisterousness’.
Although earmarked for Malayan operations, Hunter was loaned to Burma Country Section. He was parachuted into the Kokang area of Burma, near the Chinese border, on an operation code-named Spiers. Between May 1944 and January 1945, Hunter proved ‘An excellent operational officer’ and won an MBE for his part in this operation.
After Burma, there was a short period of leave in the UK before Hunter was dropped on Operation Galvanise in Malaya. Again performing admirably, Hunter was recommended for the MC. Not bad for a man ‘lacking brains and foresight’ and described as a ‘Hislop type in appearance’ with an ‘unmilitary manner’!
Personnel file: HS 9/766/4
Honorary Lieutenant Kan Choke (also Kan Kyauk): Born in about 1899, Kan Choke was a Pwo Karen who served in the Burma Rifles for most of his life. At the outbreak of the Second World War he held the rank of Subedar Major, which was the senior commissioned rank in the Indian Army for non-Europeans.
Kan Choke served with Captain Arthur Thompson (see below) in 1st Battalion Burma Rifles, and was therefore part of the fighting retreat down the Toungoo to Mawchi Road in 1942. In his book ‘Desperate Journey’, Thompson introduced Kan Choke as:
‘a grand old warrior […] who had risen to the peak of his profession and had more years of service than I care to remember. During the fighting he had been an inspiration to all ranks, and throughout the coming months he was to prove himself a great-hearted companion. He had been to England for the Coronation in 1937 and this country had no more devoted an admirer.’
After escaping to to India by August 1942, Kan Choke was officially recruited into SOE in November 1942. His training record shows that he received paramilitary instruction at the Eastern Warfare School (India) and parachute training in early 1943 at Chaklala. He then helped to train the Harlington team due to be parachuted into the Karen Hills to work with Major Seagrim.
In March 1945 he was parachuted into Burma on Operation Character as part of Lt.Col. Tulloch’s Walrus Special Group. Kan Choke was in charge of training 350 Karen levies, ‘a task which he carried out incredibly well’.
When the Japanese made a concerted attack on the Walrus headquarters at Dawrahku, Kan Choke ‘calmly stood amid mortar and LMG fire supervising and encouraging […] levies.’ For this, Kan Choke was awarded the Military Cross. He also won the Burma Gallantry Medal for his services with Force 136
There is no Personnel File for Kan Choke.
Many of the names appearing on this page, including Kan Choke’ MC, are awards to the men of SOE Burma.
Lt.Col. Edgar James Kennedy: Kennedy was another of the men killed when Dakota ‘J’ for Jig crashed in the Karen Hills in September 1945 when en route to Calcutta from Rangoon via dropping supplies to Operation Character.
Kennedy was born on 31 May 1901 in Layer-de-la-Haye near Colchester in Essex. His life was seemingly a full and varied one, based on the following:
1914 – 1916 – Royal Naval College
1916 – 1919 – Royal Navy (Bermuda, Middle East, India)
1919 – 1920 – Royal Air Force
1920 – 1922 – Special Enlistment in the Royal Signals
1922 – 1924 – Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary
1924 – 1928 – Merchant Navy (dates of 1925 – 1930 also offered in his file)
1927 – Army Reserve Royal Signals
1930 – 1936 – Doncaster Technical College, read Electrical Engineering
Employed by Western Electrical Company
1939 – 1942 – Royal Signals with 1st and 2nd Armies and later Training Battalion
1942 – 1945 – Special Operations Executive. OBE awarded for work with Force 399 in Cairo. Left Cairo October 1944 for some home leave before posting to India in November 1944. Commandant of ME 9, Force 136’s Signals training school.
Personnel File: HS 9/830/7
Jemadar Kha Li Maran: Kha Li Maran was a Kachin who joined the Burma Rifles in April 1937, aged 24. He fought in the first Burma campaign and then joined SOE on 20 January 1943. By March, he had completed para military and parachute training and was dropped into Burma on 23 March on Operation Dilwyn. This first stint of operational duty finished on 22 July 1943.
On 11 October 1943 he was returned to the field, still on Operation Dilwyn, and stayed in the jungle until 17 June 1944. For his efforts on Dilwyn, Kha Li Maran was awarded the Burma Gallantry Medal on 17 December 1943.
After a refresher parachute course at Chaklala, Kha Li Maran was dropped once again into Burma on 28 December 1944. This operation was still Dilwyn, but in an area slightly further east of his previous area of operations, and code-named Squirrel. He remained in the field until 28 September 1945.
Major Shan Lone described Kha Li Maran as ‘Brave and tough. Security minded. Reliable. Not very intelligent. Good asset.’ Lt. Col. Crosby described him as a ‘First class man in a scrap. A rough, fighting type.’
There is no personnel file for Kha Li Maran. Information from his Training Card.
Lance Naik Subdar Khan: Subdar Khan was an Indian policeman in Myingyan area of Burma. It seems he retreated from Burma in 1942, and was then recruited by SOE on 1 February 1943. He was trained during 1943 and then dropped into Burma by parachute on 13 October 1943 as Operation Mahout. See blog post HERE.
King Li Sheng: Very few details for King Li Sheng. Employed by SOE as an interpreter for Operation Spiers. This operation was to the Kokang area of Burma. King Li Sheng spent 18 days in the field (23/8/44 – 10/9/44), and then apparently ‘RESIGNED’. He was paid off on 30 September 1944 in Kunming.
Thakin Ko Ko Gyi, alias Ye Nyunt: Ko Ko Gyi was a Burman nationalist, hence the word Thakin before his name. He was born in 1918, the son of a merchant. Ko Ko Gyi was contacted in December 1944 by a Force 136 agent whose mission was code-named Pedantic. Pedantic had been tasked with contacting Ko Ko Gyi in the town of Shwegu because it was known that he was ‘anti-Japanese but not necessarily pro-British’, meaning he might be receptive to a message from Thakin Thein Pe. Thein Pe had trekked out to India in 1942, hoping the British could be convinced to work with him and other nationalists who were already disillusioned with the Japanese.
Ko Ko Gyi decided to go back to India with Pedantic where he was, presumably, parachute trained before being dropped into the Mandalay area with Tin Shwe as part of Operation Grain, Elephant. Successfully infiltrated on 2 January 1945, team Elephant was tasked with getting the Burma National Army and the Anti-Fascist Organisation to turn on the Japanese (or at least not fight the British) in the Mandalay area, thus facilitating the capture of the city by XIV Army. Team Elephant was successful; the Army overran the agents by 15 March 1945, and took Mandalay by 20 March.
There is no personnel file for Ko Ko Gyi.
Naik Kum Bu Gaung: Kum Bu Gaung was a Kachin born on 1 February 1928 according to his training card. He was recruited ‘in the field’ in October 1943 as an agent for work on Operation Dilwyn. He was extracted from Burma in June 1944 to complete training in India before being parachuted back into Northern Burma on the next phase of Dilwyn operations, serving with teams Squirrel and Bear. His time on this operation lasted eight months from January to September, and it was during this time that he was promoted twice, up to Naik, by age of 17 (if his DOB is correct).
Lt.Col Crosby wrote of Kum Bu Gaung: ‘Recommended for the BGM. First class little chap, absolutely mad on scrapping. Very reliable.’
Naik Kum Jaung: Kum Jaung was a Kachin, born on 1 June 1927. If this is an accurate DOB, he was recruited by SOE just after his 16th birthday on 1 October 1943. He was 5′ 0″ tall and shoes were a size 6.
He was recruited in the field by Major Shan Lone as an ‘Agent’, and remained in the field until 20 June 1944. Extracted to India for training, Kum Jaung completed parachute and paramilitary courses between October and December 1944 before dropping into Burma to continue Dilwyn operations with team Bear. This phase of operations lasted from 27 January to 22 September 1945.
During August 1945, Kum Jaung was shot in the side, but continued fighting ‘kill[ing] 3 Japs with his Carbine.’ Hospitalised in Loilem, Kum Jaung rejoined his team once recovered. He was Mentioned In Dispatches (MiD) for his efforts.
Lance Naik Kum Je La: Kum Je La was a Kachin, date of birth 6 January 1923. He was recruited in the field on 15 August 1944 to be an ‘Agent’ by the Spiers team in the Kokang area of Burma. His next of kin is recorded as his brother, Kum Je Tu, with his father added in pen later: Kum Je Yaw, Loilem, Kutkai, N.Hsenwi.
After leaving Operation Spiers in October, in November 1944 he completed parachute instruction, and by December he had finished the Paramilitary course run at Eastern Warfare School, India (EWS(I). Kum Je La then parachuted into Burma on 27 January 1945 with Lt.Col. Crosby as part of Operation Dilwyn, team Bear. Crosby described him as ‘A good tough bloke’ followed by ‘For action only.’
Picture Credit: Specialforcesroh
Captain Kumje Tawng Wah: A sizeable entry exists for Captain Kumje Tawng Wah here. There are some differences in details, such as DOB September 1914 versus 1924 on one National Archives record and 1918 on another. It is also quoted that he parachuted into Burma 14 times, but 3 is the more likely number.
Kumje Tawng Wah is recorded as joining SOE on 3 December 1942. In January and February 1943 he completed Paramilitary and parachute training in India. He was one of SOE’s first men back into Burma, parachuting into the Kachin Hills on Operation Dilwyn on 23 February 1943. He remained in the field until 21 June 1944, when most of the Dilwyn personnel were extracted due to fractious relations with the OSS. It was during this period of operations that he assisted Dahforce, a Chindit mission.
In September 1944, he attended a refresher parachute course and returned to operations on 28 November 1944 again as part of Dilwyn, in charge of team Monkey. They landed in the middleof a battle between the Kachin and Chinese forces. Extracted on 7 March 1945, Kumje Tawng Wah parachuted into the Southern Shan States as part of Operation Heavy, team Lynx on 28 March 1945, remaining operational until 19 October 1945.
Awarded the Burma Gallantry Medal and the Military Cross.
Personnel file: HS 9/868/8
Havildar La Shi Gam: A Kachin born on 3 October 1911, La Shi Gam was recruited in the field by Dilwyn personnel in June 1944. Along with most of the Dilwyn men, La Shi Gam was extracted from the field on 20 June 1944, and sent on training courses in India. In October, he completed parachute training at Chaklala, followed by paramilitary training in November to December at the Eastern Warfare School, India (EWS(I)).
On 27 January 1945, La Shi Gam was parachuted into Burma as part of Operation Dilwyn as part of team Bear. Her remained in the field until 22 September 1945. His commanding officer, Lt.Col. Crosby wrote of La Shi Gam:
‘Excellent man. Very steady. Did extremely well. Ran the WANHAT show at the end of August and did very well there. Recommended for the BGM [Burma Gallantry Medal].’
At this point, I don’t know what the WANHAT show was, but La Shi Gam was awarded the BGM.
Captain Laphai Hkun (also on file as Khun) Nawng: Born on 15 January 1907 in the Bhamo District of Burma, Captain Nawng earned a BSc and was Kachin Inspector of Schools before the war. Granted a commission so that he had the appropriate status for his operational role, Captain Nawng was parachuted into Burma on 28 December 1944 on Operation Dilwyn, in charge of group Squirrel. He was exfiltrated on 22 September 1945, nearly nine months later.
As his recommendation for an MC describes, Nawng’s team missed their DZ and were put in immediate danger, prompting another officer to write ‘his conduct could hardly have been bettered by any of our officers’ – this after he had been suspected of being a Japanese agent and described as ‘not very promising in appearance’.
Nawng was allowed to keep his temporary rank of Captain, this recommendation stating that he was a ‘[t]horoughly competent oficer in every way and an excellent leader of men.’
Personnel File: HS 9/1088/2
Lau Teng: Not a lot of details for this man. ‘Date and place of Birth’ and ‘Race’ are amongst many of the unfilled gaps on his training card. All it reveals is that he was recruited as a cook for Operation Spiers. He went on operations on 5 February 1944 and was evacuated on 10 August 1944. For more on Spiers, see my book.
Law Poo: Law Poo was a Lahu, ‘Operational Role: Servant’. There is not much on his record, but it reveals he was ‘with Capt. Evans’ Levies at the battle of MONG PAWK.’ He was part of Operation Hainton from 27 February 1944, but ‘sacked as useless’ in July 1945:
‘LAW POO is my boy. He speaks a little Chinese. He is a good chap and should accompany Capt. Turnbull and be returned to NORFU if his services are no longer required.’
Sgt. Roger Anthony Leney: Born on 4 May 1923, Sgt. Leney was dropped into France as the W/T operator for Jedburgh team Jeremy. For his efforts in France he was MiD and awarded the Croix de Guerre. He was later awarded the Military Medal for his work on Operation Character, Mongoose White.
Sgt. Leney’s son @SimonLeney
Personnel file: HS 9/912/1
Photo: TNA HS 1/6
Li Jui: Li Jui was a Chinese agent who was parachuted into Burma on 29 June 1944. Chinese agents were code-named ‘Pandas’ by India Mission. Li Jui’s operation was Hensingham. He was tasked with making his way to Mandalay to find out about the possibility of Chinese resistance to the Japanese occupation, to collect intelligence about conditions in the Mandalay area, and to ‘recce a route from MANDALAY to CHINA for the infiltration and exfiltration of agents.’
After quite an adventure, Li Jui made it back to Allied lines on 22 January 1945. For the full story, please see blog my post.
Li Jui has no personnel file.
Sgt. Loosmore, picture credit SFRH
Sergeant Robert Glyn Loosmore: Sgt Loosmore was born in Bridge-End, Wales, on 3 March 1923. Like many other W/T sergeants, Loosmore was recruited into SOE from the Royal Armoured Corps in 1943.
Loosmore won the MM and CdG for his work in France, where he parachuted into the Haute-Vienne area on the night of 11 July 1944. The two officers of his Jed team, Major Parkinson and Lt. Vermeulen/Vermerler were seriously wounded on landing, and by his ‘outstanding and exceptional behaviour’, Loosmore saved them from being captured by the Germans who raided the farmhouse in which they were hiding. Both officers were later evacuated, but Loosmore elected to stay in France. He worked with the French Resistance for the next two months. During his time in France, Loosmore had the codename of ‘Lundy‘, and he worked with teams Andy and Ivor.
After France, Loosmore went to Burma. He was parachuted into Operation Character on 31 March 1945 and was part of Mongoose Blue, for which he was Mentioned in Dispatches (MiD). In his opinion, SOE achieved considerably more in Burma than the Jed teams had in France (see reels 3&4 of IWM interview provided below).
Unpublished manuscript. Loosmore, Glyn. A Postscript to Arthur’s Brown’s ‘The Jedburgh’s’
Personnel file: HS 9/939/2
Military Medal Gazette
Copy of Times obituary
Major Percival Verney Lovett-Campbell: Born on the Isle of Skye on 6 September 1912, Lovett-Campbell worked in Burma from 1934 until 1940. He was employed by the firm Steel Brothers, a forestry business. After being commissioned into a territorial Royal Artillery unit, Lovett-Campbell was posted to East Africa where he served in Kenya, Abyssinia and Somaliland against the Italians. From there he went to fight the Pathans in Waziristan. Described as ‘extremely fit and tough’, he joined the Burma section of SOE in December 1942. It seems he could give the Russian ‘mad monk’ Rasputin a run for his money in the category of difficult to kill:
While on Operation Dilwyn with SOE in 1944, a booby trap went off injuring Lovett-Campbell: he lost half a thumb and a finger from his left hand, and was also hurt in the thigh and eyes. These injuries were sustained while on operations in support of Dahforce, which was part of Wingate’s second Chindit operation. He was awarded an MC for his work on this operation.
Personnel file: HS 9/261/5
Obituary (which appears to have at least two incorrect dates)
A super picture of A Group, OSS. Major Maddox is in the centre. Picture credit: The Anglo Burmese Library
Major Patrick Reginald Maddox: Maddox was an Anglo-Burmese, born 1 November 1913 in Burma. Maddox was an early recruit to SOE’s Oriental Mission after being granted an emergency Army in Burma Reserve of Officers (ABRO) commission in November 1941. He was trained at STS 101 in Singapore and deployed in Burma in time for the Japanese invasion.
After escaping from southern Burma by boat, Maddox was part of the team who blew up the bridges north of Myitkyina which prevented the Japanese from occupying northern Burma.
After the war, Maddox joined Number 16 War Crimes Investigation Team.
Personnel file: HS 9/974/2
Major Francis Stanley Manford: Born in Newcastle on 22 December 1910, Manford joined the Durham Light Infantry before becoming a Commando. For two years he was Troop Leader of No.5 Commando, but by 1942 he still had no operational experience because his missions kept getting cancelled. He joined 204 Mission to get operational, and consequently missed the invasion of Madagascar.
When SOE caught up with him, Manford was attached to 77 Brigade – the Chindits – as an instructor. On 20 November 1942, SOE applied for his services, describing his situation ‘more or less at a loose end’. Successful in adding him to their strength, Manford was sent into Burma on Operation Spiers in early 1944.
When Spiers was pulled out of Burma, Manford went on leave in Jashipore, India. It was there that he took his own life, shooting himself in the head with his Colt .45 in the early hours of 30 November 1944. An inquest found that he was ‘unsound of mind’ due to a bout of malaria.
He left behind a wife and child.
Personnel file: HS 9/982/1
Commando Veterans: No.5 Commando
Havildar Maung Tha Din: Born 1915, Maung Tha Din was recruited by P Force.
P Force was an SOE / Force 136 mission led by (then) Major Peacock in the area to the front of 20 Division on the Imphal front. See my book for more on the importance of this work to future Force 136 operations in Burma.
Extracted to India, Maung Tha Din completed parachute training at Chaklala and then went to Ceylon for jungle training preparatory to being dropped into Burma on Operation Character on 23 February 1945. He served under Peacock on the Otter part of the operation. He finished operations on 25 October 1945.
Contrary to what is, perhaps, a common perception, many Burmans like Maung Tha Din formed the nucleus of Special Groups on Operation Character, demonstrating that Karen and Burman fought the Japanese together – and that Character was not only a Karen operation.
Peacock described Maung Tha Din:
‘Burman. Good demolitionist. Fully trained. Not much to look at [he is recorded as being 5″4]. Quiet and unassuming, but very keen and willing. Did splendid work against the Japs on the road.’ The ‘road’ was the Toungoo to Mawchi road.
No PF for Maung Tha Din exists.
Major McLeod, clipped from photograph at top of page: TNA HS 7/107
Major John McLeod: McLeod was a research scientist before the war, having completed his education up to PhD level. His first years of the war were spent as Chief Instructor of a Home Guard battalion until joining the regular Army in January 1943. Commissioned into the Seaforths, by November 1943, McLeod, at 37 years old, was employed as an instructor by SOE.
Many of the training school’s reports about McLeod’s character would make pretty grim reading for him, for example ‘is only of average intelligence’ and ‘regarded as something of a joke’, but he was also described as ‘fearless’ and ‘suited for active work’.
Sent out to instruct at ME 25 in Ceylon in mid 1944, McLeod was parachuted into Burma in February 1945 as part of Operation Character team Otter. On about 26 March he was shot through the shoulder by the enemy, and was described as ‘seriously wounded.’ Nonetheless, he remained in the field until exfiltrated on 29 July. Lt.Col. Peacock described McLeod as having shown a ‘splendid example of fortitude and devotion to duty.’
Personnel file: HS 9/968/2
Picture credit: The Soldier’s Burden
Captain Eric John McCrindle: McCrindle was commissioned as Army of Burma Reserve Officers (ABRO), number 441. He was born in Purley, Surrey on 16 March 1912.
McCrindle joined SOE in September 1942, and was flown into Karenni in October 1943 as part of Operation Harlington. Operation Harlington was the name given to the operation to raise the Karens before it became (the now more well known) Operation Character in 1945.
McCrindle joined Seagrim, and in December 1943, they were joined by Captain Jimmy Nimmo. The three officers set themselves up in the jungle with W/T and were sending back intelligence from Burma until February 1944, when it all stations went off air.
It was eventually reported by Saw Jolly of SIS that that the Japanese had attacked McCrindle’s camp and he was ‘killed instantly being shot through the head, private parts and leg.’
Captain Nimmo was also killed, but Major Seagrim managed to escape. A cover story was used until 1945:
One of the few Force 136 officers to die in battle. In memoriam:
Personnel file: HS 9/957/1
Scottish Herald article, 1989
Captain Ronald John Meredith: Born in Chile on 3 April 1913, Captain Meredith is one of the few officers who was killed in action in Burma. He left Chile in 1940 to join the Army in the UK. From July 1940 to February 1941 he served in the ranks with the Royal Scots. From February to May 1941 he completed officer training and was then commissioned into the Lancashire Fusiliers. Before volunteering for war service, Meredith was employed as a company secretary, and had served to years ‘in Anti-revolutionary Militia’ in Chile.
An MI 5 trace shows that Meredith was picked up by SOE in July 1941, initially to be employed as an instructor. Meredith went on operations in January 1945 as part of Operation Label team Rat. He was killed on 26 January when the Japanese attacked the monastery where the team was hiding up. Lt.Col. Maddox investigated the death of Meredith in January 1946, and reported that:
‘The British party scattered, leaving all they had, and it was then that Capt. Meredith was believed wounded and later found dead in a sitting position leaning against a clump of bamboo about 100 yards North West of the monastery. The villagers found him with an empty carbine in his hand and a shot through his forehead.’
Personnel file: HS 9/1022/5
Major Frederick Stanley Milner: Born on 26 March 1916, Milner attended the Duke of York’s Royal Military School from 1920 – 1934. On leaving school at 18, Milner joined the Wiltshire Regiment, with whom he served in Palestine (1936-7) during the Arab Revolt.
In 1939, Milner went to France, returning via Boulogne in 1940. Attending OCTU, Milner was commissioned into the Dorests in December 1940, and promptly recruited by SOE as an instructor.
While instructing at STS 4 in 1941, Milner was injured when a grenade splinter lodged in his neck. The Royal Surrey Hospital returned him to duty without removing it! Later, at STS 103 in Canada, Milner suffered second degree burns when the ‘Silent Soldier’ grenade thrower he was demonstrating spontaneously ignited.
After a spell in North Africa and Corsica during 1943 – where he ‘worked well with Americans’ – Milner was posted to India where he joined the Burma Country Section of Force 136.
On 26 March 1945, his 29th birthday, Milner was dropped into Burma on Operation Character where he was in charge of station Mongoose, area White. On this operation, Milner was recommended for the Military Cross twice, the second time for immediate award. This was for his work during the Battle of the Breakout in July-August 1945, when his Karen guerrillas inflicted an estimated 300 casualties upon the Japanese who were trying to cross the Shwegyin Chaung. He was described as ‘A brilliant and fearless leader’ who was respected by ‘all the Karens.’
Personnel File: HS 9/1038/6
Captain John Cook Montague: On 17 January 1944, MI5 ran a trace on John Cook Montague, born 20 June 1913 in Manchester. Montague came back ‘clean’, but he had already been through SOE training in Haifa, Palestine between August and October 1943.
Montague’s PF is probably one of the most detailed, revealing an extensive war record, serving in Finland, Sweden, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Algeria, France, Ceylon and Burma. In 1939, Montague was refused entry into the British services because he worked as a transport manager, which was a reserved occupation. Enlistment in a Volunteer Company for Finland was not restricted, so issued with British Battle Dress, a short Lee Enfield and Great Coat, off he went to Finland. Montague returned to the UK via Sweden in November 1941. Since ‘I no longer had any “occupation”, I was accepted’ into the Royal Armoured Corps at Tidworth in December 1941.
Picked up for officer training in April 1942, by December that year Montague was at sea en route to the Middle East where he served with 45 RTR, 4 RTC and 2 RTR between January and July 1943. He then joined SOE and was trained in Palestine, completed Jedburgh training in the UK, and was sent out to Algiers preparatory to operations in France. In France, Montague fought with the Resistance, winning the Croix de Guerre and being MiD. He was operating in the L’Ardeche region of France between 28 June and 26 September 1944.
After a short time in the UK, Montague was shipped out to Ceylon for jungle training at ME25 in Ceylon before being dropped into Burma as part of Operation Character, serving as part of Otter. As commander of sub area Green, he was responsible for guerrilla operations against the Japanese on the Toungoo to Mawchi road, described as ‘continuous’, from 23 April to 16 August 1945. He was withdrawn from Character on 24 October 1945 having been deployed on 23 February. Lt.Col. Peacock described Montague as ‘one of my best officers’, and he was awarded the MC for his work in Burma. Part of his recommendation reads: ‘On the numerous occasions in which he has been in action he has always shown gallantry and powers of leadership worthy of high commendation’.
The Major in charge of the Jedburgh board had reported:
‘A dour determined man, who is mad keen for action. Rather taciturn, and does not stand out as a leader. He would make a very excellent and trustworthy 2i/c.’
It was noted elsewhere in his Jed reports that he had ‘Rather a grim appearance on first sight’ which, it was thought, would compromise his leadership ability.
In another report: ‘He is a bad influence on the others and I strongly recommend his removal.’
Personnel file: HS 9/1052/6
Major Ian Selby Nevill: Major Nevill was born in Nahoon, South Africa, on 19 December 1912. He was educated at Ampleforth College in Yorkshire 1924-29 before working as a Motor Trader.
Granted an emergency commission in the Intelligence Corps in May 1940, Nevill saw service in Libya as 2 I/C of 4th Battalion Libyan Arab Force before joining SOE. On 14 September he was parachuted into Greece where he organised the Andartes in guerrilla raids against the Germans. Evacuated ill in May 1944, he returned to the same area in August and remained in Greece until 17 December 1944. For his work in Greece, Nevill was recommended for a military MBE, but was awarded the MC.
Nevill then volunteered for service in the Far East, being described as ‘very anxious to go to India’. It appears that Nevill’s Greek service did not preclude him from being tested for suitability for work in the Far East. Here is the resulting report:
After a period of uncertainty in which Colonel Woodhouse of Greek section vouched for Nevill, he was posted to Burma Country Section of Force 136. Nevill was parachuted into Burma on 27 April 1945 on Operation Character as commander of Hyena Purple. He showed ‘consistent gallantry and devotion to duty of the highest order’, according to his recommendation for a DSO, leading Karen levies into action and accounting for 1533 Japanese in three months to August 1945.
Personnel file: HS 9/1094/4
Knight of the Royal Order of King George 1: London Gazette (For Greece)
Military Cross: London Gazette
Major Jimmy Nimmo: Photo credit see BBC People’s War
Major James Russel Nimmo: Major Jimmy Nimmo was born in Falkirk, Scotland, on 26 June 1912. Jimmy Nimmo was shot dead by the Japanese when they attacked his hideout in February 1944. Nimmo had been parachuted into Burma in October 1943 as part of Operation Harlington, tasked with contacting Major Seagrim and the team of Karens who had been parachuted in the previous February.
Nimmo officially joined India Mission in November 1942, although he had been employed by the Oriental Mission prior to this. Nimmo retreated with Captain Thompson to Fort Hertz during the first Burma campaign. In his book, Desperate Journey, Thompson wrote: ‘Nimmo, a quiet young Scot who, more than anyone, was responsible for our eventual survival.’
Nimmo was awarded a DSO for his part in Operation Harlington.
Personnel file: HS 9/1104/5
More on the Nimmo family from the Falkirk Community Trust
Naik Pau Shi La: Pau Shi La was a Kachin born on 1 February 1912. He was recruited in the field on 1 march 1944 by Major Shan Lone for work as an agent with Operation Dilwyn.
Pau Shi La was extracted from Kachin lands on 20 June 1944, and taken to India where he was trained in paramilitary techniques and completed parachute training. He was then parachuted into Burma on 27 January 1945 with Lt. Col. Crosby as part of Operation Dilwyn, team Squirrel and later Bear. He was promoted to Lance Naik on 1 February, his 23rd birthday, and then to Naik on 8 March 1945.
Crosby described Pau Shi La as ‘very capable, very reliable’ and ‘very willing and likeable.’
There is no PF for Pau Shi La.
Paw Luh: Paw Luh was a Chin and aged just 18 when he was recruited in the field by Captain Hope in August 1943. Paw Luh served with SOE/Force 136 for the next two years and 3 months, but he refused promotion.
Paw Luh was trained as a W/T operator, firstly at ME 9 in Meerut, and later in 1943 at Poona where he undertook more advanced training. His report for November 1943 after training at Poona described him as a ‘Pleasant youngster who could be turned into quite a competent W/T operator.’
It is not known what Paw Luh did between November 1943 and 22 January 1945 when he was sent on operations. Presumably he was parachute trained at some point to be deployed on Operation Label, team Rat. This operation was one of SOE’s disasters, Paw Luh was captured by the Japanese but managed to escape during a bombing. Having made it back to British lines, within nine days Paw Luh was deployed on Operation Character as part of team Ferret under Major Poles. This was considered ‘a pretty stout effort.’
Paw Luh remained on operations with Character until 22 October 1945. He was by this time described as a ‘first class W/T operator.’
There is no PF for Paw Luh.
Lt.Col. Edgar Henry William Peacock: Peacock’s PF provides his date of birth as 11 February 1898, but he was actually born five years earlier in 1893. He lied about his age to join the war effort. Born in Nagpur, India, Peacock worked for the Burma Forestry Service for sixteen years before going to farm in Southern Rhodesia.
In July 1940, Peacock served in the ranks of the Rhodesian Regiment and East African Engineers. He completed officer training on Kenya and was commissioned in October 1941. For his knowledge of Burma, Peacock was sent to India where he worked as an intelligence officer prior to joining SOE in November 1943. In a report dated November 1942, Peacock was described as being ‘capable of shouldering great responsibility’ and ‘very suitable […] for organising guerrilla warfare.’
He was first deployed by SOE on patrol work to the front of General Gracey’s 20 Division on the India/Burma border between November 1943 and May 1944. He was awarded an MC for this work on the Chindwin front, where he was in charge of what was known as P Force.
After retraining and briefing, Peacock was deployed on Operation Character as officer commanding team Otter. From February to September 1945, Peacock’s area of operations in the Karen Hills was the scene of successful guerrilla warfare for which he won a bar to his MC and a DSO.
Peacock’s wife, Geraldine published ‘Life of a Jungle Walla’ in 1958, which is well worth a read (if you can get your hands on it!).
More on Peacock and Op. Character online at The Soldier’s Burden
Lots in my book, SOE in Burma
Personnel file: HS 9/1158/1
Picture credit: adapted from The National Archives, HS 7/107
Major William Eustace Poles: Born on 19 June 1902 in Wentworth, Yorkshire, Major ‘Pixie’ Poles lived in Southern Rhodesia when war broke out. In 1941 he served as a platoon sergeant with the King’s African Rifles in the Abyssinian campaign before being awarded an emergency commission. He then served in 2 Battalion the Rhodesian Regiment.
Poles was recruited into SOE in April 1943. His first operational work with with Major Peacock in the Chindwin area of Burma, working to the front of 20 Division. The Chindwin patrols, known as P Force, were pulled out in 1944 as a result of the Japanese attack upon Imphal and Kohima.
After some time training in Ceylon at ME25, Poles was parachuted into Burma as officer commanding team Ferret of Operation Character. For his work in Burma, Poles was awarded the Military Cross:
‘This officer, who parachuted into the Central Karen area in Feb 45, has shown consistent gallantry and qualities of leadership worthy of high commendation. In spite of lack of supplies, he has kept the morale and fighting efficiency of his force of Levies at a high level. In July, with only 5 Levies, he stalked a party of 15 Japs, killing them all, and since Feb his force operating East of THANDAUNG has inflicted nearly 600 casualties on the enemy.’
Personnel file: HS 9/1198/7
Lieutenant Henry Bruce Renny: An Anglo-Burman, Henry Renny was born 14 September 1924 in Rangoon. He was granted an emergency commission on 12 February 1945 and within a month he was behind the lines on Operation Character as part of Walrus. He was made 2i/c of sub-group Skunk; his O/C was Major Alex Campbell.
Previous to his deployment on operations, Renny had been employed by Burma Country Section of SOE since October 1944 as a civilian interpreter. He was trained in Ceylon from January to March 1945.
Renny was promoted to Lieutenant in the field, and also recommended twice for the Military Cross, for which he was Gazetted in 1946:
‘On 24 August, 1945, at DAWRAKHU, 2/Lt. RENNY was commanding a platoon of Levies who were repulsing an attack by regular Japanese forces on the H.Q. of Operation WALRUS. In the middle of the action a Dakota dropped much needed ammunition between the two lines. Without a moments hesitation 2/Lt. RENNY collected a party of Levies and under heavy enemy fire led a charge with such skill and vigour that he was able to drive back the Japanese. He then consolidated his position and held off counter attacks until the stores had been collected. 2/Lt. RENNY showed great gallantry in this action and I recommend him strongly for the award of the Military Cross.’
Personnel file: HS 9/1247/1
TNA MC recommendation: WO 373/101/178
Major Richard Arthur Rubinstein: Born in London on 29 August 1921, Rubinstein was just finishing school when war was declared in 1939. He was immediately mobilised having joined the TA in 1938, and served in the ranks until June 1941. Granted an emergency commission in the Royal Artillery, Rubinstein did not have any overseas service so applied to join SOE in November 1943.
One of the questions SOE asked recruits was for which war work they thought they were best suited. Rubinstein’s written response was that he would do whatever was asked of him, and that he was willing to do ‘any job where full advantage is taken of my health and youth.’
Fluent in French, Rubinstein trained as a Jedburgh for operations in France. One report from early 1944 described Rubinstein as a ‘Forthright type that people would have faith in’ continuing that he ‘can be trusted to do any job well.’ In the same report; ‘A first class officer in every way and is very popular with all nationalities.’
Another of the Jed Board reports (for all personnel) consists of a list of attributes which all have a ‘+ 0 -‘ after them. The only one circled with a minus for Rubinstein is ‘Stability of Temperament’, which was followed with ‘The great doubt about this man is whether his temperament will stand the strain of action.’
Going on to complete four operations with SOE, two in France and two in Burma indicates that this ‘great doubt’ was proved wrong. Rubinstein was awarded the Croix de Guerre, was MiD in August 1945 and also won the Military Cross for his work in Burma. In Burma, Rubinstein was deployed on Operation Dilwyn team Cheetah and then on the Nation part of Operation Billet. On this last operation, as team Chimp and later Reindeer, Rubinstein and his Burmese guerrillas managed to shoot up a Japanese party killing a Major General and several other officers and NCOs.
Personnel File: HS 91289/2 (Note incorrect spelling on catalogue ‘Rubenstein’)
For more on Rubinstein and British Jews fighting in the Second World War, see Martin Sugarman’s Fighting Back
Lieutenant Saw Dee Htoo: No training card and a brief PF, it is unclear whether Lt. Saw Dee Htoo saw service in Burma. He had served 25 years in the Army by 1943, and it was OSS’s Col. Eifler who requested his promotion to Lieutenant in 1943. He worked for the Americans at Nazira, Assam, at OSS’s Army Experimental Station. He had been employed by SOE since early 1943. On 4 July 1945 he was posted to 1st Battalion Karen Rifles.
Captain Saw Gam: Born on 10 May 1909, Saw Gam, like many Burmese Force 136 personnel, had an alias, Maung Tun. He served in 1st Burma Regiment and also in E Group. E Group was the organisation in Burma tasked with locating and assisting Allied Prisoners of War. As an officer with E Group, Saw Gam joined SOE’s Operation Heavy, Wolf in January 1945. Heavy’s area of operations was in the Southern Shan States, close to the Siamese border.
He was taken on the strength of SOE in March or April, and remained on Heavy with group Lynx until extraction on 29 October 1945.
‘This officer’s CO speaks very highly of his conduct in the field while serving with Operation Heavy (Lynx). I recommend that [he] be promoted to Captain w.e.f 1 April 1945.’ This was despite a previous report: ‘Not very intelligent but makes up for this by his energy and conscientiousness.’ He was also described as ‘Very loyal.’
In his personnel file, his desire to join the Kachin Rifles after the war is recorded.
Personnel file: HS 9/1318/7
Lt. Saw Po Hla, reproduced from Ian Morrison’s Grandfather Longlegs
Lieutenant Saw Po Hla: Saw Po Hla was born on 21 December 1914 in Myaungmya District, Southern Burma. He was granted a King’s Commission (KCO) on 18 February 1941 and served with 11 Burma Rifles (Burifs).
After the Japanese invasion in 1942, Lt. Saw Po Hla remained in Burma, and joined Major Seagrim in February 1943. He continued to work with Seagrim for the rest of the year. When the Japanese attacked the British officers (Nimmo, McCrindle and Seagrim) in February 1944, Saw Po Hla apparently led the Japanese to Seagrim’s hideout. This was because the Japanese had arrested him and tortured him.
In June 1945, Saw Po Hla was sent to Delhi’s Red Fort ‘erroneously‘ where he was held on suspicion of being ‘Black’, in other words a collaborator with the Japanese. By January 1946 he was still being held, despite ‘The question of B969’s guilt concerning betrayal of Major SEAGRIM is very far from having been proved.’
As far as Force 136 was concerned, Lt. Saw Po Hla was coerced by the Japanese and therefore a loyal subject. It was decided to consider him as employed by SOE from the time he joined Seagrim in 1943, and to pay him for the years that he served behind the lines in Burma.
Personnel file: HS 9/1318/9
Captain Saw Sankey: Saw Sankey was born on 12 February 1915. He was commissioned into 11 Battalion the Burma Rifles (Burifs) on 26 October 1941. Following the Japanese victory in Burma, Saw Sankey remained in Burma having been disbanded at Katha on 5 May 1942.
On 5 May 1945, he reported for duty in Rangoon and was taken on by Force 136. His personnel record states that he first joined team Llama, which was apparently part of Operation Character. It is also recorded that he was with team Giraffe of Operation Nation. Both of these postings were presumably quite short, as he is further recorded as joining Operation Character’s team Mongoose, area Blue, from 26 May to 1 November 1945.
He is described as ‘a first class officer’ who was ‘extremely loyal and keen’.
After the war he went on to co-found the Karen National Defence Organisation (KNDO) According to this website, he died on 12 August 1950 with Saw Ba U Gyi, fighting troops of the Union of Burma. See also Burma Library.
Personnel file: HS 9/1303/6
Jemadar Saw Wilson Gyi: Saw Wilson was studying at Judson College when the Japanese invaded Burma. He was on the inter-college football team and part of the Military Training Corps for two years.
He joined Force 136 on 1 May 1945, serving under Major Poles on Operation Character, area Ferret. He served with Force 136 until 10 October 1945. Major Poles, in recommending him for a King’s Commission on 12 October 1945 wrote that he:
‘rendered exceptional services as a guerrilla leader. Has shown great keeness and ability. He realises the rare virtue of being able to write a clear and concise report.
He is cool and courageous in action.
Good personality and power of command.’
Major Hugh Seagrim: Probably the best known of all the men who served with SOE in Burma, Major Seagrim has become something of a legend. With two biographies as testament to his valour, this entry will be kept brief.
Seagrim was recruited by SOE’s Oriental Mission in January 1942, and very soon after he was driven to the Papun area to organise left behind parties to harass the Japanese invaders. The swift and decisive victory of the Japanese in Burma meant that Seagrim was soon left far behind the lines, where he chose to stay rather than try and catch up with the retreating British and Empire Army.
Eventually, in September 1944, the Japanese executed Seagrim with seven of his Karen comrades: Ba Gyaw, Saw Ah Din, Saw He Be, Saw Tun Lin, Saw Sunny, Saw Pe, and Saw Peter.
The two biographies are:
Grandfather Longlegs by Ian Morrison, 1947
Lost Warriors by Philip Davies, 2017
Personnel file: HS 9/1334/7 (Which says ‘DOB unknown’ (24/3/1909) and has an incorrect date of death).
Lots of internet hits on a ‘Hugh Seagrim’ search, but here’s three:
Captain Sein Tun, alias Tunney: A Shan-Burman born on 11 November 1913, Sein Tun was an Army of Burma Reserve of Officer (ABRO 205). He was in the Burma Military Police 1935-37, but presumably must have retreated to India in 1942 for he is recorded as being recruited by SOE on 6 January 1943.
Within six days of being recruited, Sein Tun was training in Poona to go on Operation Eyemouth. This operation didn’t go ahead because of Operation Longcloth, the first Chindit operation. From June to September 1943, he is recorded as having joined Peacock in the Tamu area. In November he was conducting officer for a new Eyemouth Party before spending a month in the field as part of the Spiers operation in the Kokang area. It seems the commanding officer of Spiers, Lt.Col. Munro-Faure, returned Tun Sein for having ‘a lack of initiative and of interest in the operation.’
SOE / Force 136 got quite confused in 1944 between two Sein Tuns, this one and another, ABRO 565 of 2 Burif. SIS returned Sein Tun ABRO 565 to unit for security and financial reasons. The confusion led to one of the two men being forgotten about and left ‘kicking his heels’ in Calcutta for a month!
Signalman Dennis Alfred Richard Sexton: A very brief personnel file, and not having come across him in any operations, not much is known about Sexton. Born 28 April in 1923 in Peckham, Sexton joined SOE in December 1943 as a W/T operator. Trained at STS 54, Sexton evidently drowned in the Chindwin near Monywa on 17 April 1945, days short of his 22nd birthday.
Personnel File: HS9/1347/1
Picture Credit: Personnel file (left) & Rod Bailey’s ‘The Wildest Province‘
Major John (Johnny) Kirkpatrick Hay Shaw: Shaw was born in Simla, India on 23 October 1916. Just before his 20th birthday, he was commissioned into the Royal Ulster Rifles, in August 1936.
Before joining SOE, Shaw served on the North West Frontier Province and North Africa. Joining SOE in late 1943, he attended paramilitary and parachute training in October of that year. The instructor’s report was, like many SOE reports about their students, not too kind. Apparently ‘A diminutive regular soldier’, Shaw in this officer’s opinion was ‘Not the personality usually expected of his rank’, but would be ‘An efficient officer so long as he does not have to do so much thinking.’
From May to November 1944, Shaw was on operations in Albania (see Bailey’s ‘The Wildest Province’ for details) before being posted to the Far East. Before this, Shaw’s personnel file reveals that he was found guilty of losing secret documents in Taranto. Ironically, the officer signing off one of the documents about the loss of sensitive documents was one Major Leake.
From Albania, Shaw went to the Far East and parachuted into Burma in February 1945. Shaw was part of Operation Heavy (formerly Hainton), in Kengtung state, east of the Salween River. His recommendation for an MC states that he set up an intelligence network and raised 300 levies with whom he attacked the Japanese line of communication into Siam. Starved of air support and supplies, Shaw nonetheless carried out an efficient operation.
Shaw went on to serve in the Korean War where he won a DSO shortly before being killed on the Imjin River in April 1951. His son would have been nine years old.
Personnel file: HS 9/3151/5
Picture Credit: Tack’s Telegraph Obituary, 2014
Sergeant Gordon Hugh Tack: On his 21st birthday – 21/11/1944 – Tack was on a troop carrier sailing through Suez en route to India. After completing a Jedburgh operation in France, he volunteered for more in the Far East because it was a ‘job I knew, same job as in France. I was quite good at it.’ Before SOE, Tack was in the Royal Armoured Corps.
Tack parachuted into Burma as team Pig, part of Operation Nation, tasked with working with nationalist Burmese. The two officers making up his Jed team were Major J.H. Cox and the monocle toting Major Reid who apparently ‘did not change his socks often’.
Team Pig was dropped to Major Carew’s team Weasel in March 1945, from whose reception they were to move to their area of operations south of Toungoo. They hitched a lift with on a bullock cart, but they suspect it was their driver who betrayed them to an Indian National Army unit, who surrounded them and ordered them to surrender. In his IWM interview, Tack recalls how he and his two officers stood shoulder to shoulder and ‘opened up’, escaping through the gap they created.
Tack then spent five nights on his own, drinking paddy water and travelling at night until he was reunited with his team. Slim’s XIV Army advanced so swiftly that his team was soon over run, so he said Pig was ‘not very satisfactory’ because they ‘didn’t do a great deal of good.’
Personnel file: HS 9/1438/7
Second Lieutenant Tha Gyaw: Tha Gyaw was born in 1914 in Myohaung, Arakan. He was recruited by Force 136 on 7 November 1944 and ended up playing a rather crucial role in the Billet series of operations.
Tha Gyaw was the leader of Hound, the party which was dropped into Arakan on 26 November 1944 to prepare for further parties which would assist XV Corp’s coming offensive. Hound received Lion (another all Burmese team) on 3 December, and then provided a reception for Camel, the party with Major Carew in charge, on 27 December. Tha Gyaw was of such assistance that on 7 February 1945 it was recommended that he be given an immediate commission. This was granted, but it seems he voluntarily relinquished it on 10 August 1945.
The success of these Arakanese operations led to the ‘green light’ for further Billet operations in central Burma, known as Nation.
Tha Gyaw II: Tha Gyaw II was a ‘close friend’ of Tha Gyaw I, above. Tha Gyaw II was born in 1920, and was an organiser for the Arakan Defence Force. He almost left for India with Thein Pe and Tin Shwe in 1942, but was struck down by dysentery. He went to Arakan from Rangoon in November 1944, and was taken to India for interrogation. He was later used with (promoted) Lt.Col. Carew, Captain Brown and Sergeant Sharpe on Operation Nation as part of team Weasel.
Captain Arthur Leonard Bell Thompson: A successful writer after the war under the pen name of Francis Clifford, Thompson was made an Army of Burma Reserve Officer (ABRO) on 8 December 1939. By 1 August 1940, he was company commander of 1/20 Burma Rifles (Burifs). In March 1942, after helping in the defence of Toungoo, he was ordered to take his company of Karens to join SOE officers and their levies on the the road leading from Toungoo into the Southern Shan States. For his part in obstructing the Japanese advance along this road, Thompson won the DSO:
Cut off by the Japanese advance, Thompson then led his men north to Fort Hertz, from where he was eventually flown out to India in August 1942. This escape from Burma is the subject of his book ‘Desperate Journey’.
Personnel file: HS 9/1460/6
Major Aubrey Alwyn Edgar Trofimov: Trofimov was born in Manchester on 7 December 1921. His father was a Russian professor and his mother was British. At the outbreak of war, Trofimov was studying Architecture at university. He joined the Royal Artillery in September 1941.
Described as ‘a misfit for a gunner’, Trofimov was taken on by SOE. He won the Croix de Guerre for his exploits in France before being sent out to the Far East in November 1944.
On 20 February 1945, Trofimov parachuted into Burma on Operation Character. One of his reports describes him as having ‘plenty of guts’, which he apparently displayed as leader of Mongoose Green, winning the MC for his gallantry in April, and a MID in August. Trofimov was withdrawn from Character on 21 September 1945 after eight months in the jungle.
Personnel File: HS 9/1485/2
Jemadar Tun Sein: Tun Sein’s date of birth is recorded as ‘not known’ within his one page personnel file. His unit was the Burma Sappers and Miners.
His one page is a redacted citation for an MBE, which he was awarded:
‘Jem. TUN SEIN was landed by parachute behind the enemy lines in the TOUNGOO area in Jan 45 to organise an intelligence network. On landing he and his party were discovered by the enemy but managed to evade them in spite of a most vigorous and widespread search. He immediately started organising his network and in spite of the search related above (which continued for some time) he daily reported Jap troop movements and dispositions in the SITTANG valley from Feb until the end of April. Hi intelligence network finally extended from PYINMANA in the North to PYU in the South.
The intelligence provided was of the greatest value to Army and the RAF which took full advantage of the targets provided by him. Jem. TUN SEIN finally organised and commanded a group of Burmese Guerrillas in a most efficient manner, inflicting, in a number of actions, heavy casualties on the enemy.’
Tun Sein was part of the Nation operation, and was most likely code-named Elk.
Personnel file: HS 9/1339/5
London Gazette: MBE
Major R.G. Turrall DSO, MC. Picture credit the Military Intelligence Museum
Major Rupert Guy Turrall: Another officer who appears to have lied about his age since there are two DOBs on record, Turrall’s PF reveals an interesting and very well travelled life. Born 27 October 1893 (not 1899) in Devon, Turrall attended Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School before going on to Cambridge to study engineering in 1912-14. During the Great War, Turrall served with the Royal Engineers achieving the rank of Major commanding 99 Field Company. He saw action in Gallipoli with the New Zealand Division and then in the Balkans until 1919. He was twice MiD (1917 & 1919).
After the Great War, Turrall returned to Cambridge where he completed a Master’s degree in Astronomy and Geology. The inter-war period was spent working all around the world:
During the Second World War, Turrall served in Abyssinia where he won the MC and then on Crete. After serving with the Chindits, Turrall joined SOE / Force 136, parachuting into Burma on Operation Character as o/c team Hyena. Turrall was in the jungle from 20 February until 20 October 1945. He won the DSO for his work with Hyena. Twice wounded by grenades (Italian and Japanese), Turrall also decided to try and convince the Japanese that their emperor had surrendered on 15 August. He was held captive and slapped about a bit before escaping back to his guerrilla force (see Louis Allen, Burma, The Longest War pp540-3).
For DSO and MC citations, see the Military Intelligence Museum
Personnel file: HS 9/1493/8
Captain Peter Charles Henry Vickery: born in London on 19 December 1920, Captain Vickery was 24 when he died. Before joining SOE, he was serving with GHQ Liaison Regiment of the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC). He joined SOE as a Jedburgh in January 1944.
His personnel file lists him as being away (overseas) from the UK on the following dates:
- 20 September 1944 – 1 October 1944
- 3 October 1944 – 21 November 1944
- 28 November 1944 – ?
- Left for India 12 March 1945
It is not clear whether he was on operations for all of these absences, but a battle casualty report records that he received a shrapnel wound at Nijmejen, so presumably he was deployed in support of Operation Market Garden in September. His Jed team consisted of an American, Sergeant Beynon, and a Dutch Captain, Bestebrutje; they were codenamed Stanley.
Captain Vickery took off from Jessore on 1 April 1945 to parachute into Burma as team Hart of Operation Nation with Captain Marchant and Sergeant Colvin. The plane exploded on take off killing all on board. He is buried in Chittagong cemetery, India.
Personnel file: HS 9/1532/5
Major Harry Mann Wakelin: From Witham in Essex, where he was born on 19 December 1918, Major Wakelin had a ‘busy’ war. Granted an emergency commission on 15 June 1940, Wakelin was first sent to Egypt with his regiment, the Royal Horse Artillery:
Egypt:- Nov 1940 – February 1941
Greece:- Feb 1941 – April 1941
From 28 April until 20 May, Wakelin was a POW. He escaped.
20 May 1941 – 15 September 1941, at large in Greece as a guerrilla fighter.
Captured again on 15 September 1941, he then escaped again on 18 September 1943.
Wakelin escaped to Switzerland where he helped escapees as part of MI9.
Brought back to the UK, Wakelin joined SOE, and went on operations in France from 26 August to 18 September 1944 where he fought with the Maquis.
Shipped to India as a Jedburgh on 1 January 1945 after completing parachute training in the UK.
Burma:- 4 March – 28 September 1945 Operation Dilwyn – described as an ‘excellent officer’.
Personnel file: HS 9/1547/1
Lt.Col. Frederick Fleming Wemyss: Born 7 December 1897 in Burma, Wemyss served in France with the Royal Field Artillery during the Great War. He joined the Indian Police Force in 1936, serving in Burma where he was awarded the King’s Police Medal. He joined SOE in March 1942, and after a bit of an argument about where he would be best used, he ended up in the Political Warfare division of SOE, in charge of propaganda. After the war, he continued to serve in Burma until the Government of the Union of Burma brought him in for questioning in 1948 because they thought he might be assisting the Karen (he wasn’t).
Personnel file: HS 9/1576/4
RFA file: WO 374/73112
Edinburgh Gazette: King’s Police Medal for Gallantry
Captain John Philip Williams: Born in Treforest, Wales, on 12 February 1919, Williams was reading French, Economic Geography and History at Cambridge when he was called up in 1939. His parent unit was the Welch Regiment according to his reports from SOE training schools, but on his SOE application he says he joined the Welsh Guards with whom he served until officer training in 1943.
There is no mention of an operation in France before going to the Far East, but plenty of training reports for 1944 with lots of comments about his character. Williams wrote that he would be suited to becoming an instructor in SOE, but his training officers disagreed, writing that his ‘most unorthodox stance’ would make him an awkward weapons instructor, for example. Other comments opined that he was ‘good at all practical work’ but ‘Doesn’t shine so well when brainwork is involved.’ One report said that he was ‘lacking in cunning and subtlety.’ All agreed he was ‘athletic’ and ‘very fit’; he was also described as having ‘plenty of guts and a very pleasant personality.’
Williams was parachuted in to Burma on Operation Character in 1945. He was awarded the MC for ‘continuous bravery’, including:
‘when 500 Japanese entered his area he, with a small section of his men, deliberately allowed the Japanese to trail him for 4 days, and led them away from the area HQ’
Personnel file: HS 9/1598/1
Captain Frederick William Wilson: Born in Camberwell, London, 31 January 1922, Captain Wilson’s home address was Borden, Surrey. He worked as an Audit Clerk after finishing at his school, the Thames Valley County School in Twickenham. In April 1939, he joined the Territorial Army before joining the regular army in September 1939.
Wilson served in the ranks of the Royal Armoured Corps until July 1943 when he was commissioned. He saw service in North Africa and Italy before joining SOE in April 1944. He was trained at the SOE camp known as Massingham in North Africa before going on operations in France between August and November of 1944.
In December 1944, a confidential report described Wilson as ‘reasonably intelligent, though diffident in manner’ and recommended that he be ‘returned to duty’. Somehow, this was avoided and on 28 March 1945 Wilson parachuted into occupied Burma as part of Operation Character, team Otter.
Wilson was in the field until 3 November 1945. He was awarded the MC, his recommendation stating that ‘he showed great gallantry, standing firm and rallying his men’ when outnumbered by Japanese forces attacking his HQ. He was just 23 years old.
Personnel file: HS 9/1604/7
Major Zau June: Zau June was a Kachin who was commissioned before the war with Japan started. He was very well connected in the north of Burma, which made him ideal for SOE intelligence work. His brother, Shan Lone, was also a valuable Kachin for SOE; they were both part of Operation Dilwyn for over two years.
Zau June was born on 13 May 1917, and according to this website died at the young age of 34. When the Japanese invaded Burma, Lt. Zau June was employed as an intelligence officer (IO) by the army. Due to illness he was unable to retreat to the safety of China and so he remained behind the lines. SOE recruited him ‘in the field’ in October or November 1943. For the next year or so he provided intelligence as part of Operation Dilwyn. After a short spell of leave, Zau June completed parachute training at Chaklala in mid November 1944 before being parachuted back into Burma as officer commanding team Dilwyn Badger on 28 December 1944. He was awarded the Military Cross in January 1945.
Zau June’s personnel file was declassified in 2017. It mostly contains documents which show that the Brigade OC for whom Zau June was working in 1942 thought he deserted in the face of the Japanese invasion, and was looking for charges to be brought against him in 1945. SOE/Force 136 clearly exerted what influence they could to protect Zau June, a man who had provided ‘grade A’ intelligence for extended periods from behind the lines.
Personnel file: HS 9/1638/3