Roll 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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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.
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
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
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
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
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
Captain Laphai 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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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.’
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
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 codenamed Elk.
Personnel file: HS 9/1339/5
London Gazette: MBE
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 attacked 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