The aim of this page is to provide a list of all SOE operations into Burma, with some brief details about them.
Operations launched by SOE’s India Mission but not into Burma, eg the Andaman Islands (Operation Baldhead) or the attack on Axis shipping in Goa (Operation Longshanks) will not be listed.
A ‘(B)’ indicates that the operation is included in my book.
Photo: The National Archives, HS 7/107.
Originally intended to be a British Officer +4 in the Kachin Hills. Instead, the party was diverted to provide a reception party for elements of Wingate’s second Chindit operation. In August 1944: ‘This operation has been scrubbed.’
Started in November 1943 as a plan to contact Burmese nationalists belonging to the Thakin Party. The operation grew into three parts:
- Manual (Arakan) with teams Hound, Lion, Camel, Leopard, Mouse, Rhino, Fox
- Grain (Central Burma) team Elephant
- Nation (Southern Burma) with teams Donkey, Elk/Yak, Terrier, Rabbit, Vole, Hare, Weasel, Pig, Hart, Jackal, Zebra, Reindeer, Chimp, Dog, Giraffe, Panda, Cow.
The Arakan operations were used as the test case for the later operations into central and lower Burma. The Nation part of the Billet operation became one of the biggest and well known of SOE/Force 136’s operations into Burma.
Similar to Rendezvous, this operation was tasked with providing intelligence to the immediate front of XIV Army as it advanced into Burma in December 1944. In particular, the operational instruction indicates that traffic on the Tilin/Gangaw and Tilin/Pauk roads were to be monitored and attacked when ordered, and to locate a Japanese Light Tank Brigade thought to have been in the Pakkoko-Monywa-Pauk area.
(B) Chindwin (P Force)
Patrol groups of Burmans and Karen under the command of (then) Major Edgar Peacock and Major Eustace ‘Pixie’ Poles. Operating to the front of General Gracey’s 20 Division, P Force was in the field from November 1943 to May 1944.
The plan to send a group of four Anglo-Burmans on a vessel to the Rangoon River in March 1943 with the intention of sinking a Japanese boat of up to 3000 tons in the vicinity of Elephant Point. It was hoped that this would block the channel and so cause the Japanese a problem with supply.
Flavia – team Mole
The ‘Operational Instructions’ for Mole are dated 27 February 1945, but other documents reveal that this plan dated back to at least April 1944. In this earlier incarnation, two Karen with W/T were to be dropped in the Mergui/Tavoy area of southern Burma to contact Karen and Chinese communities. The initial drop was ‘essentially a recce party’ for a subsequent infiltration of ‘Pandas‘ (Chinese agents).
The February 1945 instruction details three Karens to move into the hills and report intelligence, find suitable DZs and prepare to receive stores and personnel in the next moon period.
(B) Flimwell, later Capable
This was SOE’s first parachute operation into Burma, launched in January 1943. Karen personnel were dropped into the Bassein area of Burma to contact the Karen community there.
(B) Hainton, later Heavy with teams Lynx, Wolf and Calf
Operating in the Wa states near the Siamese border, the first team set out to reach their area of operations in March 1944. Like their colleagues on Operation Spiers 200 miles to the north, the Hainton team encountered considerable obstruction from Chinese allies.
(B) Harlington, later Character
In February 1943, the first team of Harlington was dropped into the Karen Hills with the aim of contacting ‘Blackbird‘ (Major Seagrim) who had remained behind the lines in 1942. Two British officers were dropped in October and December 1943 to join the first group. By April 1944, the news reaching Calcutta was that the teams had been arrested by the Japanese.
Harlington was later revived as Character in February 1945, and became SOE/Force 136’s best known operation. The four main sub areas of this operation were, from north to south, Walrus, Otter, Hyena & Mongoose.
A 1943 plan to contact Karens in the Rangoon and Bassein area with the object of ‘dislocat[ing] the social and economic order established by the Japanese in Burma at a time to render the maximum assistance to the Allied forces in effecting the destruction of the Japanese Armed Forces.’ An immediate objective was sabotage of railway and shipping.
Originally to have been a party of three, but they ‘gibbed at the very last minute’ in May 1944. On 29 June 1944, therefore, a single ‘Panda‘ (codename for a Chinese agent) called Li Jui was parachuted into Burma to investigate the suitability of sending further personnel into Mandalay to contact the Chinese community. It took until 5 September to reach Mandalay, where he stayed just a week because visitors had to report and were under suspicion. Li Jui eventually made it out to friendly forces on 22 January 1945. Quite a remarkable story here – see ‘The Men of SOE Burma’ for more.
An operation intended to foment trouble amongst the Indian dock workers in Rangoon by infiltrating Communist Indian agents. There were two Mahout parachute drops. The first was on 15 June 1943 and the second on 13 October 1943.
Ramrose / Future – Rhino, Bison and Fox
Launched on the night of 23/24 January 1945, the purpose of Ramrose team Rhino was to provide a reception party for a Special Group to be flown in later, and to report targets on the Minbu-An road. This road connects the Arakan to central Burma, and so was the natural line of retreat for Japanese forces facing Christison’s XV Corps.
The Special Group was never dropped because the party was dropped 40 miles from their intended DZ, and had to go on the run from local Japanese forces. Rhino stayed in the field until May, however, directing airstrikes on the road as planned and fighting with Burmese Nationalist forces.
A patrol group which operated in the area to the front of XIV Army as it advanced towards the Irrawaddy in December 1944. The objectives were to provide intelligence on Japanese dispositions and sabotage their line of retreat. The patrol was extracted by Dakota on 11 January 1945 having successfully avoided being caught in several ambushes and led a platoon of the Royal Berks over the Mu River.
An operation focused on the Kokang area of north east Burma. The first Spiers team eventually got to Kokang in December 1943, but was withdrawn by September 1944 having achieved very little. This was due to friction with Chinese allies, and to a lesser extent the Americans too.
(B) Tendon, later Dilwyn – (Teams: Squirrel, Bear, Badger, Monkey, Cheetah)
Originally launched in March 1943, and remaining in the field until the end of hostilities, Dilwyn worked with the Kachins in northern Burma. Apart from providing much useful intelligence and helping to recover downed USAAF pilots flying ‘The Hump’, the operation also supported the Chindits. The American OSS operated in northern Burma with the Kachins, which caused some friction between allies as they competed for recruits to pursue divergent strategies.
Notable Kachin officers include Shan Lone, Kumje Tawng Wa and Zau June.
October 1944, two Chinese agents dropped into the Rangoon area. Both were killed due to parachute malfunction. The original party of three agents had refused to go by parachute in May 1944.
Winterton – a political warfare (PW) operation destined for the Arakan in mid 1944. The operation was described as a ‘still-borne baby’ after the Burmese personnel got cold feet and refused to go.