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May 1944: -48 Indian Infantry Brigade’s roadblock at Torbung and the fiercely contested withdrawl North past Ningthoukhong



The Imphal Plain


In May 1944 17 Indian Light Division was operating to the south of the Imphal Plain in Manipur, north-east India, having fought a very professional but often fierce and costly withdrawal action up the road from Tiddim in Burma.  The British 4th Corps was defending Imphal and deploying its divisions to meet enemy advances from several directions; the primary concern of 17 Division had been to defend against the advance of the Japanese 33 Division that had pushed up the Tiddim Road.  At Churachandpur 33 Division had deployed on foot into the hills bordering the Imphal Plain to the west and had advanced north along the ridgeline planning to seize the track to Silchar and to attack Imphal, but the Japanese also needed to keep the Tiddim Road open in parallel with their ridgeline advance so that their tanks could move forward and their trucks could bring ammunition, supplies and reinforcements into the rear of the battlefield.  In retrospect we can see that 4th Corps defending Manipur was caught by surprise and had little idea of the way that the Japanese were using ground and moving formations across rough country towards Kohima as well as Imphal.

17 Indian Light Division

17 Division had been restructured into a Light Division to allow it to move quickly over difficult terrain, and much of the tactical doctrine used was derived from former India Army mountain warfare experiences that were tempered to suit jungle conditions.  The Division contained two infantry brigades, 48 and 63, plus reconnaissance and machine gun battalions.  Artillery support was provided by field and mountain regiments and by a combined light anti-aircraft and anti-tank regiment that used its Bofors 40-mm guns in both roles.  Sapper light field companies came from the Indian Engineers and the Tehri Garwhal State Forces (1).  Divisional transport was confined to jeeps, ponies and mules.


48 Indian Light Brigade

During the second half of May 1944 48 Indian Light Brigade was tasked with moving south across country to establish a road block behind the Japanese lines near Torbung, north of Churachandpur.  The Brigade normally contained three infantry battalions but one of them, the 9th Battalion the Border Regiment (British Army), was detached on another task.  Thus two Gurkha battalions, the 2nd Battalion of the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (2/5th R Gurkhas) and the 1st Battalion of the 7th Gurkha Rifles (1/7th Gurkhas), were the infantry element used on this mission which was named OPERATION AYO.  These two units had a strong battalion establishment of 977 all ranks, allowing for four platoons in each of the four rifle companies; the transport allocated to a battalion consisted of 70 mules, 9 ponies and 31 jeeps. A Brigade Commando Company had been formed using the Commando Platoons of each battalion, and this company was used for long patrols and special tasks. 

21st Light Mountain Regiment, Indian Artillery, provided the artillery support for OPERATION AYO with three mountain batteries, 1st Royal (Kohat) and 6th (Jacobs) fired four 3.7-inch howitzers in each battery, and the 37th Battery which fired twelve 3-inch mortars.  As the Bofors guns needed jeeps and roads in order to move they were not part of OPERATION AYO, and their absence was to cause problems as the battle progressed, but the Gurkhas and mountain gunners were to meet this challenge heroically.

The 70th Light Field Company, Corps of Royal Indian Engineers, with a detachment from 15 Bridging Section and a platoon of the Tehri Garwhal Sappers provided engineer support and folding boat equipment.  Transport and medical support were provided by two Mule Companies from the Royal Indian Army Service Corps with medical and stretcher bearer detachments coming from the Indian Army Medical Corps. Air support - ground attack, supply and casualty evacuation - was to come from the airfields around Imphal. 

Above: Point 3404 (Left) and Sandong from north of the Torbung block



The Aim of OPERATION AYO and the Brigade Commander’s plan

The divisional plan was that 48 Brigade would establish a block on the Tiddim Road and hold it whilst 63 Brigade attacked Japanese troops located to the north at Bishenpur, and drove them southwards onto 48 Brigade who would act as the anvil whilst the Japanese were destroyed. Another British brigade, 32 (2), was tasked with seizing the Silchar track running over the hills to the west and of attacking both north and south of the track.  Reconnaissance patrols from 48 Brigade had identified a good block position near Torbung, and had noted that the nearby hill Point 3404 overlooked the proposed roadblock location and so must be occupied.  About three kilometres further south was Point 4358, a hill named Sandong, that also needed occupying because of its superior height above Point 3404.

Above: The ridgeline west of Torbung that the Japanese moved along

Meanwhile the Japanese were using Churachandpur as a staging post where convoys from Burma delivered supplies and ammunition to the rear echelons of the formations fighting along the ridgeline to the west and in Bishenpur to the north.  The rear echelons then moved the supplies forward by truck as far as possible before using mules.  Unknown to 48 Brigade a few Japanese light tanks, artillery guns and supply trucks had already passed through Torbung and were north of the proposed roadblock location.

The commander of 48 Brigade was Brigadier R.T. Cameron DSO (3), one of the most innovative and accomplished jungle fighters in the British and Indian Armies, and his plan was that the Brigade would move south from its location in Wangjing on the road from Imphal to Tamu.  Initial movement would be at night by vehicle down the east side of Logtak (4) Lake to Shuganu on the Manipur River.  There the brigade would cross the 50 metre breadth of the Manipur River on a bridge erected at night by the sappers which would be dismantled before daylight to conceal it from enemy reconnaissance aircraft.  Jeeps could only be used as far as Shuganu.  The plan would be kept secret until just before Shuganu was reached.

From Shuganu 2/5th R Gurkhas would attack and seize Point 3404, and 1/7th Gurkhas would occupy and defend the Torbung road block at Mile 33 with sapper support.  Thereafter 2/5th R Gurkhas would be responsible for holding the perimeter containing Brigade Headquarters, Point 3404, the artillery locations and the brigade administrative area.  Once Point 3404 was secured the Commando Company would attack and seize Sandong Hill.  On the silent approach march to Point 3404 mules were not to be used and the attacking troops had to carry their reserve ammunition on their backs.  However mules carrying anti-tank mines for a Sapper platoon could accompany 1/7th Gurkhas to Mile 33.  During the following nights the Teri Garwhal sappers would erect and dismantle the Manipur River bridge, allowing administrative foot and mule traffic and casualty evacuation parties to cross the river under cover of darkness.  Within the brigade administrative area a drop zone was to be prepared for supply drops and if possible also a landing strip for light aircraft to enable serious casualties to be quickly evacuated.

The concept was an ambitious one for a light brigade without its anti-tank and anti-artillery guns, but the plan was bold and simple.  Fortunately the Brigade was led by a fighting commander who did not take ‘no’ for an answer, and the junior infantry leaders were Nepalese warriors who were often prepared to fight to the death to achieve their missions and to take and hold their ground.  The Indian gunners too were hardened artillerymen, prepared to mule-pack and fight their guns and mortars into the teeth of Japanese opposition, whilst the Sappers – Hindus, Sikhs and Punjabi Mussulmans - had already proved their worth in the fighting on the Tiddim Road. 


The battle did not go as planned, and OPERATION AYO was to become a fierce contest between Indian Army junior ranks and their Japanese counterparts.  In the end 48 Brigade was to fight its way out from behind enemy lines because of its superior junior leadership – the Havildars, Naiks and Lance Naiks (5) applied their battle procedures professionally and ruthlessly as the many citations for gallantry awards show, and skilled and courageous Asian junior leaders won the day for their British commanders.


The commencement of OPERATION AYO

During the night of 14 May 1944 the move to the Manipur River and the bridging of it at Shuganu proceeded as planned and 3,500 men and 1200 mules crossed the river to the west bank.  The Tehri Garwhal sappers then dismantled the bridge and concealed the crossing site.  During the night 2/5th R Gurkhas marched to Sagang where it harboured for the daylight hours, the remainder of the Brigade harbouring five kilometres to the rear at Komsan.  The harbour areas were not spotted by enemy aircraft and after dusk on 15 May 2/5th R Gurkhas marched through a dark and wet night the 13 kilometres to Point 3404, and put in a pre-dawn battalion attack.  Three platoons did not arrive in time for the attack but that did not matter as Point 3404 was found to be prepared for defence but unoccupied by the Japanese; the battalion then entrenched itself on its perimeter positions. 

Whilst Point 3404 was being seized the remainder of the Brigade marched from Komsan towards Milestone 33, harbouring again at 0900 hours in a wood 1,600 metres east of the Tiddim Road.  During the night march Sappers in the column dismantled the civilian bridge at Kumbi and mined the northern approaches in order to protect that flank.  Before reaching this second harbour area the Brigade column was visible from the air.  A British aircraft sent to observe the Brigade’s progress saw the tail of the column and circled it, attracting Japanese attention, and sporadic but ineffective fire from an enemy 105-mm gun followed.  This unwise action by a British pilot was to cause serious consequences for the Commando Company and later for ‘C’ Company 1/7th Gurkhas.  As surprise had been lost the Brigade column received an air drop of supplies at mid-day, and in the afternoon moved into the perimeter area being held by 2/5th R Gurkhas and dug themselves in.  Defence of the final perimeter line was shared between 2/5th R Gurkhas, the Gunners and the Sappers.

At noon the Commando Company attacked Sandong but found it held by a company from the Japanese 33 Divisional Transport Regiment from Churachandpur that had doubtless been ordered up onto the hill after the Brigade column had been seen from the air in the morning. The British attack failed and the Commando Company withdrew into the Brigade area.


Fighting to establish the road block

On 17 May 1/7th Gurkhas and its supporting Sappers left the Brigade harbour at 0130 hours and in two groups marched towards Milestones 33 and 31.4; enemy movement had been observed in the area.  Difficult ground slowed the battalion considerably and the Khuga River running east of the Tiddim Road was waist deep and had to be waded through – no easy task for shorter men carrying heavy loads. 

‘C’ Company moved towards the bridge at Milestone 31.4 with the mission of establishing a block to prevent Japanese movement southwards, but reconnaissance showed that the location was strongly defended.  Not having the strength to take the enemy position this company followed orders and withdrew southwards towards Milestone 33, but as radio silence had been imposed battalion headquarters was not aware of the absence of the planned block to the north.  

Battalion headquarters and two rifle companies reached Milestone 33.5 in the late morning, formed a hollow square and began advancing north astride the road to the intended block location.  Some enemy-held bunkers were located and quickly cleared but then a more serious threat became apparent.   What occurred next is best described in the citation for a Military Medal that was awarded to No. 78763 Rifleman Ganju Lama, 1/7th Gurkhas,: On 17 May 1944 two Companies moved forward to Mile 33 on the Imphal-Tiddim Road to secure a road block position in that area.  B Company was operating on the East of the main road and located an enemy position with many bunkers.  The leading platoon attacked and cleared the outlying bunker area and on reaching the nala came under heavy machine gun fire from three enemy tanks which were harboured there.  Rifleman Ganju Lama was Number 1 on the PIAT attached to the forward platoon and on seeing their difficulty immediately stalked forward and secured a position for his weapon, although by this time the enemy tanks had opened fire with High Explosive from their 37-mm guns.  Rifleman Ganju Lama then opened fire at 60 yards range and with his second bomb scored a direct hit on a tank which was later seen to be on fire.  The platoon was later recalled on orders from the Company commander and Ganju Lama remained to cover their withdrawal.  Throughout this action this rifleman displayed remarkable resource, coolness and entire disregard for his personal safety, setting a high example to all in his vicinity. (7) 

The presence of enemy tanks, besides being a surprise to 48 Brigade, prevented any further movement north and the 1/7th Gurkhas’ Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel J.A.R. Robertson MBE, ordered the establishment of the roadblock on the ground that the two companies were then holding; the nearest Milestone was 33.2.  A small nullah about 5 metres deep ran under the road and this was used as the northern end of the block (8).  Mules were carrying concertina wire, trees were felled to provide supports for bunker roofs, and the Gurkhas and Sappers dug defences and prepared obstacles. 


Right: Tank disabled by Ganju Lama

The successful preparation of this block and the imaginative use of explosives within and around it was assisted by the contribution made by Lieutenant Mahesh Chand Sharma of 70th Light Field Company who later received a periodic Military Cross with the citation: Before the road-block operation at Milestone 33 on the Tiddim Road in May 1944, Lieutenant Sharma (Right) and one Sapper went on a tiger patrol to reconnoitre the state of the tracks in the area of the proposed block, and it was partly due to the accurate report which he brought back that the block was successfully put in by the Brigade before the enemy had any knowledge of its impending occurrence.  During the roadblock operation itself, he led a successful night patrol on to the Tiddim Road between Milestones 30 and 32 and personally laid mines and booby-traps of a kind particularly difficult and dangerous to lay at night. (9)

The company dispositions of 1/7th Gurkhas were: ‘A’ Company west of the road, ‘D’ Company lined the road, and ‘B’ Company secured the bank of the Khuga River to the east; ‘C’ Company was recalled to the Brigade harbour to be in reserve.  Before dark air support arrived from Imphal and disabled another enemy tank 200 metres from the block perimeter.  After last light four enemy tanks approached from the south with full head-lights on, the Gurkhas immobilised two of these tanks with PIAT rounds and petrol bombs whilst a third damaged tank was towed away by the fourth.

About an hour later, at 2130 hours, a convoy of enemy trucks approached from the south.  No. 2350 Havildar Bhaijit Rai, 1/7th Gurkhas, had been given orders about dealing with enemy soft-skinned vehicles and the citation for his Military Medal describes his platoon’s action: From the 17 to 22 May 1944 the platoon which Havildar Bhaijit Rai was commanding was holding the South-west portion of the road block at milestone 33 on the Tiddim Road, his position being along the line of the road.  During the night 17/18 May enemy lorries approached down the road.  Acting with the utmost coolness Havildar Bhaijit Rai ordered his section to allow the lorries to enter his position and withhold fire until the maximum number had done so.  Fire was accordingly withheld until the enemy motor transport had entered the trap, whereby eight Jap lorries were destroyed by Havildar Bhaijit Rai’s platoon with heavy enemy losses in men and material (10).  All eight trucks were destroyed and the 52 officers and men in them were killed.  Also the Gurkhas recovered weapons, ammunition and some very useful sacks of rice from the enemy vehicles. 

Above: Medals of Naik Manbahadur Limbu MM

Later in the night Japanese infantry patrolled into the south of the roadblock and then attacked, and No.2962 Naik Manbahadur Limbu, 1/7th Gurkhas, was awarded a Military Medal in recognition of his actionsNaik Manbahadur Limbu was in command of a section at the road block at Mile 33 on the Tiddim Road.  On the night of 17th-18th May 1944 the enemy attacked in strength.  Naik Manbahadur Limbu thereupon left his bunker and counter-attacked the enemy with grenades, killing seven.  Himself wounded in the shoulder, he then went to one of the bunkers, took a Bren gun and firing from the hip killed a further five enemy, the remainder fleeing (11).

Post-war analysis of the situation around Imphal in late May 1944 showed that the Commander of the Japanese 15th Army that was invading Manipur, Lieutenant General R. Mutaguchi, had moved through Torbung on 13th May and established his 15th Army Command Post at Mollou, in the hills 10 kilometres north-west of Moirang. He immediately saw the need for reinforcements of tanks and infantry for 33 Division and ordered units to move up the road from Tiddim.  Thus elements of the Japanese 14 Tank Regiment (12) and an infantry company from the 2nd 124th Regiment drove unsuspectingly into the Torbung block.  But the Japanese were not slow in appreciating exactly what was happening at Torbung.

General N. Tanaka, who was moving north to replace the commander of the Japanese 33 Division who had been dismissed by Mutaguchi (13), climbed up Sandong Hill with Lieutenant Colonel Matsuki, commander of the transport regiment in Churachandpur.  From Sandong the extent of the roadblock could be easily seen, and as it appeared to contain only four or five hundred men Matsuki was ordered to take command of the groups of reinforcements coming up the Tiddim Road and eliminate the block.

On 18 May a company less a platoon from 2/5th R Gurkhas patrolled four kilometres to the north to Tharoilock in an attempt to locate and destroy Japanese artillery positions presumed to be there, but no guns were found.  Other 2/5th R Gurkha patrols were ordered to mount opportunity ambushes on the Tiddim Road south of the block.  ‘C’ Company 1/7th Gurkhas was tasked with attacking and seizing Sandong, but the attack failed with the Gurkhas losing 7 men killed and 19 wounded.  One of the reasons for this failure was that the shells from the mountain guns often burst when they impacted on tree branches above the Japanese bunkers, and so the strongly-roofed bunkers and their occupants remained intact and operational.  The one British success that day was an attack by a British Hurricane aircraft armed with 40-mm cannon on the Japanese tanks north of the block; several hits were seen and those tanks gave no further trouble to the block.


Japanese attacks on the block intensify

The risks attached to receiving air-to-ground fire support when in close contact were demonstrated early on 19 May when a British Hurricane mistakenly attacked the block.  The plane made its strike along the banks of the Khuga river where the mules were sheltering.  Five soldiers were killed and nine wounded; also 15 mules were killed and 22 wounded, with most of the wounded animals being put down.  Along with the over 80 Japanese previously killed these new remains of men and animals presented a serious disposal problem within the block as there was no suitable space in which to bury mules, and an unpleasant and unhealthy odour of putrefaction became another challenge for the block’s defenders.   

The casualty evacuation procedure was that the Advanced Dressing Station in the brigade administrative area sent wounded men on riding mules or by stretcher-bearer parties to Kumbi, eight kilometres distant, where a medical detachment was located.  After medical assessments the Sappers towed boats holding the wounded down the Manipur River to Shuganu; from Shuganu ambulances took the lightly wounded to hospitals around Imphal and the seriously wounded to airfields from where they were directly flown out of Manipur.  This system was improved on 21 May when 70 Field Company completed a short airstrip within the administrative area allowing light planes to fly in and remove the most serious casualties.

On the 19th May a patrol found a Nepalese man hiding near the roadblock.  He claimed to be a former Gurkha who had been living in Burma for several years and that he had been conscripted by the Japanese as a labourer; he had escaped from the enemy truck convoy when it was ambushed inside the block.  He was treated with suspicion as some Gurkhas captured by the Japanese had joined the renegade Indian National Army and were operating in Manipur alongside Japanese forces.  Whilst being escorted to Brigade Headquarters the prisoner attempted to escape by jumping into the Khuga River, whereupon every personal weapon in the vicinity was turned on him with the inevitable result.      

Enemy mortaring and shelling of the roadblock increased throughout the 19th May.  That night the Japanese 1st 67th (Seko) Battalion (14) launched repeated infantry attacks but by now 21 Mountain Regiment had accurately registered targets on likely enemy attack routes and the attackers left 116 dead outside the British perimeter, including the battalion commander.  1/7th Gurkhas lost 7 dead and 17 wounded including Colonel Robertson who was evacuated.  Major J.M. McGill took over command of the Battalion (15).

Above: The base of the hill was 21 Mountain Regiment's gun positions

That night also saw the first attack on the 2/5th R Gurkhas position on Point 3404.  Just before first light a 40-man enemy platoon penetrated ‘C’ Company’s positions; the ‘C’ Company Commander, Captain Raye Evans, led an immediate counter attack and was killed in the hand-to-hand fighting that resulted.  The Japanese lost 29 killed and one taken prisoner before the survivors retreated; Captain Evans was the only defender killed but Lieutenant Neville-Rolf and 12 Gurkhas were wounded.  For gallantry during this action No. 6559 Havildar Nandabir Bura, 2/5th R Gurkhas, received a Military Medal: Havildar Nandabir Bura was in command of a platoon holding a position of our perimeter defences on the hill above the road block at mile 33 on the Tiddim road.  Owing to the ground, the platoon formed a salient, the next platoon being echeloned back to the right rear, and was a key position in our defences.  In the early morning of the 20 May 1944, the enemy put in a strong attack on this position of our defences.  The company commander was killed and after heavy hand to hand fighting the enemy succeeded in overrunning the platoon position including platoon headquarters except for one or two isolated bunkers.  In the course of this fighting, Havildar Nandabir Bura was wounded in five places, but this in no way impaired his determination to destroy the enemy.  Under heavy and close range fire from the enemy now in our forward positions he reorganized the remainder of his platoon.  When later ordered to participate in a counter attack which was being organized he took a Tommy Gun and grenades and himself led his men forward.  Many enemy bodies were counted in the area of this platoon position and it is believed that none escaped.  The success of this counter attack was due to the leadership of Havildar Nandabir Bura and to his coolness and determination at all costs to close with and destroy the enemy.

No. 56335 Rifleman Sukbahadur Gurung, 2/5th R Gurkhas, also gained a Military Medal that night: On the 20th May 1944 Rifleman Sukbahadur Gurung was in a bunker with his section commander in a forward platoon position occupying a salient in the hills adjoining our road block at mile 33 on the Tiddim road.  On the early morning of 20 May the enemy attacked in strength.  Hand to hand fighting followed in the course of which his section commander was bayonetted at his side.  Alone, but undaunted by the enemy now in occupation of our positions on either side of him, Rifleman Sukbahadur continued to beat off the enemy attacking him, first with his rifle then with grenades, and, when these were exhausted, by using a bayonet in one hand whilst hurling stones and other missiles with the other.   Later, when our positions were completely retaken by a successful counter attack, Rifleman Sukbahadur was found thus, wounded by a bayonet thrust but still defying all efforts of the enemy to dislodge him, and with many dead Japs lying in the immediate vicinity of his position.  The magnificent fighting spirit and determination of this rifleman to hold his position against all odds and destroy any enemy coming against him was an example and inspiration to all ranks in his company.

The dead Japanese were well equipped and were carrying large quantities of food and ammunition.  During the following day the accuracy of the Japanese artillery fire increased causing casualties to both men and mules in 1st Royal (Kohat) Mountain Battery.

Whilst attacks on the roadblock continued none were of the intensity experienced on 19 May, as by then the Japanese had seen that Point 3404 was the vital ground that had to be taken.  21 Mountain Regiment was using Point 3404 for its observation posts and bringing very accurate fire down on enemy intrusions all around the battlefield, and when enemy targets were out of the range of the gunners the observation posts could give British Hurricanes excellent directions onto these targets.  The Japanese realised that if they seized the hill and observed from it then their own artillery and planes would be able to shoot and bomb 48 Brigade off its roadblock. 

On 20 May a serious enemy attack came close to getting inside 48 Brigade Headquarters, but the 2/5th R Gurkhas Pioneer Platoon Commander, No. 6166 Havildar Jasbahadur Gurung defeated the attack, winning an Indian Distinguished Service Medal with the citation: On 20th May 1944 the Battalion was in position east of Milestone 33 on the Imphal-Tiddim Road.  At about 0430 hours the perimeter held by C Coy was attacked by a strong platoon of enemy.  The enemy overran the two forward sections in the initial attack and then proceeded to form up behind a small pimple for a further attack.  Havildar Jasbahadur Gurung was commanding the Pioneer Platoon and having stood to and checked his platoon on the perimeter realized that the enemy had penetrated our position.  Acting entirely on his own initiative he seized an LMG and some magazines and ran towards the sound of firing.  On his way he met two Japs running down the path towards the Regimental Aid Post.  These he killed with a burst.  He then made his way to a small pimple which he thought was held by the enemy.  Finding this unoccupied he carried on, now under heavy fire, to another pimple where he saw the enemy forming up preparatory to attacking in the direction of Brigade Headquarters.  Still entirely on his own Jasbahadur engaged this party first from the standing position and then lying, pinned them to the ground for 20 minutes while a counter-attack was being organised.  His intensely accurate fire killed no less than 15 Japs – all later counted on the ground.  When the counter-attack went in Jasbahadur went with them, accounting for one more Jap.  The enemy, thoroughly disorganized and demoralized by Jasbahadur’s magnificent effort, were unable to stand up to the counter attack and were all killed with the exception of one who was taken prisoner.  In the space of 30 minutes, Jasbahadur, by his cool courage and complete contempt of danger had accounted for 18 Japs and utterly disorganized a very determined and highly armed force.  His prompt action restored a critical situation and saved Brigade Headquarters from suffering heavy casualties.

Above: Country to the east of Loktak Lake


What was left of the Seko Battalion was attacking, but so also were elements of newly-arrived Japanese units that were unwisely being trickle-fed into the battle by Lieutenant Colonel Matsuki who had established his command post at Milestone 34.  Junior ranks of 2/5th R Gurkhas defended their ground stubbornly as this citation for a Military Medal awarded to No. 63408 Lance Naik Asare Thapa, 2/5th R Gurkhas, proves: On the 20th May 1944, Lance-Naik Asare Thapa was in command of a section holding a portion of the hill perimeter adjoining the road block at mile 33 on the Tiddim road.  In the early morning of 20 May the enemy put in a strong attack and after heavy hand to hand fighting succeeded in overrunning a part of the platoon position which, owing to the nature of the ground was in a salient and partly isolated.  In no way deterred by the occupation by the enemy of our bunker positions on his right and left, Lance-Naik Asare with one other man continued to hold off the enemy attacking them with his tommy gun, and when his ammunition was exhausted, with grenades.  When the grenades were nearly finished he made his way back for more under heavy fire at point blank range and with these rejoined his companion in his bunker.  Isolated as they were, Lance Naik Asare and his companion continued to defy all efforts of the enemy to turn them out until the whole of our lost positions was regained by a successful counter attack when Lance Naik Asare’s bunker was found surrounded by enemy dead.  The determination and fighting spirit of this Non-Commissioned Officer were an inspiration to all who beheld him and there is little doubt that his successful resistance with a single companion in face of heavy odds contributed to the success of the counter attack which regained all our positions at considerable loss to the enemy.

Asare Thapa’s companion in the bunker, who stood his ground alone whilst Asare went back for more grenades, was No. 57556 Rifleman Dhalbahadur Ghale, 2/5th R Gurkhas, and his bravery under fire also earned him a Military Medal: Until he (Lance-Naik Asare) returned Rifleman Dalbahadur maintained his position alone himself killing 5 Japs.  When his grenades were exhausted the enemy closed with him, but Rifleman Dalbahadur fought them off with his rifle and bayonet until Lance-Naik Asare returned with more grenades.  By thus maintaining his position alone against heavy odds, the success of the counter attack which re-established our position was greatly facilitated.  The magnificent fighting spirit and indomitable determination of this rifleman to hold his ground and destroy all comers was an inspiration to all who saw him. (16)

On 21 May Japanese attacks continued on 1/7th Gurkhas at the roadblock and during one of these actions a Nepalese Rifleman, No. 75705 Kabirbahadur Tamang, 1/7th Gurkhas, demonstrated bravery and deadly determination that resulted in the award of the Military Medal: The enemy heavily attacked the Battalion’s road block, 75705 Rifleman Kabirbahadur Tamang was the Number 1 of a light machine gun in that portion of the perimeter which was most heavily attacked, his post coming under very heavy light machine gun and mortar  fire.  His Number 2 was killed and the men on his left and right were both wounded.  Despite this Rifleman Kabirbahadur Tamang stuck to his post and when his light machine gun jammed, he crawled forward with his grenades and killed two of the enemy who were creeping up from a nullah.  Coming back, he collected further grenades from his wounded companions and again crawled forward grenading the enemy as he went, killing six and forcing the remainder to withdraw.  Undoubtedly this action saved the lives of his wounded comrades, and probably stopped an enemy break-through which would have endangered the whole of his Company (17). 

Colonel Matsuki’s piecemeal attacks continued until 23 May when Lieutenant Colonel Kishita, a staff officer, took over command at Milestone 34 and launched a coordinated attack with a preliminary artillery barrage.  The survivors of the Seko Battalion supported by a company of the 2nd 154th (Iwazaki) Battalion attacked the roadblock from the south-west. This was a courageous effort, pressed home with determination until the defensive guns and mortars of 21 Light Mountain Regiment decimated the Japanese who were believed to have lost at least 60 all ranks killed. 

Right: British Projector Infantry Anti Tank.

An appreciation of the intensity of the infantry fighting around the roadblock can be gained from the citation for a Military Medal awarded to No. 3158 Lance Naik Harkabahadur Limbu, 1/7th Gurkha Rifles:  On the afternoon of 23 May 1944 the enemy attacked B Company perimeter at the road block position at Mile 33 on the road Imphal – Tiddim.  Lance Naik Harkabahadur Limbu was acting section commander.  The enemy obtained a footing in two of our bunker positions having killed all the defenders.  Lance Naik Harkabahadur Limbu immediately left his bunker and with complete disregard for heavy close range fire from the second wave of attacking infantry, charged the bunkers occupied by the Japs.  He used his Tommy gun and grenades to such good effect that the bunkers were cleared and the situation restored.  Later when the platoon commander had organised the counter-attack Harkabahadur Limbu led his section against the enemy positions across the road and was responsible for clearing the whole area in front of our forward defended localities and inflicting many casualties on the enemy.

On the 2/5th R Gurkhas perimeter on the 23rd May ‘B’ Company went out to make an offensive sweep during which the company commander, Major A.J.F. Tannock MC was wounded by machine gun fire and evacuated by a light plane.

But by now the situation on the 17 Division battlefield needed drastic re-appraisal.  48 Brigade had maintained its roadblock at Torbung as ordered and supported it efficiently from its brigade area, but the Divisional Plan was going awry as stubborn Japanese resistance north and south of Bishenpur had blocked the movement southwards of 63 Brigade, whilst 32 Brigade was heavily involved in fighting in the Silchar Track area.  Instead of being the anvil on which the Japanese 33 Division would be destroyed, 48 Brigade was now in real danger of being itself isolated and defeated in detail.

 

The fighting around Moirang

Late on 22nd May Brigadier Cameron received a message from Headquarters 17 Division: “Owing serious situation in Divisional Box at milestone 10, and 63 Brigade being unable advance due to enemy large infiltration to their north, 48 Brigade will be prepared to withdraw from road-block area and rejoin Division via Shuganu on 24 May or before if situation makes it necessary (18).”  Three options were considered – firstly to sit tight and maintain the block, but the hundreds of decomposing Japanese bodies and mule carcases had created deplorable sanitary conditions, and the Brigade was losing men daily to Japanese attacks, artillery fire and sniping.  Secondly to withdraw by the relatively safe approach route through Shuganu, and thirdly to withdraw northwards directly west of Logtak Lake.  The first option was discarded but the other two were kept open by 17 Division agreeing to the Brigade moving north to establish a new block at Moirang.  As preparations were made on the 24th May an incident in the Block demonstrated the ‘death before dishonour’ attitude of many Japanese officers when one of them appeared from behind the burned-out lorries and charged with a bayonet fixed to his weapon until he was shot down.

Above: Manipur River below Loktak Lake

The Brigade plan for the move to Moirang was that 1/7th Gurkhas would lead and capture Moirang, detaching a company to block the road temporarily at Tanglaobi at Milestone 28.  The remainder of the Brigade would follow with 2/5th R Gurkhas being the rearguard supported by 1st Royal (Kohat) Battery.  2/5th R Gurkhas was to leave a deception party behind to give the impression of a fully occupied Block.  The Sappers lifted un-detonated mines, demolished the vital parts of the Japanese tank in the vicinity, and laid over 60 booby traps and a 150-pound demolition charge under the bridge in the block; the charge was set to blow on a 12-hour timer.  Another Sapper party went back to repair the demolished bridge at Kumbi and to lift the mines laid there.  Concurrently 21 Mountain Regiment fired on all likely targets whilst the RAF delivered strikes on Sandong, known enemy gun positions and Moirang. 

By 2030 hours 1/7th Gurkhas was out of the Block and inside the Brigade area, having lost four men killed by their own artillery dropping short.  An hour later the battalion was on the move again towards Moirang under a dark moonless sky, this led to navigational confusion within the Brigade and the crossing of the Khuga River took much longer than anticipated with some mules and pieces of equipment being lost.  Once across the river the large number of footpaths in the area led several subunits astray.  The 2/5th R Gurkhas deception party under Major R.G.R. Parry MC got across the Khuga at first light, to the sound of an impressive Japanese bombardment falling on the now deserted roadblock area.  As daylight replaced the darkness of the night it became apparent that the Brigade was widely scattered.

But then a rallying call was heard - the sound of firing as two platoons of ‘B’ Company 1/7th Gurkhas advanced onto an enemy position at Moirang Khunou village just south of Moirang, and immediately attacked and captured it, killing over 30 Japanese.  Moirang Khunou was the assembly point for the proposed Brigade attack on Moirang and now isolated subunits headed towards it.  As the Brigade reassembled it became apparent that 6th (Jacob’s) Mountain Battery, marching with a section of the mortar battery, had moved too far to the north-west before turning east towards Moirang Khunou, and this had allowed the Japanese to set a successful ambush that the Battery marched into.  Several men and mules were killed and the other mules stampeded, but two strong and courageous men did what they could to retrieve the situation. 

Jemadar Hakim Ali, 21 Indian Light Mountain Regiment, was awarded a Military Cross: On the night 24/25 May 1944 the Brigade executed a night march across country through enemy held territory to Moirang.  The two platoons detailed as escort for 6 Mountain Battery lost touch during the march and, at about a half hour before first light, the battery ran into an enemy ambush.  The battery sustained heavy casualties from short range machine guns and rifle fire, and grenades.  The Subedar Major was seriously wounded in the first volley leaving Jemadar HAKIM ALI in charge of the guns.  He was wounded himself but, despite the general confusion he managed to get two of his guns in action and to put out local protection by first light.  He then proceeded to inflict heavy casualties on the enemy at point blank range, his well sited local protection parties driving off repeated enemy attempts to attack the guns, until the battery was ordered to withdraw.  This young Viceroy’s Commissioned Officer’s magnificent handling of so vulnerable a column as a mountain battery on the move, deserves the very highest praise.  His coolness and fine example to his men undoubtedly saved the battery from what might have easily lead to almost complete annihilation.

No. 32907 Lance-Naik Inayat Khan, 21 Indian Light Mountain Regiment, received a Military Medal: In the early morning of 25 May 1944 6th Mountain Battery ran into an enemy ambush.  The battery sustained heavy casualties from short range machine gun and rifle fire, and from grenades.  Naik Inayat Khan organised most efficient local protection driving off repeated enemy attacks to the guns, themselves, and inflicting heavy casualties.  Owing to the number of mule casualties, when the battery was ordered to withdraw, much essential equipment including gun parts had to be manhandled out of the position under heavy enemy fire.  Naik Inayat Khan was quite outstanding, not only in his personal exertions which were an example and inspiration to all, but in his coolness and determination to salvage every possible item of equipment.  He was the last Non-Commissioned Officer to leave the position, himself carrying a part of the gun, encouraging his gunners, and assisting with the evacuation of the wounded.  His conduct throughout the whole of this action stood out as exceptional and even eclipsed the fine steady work of the more senior Non-Commissioned Officers present
 

Left: Medals of Edward Douglas Garnett

Brigadier Cameron ordered the two platoons of ‘B’ Coy 1/7th Gurkhas under Major M.P. Wyatt to immediately attack the ambush position, which they did, driving back the Japanese.  Although many mules were recovered vital parts of two guns had been lost and the Battery was reformed as one section of two guns.  By then 2/5th R Gurkhas had reformed at Moirang Khunou, allowing 1/7th Gurkhas to attack and occupy Moirang, which was found to be undefended.  2/5th R Gurkhas were then tasked with establishing a block at Ngankha Lowa, the junction of the track from Moirang with the Tiddim Road.  This time the enemy was dug in on the objective.  ‘A’ and ‘C’ Companies advanced under Major Parry across open paddy fields until the enemy brought down heavy machine gun fire.  Then, with the paddy field bunds for low cover, the two companies used fire and movement tactics until they could rush the enemy position; 18 Japanese were killed and 6 captured for the loss of 2 Gurkhas killed and 9 wounded.  Major Parry dug in on the road junction establishing a new block on the Tiddim Road. 

The capture of this roadblock position owed much to the bravery and determination of No. 64689 Rifleman Manbahadur Newar, 2/5th R Gurkhas, who received a Military Medal (downgraded from an IDSM recommendation): This Rifleman was with the left reserve platoon during the attack on the Moirang road junction on 25 June 1944 (19).  Whilst crossing open paddy fields heavy enemy automatic fire was encountered and there was a temporary check.  During this Rifleman Manbahadur continued to move forward and quickly came up with one of the forward platoons.  When the advance continued Manbahadur with a magnificent display of courage surged on ahead and alone, charged one of the bunkers, firing rapid fire from his rifle at the hip thus enabling him to get close up.  A grenade from him completed the destruction of the enemy inside.

The courage and dash of the remainder of the platoon so demoralized the enemy that he left his trenches and fled.  Leaving the mopping up to others Manbahadur, seeing some Japs fleeing down the road sped after them.  Some 6 took cover under a culvert and Manbahadur set to work to tackle these single handed.  Standing completely in the open on the road he hurled his two remaining grenades at them and then waited to see the effect.  Still some enemy remained so Manbahadur returned to fetch some more grenades.  The Japs followed him up with their grenades but that failed to deter him.  Having collected more grenades and placed an LMG to a flank to catch any Japs he should flush he went back again along the road to the bridge.  The Japs were still full of fight and met him with more grenades.  Ignoring these he manoeuvred for position and hurled his own at them.  To complete his work he went back to the LMG and directed heavy fire into the enemy’s hiding place.

Throughout this action this Rifleman set a magnificent example of cool courage and determination.  He moved round in a business like manner seeking Japs to kill them.  He accounted for 6 Japs with his own weapon.  His gallantry and initiative were an inspiration to all who saw him.

Right: Douglas Garnett MC on left

Meanwhile back at the old Torbung roadblock the delayed demolition charge ignited as the Japanese moved towards the block, and the booby traps started causing enemy casualties until the devices could all be located and cleared; Japanese engineers then worked to replace the demolished bridge to allow tanks to move forward against the rear of 48 Brigade and ammunition trucks to move into the foothills west of Moirang where Japanese artillery batteries were located.  Strong enemy pressure was soon exerted on the 2/5th R Gurkhas block at Ngankha Lowa, and 1st Royal (Kohat) Battery was ordered to directly support the block with one of the two remaining 6th (Jacob’s) Battery guns attached, sited in an anti-tank role.  Major Edward Douglas Garnett, Royal Regiment of Artillery, commanded the 1st Royal Battery and acted as Forward Observation Officer at the block.  After a very strenuous night’s fighting he was the recipient of a Military Cross: On 25 May 1944 at Moirang Crossroads Major Garnett’s battery was supporting the 2/5 RGR (Royal Gurkha Regiment). As it was getting dark the position was attacked by four enemy tanks advancing from the South which opened very heavy fire with 47mm shells on our positions, causing serious casualties in the first few minutes. Major Garnett at once brought down accurate fire on the tanks.  Ignoring the heavy fire of the tanks, he stood upright on the parapet of the trench in order to spot the flashes of the enemy tank guns.  Further accurate fire directed by Major Garnett soon drove off two more tanks and the fourth later struck a mine and blew up.  Meanwhile, casualties had been heavy and all available S.B.s [secondary batteries] and nursing orderlies were fully employed.  A 3.7-inch Howitzer of 6 Battery sited in an anti-tank role with the 2/5 Gurkhas had received a direct hit on the Gun Pit, killing the officer and wounding all but the number one. Major Garnett at once went to this gun, organised the dressing and evacuation of the wounded and raised a scratch gun team.  At first light this gun was able to bring down effective fire on the enemy.  Throughout the whole night’s action Major Garnett’s outstanding courage, coolness and complete disregard for his personal safety under murderous short range shell fire was an inspiration. The prompt and accurate manner in which he brought down fire on the tanks was most heartening to the morale and was a primary factor in the breaking up of the enemy attack.

All the soldiers on the block endured a difficult and dangerous night.  The monsoon broke and torrential rain swamped the trenches.  The Gurkhas took nearly 50 casualties from enemy fire and the seriously wounded, who included Jemadar Khatan and Major Parry, former commander of the Brigade Commando Company but now commanding ‘C’ Company, had to be treated in total darkness by the battalion Medical Officer, Captain Sukumar Sanyal, Indian Medical Service (20).  Lieutenant Francis Cyril Law Taylor, Royal Regiment of Artillery, was the officer killed on the 6th (Jacob’s) Battery gun position.  Mines laid by Lieutenant Roger Urwin, Royal Engineers, and his sappers were instrumental in disabling two tanks and in forcing the surviving two tanks to retreat southwards, but the Japanese tank crews inflicted a lot of damage before they tracked back to the south, doubtless to lie-up under cover from the daylight activities of Royal Air Force and Indian Air Force pilots.

That same night ‘D’ Company 2/5th R Gurkhas under Captain T.B. Altham was in a detached location in a village around 1,000 yards north-west of the block.  The Japanese Iwazaki Battalion attacked but was repulsed.  ‘D’ Company operations continued for another 24 hours during which No. 64308 Lance Naik Bakhatbahadur Tamang, 2/5th R Gurkhas, won a Military Medal: On 26 May 1944 in the vicinity of Moirang the platoon to which this Rifleman belongs was ordered to attack and capture a strongly held enemy position.  The advance was slowed up for a time by a sniper who was causing casualties.  Seeing this Lance Naik Bakhatbahadur set out to find him which he did and then shot him.  The attack was pressed home but casualties were being suffered from an enemy light machine gun post.  Again this Lance Naik showing complete disregard for his safety started to stalk it.  Working his way forward alone he spotted its position and threw a grenade killing the Jap behind the gun.  Dashing forward he occupied the trench, seized the gun and turned it on the enemy, killing four more.  The initiative and resourcefulness of this Lance Naik were outstanding and his disregard for personal safety and cool courage were of a very high order.

Eventually ‘D’ Company was surrounded by Japanese troops.  Jemadar Debiraj Gurung, 2/5th R Gurkhas, was ordered to force a way out which he did, resulting in the award of a Military Cross: On the night of 26 May 1944 during the fighting withdrawal from the road block at Mile 33 of the Tiddim Road, D Coy became separated from the remainder of the battalion, at over a mile’s distance and was entirely surrounded by the enemy.  Jemadar Debiraj Gurung, commanding No 19 Platoon, was ordered to take his platoon and force a passage through he encircling Japs in order to enable the company to continue its movement.  Jemadar Debiraj Gurung at once attacked on the right flank, but was driven back by heavy fire which caused a number of casualties in the platoon.  Nothing daunted, the Jemadar put in a second attack on the other flank, at a place where two Jap LMGs had caused us several casualties.  Jemadar Debiraj led the attack himself in the face of devastating automatic fire with such dash and determination that the two Jap LMGs were captured and all enemy in the vicinity killed or put to flight.  The success of this attack was due to Jemadar Debiraj’s resourceful leadership and, above all his indomitable determination to close with his enemy and destroy him.  His conduct on this and on other occasions was an inspiration to all who beheld it‘A’ Company under Major D.H. Houston came out to support ‘D’ Company’s move back into the battalion perimeter.

During the 26th May the Brigade evacuated casualties to Kumbi, but this route was closed down on the following day when 17 Division approved Brigadier Cameron’s request to continue fighting his way north to Ningthoukong.  The Kumbi medical staging post was closed and withdrawn through Shuganu; now there was only one way for casualties to be moved – forward with the fighting troops, transported on riding mules or stretchers.



The fighting withdrawal around Ningthoukhong

Although only 8 kilometres (5 miles) separated 48 Brigade from the 1st Bn The West Yorkshire Regiment, the leading battalion of 17 Division that was in Ningthoukhong, it took four days for the Brigade to force its way through that short distance.  On the 27th May the 1/7th Gurkhas took Phubalowa (21) without encountering opposition and the Brigade closed up on there for the night.  ‘A’ Company of 2/5th R Gurkhas became involved in severe fighting in Ngangkha Lowa, the site of the second block, and needed support to extract itself to Phubalowa.  When all units were across the now flooded stream south of Phubalowa 70 Light Field Company laid anti-tank mines to the south, blew the bridge, and laid a minefield on the road to the north.  A rearguard with a gun from 6th (Jacob’s) Battery covered the blown bridge.  The Brigade felt safe from a tank attack and was relieved that the Japanese gunners overlooking Phubalowa to the west were not firing; this indicated that enemy artillery ammunition lorries were not yet getting through the old Torbung block.

Left: The now dry Ningthoukhong stream that the Carabiniers could not bridge

During the following day 1/7th Gurkhas supported by 37 Mortar Battery moved north into Thinunggei but when the advance continued towards Ningthoukhong Kha Khunou it was stopped by Japanese machine gun fire and an infantry gun; Gurkha flanking probes were repulsed and the battalion dug in at Thinunggei whilst the sappers mined the road to the north and south.  Friendly faces appeared in the form of a West Yorkshire patrol accompanying Major McCabe the Divisional Liaison Officer; this patrol had moved to the west of Ningthoukhong.  Major McCabe advised that there was a West Yorkshire company in North Ningthoukhong along with a troop of Lee tanks from the 3rd Carabiniers that was attempting to bridge the stream running through the village. 

In the early hours of 29th May the Forward Observation Officer with the gun to the south of Phubalowa reported the detonation of three anti-tank mines across the stream.  Nothing could be observed but the Japanese were working hard to lift mines and to throw footbridges across the water and soon a medium tank drove up to the blown bridge and fired in support of an infantry attack that suddenly materialized from the darkness.  The Gurkha rearguard inflicted casualties on the attackers but was nearly overwhelmed and 2/5th R Gurkha Battalion Headquarters ordered a withdrawal, abandoning the mountain gun.  ‘D’ Company 2/5th R Gurkhas counter-attacked but was pinned down by such heavy fire that it took four hours to extract the Company; during this action Captain Altham was wounded – the fifth officer casualty in the Battalion in a fortnight.

Meanwhile to the north 1/7th Gurkhas attacked Ningthoukhong Kha Khunou being stopped twice, but success came on the third attempt when ‘B’ Company seized the eastern end of the village at 0430 hours; four hours later the whole village was occupied.  Ten Japanese lorries fully loaded with gun spares, ammunition, vehicle spares, petrol, mule saddles, blankets and gas masks were found and burned by the Sappers.  The Brigade concentrated on Ningthoukhong Kha Khunou whilst Major McCabe’s patrol, now accompanied by the 48 Brigade Intelligence Officer, successfully worked its way back to Divisional Headquarters by moving to the west of the Tiddim Road. ‘B’ and ‘C’ Companies 1/7th Gurkhas were then tasked to attack Ningthoukhong which was held by the Japanese 4th Independent Engineer Regiment who had constructed some formidable defensive bunkers (22).  The Gurkhas made little progress as the opposition was determined, and the fighting was fierce and relentless.  There was no support from 17 Division as the 3rd Carabiniers could not get their tanks across the flooded stream that bisected the village. Whilst standing on an embankment and exhorting a company commander (23) into further aggressive action (24) Brigadier Cameron, who had elected to command the battalion attack in the absence of Colonel Robertson, was shot in the chest but luckily the bullet hit his binoculars and only stunned him for a few hours.  A posthumous Indian Order of Merit (Second Class) was awarded for gallantry that day to No. 2505 Havildar Garuldhoj Rai (25), 1/7th Gurkhas, but sadly the citation cannot be located (26). 

Three junior ranks in 1/7th Gurkhas gained gallantry awards during this fighting.  No. 78369 Rifleman Lakhbahadur Tamang MM (27) gained a Bar to his Military Medal: On 29th May 1944 when his Company attacked the enemy position in NINGTHOUKONG village south of BISHENPUR, Rifleman LAKBAHADUR TAMANG’s platoon was held up by very heavy fire from a cleverly concealed enemy trenched position.  Despite repeated attempts the platoon was unable to get forward, but Rifleman LAKBAHADUR TAMANG, on his own initiative collected additional grenades from his section and with complete disregard for the very heavy enemy fire edged his way round to a flank of the enemy position and threw three grenades killing one of the enemy and wounding others.  This attracted the enemy fire in his direction but he continued to crawl forward and threw the remainder of his grenades killing two more of the enemy.  This Rifleman by his coolness, determination to kill the enemy and complete disregard for safety was an example to all, and by his initiative enabled his platoon to move forward and take the enemy position.

Two more Riflemen gained the Military Medal.  No. 76180  Karnabahadur Rai:  In the attack on Jap positions in NINGTHOUKHONG on 29 May 1944 this Rifleman by himself attacked a bunker with grenades killing three enemy and causing Japs in nearby bunkers to withdraw.  He killed two more Japs of this party while they were running away.  With complete disregard for his own safety he advanced further under heavy light machine gun fire and came upon a large group of Japs and killed eleven of them with grenades.  This resulted in the capture of a large amount of medical equipment and the forward advance of his platoon.  Throughout the action this Rifleman exhibited courage of a high order and a determination to kill the enemy that was an inspiration to all ranks.

No. 76438 Panchbahadur Rai (a periodic award): During the month of April, May and June 1944 when his Battalion was fiercely engaged with the enemy, this rifleman continually showed outstanding initiative and a clear cool-headed bravery of a very high standard.  Throughout this period when he was acting as Number 1 with a Bren, Rifleman PANCHABAHADUR RAI continually took every opportunity to exert himself and harass the enemy with effective fire from positions, the occupation of which invariably showed resourcefulness and great courage.  As an example of this, on the 29th May 1944, B Company was right forward Company attacking the village of NINGTHOUKHONG.  Rifleman PANCHABAHADUR RAI was operating with the flanking platoon.  Having secured the southern approaches of the village, the platoon came under heavy light machine gun fire from two enemy bunkers situated in a dense clump of bamboo jungle.  Observing that his platoon was held by these bunkers, this Rifleman on his own initiative, took his Bren out onto the enemy’s right rear and brought such effective fire to bear on the bunkers that his platoon was enabled to move forward and clear them of the remaining enemy.  Later the same afternoon, his section again came under heavy light machine gun fire from the bunker positions in the centre of the village.  Once again, Rifleman PANCHABAHADUR RAI, with complete disregard for his own safety and acting on his own initiative, crawled forward and was successful in knocking out an enemy light machine gun and clearing the bunker with his grenades, killing four Japs who were in position, thus enabling the advance to continue.  This man joined the Battalion on active service with a reputation for extreme bravery, he has fully lived up to this during the withdrawal from Tiddim and in the Imphal fighting.  His conduct and readiness to assume initiative mark him out as a leader of great potentialities.  His personality and bravery make of him a natural leader whom his men will follow anywhere.

That day the Japanese artillery to the west was firing, and it was obvious that enemy ammunition resupply convoys were now getting through and   Brigadier Campbell requested continuous air cover over the enemy gun positions.  As the fighting for the route through the Japanese defenses in Ningthoukhong was presenting difficulties and causing too many casualties Brigadier Cameron tasked Lieutenant Urwin to find a route along the shore of Logtak Lake.  The Sappers marked a trail in the shallow lake edge with poles and built two temporary bridges.  On 30th May ‘B’ Company 1/7th Gurkhas penetrated East Ningthoukhoung and fought hard to divert Japanese attention whilst at 1100 hours the Brigade non-infantry units followed Lieutenant Urwin’s lakeside route northwards. 

During the fighting in East Ningthoukhong No. 75909 Rifleman Lakbahadur Limbu gained a Military Medal: On 30 May 44 during the attack on an enemy position at NINGTHOUKHONG Rifleman Lakbahadur Limbu went ahead of his section to recce the enemy position and having located it threw his grenades killing five enemy.  Unable to reach more enemy with grenades he returned for a Bren gun and advanced alone firing from the hip and killed seven Japs.  When the section came up to him the Japs had withdrawn from their position.  Once more he went forward and helped the section on the right to advance, killing two more Japs.  Throughout this action and on all previous occasions this young Rifleman showed a high example of courage and a determination to close with and kill the enemy.  Lakbahadur Limbu’s Company Commander, Lieutenant (Temporary Captain) (Acting Major) Maurice Philip Wyatt later received a very well deserved Distinguished Service Order.

When the Brigade non-infantry units had passed down the withdrawal route 2/5th R Gurkhas followed and then 1/7th Gurkhas broke contact in Ningthoukhong and brought up the rear.  At Potsangbam 17 Division had ambulances waiting and casualties were driven north to the Imphal hospitals.  However the Japanese artillery fired on the targets that its observers could see or had previously registered and two ambulances were hit, killing all inside the vehicles.  The 2/5th R Gurkhas had to suffer one more casualty when its Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Keith Davidson Outram was killed by a Japanese mortar bomb on the 30th May.  Major E.P. Townsend, who had been left out of battle because of a poisoned leg, came forward and took command of the Battalion.

On 31st May 48 Brigade took over the defence of Potsangbam but under a new commander, as Brigadier Ronnie Cameron was being ‘rested’ by the Commander of 17 Division, Major General D.T. Cowan (28).  Brigadier Cameron took his vast tactical experience, enthusiasm and leadership talents to the Schools of Musketry at Saugor and Infantry at Mhow (29).  He was awarded a Second Bar to his Distinguished Service Order for his command of OPERATION AYO (30).  Lieutenant Colonel J.A.R. Robertson, 1/7th Gurkha Rifles, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.



The balance sheet for OPERATION AYO

The casualties sustained by 2/5th R Gurkhas were two British officers and 47 Gurkha Other Ranks killed and four British officers, one Gurkha officer and 109 Gurkha Other Ranks wounded.  The 1/7th Gurkhas Regimental History gives a consolidated figure of 59 killed and 146 wounded.  Including the gunners, sappers and supporting services the total OPERATION AYO casualty figures were 120 killed and 301 wounded.  The Japanese casualty figures were around 450 killed, 700 wounded and 6 tanks destroyed.

General Cowan sent a message of congratulation:

“We are justifiably proud of your great achievement.  The fine fighting spirit shown by all officers and other ranks has inflicted a major reverse on the enemy.  The enemy on this front are disintegrating fast as the result of the heavy blows struck by all troops.  In the near future we shall advance and throw the enemy back.  I know I can again call on 48 Brigade to play a leading part.  I congratulate you all.  I regret the casualties but they have not been in vain.”

But this writer has a feeling of unease about the 4 Corps management of the proceedings.  There are too many similarities between the battle fought a few weeks earlier at Sangshak in the Naga Hills by 50 Indian Parachute Brigade and the battle fought by 48 Indian Light Brigade at Torbung, Moirang and Ningthoukhong.  Both brigades were too lightly equipped for the actions in which they were finally engaged; in both cases the strengths and rapid movements of the Japanese opposing forces were underestimated (if not unrecognised in the Sangshak action) by 4 Corps staff; both brigades probably contributed far more intelligence information from the battlefield that they received from Corps HQ; both brigades fought valiantly and took many casualties, the Paras slowing down the enemy advance on Kohima and 48 Brigade slowing down the enemy activities west of Imphal; neither brigade received ground support from an adjacent division; and both Brigade Commanders were temporarily rendered insensible on their withdrawals and both were then immediately posted out of the Corps theatre. 

In his book Major General Ian Lyall Grant comments on Lieutenant General G.A.P. Scoones, the 4 Corps Commander:

“General Scoones was a highly intelligent and capable officer with a fine record from World War I but his quiet and rather studious manner did not make him a very inspiring leader.  It was his custom to solve difficult and complex problems by writing long military appreciations. . . . his decisions were sound and wise but he lacked a sense of urgency in getting them implemented.”

In early 1944 in preparation for a future move back into Burma 4 Corps had been developing three routes from Manipur – the Tiddim Road down which 17 Division was located, the Tamu – Palel road into the Kabaw valley in which a British brigade was located, and a jeep track further north that connected Ukhrul and Sangshak with the Kabaw valley down which special forces reconnaissance parties operated.  At no time does it appear that any appreciation was made of what should be done if the Japanese decided to use those three routes for an invasion of Manipur and Assam, but the Japanese did exactly that in 1944 using elephants to carry their artillery when trucks could not get through.

But the bottom line was that 4 Corps Headquarters had not previously fought the Japanese and could not appreciate how well that enemy could move and fight in jungle.  Generals Slim and Cowan and Brigadier Cameron had all fought in the withdrawal from Burma and they were mentally prepared for the next round.  4 Corps Headquarters had arrived in Imphal from Iraq which was a rather different theatre. 

But Generals and their Headquarters do not win battles except in Staff College presentations and personal memoirs; it is the attitude, skill and courage of the men in the rifle sections, on the gun positions and in the sapper field squadrons that actually decide the outcome.  It can be no other way, and the men who fought and caused attrition to the enemy thrusts at Torbung and Sangshak bought time with their blood for 4 Corps to finally make the correct moves.  This article is dedicated to those courageous Nepalese and Indian soldiers.   


APPENDIX

Citations for Awards of Companionship of the Distinguished Service Order

SECOND BAR TO THE DSO – Brigadier (Temporary) RONALD THOMAS CAMERON, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force), Indian Army.

Period 16 May – 15 Aug 1944.

Brig CAMERON during this operational period distinguished himself again by his inspiring leadership and personal gallantry.  The following are typical of his high grade leadership throughout the period of his command.  Under his direction 48 Ind Inf Bde successfully attacked and defeated the enemy who were established at LANGGOL east of PALEL.  By the skilfull use of his commando troops in rear of the enemy he inflicted considerable casualties on them.

This operation was closely followed by the move of 48 Bde via SHUGANU to establish itself in rear of the enemy 33 Div at MS 32 on the road IMPHAL - TIDDIM.  The success of this operation depended on a secret night move which in itself called for the most careful planning and high grade coordination and direction by the Bde Comd.  Brig CAMERON’s skilful planning, coordination and leadership resulted in the Bde securing a vital feature overlooking MS 33 without the enemy’s knowledge, after two seven mile night marches across difficult country.  Having secured this important tactical feature Brig CAMERON established a road block before the enemy could oppose the operation in any strength.

 Thereafter the enemy reacted quickly to the attack on his L of C.  He threw in fresh reinforcements, which included medium tanks, and attacked 48 Ind Inf Bde fiercely for several days.  In spite of the enemy’s superiority in armour and artillery and the fact that anti-tank artillery could not accompany 48 Bde on the operation, inspired by their commander’s personal gallantry (which was aptly described as fanatical at times) and leadership, 48 Bde held on to the road block and their commanding positions dominating the enemy L of C, and destroyed a large quantity of MT, several medium tanks and killed between 400 – 500 enemy.

Owing to the Japanese attacks on the BISHENPUR box area during this period, Brig CAMERON was ordered to move his bde to BISHENPUR via the TIDDIM – IMPHAL road and destroy the enemy en route.  This was a difficult operation to carry out as it entailed breaking from intimate contact, and a subsequent move of 15 miles attacking enemy defended localities on the way; whilst, at the same time, holding off any attempts to pursue by the enemy with armour and infantry. 

Brig CAMERON skilfully extricated his brigade from the road block position by a well laid on night operation; at the same time he captured MOIRANG village, an enemy supply stronghold, destroying the enemy stores there and killing the garrison.  Then, after three days intensive fighting, he successfully led 48 Bde into its allotted positions in the BISHENPUR box area.  The enemy pursuit forces of infantry and tanks was prevented from getting to close grips, and the enemy defended localities on the way were successfully dealt with, much M.T. and important equipment being destroyed as a result.  The commanding officer of one of the infantry battalions had been wounded, and in the attack on the last enemy stronghold before BISHENPUR, NINGTHOUKONG, Brig CAMERON personally took over command of the attacking battalion and by his inspiring leadership and personal gallantry drove the enemy garrison out of the West of the stronghold and cleared a way for the remainder of the Brigade.  This enabled all casualties to be successfully evacuated.  In this operation Brig CAMERON was wounded by a sniper but he refused to be evacuated until he had carried out the task allotted to the brigade by his commander.  It is no exaggeration to say that without Brig CAMERON’s inspiring leadership, personal courage, and determination to win through, the operation would not have paid so worthwhile a dividend.

  DSO – Major (temporary Lieutenant Colonel) JAMES ALEXANDER ROWLAND ROBERTSON, MBE, 6th Gurkha Rifles.

Lt Col J.A.R. Robertson was in command of 1/7 GR until he was wounded on 20 May 1944 during the operation AYO in which 48 Bde established a road block out at MS 33 on the IMPHAL-TIDDIM road.  This road block cut the Jap L of C and apart from causing the enemy extremely heavy casualties, deprived him of essential supplies.

On 16th May 1944 the 1/7 GR advancing from pt 3404 attacked and captured part of the main road at MS 33 establishing a road block there under the determined leadership of Lt Col ROBERTSON, this road block was maintained for ten days when it was decided to establish another road block near MOIRANG.  During this time the position was occupied by this Bn, which was overlooked by the enemy in the foothills to the WEST, was subjected to the most determined attacks.

The Japs made use of Tanks, 4 of which were disabled by the Bn, intensive bombardment by 105mm, 75mm and 70mm guns and heavy concentrated 4” mortar fire in order to dislodge the 1/7 GR from their position.  Only once did the enemy succeed in gaining a footing in the perimeter which was very inadequately protected by wire, and the situation was quickly restored by an immediate counter attack.

A carefully laid ambush organised by Lt Col ROBERTSON allowed 8 enemy MT to enter the position.  These were destroyed, the personnel suffered severe casualties and a large quantity of arms, ammunition and stores were captured.  Success of the operation depended on the ability of troops to capture and retain possession of part of the main road.

The organization of the road block after the successful attack on MS 33 was due to the courage and leadership of Lt Col ROBERTSON.  The dogged resistance of the Bn, against repeated attacks, and intensive shelling and mortaring was of the highest order.  In spite of the severe ordeal to which they were subjected, the men encouraged by the cheerful presence of their commanding officer and his unflinching determination, resisted all enemy attempts to oust them from their positions. (31)


  DSO – Lieutenant (Temporary Captain) (Acting Major) MAURICE PHILIP WYATT, 1st Battalion 7th Gurkha Rifles.

A/Maj M.P. Wyatt, 1/7 Gurkha Rifles, commanded B Coy in the operations from 13 to 31 May 1944 during which 48 Ind Lt Bde moved from the Palel area and established a road block in the rear of the Japanese 33 Division at Mile 33 on the road Imphal-Tiddim.  During the advance across the KHUGA RIVER and the attack on the Jap position at Mile 33 Major Wyatt led his Coy with the greatest skill and played a prominent part in establishing the road block.  The enemy attacked our positions on the road block with the greatest determination and fanaticism every night from its inception on the 17 May until forces moved North on 24 May.  During this period Major Wyatt displayed outstanding coolness, and courage and his conduct of the defence of his sector of the perimeter contributed in a great degree to the heavy loss of men and material inflicted on the enemy.  On the evening of 23 May the enemy made repeated assaults on the perimeter held by B Coy and, towards dusk, succeeded in penetrating one sector destroying two of our bunkers.  Major Wyatt immediately organised and led a counter-attack which succeeded in dislodging the enemy and pursued them beyond the perimeter, killing no less than 45 Japs for certain on this occasion alone.

On the night 24/25 May the Bn was ordered to rejoin its main forces which, after concentrating, advanced North across MOIRANG KHUNOU.  The advance was made across broken and swampy ground.  During its course a Mountain Battery and D Coy became separated from the main body and were subsequently ambushed by the enemy immediately North of MOIRANG KHUNOU.  Mules and equipment became scattered and there was a grave danger of losing the guns.  At daylight on 25 May, Major Wyatt and his Coy were ordered to advance and clear all enemy found North of MOIRANG KHUNOU.  At great speed he moved and attacked enemy patrols located on the East of the track leading to MOIRANG.

This prompt action and skilful leadership was mainly instrumental in preventing the capture of the guns by the enemy.  Throughout the day Major Wyatt continued to lead B Coy with great dash and skill and, by evening, had driven the enemy from the large village of MOIRANG which our main forces occupied on the morning of 26 May.  At first light on 27 May the Bn was ordered to resume the advance.  Strong enemy resistance in NINGTHOUKONG KHA KHUNOU on the morning of 29 May held up further progress. 

B Coy was again ordered to attack.  The ground approaching the enemy position was flat and devoid of cover and flooded by heavy rains.  The enemy were skilfully concealed in the village and jungle to the South of it and were very difficult to locate.  B Coy attacked throughout the afternoon but were unable to reach the enemy positions.  Despite many casualties including the loss of two platoon commanders, Major Wyatt persisted in his efforts and shortly after midnight led another assault which went in with great dash and captured the enemy positions and cleared the village.  One gun and many lorries were captured.

On 29 May the enemy were located on both sides of the road in NINGTHOUKONG village and all attempts to dislodge them and effect a junction with our forces to the North of the village failed with heavy casualties.  Major Wyatt reorganized B Coy and, without any artillery support, drove the enemy from the east side of the village.  He then swung West and continued mopping up all resistance encountered.  Several sniper nests and bunkers were destroyed and an area was secured to form a corridor which enabled the main body of 49 Bde to move round the East side of NINGTHOUKONG and join up with our force on the North.

Throughout all these operations Major Wyatt displayed leadership and tactical skill of a very high order; his period of 14 days arduous fighting was an inspiration to all ranks of the Battalion.

  ENDNOTE: The author was privileged to tour the Imphal battlefields with Battle of Imphal Tours and he thoroughly recommends this organisation.  


SOURCES:
-Anonymous (written for the Regimental Committee). History of the Fifth Royal Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force), Volume II, 1929-1947. (Gale & Polden Ltd 1956).
-Farndale, General Sir Martin KCB. History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. The Far East Theatre 1939-46. (Revised edition, Brassey’s London, 2002).
-Graham, Brigadier General C.A.L. DSO, OBE, DL, pscThe History of the Indian Mountain Artillery. (Available for free download at: https://archive.org/stream/IndianMountainArtillery/mountainartillery#page/n3/mode/2up )
-Grant, Major General Ian Lyall MC. Burma: The Turning Point. (Leo Cooper 1993).
-Head, Richard and McClenaghan Tony. The Maharajas’ Paltans. A History of the Indian State Forces, Part II. (United Service Institution of India 2013).
-Hearns, Doug V.P. CD (compiler). Companions of the Distinguished Service Order 1923-2010. Army Awards. (Naval & Military Press 2011).
-Kirby, Major General S. Woodburn. History of The Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series, The War Against Japan, Volume III, The Decisive Battles. (Naval & Military Press reprint).
-Mackay, Colonel J.N. DSO (compiler). History of 7th Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Gurkha Rifles. (William Blackwood & Sons Ltd 1962).
-Prasad, Bisheshwar D.LITT. Official History of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War 1939-45. The Reconquest of Burma, Volume I, June 1942-June 1944. Combined Inter-Services Historical Section (India & Pakistan) 1958. (Distributed by Orient Longmans).
-Talwar, Sushil.  Obituary notice for Major Mahesh Chand Sharma MC, Late Royal Indian Engineers. (Published in Durbar Volume 31, No.1, Spring 2014, the journal of the Indian Military Historical Society – see website at:  http://imhs.org.uk/ ).


Footnotes

1)-Tehri Garwhal used to be an Indian Princely State that provided troops to assist the British and Indian Armies when requested; now it is a district of India.
2)- 32nd Brigade had been loaned to 17 Division from 20 Division.
3)- Ronald Thomas Cameron received his first DSO as a battalion commander during the 1942 British withdrawal from Burma; he then received a Bar as commander of 48 Indian Light Brigade during the fighting in the Chin Hills in early 1944.
4)- The modern spelling is Loktak.
5)- Sergeants, Corporals and Lance Corporals.
6)- A shoulder-fired anti-armour weapon designated Projector Infantry Anti Tank.
7)- Nearly four weeks later Ganju Lama was to repeat his anti-tank marksmanship and to gain a Victoria Cross in the process.
8)- The initial plan used this nullah as the southern end of the block.
9)- The full citation for Mahesh Sharma’s periodic MC reads: “During fourteen months campaigning in the Chin Hills and Manipur State, Lieutenant Sharma has on many occasions shown outstanding bravery and leadership.  In March 1944, he led a successful commando raid on to the Japanese Line of Communications on the Fort White – Kalemyo road, laying booby traps on the road which was seen to destroy an enemy jeep and which caused a block for nearly twelve hours. Before the road-block operation at Milestone 33 on the Tiddim Road in May 1944, Lieutenant Sharma and one Sapper went on a tiger patrol to reconnoitre the state of the tracks in the area of the proposed block, and it was partly due to the accurate report which he brought back that the block was successfully put in by the Brigade before the enemy had any knowledge of its impending occurrence.  During the roadblock operation itself, he led a successful night patrol on to the Tiddim Road between Milestones 30 and 32 and personally laid mines and booby-traps of a kind particularly difficult and dangerous to lie at night. Throughout the campaign from March to July, he has shown leadership and resource in the face of the enemy of a high order.  He has on all occasions personally led his men in whatever task they have been asked to do and it is undoubtedly due to this that his men have always succeeded in carrying out what on many occasions seemed at first attempt to be impracticable.”
10)- Bhaijit Rai’s full citation for the Military Medal reads: “From the 17 to 22 May 1944 the platoon which Havildar Bhaijit Rai was commanding was holding the South-west portion of the road block at milestone 33 on the Tiddim Road, his position being along the line of the road.  During the night 17/18 May enemy lorries approached down the road.  Acting with the utmost coolness Havildar Bhaijit Rai ordered his section to allow the lorries to enter his position and withhold fire until the maximum number had done so.  Fire was accordingly withheld until the enemy motor transport had entered the trap, whereby eight Jap lorries were destroyed by Havildar Bhaijit Rai’s platoon with heavy enemy losses in men and material.  From the 18 to 22 May Havildar Bhaijit Rai’s platoon was heavily attacked on many occasions, all attacks were repulsed with heavy loss to the enemy due in large measure to the skill with which the Havildar had sited his positions, his replenishment arrangements and above all his outstanding personal example.  After four days’ constant fighting he refused to be relieved although his platoon had sustained many casualties.  Throughout the course of these operations and the subsequent fighting Havildar Bhaijit Rai’s tactical skill, leadership, resource, and determination were of a very high order.”  
11)- Manbahadur Limbu’s full citation for the Military Medal reads: “Naik Manbahadur Limbu was in command of a section at the road block at Mile 33 on the Tiddim Road.  On the night of 17th-18th May 1944 the enemy attacked in strength.  Naik Manbahadur Limbu thereupon left his bunker and counter-attacked the enemy with grenades, killing seven.  Himself wounded in the shoulder, he then went to one of the bunkers, took a Bren gun and firing from the hip killed a further five enemy, the remainder fleeing.  Throughout this action and in the fighting during the next ten days this Non-Commissioned Officer set a magnificent example of leadership, initiative and offensive spirit in his determination to close with and destroy the enemy.”   
12)- The 14 Tank Regiment was moving in small groups from Tamu to the Bishenpur area via Tiddim.  
13)-  The dismissed Divisional Commander was General G. Yanagida.  
14)- This was the first battalion that come up the Tiddim Road and Lieutenant Colonel Matsuki tasked it with an attack.  
15)- Major J.M. McGill, 1/7th Gurkha Rifles,was the acting CO of 1/7th Gurkhas until Colonel Robertson rejoined the Battalion in early June.  Major John Malcolm McGill was killed in action on 25th June 1944 on the Silchar Track when acting as the 2IC to 2/5th R Gurkhas, having been attached to the 2/5th just the day before.  The only commemoration so far found is on the Rangoon Memorial where the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) lists his unit as 3/9th Gurkhas; however the 7th Gurkhas Regimental History lists him as one of their own Regiment’s dead.  The Special Forces Roll of Honour website ( http://www.specialforcesroh.com/showthread.php?6214-McGill-John-Malcolm ) lists Major McGill as being a former Chindit, doubtless because of the reference to 3/9th Gurkhas on the CWGC commemoration.  The 9th Gurkhas Regimental History makes no mention of Major McGill.
16)- The full citation for Dhalbahadur Ghale’s Military Medal reads: ”On the 20th May 1944 Rifleman Dalbahadur Ghale was in a forward position with one of our platoons on the hill near the road block at mile 33 on the Tiddim road.  In the early morning of 20 May the enemy attacked this platoon in strength and after heavy hand to hand fighting overran our position except for the bunker in which were Rifleman Dalbahadur Ghale and his section commander Lance-Naik Asare.  These two men held off the enemy with their rifle and tommy gun, and later with grenades.  When the latter was becoming exhausted Lance-Naik Asare made his way back for more.  Until he returned Rifleman Dalbahadur maintained his position alone himself killing 5 Japs.  When his grenades were exhausted the enemy closed with him, but Rifleman Dalbahadur fought them off with his rifle and bayonet until Lance-Naik Asare returned with more grenades.  By thus maintaining his position alone against heavy odds, the success of the counter attack which re-established our position was greatly facilitated. The magnificent fighting spirit and indomitable determination of this rifleman to hold his ground and destroy all comers was an inspiration to all who saw him.”
17)- The full citation for Kabirbahadur Tamang’s Military Medal reads: “This young rifleman has served with outstanding gallantry throughout the recent actions culminating in the fighting in the IMPHAL Plain.  His devotion to duty was conspicuous throughout and, in particular, his determination and refusal to be flustered shone in the withdrawal from Tiddim.  His immediate commanders several times commented on the brilliant example the boy was displaying by his cool bravery.  This together with his natural soldierly qualities, has resulted in him distinguishing himself several times.  The incident at Milestone 33.4 on the Tiddim road on the 21st May 1944 is typical of several by which he has earned the gratitude of his comrades and the admiration of all.  The enemy heavily attacked the Battalion’s road block, 75705 Rifleman Kabirbahadur Tamang was the Number 1 of a light machine gun in that portion of the perimeter which was most heavily attacked, his post coming under very heavy light machine gun and mortar fire.  His Number 2 was killed and the men on his left and right were both wounded.  Despite this Rifleman Kabirbahadur Tamang stuck to his post and when his light machine gun jammed, he crawled forward with his grenades and killed two of the enemy who were creeping up from a nullah.  Coming back, he collected further grenades from his wounded companions and again crawled forward grenading the enemy as he went, killing six and forcing the remainder to withdraw.  Undoubtedly this action saved the lives of his wounded comrades, and probably stopped an en enemy break-through which would have endangered the whole of his Company.  This young Rifleman’s coolness when in difficulties, courage and devotion to duty, have been an example to his section and an inspiration to the whole Battalion during the last several months of strenuous operations.”
18)- The modern spelling is Tronglaobi.
19)- Because the date of this recommendation was 18 June 1944 it is obvious from the citation wording that the date on the citation should read 26 May 44.
20)- Captain Sukumar Sanyal was later Mentioned in Despatches.
21)- The modern spelling is Phubala.
22)-  The commander of this Japanese 4th Independent Engineer Regiment had been killed during the previous day’s fighting.
23)-  The company commander was Captain E.R. Hill.
24)-  Brigadier Cameron reputedly shouted just before he was shot: “Who’s that skulking in the ditch.  Come up and talk to me.”
25)-  Supplement to the London Gazette 28 June 1945 page 3384.  The Regimental History states that the award was for “Encouraging his men by his example at Ninhthoukhong”.
26)-  The Regimental History on page 222 states that there was another Indian Order of Merit recipient, Jemadar Parbushamsher Rai, with the same description of gallantry as is given for Havildar Garuldhoj Rai.  However as yet no evidence has been found of an IOM award to Parbushamsher Rai.  Appendix IV to the Regimental History ‘Summary of Casualties’ lists a Jemadar Parbishanker Rai on the Roll of Honour commemorating deceased officers.  Havildar Parbishamsher Rai is listed as the recipient of a WW2 Mention in Despatches.
27)-  Lakhbahadur Tamang had won his MM for gallantry displayed on 22 March 1944 during the fighting withdrawal on the Tiddim Road in the Chin Hills.
28)-  Brigadier R.C.O. Hedley DSO, ex-2/5th R Gurkhas, took over command of 48 Brigade.  He had acted as Brigade 2nd in Command during OPERATION AYO and he later received a Second Bar to his DSO that mentioned his performance in that operation.
29)-  The Regimental History of the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles states that Ronnie Cameron commanded the Special Air Service (India) before he took up the Mhow School of Infantry appointment in 1946.  Major General Ian Lyall Grant states that the immediate employment after 48 Brigade was at the School of Musketry at Saugor.
30)-  Major General Ian Lyall Grant comments in his book Burma. The Turning Point:  ‘In more than two years as Commander of 48 Brigade he had won many battles and scarcely ever lost one.  As a brigade commander he showed a touch of genius and many people thought him, despite his eccentricities, the best fighting brigadier that 17 Division ever had.  He would not have been in the running for the command of a division but why
31)- Colonel Robertson was later awarded a Bar to his DSO in recognition of the capture of Yewe, south of Meiktila, Burma, by 1/7th Gurkhas in April 1945.

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