An account of Army Life During World War II
experienced by Bernard Welburn

last updated November 12, 2010



 

Epochs and Theatres of War
please follow the links below to visit each part of the story.

PRE-WAR

Burma + India
Italy

 

 

Activities heading to and in Burma
Date Location Comments
1 Feb 42 At Sea - Aden sunday
9 Feb 42 In Port - Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) Granted 3 days shore leave. Points of interest at Colombo : Rickshaws, Beer 1R70cents (2/4 per litre). Bannanas growing in street. Breadfruit tree, Cannonball tree, Bhuddist temple, Indian [???] Pineapples, Rubber, Tea, Coconut, Currency - 13 Rupees = £1 stirling.
Feb 42

Cinema Ticket :
Ceylon Theatres Ltd

Regal Theatre

14 Feb 42 At Sea sailed
21 Feb 42 Rangoon, Burma (Myanmar) Disembarked. Proceeded to a Leaguer area in a rubber plantation 18th Milestone from Rangoon.
    A story told to my father by my grandfather years ago was about how when they sailed into Rangoon every other ship was sailing away. It didn't look good at the outset. Apparently the ship had to offload everyone and the equipment regardless, trucks, tanks, provisions etc as it was due elsewhere in the world. Because of beaurocracy and poor orders, they shouldn't have even stopped in Rangoon as they knew they'd be stranded. Very soon after offloading everything, my grandfather said they literally had to push their brand new equipment off of the dock into the harbour. This is a verbal recollection.
24 Feb 42 near Helgu Moved to a Leaguer area on rangoon - Pegu road a few miles past Helgu.
28 Feb 42 Moved out saturday to a rubber plantation on muddy road just off Rangoon Prome road
3 Mar 42 Helgu Went to Helgu to Bde HQ and saw General Wavell
4 Mar 42 Moved to Leaguer on Rangoon road near Pegu road junction. At this time Rangoon was evacuated and demolished - fires could be seen for 20 miles and explosions were terrific. Much bombing here by Japs and plenty of trench digging ground as hard as iron. Plagues of ants as well.
Saturday? - Japs set up road block - fortunately cleared by Ghurka troops.
8 Mar 42 Jharrawaddy Sunday night - Moved out to Prome Road and camped on roadside about 25 miles short of Jharrawaddy
Stood to at dawn, but nothing happened.
9 Mar 42 Jharrawaddy Jap reccy plane over during monday morning got a hot reception. Moved through Jharrawaddy same day and were bombed on road (no casualties)
Leaguered up near a village through Jharrawaddy and were visited by Jap bombers again.
12 Mar 42 Jharrawaddy Left unit in same Leaguer area (thursday) and accompanied by Capt. Buckmay [?] (S.C 7A Bde.) Sgt. Jones (7M) & CSM (ORS) Locker[?] (Cameronians[?])
Prome proceeded to join 2nd Echelon (Indian) at Myingyen. Left Jharawaddy at 8pm & proceeded via Prome on main road to MAndalay.
Magwee? arrived magwee & replenished petrol & water about 1600hours. Drove for a further 25 miles and camped on roadside. Set off at 8pm towards Myingan
13 Mar 42 Myingan reached Myingan at 1230 hours. Settled down and was given half 7 A Bde. to administer, i.e 13 LFA RAMC, 414(EY) Bty, 104 RMA, "A" Bty 95 A/T Regt RA + 7 Armd Bde Signals.
Echelon moved from Myingyan on Sunday and proceeded per SS"Kanai" [?] up the river Jharawaddy to Shwebo some 180 miles further northwest.
Mandalay Stopped at Mandalay one day and narrowly missed Jap bombing.
Shwebo Country round Shwebo pretty deadly, bleak and open - only trees - scrubby thorns - no rubber & very little rice. Few banannas and no pineapples. Plenty of palm trees for making toddy. Cholera rife and all drinking water to be boiled.
4 Apr 42 Had injection against Cholera. No cigarettes obtainable & no native cigars, no beer or minerals. Plenty of insect life, flies, mosquitos etc. Guianos, snakes, chamaeleons, tree rats, vultures, crows, sparrows & pigeons fairly plentiful.
26 Apr 42 Shwebo Japanese Bombers visited Shwebo and did some damage.
27 Apr 42 Shwebo Japanese bombers once again.
28 Apr 42 Shwebo More Japanese bombers. 2nd Echelon closed on this day and set off in 2 parties for India.

 

The following is a detailed daily log typed up in a seperate booklet of the journey from Moguang (Burma) to Margherita (Assam, India) in 1942
28 Apr Ordered to move from SHWEBO. Proceeded to station at 1945 hours.
29 Apr Entrained at 0200 hrs and eventually left at 0330 hrs via MADAUNGLA - TANTABIN - TANGON - KANBLU.
Tantabin rail ticket
30 Apr KYAIKTHIN - ZAWCHUANG - KOTOUNGBO - KAWLIN - WUNTHO - KIN - GYODAUNG.
1 May NANKIN - MEZA - SEYWA - INDAW - NABA.
2 May PINWE - MAWLU - NANSIAUNG - MAWMAN - KADU - MOHNYIN.
3 May PINBAW - MINGON - TAUNGNI - SAMAW - MOGAUNG - NAMTI - MAYAN - PIDAUNG - MYITKYINA, arrived 1600 hours and camped at Depot Burma Rifles.
4 May Laid up at Burma Rifles Depot and prepared kit etc for march into Assam.
5 May Arrived MOGUANG 0730 hrs. Prepared for road and started to march into ASSAM at 0900 hrs. Very hot and exhausting - heels went with 'Bombay foot rot'. Had to "pegdo" most of kit on way. ["pegdo" is Urdu, and means 'to throw away]. Covered 11 miles by 1700 hrs. Got a lorry and made another 14 miles by 0030 hrs next morning
6 May Arrived inspection bungalow KAMAING and stayed until daylight. Set off by lorry at 0730 hrs and after a very rough jungle journey reached SHWEDUZUP by 1100 hrs. Went off with lorry and Sgt. Elder (RC. of sigs) to fetch rest of party. After 15 miles rear off-side sprint went and had to march back through pitch dark jungle, a gruelling journey of 6 hours. Reached rest of party at 2300 hrs.
7 May Left SHWEDZUP at 1015 hrs and marched 16 miles through fierce jungle arriving at next rest camp at 1600 hrs. Very hot and dusty - completely fagged out, no square meal for 4 days.
8 May Started to march at 0545 hrs and carried on through same type of wild jungle until 1230 hrs. Halted and had a good rest, a square meal and a bath in a nearby stream. Started to march again and carried on to next camp arriving at approx 2200 hrs. Daily mileage 29 - Feet in pretty bad shape and stomach empty.
9 May Started to march at 0930 hrs and carried on through same old jungle arriving at a tributary of the CHINDWIN at approx 2000 hrs, a distance of 19 miles. Crossed over by bamboo raft and camped for night. Terrific thunderstorm and heavy rain all night. Feet a little better and craving for food somewhat subdued. Now completed 5 days of journey and approximately 123 miles. During this period no bread available, few biscuits (army), no sugar or salt, plenty of rice and a little attar. Spirit still willing but flesh inclined to be weak for lack of square meals. Fortunately no shortage of water and rumour heard that RAF beginning to drop supplies of food and medical stores.
10 May Still raining and 'chucking' it down. Started to march at 1050 hrs and completed 6 miles through worst jungle yet encountered by 1500 hrs. Road under water and mud feet deep everywhere. Crossed the River TAINAN and secured a bamboo hut in camp there. Completely exhausted and very weak for want of food. Boiled a little rice but not enough to satiate hunger. Waited for rest of party to come, but only Colonel Hayes arrived, and 3 B.O.Rs.
11 May Rest of party arrived and after a long wait during which my craving for food increased to a point beyond endurance, breakfast was made of chapattes, tinned fish and tinned cheese, a meal which tasted like food of the gods. Set off to march again at 1100 hrs and covered next 9 miles to camp by 1600 hrs. Again a journey through a sea of mud, but a little better than yesterday. Secured a bamboo hut and got a good rest and a bath in the river flowing nearby. 7 days passed and 138 miles completed. Feet now in good condition and spirits high.
12 May Pouring with rain. Breakfasted on Parates and a little marmalade. Rain stopped about 9. Started to march at 1000 hrs. Very slow progress owing to heavy going for bullock cart which was carrying what few rations we had. Road just one sea of mud and water except for odd dry stretches on high ground. Bullocks gave out at 1600 hrs and cart had to be abandoned. Split rations up to carry and headed for camp which was not reached until 2100 hrs after a heart-breaking, soul-destroying plod through terrible jungle in the pitch dark. Plenty of food now. Our dream came true as at this camp RAF were dropping lots of bully biscuits and tinned stuff. Feet rather sore, but spirits high and otherwise physically fit. 152 miles now covered.
13 May Day of rest. "Sharbosh". [urdu - meaning very, very good]. Had an issue of cigarettes, bully and biscuits, a swim in the river and some jolly good meals.
14 May Breakfasted on Chapates and tinned sausage. Started to march at 0800 hrs and met most terrible hills. Path only wide enough for single file but plenty of water en-route. Lots of sweat lost today although most of path in shade. Some coolies which the Colonel hired before starting failed to turn up and only 4 eventually reported to carry his kit and our rations.. Rested at 1500 hrs and then carried on until dark. Camped on roadside with Ghurkas. Very tired but still in good trim.
15 May Started to march at 0800 hrs and passed through camp which we had intended to reach the day before at 0820 hrs. It was as well that we camped 'afar off' as cholera was rife in that camp and there were already several corpses laid out. Continued marching through very hilly country and covered 13 miles before packing in for night. Had a good rest and swim in a very icy cold mountain pool. Feet very good and spirits high. Total miles now covered 184. During the night a quarrel arose between two Sikh Sepoys of the Burma Frontier Force and one shot the other with a .303 rifle at point blank range before our very eyes.
16 May Dead Sikh still where he had dropped. Col. Hayes ordered the Jemadar i/c to have him buried or otherwise disposed of according to their religious beliefs. This was done and we started to march at 0715 hrs. Most of the morning all downhill going. Saw several corpses en-route evidently through dysentry or cholera. Rained very hard after lunch time and had to ford a very wide stream about 2' 6" deep. Road very muddy. Reached next camp at 1945 hrs but could get no sleep for insect bites, primarily the mosquito and bamboo gnat.
17 May Raining heavy. Started to march at 12 noon and got thoroughly wet through. Stopped at 1630 hrs and built a fire and dried clothes as much as possible, but unable to sleep for mosquitos and other winged pests. A terrible night. Had had several deep streams to ford during day and passed many more dead bodies.
18 May Started to march at 0815 hrs and got on well although 'cuds' [urdu - meaning 'hills'] very steep and muddy and difficult. Still more dead bodies. Rained hard during afternoon and after everybody was thoroughly wet through, cold and miserable a temporary camp was made at the top of a small mountain range some 4,500ft high. Now no rations left, last eaten at breakfast which consisted of 1 biscuit and 1 small sausage. Before going to sleep as tin of bully and some biscuits were given to us by fellow travellers to make an evening meal. A cold miserable night, 3 nights now and hardly any sleep. LEDO still 70 miles away and cholera everywhere. Feet good and spirits high, but stomach awfully empty.
19 May Started to march at 0900 hrs after a breakfast of 1/2 biscuit and a small spoonful of bully and cauliflower brought by one belated member of our party who had taken all night to catch us up. Reached a camp at the next river 8 1/2 miles on by 1400 hrs, but no rations there. Advised to carry on a further 13 1/2 miles to NAMPONG camp - the first properly organised military camp on the ASSAM side of the border. Started out but rain forced us to camp in a coolie hut in the jungle after 8 miles. Rained very heavy most of night, but after extracting the cordite from some .45 rounds a small fire was lit on which we cooked a cupful of dhal and a small chicken which the Colonel unknown to us had bought from some natives during the day. Spent a cold miserable night and no signs of the rain abating.
20 May Started to march at 1000 hrs and after 5 miles reached NAMPONG camp by 3 in the afternoon. Plenty of rations here all ready cooked. Had agood meal of dhal and rice and a good rest. Still more dead bodies encountered on way.
21 May Started to march at 1030 hrs and reached next camp at 1400 hrs after 8 miles of the most awful mud i have ever seen. Met at Camp Guardroom by a steaming hot mug of tea and a good cooked meal of dhal, rice and potato stew. 'Laks' of mud [urdu - meaning large amount] all over the place but spirits very high and for once stomach full. LEDO now only 35 miles away. Spent a sleepless night because of mosquitos and bamboo gnats. PRobably the large supper of the same stew helped the sleeplessness.
22 May After a breakfast of dhal and rice and stewed goat flesh started to march at 0620 hrs, reached 4 mile supply camp by 0840 and had a mug of tea. Carried on and reached the 12 mile camp at 1220 hrs. Very heavy rain again, but track fairly good though muddy on surface; fortunately most of it was on the level. Passed over a very good suspension bridge made of two steel ropes on which the bamboo bridge had been constructed. This spanned a gorge about 150 yards wide with a fast flowing river underneath. A most horrible death if the bridge had given way. Only one person allowed over at a time and an armed sentry at each side to see this was enforced. Cooked our own meal in the evening but not being satisfied, paid some Naga coolies to cook us yet a further meal and make us some rice bread as haversack rations for next day. Later on it was discovered there was a supper cooked by camp staff so partook of that as well and slept very heavy all night.
23 May Started to march at 0645 hrs after a good breakfast of dhal and rice and made 4 mile camp by 0900 hrs. Had some more food there and set out to make the next camp a further 7 miles on by the afternoon. Arrived dead beat and completely worn out. Plenty of food here but no sleep as camp site simply one breeding place of every winged pest in the country. A night of torture.
24 May Started to march at 0500 hrs and reached THARAP Base supply camp by 0830 hrs after a grim march of very deep mud and very steep 'cuds' [hills]. Had some food and set off on last stage of 4 1/2 miles to the railhead which was reached by 1115 hrs. Everyone in high spirits now - civilisation after 3 weeks in the jungle and mountains. Can hardly believe eyes to see railway metals, water running out of a tap and tarmac roads. Went next stage of 3 miles by diesel car to LECHAPANY camp where the tea planters provided us with a really good meal, cigarettes and some comfortable beds to rest on while the evening. Train arrived at 1900 hrs and after a few miles through tea plantations arrived at MARGHERITA reinforcement camp where a proper military camp staff met us and fixed us up with everything we wanted in the way of blankets, new clothes, food, cigarettes etc. A proper hospital here with real QA nurses and a real bath house with running water. This hospitality most gratefull appreciated after the rigors and hardships of our jungle trek
Approximate distance covered - 320 miles, MOGAUNG (Burma) to MARGHERITA (Assam, India)

 

Newspaper cutting from 'news of the world' describing the forced march.

 

last entry in main notebook relating to post-Burma trek :
    A story told to my father by my grandfather years ago was how when they were marching though the jungle at one point they kept losing stragglers. They were being followed by Japanese snipers who were picking the troops off one at a time. The sniper were apparently being tipped off by the bhuddist monks that sometimes travelled with their groups or that they encountered. It is thought that they did this under duress with threats by the Japanese. One recollection is of their party spotting a jap in a tree and shooting him out of it. From that point onwards, the monks (who were often armed themselves) could not be trusted and there were instances of them being shot. This is a verbal recollection.
26 May 42 DIBRUGARH Tuesday - Moved by train from MARGHERITA to DIBRUGARH
29 May 42 DIBRUGARH Embarked on a river steamer
2 Jun 42 GAUHATI Disembarked Tuesday at Gauhati
3 Jun 42   Left by train (Wednesday)
4 Jun 42 Barrackpore Arrived. Very hot here and opressive.
11 Jun 42 Admitted B.M.H Barrackpore on a Thursday with a temperature of 105 degrees (f), Diagnosis Malaria MT.
20 Jun 42 Calcutta Entrained on ambulance train on a Saturday
Jun 42 Calcutta

Cinema Ticket

Western India Theatres Ltd.

ELITE
Calcutta

23 Jun 42 Dohra Don Arrived, admitted to 17th? B.G.H - A good hospital and very nice sisters especially Sister Wainwright. Developed Pleurasy after Malaria and a shin disease consisting of jungle sores, Impetigo and septic prickly heat.
1 Sep 42
Postal Receipt for Bangalore - maybe a telegram or a parcel?
27 Sep 42

Post Office Money order receipt

Stamped with EXPERIMENTAL P.O ??

 

Undated paper work

Cinema Ticket:
La Scala Cinema

India stamp, rupees price
location unknown.

Cinema ticket :
Regimental Cinema

Dhond, India
(Western Indian Theatres Ltd.)

 

A handwritten poem, not sure who the author was, it doesn't look like my grandfathers handwriting however.

Bare dreary plains, hard barren soil,
from dawn till dusk the soldiers toil.
'Neath burning sun, mid choking dust,
sweat and die, for die we must.
Breaking hearts and splitting heads
rotten food, bug-ridden beds.
No hope in India!

Disease, whose hidden hand does grip,
when water from the wells we sip.
Through bites from insects large and small,
deaths call boys these killers all.
Maleria, Ague, Fever, Sweat.
Mosquitos, largest ever met.
No health in India!

Restless nights when tigers roar,
jackals scream, the grunt of boar.
Snakes deadly hiss, Hyenas laugh,
death stalks the shade of jungle path.
Sand flies buzz, mosquitos drone,
hopes of sleep, long since flown.
No rest in India!

Deadly days when snipers gun,
blast bloody holes in heart and lung.
Last volley fired, last trump does sound,
heads are bared round lonely mound.
Shallow grave, and rough hewn cross,
earths rich gain but Englands loss.
No peace in India!

The ship will come to take us where,
Englands smile so rich and fair.
Cool green field and shady lane,
soft red lips to kiss again.
No more Hindu-Moslem fights,
just lazy, slumbrous English nights.
No like in India!

 

Epochs and Theatres of War
please follow the links below to visit each part of the story.

PRE-WAR

Burma + India
Italy

 

 




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These pages are (C) Andy Welburn 1996-2009. I cannot be held responsible if the information supplied herein results in a blown monitor/power supply/house fuse/mind. Oh yeah, have a nice day :)