Sikh section in Burma including Naik Nand SIngh VC
The 1st/11th Sikhs arrived at Dohazari by rail
on the 12th of October and then marched some eighty-five miles to
Tumbru, where they arrived five days later. On the next day the
Battalion embarked in river craft and sailed down the Naf river
to Bawli, where it joined the 7th Indian Division. Here the Battalion
was allotted the role of Divisional Headquarters Battalion and was
split up amongst the three brigades of the Division.
Before proceeding with a detailed account of
the Battalion's activities in the Arakan, it is necessary to explain
very briefly the general situation at this time. During the monsoon
both the British and the Japanese had been holding their forward
positions very lightly and the actual number of troops on the ground
at this time was small. A build-up was beginning to take place and
the 7th Division was the first to arrive. Initial operations took
the form of small unspectacular local advances with the intention
of closing up on the Japanese forward positions north of the Maungdaw-Buthidaung
The Allied intention was to capture Akyab, the
only port of any importance in the Arakan, by a combined sea and
land attack. The XV Corps was to advance south in the Arakan with
the 5th Indian Division on the right and the 7th Indian Division
on the left.
During November the 5th Division arrived and
took over the coastal sector north of Maungdaw, while the 7th Division
crossed to the east of the Mayu Range to get into position for the
The area east of the range consisted of a tangled
mass of jungle-covered hills intersected by stretches of flat rice
fields, which were quite dry at this time of the year. The jungle
was mostly thick bamboo and the hills were very steep and usually
about a hundred to two hundred feet high. They provided ideal defensive
positions and were very difficult to assault.
There was no lateral road across the Mayu Range
to supply the Division, so a road was constructed by the divisional
engineers through dense jungle over the thirteen-hundred-foot-high
Ngakyedauk Pass. This was a remarkable feat of engineering, which
enabled tanks, artillery and heavy transport to reach the Division.
The pioneer platoon of the 1st/ 11th Sikhs was attached to the divisional
sappers for work on the road and constructed some of the many bridges
on the pass.
The Battalion was very unfortunate to lose its
Adjutant, Captain P. J. Sheehan, who died of smallpox in Bawli Bazar
in January. His place was taken by Captain P. T. Cunningham, who
remained as Adjutant almost to the end of the war.
During January the Division started to line
up for the offensive to eliminate all Japanese forces resisting
north of the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road. Battalion Headquarters and
"A" Company, under Major Lerwill, were with the 114th
Brigade, east of the Kalapanzin river, and were given the task of
showing strength in front of the strong; Japanese fortifications
around Kyaukit, while the remainder of the Brigade ;prepared for
the offensive. Patrols were active day and night and often penetrated
deep into these defences. The official report says
"It is credit to this battalion that the Japs were sufficiently
impressed with the exuberance of Sikhs to put them down as a full
During this time "D" Company, under
Major Workman, was detached on a special protective and reconnaissance
role in the Eastern Yomas overlooking the left flank of the Division.
This company, known as "Workcol," isolated in these thick
jungle hills, did excellent work and carried out many long-range
"B" Company, under Major Walker, and
"C" Company, under Major Spink, were with the 33rd and
89th Brigades respectively. These companies carried out numerous
successful patrols towards the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road and gained
valuable information for the coming offensive.
During this time the Japanese command was preparing
for its march on India which was to break the Allied forces on the
Indo-Burma border and open the road to the plains of Assam and Bengal.
In practice, this offensive fell into two distinct stages-first
the Arakan offensive and second the drive through Manipur.
In the Arakan the Japanese plan was to encircle
and destroy the 7th Division east of the Mayu Ridge, then cut the
main line of communication behind the 5th Division in the coastal
sector and drive it into the sea.
JAPANESE ARAKAN OFFENSIVE
On the night of the 3rd of February, when the 33rd and 114th Brigades
were deploying for the attack on the enemy main forces covering
Buthidaung, a Japanese force of several thousand men, with artillery,
engineers and ancillary units, under the command of Colonel Tanahashi,
moved round the left flank of the Division. There was much confused
fighting in the rear areas and the 89th Brigade, in reserve, bore
the brunt of the main Japanese thrust in the Linbabi area south
of Taung Bazar. Here they delayed the Japanese advance and "C"
Company was engaged in some bitter fighting, repulsing Japanese
attacks on Brigade Headquarters. During this fighting, Lance-Naik
Karnail Singh earned a posthumous Indian Order of Merit for great
gallantry. When a large number of men in his platoon were either
killed or wounded, he charged forward on his own and drove off a
party of Japanese:, who were harassing the evacuation of the wounded,
and thereby enabled all the casualties to be brought back safely.
His body was found some time later surrounded by dead Japanese.
Major Spink was one of the wounded and had a very lucky escape when
his stretcher convoy was ambushed: his life was undoubtedly saved
through the gallantry of his orderly, Sepoy Mehar Singh, who was
awarded the Military Medal.
On the 6th of February Divisional Headquarters was overrun by the
Japanese and after some very gallant fighting General Messervy,
with most of his headquarters personnel,'withdrew to the divisional
administrative area, which became known as the "Admin. Box."
Brigades were immediately called up by wireless and ordered to stand
fast and form defensive boxes.
The 1st/ l lth Sikhs, less "B" and
"C" Companies, were with the 114th Brigade in the Kwazon
area and continued to hold more or less the same positions north
of Kyaukit. "D" Company had been withdrawn from the Eastern
Yomas and was holding a hill feature on the northern side of the
On the west bank of the Kalapanzin river "B" Company was
protecting the 33rd Brigade Headquarters, just east of Hill 182,
while "C" Company formed a box with a company of the 7th/2nd
Punjab Regiment to protect a field regiment and some anti-aircraft
gunners at Awlanbyin.
On the 7th of February the Japanese captured
the Ngakyedauk Pass and the siege began. This was a series of large
and small battles for three weeks, when the Japanese did their utmost
to hammer the Division into submission, but everywhere the troops
stood firm, inflicting severe casualties on the enemy. Some of the
most bitter fighting was seen around the Admin. Box, which was so
gallantly held by Headquarters and administrative personnel. The
Granthi, Naik Kartar Singh, with the "Granth Sahib," was
in the Admin. Box with the motor transport. The drivers played their
part in the defence of the box, while the Granthi displayed considerable,
gallantry while encouraging the men holding the front line. The
Gurdwara harmonica was damaged by a bullet in the fighting and it
was mended and is still in use in the Gurdwara.
The Japanese had not expected the Division to
hold on and fight and had not appreciated that General Slim could
maintain the Division by air. The first Dakota aircraft came over
on the 11th of February and the Royal Air Force dropped supplies
daily until the siege was raised, while small liaison aircraft,
landing on rough airstrips in brigade areas, evacuated all the seriously
wounded from the overcrowded field ambulances.
For the next three weeks the Japanese lost heavily
and Tanahashi's force was split into small scattered parties which
were methodically reduced by offensive action from the defensive
boxes and by troops of the 26th Division, who moved up from reserve
in the north. During this period "A" Company carried out
several successful ambushes, while a platoon infiltrated into the
Kyaukit defences and occupied a Japanese forward position. "B"
Company had their share of fighting with the 33rd Brigade and on
the 20th of February carried out a particularly successful attack
on a party of Japanese near Hill 182 overlooking Brigade Headquarters.
The Sikhs went in with great dash under the inspired leadership
of Subadar Gurcharan Singh and threw the Japanese out of their positions
with the bayonet.
On the 23rd of February the Ngakyedauk Pass
was opened, in co-operation with troops of the 5th Division who
attacked from the west, and the siege was lifted. By the end of
February the remnants of Tanahashi's force had been mopped up.
General Sir William Slim, Commander of the Fourteenth
Army, summed up this battle in the Arakan in these words
"The battle of the Arakan was
the first occasion in this war on which a British force has withstood
the full weight of a major Japanese offensive, held it, broken it,
smashed it to little pieces and pursued it. Anybody who was in the
7th and 5th Indian Divisions and was there has something of which
they can be very proud indeed."
The following is an extract from a message sent
by Mr. Winston Churchill to General Slim after this victory in the
"I congratulate the Fourteenth Army
heartily upon the successful outcome of the series of fierce encounters
with the Japanese in the Arakan. . . ."
At the same time, Admiral The Lord Louis Mountbatten,
the Supreme Allied Commander, South-East Asia Command, issued an
order of the day in which he said
". . . The enemy . . . launched
a major offensive in the Arakan in the hope of defeating you and
sweeping you into India. You have met the onslaught with courage,
confidence and resolution. Many of you were cut off and encircled,
dependent on supplies dropped from aeroplanes. But everyone stood
firm, . . . . Now, after bitter fighting in the jungles and in the
skies, the Japanese attack has been smashed. The enemy forces which
infiltrated into your rear have been destroyed or scattered. The
threatened passes are clear; the roads are open. You have gained
a complete victory. Your splendid spirit was clear to me when I
visited you recently. Now that spirit, that tenacity, that courage,
have been demonstrated to the enemy and to the world. I salute you."
At the beginning of March the 1st /11th Sikhs
were relieved of their role as Divisional Headquarters Battalion
and allotted to the 33rd Brigade for the postponed offensive on
Buthidaung. Everyone in the Battalion was delighted and felt that
they would now have a chance of showing their worth and giving the
Japanese a real beating. The men were all in great heart; their
morale, which had always been high, soared; they were all very fit
and they had great confidence in themselves. The weather at this
time was good; nice sunny days, not too hot, while the nights were
not as cold as they had been a month earlier.
The Battalion concentrated in Awlanbyin on the
29th of February and then moved to join the 25th Dragoons just south
of the Admin. Box on the next day to carry out some tank training.
Lieutenant-Colonel Dinwiddie left the Battalion
here to go and command the 114th Brigade, and Major P. G. Bamford,
who was Second-in-Command, took over command.
Some very valuable training was carried out with the 25th Dragoons
and preparations were completed for the coming offensive. This aimed
at securing the eastern end of the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road, including
Buthidaung, with the object of cutting off the enemy occupying their
strong positions on the jungle hills, known as Massive and Able.
ATTACK ON POLAND AND RABBIT
The 1st/ 11th Sikhs were ordered to capture two hill features, Poland
and Rabbit, on the night of the 6th of March. This was to be the
first phase of a general advance by the 33rd Brigade to drive a
wedge into enemy positions from which an assault on Buthidaung could
be launched later.
Patrols were sent out on the evening of the 5th of March and reported
the next morning that Poland and Rabbit were held by the enemy.
Lieutenant-Colonel Bamford decided to attack with "B"
and "C" Companies forward and to keep "A" and
"D" Companies in reserve.
The Battalion set out at dusk on the 6th of March and moved through
Brough briefing a patrol
rice fields, between the enemy strongholds of Massive and Able,
to their forming up area just north of the main road. It was bright
moonlight and the Sikhs arrived in plenty of time to form up for
the attack. At 10.15 p.m. Major Brough led "C" Company
forward across the road under a barrage from the Corps and Divisional
artillery. The barrage lifted as the leading platoon commenced the
assault. "C" Company went up the slopes of the hill with
great dash and surprised a forward enemy post which withdrew in
haste as the men charged. Without a pause the Sikhs dashed on and
captured the Japanese main position at the top of the hill against
Major Brough sent his reserve platoon through to capture the enemy's
final position, but the leading section was held up as it moved
along the top of the ridge. A second attack was put in and the men
dashed forward shouting their "fatehs." They were again
held up by a medium machine gun firing at very close range and suffered
some casualties. It was very difficult to locate the machine gun
in the jungle at night, while it was impossible to move down the
steep slopes to attack the position from a flank, so Major Brough
decided to consolidate his gains and delay the final attack until
the next morning. However, the enemy had taken such a knock that
they withdrew before dawn. In this action Sepoy Sajjan Singh displayed
great gallantry in crawling forward under extremely heavy enemy
fire and bringing back several wounded men from within a few yards
of the enemy's machine gun. He was himself eventually wounded, but
he refused to leave his section until the whole position was secured
in the morning.
Meanwhile, "B" Company, under Major Walker, had advanced
on the right of "C" Company, but the leading platoon had
moved over too far to the west and was held up by impenetrable jungle.
This delayed the advance of the remainder of the company and it
was nearly an hour before patrols found a way through the jungle
and "B" Company could move forward. The men had great
difficulty in climbing up the slopes and in several places had to
cut their way through the jungle. However, they met no opposition
and secured the position soon after midnight, capturing two 47-mm.
anti-tank guns and a considerable amount of minor equipment.
The remainder of the Battalion now moved forward and consolidated
against the inevitable Japanese counter-attacks.
It was discovered in the morning that a Japanese headquarters had
been located in the nullah between Poland and Rabbit and had been
covered by positions on these two hills. It is believed that the
enemy was surprised by the rapid advance on Poland, and, not suspecting
an attack on Rabbit, failed to "stand to" in their positions
on the latter when the artillery barrage lifted.
The, Sikhs' position on Poland were shelled all the next day, but
very few casualties were sustained, since the men had completed
their trenches early in the day. The next night, as expected, the
Japanese launched a series of counter-attacks on both Poland and
Rabbit and were repulsed all along the front. The night was one
that everyone in the Battalion will remember. It was amazingly still
and a full moon was high in the sky as the Japanese attacked through
the jungle. The men held their fire until the Japanese were close
up and then gave a resounding "Bole so nihal, sat siri akal,"
as they threw them back time after time. These shouts rang clearly
through the jungle and echoed around the hills, while answering
"fatehs" were periodically heard from men of the 4th/
15th Punjab Regiment holding positions over on the left. The self-confidence
of the Sikhs was most inspiring and no one could fail to have complete
confidence in the men and to have pride to be serving with them.
Before dawn the Japanese called off the attack and withdrew to their
positions farther south.
On the 8th of March the 1st/11th Sikhs were warned to carry out
an attack on the Japanese positions in the jungle hills, known as
Astride, covering the western approaches to Buthidaung, so that
the 4th/8th Gurkha Rifles and the 25th Dragoons could then pass
through and capture the town the next day. The attack was not to
take place before the 12th of March, so that the Battalion would
have plenty of time to obtain details of the enemy's dispositions
and to carry out diversions towards the south. "A" Company,
now under the command of Major Thomas, was therefore sent to occupy
a position west of Htinsbabyin, with the support of a squadron of
tanks of the 25th Dragoons. No opposition was met, but the tanks
were held up by marshy ground about half a mile north of Dongyaung,
so "A" Company occupied a strong position on the ridge
while the tanks withdrew into reserve. ,On the 9th of March "A"
Company was ordered to move forward and occupy the southern end
of the ridge overlooking Htinsbabyin, while "D" Company,
under Captain Redding, was sent to raid enemy dumps in the Dongyaung
"A" Company moved south along the ridge, but the leading
platoon met with very stiff resistance when moving forward to seize
the objective. Major Thomas immediately launched an attack and the
leading platoon captured three enemy posts in some fierce close-in
fighting before being held up by several light machine guns firing
at point-blank range. "A" Company sustained a number of
casualties and Major Thomas wisely decided to consolidate his gains
and not attack this strong position again until artillery support
could be arranged. The leading section commander, Naik Naranjan
Singh, displayed great dash and determination. Although he was wounded
early on, he continued to lead his section forward and carried the
first two enemy trenches at the point of the bayonet in spite of
heavy fire from several light machine guns. Although all but two
men of his section were killed or wounded, Naik Naranjan Singh assaulted
the third trench up a precipitous slope and killed all the enemy
with grenades. By this time one of his companions was killed and
the other wounded, but Naik Naranjan Singh continued to hold the
enemy trench until the remainder of the company had consolidated
and he was ordered to withdraw. In this action Sepoy Mukhtiar Singh
won a posthumous Indian Order of Merit for great gallantry; he was
last seen charging the remaining enemy post on his own, firing his
Bren from his hip, and killing four or five of the enemy.
"D" Company gained complete surprise. They moved behind
the enemy's forward positions and destroyed three dumps without
opposition. The company returned in the evening, having successfully
completed its task without suffering any casualties.
While "A" and "D" Companies had been operating
in the south, a number of Sikh reconnaissance patrols had been active
along the whole front. A small patrol of four men was ordered to
find out if the enemy was occupying a position south of Poland.
This patrol set out in bright moonlight on the 8th of March and
when it had gone about a mile it observed a party of forty Japanese
moving north towards Poland. The patrol immediately took cover,
but it was spotted by the enemy, who moved out to outflank the Sikhs,
leaving their grenade discharger in a central position to cover
Sepoy Charan Singh crept silently .forward on his own until he
was only a few yards from the grenade party. He then leapt at the
Japanese with the discharger and killed him with one thrust of his
bayonet. The other two grenadiers gave a piercing shriek, got up
and fled. This bold move completely surprised the whole Japanese
party, who turned about and retired hastily towards their own positions.
On the same night a patrol, led by Havildar Bachan Singh (Brown),
moved out to the Astride position. It moved right up close to the
Japanese trenches and collected very valuable information. It reported
that the enemy were busy digging and constructing bunkers along
the whole of the Astride position and had several posts in the vicinity
of the main road.
As a result of this patrol report, General Messervy came forward
during the afternoon of the 9th of March to advance the time of
the attack, while the artillery and Royal Air Force were ordered
to harass the Astride position, in order to try to delay the construction
of the Japanese defences.
General Messervy explained that there were two alternatives: to
Bamford issues orders by wireless with Adjutant, Captain
that night with tired troops and without reconnaissance, or to
attack a better established enemy the next morning. Lieutenant-Colonel
Bamford decided to attack the next day, since "A" and
"D" Companies would be rested and some divebombers, all
the Corps artillery and a squadron of tanks would be available to
support the attack.
The Sikhs immediately prepared for the attack. "A" Company
was relieved by a company of the 4th/15th Punjabis at Htinsbabyin
and arrived back at 8 p.m. for some well-earned sleep.
ATTACK ON ASTRIDE
The Sikhs moved to the forming-up area behind West Finger before
light on the 11th of March and Lieutenant-Colonel Bamford issued
verbal orders for the attack from the forward slopes of this ridge
at 6.30 a.m. A squadron of Lee tanks had been detailed from the
25th Dragoons and these joined the Battalion about half an hour
The forward troops were again "B"
and "C" Companies. This time "B" Company was
to be on the left to capture the hills north of the road while "C"
Company on the right was to capture those to the south. On capturing
Astride, the Sikhs had been ordered to secure the road, so that
the 25th Dragoons and the 4th/8th Gurkha Rifles could pass through
and capture Buthidaung at first light the next morning. "A"
and "D" Companies were therefore ordered to be prepared
to pass through and secure the eastern end of the Astride position
as soon as the forward companies had captured their objectives.
When company commanders were just finishing their orders to their
platoon commanders the bombers came over and gave a fine display
of dive-bombing, dropping all their bombs in the target area. They
were followed about an hour later by fighters, who strafed the whole
At about 10 a.m. the enemy observed the Sikhs'
mortars getting into position and shelled and mortared the ridge
from behind the Astride position. At this time both leading companies
were moving forward to their assembly areas and the Sikhs suffered
some casualties. Immediate and accurate counter-battery fire was
put down and the enemy fire slackened considerably.
At 10.15 a.m. the artillery commenced laying
smoke screens on the left flank and in front of the objective, and
mortars and medium machine guns opened fire, while the tanks moved
forward according to plan. The smoke screen put down for the tanks
effectively stopped any further interference by enemy artillery
fire and by 10.30 a.m. tanks and assaulting companies were formed
up on the start line ready for the attack.
The Corps artillery now opened up on the objective,
putting down a concentration so intense that the attacking infantry
had to lie flat on their faces on the start line to avoid splinters
from the barrage five hundred yards distant. Even so, two or three
men were hit. The smoke and dust from the barrage mingled with that
from the original screen and from the undergrowth on the objective
which was now ablaze. The objective itself and the fields beneath
it were soon obliterated by drifting clouds of smoke. In all, over
seven thousand shells were fired on a front of some five hundred
After ten minutes the artillery lifted and the
leading companies advanced, the tanks moving forward with the leading
troops. Although the objective was invisible, direction was easy
to maintain and the forward elements of the attack were soon at
the foot of their respective; objectives. During the advance across
the open the machine-gun overhead covering fire from both the tanks
and guns firing from West Finger was intense and continuous. The
noise was deafening, completely obliterating the sound of the tanks
and even the artillery barrage, now coming in rear of the Astride
position. The moral effect of this covering fire and of the tanks
moving steadily forward, both on the enemy and on our own troops,
cannot be overemphasized.
Cheering and shouting "fatehs," the
men now commenced the assault, while the leading tank halted only
when it reached the mouth of the defile twenty yards from a deep
anti-tank ditch and a minefield. The overwhelming concentration
of fire and the sight of the rapid and determined advance of the
Sikhs and tanks were too much for the Japanese, who offered only
slight resistance before retiring in disorder from the defences
which they had so carefully prepared.
On arrival on its objective "B" Company
saw large bodies of the enemy streaming south in front of Buthidaung.
A forward observation officer had accompanied company headquarters
and the enemy was therefore engaged promptly and with good results.
Buthidaung itself was also shelled and was soon blazing merrily,
whilst the ground strafe by fighters about half an hour later also
met with success.
At 11 a.m. the first objectives were in British
hands and "A" and "D" Companies immediately
passed through and secured their objectives without meeting the
enemy, who had fled. Strong fighting patrols were sent out and all
companies immediately consolidated the position to secure the road.
Patrols pushed far ahead, but no enemy parties
were encountered and they entered Buthidaung without opposition.
It was therefore decided to exploit success and send two platoons
on tanks to Kanbyin away on the right flank and move on Buthidaung
from the south. This party was delayed until 2 p.m. by anti-tank
mines, but set out in great spirits. It moved about five miles south
and then turned up a track towards Buthidaung, but the enemy had
pulled right back and the Sikhs, riding on tanks, entered Buthidaung
without seeing any enemy.
Unfortunately, one tank near Boomerang, a small
hill on the northern outskirts of the town, struck a mine. Although
the tank was damaged and could not be repaired that evening, no
casualties were suffered. One platoon therefore had to stay out
to protect the tank during the night, while the remainder returned
to the Battalion position.
Before dark the Battalion was firmly established
on Astride and the tanks withdrew safely to Tank valley.
This was a much bigger success than had been
expected. The enemy had been surprised and thrown out of a strong
position. They had run from the bayonets of the Sikhs and left Buthidaung
to be captured without a fight. In view of this success the move
of the Gurkhas was accelerated and they passed through Astride at
about 10.30 p.m., taking up positions securing the southern exits
During the night there was much enemy activity
and "C" Company south of the road encountered numerous
parties trying to infiltrate into their former positions. The enemy
attempts to recapture the hill features south of the road were very
half-hearted and were easily driven back. However, the next morning
a Japanese platoon was reported to have dug in on India Hill, which
was overlooking the road.
Since the Battalion was able to hold only the
more important hill features along the road, it had been decided
to leave India Hill unoccupied until Subadar Mehar Singh's platoon
returned from pirotecting the disabled tank on Boomerang. Consequently
the enemy had no difficulty in reoccupying it during the night.
The 25th Dragoons were now passing through the
position and it was essential therefore to recapture India Hill
immediately, before all their transport arrived.
ATTACK ON INDIA HILL
Gallantry of Naik Nand Singh, Victoria
Nand Singh , winner of the Victoria Cross Medal
"C" Company was detailed to carry
out the attack and Major Brough was ordered to waste no time. As
he dashed. away from Battalion Headquarters he met Subadar Mehar
Singh and his platoon returning, after being relieved on Boomerang
by the Gurkhas, so he immediately took them along to do the attack
on India Hill. This feature was too close to "C" Company's
position to allow artillery or mortars to support the attack, so
Lieutenant-Colonel Bamford managed to get a Lee tank from the 25th
Dragoons to cover the platoon forward.
India Hill was a knife-edged ridge, with steep, jungle-clad slopes.
The enemy was holding some deep trenches and fox-holes which were
well concealed and impossible to see in the jungle. The tank therefore
harassed the whole area for several minutes, while the platoon moved
up to assault the position, with a section under Naik Nand Singh
in the lead.
Naik Nand Singh led his section forward along a narrow track leading
up to the enemy position. This was the only possible approach on
to the hill. Reaching the crest, they came under heavy machine-gun
and rifle fire, and every man in the section went down, being either
killed or wounded. Nevertheless, Naik Nand Singh dashed forward
alone under intense fire at point-blank range. As he was approaching
the nearest Japanese trench he was wounded by a grenade, but without
hesitating he went on and captured the trench, killing both occupants
with his bayonet. Naik
Mountbatten congratulates Naik Nand Singh at the V.C.
investiture at Dehli
Nand Singh, seeing another trench a short distance
away, jumped up and dashed towards the second trench in spite of
the continuous fire from the enemy. He was again wounded by a grenade
and knocked down, but he got up and hurled himself into the trench,
killing both occupants with his bayonet. He moved on again for a
third time and captured a third trench all on his own. As soon as
he had captured the third trench the fire on the remainder of the
platoon ceased and they were able to move forward and capture the
remainder of the position, killing with bayonet and grenade thirty-seven
out of the forty Japanese who were holding the position.
It was due to Naik Nand Singh's gallantry and determination that
the Japanese position was captured so rapidly with so little cost
of life and that the whole enemy party were destroyed almost to
a man. For his gallantry and complete disregard for his own life
in this action Naik Nand Singh was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Nand Singh assaulting the Japanese entrenched on India
On the 20th of March the Battalion was withdrawn from the Buthidaung
area and given a protective role in the old Admin. Box, situated
at the bottom of the now-famous Ngakyedauk Pass.
Early on the morning of the 25th of March a party of Japanese was
reported in the hills overlooking the eastern entrance of the Admin.
Box and the Battalion was ordered to drive the enemy off. Two platoons
of "A" Company and one platoon of "B" Company
were detailed for this task.
Patrols moved out at 8 a.m. and reported the
enemy to be some one hundred strong and well dug in, in tunnelled
positions. Three separate attacks were put in by the Sikhs supported
by one tank and a very limited amount of artillery, and, although
severe casualties were inflicted on the enemy, only two out of three
enemy localities were captured. Jemadar Didar Singh showed great
bravery during the second attack, personally leading his platoon
forward under heavy enemy machine-gun and grenade fire. He could
be seen dashing forward, all on his own, time after time, hurling
grenades at a Japanese machine-gun post. He was killed in this action,
but he was awarded a posthumous Indian Order of Merit for his outstanding
gallantry. Sepoy Mohan Singh was also quite outstanding throughout
this attack. He was with the leading section, which was soon pinned
to the ground by enemy light-automatic fire. He crawled forward
on his own right close up to the enemy trenches and threw grenades
at the machine guns holding up his platoon. When his supply of grenades
was exhausted he crawled back for a further supply and then moved
forward again to continue his bombardment. It was later learned
that Sepoy Mohan Singh had killed over ten of the enemy on his own.
By nightfall the enemy were still occupying
a few of their bunkers, and it was decided to leave a platoon of
"A" Company to hold the captured trenches alongside the
enemy overnight. The next morning the enemy were found to have evacuated
their position, having suffered heavy casualties and leaving some
fifty bodies behind.
On the 2nd of April the Battalion again moved
to the east bank of the Kalapanzin river to hold the hill features
around Kwazon Ridge to assist the 114th Brigade in that area. Whilst
in this area Major Thomas was unfortunately killed by enemy shell
fire when taking over a position from the 4th/ 14th Punjab Regiment.
On the night of the 7th of April, having covered
the withdrawal of the 114th Brigade to Awlanbyin, the Battalion
withdrew northwards to a reserve area on the west bank of the Kalapanzin
opposite Taung Bazar and joined the 89th Brigade, to which the Battalion
had now been permanently allotted.
Meanwhile, "D" Company had been operating on its own in
the jungle hills known as "Massive," to contain the remnants
of a Japanese force still holding out. They had one or two minor
patrol encounters with the enemy, but returned to the Battalion
on the 10th of April after handing over to troops of the 26th Indian
In Taung the Battalion was employed in digging
defences and building bamboo huts for the monsoon, but "B"
and "D" Companies held. positions on the northern end
of Long Ridge and Bogiyaung respectively to cover Taung Bazar. Both
these companies were spasmodically attacked by enemy raiding parties
and harassed by enemy artillery, but all attacks were beaten off
with losses to the enemy, while the Battalion casualties were negligible.
Major-General Savory, now Director of Infantry
at General Headquarters in Delhi, in a letter to Lieutenant-Colonel
Bamford at Taung Bazar, wrote
"You will be interested to hear
that I went to a cocktail party with the Commander-in-Chief yesterday
and he told me that my old battalion was now making a great name
for itself in Burma. General Gifford was also at the party and he
made a point of coming over to tell me how well you had all been
doing in the recent fighting in the Arakan."
On the 26th of April, when the Battalion was waiting to return to
India for rest and refit, orders were received to proceed to Imphal
with the 89th Brigade to join temporarily the 5th Indian Division,
whose third brigade was cut off in Kohima by the Japanese in their
drive through Manipur.
On the 27th of April the 1st/ 11th Sikhs left
Taung for Bawli, which was riverhead for the forward areas in the
Arakan. The rifle companies marched over the Goppe Pass while the
remainder of the Battalion, with the baggage, went in lorries via
the Ngakyedauk Pass.
The next day the Battalion, with all the mules, embarked on river
craft and arrived at Tumbru in the afternoon. Here the men had their
evening meal before moving off in lorries for Dohazari. The Battalion
arrived at dawn on the 29th of April and was accommodated in the
transit camp, This was real luxury, as no one had slept under a
roof for many months.
The 1st/ 11th Sikhs remained three days in Dohazari and the men
had a good rest and a chance to clean up. Drill parades were carried
out each morning and the men were all in great heart.
On the 2nd of May, after holding an "Ardasa"
thanksgiving service, the Battalion marched to the station with
pipes playing and arrived at Sylhet by train early on the 3rd of
May to fly to Imphal.
The Sikhs camped for the night on the side of
the airstrip and prepared for the flight the next day.
In the early morning of the 4th of May aircraft loads were laid
out on the edge of the airfield and the men paraded alongside their
loads. The first aircraft left at about 11 a.m. and the flight to
Imphal was uneventful and lasted an hour. The Battalion, with jeeps
and baggage, was in its concentration area, a camp of bamboo huts
some twelve miles north of Imphal, by 4 p.m. without mishap.
The mules arrived by air a few days later, while the motor transport
moved by road to Dimapur, where it remained until the Kohima-Imphal
road was cleared many weeks later.
At this time the Japanese were investing Imphal. The enemy columns
which had swept northwards from Burma had been halted on the roads
into the Imphal Plain by the 20th and 23rd Indian Divisions, while
the columns which had swung north from the Chindwin river were at
last held at Kohima and Kanglatongbi after seizing a large section
of the famous Manipur road.
At Kanglatongbi the Manipur road debouches on to the Imphal Plain.
After all its hectic twists and turns, its hairpin bends, its fantastic
climbs and descents, the road comes smoothly down the valley of
the Imphal Turel, a mountain torrent. The hills on either side get
lower, and the valley opens out. A driver after this exhausting
one hundred and twenty miles' journey from Dimapur feels that the
worst is over. He is nearly home.
The Japanese were holding the village of Kanglatongbi and also
the ridge running away to the east on the other side of the Turel.
They had reached the limit of their advance, although they did not
yet realize it. From the tops of the hills they could see Imphal,
their promised land. They were beginning to get hungry, for their
plans to capture the British food supplies had not yet succeeded.
They were not disheartened and they were determined not to be driven
On the 6th of May the 1st/11th Sikhs took over Saingmai Hill from
the 1st / 3rd Gurkha Rifles and Saingmai village from the West Yorkshire
Regiment. These were the forward positions facing the enemy at Kanglatongbi.
The map can give but little idea of the country. Practically the
whole of the area, except for the rice fields on the Imphal Plain,
is covered with jungle. , Nothing of the ground can be seen from
the air; from above it looks lovely, somewhat like a huge bed of
parsley. The hills are steep and cut by numerous deep nullahs. Even
the few open stretches in the valleys are often covered with tall
elephant grass studded with scattered trees. Visibility was so limited
that fighting by day had many of the characteristics of night fighting.
Kanglatongbi was held by the enemy in strength. Patrols had located
the Japanese in positions all along the top of the ridge eastwards
from the village, so any large outflanking movement was almost impossible.
A direct break-through up the road would be dangerous while the
ridge was held. So Major-General Briggs, commanding the 5th Indian
Division, decided to clear the western end of the dominating ridge
while also forcing his way up the road. This would turn the flank
of the enemy farther east and force a withdrawal to the hills north
of Ekban Ekwan.
The 89th Indian Infantry Brigade was given the task of capturing
the ridge from its western extremity by the Turel near by as fat
as the tiny village of Tingsal, some three miles east of Kanglatongbi.
On the right were the 4th / 8th Gurkha Rifles; on the left the 2nd
Battalion The King's Own Scottish Borderers. The Sikhs, less "A"
Company, of which more anon, were in reserve. The attack was to
start at dawn on the 15th of May, and orders were issued on the
11th of May so that there should be ample time for the preparation
"A" Company was given a role in the main attack. It had
to pass through the enemy forward localities and seize the ridge
between Tingsal and Ekwan behind the enemy's line. The company would
then be astride the track along which all supplies to the enemy
units on the right had to go. Once in position the company was given
three tasks. The first was to divert Japanese attention from the
main attack; the second was to prevent any attempt at an enemy withdrawal;
and the third was to make contact with the Gurkhas on the Japanese
positions. The company's position would be precarious, with an exceedingly
doubtful line for reinforcement or supply, for it would be between
the Japanese forward positions and their reserve units.
On the 1 st of June the Battalion moved out on the first stage of
its journey to the Iril valley, where it was to take over positions
held by the 3rd/9th Jats.
The first night was spent at Imphal and the next day the Battalion
moved up the Iril valley in pouring rain. The men had to march ten
miles, most of. which was knee-deep in mud. The Battalion arrived
in the 3rd/9th Jats' area in the afternoon and bivouacked for the
night in the valley south of Wakan.
On the 3rd of June the Battalion took over positions from the Jats,
who were holding hill features on a ten-thousand-yard front in very
mountainous country. These positions were on the left flank of the
Japanese main positions and prevented the enemy from moving down
the Iril valley to Imphal. The. Battalion was located on the hill
feature of Wakan, while "A" and "D" Companies
were some three miles farther north on high hills around Point 4364
and were containing the enemy on their main positions on Everest,
the highest of the Japanese strongholds.
On the 4th of June Brigadier Crowther visited the Battalion and
ordered the Sikhs to make every effort to infiltrate on to the Everest
positions. A direct assault was quite out of the question, since
the Battalion was out of range of artillery fire and the positions
were exceptionally strong and were held by a high proportion of
machine guns. The 9th Brigade had previously carried out numerous
attacks with strong artillery support during the past month and
had suffered heavy casualties without meeting with any success.
Patrols, therefore, were sent out day and night to pin-point the
Japanese positions on Everest. They all reported the positions strongly
held and all confirmed that infiltration would be difficult and
costly. On the 5th of June a patrol behind the enemy lines reported
that the enemy was occupying the village of Nurathen on the Japanese
line of supply from the north. The patrol stated that there was
considerable movement in the village during the night. A Japanese
headquarters was believed to be in the village and it was therefore
decided to abandon the plan of infiltration on to Everest and to
send a company to raid Nurathen and then take up a position on the
enemy supply line. "D" Company moved out from Point 4364
at 10 p.m. on the 6th of June with nearly a full moon. They had
to move down a very steep track for fifteen hundred feet to the
valley below and then through marshy country for about three miles
to the village. Just south of the village the forward platoon encountered
an enemy post at the foot of a spur commanding the approaches to
the village. The platoon immediately rushed the post, which it overran,
killing ten Japanese. This small action unfortunately put all the
enemy in the vicinity on the alert and the company was not able
to get into the village. Major Workman therefore decided to move
up a hill overlooking the enemy supply line north of the village.
Here they prepared a strong position and sent out patrols to harass
the enemy. There was considerable patrol activity during the next
few days and enemy parties moving in the area were engaged day and
On the 8th of June a patrol went north from "D" Company's
position and discovered that the enemy had withdrawn temporarily
from Point 5417, which was their main stronghold in the next line
of defences.. The patrol immediately occupied the position and sent
back information to the company. A platoon was at once dispatched
to reinforce the patrol, but in the meantime the enemy, who
had evidently gone back to a hutted village for food without leaving
a sentry on the position, started to return. The patrol immediately
engaged them and inflicted a number of casualties on the enemy,
who withdrew. Several minutes later the patrol, which was only four
strong, was attacked by some sixty Japanese, whom it held off for
nearly twenty minutes. The patrol, however, ran out of ammunition
and was almost overrun. It was forced to withdraw just as the leading
troops of the reinforcing platoon were approaching the position.
The platoon attempted tb retake the position, but it had been reinforced.
The Sikhs suffered several casualties, including Major Workman and
Subadar Bishen Singh, who were wounded, and found that they were
opposed by superior numbers, so they had to return to the company
It was most disappointing, since the capture of this hill feature
would have forced the enemy to withdraw from the main road without
further delay. Nevertheless, the patrol had inflicted considerable
casualties on the enemy in their very gallant stand. During this
time other patrols had been into Nurathen village, and, finding
no sign of the enemy headquarters, it was decided that the village
was used by the enemy as a staging point. "D" Company
in their position denied the use of this route to the enemy, who
lost many casualties in the area. The enemy made no effort to throw
"D" Company out of their position, and this was the first
indication that the enemy probably lacked reserves in this area.
On the 11th of June increased activity was reported in the enemy
rear areas and on the 12th of June a patrol reported that all the
Everest positions had been evacuated by the enemy. These were immediately
occupied by "C" Company under Major Redding. This was
the second time since the Battalion had been in the Imphal area
that the Japanese had been forced to withdraw through infiltration
tactics into their rearward areas.
The 1st/11th. Sikhs continued to operate on the right flank of the
Division in the upper reaches of the Iril valley. Although there
were several jeep tracks in this area, these were now impassable
on account of the heavy rain. The Battalion therefore had to be
supplied entirely by mules. By the 14th of June this was also found
to be impossible and it was decided to commence supplying the Battalion
by air. During this period considerable; patrolling had been carried
out and a route round the enemy left flank was discovered.
Accordingly, on the 21st of June the Brigade Commander ordered the
Battalion to move to a position on the main Japanese supply line
from Kangpopki, his advance base on the main road, to his main base
at Ukhrul. Battalion headquarters, with "A" and "D"
Companies, moved off on the 22nd of June and had an entirely uneventful
march to the village of Aishan. The Battalion was fortunate in having
a few fine days during this period and was able to take up and prepare
a strong position just east of the village in fine weather.
On the 22nd of June the Kohima road was cleared and the troops from
the 2nd Division advancing south from Kohima joined up with the
5th Indian Division. At long last the siege had been lifted.
On the 23rd of June a patrol from "A" Company contacted
a party of the enemy moving east. The enemy, however, was in considerable
strength and the patrol was forced to withdraw. The Japanese followed
up and unexpectedly encountered the forward platoon of "D"
Company. They made several attempts to force the Sikhs back, but
they were repulsed with losses each time. The enemy therefore took
up a position on high ground some four hundred yards farther west.
This was unfortunately on the Sikhs' line of supply and so, although
the Battalion had cut off the Japanese, it was now itself also completely
cut off. The next morning "C" Company, which was moving
forward to reinforce the Battalion at Aishan, was held up by the
enemy. The next night the Japanese, who were estimated to be three
hundred strong with artillery and machine guns, made a few half-hearted
attempts to throw the Battalion back and, having suffered several
casualties, dispersed in small parties to the north. This action
had denied the enemy his best line of withdrawal and forced him
to withdraw over very much more difficult country to the north.
The Sikhs lost only one man killed and four wounded in this action,
but nine mules were killed by Japanese machine, guns during the
attack on the final night.
PURSUIT TO UKHRUL
By the end of June the Japanese offensive had not only been
effectively stopped but their main forces had been utterly defeated
on all sectors of the Imphal front and the enemy were withdrawing
to the Burma border.
The monsoon had set in and the troops in the forward areas were
fighting in appalling conditions. Previously in Burma the heavy
rains at this time of year had always brought operations to almost
a standstill, but General Slim, the Fourteenth Army Commander, was
not going to allow the weather to interfere with his plans this
year and he was determined to exploit his successes and keep the
Japanese on the run.
The unmetalled roads along which the divisions were operating were
by now almost impassable to motor transport and there was no hope
of supplying the forward troops by mule or jeep far from the main
roads. However, the R.A.F. once again came to the Army's assistance
and, in spite of all the risks and dangers of flying at this time
of the year, they readily agreed to do everything possible to deliver
supplies to the forward divisions throughout the monsoon.
The 23rd Indian Division, therefore, pressed on down the Tamu road,
while the 5th Indian Division was switched over to the southern
front to pursue the retreating Japanese towards Tiddim. The only
Japanese still holding out were those on the Ukhrul road, some twenty
miles from Imphal, in front of the 20th Division. This force held
on grimly to its positions to cover the withdrawal of the remnants
of the Japanese forces in the north.
As soon as the Manipur road was open the 89th Brigade returned
to the 7th Indian Division, which had been ordered to pursue the
Japanese retreating through Ukhrul.
On leaving the 5th Indian Division, General Briggs, in a letter
to LieutenantColonel Bamford, wrote
"I was sorry not to be able to see
you to say good-bye and to thank you for the great assistance you
and your battalion have given this division in the last operations.
The spirit and dash shown by you all has been magnificent and you
have certainly taken every advantage offered you to defeat the Jap."
The 33rd Brigade was already moving
south towards Ukhrul, so the 89th Brigade was ordered to move immediately
across country to Ukhrul and Sangshak to cut off the Japanese withdrawals
from the Manipur road and to threaten the rear of those farther
south in front of the 20th Division.
The 89th Brigade, with animal transport and much-reduced baggage,
was to move along the track from Kangpopki through Aishan, Chawai,
Mollen, Leishan and Toinem. Two days' rations were carried, while
an air-drop was being arranged every second day.
The Brigade Commander decided to march in three groups with a day's
march between each group. The 1 st / 11 th Sikhs were in the lead
with Advanced Brigade Headquarters and the 62nd Field Company, while
the Gurkhas were in Group II with a mountain battery and the King's
Own Scottish Borderers in Group III.
On the 26th of June Brigade Headquarters and the 62nd Field Company,
with additional mules for the Sikhs, left Kangpopki at 8 a.m. The
2nd Division was moving forward to clear Hill 5247 and operations
along the track slightly delayed the column, which arrived at Aishan
at about 6 o'clock in the evening. On the next day Group I moved
out from Aishan, but the river, four miles farther east, was in
spate and could not be crossed until the sappers constructed a bridge.
This took the whole day, so the group camped for the night on the
bank of the river.
On the 28th of June the Battalion had a very long and tiring march
over rough and mountainous country and went into bivouac in the
evening a mile west of Leishan. "B" and H.Q. Companies,
who had been left behind in the Iril valley, rejoined the Battalion
as it passed through Chowai.
On the 29th of June the Battalion had another very strenuous march
to Toinem over even more difficult country, and at times in pouring
rain. The Brigade had now crossed some four mountain ranges, so
Brigadier Crowther decided that the 1 st / 11 th Sikhs should rest
for a day at Toinem before moving on to Ukhrul.
While the Battalion rested the next day two patrols were sent out,
one to reconnoitre the route to Ukhrul and the other to raid a Japanese
party reported to be in the village of Pharong. The reconnaissance
patrol returned in the evening and reported that the track to Ukhrul
was not correctly marked on the map and it went through a very steep
ravine and over a high pass two miles west of the town. The other
patrol, under Major Redding, met very stiff resistance on approaching
the objective, and, although numerous casualties were inflicted
on the enemy, it was not able to clear the village. It was later
learnt that the local inhabitants had warned the Japanese of the
approach of this patrol.
On the 1 st of July the 1st /11th Sikhs set out at first light
to seize the pass and, if possible, push on to Ukhrul itself. "B"
Company, under Subadar Indar Singh, was in the lead and by midday
the company moved into the ravine leading to the top of the pass
without encountering the enemy. However, towards the far end of
the ravine the leading scouts were suddenly engaged by some Japanese,
who were holding a position astride the track. Although "B"
Company surprised and overran a small post, the Sikhs could not
dislodge the enemy holding the pass. The jungle was very thick in
this area and it was quite impossible to ascertain the extent of
the enemy positions or the lie of the ground.
In order to try to secure the pass before dark, "A" Company
was sent to capture the high ground to the north, while "D"
Company under Subadar Hazara Singh moved out to seize the high ground
to the south. Both these companies experienced great difficulty
in moving through the thick jungle and up the steep slopes in pouring
rain. However, they reached their objectives without encountering
any opposition and had outflanked the, enemy holding the pass. Patrols
were sent out and were soon back reporting that about eighty of
the enemy were holding a position covering a track junction on the
pass. It was now getting dark, so the Sikhs consolidated on the
high ground while fighting patrols were sent out to cut the enemy
line of withdrawal to Ukhrul.
It continued to pour with rain and the Sikhs spent a miserable
night in the open. Patrols met no opposition at the eastern end
of the pass, but they confirmed that the enemy were still in position
around the track junction at daylight. Lieutenant-Colonel Bamford
therefore decided to attack immediately from the east and capture
the position from the rear. Just as final arrangements were being
made for the attack, a Japanese party, from a position farther south
counter-attacked "D" Company and enabled their comrades
to withdraw from the pass during the fighting. The counter-attack
made no progress and the Japanese soon gave up and withdrew right
back to Ukhrul, leaving the Sikhs in control of the pass. "C"
Company immediately followed up and seized the col leading to Ukhrul.
Brigade Headquarters and the 4th / 8th Gurkhas arrived at the top
of the pass at 11 a.m. and Brigadier Crowther came forward to reconnoitre.
He was able to get a very good view of Ukhrul and the country in
between and he decided to form a base with the 1 st / 11 th Sikhs,
Brigade Headquarters and the mountain battery astride the pass,
while the Gurkhas moved forward to occupy Ukhrul.
The air-drop which had been arranged for the whole Brigade group
did not materialize owing to rain and cloud, which prevented the
supply aircraft flying low in the Troubal valley.
At first light on the 3rd of July the Gurkhas moved forward. They
met considerable initial success by taking the enemy completely
by surprise and soon captured the south-east corner of Ukhrul. However,
the enemy were holding strongly - prepared positions in the old
fort in the southern part of the town and, a track junction farther
north. The Gurkhas made great efforts to capture these strong points,
but they could not make any further progress. Aircraft again were
not able to drop supplies on account of low clouds over the whole
area, so rations were almost exhausted and everyone was now getting
On the next day the King's Own Scottish Borderers moved forward
round the southern edge of the town, but they were'also held up
by small enemy posts in and around the old fort. This was most unfortunate,
as now two battalions were committed in Ukhrul, while the Sikhs
had to remain on the pass to protect Brigade Headquarters, the guns
and the field ambulance. This was necessary, since the 33rd Brigade
had reported that four hundred Japanese were moving south from Ngainu
farther north. It was still appalling weather and no air-drop was
possible, so stocks of rations were completely exhausted. However,
on the 5th of July the weather cleared. Much-needed supplies were
successfully dropped throughout the afternoon and everyone had his
first good meal for several days in the evening.
During the next few days the Gurkhas and the King's Own Scottish
Borderers made further efforts to find a way round the Japanese
positions, but without success, while Sikh patrols moving north
from the pass ambushed several small parties of Japanese withdrawing
On the 6th of July the enemy brought up some artillery south of
Ukhrul and shelled Brigade Headquarters and the Sikhs intermittently
for two days, but luckily very few casualties were sustained.
On the 8th of July the enemy shelled the Gurkhas in Ukhrul and
at the same time evacuated their positions north of the town. The
Gurkhas immediately pushed forward and made contact with the 33rd
Brigade at about 12 noon. During the afternoon the enemy again shelled
the Gurkhas and their rearguards withdrew from the fort area, leaving
the town to be occupied by the Gurkhas.
The Brigade Commander then decided to move on and before dawn on
the 9th of July the Sikhs set out across country to Humpum. On reporting
this area clear the Battalion was ordered to push on towards Sangshak.
The Sikhs encountered a few Japanese stragglers, but met no organized
resistance and bivouacked for the night a few miles south of Humpum.
On the next day the Battalion again moved off early, but the leading
platoon of "A" Company was held up by an enemy rearguard
covering the bridge over the river in the valley south of Sangshak.
A second platoon was immediately sent to cross the river farther
west. It had some difficulty in crossing, but eventually got over
to the other side and attacked the enemy from the rear, killing
six Japanese and forcing the remainder to withdraw eastwards. The
Battalion now pushed on and passed through a very strong Japanese
position on the col between Shangshak and Semshang. This position
had only recently been evacuated by the Japanese, who had left six
105-mm. guns, a 4-inch mortar, twelve lorries and much minor equipment
behind. There were a number of stragglers in this area and it took
a considerable time to search the position and the Sikhs did not
arrive in Sangshak until after dark. The leading company was engaged
as it entered the village, but the Japanese offered only slight
resistance and withdrew as soon as the men advanced to take the
Sangshak had been the scene of some bitter fighting when a parachute
battalion had borne the brunt of the Japanese offensive a few months
earlier. The village was now in a foul condition; it had been burnt
to the ground in the fighting and the Japanese had made no attempt
to bury the dead or dispose of abandoned equipment. The Battalion
spent an uncomfortable night amid the ruins and filth and the men
had a busy time clearing up the area the next day.
Patrols were pushed down towards the Imphal road and reported that
the Japanese had withdrawn and the way to Imphal was clear. The
next day jeep ambulances came forward to evacuate the sick and wounded,
who had. been carried along with the field ambulance since leaving
From the 11th to the 19th of July the Battalion remained in Sangshak
and patrolled far and wide without encountering any formed body
of Japanese. On the 14th of July General Messervy came forward and
established an advanced headquarters in Sangshak for three days.
The men were all very pleased to see him and his presence in the
forward area so soon after the road was open was much appreciated.
Major Adams and twelve men contracted scrub typhus while in Sangshak
and were evacuated to hospital in Imphal. This disease was very
prevalent at this time and was taking a large toll among the troops.
In spite of great efforts by doctors and the provision of additional
nurses, Major Adams and eight men died in hospital. This was a sad
blow at the end of this phase of operations just as the Battalion
was about to go back for rest and refit. Major Adams heard a few
days before he died that he had been awarded the Military Cross
for the part he played in the Ekban battle.
On the 19th of July troops from the 2nd Division started to arrive
in the area and take over from the 89th Brigade, which was at long
last being given a rest. On the next day the Battalion marched twenty-one
miles down the road towards Imphal and bivouacked for the night
at the eighteenth milestone. The road was ankle-deep in mud, so
the men had a very tiring march out of action. After resting for
a couple of days the Battalion moved by motor transport to its rest
area in Kohima:
The Brigade was located in a delightful area some five miles out
of the town. The Sikhs were accommodated in a tented camp and the
men were able to make themselves comfortable for the first time
for many months. The Battalion had been in contact with the enemy
continuously for ten months. The men had stood up to the prolonged
fighting in appalling weather with short rations exceptionally well.
The wonderful spirit of the Sikhs could not have been higher right
up to the last. A large number, however, were very debilitated and
there was a great deal of diarrhoea throughout the Battalion. The
men had stuck it out to the end, but they now needed careful attention,
good food and rest.
On the 8th of August General Sir George Giffard,
Commander-in-Chief, 11th Army Group, visited the Battalion and congratulated
the men on the fine part they had played in the recent operations.
Shortly after arriving in Kohima two large parties went off for
a month's leave while a draft of some two hundred men arrived from
the 15th Battalion, which was being disbanded.
Owing to the bracing climate and excellent rations
in Kohima, the men were soon fit and well. New clothing and equipment
were issued and the Battalion was ready to start training in October.
This was soon in full swing and much valuable training was carried
out during the next two and a half months.
In the early morning of the 19th of October
Brigadier Dinwiddie and Lieutenant-Colonel Bamford, with a representative
party from the Battalion, set out from Kohima to Imphal to fly to
Delhi, to attend an investiture by His Excellency Field-Marshal
Lord Wavell. The Royal Air Force had very kindly detailed a special
plane to fly the party to Delhi and back in order that they might
witness the ceremony, at which Naik Nand Singh was to be invested
with the Victoria Cross. The investiture took place outside the
Red Fort in Delhi and Naik Nand Singh was presented with the Victoria
Cross by Lord Wavell, with three other recipients, before a large
gathering, including General Sir Claude Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief,
India, Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander,
South-East Asia, General Sir George Giffard, Commander-in-Chief,
11th Army Group, and General Sir William Slim, Commander, Fourteenth
After the presentation of medals the Viceroy,
accompanied by General Auchinleck, inspected the parade, which consisted
of the troops in Delhi Area and a guard of honour from each of the
regiments to which the Victoria Cross recipients belonged. After
the inspection the parade marched past and all senior officers witnessing
the ceremony were introduced to the Victoria Cross holders.
Since the 1st /11th Sikhs were in an operational
area, the guard of honour was provided by the Regimental Centre,
but was commanded by Major Brough, with Subadars Bachan Singh and
Bishen Singh as his,Viceroy's commissioned officers. It was a most
impressive ceremony and it was very fortunate that a party could
attend from the Battalion, even though it was in an operational
area. Two days later the party flew back to Imphal and rejoined
the Battalion in Kohima.
At this time Brigadier J. G. Smythe, Military
Correspondent of the London Times, who won the Victoria Cross with
the 15th Sikhs in France in the First World War, selected the 1st/
11th Sikhs and published the record of their fighting in the Arakan
and Manipur in the Sunday Times to disprove the criticisms in certain
uninformed circles in the United States concerning the fighting
of Indian soldiers in the war. Brigadier Smythe, in an article published
in 1946, wrote:
"The reason I selected the 14th
as an example to quote to America was the tremendously high opinion
I had heard of them from a very distinguished British battalion
which fought alongside of them-and I think that is the praise any
unit would prize more than any other and which is most likely to
be well deserved."
In November Lieutenant-Colonel Bamford left
the Battalion to take up a staff appointment in the United States,
and Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton was posted in his place.
While in Kohima the Sikhs constructed a very
fine Gurdwara and were able to celebrate the birthdays of Guru Nanak
Singh and Guru Govind Singh in the traditional manner, when all
the Sikhs in the Division were the guests of the Battalion throughout
The 1st/ 11th Sikhs were very pleased that Major-General H. J. M.
Cursetjee, who was the Medical Officer with the Battalion in Gallipoli
in the First World War, was able to visit them on the 24th of December
and stay with them over Christmas.
All preparations for the next campaign were
complete by December and the Battalion was once again ready for
action. The men were in good heart and fit. They had enjoyed their
time in Kohima and had had an opportunity to play games and to get
to know other units in the Division.