Burma old


This page has been created in an effort to share the abundance of
interesting stories and facts about the Burma and the Japanese
invasion of Burma in the 40's.   Burma borders Assam and at the
time of the invasion of Burma there were many stories of great
heroism by people of different backgrounds and races.
                                    For Khine's news please Click Here

Please click on Headline to see story--
to read some of these stories you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader 

Progress on finding buried Spitfires

Photo Correction

Burma to help find buried Spitfires

Anglo Burmese Library

Film Gyles Mackrell

Nigel Pankhurst BBC

Kohima leaflets

Poem-Over the Hump

Shirley West more stories

Wartime Courage by Gordon Brown

More from Shirley West


This is added

Jan 13 2013

Progress on finding the buried Spitfires

Yangon Myanmar---An excavation team searching for a stash of legendary World War 11—era British fighter aircraft in Northern Myanmar , said a wooden crate believed to contain one of the planes has been found full of muddy water.

 How much damage occurred was not yet clear, and searchers could not definitively say what was inside the crate. But British aviation enthusiast David J Cundall who is driving the hunt for the rare Spitfire planes,called the results “very encouraging”

 “It will take some time tom pump the water out ….but I do expect all aircraft to be in very good condition”  Cundall told reporters Wednesday  in Myanmar’s main city Yangon.

 The Spitfire helped Britain beat back waves of German bombers during the war that ended in 1945, and it remains the most famous British combat aircraft. About 20,000 Spitfires were built , although the dawn of the jet age quickly made theb propellor driven, single seat plans obsolete.

As many as 140 Spitfires ---three to four times the number of airworthy models known to exist—are believed to have been buried in near-pristine condition in Myanmar by American Engineers as the war drew to a close.

 The wooden crate was found in Myitkyina in Kachin State during a dig that began last month. Several are planned nationwide, including another near the airport at Yangon.

 Cundall said the search team in Kachin inserted a camera in the crate and found water. What else was inside the crate was unclear and pumping out the water could take weeks, he said.

 The go-ahead for excavation came in October when Myanmar’s government signed an agreement with Cundall and his local partner.

 Under the deal, Myanmar’s government will get one plane for display at a museum ,. As well as half the remaining total.  DJC, a private company headed by Cundall, will get 30% of the total and the Myamnmar partner company Shwe Taung Paw, headed by Htoo Htoo Zaw will get 20%

 During  the projects first phase , searchers hope to recover 60 planes, 36 planes in Mingaladon, near Yangon’s international airport, six in Meikthila in Central Myanmar and 18 in Myitkyina. Others are to be recovered in a second phase.

 Searchers hope the aircraft are in pristine condition , but others have said its possible all they might find is a mass of corroded metal. 

Cundall said the practice of burying aircraft, tanks and jeeps was common after the war.

 “Basically nobody had got any orders to take these planes back to the UK . They were just surplus ….(and)…one way of disposing them was to bury them” Cundall said  “ The war was over , everybody wanted to go home , nobody wanted anything , so you just  buried it and went home. That was it”

 Stan Coombe, a 91 year old war veteran from Britain who says he witnessed the aircrafts burial, traveled to Myanmar to observe the search. 

It is “very exciting for me because I never thought I would be allowed to come back and see where spitfires have been buried,”  Coombe said. “It’s been a long time since anybody believed what I said until David Cundall came along”                                                                                                                                                


 April 15 2012
Burma to help find buried Spitfires

Published in the Scotsman on Sunday 15 April 2012 00:00

TWENTY "lost" Spitfires that were buried in Burma during the Second World War could return to the skies, it has been revealed.

David Cameron and Burmese president Thein Sein have agreed to work together to find and restore the historic aircraft as part of a thaw in relations.

Amateur aviation enthusiasts uncovered evidence of the Spitfires' existence years ago, but have been unable to gain access to their potential locations.

Earl Mountbatten ordered the RAF to bury them in the summer of 1945, amid fears they could be either used or destroyed by Japanese forces. Within weeks, the atom bomb was dropped to end the conflict and the brand new planes - in crates and yet to be assembled - were seemingly forgotten.

Experts from Leeds University have linked up with an academic based in Rangoon and believe they have identified the sites where the craft are concealed using sophisticated radar techniques. Although about 21,000 Spitfires were built during the war effort, only 35 are believed to be in flying condition today.

Cameron raised the fascinating find when he met Sein yesterday. Officials said the president was "very enthusiastic", and if the planes can be salvaged, some could potentially go on display in Burma.

A Downing Street source said: "It is hoped this will be an opportunity to work with the reforming Burmese government, uncover, restore and display these fighter planes."

The project is being funded by the Boultbee Flight Academy. Founder Steve Boultbee Brooks said: "We hope to train future generations of engineers and pilots on how to build and fly the Spitfire through the reconstruction of these newly-discovered gems."



February 21 2011

The Anglo Burmese Library has a very interesting web site please click


 November 21 2010

Thanks to John Gill we now have the link to the Cambridge University film about Gyles Mackrell and all his great work in saving refugees trying to escape from Burma The film takes 13 minutes and 30 seconds to view
please click on the link to see

November 2 2010

  We are grateful to Peter Bartlett and Aline Dobbie for alerting the Editor to this story By Nigel Pankhurst of BBC News ---To view the film please click the link to the BBC below on this page--and then click on the film to view it.

The Elephant Man

Gyles Mackrell's who was known as "The Elephant Man" in the newspapers of the time - but only now has the full story of one of World War II's most remarkable rescues come to light.

British tea planter Gyles Mackrell organised the evacuation of hundreds of people from Burma into British India in 1942 in the face of the Japanese advance in South Asia.

"Start Quote"

It's a remarkable story of courage, spirit and ingenuity that took place at a time when no one was sure what the consequences of the war in the Far East would be"

End Quote Dr Annamaria Motrescu Cambridge University Centre of South Asian Studies
There was only one way Mackrell could save those whose flight from the enemy was blocked by monsoon-swollen rivers at the border - by elephant.
Knowledge of his epic deeds has faded since, with Mackrell's modesty over events no doubt playing a part.

Now the tale is set to get a new lease of life after the donation to Cambridge University of a collection of letters, diaries and even amateur film footage documenting the extraordinary escapes.

'Elephant Man' who staged daring WWII rescues

By Nigel Pankhurst BBC News

Click Here to got to the link to the BBC News video


Mackrell, aged 53 at the time, had spent most of his life in Assam - where he worked as an area supervisor for Steel Brothers tea exporters - when the call for help came.

The Burmese capital Rangoon had fallen and tens of thousands of people, many of them sick or wounded, made the trek across hundreds of miles and through dense jungle in search of the safety of the Indian border.

Starvation fear

By May 1942, groups of evacuees were stranded on the banks of the narrow rivers dividing the two countries, torrential monsoon rains making the waters almost impossible to cross. The RAF dropped food supplies but the British were able to do little more.

Mackrell, who had access to elephants through his work, was told about the situation on 4 June 1942 by a group who had managed to breach the Dapha River by forming a human chain while the water level was at a low.

Mackrell wrote in his diary, which makes up part of the collection: "I promised to collect some elephants and move off as quickly as I could as they told me the party behind would be starving, especially if they got held up by the rivers."

After initially rescuing a group of 86 soldiers trapped on a mid-river island, about 200 people had been saved by September that year.

At one stage Mackrell had to go back to Assam to recover from fever before returning to the Dapha.

The collection has been donated to the university's Centre of South Asian Studies by Mackrell's niece and an independent researcher, Denis Segal.

Archivist Dr Kevin Greenbank said: "The story is a sort of Far-Eastern Dunkirk, but it has largely been forgotten since the war.

"Without the help of Mackrell and others like him, hundreds of people fleeing the Japanese advance would quite simply never have made it."

Modest hero

The records include the testimony of some of those who were rescued, such as railway engineer John Rowland who describes how his group resorted to eating fern fronds to supplement the little food they had.

Wednesday, 10 June 1942

At 2am a different tune in the roar of the water brought me wide awake and I found the level falling. By 4am it was down to 3 to 4ft and was free of the logs and drift that had been such a terror to the elephants before...

The mahouts [elephant drivers] needed no urging. Rungdot, a Kampti elephant was the first to be ready and by 5.30 he was over...

By 7am he was back in camp with the first three refugees...

The others came in a few at a time and by midday we had the whole 68...

Within two hours of the last elephant and man to reach my camp, the snow water came down again and the whole island on which these men had been penned for 7 days was swept by a roaring torrent in which no human being could have survived.

Extracts from the diary of Gyles Mackrell

He wrote: "There is no nutriment in the additional diet.

"At all events it forms bulk and with luck it is hoped to spin out the rations for 24 days, after which, if no relief party or aeroplane arrives with rations, it is recognised that we must die of starvation."

A short note from Sir RE Knox, of the Treasury's Honours Committee in London, appears in the collection.

He concluded that the risk of death Mackrell faced "could be put, very roughly, at George Medal: 50 to 80%".

Mackrell did receive the George Medal and died in Suffolk in 1959.

Research associate Dr Annamaria Motrescu said: "Mackrell was embarrassed by the attention he received and even worried that people would think he had returned to the Dapha in the pursuit of a second medal.

"In fact, it's a remarkable story of courage, spirit and ingenuity that took place at a time when no one was sure what the consequences of the war in the Far East would be. It deserves to be remembered."

A short film about Mackrell's story is being released on the university's YouTube site, www.youtube.com/cambridgeuniversity.

Within two hours of the last elephant and man to reach my camp, the snow water came down again and the whole island on which these men had been penned for 7 days was swept by a roaring torrent in which no human being could have survived.
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July 28 2009

This brochure from Kohima mentions a Church where prayers are said
for the soldiers, from both sides, who fell in the Battle of Kohima---we must
salute the Brave Nagas.

This leaflet has been forwarded to the Editor by Ali Zaman and we thank him

As the leaflets are large  a change in presentation has been made using PDF
which allows you to
Zoom in to read it in comfort

Click here to see the front of the leaflet

Click here to see the back of the leaflet

Wonderful memories for the Fallen

October 21 2008
This poem was sent in by Larry Brown and we 
thank him.  It is a fascinating read --enjoy

Created and signed by
-2nd Lt. J. D. Broughel--
1st Transport Group--13th Transport Squadron--U. S. Army-----July 25 to 27, 1943

OH! History's page through every age
Tells of men who accomplish things,
But few there are shine a brighter star
Than those of whom this bard sings.

I've flown up and down the airways
From Hartford to Cooch-Behar
And have flown on instruments hours on end
With a line on a single star.

Up where the oxygens needed;
Down where it's gusty and rough;
When the radio compass is bouncin' around
And the going is really tough;

  I've flown from Natal to Ascension
When the scum wasn't drained from the sumps,
But it's nothin' compared to the thrills ya get
In a ship flying "Over the Hump".

Half round the world from home and Nell
Living in Bamboo Huts
("Bashas they call ‘em"), the heat and bugs
And the damp almost drive you nuts.

To the boys in the 13th Squadron
It's like saying your ABC's,
Cross the Hump to the Lake and Mt. Tali,
Then over to Yunnanyi.

  We take off from down by Doom Doom,
At a place called Sookerating,
With twenty-five drums of gasoline
To go over the Hump to Kunming.

First there's the Fort Hertz Valley
And before the Taung Pit, which is green,
We cross the Yellow Mali,
Then the third, the dark brown Salween.

We're getting to eighteen thousand,
And the engines are singin' a song
As the fourth, a red river, slips by below;
The Lantsang Kiang, or Mekong.

Across the grim Himalayas
There's a million rock peaks,
And you're sweatin' at twenty thousand
If the engine as much as squeaks;

For there's no landin' up in the mountains,
And those Japs are at Sumpra Bum,
And those widow-makers crowd on ya
Like tenenment homes in a slum.

In the best of weather the hazards
‘Twould take a year to tell,
But on instruments up in the "Soup" and ice
The going is really hell!

Rocky and evil and awful,
So you're scared if you have to jump:
Crossing the ocean is easy
Alongside of flying the "Hump"!.

And what if you're downed in the mountains
With thousands of rocky defiles?
If the tigers and Cobras don't get you
A days work will net you three miles;

And what if you get to a river?
A raft gets you down to the Japs!
And you know that Home or for flying again
For the duration (At Least) it is "Taps"!

Did you say that you had met Bushey?
Well, in case you didn't know,
He went down on his first trip over,
A week and a half ago;

Looking? Hell, No! They're not looking!
Combing those rocky shelves?
A Hundred Years wouldn't be enough time!
They'll have to "Walk Out" by themselves.

Over the PanShan we're still going great;
To the South lies the town of Yangpi,
And we hit the South end of Lake Tali,
And then on to Yunnanyi.

Now there's many a cumulonimbus
That's turned a hair gray in my head,
And too many times have I trembled
When I thought the right Engine went Dead;

Cross the Veldt up in Tanganyika
Each foot brings A "Rockier" Bump,
But it's nothing compared to the Ride you get
With the boys flying "Over The Hump"!

It's great to hold the controls
On that Giant Man-Made Bird ---
Pratt and Whitneys singing the sweetest
Concerto you've ever heard ----

For your Heart must be in your flying,
And you swell with Instrinsic Pride;
(You see, I'm a Navigator And I just go along for the ride!).
Most of the danger is over,

And we feel pretty safe with our load
When we "Spot" that old Ribbon of Freedom
That's know as the Burma Road.
"Oil for the Lamps of China"

Was it the Poet said?
Oil and gas for American Boys!
They need it like Butter needs Bread!
Looking? Hell, No! They're not looking!

Combing those rocky shelves?
A Hundred Years wouldn't be enough time!
They'll have to "Walk Out" by themselves.
Over the PanShan we're still going great;

To the South lies the town of Yangpi,
And we hit the South end of Lake Tali,
And then on to Yunnanyi.
Now there's many a cumulonimbus

That's turned a hair gray in my head,
And too many times have I trembled
When I thought the right Engine went Dead;
Cross the Veldt up in Tanganyika

Each foot brings A "Rockier" Bump,
But it's nothing compared to the Ride you get
With the boys flying "Over The Hump"!
It's great to hold the controls

On that Giant Man-Made Bird ---
Pratt and Whitneys singing the sweetest
Concerto you've ever heard ----
For your Heart must be in your flying,

And you swell with Instrinsic Pride;
(You see, I'm a Navigator And I just go along for the ride!).
Most of the danger is over,
And we feel pretty safe with our load

When we "Spot" that old Ribbon of Freedom
That's know as the Burma Road.
"Oil for the Lamps of China"
Was it the Poet said?

Oil and gas for American Boys!
They need it like Butter needs Bread!
We follow the road ‘Cross the Mountains,
And our Airspeed jumps as we Wing
Through the Valley that leads for the last hundred miles
To our destination ----Kunming!

Yes! I've flown from Natal to Ascension
When the scum wasn't drained from the sump,
But it's nothing compared to the thrill you get
In a ship flying "Over the Hump"!

Oh! Historys page through every age
Tells of men who accomplished things,
But few there are shine a Brighter star
Than the boys with the Silver Wings!

--2nd Lt. J. D. Broughel--
1st Transport Group--13th Transport Squadron
U. S. Army-----July 25 to 27, 1943
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April 1 2008

Shirley West who wrote the story 
"Whatever happened to my Rocking Horse" 
gives us another insight into her life -

This time she is helping a friend Sally, who is collecting stories of Indian Railways in the 20's 30's and 40's -there has recently been some first class photos of rail scenes in Assam on www.koi-hai.com and this should add to the interest -here is Shirley's note:

Hello Sally,

     I arrived in Calcutta in March 1942, having been evacuated from Rangoon on the last ship to leave before the Japs arrived.  We were soon on a train to Bangalore to be with my maternal grandparents, and then on to Simla in the foothills of the Himalayas where Burma railways  had regrouped.  My Father was a senior accounts officer with Burma Railways, and as such, his family always had the privilege of travelling First Class on all our journeys.  We would travel down to Bangalore for the three month Christmas Holidays, and of course the train journeys were a source of great pleasure and excitement.

       The noise of the big stations, Madras, Delhi and Bombay were something never to be forgotten.  We always had a coupe for my Mother, brother and myself, and it was always my lot to sleep on the floor.  The bedroll would be opened, and I would fall asleep to the rumble of the wheels.  It was a bit dicey sleeping on the floor, there was always the danger of being trodden on during the night if either of the other two needed the loo!  My Mother would take a huge wicker picnic basket with food for the journey, Madras to Delhi took two days, and I would chomp through two dozen hard-boiled eggs during this time. Once we ordered a meal  from the dining car, this was delivered but the attendant did not have enough time to get back to his work place, so he simply hung on to the door handle outside our compartment till the next stop.

      As the train would come in to the station, my Mother would hang out of the carriage window, yelling "Coolie, coolie!" till we would have about twenty of them running to keep pace with our compartment till the train stopped. We only had three suitcases !!!!

      My most vivid memory of these journeys was "The Bath" in the First Class Ladies Waiting Room in Delhi !  We always had several hours to kill before the train to Kalka, and my Mother would decide that I needed a bath.  The Waiting Room was a huge, cool, dark room, with another huge room which was the bathroom.  Here, in splendid isolation, would stand a huge marble bath. I was only seven years old, and she would tell me to stand in the bath so that I would not pick up any germs!  This would be fine, until the soapy water seeped under my feet and I would fall - all arms and legs - elbows and knees hitting the sides of the bath.  My Mother was not one for tenderness or patience, and she would shout and slap me for not doing as I had been told!!!!  How I hated those baths in Delhi.  Small as I was, I used to wonder why my Mother never remembered that I always fell.

     The little train from Kalka up to Simla was delightful.  We would go through 103 tunnels on the way, with the compartment filling with smoke in the darkness, the stations on the way all had the usual vendors, with the brown monkeys ever watchful for anything that could be snatched or eaten.

      My husband and I had two holidays in India in 2001 and 2004 both were nostalgia trips organised by someone who had schooled at Sanawar in the Simla Hills.  The trip by train was an extra excursion because car journeys were faster, but it was not the same.  No steam , no smoke and no whistle.

      In 1960 I took my Mum back to India to see her Mother who lived in Allahabad.  Yet again we were lucky as Dad had written to Indian Railways asking that his wife and unmarried daughter be watched over, and back came a reply from someone who had worked under him years before, and offered us free First Class travel whilst in India!  I have never forgotten the Ticket Clerk in Agra, (a lady clerk), saying we would have to change trains at two in the morning.  On seeing my dismay at this, she said "Never mind, you ladies have a good sleep and I will arrange for the bogey to be transferred to the other train!"  I did wonder just where we would find ourselves the next morning, but sure enough, we arrived in Allahabad as promised!  What service and efficiency!

      The school trains were something else!  The school year lasted from March to December, and long journeys were involved in getting the children to the Hill Schools,so teachers were roped in to supervise the children on the trip.  The older children, usually the boys, used to get up to all sorts of mischief.  I have a friend who is nearing eighty and he says he still has a conscience about how they used to trick to vendors and not pay for the good they "bought".

      I hope this is the sort of thing you are looking for, and wish you all the very best in your quest to compile Indian train memories. You may also find this website of interest, it is fascinating www.koi-hai.com  an  www.koi-hai.com/Burma.html
 Kind regards,
 Shirley West (nee Jones)
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This article which is part of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's book Wartime Courage was shown in the Daily Telegraph and we asked for permission to show on our website--the part shown is copied below

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Wartime Courage by Gordon Brown:  
                 ---- part four----

For two years, Major Hugh Seagrim trained and led an army of Burmese tribesmen to resist the Japanese occupation. But, as Gordon Brown reveals in the fourth of our exclusive extracts from his new book, Seagrim's love for his men was so great that he could see only one way to save them

Near St Mary's church in the little village of Whissonsett in Norfolk stands a memorial to two brothers, one with the Victoria Cross, one with the George Cross.


Former POWs pay their respects at a Japanese War cemetery in Rangoon

Former POWs pay their respects at a  war cemetery in Rangoon

The only two brothers ever to be so honoured, they were sons of a local clergyman, the Rev. Charles Seagrim, rector of Whissonsett-with-Horningtoft. Neither survived the war, and both awards were posthumous.

The older brother, Lt. Col. Derek Seagrim, earned a VC for his heroic leadership of a battalion of the Green Howards in an assault on the Mareth Line in North Africa on 21 and 22 March 1943, but died on 6 April of wounds sustained in another battle.

Major Hugh Seagrim, GC DSO MBE, Lt. Col. Seagrim's youngest brother, served for two years behind enemy lines in Burma, in circumstances of appalling hardship, uncertainty and danger; and died in Rangoon on 2 September in the same year.

Hugh Seagrim's story, set in the darkest times of the war in the Far East, is one of the highest courage and leadership. Always short of weapons, ammunition and supplies, and only rarely in touch with command, he raised and led a local force, the Karen Levies; and with them remained in Eastern Burma during the Japanese occupation, threatening and harassing their lines of communication and maintaining, however precariously, a British presence there for much of the time between the invasion of Burma and the arrival of Slim's ultimately victorious Fourteenth Army 



       The story from the book said :
Major Seagrim with his beloved Karen fighters behind enemy lines -
-it turns out that this is not a picture of Major Seagrim but of Major Michael Fielding a journalist with the Army--the story is shown at the end of this storyregretfully we have not yet located a photograph of Major Seagrim but if and when we do we will show it

Hugh Seagrim was born in 1909, the youngest of a family of five sons all of whom saw Army service in the Second World War. He attended the King Edward VI School in Norwich, where many years before Horatio Nelson, also the son of a Norfolk clergyman, had been a pupil. In 1927, when Hugh was in his last year in school, his father died. Plans for university and a career in medicine were now unaffordable.

An application for Dartmouth and the Navy failed - he was partially colour-blind - but one for Sandhurst succeeded, and he followed his brothers into the Army. Like many a young officer of limited means, he opted for service with the Indian Army and, after a one-year attachment to the Highland Light Infantry in Cawnpore, applied to join the Burma Rifles and was posted to Taiping in Malaya, joining the regiment as a 22-year old subaltern.

A good linguist, a sportsman, and at 6ft 4in a talented goalkeeper, he did well as a junior officer. His quirky sense of humour made him popular with his peers, though his love of classical music, his restless intelligence and a wide reading that ran to philosophers such as Nietzsche, Bergson and Schopenhauer marked him out from them too. He was not conventionally ambitious, often telling colleagues he would sooner be a postman in Norfolk than a general in India.

His troops were Karens, members of a group of minority tribes in Burma. His quick mastery of languages - he spoke fluent Burmese and some Karen too - impressed them, as did his goal-keeping and his height (most Karens are stocky). He turned out to be a natural regimental soldier: a gifted trainer and leader of men.

He got to know his Karens, and they him, and for the rest of his life he was to serve with them. In his last letter to his mother he wrote that there was a chance he ‘wouldn't get through', and that if he didn't, he ‘wanted to leave a memory with the Karens'. The status of the Karens in Burma in the 1930s and '40s is relevant to this story.

An ethnic and religious minority, they had long been subjugated by the dominant Buddhist Burmese, and distrusted by them too. In the ninetheenth century they had welcomed the British, whom they saw as advancing their rights in Burma; and a proportion, particularly the leadership, had embraced Christianity as a result of US missionary work from 1813 on.

Indeed it was said that the Karens called the American missionaries their ‘mother', and the British authorities their ‘father'. Most Karens lived a village life, agrarian and simple, and were led by tribal elders. Those from the mountains of Salween province in the east of Burma, the ‘hill Karens', were strongly represented in the Burma Rifles and valued as tough and trustworthy soldiers, and it was from them that Seagrim was eventually to raise his irregular force.

In the later 1930s, when war threatened, he recognised their potential for guerrilla warfare against the likely enemy, and considered the Indian Army's traditional drill-based approach to training pointless, even irrelevant, for the battles ahead. Japan's declaration of war in 1941 was followed by a series of invasions across south-east Asia, and in Burma preparations were made for resistance against an enemy with overwhelming advantages both in numbers and air superiority.

Plans for Operation Oriental Mission, which would impose maximum delay upon the enemy ‘by using forces other than regular forces', began to form. Very soon its leader commandeered Seagrim, who had long argued for the raising, training and use of an army of Karen irregulars. He was formally seconded to the new force, and was delighted to join it.

Gradually its role was defined; in ‘stay-behind' units, it would attack likely main Japanese supply routes such as the Moulmein-Rangoon road and railway. What was sound in theory proved very difficult in practice. The main problem was a desperate shortage of arms and ammunition, and already time was running out. The Japanese were advancing from Siam into Burma.

In late January 1942 Seagrim set out for Papun, in the mountains of Salween province, with a collection of miscellaneous firearms, a few tommy guns and some grenades. A little supply convoy, bringing 200 Italian rifles and a few thousand rounds of ammunition, arrived a few days later, and on its return to Rangoon was almost cut off by the advancing enemy.

In Papun Seagrim recruited 200 levies and trained them his way. Barefoot, and encouraged to shoot accurately from any position they found comfortable - no Indian Army firing-range drills now - they practiced concealment and ambush techniques in the kind of hill country they knew well.

An Army colleague, Ronald Heath, later a highly successful jungle training officer with the Chindits, was impressed by the results. And of Seagrim he said: ‘Any of those Karen boys would have done anything for him. He had a terrific sway over those lads.' The stay-behind role, and the fact that the Japanese had over-run Burma, meant Seagrim was now in continuous danger.

He moved north, and the last British official he spoke to for many months found him ‘cheerful, but not betting on his chances.' In the northern hills he trained and organised several hundred more recruits, but the shortage of weapons and ammunition with which to train was a constant hindrance.

In desperation, the Karen crossbow, fatal at up to seventy-five yards, became a weapon of modern war. Worse even than lack of stores and firepower was the lack of communication with the outside world, and in April, Seagrim, who had served once as a signals officer, set out to obtain a wireless set from forces in a town far to the north, only to discover when he got there that the Japanese were in control.

On the way back he was wounded in a bandit ambush, and spent the next four months hidden in the jungle and recuperating in the care of two Karen pastors. Recovered, though still lacking arms, ammunition and communications, he continued to sustain the morale and loyalty of his levies across his vast territory, travelling and maintaining contact through messengers, and endlessly at risk to any breach of security.

Dressed like a Karen, and sustained and concealed by the Karens, who said of him ‘He has learned to live like us', Seagrim moved from village to village, from camp to camp, seeking out veterans of the Burma Rifles, registering their names, and making plans to support British troops once they returned to Burma. Operation Oriental Mission was now barely even a holding operation, but Seagrim never gave up.

In late 1942 British and Indian forces were once more on the offensive in the Arakan, and GHQ in Delhi looked again at the possibility of irregular operations in the Karen hill country. Early in 1943, three officers, two British and one Karen, were to be parachuted in with communication equipment and instructions to make contact with Seagrim, who was assumed - somewhat against the odds - to be still alive.

Many attempts resulted in eventual success: in October 1943 Major Nimmo, Lt Ba Gyaw and Seagrim established wireless communication with India. At last useful intelligence traffic began to flow in to Delhi. But word of parachute drops and the presence of British officers in the Karen hills had reached the Japanese, and early in 1944 a 17-man military ‘Goods Distribution Unit' arrived in Papun and sold matches and cloth at suspiciously low rates.

Casual enquiries about foreign soldiers and parachutes drops confirmed suspicions, which loyal Karens passed to Seagrim, who moved camp further into the mountains. Shortly afterwards, the Japanese, who had learned of the activities of Po Hla, a Karen friend and supporter of Seagrim's who had family in Rangoon, advised him through a distant relative that if he did not hand himself in for questioning his family would suffer. The net was closing. Again Seagrim was informed.

Soon Japanese infantry and military police units appeared in force in the Karen hills and began arresting and torturing various suspects, including an old Burma Rifles veteran who was one of Seagrim's levy commanders. Maung Wah endured three days of beating, said nothing, was released, and went into the hills to tell Seagrim what was happening. Seeing his wounds, Seagrim wept, but the old soldier simply entreated him to signal for aid and arms from India and start a Karen revolt.

Seagrim tried, but GHQ in Delhi refused. The time was not ripe. Others under torture told more, and soon the Japanese knew all they needed to: about the levies, the arms dumps and Seagrim's whereabouts. Though loyal Karens still kept Seagrim informed, and though he continued to move camp, nothing could be done to prevent what happened next. The Japanese located him and attacked. But Seagrim and most of his companions, warned by their noisy approach, escaped.

In the following search of the mountainous jungle site, Captain Inoue, leader of the Kempeitai (military police) unit, found Seagrim's bible. Seagrim himself was to remain at large for another month. The Japanese were determined to find him, and their actions in the Karen hills degenerated into a reign of terror. The loyalty and silence of the Karens resulted in reprisals both savage and brutally systematic.

Their villages were burned and their elders tortured, sometimes to death. Innocent people suffered dreadfully for what was, in the eyes of their oppressors, treachery. Meanwhile Seagrim, with Pa Ah, a young Karen who had been parachuted in from India, made his way through twenty-five miles of jungle to Mewado, a village where his companion's brother-in-law would feed and protect them.

In the event they stayed in the hills, with food brought to them every few days, but the Japanese again closed in, looking for Pa Ah, whom they knew had family in the area. Under threat, the villagers persuaded him to give himself up, and while he was in Japanese custody word of Seagrim's whereabouts leaked out via a young Karen, who told Captain Inoue.

When Inoue arrived with his Kempeitai at Mewado and threatened to burn down the village and arrest its inhabitants, the headman, by now a friend of Seagrim, offered to go and talk to him the next day. They discussed suicide, which Seagrim rejected as unchristian. Instead he decided to give himself up, as the only way to end the suffering now being inflicted on the Karen by the Japanese. As they walked to the village Seagrim gave the headman his watch, asking that he send it to his mother in England after the war.

In Mewado Seagrim and Inoue shook hands. Then Seagrim asked Inoue to treat the Karens generously: ‘They are not to blame. I alone am responsible for what has happened in the hills.' Captor and captive then spent several days together, sharing meals and accommodation and talking at length through an interpreter, with Seagrim repeating his pleas for clemency towards the Karens.

Inoue returned Seagrim's bible, and heard of his plans to be a missionary among the Karens if he survived the war. He did not. On 16 March 1944 he was taken from Papun, first in an oxcart, then in a train to Rangoon, and held prisoner at the Kempeitai headquarters there. In a grim jail, in which torture was common and many died, he stood out, not simply because of his great height.

A fellow-prisoner, Arthur Sharpe, a young RAF officer shot down over Burma, found in him ‘a profound philosophy and a strong religious faith.' He believed him to be ‘the finest gentleman I have ever met. He had a complete disregard for his own life and the same time the greatest concern for the Karen NCO's and men under him.'

Seagrim conducted a short service for another RAF officer, including an impromptu prayer. Sharpe later wrote ‘Nothing could reveal better this man's wonderful character than those words which are now lost. A tribute to the dead, a prayer for the living, and, greatest of all, a word for his cruel captors, for of the Japs he said, in the words of Christ, "Lord, forgive them, or they know not what they do."'

In early July Seagrim and surviving hill Karens were transferred to another jail at Insein near Rangoon. On 2 September he and fifteen Karens were summoned to a court martial. Again Seagrim pleaded for the lives of his Karens, saying that he alone was responsible for their actions, and that he alone should suffer. He and seven of the Karens were sentenced to death, the remaining eight receiving long jail sentences.

As the condemned were driven away, with Seagrim in the Karen attire he had worn since March 1942, one Karen witness noted that he was ‘smiley-faced' as he shouted goodbye to those destined only to jail. As the citation for his posthumous GC records: ‘There can hardly be a finer example of self-sacrifice and bravery than that exhibited by this officer who in cold blood deliberately gave himself up to save others, knowing well what his fate was likely to be at the hands of the enemy.'

The Japanese had prevailed over Seagrim and his Karen Levies. But within a year of his death it was clear that his courage, leadership and ultimate sacrifice with and for the Karens had made possible a vast and successful new venture that owed much to him and his work in the hills.

Operation Character, which began in April 1945, was the largest and most successful example of irregular warfare in all South-East Asia Command. More than 12,000 Karens, now well-armed and properly supported, wrought havoc on Japanese forces in Burma until their defeat, killing thousands and tying down many thousands more in a classic irregular conflict.Seagrim, I think, would not have been surprised; and, in the words used in his last letter to his mother, he had succeeded in his aim of leaving ‘a memory with the Karens'.

When I read that letter more than sixty years after his death, I thought immediately of the inscription I first saw many years ago at the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle: ‘The whole earth is the tomb of heroes and their story is not graven in stone over their clay, but abides everywhere, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men's lives.'·  Copyright © Gordon Brown 2007. Taken from Wartime Courage by Gordon Brown to be published by Bloomsbury in 2008 

April 17 2012

Below is a Correction as to who is shown

in the Photo here


Rich Duckett tells us In the interest of accuracy, I should like to point out that the British officer posing with the Karen Levies and the Lysander is not Major Hugh Seagrim.  This photo was taken in 1945 at Lipeykhi airstrip and the officer is Captain Michael Fielding.

it appears that this error of identification is in respect of a photograph shown with the story above about Major Hugh Seagrim who for two years, had trained and led an army of Burmese tribesmen to resist the Japanese occupation


2 Photographs

Below is a quote from the book  'Undercover in the Jungle' by John Bowen.


      One day in the early part of July we received a signal that headquarters  desired to send a British journalist  broadcasting from an American radio station into Karenni and suggested that the Lipeykhi landing strip mmight be a suitable place for him to visit . From his fastnesses on the opposite bank of the Yunzalin Colonel Howell was not at all enthusiastic about the scheme, but sergeant Rowe and the Karens seemed very excited at the prospect of being interviewed. I signaled Rangoon to the effect that there was at present no Britisher  in Lipeykhi and suggesting that if the journalist still wished to come he might land at Lipeykhi and come on up to Mount Plakho the following day. We were always glad when an aeroplane landed at thye airstrip as this meant mailand newspapers and also a few small luxuries such as cigarettes and rum. The walk from Lipeykhi to Mount Plakho to say the least of it very severe, particularly in the monsoon season, but I had pictured the journalist as being at the most in his early thirties, and decided that it would do him no harm to get an idea of the conditions under which the guerillas really lived.

      Much to my mortification, however, when he turned up it transpired that he was nearly old enough to be my father. He arrived perched on an elephant just before dusk with an escort of mobile levies under the command of the little Gurkha SurabdhauRai, after we had given up hope of his ever coming. Earlier in the day Corporal Storrie had been certain that he had heard through the mist an aeroplane circling on the other side of the mountains in the direction of Lipeykhi, but by five o'clock we had decided that he must have been mistaken. Michael Fielding was a bulky figure of a man of over fifty, who must have lived a fairly sedentary life for a number of years . Even on the elephant he must have suffered agonies on his journey, and indeed he was almost too stiff to move when the time came to descend to earth. But he made no word of complaint, and indeed when he had thawed out by the fire and been given a meal he announced that he was very glad he had ‘done it the hard way'

      Except for Turrall and the Colonel all the officers were somewhat youthful and for Karens it was probably a very excellent thing to meet suchan imposing figure as Michael Fielding. He had started off life as a Regular Indian Army Cavalry Officer in the last war, but after the Armistice he had found life restricted. His father had died shortly afterwards and he had come into money. This had given him the opportunity to leave the Army and emigrate to America where he tried his hand at cattle ranching. From this he graduated to Hollywood where he had lost his fortune. After that he had been a crime reporter in Chicago. That had been in the tough days and he had known Al Capone. Parts of his life must have been hard  indeed, but he had made good in the endas a news analyst for the Chicago Broadcasting Station. There, as a Britisher, he was not without political importance, and for this reason he had been able to pull the requisite strings enabling him to get admitted to the guerilla area in Karenni.

      Actually, a better ambassador could not have been chosen. He was, as I have said, a big man with the weight of years upon him and the Karens were very intrigued. For the Britishers it was  a break in the monotony of our everyday life to have him with us, and we enjoyed his visit immensely.

      That night we received sme very dramatic messages from Wilson on the other side of the Yunzalin. His area had been completely overrun with Japanese and he was hiding in the jungle watching them loot his old camp. In the morning De Wanjea and Corporal Storrie took Fielding down to a little range that we had built in an old disused paddy field a little further down the hill and spent a noisy hour throwing grenades and firing various weapons with the levies

      In the afternoon Fielding produced a small coloured flag presented to him before setting forth on his journey by the Adventurers' Club of Chicago. In order to be a member of this clubit was necessary to have at one time or another hazarded one's life in some dangerous undertaking , and whenever a member embarked on an expedition he was invariably presented with a flag to take with him on his travels. Sometimes, Fielding informed us, the members had not returned to tell the tale, but the flags had always eventually been recovered. We photographed Fielding with the levies and his flag as proof that he had actually visited the guerilla area, but he told us that most of the members of the Adventurers' Club were of a cynical turn of mind and asked for a certificate to hand in with the flag when he returned.

      The whole idea was, as Fielding admitted, very American, but we entered into it with great gusto and wrote him out an impressive looking document couched in very schoolboy language to the effect that: "We the undersigned of the Hyena Guerilla Organisation entertained Captain Michael Fielding at Guerilla Headquarters behind the Japanese lines from blank till blank" Michael Fielding was hugely pleased at vthis and was obviously going to have a rare social successproducing it when he got back to Chicago. We all felt that we would have liked to have been his guests that evening, as it would undoubtedly be a big occasion . After it was prepared we put a mass signature onto it in English, Karen, Burmese, and Hindi, and Corporal Storrie inscribed a black spider as symbol of the organization.  It was an orgy of schoolboy dramatics but we all rather enjoyed ourselves. In the morning Fielding left early for Lipeykhi by elephant and we were sorry to see him go



By November 10 2007

Shirley West wrote:  You kindly published my article "Whatever Happened To My Rocking Horse?" 
(Which is just below this story)   Whilst on holiday in Cyprus last month, we met Bert Peers who turned out to be quite a character!  He entertained us for many hours with his poems and extracts from Kipling, etc.  One in particular took our fancy, "Errol Flynn and me" - so much so that he sent us a copy because of my Burma connection.  I have checked with Bert, and he is to quote:- "quite happy for you to spread his poem but wants to point out that he wrote it as a skit after seeing the film 'Burma Victory' (sic) 'Objective Burma' which apparently anyone who was there during the War absolutely hated."

Thank you Shirley--Here it is 




-just Errol Flynn - and me.


The war in Europe was ending in the winter of ‘44


I thought that I had done my bit but the Air Force wanted more;


They said that now the Jerries had been beaten well and true,


It's time the Japs were taught just what a Yorkshire lad can do;


And so they then decided before the battle could begin


They'd send for reinforcements - me and Errol Flynn.




They sent us off to Chittagong and on to Cox' Bazaar,


We flew right down from Ramree, it wasn't very far,


They said that we should both report to Burma GHQ


As the brass hats at the centre really hadn't got a clue,


So they then decided we should help out General Slim


And so we went to meet him - me and Errol Flynn.




‘At last', said Bill we've got a chance now that you lads have arrived,


We'll give the Japs a shake up, a mighty big surprise;


We'll chase the blighters all the way from Magwe down to Prome


Those little yellow perils will wish they had stayed at home


So come on lads get cracking if battle you would win


We only needed you to come - you and Errol Flynn




So we chased them all the morning, - we were feeling very warm;


We chased through the evening, through night until the dawn,


We chased them through the jungle ‘till we came to old Pegu,


And the Japanese commander just knew not what to do


His Generals suggested that they might as well give in


When they were told that what they faced was me and Errol Flynn.




A few snags we encountered as we advanced all that day,


A Nip armoured division we swept out of our way


Some Geisha girls the Japs then sent to try to halt our push,


And some 40,000 Japanese were trampled in the rush


And who was in the forefront with a beatific grin


None other than yours truly, yes me and Errol Flynn.




Those Geisha girls were lovely, and we really made them swoon


They said that they would wait for us when we finally reached Rangoon


So we pressed on forward our just reward to take


We had Banana money and my mother's Christmas cake


To take advantage of those girls, it really was a sin


But we were hard, the two of us - me and Errol Flynn.




At last the Japs surrendered, you could see they'd had enough,


They had run the length of Burma, and were feeling pretty rough;


Mountbatten took their swords from them, for that really was his due


And looked around to see who he would present them to


And then he smiled; ‘They go to those who have set Burma free'


And so he gave those Nippon swords to Errol Flynn and me.




© Albert Peers.


 October  28 2006



Through the kind auspices of Bob Needham, Shirley West writes offering her 
article to
www.koi-hai.com which the Editor is delighted to accept.  
Shirley offers a little background to her story.   It all started when we took my cousin from Australia and her husband Tim to visit the RAF Museum in Hendon, London, last July.  Tim's Father had been 
the Lead Navigator in the first non-stop flight from Egypt to Darwin in 1938, 
and he had found a cine film of this epic flight amongst his late Father's things. 
 The Asst. Curator at the RAF Museum was delighted to accept a copy of the 
film together with  Log books etc.  He then asked me where I had been during 
the War, and I dismissed this with "I was only six and at the receiving end of 
Jap bombs in Rangoon"....   So here is the outcome - my article 
 archives of the RAF Museum, Hendon; the Royal Signals Museum in 
Blandford, Dorset; and the Imperial War Museum in London.  







The recollections of a six year old at the fall of Rangoon, Burma in 1941/42. 


Shirley Ann West.

[nee Jones]

  I was born in Rangoon in April 1935, and lived at 39 Fraser Road, Rangoon 
with my parents, George and Mabel Jones, and my elder brother Philip. My 
father Charles George Jones was a senior officer with Burma Railways. 

We had a comfortable life, a big house, large grounds with a hard tennis court 
in the front garden, and a wide circle of friends. There were many servants, and 
I had two ayahs, my beloved Susan Ayah and her teenage niece Monica both of
whom looked after me with such love for the first 6½ years of my life.


A photograph taken in happier times.

My sixth birthday party in April 1941

I remember the grown-ups sitting around the radio listening grim faced to the 
news. Pearl Harbour, sunken battleships, Singapore falling [how I wondered] 
Japs advancing........I often heard the word propaganda and wondered who 
or what on earth it was.

Earlier in the year we had dug in the back garden what we had hoped and 
planned to be a swimming pool, it was a hole about ten feet by six with the 
vain hope that the monsoon rains would fill it for our pleasure. Now it was 
pressed into service as an air raid shelter. Railway sleepers were laid over 
it, which were covered with soil and sandbags. Steps were cut into the side 
to provide access, but they soon crumbled to leave us with a slide. Mats and
 rugs were laid on the ground in the shelter, but these had to be lifted daily 
to check for snakes and scorpions that might be hidden under them.

On 23rd. December 1941 my brother and I were with my mother at the cinema,
watching ‘The Reluctant Dragon'. My mother asked why everyone was leaving 
the cinema, and was told that there was an air raid in progress. We hurriedly 
left the cinema and drove home. The City of Rangoon was being bombed by 
the Japs, with a great many casualties resulting. We lived away from the centre
 of the City, and some friends and acquaintances from the City arrived at our 
house seeking shelter. No one was turned away, but providing food became
something of a problem. My mother went off in the car, accompanied by 
Bernard the bearer, to see what she could get, scrounging or buying enough 
to keep us going.

On 25th December, Christmas Day, the Japs had promised Rangoon a 
‘Christmas dinner', and true to their word the sirens sounded at around midday 
My mother, fearing that this would happen, had ordered lunch to be served 
early, so when the sirens went we had just finished  our meal. The bombing
by the Japs was heavy with the residential areas being the main target this 
time. During a lull in the bombing my father and another man decided to leave 
the shelter and see what had happened. They were soon back, a bomb had 
fallen on our tennis court and the Sawyer's house was burning fiercely.
I can remember a strong acrid smell. But the incendiary bomb which had fallen on 
the tennis court had not set fire to our house, although it was riddled with
small pellets which had burned a small circle where each had landed.  Later we
found another unexploded bomb behind the garage and the servants quarters
which meant that we had been right in the path of these two bombs. Back in the house
 the overhead fan had crashed onto the dining table smashing the glasses and
 the crockery. After this experience our ‘refugee' friends packed up their 
belongings again, and moved further out of Rangoon!

From then onwards there were nightly air raids. The sirens would sound and
 Mum would then put me on the potty! We would dash down stairs, all except
 my Father - who insisted on getting dressed. He would arrive at the shelter 
long after the bombing had started, with Mum alternately praying out loud
for deliverance - much to my acute embarrassment - or haranguing  Dad that he 
would be killed if he weren't more careful.  She would cover my ears with a 
pillow and tell me to go to sleep! How on earth could I? I could feel the exploding
bombs, the noise frightened me, and I felt very hot underneath that stuffy old 

Moonlit nights made us feel very unsafe. Mum thought that the Japs would 
think that our tennis court was really an airstrip so she initially had the servants
 put all the potted palms on it to soften the outline. She then looked out of an
upstairs window to view the finished work only to decide that the Japs would 
then think that the palms were troops guarding the airstrip, so the palms were
speedily removed, and earth was scattered over the tennis court.

I clearly remember that the neighbourhood dogs would start howling before 
the siren sounded. They seemed to be aware of the raid about to happen, and 
I often wondered if they could hear the aircraft before we could as the Jap 
aircraft  engines had a curious drone to them.

Whilst in the shelter my foremost feeling was one of embarrassment at Mum 
praying aloud. I hoped also that a bomb would not fall on us, but never thought
 this through as to what would happen to us if one ever did. I was terrified of 
the loud bangs of exploding bombs, and even now the sound of a siren makes
 my stomach turn. We had no defence against the Japs. I believe that we did 
have a few small aircraft, but the best Rangoon could manage were long
bamboo poles surrounded by sandbags made to look like anti-aircraft guns

By late February 1942 people were leaving Rangoon by any means possible, 
by sea to India, or up country to Northern Burma. Mum had heard that the 
shipping company had set up a point at Rangoon racecourse to deal with 
the huge crowds seeking a passage to India, so off she went to join the scrum. 
As luck would have it, when she got to the desk the man dealing with the
ticket allocation was someone she had helped in the past, and at that time he had 
told her that if he could ever return the favour she only had to ask. It was time
 to ask, and so with tickets for herself, my brother, and me, we boarded a 
Chinese ship the "Hong Peng" in Rangoon harbour bound for Calcutta.

Once aboard nothing much seemed to be happening. We spent the next two
 days tied up to the wharf with frequent air raids, and hindered by me crying 
for both my Daddy and my Ayah. I had not said goodbye to them, and nobody 
had thought to tell me that we were leaving for India. We were given permission 
to leave the ship briefly, and my poor Dad was shocked to see us turn up at 
his office at Burma Railways. He drove us home where we had a meal and I had 
a bath, stopped crying, and then returned to the ship.

It was said that the delay in departing was due to the fact that they were loading 
all of Burma's gold reserves and would be the last ship to leave, but finally
everything was made ready and we sailed out of Rangoon harbour.




[This photograph shows her aground in Hong Kong harbour after the great typhoon in 1937.
 Luckily she was re-floated and was able to take us to safety some five years later.]

Looking now at the photograph of the ship I am amazed at how much 
smaller and scruffier she looks compared with how I remember her through a child's eye.

After we had sailed, back in Rangoon my Dad had heard a rumour that two 
previous ships sailing from there had been sunk by Jap submarines. Using his contacts, he gave chase in a Customs launch in the hope of getting us off the ship, but by the time he reached Hastings, the point where the Pilot left the ship,we were on the high seas bound for Calcutta. I have often wondered what  would have been our fate had he been successful in reaching us, and getting us off the ship

I remember very little of that three day voyage to India except that my mother had a ‘heart attack' and took to her bunk. There was in fact nothing wrong with her heart. My fear at the time was what on earth would we do if she died on the voyage.
My brother was ten and I was six, and all we knew was that Aunty Minsey lived in  Calcutta and Granny and Grandpapa lived in Bangalore, but nothing more. As she had taken to her bunk I presume that somebody took us for meals and up on deck as I can remember old ladies spending their time up there sighting all sorts of  phantom mines and periscopes! Luckily they were seeing things and we arrived  safe and sound, and my mother made a miraculous recovery.

We arrived in Calcutta, and on disembarking from the SS Hong Peng we were  instructed by officious ladies wearing armbands that we were to stay put until we had been registered. Mum tired of waiting in the heat after a trying and  dangerous voyage had a few choice words to say about them before she  whisked us off in a taxi to my Aunt's flat in Calcutta. As a result we were never  registered as refugees, and our names do not appear on any of the published  lists. I have vivid memories of arriving at Aunty Minseys flat, and her calling out "Mabel and the children are here" and Great Aunt Min calling back "No, no,  they are all dead, I know they are all dead!"

Meanwhile, in March 1942 my Dad was still in Rangoon, staying in post to see all of his staff safely away, and records destroyed. As a result he left it too late to get away. Rangoon was now a very dangerous place, with the Japs on the doorstep the authorities had emptied the jails of convicts, and released the insane from the asylum, with the result that they were all rampaging through the City, stealing food, looting shops and homes, and burning property. My Dad said later that he just walked out of our home, not bothering to lock the doors - there was no point. Together with his faithful cook, Sahib Din, he  trekked over a thousand miles through the jungle, out of Burma into India. 
Without Sahib Din he would never have survived the appalling hardships of 
the trek. He owed his life to his faithful servant who nursed him through
dysentery, and eventually they both made it into India and safety.
Countless numbers  died on the trek out of Burma, and we were so happy eventually to receive a telegram two months later to say that Dad and his cook were alive.

All we now had was what we had carried out from Burma, and that was not 
much. We lost everything, silver, photographs, toys, and all our family 
treasures. Such photographs as we now have are those we sent to relatives
 before the invasion.

But to this day I still wonder what ever happened to my favourite toy, my 
rocking horse
          © Shirley West, Iver Village, Buckinghamshire, July 2006.



For the rest of the war we all lived in Simla in the foothills of the Indian 
Himalayas, my Father returning to Burma in 1945 and the rest of the family 
in 1946.

When my father returned to Rangoon from Simla in 1945 after the defeat 
of the Japs, our cook Sahib Din returned with him. Rangoon was in a 
dreadful state and only jeeps could cope with the damaged roads, and 
although our old house was still there in Fraser Road, we were given a 
railway house at 39 Prome Road in which to live; and joy of joys my 
beloved Ayah, Susan Mary, was there.


                        Shirley at Rangoon River                   Ayah & Monica with Anthony

                                    1947.                                                         1947.



Sahib Din our cook,  Rangoon 1947

Ayah and her husband, Vincent Veloo had survived the Jap occupation, as had
 her niece Monica who had married Bernard, our bearer, and they had a child,
Anthony. Vincent was now the Station Master at Prome Road Station, and he 
and Susan Mary lived in a small cottage adjoining the station. We only lived a 
few yards away, and Ayah and I spent many happy hours together, and she 
often brought Monica and young Anthony to see us.

On January 4th 1948, Burma's Independence Day, we sailed from Rangoon
for England. Dad stayed on in Rangoon where he was Controller of Railway 
Accounts with Burma Railways.

In 1949 Dad had to take early retirement, and left Burma to join us in England. 
Sahib Din, who had worked for Dad since 1916, was given a lump sum, and he
returned to his family in his village in India. Dad kept in touch with him, and 
Sahib Din would reply using the services of a ‘writer of letters'. When a letter
 was received requesting the names and photographs of the children,
suspicions were aroused, and we sadly concluded that Sahib Din had died and the 
‘writer of letters' was anxious to adopt us