Burma '44

Burma '44

James Holland
ARRSE Rating
4.5 Mushroom Heads
In February 1944, a rag-tag collection of clerks, drivers, doctors, muleteers, and other base troops, stiffened by a few dogged Yorkshiremen and a handful of tank crews managed to hold out against some of the finest infantry in the Japanese Army, and then defeat them in what was one of the most astonishing battles of the Second World War.

What became know as The Defence of the Admin Box, fought amongst the paddy fields and jungle of Northern Arakan over a fifteen-day period, turned the battle for Burma. Not only was it the first decisive victory for British troops against the Japanese, more significantly, it demonstrated how the Japanese could be defeated. The lessons learned in this tiny and otherwise insignificant corner of the Far East, set up the campaign in Burma that would follow, as General Slim’s Fourteenth Army finally turned defeat into victory.

Burma '44 is a tale of incredible drama. As gripping as the story of Rorke's drift, as momentous as the battle for the Ardennes, the Admin Box was a triumph of human grit and heroism and remains one of the most significant yet undervalued conflicts of World War Two.

I'd thought I had enough of World War Two books but when I saw this up for only three pounds I had to give it a go. Thank God I did, this is a well written fantastic story of Soldiers with their back against the walls, "they've got us surrounded the poor bastards" to quote another great Battle. Not only does the book tell the fantastic story of our first victory against the Japanese Army but in a very few short paragraphs explains the political background to the eventual British withdrawal from India. But back to the plot, up until the Admin block the British held the Japanese soldiers in too high esteem, a series of tactical failures by the Staff allowed the Tommy to think that he had met his match. I recall an old sweat telling us round a gas board hole one evening how when they were fighting the Japs and they used to shout out at night the Brits were terrified before they even got into the fight and thus were defeated before a shot was fired.

Of course like all battles won this wasn't done by bravery alone, the British soldiers had been Jungle trained for a good year before the face off at the box, however those who bore the brunt of this fight were the Odds and Sods of the Division. I don't want to give the plot away suffice to say that with good training and better quality tactics plus the fact that the Japanese Generals did not learn anything thing from their victories enabled the British and Indians to pull off this marvelous feat, which was then built upon at Kohima and Imphal. The writing is so good that the hairs on my neck actually rose when a Japanese atrocity during an attack on a field hospital was recounted. This book also reinforced the view that without good logistics your back is against a wall when your back is against the wall. Well worth 4.5 mushroom heads . I have put the book by to read again in a few months time.

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(Ed note: this book was first reviewed on Arrse by OFAH, which can be read here:
https://www.arrse.co.uk/community/reviews/burma-44.329/ - but a god book is worth reminding about)
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