What was PYTHON (Post WW2)

Can anyone explain exactly what PYTHON (perhaps OP PYTHON) was in a post-WW2 British Army context.

I have come accross mention of PYTHON a few times, for example:

1. Referring to UK leave after service overseas.
2. On Great Grandfathers service records.
3. In an article about the British Military Mission to Saudi Arabia 1946-51 where it states that "All ranks were granted annual leave of one month (the tour with the Mission being a normal “Python” of 3 years)."

I have tried trawling the internet but keep coming up with Monty Python related links or other Op Pythons.

Can anyone clarify please.


Gallery Guru
Edited & Deleted because I don't know what I'm talking about ...
It is hard to tell exactly what it concerns but there are some records at the National Archives dealing with PYTHON. See WO 203/1209; WO 203/2821; CAB 192/8-14. There are references to its impact on Zipper. Hope it helps.

“19th August. Sailed from Ostend at 10.00am on the ‘Ben-my-Chree’, one of the Isle of Man ships, arriving at Dover at 3pm. Went on by train to Charing Cross and stayed in London overnight. This was now my ‘Python’ leave. In case you wonder what ‘Python’ leave was, the answer is that for anyone serving overseas for longer that four years, on return to England, had only ‘home postings’ and did not return to Europe. There was another form of leave called ‘Lilop’. This was leave in lieu of ‘Python’. In this case, service personnel came back to Britain, but had to return to Europe before demob. Some who had expected to come on home postings on the ‘Python’ basis did not get home at all and all was not well in the unit! Brussels had been a good posting. I
Wasn't OP PYTHON the drawdown and demobilisation of British troops post WW2?
Thank you so far.

I had found the reference to 'Python leave' and in the past I had also understood Python to be linked to demobilisation but that still doesn't explain the quote about serving with the BMM in Saudi Arabia being a "normal Python of 3 years".

ECMO1, thanks I'll look into those archives.
PartTimePongo said:
Wasn't OP PYTHON the drawdown and demobilisation of British troops post WW2?

OP PYTHON went on for a number of years post 1945 until the ORBAT moved from wartime mobilisation to post war National service, althoug the term seems to have been used for demob for some time after... something like the Navy Run Down Period (RDP)..

(Ram it :D )

Editied to add, I suppose you could have used the term "PYTHON" for a "last posting", but three years seems a bit long...
HE117, Yes, that is what I had thought in the past and all the National Archives references seem to concern repatriation from overseas and leave after service overseas. But how does this fit with my reference to service with the BMM in Saudi Arabia?

I guess that it is another trip to Kew when I am next in the uK.
Aren't the Python leave and tour length references something to do with the way it worked? Those (wartime conscripts) who volunteered to transfer to regular service received immediate home leave from wherever they were in the world, before returning to take up their new (regular) postings. Hence a "Python" could be slang for such a contract posting.

IIRC, this caused friction in both US and British armies, because their huge armies of bored conscripts waiting for demob had to watch the volunteers "queue jump" for home leave - exacerbated because it was the "old sweats" waiting to be shipped home for demob, and recent joiners who had "missed the action" who tended to be the ones volunteering for regular transfer. The US had their "points system" for demob, but the transferees were able to queue jump even this.
I don't know if it helps answer my Python question, but the documents that I have on BMM Saudi Arabia also state that initially all ranks were posted to the Mission but, in the latter years, all were volunteers and that many of them had served with the Special Forces in the War.
ECMO1 said:
It is hard to tell exactly what it concerns but there are some records at the National Archives dealing with PYTHON. See WO 203/1209; WO 203/2821; CAB 192/8-14. There are references to its impact on Zipper. Hope it helps.
In the context of Zipper (the planned operation to foreshadow retaking Malaya and Singapore in 1945), Python was the mandatory repatriation, from early 1945, of those units and servicemen which had served for more than a certain period of time in the Far East - it proved a major constraint on the planning for Zipper, and even more so on the planning for the British contribution to Coronet - the invasion of Japan.

I therefore suspect that in post-war useage it meant a maximum acceptable period for an overseas posting without opportunity for home leave - the Saudi BMM quote suggests that this was set at three years, which would tie in with the wartime SEAC Python repatriations of units/pax who had served in theatre since late 41/early 42 and were now being sent home in early 45.

That seems to make sense. The only leave that I know that the BMM members got was local leave which was normally taken in Asmara (the capital of Eritrea) and personnel were flown there via Port Sudan by aircraft of RAF Transport Command.
My grandad was with 4 Borders and served in the 2nd chindit campaign. On his war record it clearly has stamped "special python" he served from oct 1940 - dec 1946. spending well over 4yrs overseas. have a mint foto of him taken after the war. will try and scan and upload.

loads of entries for hospital, dates etc tie in just after kohima, now the historians amongst you will know that 4 border didnt fight in kohima, but were part of the chindit force that made a monumental march round the jap flank and were used as a diversionary attack.

finished his service in yeovil in a pow camp as a signaller.
"special python"

I believe that was the reference given to those Soldiers who had served over a certain term overseas, and were to be given priority for demob?

Just dug out Dad's paybooks , and there is no mention of Python on his, but he had by Sept 1945 expressed an interest in converting his hostilities commission to a permanent one.
I e mailed my 90 year old Vet of Burma, 41-45 and his reply is below

"Hullo John,

PYTHON was the name given to the scheme started after VE Day that concerned repatriation and accumulated leave of regulars who had been serving overseas and also demobilization of overseas non-regulars, plus leave entitlement.. The favourite item of conversation in messes and canteens was one's PYTHON number. This number was based on a points system with points allowed for total length of service and the length of time one had been overseas. Points were also given for decorations awarded and for married men with children under 18. years of age.

LILOP was another scheme, it stood for Leave In Lieu Of Python. This was popular with regulars who were entitled to repatriation according to their Python number but who volunteered to be sent overseas again.

LIAP was a third scheme which was Leave In Addition to Python. I applied for LIAP when I was in the Arakan and had been 4 1/2 years overseas. I flew back to UK in a Dakota from Rangoon or perhaps Calcutta and landed at an RAF airfield in Somerset. I have no memories at all of this flight. I had 14 days leave and then I reported to the RE Depot Bn at Halifax. After about a week spent in drinking beer in pubs and chasing congenial nurses I boarded a troopship that arrived in Bombay three days after the Hiroshima bomb went off. Hurrah! - a free bottle of beer for all on board.

One time Provost Marshall of HMTS Monarch of Bermuda, for the entire voyage Liverpool to Bombay, Jul/Aug 1945."

I too have asked what the letters PYTHON stand for.
I do know the PYTHON was a leave granted after so many years over seas, I think it was four.
In my AB64 it states " started PYTHON tour etc"
I do know that LIAP and LILOP? are connected with it.......
LIAP stands for Leave In Addition Of Python
and LILOP stands for Leave In Lue Of Python.
I think it came about pre war when troops went to India and such for many years and was carried on to WW2.
BUT I have never found out what the Letters stand for.
But PYTHON was a leave granted after so many years overseas.
Any help?
Sorry john Willy your post came at same time as mine........but still don't know what the letters stand for! :oops:

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