Who watched BURMA, MY FATHER AND THE FORGOTTEN ARMY?

#1
I'd be very grateful for any information on sources and agencies which would help me find out more about the Gold Coast Regiment in WWII, especially if any ever were POWs of the Japanese.
 
#2
I would suggest speaking to the company who produced the prog.

I saw most of it, it was quite interesting and I learned about a part of the war I knew nothing about- that being the involvement of the West Africans. The old boys they interviewed seemed pretty with it for their age.
 
#3

Goatman

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#6
I watched it, having read an awful lot of Burma theatre stuff back in the day, for work. I was aware of the West African contribution, but to be honest, I suspect that former Indian Army types would say that Griff's perspective was a bit skewed. The Indian Army's 17th Infantry Divn ( Black Cats) and the Royal Marines who have 'Arakan' as a battle honour might have a word or two with the producers about who bore the brunt of the fighting...

For a balanced picture try any of the following:

> Defeat Into Victory - the definitive history of Gen Slim's campaign.

> A Hell of a Licking' : Maj Gen James Lunt - the retreat through Burma, including the Sittang Bend cluster-feck.

(Cue JonWilly - whose drinking buddy was the sapper who blew the bridge it seems)

> Tank tracks to Rangoon - a real eye-opener to anyone whose notion of Burma campaign is drawn from 'Merrill's Marauders'


> ' Home from the Hill ' - Lt Col Hillary Hook's autobiography. He was with the Deccan Light Horse fighting in Burma and has some interesting dits about the various uses of Sherman/Grant tanks working with dismounted inf.

Maybe I'm just getting old and cynical but the in-built BBC touchstones seemed a bit in my face....grouch,grumble,rustle.
[edited to add: Harrumpphh! Pass me chota-peg, jaldi!]
 

Bouillabaisse

LE
Book Reviewer
#7
I watched it, having read an awful lot of Burma theatre stuff back in the day, for work. I was aware of the West African contribution, but to be honest, I suspect that former Indian Army types would say that Griff's perspective was a bit skewed. The Indian Army's 17th Infantry Divn ( Black Cats) and the Royal Marines who have 'Arakan' as a battle honour might have a word or two with the producers about who bore the brunt of the fighting...!]
Just because it "fits" with the BBC agenda it may not necessarily be untrue. Much of the history of the Burma campaign has been written with an unintended romanticisation of the Indian Army that neverthe less presents it as a paragon of military virtue. There's very little history looking at the African contributions to the war which isa shame.
 

Goatman

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#8
Bouillabaise,

I agree....equally little is written or known about Viper Force either!

The fact that there were still 14,000 Japanese in the field in Burma when Hiroshima saw the light is also little appreciated.

I guess my grouchy comment was more along the lines of ' by all means let's applaud the West African efforts - but not make it centre stage.'

Had a Ghanaian guy in my billet for four months - nice bloke but snored for Britain :) It was illuminating to hear his views on Nigeria....
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#9
Let's respect the fact that G R-J wanted to find out about his father's war, and it did indeed have the makings of a very interesting programme. I would doubt the Africans involved had much idea of what the next door company was up to, let alone other divisions, when is clear from George Macdonald Fraser's 'Quartered Safe Out Here' that the ordinary infantry soldier didn't see much beyond his platoon. I thought the old boys who were interviewed were great.

As to the jungle and weather etc, my uncle's comment as CO of 2RWF in 2nd Arakan was "Most books about the Burma campaign have stressed its green hell aspect and have complained bitterly about the rain. In fact for many months of the year Burma is very beautiful. The early spring is especially nice and the weather when the 2nd Battalion went in in January 1944 could not have been bettered. .. The Burma jungle is made of exceedingly large trees with impenetrable head branches. Flying over it, all you can see is this tree canopy. On the ground it is comparatively easy to move through, with often a large teak tree every 30 or 40 yards. "
 
#10
I watched it, having read an awful lot of Burma theatre stuff back in the day, for work. I was aware of the West African contribution, but to be honest...
Sure. All contributions to that wonderful Forgotten Army are worth hearing about, but the West African (and East African) contributions are unfamiliar to many people and therefore all the more worthy of coverage in last night's excellent programme.

(Still available for the next 6 days on BBC iPlayer - BBC Two - Burma, My Father and the Forgotten Army )

Without wishing to open up the Chindit controversy as well, let's also not forget that there was a West African Brigade (mainly from Nigeria) in the Second Chindit expedition.
 
#11
Was any explanation ever given as to why the families of the fallen were never informed?
 

terroratthepicnic

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Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#12
It's a shame my Grandad died last year, I would love to have talked to him to see if he came accross the West Africans. I believe he was 2nd Column Chindits and when he came out of Burma he shipped of to Egypt. So he must have bumped into them along the way.
 
#13
Sure. All contributions to that wonderful Forgotten Army are worth hearing about, but the West African (and East African) contributions are unfamiliar to many people and therefore all the more worthy of coverage in last night's excellent programme.

(Still available for the next 6 days on BBC iPlayer - BBC Two - Burma, My Father and the Forgotten Army )

Without wishing to open up the Chindit controversy as well, let's also not forget that there was a West African Brigade (mainly from Nigeria) in the Second Chindit expedition.
There were two West African divisions in Burma (81st and 82nd) as well as an East African one (11th).
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#15
A piece I wrote up about the West Africa Regiment (the Sierra Leone equivalent of the Gold Coast regt) in WW1:

The Capture of German Cameroun, 1914 - ARRSEpedia

I got into this thinking my grandfather was on this trip, but he wasn't. Instead he was with the bit of the WAR left behind in SL and was invalided out with blackwater fever after collapsing and being thought to be dead until the MO pricked him with a needle and a tiny bit of blood bubbled up.
 

Goatman

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Book Reviewer
#16
In light of the comments I will revisit the prog.

TATP if your grandad was a Chindit, I doubt he talked much about it...but would have had some hair raising tales !

( and I would still like to see someone make a film about RM Cpl Paddy Doyle's lone trek from the field hospital in Burma where he was recovering from shrapnel wounds back to India)

Another book worth getting hold of is ' Safer than a known way ' - escape and evasion story following the Japanese invasion.
- majority of Burman villagers were as much of a hazard to evaders as the Japanese troops in pursuit.

For me, one of the interesting points in the film was the veteran returning to Arakan and commenting that the rule against fraternisation was because so many Burmese sympathised with their Japanese occupiers.

Amongst others the Kachin levies and the [edit]Karen Rifles, remained loyal to Britain. CF Major Seagrim for that story

I had to laugh when the (Burman) historian was bigging up the number of Burmese anti colonial Nationalists who trained with the Japanese...there were 30 of them originally, including Aung San Suu Kyi's father.

Edited to add: This dit is quite interesting in relation to the ethnic divisions within the Burmese armed forces after 1945, between those who had sided with the Japanese (BNA) and others. http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/2011/02/03/burma-in-limbo-–-part-5/


Incidentally Ghana received its independence the year I was born....
 

terroratthepicnic

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#18
TATP if your grandad was a Chindit, I doubt he talked much about it...but would have had some hair raising tales !
He was a Chindit and your right he didn't talk much. The family only knew he got shot while in the jungle. He then pulled the bullet out and stitched himself up and carried on. I also know that he had to remove the vocal cords from the donkeys and cup the hoofs so that they couldn't make any noise.

After I got back from my first tour in Bos he told me some other stuff when nobody else was around. Like lying up for 2 days waiting to ambush by a river, but he never went into detail. I never pushed he never offered further details.

I have always had a fasination with jungles and enjoyed my time in the jungle when I got the chance. Perhaps it's in the blood.
 

Goatman

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Book Reviewer
#19
I always wanted to do the Brunei course - fat chance as an elderly Stab :) I'm guessing it was Belize in your case? Don't mind bugs - but loathe snakes, whether they taste of chicken or not.

George MacDonald Fraser's 'Quartered Safe Out Here' gives a neat rejoinder to the stupid question which I bet your grandad was also occasionally asked:

' Did you kill anyone?'
' Why do you want to know?'
 
#20
One of the best and most comprehensive books on Burma is Louis Allen's 'Burma - The Longest War 1941-45'.

Among other things he was a Japanese speaking intelligence officer in 14 Army.

African KIAs were 6% of the British forces total in the theatre.
 

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