Sketch by Jack Chalker

Bombay

Ceylon was still in danger of attack by Japanese bombers or even invasion so two weeks later and with much regret it was off again.

This time Bombay, the Indian army troop ship left a lot to be desired coal burning as hot as hell, on arrival they were met by buses with blacked out windows so the locals did not see a defeated British army.

Going from Bombay by train up country  to the highlands at the foot of the Himalayas was the best view in the world, It is the best tea planting country in the world and the temperature is just like England in the height of summer.

Staying in the grounds of a hotel was much better than reporting back to the regiment, after a few weeks thing were looking up they got some back pay and some leave.

Jack Twiss and dad decided it was time to go visit aunty pat in Madras, a long train journey and they were in Madras, a massive city teaming with millions of Indian not an English speaker to be found, so finding the British embassy, after hours of searching, there it was sticking out like sore thumb all British in teaming Madras.

rickshaw-tn

Lots of question, where have you been how did you get here. My god you have been though all that, come upstairs and have a cup of tea and tell us about Singapore do you think they will come here.

After what seemed an age it was what can  we do for you, asking where is the presentation convent?  Come over to the window, it was over road two blocks and bingo Presentation convent school.

Dad asked for Patricia Loughran and nobody had heard of her, he said she’s new and young and they said you mean sister Christen she is the new sister, they change their names on becoming a nun. 

Half an hour later she arrived saying I can only stay half an hour, that was about 50 miles a minute, dad had never met her before so it took half an hour to explain who he was and how he got there, with time up it was good-bye and off they went, come back again sister Christine said in a couple of day and I’ll get more time to speak.

Dad had notice her shoes were in bad state so with money in his pocket it was off to the shop for shoes and anything else they could find.

Dad on the left in india-tn

Dad on left in India

Can you imagine two 21 year olds in foreign country money in their pockets sand sea and lot to see, two days gone and back to the convent for afternoon tea, aunty pat is 97 and still remembers that day, new shoes and little extras?

She had sent a letter to my mum, can you imagine it took four months to get back to Barrow. By the time it arrived mum had got over the loss of Phil by going out with a new man, big shock, back to life after six month she did not know if she was coming or going but that was war.

Meantime it was back up country with a bad case of dysentery for dad, after a short stay in hospital it was reporting to a new regiment.

Dad medical card in India-tn

Medical Card

The fourteenth army of India I don't know how long dad was there he retrained for tanks and bren carriers.

Diving licence India-tn

Obtained Diving Licence India with Booklet

The chindits where going into Burma with General Wingate, he was a famous fighter of the hand to hand style if a little eccentric, his chindits  were equipped with bicycles asses and donkeys and loads of guts, half the brigade was made up of Ghurkhas,  fighters from Nepal, and they have been fighting for the British for over a century.

All the running away had to stop and lads were up for it, Wingates attack was to be on three front, thing went well and they nearly got to Mandalay and Rangoon, the Japanese put up a stiff fight and stopped them. The Japanese then counter attacked so they needed back up, here comes Phil to the rescue in his Bren carrier along with a load of General Lee Tanks, and a full regiment of men.

The Ngakydauk pass is the border with India and Burma so over they went only to find roads so narrow it was near impossible to drive a tank or in that matter a Bren carrier they both were tracked vehicles and the way you drive them is by stopping one track or the other, two levers pull the right one and you go right pull the other and you go left.

Can you imagine driving one of these vehicle up a winding road with a gradient of one in three,  and  hair pin bends every 200 yards or so, it was slow and very dangerous pull the lever too hard and you’re over the side.  On the way up there was a check point on the pass and as dad drove his Bren carrier past, it he was stop and one of the sentries said “nay dam Parky  thou’s dead it’s in the Carnforth news” dad laughed and said that's another thing they have got wrong Tony!

Tony Dixon was two years older than dad, having had a letter from his wife, saying that dad was missing believed killed after the taking of Singapore, this started a lifelong question?  Was dad a hero or was he AWOL absent without leave? Dad’s answer was he was asked to volunteer for a secret mission!

After a week the whole regiment was over into Burma, the pay clerk’s cooks and the entire admin. a regiment needs. The Arakan district of Burma is all jungle and malaria. The high command had intelligence that the Japanese army had bypassed what was left of the chindits and Winguard, they  were heading for Arakan at full speed, this caused a panic because men were going down with malaria, it was decided the best thing was to try retreating back over the pass.

With not enough time to retreat in safety the only thing they could do was to form a square using all the tanks. The idea was to bury the tank with just the turrets sticking up, this meant a small target for anti tank guns.  Digging was easy in the soft ground so it was trenches and tanks; this was enough to hold the first attack! The Japanese had never seen the British army fight like this before.

With nowhere to go, they had all heard of the way prisoners were treated by the Japanese it was fight to the death.   The Japanese attack came at first light, dad was in his Bren carrier in a forward position, ‘wait here corporal Parkinson when you can hear them coming send up a flair in their direction give them a long burst of Bren and get yourself back into the box’  said the Sergeant, a long burst of Bren meant full clip about fifty rounds of deadly 303 calibre bullets, if you get in the way of this it could cut you in two .

When the Japanese appeared dad sent a phosphorus flair in their direction, it became like daylight above the hole Japanese position, picking a target and send a long burst, the bullet struck in a line catching the unsuspecting Japanese two hundred yards away.  The dash back to the box was at full speed, they had removed the air filter and part of the silencer to give extra speed.  

After the first attack the Japanese thought twice before they charged a British army armed with Vickers machine guns Bren guns and tanks with their turret gun plus extra machine gun, they now knew what it meant to fight to the death? Japanese dead litter the ground around the box; this was the start of the battle of.

 

Admin. box

The first attack was full on from the front, Japanese light tanks and small field guns against the heavy British tank and larger anti tank guns all dug in, the charge was stopped by a well dug in army that was going nowhere.  With heavy casualties the Japanese retreated out of range off the bigger guns, once out of range thing slowed down, both armies were watching each other.

The British where then surrounded with the Japanese covering the Ngakydauk pass, this stop the British being reinforced or resupplied from India, the Japanese thought they had the upper hand and would be able to wait for starvation to set in.  What the Japanese didn't realise was that in their haste to bypass the chindits, they were thinking they were a beaten force; they left their supply chain open to assault from behind a classic mistake.

The problem was neither army could get re supplied. General Slim had the idea of getting the RAF to resupply from the air, every morning there would be an air drop of supplies from low flying aircraft, mostly they missed the square and it was up to the troops to take turns at going into no man’s land to fight hand to hand with an equally hungry Japanese troops.                

Dad would go out in his Bren carrier to find the lost parachutes with supplies attached, they were in big metal cylinders, one day he retrieved a cylinder that had broken open, it was filled with tinned peaches and one can just fell behind the driver’s seat to be retrieved later!

One of the other drivers had a tin of condensed milk; Dad always said that was the best meal he ever had!    One night an officer asked for volunteers to go out to see if it was possible to counter attack, with him was the officer and a sergeant who thought he knew it all Their orders were to go under the cover of darkness to see if it was possible to get tanks over a ditch to get behind the enemy without getting stuck. The officer was leading the patrol when they came under fire from Jap patrol;

The officer had grenades and was throwing them and the rest of the men opened up with small arms, the sergeant laid flat and would not move, the officer rallied the men and counter attacked, the Japanese retreated leaving the British officer dead.

Dad being a corporal had to try to get the sergeant to move but it was impossible he froze and just lay there, they still had to go look at the ditch, so dad and Jack crept forward to look the ditch over, and it was too wide and deep to cross without bridging.

On returning having picked up the sergeant they had to leave the officers body behind, the sergeant by this time was trying to make out he had been to the ditch, when asked by an officer about the ditch and the sergeant said it was safe for the tanks, Dad interrupted saying it was not safe, the sergeant told him to shut up or he would be on a charge, after this the officer asked dad why he was so sure that the sergeant was wrong.

When dad told about the sergeant not getting to the ditch he was put on a charge and lost his stripes, dad thought he might get the stripes but to no avail it was another regular corporal that got the promotion. Two weeks later dad had to return to the area to find the officers body, when they found it there was only a skeleton left, the body had been picked clean by vultures.

Weeks went on and the Japanese tried to get their big guns, which had been captured at Singapore, on the top of the hill overlooking the British camp, along with a group of sixty plus men dad had to attack the Japanese as they dug in and position their guns.

They attacked just after dark catching them off guard it was a rout, the Japanese retreated leaving the guns behind, with the guns secured it was expected that the Japs would counter attack, getting back to safety was impossible with the guns. The order came that they had wreck the guns, so blow them up was the order of the day.

Packing them with mud and firing them was the way to do it!    Not recommended if you don't know what you’re doing, when ready it was an extra long lanyard, fingers in your ears as the officer in charge pull on the lanyard. Boom the biggest boom dad ever heard, there they were with splits in the barrels and let’s get the hell out of here.

This was just one of regular hand to hand fights. Nights were always the favourite with night patrols from both sides meeting up in no man’s land.

One night dad had been on guard from 2 till 6, at about 4am a patrol came back and they told dad about a very large wild boar they had nearly walked into in dark, at 6am when he was relieved he thought about this wild boar, he picked up his Thompson machine gun and with Twiss it was off hunting.

The Tommy gun is the favoured weapon for hand to hand combat but is not the right gun to shoot Wild boar so jack had his lee Enfield 303  rifle,  wild Boars are very viscous so you have to be careful. Along with dad and jack was another of the group who had fled Singapore,  Jim Sturgeon a tall blonde haired former teacher from Leicester. The intrepid trio set off in search of the boar,   after finding the place where the boar was sighted, the three settled down and waited, more than an hour passed when the first noise of rustling in the under growth, was this our boar or was it the enemy, frightening moments pass as they stood motionless waiting to see what broke cover. Agonising moments then there it was the biggest thing any of them had seen. Dad thought a boar was a size of a pig, but there it was the size of a cow, dad gave it a burst of Tommy gun, the bullet just stopped dead in the thick skin, moments later it decided to charge big sabre shaped task coming towards them, dad grabbed the lee Enfield and shot the boar right between the eyes, dropping dead at his feet.

Wild Boar-tn

It took another group of men to get it back to camp, with a call out for a butcher the boar was soon cut up into manageable pieces, a cut sent off to the captain it was grub all round.

This was day to day stuff in the admin. box. In his memoirs General slim said this was the greatest battle against the Japanese in World War 2, the end of the battle came one morning when the Japanese turn away heading south as fast as they could, with the British army  in pursuit. The casualties on both sides were heavy, the Japanese loses were not as heavy as the British who had been under fire in a confined space.

The battle left many with malaria dad included, instead of chasing the Japs it was back to India and hospital, it took weeks to recuperate, Instead of the usual AB malaria which leave you suffering flue like symptoms for the rest of your life, it was cerebral malaria that usually kills that dad got. Weeks in and out of consciousness, the break though came with his temperature dropping back to normal, dad was in hospital for many weeks,  this type of malaria can kill, but the other thing is you never suffer any more symptoms. 

One day he had a visit from Nathan Dixon from Carnforth, Nathan was the brother of Tony Dixon he had gone to school with dad, he thought he was coming to see him before he died,  when he met dad he was sitting up in bed, after talking to Nathan for a time dad said bye gum Nathan thou looks terrible.

Nathan said he could not eat the local food and he said he had no money to buy food!  All his pay went straight back to his wife and child, If you had a family you could pay all your pay to your family leaving none for yourself. Dad said ‘pass me my wallet’ he opened it and gave half of the contents to Nathan and said go and bye yourself a good meal.

Nathan Dixon-tn

Later Newspaper Article about the Meeting in Burma

Years later at Cartmel races I witnessed the reunion with Nathan, this time he was paying, it was to be ice creams all round for all of us six kids. Dad had a saying about never lending money, it was if you can afford to, give it, but never lend a penny if you want it back, the secret to a happy life.

Back with his mates In Burma,  monsoon time had arrived, it would rain for weeks on end, tanks hated monsoons they are soon bogged down in the mud, the only thing to do is sit it out, just down the road was the Japanese army waiting for the rain to stop.

Wingates  chindits could move in any weather, they gave the Japs hell, with the monsoon over it was on the move again, dad had been in Burma six months and it was time for leave.

They were taken by truck back over the Nokeydoc pass back to India, straight back into hospital with a case on dysentery, however good food and clean water soon sorted them out.  With the war in Burma going well it was back to Bombay for a top secret project.

 

Next Chapter

Swimming Tanks

 

 

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[My Dad and Me] [Training for War] [Voyage] [Singapore] [Escape] [Columbo] [Bombay] [Swimming Tanks] [Ireland] [Next Step] [Sister Christine]

 

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