Major JW Arthur MC of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Punjab Regiment

It appeared that the enemy were strongly attacking the 50th Indian Parachute Brigade, forward of Litan, at Milestone 26 on the Imphal-Ukhrul Road. The Battalion was ordered to Litan to protect the Parachute Brigade Administration box, arriving at 1200 hours and took up positions on the box perimeter. Lieutenant K K Tiwari took a patrol to try and contact the 50th Parachute Brigade East along the Road. He found the enemy attacking the Brigade on all sides and was unable to make contact …

On the night of 24/25th March, D Company, which was in position on a 4 000 foot peak, was attacked throughout the night. At dawn, having suffered considerable casualties, and with ammunition almost exhausted, D Company were withdrawn. A Patrol from A Company was sent to cover their withdrawal. On the way they contacted more enemy … A second A Company patrol following up behind also contacted the enemy and Jem[adar] Munsha Singh was badly wounded in the leg. D Company casualties in this action were 6 men killed, Sub[adar] Amar Singh and 7 other men wounded. Sub Amar Singh having been wounded was caught by the Japanese and being too badly wounded for them to carry was thrown over a cliff-side, but managed to crawl back to our lines.

Depleted company

A very depleted D Company formed a composite Company with A Company under command of Gian Chand, and took up a position North of the Road above Battalion HQ. Lieutenant Colonel Smith then took command of all troops in the 50th Parachute Brigade Administration Box, and spent the day co-ordinating the defences. Shortly after dark the enemy resumed vicious attacks on all sides of the Administration box. All attacks were, however, repulsed and heavy casualties inflicted. Sub Bhanwar Singh was severely wounded in the leg. On 26th March, an air strike was put down on the feature previously held by D Company. The enemy were seen scattering from the position and were engaged by artillery. Reports received from 50th Parachute Brigade were very serious, and accordingly Lieutenant Colonel Smith decided to evacuate all Administration personnel and stores back to Imphal the same day as the road might be cut behind at any time.

The Brigade Command and the Battalion Commands of 1/17 Dogra and 2 Suffolks arrived in the middle of the day. It was then decided that all of us should retire by next morning. Accordingly the Battalion took up a lay-back position to cover the withdrawal of Administrative personnel, who passed through at dusk. The Battalion was in position by this time, but only two Companies, B and C, were properly dug in, they having not to move. So started one of the most nerve-wracking nights in the history of the Battalion. At 2000 hours C Company, who were on a hill about 500 yards from Battalion HQ, were attacked by approximately a Battalion of Japanese. The fighting continued without a break throughout the night, during which time Company HQ and 1 Platoon were overrun.

Hand-to-hand fighting

After fierce hand-to-hand fighting the enemy were driven out. Unfortunately, Johnny Walker, who had been exposing himself directing the defence, was killed. Sub Walayat Khan, who took over command was himself wounded later and Jem Khurshid Khan, the Platoon commander was also severely wounded. Despite this, the Platoon and Company HQ positions still held out and at dawn the Japanese started to withdraw. Out of a strength of 50 men in this particular position only about 5 or 6 remained unwounded by the morning. Lieutenant N M Arbab, the Mortar Officer, as the light got stronger, spotted odd parties of the Japanese retreating along a ridge and engaged them effectively with his mortars. MIt was reckoned that in that night anything up to 200 casualties were inflicted on the enemy … During thses 4 ½ days of bloody fighting our total casualties were one officer killed, one Vco killed, 18 men killed, 5 VCOs and 30 men wounded. We inflicted about 300 casualties on the Japanese and held up their advance at a very vital stage of the Imphal operations.

Tiddim Road to Kennedy Peak (3rd September 1944 to 30th November 1944)

We marched about 250 miles and climbed up and down the equivalent of Mount Everest, culminating in living and fighting at 8000 ft for two months.

From beginning to end we were on Air supply and never received anything through normal L of C. This made us very mobile and enabled us to operate without a tail. Highest praise must go to both British and American pilots, who found our dropping zones in one of the most difficult countries in the World. To do this they had to fly through continuous monsoon weather from distant bases, enough to deter the most experienced pilots. The fact that they lost two planes on our Battalion alone showed their determination to get through at all costs.

Readers may be interested in some of the methods adopted, and the kind of stores dropped by air, as from now on until the end of the Burma campaign the majority of units were supplied in this manner on an ever increasing scale. For rations and ammunition a standard drop had been arranged according to the type of unit requiring them. Special stores, such as tank tracks, wirelesses etc. were asked for 48 hours beforehand and were dropped on silk parachutes as opposed to cotton parachutes for normal supplies.

We regret to say that there was an unseemly rush, and friendship was forgotten as the officers fought tooth and nail to acquire sufficient silk for one pair of underpants! Towards the end, when the air supply was fully organised, the rations were probably the finest we had ever received, including fresh meat, breakfast rolls, and as much Rum as we could drink. It appeared there was nothing that could not be dropped in the food and drink line, if urgently required, even fresh eggs and live chickens were dropped for Hospitals, and on one occasion champagne! For Dutt, who very nearly died of Scrub Typhus, the doctors decided to give him champagne, and this was duly dropped within twenty four hours over the Hospital – strange to say Dutt recovered.

Singapore (19th August 1945 to 1st November 1945)

On the morning of the 4th September we entered the swept channel in the Malacca Straights. The rest of the day we steamed along about ten miles from the Malayan coast. At 1600 hours, we saw the actual beaches on which we would have landed in OPERATION ZIPPER.[1]

Horrible places with Mangrove swamps, heavy defences and mined beaches. We were lucky not to have to do that operation. That night the blackout was lifted as the surrender talks off Singapore in the cruiser Sussex had been successful during the day. The convoy then sailed on with all lights blazing – a fine sight … We saw the sun rise over Singapore Island ‘though we did not see Singapore itself till later on. At 0700 hours the LCILs[2] came alongside the ship and, boatload by boatload, we lowered ourselves down the scrambling nets into them … Having started off we got into battle formations – no risks were being taken. At about 1045 we saw Singapore – a city of tall buildings with all the deck apparatus showing clearly against a very dull and thundery sky …

We were met by two senior Japanese officers wearing highly polished jack boots and ceremonial swords. Behind those, under a shelter, stood the Japanese General and his staff. All were standing stiffly to attention at the salute. Behind them were parked a long line of shining limousines, each with its jack-booted chauffeur. These were for our use when required. The Japanese officers, with the aid of interpreters and maps, then showed us the disposition of all Japanese guards in the town. The whole scene was like a big dream, especially when it is remembered that we had no idea what our reception would be like … The Battalion was lucky to have the task of clearing the City, a stupendous, though nevertheless extremely interesting job, as we had all the important points to take over.

As we secured our first bound – a full days work – we searched through the streets disarming and collecting together all Japanese guards. The whole population of Singapore (mainly Chinese) who could walk – and some who couldn’t – turned out to greet us and gave us a most stupendous welcome with all sorts of flags flying from nearly every window. They were almost frantic with joy and the day was spent to the sound of continuous cheering … The behaviour of the Japanese was exemplary and they could not have been more helpful, thus making our task very easy. By the evening we had settled down for the night, having cleared half the City. Every man was very tired, but happy.

While having our first meal of the day at 1900 hours we switched on a radio and heard the 2130 news from London, and what should we hear but “Indian and British troops today landed on Singapore Island, after three and a half years absence. The first troops ashore were those of the 2nd Battalion 1st Punjab Regiment”. As can be imagined we were thrilled to hear this as it was the first time the BBC had ever specifically mentioned any Battalion or Regiment in their news bulletins.

[1] To recapture Singapore.

[2] Landing Craft.

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