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Burma 1930 - 1947:

British Divisions 1942 - 1946

The majority of the formations deployed in Burma were Indian Army formations, albeit most contained units from the British Army within their establishment.

The first British divisional formation sent to the Far East was the 18 Infantry Division. It had been intended to send that division to the Middle East, which was then changed to Burma, but it landed eventually at Singapore where it was captured on 15 February 1942.


The loss of Burma leading to a threat to India, plus the Indian Army at the time was rapidly expanding but still poorly trained and equipped, so it was deemed necessary to send British formations to the Far East. The next British division to be sent to the Far East was the 70 Infantry Division, which left Egypt on 28 February 1942, arriving in India on 10 March 1942. It moved to join IV Corps in Assam, later serving with XV Indian Corps in the Arakan in early 1943. In September 1943, it was decided to convert this division into a long range penetration force to become part of Special Force. the division disbanded in India on 24 October 1943.

The 5 Infantry Division arrived in India on 21 May 1942, although two brigades were located on Madagascar at this time. The division was back together again by August 1942. It sailed for Persia on 20 August to face the threat of invasion by German forces through the Caucasus mountains.

The 2 Infantry Division arrived in India on 7 June 1942 having sailed from the United Kingdom via Capetown. It came under command of Southern Army, but one brigade was detached to serve in the Arakan during the First Arakan Campaign in late 1942 and early 1943. The division had not seen action since being evacuated from Dunkirk, so had become a tight knit formation. In March 1944, now part of XXXIII Indian Corps, the division was flown to Dimapur and moved forward to Kohima. With the 7 Indian Infantry Division, it cleared the Kohima area of Japanese troops, but at a heavy cost. After Kohima, the division remained with XXXIII Indian Corps, and was instrumental in forcing the crossings of the River Irrawaddy to threaten Mandalay while IV Corps seized Meiktila. It was disbanded in India after the war.

The 36 Infantry Division was formed in January 1943 as an Indian Army formation, part of the Combined Training Centre for amphibious operations. In February 1944, it was sent hurriedly to the Arakan to stem the Japanese advance in Operation Ha-Go. From the Arakan, the division was sent to Mogaung to come under command of the Northern Combat Area Command. It drove down the ‘Railway Corridor’ to meet up with 19 Indian Infantry Division in March 1945. It was then withdrawn to India in April 1945, where it was broken up in September 1945 because of the Python Leave scheme.

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