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Burma 1930 - 1947:

Burma Command 1930 - 42

Burma Command was a pre-war formation that covered the country of Burma. Post the Great War, the Burma Independent District was a second-class district under India Command. It was a Major General’s appointment. In Burma, there were two British Army infantry battalions, together with some Indian Army units.

In April 1937, Burma was granted independence from India, becoming a semi-autonomous country reporting direct to the Colonel Office. Burma Command separated from the Indian Army at this time, with the Burma Rifles also becoming a separate regiment. The two British Army battalions remained in Burma.

On 18 November 1940, the three independent commands came under the newly established Far East Command based in Singapore, with the R.A.F. Far East Command incorporated into the new command. The Royal Navy, however, remained independent. For a short period, Burma Command came under the A.B.D.A. Command.

Japanese troops first entered Burmese territory on 12 December 1941, four days after they had invaded Malaya and entered the Second World War. The initial Japanese incursion was at the extreme south of the country at Victoria Point. The main threat to southern Burma was seen as coming from Thailand, nominally an independent and neutral country, but subject to significant Japanese influence.

On the same day (12 December), the British Chiefs of Staff agreed for Burma Command to be transferred from Far East Command to India Command. General WAVELL, the Commander-in-Chief of India Command, visited Rangoon. As a consequence of his visit, he decided to replace McLEOD with Lieutenant General HUTTON, his Chief of Staff at Army Headquarters in India. HUTTON arrived in Rangoon on 27 December 1941, and replaced McLEOD with immediate effect. The Japanese Army invaded Burma from Thailand on 20 January 1942.

The replacement of HUTTON came about as a result of a telegram sent by the Viceroy of India, Lord LINLITHGOW, to London on 18 February 1942, in which he raised concerns about the events in Burma. Two days later, HUTTON sent a cable to WAVELL and the Chiefs of Staff raising the possibility of a collapse of the defences at the Sittang Bridge, and having to evacuate Rangoon. On 21 February, WAVELL sent a cable to the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (C.I.G.S.) in London recommending the replacement of HUTTON by General ALEXANDER, then the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Southern Command in the U.K.. The C.I.G.S. had similar thoughts, and the decision taken to effect the change in command. HUTTON was informed on 22 February, but was asked to stay on as Chief of Staff to the Army in Burma, a new title for Burma Command. On the same date, A.B.D.A. Command was dissolved, so The Army in Burma returned to India Command for operational and administrative purposes.

General Sir Harold ALEXANDER arrived in Rangoon on 5 March 1942, with the title as the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Army in Burma. He assumed command of both the British forces deployed in Burma, and the Chinese forces entering Burma from the north-east in support of the British.

At the time, there were three British formations deployed in Burma. In addition to these formations, a Lines of Communication Area was established in Rangoon, under the command of Major General A. V. K. WAKELY. The situation in Burma continued to deteriorate. The Headquarters, Army in Burma relinquished command of all units and formations on 20 May 1942, and disbanded.

On 27 May 1942, a new headquarters was formed as Headquarters Burma Army, with Major General H. H. RICH as the General Officer Commanding with effect from 9 September 1942. This purpose of this headquarters was to administer all the units of the former Burma Army, in particular the Burma Rifles.

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