Skip to content

Burma 1930 - 1947:

Higher Formations 1943 - 1947

There was one Army Group, one Army, and three Corps Headquarters deployed in the Burma Campaign between 1943 and 1945.

On 16 October 1943, 11 Army Group was formed under the command of General Sir George GIFFARD. The headquarters was based initially based in Delhi, but soon moved to Barrackpore. It took command of the 14 Army, and the XV Indian Corps which operated in the Arakan. On 12 November 1944, 11 Army Group was replaced by Allied Land Force South East Asia (A.L.F.S.E.A.). A new General Officer Commanding, Lieutenant General Oliver LEESE, arrived from Italy to assume command of what was still in effect an Army Group.

14 Army was came into existence on 22 October 1943 by the expansion and splitting of the Headquarters, Eastern Army. The 14 Army took command of IV Corps stationed in Assam and XV Indian Corps deployed in the Arakan. The General Officer Commanding 14 Army was Lieutenant General ‘Bill’ SLIM. 14 Army was known at the time by many of its members as the ‘Forgotten Army’, and the phrase has lived on. When the Japanese offensive began, the first attack was in the Arakan against XV Indian Corps. Later, in April 1944, the main thrust into India was directed at Imphal and Kohima. IV Corps was deployed at Imphal, so XXXIII Indian Corps was brought forward from India to command the Kohima area. After the decisive defeat of the Japanese in Eastern India, XV Indian Corps came under direct command of 11 Army Group and later A.L.F.S.E.A., leaving 14 Army with IV Corps and XXXIII Indian Corps.

This left 14 Army with the focus on the recapture of Central Burma. Under the plan called Extended Capital, XXXIII Indian Corps crossed the River Irrawaddy to threat the key city of Mandalay, whilst IV Corps came down the Kabaw valley in secret. IV Corps crossed the Irrawaddy river lower down and thrust for the key garrison town of Meiktila. Fierce fighting resulted, but with IV Corps using a form of aggresive defence, the Japanese suffered a decisive defeat. Then IV Corps was tasked with a rapid advance down towards Rangoon via Pegu while XXXIII Indian Corps made a less rapid advance towards Rangoon via Allanmyo.

The first Corps Headquarters deployed in Eastern India was IV Corps, which arrived from Iraq in April 1942, having left the United Kingdom in January of that year. The corps had under command only 1 Indian Infantry Brigade from 23 Indian Division. This grew later as the 17 Indian Infantry Division and 23 Indian Infantry Division both came under command. The 20 Indian Infantry Division and 254 Indian Tank Brigade also joined IV Corps on Imphal plain at the beginning of 1944. When the Japanese launched their main attack on Eastern India in April 1944, IV Corps was cut off and surrounded on the Imphal plain. The only road from Dimapur via Kohima was closed due to the Japanese attack, so IV Corps had to be supplied by air. Once the siege was lifted about four months later, IV Corps withdrew back to India to rest and recuperate.

Back To Top