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Burma 1930 - 1947:

Independent Brigades

The 268 Indian Infantry Brigade was formed in August 1942 to be the infantry component of the newly raised 43 Indian Armoured Division. In April 1943, it moved to the new 44 Indian Armoured Division, and then into G.H.Q. Reserve at Ranchi by March 1944. On 16 April 1944, with the launch of the Japanese invasion of India through Kohima and Imphal, the brigade was deployed to Dimapur. It arrived on 8 May to come under command of an emergency formation entitled the 21 Indian Division, which itself was under command of XXXIII Indian Corps. It was given responsibility for the defence of the line of communication between Dimapur and Kohima. In mid-May, the brigade took over the responsibility for Kohima Ridge, and continued to operate in the Kohima area. The brigade continued on operations until being withdrawn to Imphal in early August 1944. On 10 August 1944, the brigade was reorganised.

Five new battalions were posted into the brigade. Its role changed from being a lorried infantry brigade within an armoured division to an independent brigade capable of movement across the varied terrain in central Burma. This brigade came under command of IV Corps on 11 November. It was tasked with misleading the Japanese and also to protect the southern flank of the 62 Indian Infantry Brigade from the 19 Indian Division as it crossed the River Chindwin. At 07.00 hours on 26 December, this brigade and the 19 Indian Division transferred to the command of the XXXIII Indian Corps. The brigade was ordered to advance down the Mu River and make patrols contact with the 2 Infantry Division and 19 Indian Infantry Division. The brigade prided itself on having to navigate the more difficult country and terrain than other formations, and used mules, bullocks and elephants for transport. In late January 1945, the brigade came under Corps Reserve. On 10 April 1945, the brigade commenced its advance from Ngathayauk in support of the 2 Infantry Division and cooperated in capturing Mount Popa, an extinct volcano that rose from the plain to a height of 500 feet. Having assisted in the capture of that feature, the brigade concentrated at Allanmyo by 1 May 1945. The brigade advanced down the Irrawaddy River with XXXIII Corps and held the central sector around Thayetmyo under command of the 7 Indian Division. The brigade became part of the 12 Army in Burma and was used to mop up stragglers in the Allanmyo, Kama and Prome areas under the direct command of the 7 Indian Division. The brigade was relieved in July 1945 and moved to India to reorganise to Allied Occupation Forces in Japan.

The Lushai Brigade was an ad-hoc formation raised by the Fourteenth Army to cover the large area of the Lushai and Chin Hills on the flank of IV Corps, and to prevent Japanese activity in the region. It’s troops had to cover long distances in appalling weather, and they were successful in disrupting the Japanese line of communication. The Brigade was disbanded in India in February 1946.

Anti-Aircraft Brigades and Units – India and South-East Asia

At the outbreak of the Second World War, as far as the U.K. is concerned, on 3 September 1939, there were no anti-aircraft units either based in India, or within the Indian Artillery. The initial requirement of the British Indian Army was to raise new formations for deployment in the Middle East, Iraq and Egypt in particular. As such, the first anti-aircraft units were raised in India.  Through 1941, the threat from Japan to the American, British, and Dutch colonies and possessions in the Far-East rose, and the likelihood of war became much more likely. War became a reality on 7 December 1941, when the Japanese attacked Malaya, and soon afterwards, the Philippines, the Netherlands East Indies and Hong Kong.

The pace of raising new Indian anti-aircraft units increased, but a shortage of British officers and non-commissioned officers, and Indian Viceroy Commissioned Officers and non-commissioned officers, held back the expansion of the anti-aircraft artillery considerably. There was also a high demand for soldiers from the Punjab for infantry units, so the Indian Artillery increasing turned to recruiting Madrasi soldiers from southern India. These new soldiers proved to be very competant and quick to learn, with many being promoted to fill the vacancies for non-commissioned officers.

Three Indian anti-aircraft brigades were formed, two of which were based in and around Calcutta, and the third in southern India. In addition, two British anti-aircraft brigades, which had been formed in the U.K., were sent to India, and the only West African anti-aircraft brigade. One British and the West African anti-aircraft brigades were deployed to Assam, while the other British brigade was deployed to the Arakan region.

In February 1944, the 9 Anti-Aircraft Brigade and 3 Indian Anti-Aircraft Brigade swopped locations, with their constituent units remaining in place. The 9 Anti-Aircraft Brigade moved to southern India, and it began to prepare for amphibious operations in South-East Asia, that ended with Operation ‘Zipper’. The 3 Indian Anti-Aircraft Brigade assumed responsibility for the Assam base. In early 1945, the process of replacing British anti-aircraft units with Indian one continued, and some units were disbanded and others returned to the U.K.

With the end of hostilties on 15 August 1945, the requirement for anti-aircraft units ended abruptly, and in September 1945, all anti-aircraft units in Burma were ‘stood down’. At Partition, one heavy anti-aircraft and one light anti-aircraft regiment passed to Pakistan, and three units passed to the new Indian Army.

The role of anti-aircraft artillery in South-East Asia is often overlooked. For those units based in Ceylon and southern India, there were few air-raids, and none from 1943 onwards. The situation was different in the Calcutta region, and in Assam, where one brigade was responsible for defending fifteen busy Allied airfields. Some units were deployed into Burma, either under Corps command, or one of the anti-aircraft brigades, and these were also called upon to support troops on the ground. This included some regiments operating 7.2″ howitzers in a ground support role.

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