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Burma 1930 - 1947:

Indian Divisions 1944 - 1947

The Indian Army expanded greatly from 1942 to 1944, and the divisions raised in this period formed the majority of the troops that were deployed in Burma during this period. In total, there were eight Indian infantry divisions deployed in Burma during the 1944 and 1945 campaigns (the 36 Infantry Division is listed as a British infantry formation even though it commenced as an Indian formation).

After the withdrawal of Burma Corps into India, the 23 Indian Infantry Division was the only divisional formation deployed along the Burma – India border. This formation was joined by the 17 Indian Infantry Division which occupied the Tiddim area, both formations part of IV Corps. In the Arakan, the 26 Indian Infantry Division held the monsoon positions in that area.

The post monsoon 1944 offensive saw the 5 Indian Infantry Division (recently returned from the Middle East) and 7 Indian Infantry Division deployed under command of XV Indian Corps. The 20 Indian Infantry Division was sent to Assam to join IV Corps to guard the Shenam Pass and Imphal plain.

In February 1944, as XV Indian Corps advanced down the Arakan, the Japanese 28 Army launched Operation Ha-Go with 55 Division attacking XV Indian Corps. This led to the ‘Battle of the Admin Box’, where 7 Indian Division was cut off, but stood and fought in a series of boxes to stem the Japanese advance. The Japanese thrust brought the 26 Indian Infantry Division back to the Arakan, where it was joined by the 25 Indian Infantry Division as part of XV Indian Corps.

Meanwhile, in Central Burma, the Japanese launched Operation U-Go, aimed at capturing the Imphal plain and invading India. IV Corps held the initial assaults, but the scale of the attack necessitated the redeployment of 5 Indian Division by air to Imphal to join IV Corps (also still comprising 17, 20 and 23 Indian Divisions), with the 7 Indian Division being sent by rail and road to Dimapur to join XXXIII Indian Corps.

After the defeat of both Japanese assaults, the 5 Indian Division continued the pursuit down the Tiddim road, while the rest of the Indian divisions rested and refitted. Operation Capital began in November 1944, and saw XXXIII Indian Corps driving across the Chindwin and Irrawaddy Rivers with the newly arrived 19 Indian Infantry Division and 20 Indian Division; whilst IV Corps with the 7 Indian Division crossed the Irrawaddy to form a bridgehead from which the 17 Indian Division made a thrust to capture Meiktila. Elements from the 5 Indian Division were flown into Meiktila to support IV Corps. The capture of Mandalay by XXXIII Indian Corps and the battle of Meiktila saw the destruction of Japanese forces in Central Burma.

To continue the pursuit to Rangoon, the two corps were reorganised, so IV Corps became a motorised formation with 5 Indian Division and 17 Indian Divisions leading the way, supported by 19 Indian Division, with XXXIII Indian Corps driving down the Irrawaddy valley with 7 Indian Division and 20 Indian Division.

During this period, XV Indian Corps had leapfrogged down the Arakan, capturing Akyab, with 25 Indian Division fighting in the fierce battle at Kangaw in January 1945 and 26 Indian Division capturing Ramree Island.

In August 1945, the formations were being withdrawn from Burma in preparation for the invasion of Malaya, but the 7 Indian Division was still fighting the last battle of the Burma campaign at Sittang Bend as the Japanese forces surrendered on 15 August 1945.

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