I go on a trip to Indin and see 6 Brigade battle in progress. More corpses than I have ever seen in previous battles, and a “T” out, though I feel the wrong end is facing the enemy. I go up to Rama and see Carruthers and W/C Forbes about our move up to ‘Lyons’. (JDW: a landing ground). I fly back here and am head over heels in ‘organising’ things. Bud Rose comes down, and comes round last night for a drink. We get awful tight and confidential!
Tom Pierce returns to Ranchi. Damn hot and sticky down here. The Japs surround 6 Brigade, capture Brigadier Cavendish, and they have to fight their way out to Kyankpandu. Several burnt bodies visible.
An air raid on Maungdaw the other afternoon. I see ten (Army 99s?) through my (field) glasses and a lot drops on Maungdaw.
JDW (From the BBC archive)
In early April 1943, the 6th Infantry Brigade was strung out north and south of the Brigade Headquarters in the Burmese Arakan peninsular when the Japanese attacked across the Mayu Ridge. With his village headquarters about to be overrun, Brigadier Cavendish issued two significant orders. His young and agile staff (at 47 he was neither) were to evacuate the area and make their escape as best they could; thereafter, the area was to be regarded as hostile territory and the commander of the artillery regiment nearby was to “blast anything that moved without question”. The Japanese were jubilant to capture a brigadier. News was flashed to Tokyo and Tokyo Rose announced it over the air, but the triumph was to be short-lived. Next morning, 6th April, Ronald Cavendish accompanied his unwitting captors onto the village square, he alone knowing what was to come. The British Artillery carried out their orders and shelled them. Back at their home in Middleton, Mrs Cavendish was told that her husband was missing, but she knew in her heart he was dead. Two and a half years later, before he died by his Bushido code, the Japanese general described him as “a very brave and admirable gentleman”. Nowadays, after 60 peaceful years, the accolade ‘hero’ is awarded for mere sporting achievement. Ronald Cavendish was a real hero in two world wars; but his life and exploits still await the biography they deserve.
Journey not too bad as I got away quick off the ferry and got a lower berth. Pass two trains of Chinese going up. One had a lot of chargers in luggage vans. Got back and find Teddy killed in a crash a few days ago. He took off at Maungdaw and was heard on the R/T saying his engine was running rough and he was landing again. He made an approach, north to south, overshot and opened up, raising his undercarriage. White smoke was seen coming from his exhaust, an internal glycol leak, and then he got slower and slower, until just over the hills she must have stalled for she whipped a wing over and crashed and burst into flames. So I have to come down again. 24 hours after getting off the train I am on my way with Tom Pierce and arrive here after lunch yesterday.
Bob Garratt running the show fairly successfully, but the Japs have cut the road near Indin, and 6 Brigade have withdrawn from Donbaik. A new general – Lomax – and a complete flap all round. Damn hot and sticky down here now, and me on ops again, of which I am not too pleased. However: I have an awful nightmare my one night in Ranchi!
I go back on the Assam Mail tonight – 00.06hrs, provided I catch it. Not quite so much rain now and I can get out more but still nothing to shoot bar shite hawks and vultures. However, very pleasant lying in a decent bed reading of a night. I study birds through field glasses but require some book to identify them. A pity I cannot get home (JDW: to the UK? My father evidently applied) but the answer was “It is pointed out that – & – are seconded Indian Army officers and as such cannot be repatriated until the end of hostilities.” That means another four years out here I suppose.
I have some of these ‘Burma sweat rag’ khaki shirts which I have been wearing for nearly a year now, and bought some more at Whiteway & Laidlaw‘s in Calcutta. They are excellent in hot weather though rather ugly. I wore my Sandhurst greased boots and puttees flying on ops, and most of the others took up boots too – for walking home. Also my famous sky blue overalls.
A hideous journey ahead with three nights in trains to Ranchi and changes in the middle of them. What of my next objectives? I have four, but they are all more or less interconnected and those that stand by themselves are impossible, on current form, so what to do. (JDW: I wish he’d tell us what these objectives are!)
No malaria again so far, and damn all to shoot either. The jungle chandikar takes me for four miles down the bottom of the tea (plantation) and along the railway and he and his friends beat the jungle for me. We see signs of deer but nothing comes out of the beat, and we tramp wearily home. Joyce, the aunt, comes back from Darjeeling and cheers the place up a little, but still nowt to shoot. Papers full of the Arakan and I’m sure we must have had some casualties down there, and expect I shall have to go back again shortly.
Pleasant rest up here, with home grown and cooked food more or less, and I feel no desire to fly an aircraft again just now. Greta Howard, Teddy’s kept woman, wept on my shoulder in the Ranchi Club when I told her about Maungdaw. The selfish bitch! – expecting someone else to do the dirty whilst she kept Teddy warm in bed.
I have thought up another, in fact two or even three, immediate objectives but somehow I doubt if any of them will come off. If not then I’m sunk. Nothing yet published of what I told the Public Relations officer one day at Maungdaw, about army-co-operation, and especially about ‘a pilot from the Indian Army’ flying over his own battalion (Mike) – he thought that was terrific. But kutchke nahum done. (JDW: ‘bugger all’ in Urdu?)
The 4th Battle of Donbaik appears to have failed, as I forecast!
I get a fever again and spend yesterday in bed with ‘Robinson Crusoe’. I expect another attack after tiffin today. Rain and thunderstorms the last 36 hours. We get hold of a local shikari who takes me out after jungle fowl one evening, but no luck. I stand in a clearing in the jungle some time, but all I see is a damn great rat, and hear something pass by in jungle. Find footprint of a small hog deer or something.
The papers full of action down Arakan way, so I expect the boys will have suffered one or two minor ‘shocks’ by now.
A good Mugh cook here. There are tiger nearby in the jungle, but one hasn’t made a kill for about a month and Uncle Stan doesn’t seem inclined to get anything done about it, so that’s that – and I shall be out of luck. Actually I shall be extremely lucky if I manage to shoot any damn thing up here.
I contact Bill Robinson out at Piska and as we are having a party on Sunday at the Mess I collect him from the Club and we do a bit of steady drinking in my room first. The party quite successful with about four women and old Bill gets fairly tight. Next day I depart on 14 days leave to Assam to stay with Uncle Stanley where I am now. Three nights on trains and all very full, so it’s no joke.
Of course my express wire never gets to him and I arrive unexpected, though the factory is only about ten minutes walk from Lakwa station. Aunt Joyce away in Darjeeling but may be back. I wander around with a .22 but there is not as much life here (in Nahar Habi) as there was at Panbarry. I have some new I.C.I. .22 which is pretty mediocre stuff. (JDW: ammunition?) There are tigers around, but of course they won’t kill whilst I am around, and though I took a bang at a green pidgeon yesterday, it’s about all I shall ever see.
Yesterday morning went to Nazira where the Assam Tea Company has a very pleasant club overlooking a river with jungle on the other side. We sit there drinking some beer we found and I listen to tales of the Assam Road, and watch a fishing hawk at work in the river. Bar a few shots at adjutant birds and vultures I have done nothing so far except wear myself out with the unaccustomed walking. A wire from Ranchi, and Ambala are still on my tail over that imp rest (?) though I have paid it off. They want to know if deposited in separate account. What of the future? Ranchi for a bit, and then Maungdaw or Imphal I suppose, not a pleasant outlook somehow as I see it. 94 sorties completed so far in this war. Isn’t it enough?
I depart on 11th after shooting up 14 Division HQ and giving a coloured display of Very lights from the Plessy gun. After refuelling at Chittagong I strike a rainstorm whilst still over the sea and have one or two anxious moments, eventually landing at Alipore in a cross wind, at the second shot, having nearly crashed going round again. A great long Chrysler is procured by the D.P. which deposits me at the Grand (hotel). I meet Gunn and Watty. A party with W/C Ford and Watty that night then (?) comes to my room at 9.30 and I throw her out at about midnight, having completed my plan (JDW: !?). Watty and I go out to see Charles Penton the next morning with a girlfriend of his – one Livia, ex Malaya – and that evening I meet Jane at the Saturday Club. A rather drunken party joins but I am feeling moody after a lot of gin and eventually retire to the Grand for dinner and bed.
Today I come on to Ranchi to find Pierce as C.O. I get the impression “Oh you’re back are you?” – not at all the returned hero from the war that I was expecting. However, Quien Sabe!