January 6th 1943 – Ranchi


I duly get malaria again, but we dose it away – Watty, Doc Fox and I – and I don’t get it a third time. I lay off flying for a few days and fly Hurricanes again today – do some awful acrobatics. My loops all fail as she flicks round near the top, but they all say the same, so that kite (I was flying) must have bad rigging. Eventually manage some semblance of a slow roll.

I am to take a detachment of four a/c (Mike, Glass and Hilton) on operations to Chittagong, but Burt Mann and Scotty are coming for a few days in Mike’s and Glass’s place until they have some more hours on Hurries. Woe is me! I wish I was sitting at Risalpur on that job with Nobby Clarke. They posted me there in my absence to fill a F/L vacancy, but cancelled it as I was not available. But I have my Sandhurst marching boots with me, so here’s hoping.

Someone got back from south of Akyab the other day, so I hear. (JDW: Akyab port and island, the objective of the Arakan campaign, and all of Burma south of it was in Japanese hands.) I expect we shall have to go well south to some satellite and live in a hole again. I get a Christmas present of a chess set (pocket) from the Jacobs and also shaving soap and one blade (all she could get) from Daph – now Mrs Blayney with a son. A colossal mail waiting for me on my return from Egypt – about the best I ever had.

JDW: This posting was to support the developing Arakan Campaign, launched into Burma against the Japanese on 17th December.

From Wikipedia
“The limited goal of the British advance into Arakan was Akyab Island. This held a port and all-weather airfield, which were prominent in Allied plans to recover Burma. Fighters and transport aircraft, operating at a radius of 250 miles (400 km) from Akyab, could cover most of Central Burma, and medium bombers operating from Akyab could range as far as Rangoon, the capital of Burma, 330 miles (530 km) distant. The island lay at the end of the Mayu Peninsula. This was marked by a narrow but precipitous and jungle-covered range of hills, the Mayu Range, which separated the narrow coastal plain from the fertile rice-growing valley of the Kalapanzin River, which became the Mayu River below the town of Buthidaung. The only permanently established route across the range was a disused railway track, converted into a road, which linked Buthidaung with the port of Maungdaw on the west coast of the peninsula.

Wavell’s plan to capture Akyab was codenamed Operation Cannibal. It was originally planned in September 1942 that Akyab would be taken by an amphibious assault launched by the British 29th Brigade, while the 14th Indian Division mounted a subsidiary advance down the Mayu peninsula. The amphibious part of the plan was dropped because 29th Brigade and the necessary landing craft could not be made available in time. Instead, it was planned that once 14th Division had reached Foul Point at the extreme southern end of the Mayu peninsula, it would improvise an attack by the British 6th Brigade across the narrow channel which separated Akyab Island from the peninsula. (By late December, five motor launches, 72 landing craft and three paddle steamers were available.)

The 14th Indian Division, commanded by Major General Wilfrid Lewis Lloyd, began advancing south from Cox’s Bazaar near the frontier between India and Burma, on 17 December 1942. The Japanese defending the Arakan front were “Miyawaki Force”. This consisted of two battalions of the 213th Regiment (part of the Japanese 33rd Division), a mountain artillery battalion and various supporting arms detachments, commanded by Colonel Kosuke Miyawaki.  Although the forward unit (the second battalion of the 213th Regiment, known as “Isagoda battalion” after its commander) had spent fifty days digging defensive positions to cover the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road, they were ordered to pull back to join the main body of the force near the tip of the Mayu peninsula. Lloyd’s division captured the road on 22 December.

At this point, Miyawaki was informed that another division, the Japanese 55th Division under Lieutenant General Takeshi Koga, less a regiment which was serving in western New Guinea, had been dispatched from Central Burma to Arakan. Miyawaki was ordered to move forward to Donbaik on the Mayu peninsula and Rathedaung on the east bank of the Mayu River, to secure positions from which this division could operate. On 28 December, the “Isagoda Battalion” occupied Rathedaung and forestalled the attempt by the 123rd Indian Infantry Brigade to capture the town. On 9–10 January, renewed attacks on Rathedaung were thrown back.

While most of Miyawaki’s remaining troops occupied Akyab, a single Japanese company occupied the narrow front between the sea and the foothills of the Mayu Range 1 mile (1.6 km) north of Donbaik, protected by a chaung (a tidal creek) with steep banks 9 feet (2.7 m) high. They constructed well-concealed and mutually supporting bunkers of timber and earth. Between 7 and 9 January 1943, the 47th Indian Infantry Brigade attacked this line but were repulsed. The bunkers could not be penetrated by field artillery, and if British or Indian infantry reached the bunkers, the defenders could call down artillery and mortar fire on their own position.

Wavell and Irwin visited Lloyd on 10 January. Lloyd asked for tanks to deal with the bunkers. Irwin in turn demanded a single troop of tanks from 50th Indian Tank Brigade, part of Slim’s XV Corps at Ranchi. Both Slim and the brigade commander protested that a complete regiment (of 50 or more tanks) would be required, but they were overruled. On 1 February, 55th Indian Infantry Brigade, supported by only eightValentine tanks, attacked the Donbaik position. Some of the tanks became stuck in ditches, while others were knocked out by Japanese shellfire; the brigade’s attack subsequently failed. A renewed attack by the Indian 123rd Brigade on Rathedaung two days later briefly gained some outlying positions, but the Brigade was forced to withdraw.

The third battalion of the Japanese 213th Regiment had been sent to Arakan from Pakokku in Central Burma, where it had been in reserve, ahead of the 55th Division. During February, it cleared detachments of the British irregular V Force from the valley of the Kaladan River, where they had been threatening the Japanese lines of communication. V Force warned the British of the large numbers of Japanese approaching the battlefield.”

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