With a few exceptions, censorship regulations have been lifted, so
I'll continue my travels from where you left me at Allenmyo last
You remember that we had moved down the Prome road to Allenmyo "on the heels of the fleeing Japs" as the war correspondents say. Well, when we got that far, we as a unit stuck, there just wasn't any work for us, the Jap artillery on this sector having vanished. The infantry and tanks went on down to Prome and took it without much trouble.
The tactics at this time were to drive down the only two North-South roads in Burma, the main one down through Toungoo and Pegu to Rangoon. The other one, the one we were on, through Allenmyo and Prome. These tactics succeeded very well and the roads and Rangoon were taken by the first week in May. This was all very well but the Japs, despite heavy casualties, were still wandering about in numerous parties of anything up to 10,000 or 20,000 each, in the jungle and hills between the roads.
Our position at Allenmyo and Prome in particular was in a very peculiar predicament, for not only were these wandering parties of Japs still hanging around, trying to make their way eastwards, but the Jap forces in the Arakan were being pushed eastwards by the W. Africans. And of course, the majority of our troops had pushed on past Prome to Rangoon.
Eventually Taungyi was taken and the Artillery and the Survey Regt
[NB. 1st Survey Regiment], who had spotted the enemy guns whenever
they fired, and given accurate locations to our guns for their
elimination, were given a pat on the back. Apparently, the accurate
artillery fire and counter battery work, i.e. silencing of enemy guns
by directed shell fire (our job) had made the capture inevitable and
had saved a number of infantrymen's lives, only six men being killed
in the 47 miles from Kalaw to Taungyi.
The Troop was then withdrawn to Kalaw and for another week things were very pleasant. During these five weeks I had got through five complete sections of my correspondence course.
Then we were on the move again. Back from Kalaw, down the 4000 ft "Staircase" to Meiktilla and then southwards through Yamethin, Toungoo down to Pegu, where once again we met R.H.Q. All the old rumours had once again run their course. We were reforming and were to be relieved. But yet again our hopes were shattered, for even before we reached Pegu, our convoy was stopped by our Colonel from R.H.Q., our Battery Commander and Troop Captains whipped away on a Recce for a Flash Spotting Base at Abya, East of Waw in the Sittang Bend.
We continued on to Pegu and stayed for a couple of days. And then began a very unpleasant three weeks. We deployed. The road to Waw was O.K. but from Waw to Abya, the only means of travel was the railway, so jeeps fitted with special wheels were utilised, to pull the few pieces of rolling stock available.
The country in this area is flat and, at this time of year, is almost entirely flooded. So you can imagine the joy we had laying wire across country, sometimes waist deep in water and an abundance of snakes and leeches thrown in, just in case you got bored. We were ridiculously close to the Jap and the nature of the country made concealment impossible (unless you went along under-water) but with our traditional luck we didn't get so much as an empty ration tin slung at us.
It rained constantly and for the first two weeks we were never dry. Again, although up to three days before we arrived on the sector, a large number of Jap guns had been firing consistently (the reason why we'd been brought down) as soon as we arrived, with our usual luck they never fired another round, so all our efforts were wasted.
We were on this sector, in this situation, when the unconditional surrender came through. It didn't make much impression on us for several days, apart from the small celebration that I've already told you about. It was nearly a week after the official announcement that we saw the first white flag opposite us and the "cease fire" was given. We had a wireless up there and two nights after the official announcement, Aug. 18th I think it was, a commentator gave an eye witness account of the peace and VJ celebrations in London. Unfortunately, we couldn't hear him very well because our guns were plastering Jap positions that had just duffyed up one of our patrols!
Eventually, we were withdrawn to an unpleasant week in Pegu. We were in good, dry billets and had a canteen and a Y.M.C.A and two cinemas (mobile) in the vicinity but the climate, ye Gods, it's terrible. I was never more pleased in my life than when we moved out northwards. Three days later, we were in Meiktilla again and there we've stuck and are still here.
It's almost certain that I'll get eight days leave shortly, at a rest camp at Maynyo, 30 miles N.E. of Mandalay, a hill station, and will be able to get away from things a bit.
Have just heard a statement, recently made in the House of Commons,
that demobilisation is to be speeded up some what. Among, details
mentioned was the news that Group 31 (my group) would be released in
July '46. I don't know what you think about it, darling, but to me
that seems an ideal time. It ties in with my repatriation which, I
have good reason to believe, will be effected at least not later than
early January. The release time after I return is not too far away
and not too close. I want a month or two in which to get my breath
back, look around and see one or two people about my future. Above
all I want the irresponsibility of the 28 days repat. leave on which
we will be able to get married, the gods and you willing.
We've been told that when we do come home, we will shipping at Rangoon, without a return to Calcutta, so the prospect of doing any shopping on the way, looks very dim. Rangoon has no shopping centre now. We've heard that we're put ashore for a few days at Port Said for refitting with battle dress, khaki winter clothing etc., in which case we might get a chance to get one or two things there. I'll do my best.
The weather's been so bad here that for the past week we have had no
mail because the planes have been unable to land on our airstrip. The
Burmese call this period the "little rains" presumably in contrast to
the main monsoon period which finished a month ago.
NOTE During the previous month Eric was able to write many letters, but generally they were very personal, with plans for our wedding. EMC
Harry's offer of his flat for a week after our wedding seems to be
the answer to all our prayers (if either of us prayed!) I'm all for
it, darling. A hotel in winter-time is unattractive, as is a farm.
Why, it'll be wonderful, complete privacy, complete independence of
other people and we can go out whenever we wish, with no bother about
ordering meals or times of returning ! The cooking and bed-making,
sweeping and washing up will be a doddle and good practice for the
future. Yes, darling, I think it's an excellent idea and feel very
grateful to Harry for the offer.
We're undergoing the inevitable preparation for a bigshot's
inspection. All of which pleases us mightily. We've been painting all
our trucks this time and the men living in the tents (we live in our
trucks) have been lining up guy ropes and tent pegs, and plucking
grass and making patterns.
For some reason or other the Adjutant has again decided to have a hurried Trade Test for anybody who wishes it. I said I'd take it as I'd rather be back in England as a Surveyor than a Driver/Operator. I'll pass it if it comes off. I only missed the Trade Test in Ranchi because I went into hospital with jaundice and this is the first opportunity since.
Seem very pushed for time these days, what with inspections, survey practice, truck maintenance, correspondence course and history reading, apart from looking after yourself, washing clothes, darning, sewing, kit scrubbing etc. Tonight, however, I'm taking time off to go to the cinema (open air) in Meiktilla, as the battery on my truck is running down. I've been using the inspection lamp in the back of the truck too much these last few evenings, writing and working.