10th Gloucesters in the Arakan, 1944
by Major P.J.H.
Pope, "D" Coy.
(Back Badge, 1948)
The Battalion spent Christmas 1943 in a tented camp on the edge of Kharakvasta Lake, near Poona, where we had been located since July. A good deal of training had been carried out during this period and consisted of exercises in which the Battalion marched considerable distances across country and up the highest and steepest hills in the district to plunge down the opposite side and into the nearest river or lake. But as yet no training in jungle warfare had been done. About this time an advance party went to the jungles of Mysore to prepare a camp and exercises for the Battalion, but the move was never made and we did no jungle training before proceeding to Burma.
Towards the end of January 1944, the Battalion (commanded by Lt-Col. H.C.R. Rose, DSO), was warned for operation "Porpoise." This was to be the units first operation against the Japanese. On 15th February the Battalion entrained at Kirkee Station and arrived at Calcutta on 20th February. We spent 2 days here and renewed many old acquaintances with the 28th who were, as usual, most hospitable to all ranks. We took ship to Chittagong and thence to Cox's Bazaar by river steamer where we arrived on 26th February.
It was at this time that 7th Indian Division's historic battle was taking place in the Admin. Box on the eastern side of the Mayu Range. Our own 36th British Division was to assist in the relief and it is interesting to note here that the 10th Gloucesters went straight into the jungle with out a day's training in this type of warfare, having been trained in infantry, tank, and combined operations roles.
1st March, the Battalion moved to the western side of the Mayu Range and took over from the 2nd Bn East Lancashire Regt. of 29th Brigade. All the companies were spread out on various features with "A" Coy. (Major Guy Wethered) on the top of the Mayu Range in the Jap Pass area and "B" Coy. (Major Anthony Steadman) beyond on the eastern side. Battalion HQ, "C" and "D" Coys. were in the foothills on the western side. There was little excitement until the Japanese swooped down from the range in a raid by night and attacked the HQ of 29th Brigade. The following day "D" Coy. (Major Peter Pope) was sent to protect the gun area 200 yards from the HQ. During the period in Arakan the Battalion's companies were spread out on various prominent features.
20th March, the Battalion moved south and spent the night at Razatil, taking over from a Battalion of the Rajput Regiment on the following day. Companies were again spread over a considerable area. On 23rd March Cpl. Evans ("D" Coy.) shot and killed a Japanese soldier during a chance encounter. "A" Coy. was situated on a high feature known as "1079" and from there they supported attacks by the 6th SWB and 9th Royal Sussex on a series of features known as "Able", "Baker", "Charlie", and "Sausage." These attacks were successful and the Japs were driven away from them. The Japs fell back to a feature known as "Hambone." 29th March a patrol by "B" Coy. found that part of the 'Hambone South' was empty, but they came under fire from 'Hambone North.' They spent the night on H. South and in the morning were joined by a platoon of "A" Coy. (Lieut. Allan Burge). After a short artillery barrage they attacked H. North. But the Jap position very strong and the attack failed. In the afternoon "B" Coy. was relieved by "D" Coy. Ammunition, water and rations had to be carried upto the Hambone by Indian porters along a narrow track through very thick jungle. The next morning a party bringing up stores was caught by a Jap 75-mm gun. The porters scattered and the rations disappeared down the slopes into the jungle and CQMS "Micky" Marsh disappeared into an insanitary slit trench, an event which he was not allowed to forget for some time.
1st April an airstrike on Hambone North preceeded another attack. The Glosters withdrew to a safe position, but on returning to start the assault, it was soon apparent that the Japs had reinforced Hambone South. A Jap machine gun opened up and the attack failed with several men killed and wounded, including Capt. "Reggie" Harris (OC Carrier Platoon) who was slightly wounded.
2nd April a heavy artillery barrage was opened up on the Japs on Hambone South. On 3rd April "C" Coy. (Major Tony Hadingham) relieved "D" Coy. They sent a patrol out and found the whole of the Hambone deserted. The feature was occupied but a Jap artillery barrage killed 2 men. That night a counter-attack was repulsed and the Japs fell back.
11th April the Battalion was relieved by the 2/2nd Punjab Regt and moved back to Kinsarabit for 2 days rest. Next they relieved the 2nd East Lancs. Regt in the Ngakyedauk Pass area. On 15th May the Battalion moved to Wabyin and then by inland water transport, train and then lorry to Shillong in Assam, arriving on 25th May.