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The 10th Battalion - Burma 1944-45

The 10th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment, was formed Bristol in July 1940 and moved to Caerleon in Wales, for training. It was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel S.W. Jones. It served on home defence duty in South Wales and on the Lincolnshire coast until July 1942 when it was converted into a tank regiment, 159th Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps (The Gloucestershire Regiment). Specialists were posted to the battalion and training began. In October they sailed for India, via Brazil. Arriving in Bombay, their tanks arrived and in March 1943 news arrived that they would convert back to an infantry battalion. "It was noted in the ranks that the official date of transfer back to the 10th Gloucestershire Regiment was April 1st."

The 10th were posted to 36th British Division, brigaded with the 6th South Wales Borderers and the 9th Royal Sussex, in the 72nd Infantry Brigade. Lieutenant-Colonel H.C.R. Hose, DSO then took over command of the battalion and training in combined operations began. In February 1944 the 10th went to Calcutta and visited the 1st Battalion at Fort William. Then they went by sea to Chittagong and by river steamer to Cox's Bazaar. Then they were told that they would go to the Arkan front in Burma. "Having been trained as infantry, tank troops, and combined-operation troops, we went straight into jungle warfare, for which we had had no training." (officer, 10th Glosters)

The 10th moved to the western side of the Mayu Range on March 1st 1945 and took positions in the Jap Pass area. For the next 11 weeks they fought company support actions. On May 25th they went back to Assam for training. The 36th Division was chosen to be flown to Myitkyina. The Division was flown from Ledo from July 18th to the 23rd. Then the march towards Taungni began, in blistering heat or heavy rain, through high grass, swampy ground, with leeches and mosquitos and ticks in swarms. Men were falling out with malaria and dysentry. Finally by August 9th they reached their objective.

On August 15th while advancing down the railway line 'D' Company was ambushed by a Japanese machine-gun post. Captain J. Allen, Lieutenant R. Wright and 13 men were killed, Major Pope and 6 men wounded. The post was captured by a bayonet charge. On August 22nd the 29th Brigade took over the lead position and the 10th withdrew to Mingon for a rest. The battalion strength had fallen to 286 men.

By mid-October the battalion was almost back to full strenght. The Division resumed the march south and on November 15th reached Pinwe, where they found the Japanese 18th Imperial Division. The 10th were ordered to move around Pinwe over the foot-hills. After a patrol ran into a Japanese post the attack was called off, Lieutenant Gordon had been killed and 3 men wounded. The battalion moved to Tonlon.

The new plan involved the 10th making a frontal attack to capture Pinwe railway station. On November 22nd the attack began. The Glosters took their positions and held on under heavy counter-attacks and bombardments. On the 29th they were relieved and 2 days later the Japanese retreated and Pinwe was taken.

The 10th lost 7 officers and 30 men killed. A heavy mortar shell had hit the medical post killing M.O. Captain A. Gould and 5 of his staff.

December 8th the battalion moved to Pinwe, carrying out patrols. Then they moved to Katha and onto Pyangaung. In January 1945 they crossed the Irrawaddy and advanced up the Shweli Valley. On January 11th they made contact with the Japanese near Mabein. After this was captured, the 26th Indian Brigade passed through and took the lead. The Glosters moved to Myitson. 'D' company crossed the river to defend the crossing.

A large reinforced Japanese force attacked Myitson. The 10th were weakened by 7 months of fighting, with 3 companies having around 70 men each and 'C' was down to 45 men. "At Myitson the 10th fought according to the highest traditions of the Regiment, and 'D' Company in particular, under Captain G.O. Watkins, made an epic stand, cut off and constantly attacked by the enemy for 5 days."

February 14th and 15th attempts were made to help 'D' Company, but were driven back. On the morning of the 16th they finally managed to get through to 'D' Company. By now the 10th were surrounded, and on the 17th the battalion was heavily shelled while the Japanese attacked Myitson village itself. The Indian Brigade put up an heroic defence and by nightfall the enemy withdrew.

Captain Watkin was awarded the Military Cross and one of the stretcher-bearers, Private Wathen, was recommended for the Victoria Cross, he was awarded the Military Medal. They had lost 2 officers and 24 men killed.

On February 22nd the 10th Glosters were relieved by the 1/1st Gurkhas and the 10th went to Mongmit with little opposition. They then advanced through difficult mountain country to Mogok. In May they were flown to Mandalay and patrolled towards Meiktila. Then they were flown back to Imphal, in Assam and then moved to Poona, where on 5th December 1945, the 10th Battalion was disbanded.

They had lost 12 officers and 113 men killed. 4 officers received the MC (Captains Watkins, Elkington, Schryver and Woodward), 2 DCM's (Sergeant-Major Hann and Company Sergeant Pook), and 9 MM's.


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