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News > Alumni News > Burma Tribute

Burma Tribute

June 10th marked the Burma Star Memorial Service which took place on “Hill 629” on the Filleigh Estate in memory of those who served in Burma, fighting the Japanese.
25 Apr 2015
Alumni News
Lady Arran with John Squire
Lady Arran with John Squire

Burma Star veteran and Old Boy John Squire (33-36C)  was joined by veterans Victor Mock, Gordon Short and Lady Arran, whose late mother, Lady Margaret Fortescue, gave permission for a memorial bench to be placed on ‘Hill 629’. Field Marshall William Slim, was represented by his daughter Una Rowcliffe.
Many of our Old Boys served the Devonshire and the Dorsetshire Regiments who later amalgamated into the Rifles. They were both part of Field Marshall Slim's "forgotten Fourteenth Army" who helped push the Japanese out of Burma. Today the School CCF wears the Rifles capbadge.
The 1st Devons finally reached Burma in the summer of 1943. By October 1943 the Battalion were in action near Tamu, until the Japanese offensive began in March 1944. During the next two months the Devons defended the hills along the Tamu road.
When General Slim’s Fourteenth Army began to drive their enemy southwards, the Devons’ role was to cut the Kohima-Ukhrul road behind the retreating Japanese. They faced strong enemy resistance and the Battalion lost 13 killed and 37 wounded until the road was cleared.
In November 1944 the Battalion joined the advance south. On 22nd February 1945 they assaulted and captured Kanlan. Late in March they took Letpanpin and, by 1st April, the Devons were in position below Mandalay astride the road to Rangoon. Returning to India In May 1945 their total losses during the campaign were 122 killed, 307 wounded and 9 men missing.  Their eighteen-month campaign won the Regiment seven new battle honours.
The Japanese invasion of Assam in March 1944 threatened Dimapur and Kohima, where a tiny garrison faced Japanese forces.  The 2nd Division were despatched to relieve the garrison at Kohima.  Here the Dorsets fought a protracted and bitter battle in the incongruous surroundings of the grounds of a bungalow in what had been a peacetime hill station.  The centre of the Japanese defence was around a tennis court where for eighteen days the Dorsets fought a deadly, bloody battle of attrition. 
On 13th May a tank was finally manhandled up the steep slopes of the terraced gardens and, the Dorsets finally broke the Japanese hold and captured the position.  Their role had been central to victory in Burma because the tennis court was the key to Kohima and the victories at Kohima and on the Imphal Plain were the turning point in the war in Burma.
Their year in Burma included several fierce battles and cost them 151 men killed, three times that number wounded.  Their part in two campaigns won six new battle honours for the Regiment.

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