A work in progress – the fuller biographies will emerge in due course: please sign up to the Newsletter (bottom of the page) and we’ll let you know when we’ve done more justice in writing up our extraordinary signatories.
Arthur W “Peter” BRITTON for SEARCHLIGHT operations, the ANTI-AIRCRAFT ARTILLERY and the MIDDLESEX Regiment, TERRITORIALS, the 8th PUNJAB REGIMENT, the CHIN HILLS and GURKHA Battalions and, through his wife and her wartime service, that of the Red Cross VOLUNTARY AID DETACHMENT nursing services.
Arthur’s service before his teaching years afterwards demonstrates the width of his experience and that of many firstly in non-commissioned and then as commissioned ranks at home and overseas. He remembers that there were only eight British personnel serving with him in the Chin Hills Battalion of about 800, the Officer Commanding, the four Company Commanders, Quartermaster, Signals and Intelligence Officers, plus a few Gurkhas and Sepoys.
The distinctive CHIN HILLS “top knot” arrangements differing by tribe, gave these soldiers the most distinctive of appearances. They were Asiatic hill people much like the Gurkhas. Chins were fond of gambling, both with and without money and the Indian rum rations, which would be air dropped to their forward positions by parachutes, would be put with much glee into their enamel mugs. Off duty and when the worse for drink, frequently hymns would pour forth, showing the earlier penetration of American Baptist missions. Often they would be taking, making or defending airstrips and in turn these airfields were being used, often by Dakotas and L-5 Stinson Sentinel light liaison aircraft for a whole variety of supply and casualty evacuation roles, the latter “being able to land on the width of a cricket pitch”.and with its “fuselage opening up like a violin case”, with occasional visiting Lysanders, Austers and even Tiger Moths coming into the small strips supporting the Chindits and the Arakan Campaign.
Remembered too at times were the vital ‘cab ranking’ and air support activities from Beaufighters, Hurribombers and also Vultee Vengeances. As would be echoed by more than half a dozen of our signatories from the Burma Campaign included in this archive mosaic “In the end Japan would suffer one of its greatest defeats on land in her history and the chief instrument of that particular defeat was the Indian Army. Largely officered by Britons but with representatives of every race from pre-partition India, the Indian Army had a unique character.
In 1945 the Indian Army achieved its finest hour, setting many proud traditions for the current Indian and Pakistani armies. Fighting alongside the Britons, Indians and Gurkhas, there were also East and West Africans, Burmese, Karens and Kachins, Americans and Canadians, and Chinese. The story of the Burma campaign had many facets. The fighting took place not only in jungle but in mountains and across the arid Burmese plain, baked as dry as a desert in the summer sun. Men often fought face-to-face and hand-to-hand but the campaign became a modern war, seeing the airlifting of entire divisions, aerial re-supply, landings by glider, casualty evacuation from small jungle airstrips and the deployment of landing craft in support of sea borne invasions and river patrols. The country and its climate were the enemy of both sides. Disease and infection could and did decimate armies – tick-borne scrub typhus, malaria, leeches and “jungle ulcers” representing just a few of the medical hazards faced by the combatants. Nor must one forget the monsoon – a period of months when the rain falls in steady sheets day after day, creating conditions where a soldier’s clothing would literally rot off his back.” Arthur once and memorably would return with his men up the Chindwin in a Ramp Carrying Lighter and then proceed on foot for a further 70 mile trek to the Chin Hills and Haka, from the outlying villages of which, many of his men came from, this also about 70 miles from the then Indian border.
After the war Arthur would settle in Surrey for his career in teaching.
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