The Burma Campaign

16th Indian Infantry Brigade

The Brigade was formed at Wah, India on 1st October 1940 under the command of the 7th Indian Infantry Division.  On 1st November 1941, the Brigade was ordered on to a war footing and designated to be an independent brigade for service in Burma.  Lt. Colonel J.K. Jones arrived two days later to take over command from Brigadier K. Gattie.[1] 

On 21st November 1941, the Brigade Headquarters entrained at Wah and left the next day for Calcutta.  Arriving at Calcutta on 25th November, the troops immediately embarked upon the S.S. ‘Karoa’, which moved out into the anchorage that evening and sailed the next day.  While at sea, the ‘Karoa’ was joined by the cruiser H.M.S. ‘Exeter’ as escort.  The cruiser left on the afternoon of 28th November and the ‘Karoa’ docked at Rangoon the next day.  The Brigade Headquarters disembarked and spent the night at the Rangoon Jail transit camp.  Next day, the Headquarters left Rangoon by rail for Mandalay, arriving the following day, 31st November 1941.[2]

The Brigade’s three infantry battalions arrived separately from the Brigade Headquarters.  First to arrive was the 1st Battalion, 9th Jat Regiment.  As early as 18th October 1941, while stationed at Wah, the Battalion had received orders to complete mobilisation by 15th November.  Having successfully complied with the order, the Battalion entrained at Wah for Calcutta on 22nd November 1941.  The trains carrying the Battalion arrived at Calcutta on 26th November and the troops embarked upon the S.S. ‘Kut Sang’.  The ship moved out to the anchorage later that evening and the next day, 27th November, sailed for Rangoon.  The ship arrived off Rangoon on 29th November and the troops disembarked the next day, moving to the transit camp at Rangoon Jail.  The following day, the Battalion entrained for Mandalay where they de-trained the next day, 31st December, and moved into the North Gate Lines, inside Fort Dufferin.[3]

Next to arrive was the 4th Battalion (Sikhs), 12th Frontier Force Regiment.  Having completed mobilisation at Wah by 15th November 1941, the Battalion began moving to Calcutta on 27th November 1941 when all motor transport was sent to Rawalpindi where it was loaded onto a train.  The troops entrained at Wah on 30th November and reached Calcutta docks on 5th December.  Here, they immediately embarked upon the waiting S.S. ‘Karoa’.  The ship sailed the next day and was once again escorted by H.M.S. ‘Exeter’.  Rangoon was reached on 9th December and the troops disembarked to spend the night at the Rangoon Jail transit camp.  The next day, they entrained for Mandalay where upon arrival, 11th December, they moved into the S & M (Sappers and Miners) Lines, just outside the north gate of Fort Dufferin.[4]

The last infantry battalion to arrive was the 1st Battalion, 7th Gurkha Rifles whose journey was a little more complicated, taking place as it did at the same time as of the outbreak of the war with Japan.  The Battalion left Wah by train on 1st December 1941 and arrived at Calcutta on 6th December.  The troops embarked upon the S.S. ‘Kut Sang’ at Garden Reach Jetty and the next morning the ship left the jetty to moor up in the Garden Reach anchorage.  However, the ‘Kut Sang’ was forced to put back to the docks on 8th or 9th December upon receiving the news of war with Japan.  The troops disembarked on 10th December and moved into a transit camp.  The next day, the Battalion’s mules and horse were embarked upon H.T. ‘Manon’.  The troops re-embarked on 14th December, this time on board the ‘Karoa’, which left the dock for the Sandheads anchorage that same day.  On 16th December the ship sailed for Rangoon under the escort of the armed merchant cruiser, H.M.A.S. ‘Manoora’.  The ‘Karoa’ reached Rangoon on 18th December and the Battalion disembarked only to receive a change of orders.  Instead of going to Mandalay as expected, the Battalion was to proceed to join the 2nd Burma Infantry Brigade at Moulmein.  It arrived there on 19th December and went into the lines of the 4th Battalion, The Burma Rifles at Taungbauk.[5]

Here, the Battalion was joined by the rest of the Brigade on 14th January 1942.  The Brigade came under the command of the Headquarters, 17th Indian Infantry Division which had arrived at Rangoon on 12th January and had moved immediately to Moulmein, arriving the next day.

After the retreat to India, on 25th September 1942, at Digboi, Assam it was redesignated as the 116th Indian Infantry Brigade and became a training formation for the duration of the war against Japan.


16th Indian Infantry Brigade upon arrival in Burma – November-December 1941

     1st Battalion, 9th The Jat Regiment   

(arrived Rangoon 30th November 1941)

     4th Battalion, 12th Frontier Force Regiment   

(arrived Rangoon 9th December 1941)

     1st Battalion, 7th Gurkha Rifles        

(arrived Rangoon 18th December 1941)


16th Indian Infantry Brigade at Kawkareik– 20th/22nd January 1942                   

     1st Battalion, 9th The Jat Regiment   


     4th Battalion, 12th Frontier Force Regiment   


     1st Battalion, 7th Gurkha Rifles        

(at Moulmein, detached to 2nd Burma Brigade Group from 9th January 1942)

     4th Battalion, The Burma Rifles

(attached from 2nd Burma Brigade Group)


14 February 2020

[1] War diary 16th Indian Infantry Brigade, WO 172/329

[2] WO 172/329

[3] War diary 1st/9th Jat Regiment, WO 172/338

[4] War diary 4th/12th Frontier Force Regiment, WO 172/336; Shipping Movement Card, Karoa, BT 389/17/135

[5] War diary 1st/7th Gurkhas, WO 172/333; BT 389/17/135