The Burma Campaign

2nd Garrison Battalion - 26th (Garrison) Battalion, The Burma Regiment

Sometime in late February-early March 1943, the Kokine Garrison Battalion moved to the Burma Army depot at Hoshiarpur.  Plans had been made as far back as October 1942 for the reorganisation of the Burma Army and, as part of these plans, the Kokine Garrison Battalion was earmarked to become the 2nd Garrison Battalion, part of the newly formed Burma Regiment.  A war establishment for the Battalion was authorised on 14th December 1942 and although the date given for the reorganisation was 1st October 1942, it appears to have taken until 1st July 1943 before the reorganisation was sanctioned officially.  The delay in forming and readying the new battalion was at first dependent upon the formation and readiness of the 1st Garrison Battalion, The Burma Regiment.  When ready, the 1st Battalion would leave Hoshiarpur to relieve the Kokine Battalion so that the latter unit could go to Hoshiarpur to reform.  The 1st Garrison Battalion was not reported as being ready to undertake this relief until 9th February 1943 and it is thought that the Kokine Garrison Battalion began to move to Hoshiarpur after this date.  There then occurred additional delay in achieving readiness as a result of a shortage of new equipment.  The new battalion was formed from men of the Kokine Garrison Battalion and the balance of men left over from the formation of the 1st Garrison Battalion, The Burma Regiment.  It was organised with a strength of three companies, each of three platoons.  It appears to have formed by May 1943 and then stayed at the Burma Regimental Centre at Hoshiarpur throughout the remainder of that year.[1]

By November 1943, the 2nd Battalion had been allotted to Eastern Army for duty in Bengal.  The Battalion was located at Agarpara, northern Calcutta.[2]

By January 1944, the Battalion was regularly providing guards for vital points, prisoner-of-war camps and escort duty.  The Battalion came under the command of 352 Lines of Communication Sub-Area.  During January, the Commanding Officer, Lt. Colonel C.S. Sullivan, submitted a request for the expansion of the Battalion to four companies.[3]  He made the case for expansion by citing the heavy duties that were frequently demanded of the Battalion.  On 24th January, Sullivan was informed that a formal application had been made for the increase in size of the Battalion and that he should proceed to the Burma Regimental Centre at Hoshiarpur to discuss the application and to earmark suitable men.  Sullivan left on 4th February and returned on 16th March.  Authorisation for the expansion was given on 18th May 1944.  Finally, on 26th June 1944, an additional company of men arrived to join the Battalion, bringing it up to full strength for the first time since formation.[4]

The Battalion was officially re-titled the 26th (Garrison) Battalion, The Burma Regiment, in July 1944. This was confirmed on 4th August by a communication received from General Headquarters India, Adjutant General's Branch, Burma Section, to Eastern Command and dated 29th July 1944.  This brought the title of the Battalion into line with the numbering convention used for garrison battalions by the Indian Army, such battalions being numbered beginning from 25 (the 1st Garrison Battalion, The Burma Regiment, was redesignated the 25th (Garrison) Battalion as of 18th July 1944). During August a batch of reinforcements arrived from Hoshiarpur.[5]

On 1st September 1944, the Headquarters 303 Lines of Communication Area, the higher headquarters of 352 Sub-Area, issued orders for the 26th Battalion to relocate from Agarpara to Jhikargacha.  The advance party left for the new location on 4th September and by 11th September, the Battalion, less 'C' Company, arrived at Jhikargacha, to the north east of Calcutta in what is now western Bangladesh.  Upon arrival, the Battalion took over the duties for internal security from the 18th Battalion, 7th Rajput Regiment.  Following an inspection by the Commanding Officer, 303 Lines of Communication Area, on 29th September 1944, it was recommended that the Battalion undertake more training in wireless telegraphy, musketry and field craft.[6]

On 28th January, the Battalion was ordered to return all medical category 'A' class personnel to the Burma Regimental Centre at Hoshiarpur.  These men were replaced by men of medical categories 'B' and 'C'.  Throughout its life, The Burma Regiment suffered great difficulty in finding reinforcements for the active battalions.[7]

Jhikargacha was the location of a prisoner-of war camp for members of the Indian National Army (often referred to as "JIFs") and sympathetic civilians.  On 30th January 1945, an order was issued by Headquarters, Eastern Command, that any inmate attempting to escape from the camp might be shot, if that was the only method that would prevent their escape.  In early March 1945, 'C' Company joined the Battalion from Agarpara.[8]

When in January 1946, further consideration was being given to the future of certain wartime units within the interim or new Burma Army, it was decided that the 26th (Garrison) Battalion, The Burma Regiment was required for duties in Burma prior to disbandment.  It was requested that the Battalion be sent to Burma by February.  The men in the Battalion were described as being of mixed Indian "classes", Gurkhas and Chins.  The Indians, having served prior to the war with Japan with the Burma Frontier Force and Burma Military Police, were no longer required in the new Burma Army which, by the time of independence, was to consist primarily of Burmese nationals.  It was intended that the Indian soldiers (and Gurkhas?) would be retired in India and for the Chins to be absorbed into appropriate units of the new Burma Army.  In February 1946, a signal from the Headquarters, Twelfth Army to Headquarters A.L.F.S.E.A. proposed that the 26th Battalion be disbanded in September that year.  It is thought that the Battalion was disbanded during August 1946.[9]

28 March 2018

[1] IOR L/WS/1/1313

[2] “Burma Army Reorganisation”, WO 203/2379; IOR L/WS/1/1313; War diary 26th Buregt, WO 172/5039

[3] Cecil Stevens Sullivan born, 18th October 1898.  Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, Indian Army Reserve of Officers, 15th January 1918.  Served The War of, 1914-21.  Appointed to the 4th Battalion, 70th Burma Rifles, 12th June 1918.  Appointed to the Indian Army as 2nd Lieutenant, 7th August 1919, with seniority from 15th January 1918.  Promoted to Lieutenant, 7th October 1919.  Served Iraq, 1920.  Served with the 3rd Battalion, 70th Burma Rifles from 20th July 1920.  Served with the 5th Battalion, 70th Burma Rifles from 1st April 1922.  Served with the 20th Burma Rifles from 3rd September 1922.  Promoted to Captain, 1st October 1924.  Appointed Company Officer of the 4th Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 16th June 1936.  Promoted to Major, 1st October 1936.  Served as Officiating Officer-in-Charge, The Burma Rifles Regimental and Recruiting Centre, Maymyo, 1939 to 1940.  Served as Senior Staff Officer, Mandalay, late 1940.  Served as Second-in-Command of the 10th (Training) Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 1941 to May 1942.  Appointed Commanding Officer, 2nd Garrison Battalion, The Burma Regiment (later retitled the 26th (Garrison) Battalion, The Burma Regiment), 21st September 1942.  Acting Lieutenant Lt. Colonel, 1943.  As Major, temporary Lt. Colonel, promoted to Lt. Colonel, 1st October 1944 ("War Services of British and Indian Officers of the Indian Army 1941", Savannah (2004); British Army List; Burma Army List January 1938; Burma Army List January 1940; Burma Army List October 1940; Burma Defence Services List July 1941; Burma Army List 1943; Indian Army List January 1919; Indian Army List 1921; Indian Army List April 1943; London Gazette; Private papers of Lt. Colonel A.W.S. Learmond; War diary 26th Buregt, WO 172/7805).

[4] WO 172/5039; “Transfer of Burma Army to S.E.A.C”, WO 203/4256

[5] WO 172/5039, War diary 25th Buregt, WO 172/5038

[6] WO 172/5039

[7] War diary 26th Buregt, WO 172/7805

[8] WO 172/7805

[9] WO 203/2379; “Burma Army Reconstruction”, WO 203/2452; “Epilogue in Burma, 1945-48”, McEnery J.M., Spellmount (1990)