The Burma Campaign

Officers of the Army in Burma Reserve of Officers (A.B.R.O.)

The photograph below shows six officers of the Army in Burma Reserve of Officers (A.B.R.O.) at Maymyo in March 1940.  It is possible that the photograph was taken on or around 7th March 1940 which is the date that all the men pictured were commissioned.  All pictured here were employees of Steel Brothers.

Newly commissioned officers of the A.B.R.O. at Maymyo, 7th March 1940

Courtesy of the Andrews family.

Left to Right: 2nd Lt. W.R.Andrews; 2nd Lt. H.J.M. Lindsay; 2nd Lt. J.C. Fraser; 2nd Lt. R.A. Scoones; Lt. A.C.S. Dickie; 2nd Lt. A.L.B. Thompson.


Walter Rigby Andrews, born, 12th February 1916.  Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, A.B.R.O. (ABRO 87). (Commission gazetted as 7th March 1940 but later backdated in the Burma Army List), 7th December 1939.  Attended the O.C.T.U. at Maymyo until, 7th March 1940.  Served with the 2nd Battalion, Burma Rifles, 7th March 1940.  Query raised regarding missing application form to join the A.B.R.O., 1st July 1940.  Served with the 2nd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 19th September 1940 to March 1941.  Employed as general staff, Steel Brothers, Rangoon, 1941.  Served with the 6th Battalion, The Burma Rifles, March 1941 to September 1942.  Served with the 6th Battalion, Burma Rifles, 1941.  War substantive Lieutenant, temporary Captain from 15th August 1941.  As Captain, Company Commander, the 6th Battalion, Burma Rifles, January 1942.  Fought at Tavoy, 13th January 1942 to 18th January 1942.  As temporary Captain, served as Adjutant with the 6th Battalion, The Burma Regiment, until the Battalion was disbanded, 1st October 1942 ? to 1st July 1943.  Wrote a personal narrative of the fighting at Tavoy for submission to the official campaign historian, Colonel E.C.V. Foucar, 6th March 1943.  Served as Adjutant with the 5th Battalion, The Burma Regiment, 1st July 1943 to October 1943.  Transferred to the 2nd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, October 1943.  Transferred to the 2nd Battalion, Burma Rifles and served with the Battalion as platoon commander, 8th November 1943 to September 1944.  Captain, temporary Major, 1944.  As acting Major, company commander, 2nd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, November 1944 to 1st April 1945.  As acting Major, posted as second-in-command, 2nd Kachin Rifles, with effect from 1st April 1945, 23rd April 1945.  Mentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in Burma, gazetted, 26th April 1945.  Appointed acting Lt. Colonel and Commanding Officer, 2nd Kachin Rifles vice Lt. Colonel Denman, 10th August 1945.  Appointed temporary Lt. Colonel and left for the United Kingdom on 61 days war leave, 11th November 1945.   Relinquished commission and awarded the rank of honorary Lt. Colonel, 25th February 1946.  Rejoined the 2nd Kachin Rifles in Rangoon  as Commanding Officer on return from war leave, 25th February 1946.  Released from Army Service and sent on 3 months war leave and 3 months furlough, 25th February 1946.  Awarded O.B.E., as resident of Pakistan, 1st January 1969.  Died, 2003  (Anglo-Burmese Library; Army Service Record; Burma Army List October 1940; Burma Defence Services List July 1941; London Gazette; Personal Account contained within "Personal Narratives", WO 203/5691; Indian Official History; Personal narrative; Thacker's Directory; War diary 2nd Burma Rifles, WO 172/2658).

Hugh John Mainwaring Lindsay, born, 7th July 1907.  Discharged at his own request from the Honorable Artillery Company Infantry Battalion, 23rd November 1925.  Worked for the Indo-Burma Petroleum Company, 1937.  Worked for Steel Brothers, pre-war.  Commissioned as 2nd Lt., ABRO (ABRO 96), 7th March 1940.  Served with the Burma Military Police, 1940-42.  Married, 1941.  Promoted to Lieutenant, 5th November 1941.  Assistant Commandant, the Mandalay Battalion, Burma Military Police, February 1942 to May 1942.  Commanded the detachment of the Mandalay Battalion, Burma Military Police on coast watching duty in the Hanthawaddy District, 4th February 1942 to 7th March 1942.  Having been transferred to the battalion, arrived with the 2nd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 5th November 1943.  Part of the 2nd Battalion, The Burma Rifles that served with the first Chindit Operation, 1943.  As Lt.Colonel, relinquished his duties as Deputy Secretary, Government of Burma, Defence and External Affairs Department, 31st December 1945.  Transferred from the Indo-Burma Petroleum Company to the Burmah Oil Company, post war.  Granted the honorary rank of Major on release from military service, 25th March 1946.  Travelled from Liverpool to Rangoon on board the S.S. "Worcestershire", departing, 29th July 1946.  Returned to Burma from Digboi and took up post as Manager, Chauk, 1952.  Retired from Burmah Oil Company, from the post of Manager, Chauk and lived in Fleet, Hampshire, 1959.  Attended the "Indigenous Forces Luncheon", 4th October 1963.  Died, Hampshire, 26th December 1991 ("Distinctly I Remember", H. Braund, Wren (1972); “Burma Invaded 1942”, Enriquez C.M. (2013);; Anglo-Burmese Library - Chindits; Burma Army List October 1940; Burma Defence Services List July 1941; Burma Army List 1943; Eulogy -; Thacker's Directory 1939; War Diary of the 2nd Burma Rifles, WO 172/2658).

John Coleridge Fraser, born Kurseong, Bengal, 12th December 1914.  Worked for Steel Brothers, general staff, Rangoon, 1939 to 1941.  Commissioned as 2nd Lt., ABRO (ABRO 74), 7th March 1940.  Promoted to Lieutenant, 8th September 1941.  As Captain, was Quarter-Master for the 3rd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, January 1942.  Served with the 3rd Battalion, The Burma Rifles until the battalion was effectively disbanded, March 1942.  Captured and escaped from the Japanese, 1942?.  As Lieutenant (acting Captain), mentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in Burma during the period December 1941 to May 1942, gazetted, 28th October 1942.  Served with the 2nd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, as part of the First Chindit Operation, with Column 5, commanded by Major B. Fergusson, 1943.  As Lieutenant (temporary Captain), awarded the Military Cross, gazetted, 16th December 1943, for which the citation reads:

Brigade:          77th Indian Infantry Brigade

Corps:  4th Corps

Unit:    Army in Burma Reserve of Officers, attd. The Burma Rifles

Action for which recommended :-      Capt. Fraser served as 2nd-in-command to No. 5 Column, and as Officer Commanding the detachment of Burma Rifles with that Column. These troops excelled in all these branches of their duties, in gaining of intelligence, in foraging and in propaganda. Their success in these was due to Capt. Fraser's careful and patient training, and their invariable courage in circumstances which were often trying to his personal example.

The successful crossing at TIGYAING of the IRRAWADDY River on 10 March '43, was almost entirely the work of Capt. Fraser, whose bold reconnaissance, efficiency and exemplary handling of the local inhabitants resulted in a flawless operation.

During the withdrawal from Burma, Capt. Fraser's experience and advice was instrumental in ensuring success on that hazardous journey. As the only Burmese speaker with the party, his work was never ceasing. His intimate knowledge of the Burmese, and the judicious mixture of tact and firmness with which he handled them, were invaluable. From them in the course of the campaign he collected much intelligence of strategic as well as immediate value.

His personal courage was of a rare standard, leading him cheerfully into situations of great danger; and his resolution, particularly in adversity, were an inspiration to all, and not least to his Column Commander.

Recommended by:  Major B.E.Fergusson, DSO, The Black Watch, Column Commander, 77th Indian Infantry Brigade          

Signed By:   Brigadier O.C. Wingate, Comdr. 77th Ind. Inf. Bde.

Married Eileen Mary Whitwell, 1945.  After the war, worked for Steel Brothers as a Mercantile Assistant, 1st January 1946.  As temporary Major, mentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in Burma, gazetted, 19th September 1946.  Died, 14th December 1965  ("Beyond the Chindwin", Fergusson B, Pen & Sword (2009);; Anglo-Burmese Library; FindMyPast; London Gazette; WO 373/31/146; Thacker's Directory 1939/1941; War Diary 3rd Burma Rifles, WO 172/976 (War diary 3rd Burma Rifles)).

Robert Anthony Scoones, born, 15th September 1915.  First commissioned, 29th June 1938.  Employed by Steel Brothers, 1939 to 1941.  Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, ABRO, 7th March 1940.  Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, ABRO (ABRO 36), 29th September 1940.  Served with the 5th Battalion, The Burma Rifles, October 1940 to 1941-42?.  Acting Captain from 2nd March 1941.  Temporary Captain from 2nd May 1941.  As Major and second-in-command, the 1st Burma Rifles, arrived in Meiktila from Hoshiarpur to begin raising the new battalion, 24th July 1945.  Commanding Officer, 1st Burma Rifles, August 1945.  Died, Sedgemoor, Somerset, 1999 (; Burma Army List October 1940; Burma Defence Services List July 1941; Burma Army List 1943; London Gazette; Thacker's Directory; War diary 2nd Burma Regiment, WO 172/7802; War diary 1st Burma Rifles, WO 172/10324).

Alexander Clement Speirs Dickie, born, 22nd February 1914.  With occupation given as "clerk", sailed from Liverpool to Rangoon on board the S.S. "Shropshire, departed, 12th October 1934.  Worked for Steel Brothers from 1934?  Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, A.B.R.O. (ABRO 35), 24th December 1939, with seniority from 24th September 1937.  Promoted to Lieutenant, 7th March 1940.  Served with the 3rd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 1940.  Temporary Captain from 15th May 1941.  Served with the 6th Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 1941.  Served with the 5th Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 1942 to 20th May 1942.  Served with the Composite Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 20th May 1942 to 8th June 1942.  When the remnants of The Burma Rifles were transferred to Ranchi, remained at Imphal and joined the 13th Indian Infantry Brigade as Staff Captain, 8th June 1942.   Arrived upon transfer to the 2nd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 5th November 1943.  Served with the 2nd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 5th November 1943 to 1944.  As temporary Major, 2nd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, served on the Second Chindit Expedition, attached to the 51st/69th Field Regiment, 16th Infantry Brigade, 1944.  As Major, served with the Civil Affairs Service, Burma, known as C.A.S.(B.), 1945.  As temporary Major, The Burma Rifles, mentioned in despatches for gallant and distinguished service in Burma, gazetted, 26th April 1945.  Reported as a casualty, 10th September 1945  (; Burma Defence Services List July 1941; Burma Army List October 1940, 1943; London Gazette; Myanmar National Archives (Anglo-Burmese Library); Thacker's Directory 1941; War diary 2nd Burma Rifles, WO 172/975; War diary 5th Burma Rifles, WO 172/978; War diary 2nd Burma Rifles, WO 172/2658; War diary 51st/69th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, WO 172/4646; War diary 4th Burma Regiment, WO 172/7803).

Arthur Leonard Bell Thompson, born, 1st December 1917.  Before joining the Army, worked on the staff of Steel Brothers, Rangoon, 1941.  Promoted to Lieutenant, ABRO (ABRO 088), 14th October 1941.  Served with the 1st Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 1941 to 23rd March 1942.  As Company Commander of the Karen Company, 1st Battalion, The Burma Rifles, ordered to take his company from Toungoo to support the Karen Levies operating in the Mawchi area., 23rd March 1942.  Served as Lieutenant with the 2nd Battalion, The Burma Rifles, 1944.  Served with Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.), 1944 to 1945.  As temporary Captain, The Burma Rifles, awarded the Distinguished Service Order, gazetted, 22nd March 1945, the citation for which reads:

Brigade: Burma Levies, Burma Army

Unit:  1st Burma Rifles, attached Burma Levies

Action for which recommended: -   On March 23rd, 1942, Captain Thompson, with 135 Karens of his Bn. was ordered to join a Burma Levies detachment under Capt. Boyt in the Karen Hills.  His force was limited to one rifle and 50 rds. per man, plus four TSMG [Thomson Sub-Machine Guns].  Capt. Thompson was ordered to cover demolitions by levies on the Toungoo-Mawchi road.  on 2/4/42 the Japs moved up the road a spearhead of approx. one Bn. supported by AFVs and m/c troops.  Capt. Thompson engaged this greatly superior enemy force at the Paletwa bridge, which had been destroyed, and delayed it with heavy casualties till his left flank was overrun and his position turned.  Capt. Thompson then extricated his force and took up another position further up the road.  25 Karens were lost in this engagement.  Sporadic minor clashes occurred as the enemy moved cautiously forward until 4/4/42, when the party took up a new position over the next major demolition and again fought it out till overrun, inflicting heavy casualties on the Japs and greatly delaying and discouraging them.  In this action the Karens lost a further 45 men including Sub. Thong Pe.  After assisting with further demolitions the party then passed through the Chinese who had by then moved up.  Throughout this period Capt. Thompson’s party was subjected to constant pressure by a greatly superior enemy.  Capt. Thompson showed the highest quality of courage, leadership, and skilful handling of his men throughout.  His determined reaction to enemy pressure during this critical period was of the utmost importance to all concerned in this very significant action.  In all Capt. Thompson gained some four days time for regrouping of the Chinese 6th Army in the Southern Shan States.  This enabled the 6th Army to hold up the Japs just long enough to let the Chinese 5th Army, then fighting at Pyinmana, send a division (the 200th) round to Taunggyi in time to stem the enemy’s thrust westwards through Thazi-Meiktila-Yenangyaing.  It is a fact that Capt. Thompson’s magnificent delaying action saved the Chinese and British armies in Burma from encirclement.

Though this particular action forms the subject of this recommendation it was not the end of Capt. Thompson’s excellent work.  Although later cut off by the enemy, he withdrew the very small remnants of this force through their lines and brought his men to safety in Fort Herz after a march of some 900 miles.  Throughout this desperate adventure, made as it was with virtually no supplies and very little money for food, Capt. Thompson continued to display the same high standard of leadership, and it is safe to say that without it none of the party could have made the journey.

Recommended by: H. Stevenson (late Lt. Col, Commandant Burma Levies)

Captain Thompson’s company took part in “…. the first battle of Mawchi road in 1942.  After the Japanese capture of Toungoo a Karen Coy which fought its way out of Toungoo was assigned to the Northern Karen Levies and took part in a spirited action on the Mawchi road.  A glance at the map shows the strategic importance of this road, which is one of the main roads into the Shan States by way of Mawchi, Loikaw and Taunggyi.  The Coy, 150 strong, was under command of Captain Thompson and held a strong Japanese vanguard for many hours at the 28th milestone, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy.  Boyt, by dint of driving all night from Mawchi, arrived in time for the battle and both he and Thompson had narrow escapes.  Boyt being blown up (but only slightly injured) by a mortar bomb, and Thompson having a dud bomb rolled down the hill between his legs.  When it became clear that they were greatly outnumbered and could no longer hold the Japanese they withdrew up the road blowing up all the bridges.  This action, for which Thompson was awarded D.S.O. and Boyt the M.C., and the destruction of the bridges delayed the Japanese for several days, and gave the Chinese 6th Army time to prepare positions east and west of Mawchi where they fought stubbornly.  Although Thompson and Boyt estimated that they killed only thirty Japanese, Karen villagers later reported counting more than eighty graves.  When they occupied Mawchi, the Japanese made propaganda amongst the people by saying that at the 28th milestone they, a column of only 700 men, had vanquished and driven back the spearhead of the Chinese 6th Army.  Standing instructions at that time were that, when an area was overrun by the Japanese, officers were to make their way North and levies were to hide their arms, lie low and wait for the British return.”  Thompson’s party was encountered by the 14th Burma Rifles at Naungwo on 30th April 1942.  Thompson was accompanied by about 80 Karen Levies (from Karen Coy 1 Burif) and Capt Nimmo with a further 120 Karen Levies. Thompson and Boyt survived the war.  The quotation is from ‘Memoirs of the Four Foot Colonel’, Smith Dun, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Library (1980)

Worked as an industrial journalist for the steel industry, post- war.  After the war became a writer of crime and thriller novels, writing under the pen name of Francis Clifford, late 1950s.  Died, 24th August 1975.  Wrote an account (under his pen name Francis Clifford) of his trek through Burma to Fort Herz from where he was eventually flown out to India.  Published after his death, 1st January 1979  ("Desperate Journey", A.L.B. Thompson writing as Francis Clifford, Hodder & Stoughton (1979); Anglo-Burmese Library; HS 9/1/1460/6; Wikipedia - Francis Clifford; London Gazette; Thacker's Directory 1941; War Diary 1st Burma Rifles, WO 172/974 (War diary 1st Burma Rifles).


5 February 2018