The Burma Campaign

The Burma Regiment

The Regiment was formed in India on 1st October 1942, mainly from non-Burmese survivors of the retreat from Burma.  Composition was personnel of the 7th and 8th Battalions, The Burma Rifles (the men for these battalions originally largely having been found from the Burma Frontier Force and the Burma Military Police), units of the Burma Frontier Force and the Burma Military Police. The men were all Indian. The Burma Frontier Force was abolished.

Prior to this, a number of companies had been detached to on escort duties in the frontier areas and it was proposed to form an escort battalion from these (details not available).

The initial plan was to raise seven battalions. These were:

1st Battalion Sikhs and Punjabi Mussalmans, from the 7th and 8th Battalions, Burma Rifles
2nd Battalion Remaining battalions Sikhs, Punjabi Mussalmans and Gurkhas
3rd Battalion  
4th Battalion 50% Gurkha
5th Battalion  
6th Battalion  
7th (Mounted Infantry) Battalion  

A further unit, the 10th (Training) Battalion, Burma Regiment (Burma Army Regimental Centre), was also formed.  It was nominated to serve as the depot for the Burma Regiment and other Burma Army units not provided with any other parent depot.

The Regiment began forming at Hoshiarpur.  Two brigades were formed to command the battalions of the new regiment, the 2nd and 5th Burma Infantry Brigades.  Of the six new infantry battalions of the Burma Regiment being formed it was expected that only one would be ready for active service by 1st December 1942, if sufficient equipment were made available.  The readiness of the remaining battalions was dependent on equipment, training and stores.

The class composition of each of the battalions was intended to be consistent, based on: one company of Gurkhas; one of Punjabi Mussalmen; on of Sikhs; one mixed; and a mixed HQ company.  However the 1st Battalion was made up of almost 50% Sikhs and 50% Punjabi Mussalmen.  The 4th Battalion later became 100% Gurkha.

Cap badge of the 6th Battalion, The Burma Regiment belonging to Lt. Colonel W.R. Andrews.

Courtesy of the Andrews family.

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A report in February 1943 proposed that the six infantry battalions of the Burma Regiment, though not at full readiness, could be made ready by April 1943 if full equipment, stores and transport could be provided.  The battalions would by then be fully trained for mobile operations in any country except thick jungle.

The same February 1943 report concluded the Training Battalion to be ready to train around 720 recruits and expansion was considered so as to provide reinforcements sufficient to maintain infantry battalions in a more or less static role.  However, due to anticipated recruiting difficulties, the new regiment would compete with the Indian Army for the same group of men, it was decided in June 1943 to reduce the battalions of the Burma Regiment from six to four from 1st July 1943, to provide a reserve of replacements.  Burmese speaking personnel were earmarked for further expansion of the Burma Intelligence Corps.  The 10th (Training) Battalion was converted into the Burma Regimental Centre.  By October 1943 this unit was acting as the Depot and Records Office for all Burma Army units other than the Burma Auxiliary Force and Burma Intelligence Corps Depots.  It was authorised to hold 20% reserves for all arms based on it, namely the Burma Regiment and all Garrison and Escort Detachments of the Burma Regiment.

By November 1942, the 7th (Mounted Infantry) Battalion had been deemed to be ready for service, though it lacked horses.   However in February 1943, it was reported that the battalion still lacked animals and one third of personnel still required training in riding.  It was assessed that the battalion would be ready to serve as mounted infantry at about five months from the point that mounts were received.  Alternatively, the battalion might be broken up to provide several remount units for the Indian Army for which there was an urgent requirement.  The latter role was the most favoured.  Burma Army received such a request which was agreed by the Burma Government and three advanced remount depots, three field remount sections and a remount reinforcement pool began forming from 1st May 1943 and transferred to the Indian Army.

Officer's cap badge of the The Burma Regiment.

Courtesy of the Simon Jervis Collection.

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Driven largely by manpower shortages, the Burma Army was reorganised with effect from 1st July 1943.  The 3rd and 6th Battalions of the Burma Regiment were disbanded to provide a sufficiently large reinforcement pool for the remaining four battalions.  The 2nd Burma Infantry Brigade headquarters was disbanded.  There were five detachments of the Burma Regiment then on active service inside Burma and which had previously formed part of the war establishments of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Battalions of the Regiment.  These detachments were now transferred to the control of the 10th Holding/Reinforcement Battalion of the Burma Regimental Centre as part of the July reorganisation.  The remaining battalions of the Regiment were thus able to return to a full war establishment of four rifle companies each.  Revisions to the class composition (ethnic make-up) of the 1st, 2nd and 5th Battalions, The Burma Regiment were under consideration from early October 1943, the intention being to ensure that the target number of reinforcements held for each battalion could be met.  By this time, it was intended that the Burma Army as a whole was to be transferred to the control of General Headquarters India from 1st November 1943.  At the time this transfer was made, the 2nd Battalion, The Burma Regiment formed part of the 5th Burma Infantry Brigade along with the 1st and 5th Battalions.

The provision of infantry reinforcements for the Burma Regiment remained an ongoing problem.  When in November 1943 it was decided to mobilise the 4th Battalion, The Burma Regiment to reinforce the Fort Hertz garrison, the opportunity was taken alter the class composition of the remaining battalions.  The 4th Battalion was reorganised to consist of three companies of Gurkhas and one of Kumaonis from 15th November 1943.  The Kumaonis for the 4th Battalion were transferred from the 2nd Battalion and surplus Gurkha personnel from the 4th Battalion were transferred to the 2nd Battalion.  It was felt that the revised mix of companies would give a better percentage of reinforcements available in the two classes; Gurkhas and Kumaonis.  It was also decided that the 2nd Battalion should be reorganised on a reduced war establishment, sometimes referred to as 'cadre', to act as a holding battalion for Gurkha and Kumaoni reinforcements for the 4th Battalion and for any special detachments serving with the 14th Army other than those at Fort Hertz.  The 5th Battalion was disbanded to provide Sikh and Punjabi Mussalmen reinforcements for the 1st Battalion.  The Headquarters, 5th Burma Infantry Brigade was also disbanded at this time (March 1944).

The Chin Hills Battalion

Formerly of the Burma Frontier Force, the battalion was redesignated as part of the Burma Regiment on 1st October 1942.  The battalion operated under Eastern Army (IV Corps?) command in the Chin Hills.  It had been reorganised in March 1942 on the war establishment of a Burma Rifles battalion plus a depot, training centre and four outpost detachments.  In October 1943, the battalion was organised with a battalion headquarters, headquarters company, seven rifle companies, two troops of mounted infantry, a rear headquarters and a depot.

Garrison Battalions

Also sanctioned for formation on 1st October 1942 were the 1st and 2nd Garrison Battalions of the Burma Regiment.  The 1st Garrison Battalion formed initially with six companies of three platoons each.  Battalion headquarters and four companies were sent to relieve the Kokine Battalion on the Assam-Burma frontier to allow that unit to form the 2nd Garrison Battalion, Burma Regiment.  Formerly a Burma Frontier Force battalion, a detachment of the Kokine Battalion arrived in India from Rangoon in Feb/March 1942, together with the 7th Mobile Detachment, Burma Frontier Force (FF 7). These detachments were amalgamated into the Kokine Battalion, BFF and sent to Assam to perform garrison battalion duties.  Following relief by the 1st Garrison Battalion, Burma Regiment, in November 1942 at Hoshiarpur, the Kokine Battalion, together with the balance of men from the 1st Garrison Battalion began to form the 2nd Garrison Battalion.

A company of the 1st Garrison Battalion fought at Kohima.

Later in the war - July 1944 - these two battalions were redesignated 25th and 26th Garrison Battalions respectively.

Independent Detachments

Up until 1942, Fort Hertz was maintained as an outpost of the Myitkyina Battalion, Burma Frontier Force.  During the 1942 Japanese invasion of Burma, various retreating soldiers of the British/Indian Burma Garrison remained in the Fort Hertz area.  The military authorities in India had no direct contact with Fort Hertz during most of the summer of 1942.  Contact was re-established in August 1942.  Later, the garrison was made up in part by company-sized detachments drawn from 1st and 2nd Battalions, The Burma Regiment.  Other detachments were also found for escort and other duties.  These were formed by taking one company from each of the 3rd-6th Battalions.  The battalions providing these detachments were later made up to full strength and the Fort Hertz and other detachments became the responsibility of the Holding Battalion, Burma Regimental Centre.

Around July-October 1943 the detachments were:

- Kabaw Valley Detachment
- Somra Tracts Detachment
- Arakan Detachment, returned to Hoshiarpur on 27th July 1943
- Hukawng Valley/Fort Hertz Detachment
- Fort Hertz Detachment
- Guerilla Detachment.


Later in the war, the surviving battalions of the Regiment were:

1st Battalion Sikhs and Punjabi Mussalmans
2nd Battalion Gurkha and Kumaonis
4th Battalion 75% Gurkha and 25% Kumaonis
25th (Garrison) Battalion Indian, ex 1st Garrison Battalion
26th (Garrison) Battalion Indian, ex 2nd Garrison Battalion
The Chin Hills Battalion mainly Gurkha.

The 1st Battalion, The Burma Regiment, fought at Kohima as Corps Troops to XXXIII Corps and in the re-conquest of Burma with first the 33rd Indian Infantry Brigade, 7th Indian Infantry Division and then the 9th Indian Infantry Brigade, 5th Indian Infantry Division.  At the end of the war, the 1st Battalion went to Singapore and then went on to serve at Palembang, Sumatra, landing on 25th October 1945 and leaving a year later.

In 1944, the Chin Hills Battalion served as Corps Troops to IV Corps.

After the end of the war, the fate of the battalions of the Burma Regiment became thus:

1st Battalion disbanded mid-1947
2nd Battalion wholly Gurkha by early 1947
4th Battalion Gurkha
25th Battalion disbanded July 1946
26th Battalion disbanded August 1946.

The Chin Hills Battalion became the 1st (Chin Hills) Anti-Tank/Mortar Regiment in September 1946, reverted to infantry as the Chin Hills Battalion in August 1947 and in 1948 or 1949 became the 3rd Chin Rifles.

In 1948, the Burma Regiment transferred to the new Burma Army on independence.

21 July 2019