The Queen's in Burma 1943-1945
1st Bn The Queen's At Ukhru
Ukhrul and Beyond
The Kohima - Imphal road was cleared of the enemy by 22nd June, and an attack on Ukhrul, an important enemy communications centre, was now planned. 33 Brigade was to advance across country and attack from the north west. This meant marching across the grain of the land, up or down 2000 feet at a time, along a track only capable of taking troops in single file. The monsoon had now broken and the rivers in their narrow valley beds were in flood. The Battalion, now less than 300 strong, acted as rearguard.
The going was atrocious; the path was feet deep in mud and it took immense physical effort to make progress. Frequently men and mules fell off the knife-edge ridges, and had to struggle back up hundreds of feet, leaving the equipment behind. On one day the Battalion had not covered as much as eight miles'.
The first supply drop was received on 1st July, and six days later Ukhrul was captured. The Queen’s operated patrols in the area until 26th July when they moved back to Milestone 32 on the Kohima - Dimapur road. Here they remained for over a month. The Battalion was so weak in numbers from casualties, sickness and through the loss of many experienced NCOs and men on repatriation that it was decided that they should leave the Division to be made up to strength and retrained. Accordingly, on 6th September, they moved to Shillong, the capital of Assam, and occupied normal barracks again.
No one who was not there can have any idea of what jungle warfare entailed for the officers and soldiers in the front line, and the very high reputation of the 1st Queen's had not been easily earned.
On 31st August 1945 a service was held on Jail Hill for the unveiling of a memorial, which had been erected by the Battalion pioneers, to the officers and men of the Battalion killed in action in Kohima. The GOC of the 33 Indian Corps, Lt General M G N Stopford, unveiled the memorial, and Major-General Messervy, commanding the 7th Indian Division, attended.
Lt Colonel Duncombe left on repatriation and the command passed to Lt Colonel G S Grimston. Lt Colonel Duncombe had been a fine commanding officer and his example had been a large factor in the maintenance of the high standard of the Battalion. He was awarded the DSO for his leadership in the Arakan and at Kohima.
All who served at Kohima were very proud not for themselves, but for those who fell there, that Kohima joined the list of the Regimental Battle Honours, and took its place with all those other great and famous actions recorded on the Regimental Colour.
"When you, go home,
Tell them of us and say,
For your tomorrow,
We gave our to-day."
Inscription on the 2nd Division Memorial, Kohima
After the heavy fighting in the Kohima area, the 1st Queen's were rested under almost peacetime conditions for six months at Shillong. On 6th March 1945, they were recalled to the 7th Indian Division who were engaged in operations against enemy bridgeheads on the Irrawaddy and Chindwin Rivers. Moving by rail and MT, they reached the Nyaungyu area on 1st April, and were in action throughout the rest of the month.
A move of 60 miles by MT brought the Battalion to Migyaungye to prevent the escape of remnants of the Japanese 28th Army. Operations lasted throughout May when the Battalion was moved to the Wettigan area. Here they were engaged in the clearance of villages and mopping up operations. The Battalion was withdrawn to rest from 20th June to 3rd July.
After a two-day journey by MT, the Battalion arrived in Waw, and a few days later were moved to the Sittang Bend which surrounds an island about five miles square. The surroundings were almost completely waterlogged, and all movement was exceedingly difficult. A sharp action took place on the island, which although successful, cost the Queen's 16 dead and a number wounded. This was the last battle of the 1st Battalion, which although a shadow of its' former self, had maintained its fine spirit to the end.