'1st Queen's, Burma 1945 & Siam 1946'
By Lieut Colonel J R Terry
The following extracts are taken from the notes of Lieut Colonel J R Terry, who commanded B Company during March and April 1945, and who was appointed to command the 1st Battalion on 10th June.
The attack on Yenangyaung
'There was little contact with the enemy until the approach to Yenangyaung. On 20th April, A Company had secured the north side of the Piu chaung at the foot of Yenangyaung Hill, and Lieutenant Woodrow's six 3 inch mortars gave Major Terry's B Company covering fire Whilst they crossed the chaung, hip firing and making as much noise as possible. The Japs moved further up the hill amongst the derricks, whilst we reorganised to continue the attack.
Corporal Jones demonstrated his confidence during the pause by sitting on top of his cover and asking his section whether they were afraid. He was always good in action, but in a peace station usually asked to give up his stripes in favour of a less responsible life. Later, in the Changwe Ashe area, he was killed by a sniper.
We continued our attack up the hill with excellent support from the gunners and a troop of Grant tanks. This close support with tanks was a novelty to most of us, and we were delighted with the pasting they gave two Jap bunkers with their 17 pdrs and Besas. We attacked as a company with CSM Simmons and the Company Clerk always prominent, as also was Corporal Jones who laid out a Jap with a blow of his jammed Sten gun - a most unlikely way of using this weapon.
When we got to Twygon there was more firing ahead, but as this was our objective, we just returned the fire, CSM Simmons taking very careful and accurate aim from his position. The opposing party disappeared shortly, and very hot and thirsty, we consolidated at Twygon. From Yenangyaung we moved down to Migyaunge by the Irrawaddy.'
The Zalon Bridgehead
'After holding company positions separated by several miles along the Irrawaddy in anticipation of Jap crossings, the Battalion moved down south to concentrated positions round the Zalon bridgehead. The country now changed to very thick bamboo jungle, and two forward platoons were only 30 yards from the Japs. Attacking, let alone moving, through these bamboo clumps was almost impossible. A and C Companies had particularly difficult areas, the former down by the river and the latter on what was the enemy's main route. A Company's Lieutenant Garner made repeated efforts to dislodge the Japs only yards away from him. His platoon suffered a number of casualties, and he himself was killed. Later I found a note pinned to a tree where the Japs had been, which said, "We are looking forward to killing more of you English in the jungle."
Mopping up round Wettigan
The Zalon bridgehead having been satisfactorily cleared, 1st Queen's moved to the Wettigan area to take part in the mopping up operations. There were large numbers of Japanese in the area, and clearing it in the continuous and torrential rain was an arduous business.
'The continual rain swamped the paddy fields and low-lying marshes so that everything except roads, tracks and villages became practically impassable…. The Battalion's task of taking the offensive against the enemy moving across the Irrawaddy was now in full swing, with the leading companies heading for Changwe Ashe. Transport had changed from wheels to mules, which carried ammunition, blankets, rations and the 3 inch mortars. The Quartermaster hired bullock carts to transport the stores which could not go on pakhals. The bullock carts had to. travel at night due to the heat in daytime.' (Major Strand recalls it was credibly rumoured that on one occasion the Commanding Officer himself drove the leading team of the creaking grunting convoy across the paddy! ).
The Queen's in Siam
'Before long we were told that Bangkok, Guards and Duties was to be our next role, and one early morning the whole Battalion set off in Dakotas from a landing strip near Prome. The guards and duties in Bangkok were legion. At least two companies were always out of Bangkok, one screening Jap paws and one at the Gaol. When we had settled in, we had RSM's and CO's parades to prepare for ceremonial occasions. These came along in due course, with first a visit by Lord Louis Mountbatten to ourselves at our barracks, and then when he was invited by the King of Siam to pay an official visit to Bangkok. On the occasion of the first, Lord Louis recalled the tremendous efforts of the Queen's from the Arakan to Kohima to the end of the war.
On the second occasion he had a big Inter-Service parade, for which our preparation was intense. RSM Simmons' enthusiasm and drilling worked wonders. He was as good on the parade ground as he had been during the campaign he had been awarded an MC (upgraded from DCM by the Divisional Commander) for his gallantry throughout Burma. The Parade was held on the open ground stretching for half a mile round the Royal Palace.
Lord Louis later wrote to the Colonel of the Regiment, General Sir George Giffard, “I was recently invited by the King of Siam to pay an official visit to Bangkok. I decided to have a big Inter-Service Parade in order to put up British prestige in Siam. I enclose a photograph showing the march past of the Queen's. The photograph gives little idea of the tremendous impression which the bearing, turn-out, drill and marching of the Queen's Guard of Honour made on all the spectators. Their marching was head and shoulders above the rest of the parade. The behaviour of your men in the town has been exemplary and greatly raised the prestige of the British Army in Siam.”
The Division thinned out unit by unit during 1946, until only ourselves and the Divisional Machine Gun Battalion were left. In September 1946 we boarded SS CORFU set for penang, and left the 'Venice of the East' with its Princes, Princesses, Palaces and friendly people.'