Forward from Kohima - A Burma Diary November 1944 to May 1945, by Rex King-Clark

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Forward from Kohima - A Burma Diary November 1944 to May 1945, by Rex King-Clark

Published by Fleur De Lys in 2003, 72 pages. Large A4 size hardback (N5722)

From the title page: This diary covers the advance of the 2nd British Division with its machine gun battalion, the 2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment, from Kohima to Kalewa on the River Chindwin, thence across the Irrawaddy and along its south bank eastward to Mandalay - from 28th November 1944 to 6th April 1945 (with further intermittent entries to 29th May 1945).

Following the highly successful battle of Kohima, 2nd British Division advanced to Kalewa on the River Chindwin, across the Irrawaddy and on to Mandalay. 2nd Manchesters, the divisional machine-gun battalion, continued the advance with individual companies of the same Kohima infantry brigades. The author of this book was commanding officer of the battalion, and thus had the unusual role of commanding a battalion with all its platoons on separate locations, widely spread throughout the division. The book vividly describes the activities of 2nd Division against their Japanese enemy. D Company had earlier been detached to serve with 36 British Infantry Division and had a hard fought slog down the railway corridor to Mandalay along the east bank of the Irrawaddy.

From the introduction: Throughout the advance 2 Div comprised the same three Kohima infantry brigades: 4th, 5th and 6th (often referred to in the text as 4 IB, 5 IB and 6 lB. As at Kohima the infantry element was made up as follows: 4 IB - 1st Royal Scots, 2nd Royal Norfolks, 1/8th Lancashire Fusiliers; 5 IB - 7th Worcesters, 2nd Dorsets, 1st Camerons; 6 IB - 1st Royal Welch Fusiliers, 1st Berkshires, 2nd Durham Light Infantry. Divisional troops included the 2nd Manchesters (the Division's machine gun battalion) and the 2nd Reconnaissance Regiment.

We all wore the 2 Div shoulder flash, the Crossed Keys - and were proud of it, as we still are. The 2nd Manchesters comprised four companies of twelve Vickers machine guns, each company three platoons of four guns, a total of forty-eight guns. The company was commanded by a major, the platoon by a subaltern. My Kohima diary ended on 30th June 1944 with the 2nd Manchesters concentrated - under canvas on Maram Spur, a hill feature running out eastward from the Kohima­ Imphal road at Milestone 80.

In early July Lieutenant Colonel Charles Archdale returned from Golaghat in the Brahmapoutra valley where he had been OC 2 Division Rifle Unit and MT Parts since April 1944, to re-assume command of the 2nd Manchesters. It was a somewhat bizarre situation but, fortunately, since both of us were of equable temperament and, above all, close friends with common interests over many years, there was no friction or misunderstanding between us. Very soon after Charles' return, in fact almost his first words to me were, I recall, 'Rex, you sit down and write an account of the Battalions' part in the Kohima battle - and write it for Regimental posterity'.

So while the battalion re-organised, re-fitted, re-trained and was reinforced in preparation for XIV Army's advance into Burma, which we all knew lay ahead, I sat down in my tent on Maram Spur and wrote. I visited and chatted with the many friends of the Battalion in the Regiments and units of the Division - most of whom were encamped on neighbouring features along the Kohima­
Imphal road - to hear their stories and get their opinions on the use of our Vickers Machine Guns.

Meanwhile, the weather was improving as the monsoon faded and Maram Spur was a pleasant and quiet retreat after the battle - with magnificent views to the east across the great Chindwin Valley to the green, jungle clad hills of Burma beyond - and good company in the Mess. In turn we all went on leave to India during the five months we lay encamped on Maram Spur. For myself I stayed with my friends, John and Irene Ritchie in their home in Bombay, spending much time at their beach house at Juhu - swimming, sunbathing and lazing and regaining some weight. Wonderful!

By November, with spirits and morale high and with the garrison under its new Commander, Major General Cameron Nicholson, we all became impatient to be off into Burma to finish things off. Overall the Division was more confident, efficient and, above all, more battle-worthy and wise after its trial by fire at Kohima.

The diary begins on 28th November 1944 - with myself as second-in-command, in which appointment I remained, acting mostly as Liaison Officer and Jack-of-all-Trades for HQ 2 Division until February when Charles Archdale was promoted to second-in-command of 100 Brigade Indian Dirision and I was promoted to command the 2nd Manchesters....

The condition of the book is generally very good. The covers have one or two very minor scuffs but are clean and bright, the spine is tight and intact, and all pages are clean, intact, unblemished and tightly bound. There is a small name plate fixed onto the inside front cover

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