VJ Day 15th Aug 2020 – The War in Japan Part 3

Today we remember the atrocities of the war in Japan in a three part series.

The 214 Boys at War

Since many of our older Veteran Ex-Members are no longer with us, we are following up our ‘Flowers of the Forrest” Article with some memories of our own 214 boys at War.

This Article is about our Secretary’s father Tom McColl, one of our older members who recently passed away in February 2020, aged 92.

The War in Japan Part 3 – Tom McColl – The Japanese Surrender

As a boy in his teens Tom was a messenger in the ARP (Air Raid Precautions part of the Civil Defence), along with his lifelong friends Gus McDonald & Willie McDonald. They were based at Bankhead Primary School, cycling between command centres, delivering Air Raid reports and orders regarding Anti-aircraft gun positioning.

‘The Three Amigos’

Often cycling through debris and smoke, they would be praying that a bomb wouldn’t land close by when they were out.

They all received this special National Service badge that was issued by the Boys Brigade.

As youngsters the incendiary bombs would bounce into the close opening and they had to throw them out into the street before they caught fire.

One day walking along Dumbarton Road Tom saw a parachute coming down, heading for the top of Elm Street at Victoria Park Drive South.

He went to run towards it, thinking it was a German soldier, but his dad grabbed him stopping him in his tracks. A few minutes later the parachute landed, which had a bomb attached and BOOM!

The back of the end terraced house was blown away. (The house was rebuilt and today if you look closely, you can see it is a different design from the one on the other side of Elm Street.)

Tom was called up into the Cameronian Scottish Rifles (laterly the Camerons), at Brig of Don Barracks in Aberdeen and after 10 weeks training, he had service in Malaya around the Singapore area at the end of the war against the Japanese.

Leaving from Liverpool on the troop ship Georgic (sister ship of the Britannic both owned by the White Star Line), he sailed to Bombay in India, via the Bay of Biscay and the Suez Canal.

When they arrived at their transit camp, there was a lot of green faced squaddies.
This was an amazing adventure for a young lad from Scotstoun.

HMT Georgic (The story of the Georgic is interesting in itself.)

Link 1 Wikipedia    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MV_Georgic_(1931)

Link 2  Film         https://youtu.be/xTBfvFoqEug

After her final voyage in 1954, the ship was taken out of service and she was laid up in Kames Bay, in the Isle of Bute before being dismantled at Faslane in February 1956.

Tom then headed (via an Indian walking paced train) to Madras and another transit camp, there after he travelled on the troop ship SS Cheshire to Singapore.

HMT Cheshire

A keen photographer, Tom had his camera with him, which supplied many of these pictures.

Tom 3rd from the left in his Cameron’s uniform.
The Mortar Division at Elim Camp, Malaya. Tom is middle row to left of the mortar.
Tom in the Malayan jungle.

This was at the time when the Japanese surrendered in Singapore September 1945 after the first atomic bomb ‘Enola Gay’ had fallen on Hiroshima.

Tom had to guard the Japanese soldiers as they came in to surrender, be searched and processed at the camp in Kluang.

He said that they were broken men, as this was so dishonourable in their eyes.

He like many veterans on their return was not a fan of the Japanese, he often said “I don’t like them, after what they did to our boys. They were fierce soldiers and never gave up. Thank goodness we had the Gurkha’s on our side.”

A Cameronian standing guard on the right, as the Japanese soldiers filed in to be searched and have their kit taken from them.
Japanese Officers signing their surrender at Kluang.

On one of his trips guarding a 3 ton truck full of dejected prisoners on their way to camp vividly stuck in his mind.

He was at the back of the truck, sitting at the tail gate with rifle and bayonet fixed.

After a drive through the countryside they arrived at Changi jail, (which at this time was now being used to hold Japanese prisoners after the Allied POW’s had been released).

As they went to get out the truck he realised his bayonet was caught in the roof tarpaulin!
He shudders to think what could have happened if the prisoners had tried to escape.

Photo of Toms confiscated Japanese Officers collar badges from Changi.

(The last Japanese WW2 soldier to surrender happened in 1974, (Hiroo Onoda) he had been in a mountainous jungle area of the Philippines and wouldn’t believe the war was over.
They had to get his commanding officer to tell him they had surrendered 29 years previously, before he would believe them.

Click here to read about him.

Lord Louis Mountbatten inspecting the Cameronians at a Victory Parade in Singapore.

Tom’s 214 training came in useful as he played the Tenor drum in the Cameronians pipe band at the Victory Parades.

Cameronians on parade.

The Regiment was based at the Overseas Chinese High School in Batu Pahat.

Cameronian Regiment
(Tom can be seen behind the second sitting officer from the left that is in the front row.)

In 1999 Tom returned to Singapore with his great army pal Alex MacGregor (who served at the same time) and their wives (Annabel & Mary).

They managed to travel up through Malaya and find Batu Pahat, the village they were stationed at, within the high school.

Alex, Annabel, (Lady they met who worked at the school), Mary & Tom

They struggled to recognise the school until they realised that the upper storeys had been added post war.

Alex & Tom at the school 1999.

It has changed a bit since the war.

Tom’s hat and badges for the Camerons. (Cameronians badge with black hackle)
Tom’s drawing
Tom’s Medals
Tom’s WW2 Service Medal (Front)
Tom’s WW2 Service Medal (Rear)
Defence Medal (Rear) missing ribbon
Defence Medal (front) missing ribbon

Tom was due this for his time in the ARP along with Gus and Willie MacDonald.

Tom’s Cameronians Service Medal (Front)
Tom’s Cameronians Service Medal (Rear)

I’m sure there are many more great 214 War stories still to be heard.

Can you supply us with any details?

Then we can produce more of these 214 snippets.

Please email the secretary.

VJ Day 15th Aug 2020 – The War in Japan Part 2

Today we remember the atrocities of the war in Japan in a three part series.

The 214 Boys at War

The War in Japan Part 2 – Joe Noble (Snr) – in Burma.

Joseph Watt Noble was the father of Joe Noble the 214 drummer that I’m sure all the Ex Members know.

During WW2 he served in India and Burma with the 1st Battalion Cameronians, later in his service transferring to the Royal Corp of Signals.

Joe served as part of the “Chindits” and didn’t talk much about the war, only recounting the funny moments. It is thought that he served in the ‘Second Expedition’ of Burma.

Many of the servicemen, who witnessed the atrocities of battle against the Japanese Army in Burma, did likewise.

This picture was taken just before he headed to the East in 1941, aged 25

Joe was a signaller and would have formed part of a guerrilla unit called The Chindits.

“He had been cut off behind enemy lines for a bit of time and they had managed to make their way through the jungle and get back to relative safety on the Allied side.” He only ever briefly mentioned this to his family.

Orde Wingate DSO & The Chindits

‘Chindits’ was the name given to the Long Range Penetration (LRP) groups that operated in the Burmese jungle.

They were named after the Chinthe, a mythical Burmese beast that was half-lion and half-eagle and, to Brigadier Orde Wingate, symbolised the need for close air-land co-ordination.

The Chindit Badge

The Chindits carried out two major expeditions in Burma.

1st Expedition

February 1943, code-named Operation Longcloth, consisted of a force of 3,000 men who marched over 1,000 miles during the campaign. It was an experimental operation to prove British forces could operate many hundreds of miles from their own bases in the midst of Japanese controlled territory and to test Wingate’s theories and to gain experience.

2nd Expedition

March 1944 was on a much larger scale and consisted of a force of 20,000 men. They were given the name Special Force and consisted mainly of British battalions supplemented by Burma Rifles, Gurkha and Nigerian battalions and a company of Hong Kong volunteers.

‘We need not, as we go forward into the conflict, suspect opportunity of withdrawing and are here because we have chosen to bear the burden and the heat of the day.’

Brigadier Orde Wingate addressing his men, 13 February 1943.

Chindit Order of Battle January 1944

The Chindits were officially known as ‘Special Force’ or the ‘3rd Indian Infantry Division.’

N.B. The title 3rd Indian division was only given in order to deceive the Japanese.

There were six brigades, each referred to by a nickname. Each brigade had its own HQ situated near an airfield and an HQ column in the field.

More than likely Joe was part of Profound – 111th Brigade, which consisted of:-

1st Bn. The Cameronians: 26 and 90 Columns

2nd Bn. The Kings Own Royal Regt: 41 and 46 Columns

3rd Bn. 4th Gurkha Rifles: 30 Columns

This Regiment was one of a force of 6 Regiments that attacked from behind the Japanese lines.

Profound’s objective was to fly in and then block road and rail links south of Indaw to prevent Japanese reinforcements coming up from Mandalay.

Each brigade was divided into columns and a headquarters.

A column had about 400 men and typically consisted of,

  • Infantry Company of four platoons armed with rifles and light machine guns.
  • Heavy weapons platoon armed with two Vickers machine guns, two 3-inch mortars and anti-tank weapons.
  • Commando platoon for demolitions and setting booby traps.
  • Reconnaissance platoon with a section of Burma Rifles.
  • The column also included RAF, sapper, signaller and medical detachments.

The RAF detachment included an active pilot and was responsible for directing air support and the air evacuation of the wounded

Each column had about 56 mules, much less than the first expedition, as there would be more reliance on air supplies. The mules provided the transport for the column. Ten mules were required to carry the radio equipment, including the batteries, generators and petrol. The remaining mules carried other heavy equipment, weapon and supplies.

Chindits preparing to ambush the Japanese Army.

Once in Burma the Chindits would attack and cut supply lines and generally harass the rear of the Japanese forces on the frontline facing British, American and Chinese forces.

Like the 1st Chindit expedition, the column formations were designed for movement through the jungle. This mobility would be the strength of a Chindit column.

A column would emerge from the jungle to blow up a dump or ambush an enemy convoy and then slip away again into the jungle where the enemy would be unable or afraid to follow.

When necessary though, the columns would reform into battalions and brigades to attack and seize larger targets or to repel attacks from a large enemy force. Troops would be airlifted to airfields by gliders and supplied likewise.

Not much is known of Joe’s action, apart that he was cut off behind enemy lines.

We can only imagine it could be similar to this soldier’s ‘Jungle’ story as a Chindit, which is one of many on the Burma Star Associations website.

Read it here https://www.burmastar.org.uk/stories/you-lucky-lads/

This is a Sunderland Flying Boat supplying the Chindit army before they were flown into the jungle by glider.

The interesting thing about this picture from a 214 perspective is that Alex Ibell, Joe King, Ian MacLellan’s father, and Hector Russell’s father all worked at the Blackburn factory in Dumbarton where these planes were manufactured.

Joe who was a signaller, spent some time in India prior to going into the Jungle. He would have received training similar to that instructed by Alex MacIver, who Captained a training outfit in India at this time. Who knows maybe they met?

Joe (snr) survived his spell in Burma returning in late 1945 / early1946, to Aberdeenshire after the war.

He was welcomed home meeting his son Joe (jnr) who was aged 3, for the first time.

Joe (Senior)’s Burma Star

Burma Star

The Burma Star is awarded for operational service in Burma between 11 December 1941 and 2 September 1945.

Those serving in Bengal and Assam in India and China, Hong Kong, Malaya or Sumatra between other specified dates may also qualify.

The colours of the ribbon represent the sun, British and Commonwealth forces.

If you also qualify for the Pacific Star, you will only be awarded the first star earned. You will then receive a clasp with the title of the second star earned which is worn on the ribbon of the first.

Joe (Senior)’s 1939 -1945 Star

1939 to 1945 Star

The 1939 to 1945 Star is awarded to personnel who completed operational service overseas between 3 September 1939 and 8 May 1945 (2 Sept 1945 in Far East).

The colours of the ribbon represent the 3 services. The star is worn with the dark blue stripe furthest from the left shoulder.

“Although my dad didn’t talk about the war hardly at all, other than when he remembered funny incidents, he was not best pleased when I joined the Toyota Pipe Band.

I don’t think he ever quite forgave the Japanese.

He did in fact consider sending back his Burma Star when Emperor Hirohito was granted a royal visit to the UK but I think that an intervention by Lord Mountbatten persuaded many unhappy Burma Star holders to keep their medals.

I doubt whether my dad, who passed away in 2001, would have thought that he’d been given 85 years when he was embroiled in the Burma Campaign.”

Joe Noble (Jnr) – 214 BB Ex Member – 15th August 2020.

If Joe (Snr) had been fortunate enough to survive till today, he would have been 104 years old.

VJ Day 15th Aug 2020 – The War in Japan Part 1

Today we remember the atrocities of the war in Japan in a three part series.

The War in Japan Part 1 – 75th Anniversary

VJ Day – or Victory over Japan Day – on 15 August 1945 ended one of the worst episodes in British military history, during which tens of thousands of servicemen were forced to endure the brutalities of prisoner of war camps. It is estimated that there were 71,000 British and Commonwealth casualties of the war against Japan, including more than 12,000 prisoners of war who died in Japanese captivity. More than 2.5 million Japanese military personnel and civilians are believed to have died over the course of the conflict.

Prisoners at Changi Jail.

Many prisoners of the Japanese had been forced to build the infamous Burma railway, often called the Death Railway and carry out other punishing work on rations of just a bowl of rice a day.

The railway ran 250 miles between Thailand and Burma (now Myanmar), to supply troops and weapons in Japan’s Burma campaign.

The fighting in Europe had ended in May 1945, but many Allied servicemen were still fighting against Japan in east Asia.

Japan rejected an ultimatum for peace, and the US believed that dropping a nuclear bomb would force them to surrender.

Four months after VE Day the US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. The first on Hiroshima, the second on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 214,000 people.

Two weeks later Japan surrendered.

Today commemorations began at sunrise, with a piper playing Battle’s Over at the Imperial War Museum’s HMS Belfast in London.

P/Sgt Neil Esslemont- RAF Halton Pipes & Drums on board HMS Belfast at Tower Bridge, London. The ship was part of the Pacific Fleet during the war on Japan.

Military pipers were also playing at dawn in India, Australia, New Zealand and Nepal. In Japan, national memorial services have been held in Tokyo.

Clr Sgt Lil Bahadur Gurung piping at the VJ Day 75th commemorations at the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire. The Ghurka’s played a major role in the War on Japan.

Capt Sir Tom Moore, who served in the Burma campaign has previously described VJ Day as “the most special day”.

“It was VJ Day when the pain of war could finally start to fall away as peace was declared on all fronts,” said Sir Tom – who raised millions of pounds for NHS charities by walking laps of his garden during lockdown.

“I respectfully ask Britain to stop whatever it is doing and take some time to remember.”

“We must all take the time to stop, think and be thankful that were it not for the ultimate sacrifices made all those years ago by such a brave band of men and women, we would not be enjoying the freedoms we have today, even in these current difficult times.”