Shortly after the British and Indian forces had withdrawn from Burma in the face of the Japanese onslaught in 1942, Colonel E.C.V. Foucar MC was instructed to undertake a special duty’, namely seek out documentary material and information from the various officers involved in the First Burma Campaign. The final element of Foucar’s task was to write an account of the fighting, based on these many eyewitness accounts, for the Director of Military Training. This fascinating narrative sets out the challenging geographical, climatic and political conditions the British were faced with in Burma as war became an increasing possibility throughout 1940 and 1941, before turning its attention to the dramatic events when the Japanese launched their ground assault on the country in January 1942. There followed the Disaster’ at Sittang Bridge, the fateful evacuation of Rangoon, and the march to the River Irrawaddy in an attempt to try and secure the north of Burma and its oilfields. But the loss of Rangoon meant the army was cut off from its supply base and the troops faced starving to death. With the Japanese closing in on the beleaguered British force, the decision was taken to abandon Burma and try to reach India. The odds were we might escape either the Japanese, the failure of our supplies, or the monsoon, but our chances of avoiding all three were slender,’ declared General Alexander. His commander, General Wavell, wrote that, operations were now a race with the weather as with the Japanese and as much a fight against nature as against the enemy’. Along nothing more than rough country tracks up rugged hills and across rickety bridges constructed only of brushwood or bamboo the ragged, disease-ridden troops battled to reach India just as the monsoons broke. This, one of the most dramatic tales of the Second World War, was first described in detail by Colonel Foucar just after the events described and is now available for all to read.
FIRST BURMA CAMPAIGN The Japanese Conquest of 1942 by Those Who Were There
This gem of a book is based on the narrative written by Colonel Foucar immediately after the conclusion of the First Burma Campaign in 1942. The manuscript was lodged in The National Archives (CAB 44/324),now John Grehan has taken this material and produced it in book form, together with a short introduction by himself.