After extensive retraining and preparation, 7th Division took part in an offensive in Arakan, the coastal province of Burma. Starting in December 1943, the division advanced down the Kalapanzin River valley as part of XV Corps. In February 1944, Japanese troops infiltrated through the division’s front and overran the divisional HQ. Units of the division took part in the subsequent Battle of the Admin Box, in which the Japanese failed to capture positions supplied by parachute drops and were forced to retreat.
During March, the Japanese launched a major offensive (codenamed Operation U-Go) into Manipur. Having been withdrawn from the Arakan battles, the division proceeded by road and rail to Dimapur, where it came under command of XXXIII Corps and took part in the Battle of Kohima. The 161st Indian Brigade, part of the 5th Indian Division, came under command, while the 89th Brigade was flown to Imphal, to replace 161st Brigade in 5th Division. During early May, 33rd Brigade completed the recapture of Kohima Ridge, while the main body of the division recaptured Naga Village to the north of the ridge. During the later part of the month and early June, the division advanced through heavy monsoon rains along rough tracks to the east of the main road from Kohima to Imphal, and cleared Japanese stragglers from Ukhrul.
From July to October, the division regrouped near Kohima, and 89th Brigade rejoined. Late in 1944, Major General Messervy was promoted to command IV Corps and was replaced in command of the division by Major General Geoffrey Charles Evans. Now commanded by IV Corps, the division advanced down the Gangaw Valley west of the Chindwin River, with the 28th (East Africa) Brigade under command, screened until Pauk was reached by the lightly equipped Lushai Brigade. Between 1945 and 1947 the Director of Public Relations, War Department, Government of India, published a series of short publications covering the individual histories of the WWII Indian Divisions. They followed a consistent format, having between 44 and 48 pages within illustrated soft card covers. They have an average of 50 monochrome photographic illustrations, and each has a full colour centre-spread depicting a scene from the Division’s wartime operations (drawn by official war artists). With the exception of ONE MORE RIVER and TEHERAN TO TRIESTE (which are slightly smaller) They were printed at various presses in Bombay and New Delhi, and each contains at least one map.
As condensed histories they are useful – particularly those which relate to Divisions for which no other record was ever produced.
The British Indian Army during World War II began the war, in 1939, numbering just under 200,000 men. By the end of the war, it had become the largest volunteer army in history, rising to over 2.5 million men in August 1945. Serving in divisions of infantry, armour and a fledgling airborne force, they fought on three continents in Africa, Europe and Asia.
This Army fought in Ethiopia against the Italian Army, in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria against both the Italian and German Army, and, after the Italian surrender, against the German Army in Italy. However, the bulk of British Indian Army was committed to fighting the Japanese Army, first during the British defeats in Malaya and the retreat from Burma to the Indian border; later, after resting and refitting for the victorious advance back into Burma, as part of the largest British Empire army ever formed. These campaigns cost the lives of over 87,000 Indian servicemen, while another 34,354 were wounded, and 67,340 became prisoners of war. Their valour was recognised with the award of some 4,000 decorations, and 18 members of British Indian Army were awarded the Victoria Cross or the George Cross. Field Marshal Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief of British Indian Army from 1942, asserted that the British “couldn’t have come through both wars (World War I and II) if they hadn’t had British Indian Army. “British Prime Minister Winston Churchill also paid tribute to “The unsurpassed bravery of Indian soldiers and officers.”