Karen O’Rourke, Curator of Urban and Military History at the Museum of Liverpool, writes:
“This week I was asked to supply some extracts for a service at Liverpool Parish Church, Our Lady and St Nicholas, happening tomorrow, Saturday 15 August, at 11am. The service is to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day (VJ Day). The anniversary will see services and events happening across Britain commemorating Japan’s surrender in the Second World War. The surrender effectively ended the War and allowed British soldiers to begin to return home.
The extracts that I supplied are from some of our journals relating to King’s Regiment men who served in the Far Eastern region in the Second World War. Two battalions of the King’s Regiment served in Burma as part of the Chindit expeditions behind Japanese lines.
The first expedition included the 13th Battalion, who marched into Burma in February 1943 – their task was to disrupt communication and supply lines. By the end of March they received orders that their mission had been successful and they were to return to India. Some were sick or wounded and couldn’t make the journey out. A few were airlifted to safety, but many had to be left behind. It was a desperate situation. Robert Hyner remembered the orders from their Commanding Officer, Orde Wingate:
“I want you all to get back safely to India. You have my orders that you can go back with a column, a platoon, or with just one mate, as long as you get out.”
Robert said it was obvious Wingate knew they would not make it as a complete unit and stood more of a chance in smaller groups.
It took several weeks to get all of the survivors back to India. Planning for a second Chindit operation began immediately. This time the 1st Battalion would take part. They would fly in to a jungle clearing nicknamed ‘Broadway’ in gliders and clear a runway for powered aeroplanes. The second expedition took place early in 1944.
I had the good fortune recently to interview 94 year old Philip Hayden who had been part of that unit and is, I believe, the last remaining King’s Regiment Chindit living in Merseyside. Philip has an amazing recollection of that time – he told me about some of the horrors that happened on the mission, including having to bury some of his comrades, and how horrific jungle warfare was. He also has an incredible sense of humour and had me laughing at stories of training in India before the expedition and talking to locals in Burma. He also struggles with his hearing due to the malaria he contracted while he was there. He is a true gentleman and I am honoured to have met him. Hopefully he will be able to attend the ceremony tomorrow – if you are there, you will spot him, he wears his Chindit badge with pride.”
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