Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

Jungle Nightmare: Told by British And Japanese Soldiers

Discussion in 'The War In The Pacific' started by Jim, Aug 25, 2010.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2006
    Messages:
    3,324
    Likes Received:
    8
    via War44
    Private Ernest Faulkner was 23 when he was drafted out to the Far East. Although in the same regiment as Jim Howard (next story below), his reminiscences are from the men's, not the officers', point of view.

    Ernest Faulkner, pictured at the end of the war on a stopover in Doolally, India, where troops were gathered prior to repatriation.

    [​IMG]

    We went through all the proper training for jungle warfare marching and walking, sleeping out in the wild. We used to go on tea and rubber plantations, and of a night you could hear the beaters keeping the animals away. There were quite a lot of wild animals around, elephants and leopards. We had scorpions and centipedes too. The chaps used to dig a pit and take a scorpion and a centipede and let them fight it out, taking a bet on it. Then they'd get a little snake and put it in too. The centipedes were five or six inches long. We relied a lot on air drops of food and we used to look forward to them. A couple of times we ran out of rations. Once, one of our officers said to a chap, after we'd left one area, 'Go back and get the potato peelings'. We'd buried them in paper (we used to bury things like that). This chap had a tin of jam, so we dipped the peelings in it. We were on half rations some times in Burma. Once I put these white panels out so that the aircraft could see where we were so food could be dropped. As it happened, we had to move on, and we went off so fast, I don't know what the result was, but I did hear a story that they dropped rubber dinghies instead of food'

    We were mainly on the defensive. In Burma they were building these roads right down to the Chindwin and as the roads progressed, we moved down to the Chindwin itself. While they were building these roads, the army was preparing all these defences on the hills, trenches, so that when we did withdraw, it was already dug and all we had to do was wait for the Japs. It was good thinking. It must have been about 50 miles we withdrew, from the Chindwin up into these hills. We went into prepared positions all the time, so we had an advantage on the hills. You only dug trenches when you were advancing. On the Ukhrul road, when we went round to the back of the Japs, we built our own trenches then. We would just lie in wait for them in these trenches and they would arrive swarms of them. We were really outnumbered and on each hill we had a small number of men. Some times on a hill you'd just have a section of chaps another might have a platoon, another one a company. The Japanese would capture one hill, and then bypass the next one. I wasn't actually on Nippon Hill, but I was on the next one. The Japs would attack Nippon Hill, but at the same time bypass it, working round, then capture another small hill. We were on Crete Hill, and they went around that one and captured this little pimple, Lynch's Pimple, we had only a section of men there and they overran them. They did manage to cut us off by this tactic eventually, but the Ghurkhas went in on the last night and put in a counterattack. They didn't completely get rid of the Japs, they had so many men but somehow we got ourselves and the wounded down. The Japs' main attacks were by night, daytimes there were just shelling with mortars. They had these 105s and 75s, and you could tell what they were by the noise. With a 105 you knew you had a few more seconds, you got used to it. They had a 72, and when they used to come over you had to get down quick. They were nearer, didn't fire so far away. The worst ones were these whizzbangs, little things on wheels, cannons deadly at about 500 yards. You never heard them, it was just SHOOSH.

    When we got off that hill one night we were just running across the road as they opened up their machine guns. You know we only lost one bloke. We were running through them and they were firing in the dark. We got just round a bend then, and saw the wounded Ghurkhas, all bandaged up after they'd put in their counterattack during the night. The Japs were really vicious they'd fight to the end. They were so good at camouflage and getting underground, they couldn't be seen by aircraft. The artillery would bombard them, but they were still there. We, on the other hand, would' attack during the day. We never got any peace or sleep at night. Half the night they'd shell you, then half an hour would go by, and then another attack. They'd do the same thing again, the Japs. On Nippon Hill they had barbed wire and left a gap, and you could see them there, they'd be shot down and a little while later another mob would come in. In the morning they had 60 to 70 bodies lying by the wire. They had no brains to alter their tactics. The Company Commander used to shoot the Very light, and you could see and just sling the grenades at them. They seemed doped up!

    It was a job to get hold of any prisoners, but we started getting more on the Ukhrul road. They all had their hair shaved off. They were only kids, a lot of them. Maybe it was shock, or it could be they were brain-washed. They knew their officers would mow them down with their swords if they failed them. On several occasions we found these Japs, not a mark on them, with skin like a new born baby. They must have been killed by the blast. We found bodies stone dead without a mark on them. They couldn't have known a thing about it. They used to have these Jap flags tied around their waists, when they captured a hill, they'd put the flag up. A lot of them had flags; it was an honour to get there first. On another hill at Tamu there was an outbreak of scrub typhus, we lost a lot of blokes through that. We were on this hill and, one night when I was on guard, there was a sort of earth tremor. I sort of went up in the air and the ground shook. We heard it was an earthquake along the Brahmaputra. After that, everyone was going down with typhus. The order came that we had to scrape all the green vegetation off the hill and burn it. They reckoned these ticks were living on it. We did this patrol for six or seven weeks and no one was allowed to shave, in fact, our CSM did shave, and they busted him down to a sergeant. It was in case they cut themselves and got an infection. We ended up like a load of tramps. Fleas, don't talk to me of fleas. We went up on this hill and there were head hunters' huts. When you came out of them, you were running alive … scratching.

    A group of Chindits, many with trousers removed for the crossing, negotiate their way over one of the smaller rivers in Japanese occupied Burma.

    [​IMG]

    In the monsoons you were never dry. You got used to it and plonked down where you were in the mud. The gas cape was your only protection. We were on the move and it would take all day to get up one hill, slipping and sliding in the mud with these mules, they went through hell. We had elephants too, on some hills. We fed them on special rations which came on the air drops and they ate grass and bamboo too. Boys would give them biscuits, mouldy stuff from their rations. The corned beef was really corned mutton and when it was hot you'd open the tin and it would come out liquid. Horrible. It was rotten, but we'd boil it up as a stew. I think it was the First World War rations; some of them had 1918 on the bottom. We had some Canadian rations too, Quaker Oats, and they were full of weevils. You just put them in the pot too. Eventually we knew the Japs were taking hell of a beating and withdrawing all the time. The men were pushing the Japs back on to us. It was a nightmare for them. You should have seen the graves. Bones and arms sticking out, they couldn't bury them. We knew we were winning.
     
  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2006
    Messages:
    3,324
    Likes Received:
    8
    via War44
    1st Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment

    Jim Howard was Second Lieutenant with the 1st Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment, otherwise known as 'the 11th of Foot' or 'the Bloody Eleventh'. The name was coined by the Duke of Wellington in 1811 due to the frequency of their getting decimated . . .

    We got put on a ship, no-one knows why and sailed up to Karachi. Nobody knew what the hell we'd come for, so we spent six or seven weeks there, until someone said we were expected in Ceylon. There was me with these bright little gold pips and 20 years of age. I don't think that any of my men had served less than six months in jail, but they looked after me like a child. They were in command, I wasn't. We joined the battalion in May 1942 then did some really first-class 100 per cent training. It was good, awful but absolutely first-class.

    A Japanese captured on the Arakan front is given tea and a cigarette by his Indian captors.

    [​IMG]

    One thing that was a great comfort and was always true is that the Japs are a lousy shot. If he gets a machine gun, he'll tear hell out of the trees above your head, and with reasonable luck he'll get nowhere near you at all. But he's absolutely deadly with a mortar, and the first thing you know about a mortar is that you've got a bomb among you. We developed an attitude of crawling about the jungle, we stalking them and them stalking us. We had a Gurkha battalion with us and a Sikh battalion and we all learned from each other. We got acclimatised to the jungle. You'd get people in high command saying, 'It's only seven miles, ought to be able to do that in a couple of hours'. Seven miles in thorn jungle in Ceylon takes you five days. You learned that sort of thing. More important, the officers and commanders learned too. The generals knew what to expect. If some idiot from Corps HQ said, 'It's only seven miles, do it in a couple of days', a general would say, 'Don't be silly, it's going to take them a fortnight.'

    In Ceylon we picked up about seven to ten casualties a week with malaria. It was recognised that you couldn't expect to operate in that sort of country without doing something about it, so they got top scientists from the UK and they brought out malarial suppressants. It took a month to get anywhere, and by that time 40 per cent were down with malaria. In action, if someone came down with malaria, they'd be taken off. Later in '44, the Americans were there with these tiny light aircraft and they'd take you away. We would wander around in the jungle singing in the most unmelodious sense … You are my Sunshine in the pitch dark. Wherever the Devons went you'd hear this converging through the jungle. We always had scouts out in front making a single track through the jungle. If you've got mules with you you've got to cut it twice as wide and it takes you twice as long. Something happens, and you can hear it. Everybody just scatters; the whole column disappears, because you're all mobile. You've got nothing everything you've got is with you, on your mule or on your back. It was a very relaxed war for the Devons. I said to my sergeant one day, 'Look, somebody reckons there are some Japs down there'. He replied, 'Ooh ar. I should leave them alone, sir. They ain't doing you no harm'. That's what we did.

    A British Howitzer crew, concealed with jungle camouflage, go to work in the scorching heat and hostile conditions of a unique theatre of war.

    [​IMG]

    In Ceylon there's either a Russell's viper or a yellow banded krait, deadly little bootlace snakes. They were so miserable in the monsoon that they snuggled up inside our monsoon capes with us to keep warm. I remember a chap came in and asked 'What's this?' with a deadly krait in his hand. In battle you knew what would happen if you were captured, so you didn't surrender. They didn't surrender. There was no heroism involved; it just wasn't one of the options open to you. We lost one officer as a prisoner, we were pretty sure he was killed, and I'm sure we didn't lose anybody as prisoners. Nobody thought of surrendering any more than the Jap did. Surrender wasn't an option, which makes it a lot easier for a young officer. When you fought a reasonably civilised enemy like the Germans (not including Buchenwald) you've got a chance of being treated decently as a prisoner, but not with the Japs. A young officer was never under pressure to surrender to save unnecessary casualties. It takes a load off your mind. The troops never wanted that either, it was a different fighting ethic from any other circumstances. You just fight on to the logical conclusion. It reduces your options, it was win or die, and that was it.
     
  3. Jim

    Jim New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2006
    Messages:
    3,324
    Likes Received:
    8
    via War44
    Toshio Hamachi was a section commander in No 3 Platoon, Sakazawa Company of Takemura Battalion. After months in Burma, the battalion commander, Takemura, assembled all his companies to plan an attack on the Chindits towards Katha.

    I got the job of recceing the enemy situation. I was to give a burst of rapid fire if I met the enemy, then leave at once. With a feeling, 'This is it', we gripped our bayonets and felt the hot blood coursing through our veins. 'Fix bayonets!' I gave the order. The men whipped their bayonets from their scabbards and fixed them firmly on the end of their rifles. The yellow gold sun began to glow on the horizon. Suddenly, through a gap in the clouds, a US Mustang hurled itself on us. Someone screamed, ‘they’ve spotted us! Scatter!’ Then there was the metallic scream of the aircraft diving low, raking the ground with machine-gun bullets. I heard someone panting up behind me. It was Lance Corporal Toshio Hakobe. 'Section leader, it's the enemy!' He pointed. 'That house there, they're coming this way!'

    Lance Corporal Iwama , Corporal Moriyama, PFCs Fujii, Kato and Inaba vanished into the trees, keeping an eye open for the enemy. As they moved off … can it have been about 800 metres away? Eight enemy soldiers carrying rifles came into view. ‘Kato, watch out for enemy on our flank, now!' I warned him. ‘Yes, sergeant. I can see three more men.’ Moriyama stood beside him, tense, and hissed to Hakobe, 'You've got the LMG, shoot them down!' I controlled them. 'Wait! It's too soon to fire'. Meanwhile, the enemy, quite unawares, came along the path towards us. Moriyama said to me, 'Let's do something.'

    As he urged me on, I watched the enemy come up, step by step, and then gave the order. 'Right, let the bastards have it. Kill the lot!'

    They were about 500-600 metres away. Hakobe had quite a reputation as a marksman with the LMG, 100 shots, 100 bull's-eyes. I was confident he would deal with the enemy, and left it to him. I saw the khaki uniforms coming closer. ‘300 metres, FIRE’ Their rifles spat fire; the bullets tore into the enemy soldiers. They were obviously taken completely by surprise, but at once they began to return our fire. Four of them were hit as they ran forward. Brave chaps, even though they're the enemy. On the edge of the group one of them was hit by a burst from the LMG and fell to the ground, soaked in blood and moaning in pain.

    Easter Sunday 1943, the RAF comes to the rescue of a group of British raiders, many of whom are sick and wounded, and all running out of supplies, by a drop of vital food and equipment.

    [​IMG]

    'Corporal Hakobe , you're firing high' 250 metres, fire lower!' I yelled. He gripped the LMG and cut a swath with it from left to right. Three of the enemy dropped. They were down on the ground now, crawling forward, but when they saw one of their men fall in front of their very eyes, they panicked. 'Cease fire! Take the enemy alive'. I searched the blood soaked corpse of one of them. Cigarettes, chewing-gum, tins, and distributed it round the section. We continued to sweep north in pursuit of the disappearing phantom enemy airborne troops, cutting our way through the thorny creepers. The men moved slowly forward further and further into the interior, 2km, 3km. A mood of disquiet and unease began to come over the men. The path was a series of hills covered in deep forest; it was simply an endless track, covered in weeds. We broke off the search and returned to our unit. At the time, the enemy force was reputed to have increased to 10,000 men. The main body of the company kept recceing the area, but the airborne troops were forever changing their ground and never showed up. Two days before Sakazawa Unit arrived at Katha, a British airborne unit tried to cross the Irrawaddy in broad daylight. They were seen by one man of the Japanese garrison unit who was bewildered and paralysed with fear when he saw them. The garrison put together two sections in charge of an NCO and hid behind the embankment to observe the enemy on the opposite bank. The marksman of the group, LMG already aimed at the enemy, nervously fingered the grip as he waited impatiently for the command. The enemy was crowded on to wooden rafts, their weapons and ammunition piled up, with mules to complete the load. It looked to be only 80 metres across at this point, as the raft left the river bank. The LMG chattered and spat flame, breaking the peace and calm of the river. The enemy troops, crowded and bunched together on the raft, were mown down with no chance of returning our fire. In the smoke, the screams of the British troops in their agony were drowned by the din of the rifles and the LMG. You could hear the mules whinnying as the bullets found their mark. It was as if the enemy were so many blood-sacrifices. The bullets sang in the midst of the scattering spray of water. 'Got you! Die, you hairy bastards!' our men shouted. Those British troops who were still alive dived into the water, only to sink into the weeds at the river bottom. In the eddies you could see the profuse bright blood of the British troops. It was the work of a moment, and we had knocked the heart out of the astounded airborne troops.
     

Share This Page