Unluckily for my plan of how I was to write this AP, our GM has decided not to be exact about dates any more. It’s about two weeks later – though whether that means two weeks after our heroes arrive at Prome, or two weeks after the convoy out of Rangoon finally arrives at Prome, I cannot tell.
While divisions and brigades are rearranged in a wide area around Prome, the feeling that a blow needs to be struck against the onrushing enemy tables various daring plans. One of those plans leads to tonight’s session.
The characters for tonight’s session
Cpl Bryn Williams, L2 Leadership, a non-smoker(!)
LCpl Pinko McLean, L2 Combat, smokes roll-your-own whenever practical
Pte Cade, L2 Recon, occasional smoker
“Pinko, I’m for the briefing, I’m sure the Rajputs will be fine” – Williams
“Oh aye Corp, the gunga dins are fine fellows, I’ve no problem wi’ them” – Pinko
From picket duty south of Prome
So pet, here I am with the whole platoon south of Prome. In our section under Williams we have Harding and Cade as you know from my previous, then White, Jimbo, Staples and last, Joe Ward. Ward’s a shop-floor lawyer, or barrack-room general, no trouble in peace time but no peace in trouble time. White’s the only other I’ve got my eye on, as he don’t join in as he ought. Staples is another old sweat like Harding but new to us, just out of Palestine or some such. He’s a good example to the other privates, very meticulous with equipment. Paddy and Lou are my off-siders on the Bren, both young – I’m the old dog mark you!
We’ve stood-to all night, and Corp comes back from nattering with Lt. Barnet, the young Rupert we have, and passes on the word our relief will be with us soon. ‘Rajputs’ he says, so I ask him if the buzz is right, and Tojo is turning up in our kit. I see the whites of his eyes – a wee shade leery is our Corp – they say the Welsh are superstitious.
Finally, about the time any attack would have come through by now, we pass back through, but, stand to for another hour behind the Rajputs. Then off to khana.
Just after my boots and toes call – we don’t want anything dropping off! – Corp comes back and says Pinko, you heard the right of it and what’s more there’s rebel Burmans in our Burman Divn uniforms, Japs in Chinaman uniforms and Uncle Tom Cobbly And All by the sound of it.
He says to us, briefing all ranks 1400, so in other words pet I get some kip in until 2pm.
The briefing covers the platoon’s role in a daring raid, but all this will become clear next session so I omit it. Pinko’s letter picks up again after a night river-voyage and march south along the Irrawaddy’s west bank.
Beating down the Irrawaddy
Here we are in our LUP, just time for a quick note on tonight’s larks. We board the Garnet about 1900, as nice a clapped-out old barge of a riverboat as you could ask for, and downriver we pop on the mighty Irrawaddy.
[During the voyage Lt. Barnet shows willing to mingle, and gamely smokes one of Pinko’s roll-your-own fags. He’s also second off the boat after the recce pair]
Early on Lt. Barnet details our section off for forward recce so Cade and Harding are first over, me heaving their packs along until we are snug in the jungle. [Athletics checks, the platoon disembarks and wades ashore safely, even Pinko struggling under two extra packs] Then away off on a track in the night, using the jungle in case of strongpoints. Finally Harding comes back, calling our password, and tells Barnet he’s found the chaung as expected. This is a dryish little gorge, with a bridge over or so we hope – otherwise it’s a long loop march for us!
After we’ve waited in firing positions for a time I hear a Tommy gun. Later, Corp lectures Cade about taking his own action. Ward skives off but no point putting him on a charge – we’re in action.
Cade and Harding: The two expert scouts sneak forward. Cade uses Stealth  to shift quietly to the point where he can see across a clearing at the bridge to embers of a campfire on the far side. There is a lean-to on the left bridge anchor-post, but the most obvious thing is the two men, most likely dacoits, resting at guard, smoking, centre of bridge. Using another excellent Stealth check  Cade shifts further around and overhears enough to guess they are Burmans. With a 14 on Notice, he can’t tell anything about possible reinforcements. He decides to take the initiative and opens up!
Cade empties a mag across the two guards, they both drop, riddled with bullets.
Burmans erupt out of the lean-to and into cover on their clearing edge, within say 100’ of Cade. There are probably three of them, it’s hard to tell.
Williams tells his section to stay put. No point in advancing if the next thing is Cade and Harding running our way! Behind him, the other sections also stay put.
Cade shifts back round to Harding, but Harding also re-positions.
The section arrives, Williams attempting to make Ward soldier. He details Ward off to link to Harding but Ward simply steps into the jungle and sits down, until prodded on gently by Pinko. White and Jimbo generally copy what Staples does, and Staples performs very well. There’s an exchange of fire, in which Williams downs his first man. More by luck than anything the section puts down all three Burmans without any casualties.
To lay up waiting for the next leg
It’s hours after our little clearing action over the bridge when more running water is reported. Corp has put Staples up with Cade to give Harding a spell. Well this is a ford, so as I’m penning this I’ve had the lads drying out feet and kit. We’ve marched upriver a step to where we can scoop faster-running water for our billies, I’m maybe not so weary so here I am jotting these, Paddy and Lou watching back-trail with me and this is lay-up point ‘til next.
An outline of the company, Lt. Barnet’s platoon, and Cpl Bryn Williams’ section
Major Owen – long-serving career officer, and company commander. In his forties.
Captain Cotton – Owen’s 2IC, in his thirties.
Lt Barnet – new commanding officer to the platoon, young – has a public school accent.
Sergeant Fields – Platoon Sergeant, solid pre-war soldier.
Corporal Hook – Corporal Rifle Section 1. Disciplinarian.
Corporal Carter – Rifle Section 2. Older man, also quieter.
[A Vickers section is also attached for this mission]
Rifle Section 3
Corporal Bryn Williams – Former teacher.
Private Harding – Old Sweat.
Private Cade – Formerly of the South West of England, and various magistrates courts.
Private White (White) – an unfriendly misery. The Section’s loner.
Private James (Jimbo) – Young man, recruited shortly after finishing school.
Private Staples (Ned) – New reinforcement, quiet. He is a soldier that served in a different unit before joining the Wiltshires. He takes good care of his kit.
Private Ward (Joe) – Mouthy bloke.
Bren Gun section. This group within a rifle section make sure that the section’s Bren gun is well placed and firing.
L/Cpl Pinko McLean – Bren Gun 1. The largest man in the unit.
Private Lewis (Lou) – Bren Gun 2. Ambitious young fellow.
Private Lonegan (Paddy) – Bren Gun 3. Irish, also young.
A mixed Royal Navy and Royal Marine establishment maintains a flotilla on the Irrawaddy, with the help of private elements such as Burma Timber, but the loss of Rangoon consigns it all to the river-bottom as the Imperial British and Allied forces pull further west and north.
It is not all retreat. This session finds McLean writing his missus during a period of about a month, when 17th Indian and 1st Burma Divisions are deployed in a dispersed pattern around Prome. The 17th sustained terrible losses at Sittaung Bridge and the 1st Burma is hemorrhaging deserters, but there is a strong feeling that the Imperial Japanese and their Burman allies should be attacked. The Corps command certainly means to! – but command at the Theatre level places a very strong emphasis on the appearance of lending support to the Chinese armies north of Prome. This means that at least one-sixth of the Corps is strung out north leaving no useful reserve to build around for a counter-attack.
What does happen is a pair of raids, one by land, one by river, organised at the brigade-and-below level. The river raid is carried out by Marines and scratch commando forces associated with them. They are carried out around 17 March and both are highly successful. Stay tuned to see if this imaginary version is as successful!
Chaung and Nullah: Steep-sided streams typically emptying into a river. During the dry season it’s a nullah, when it has water to wade it’s a chaung.
Dacoit: Bandit. Local numbers swelled dramatically as desertions mounted and prisons emptied. They might work for the enemy if it seems worth their while but their end goal is loot.
Skives off, skiving: Slacking or malingering.
Tojo: Japanese troops in general. This is about the politest term used to refer to Japanese, as the atrocities inflicted by them on wounded and prisoners is common knowledge.