Nepali Times
Burmese days

Contuining his saga, Pun recounts landing in a glider deep inside Burma. This serialisation of the testimonies of retired Gurkha soldiers is translated from Lahurey ka Katha by Dev Bahadur Thapa.

The Japanese had advanced to Manipur when we confronted them. On their arrival at Manipur, they sent word to us that the following day they would have morning tea in Peshawar. Maybe they would, since they were a strong force. Their headquarters were in Moulu in Burma, where they had stored their weapons and supplies. Our strategy was to capture Moulu by cutting off their supply lines rather than confront them head-on. So, we marched through the jungle and approached Moulu. We had 50 rounds of bullets and 7 cases of rations to last a week. The commander gave instructions to carry as much as we could, but said we must stock up on tea and salt. Since water is available everywhere, we could somehow survive by having boiled water mixed with tea and salt.

At nightfall we reached the spot. A large contingent of troops was approaching on the road under which we had laid a landmine but we didn't have time to fix up the fuse. Since they had arrived by train, it was impossible to detonate it then. We arrived at the conclusion that there is no sense in waiting since more enemy soldiers would soon be there. We detonated the explosive and the bridge was blown up.

The enemies occupied a hilltop and had their brigade stationed at a nearby town. From time to time they came to look, but did nothing else. In the previous encounter we had captured one of their wireless sets. We heard everything broadcast about their activities, yet could not decipher a single word because no one spoke Japanese. So we sought the help of a captain who had spent a considerable time in Japan and was well versed in Japanese and put him on wireless duty. He picked up their messages and informed us about their activities and the timing of their attacks. We found out that they had a tank and a second-class brigade stationed there. Their plan was to do away with us since out of one regiment, only half was there and the rest had been posted elsewhere. They had an action schedule with the timings for artillery firing, aerial bombardment, attack by tank and finally an assault by the infantry.

For our part, we built bunkers and hid inside. We collected information about their plans and forwarded the message to higher authorities at Tinsuka. We were told not to worry and they promised to send all possible help. Our planes dropped in wires, rations and weapons before their planes could come. We fitted in wire fences. As zero hour approached we made a plan to capture their defence positions. Only those personnel who could handle heavier weapons were placed in the camp. I was one of those as I was good at operating the three-inch hooker machine guns, rifles and pet guns. Pet guns are used in demolishing bunkers.

Their attack starting with bombardment. Except for one type of bomb, the rest did not do much harm. This was the one that made big ditches, shook everything and sank to a considerable depth and before exploding. Then came their planes. Our planes were nowhere in sight. Their tanks advanced, followed by infantry. Their troops had already approached our barbed wire fencing. Just then our fighter planes arrived and dogfights started in the air. Little parachutes started dropping from the sky, and we wondered why they were dropping food while the fighting was going on, only to realise that they were bombs. They dispersed all over and exploded with loud bangs. If one exploded nearby, everyone was killed. After eliminating the ground force the planes started attacking the tanks. The enemy planes were chased away. Some were burning as they flew away. In short, everything was smashed.

Only one enemy commander and 12 other ranks with him escaped death. All troops in the frontlines met with death. A handful of troops not in full fighting form were in the camp, yet they too were finished off by our troops.
Our next target was to capture Mogaon. We walked eight days to reach the hill. On the ninth day two squads of troops were ambushed. Luckily I escaped unhurt. We stablished our camp at some distance and sent forward our men for scouting. They found out where the enemy had laid more ambushes. Accordingly, we made a plan and proceeded further.

That town looked like it was surrounded by sea on all sides, the river was so wide. A company had been stationed there and a bridge built. The bridge had been blown up, but the enemy had fixed up wooden planks and made it serviceable. They had designed the bridge so that it made considerable noise when someone crossed it. A full company of enemies had been stationed to safeguard the bridge. As it was the main route leading to the town, we had no other option but to cross the bridge.

First the English battalion attacked the bridge, then the Indian regiments. In all six assaults were made, but it could not be captured. Now came the turn of our Gurkha battalion. I was assigned to scout out the area. Making the slightest noise could spell doom. One should mark the difference between shoes in use now and those used then. Then we had shoes fixed with nails and they made creaking noises. I wrapped cloth on my feet and inspected the right and left side of the bridge. They had put gun posts on both ends of the bridge. After a thorough reconnaissance, I came back slowly and steadily.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)