Operations in
Burma and Siam

The Japanese occupied Burma (now called Myanmar) and the purpose of our bombing raids was to damage the airports and prevent them from capturing the eastern part of India, including Calcutta and Bengal. In this theatre of war bombing raids were always carried out at night. They were essentially nuisance raids and in everyone's opinion were not very effective. In all I flew on 28 operations to such Burmese targets as Toungoo (6 times), HeHo (4 times), Akyab, now called Sittwe, and Rangoon (7 times), Mulmein, now Mawlamyine, (3 times), Mandalay (2 times), Maymyo, Magwe, and Meiktila, as well as to Bangkok in Siam, now Thailand (2 times). As an air observer/navigator it was my job to get to the target, drop the bombs, and return to base.

In the Burma campaign the risk of being shot down by fighters and/or anti-aircraft flak was at a minimum and certainly it did not compare in any way with the dangers of the European theatre. However, the distance to the targets was relatively long and we were completely on our own. The average flying time to the targets was nine hours. The longest operations I participated in were two to Bangkok. The first trip involved flying to an advanced landing ground for refuelling and loading of bombs, flying to the target at Bangkok, and on the return leg of the flight again stopping at the advanced landing ground before proceeding to home base. On the second trip we left our home base with a full bomb load, again landed at an advanced landing ground for refuelling, then to Bangkok, and returned directly to our home base. From the landing ground to our target and back to our home base was a trip of 13 hours, 15 minutes. If anyone in this theatre of operations was ever shot down by the Japanese their chance of survival was not high.

The bombsights we used were antiquated, navigation was by the stars, and certainly not with the latest sextants. In addition, the maps were not always reliable. Despite these inconveniences we managed. There was very little flying during the monsoon period, which is from May to October.

On 19 April 1943, during a night raid on Toungoo airport, we were attacked by two Japanese Zero fighter aircraft. We were taken completely by surprise and amazingly, but fortunately for us, they overshot us on their first pass. We took evasive action but the attack continued and we were hit several times. Bullets actually went through the self-sealing gas tanks without causing any fires. Luckily, no one was injured. One bullet went through two of my navigational books before lodging in the third one. Had it gone through, it would have hit my right leg. I still have the bullet. We returned to base safely.

Apart from the attack by Japanese Zero fighters over Toungoo airport the majority of our trips were uneventful, but a few "ops" still remain in my memory.

One was an "op" to Mulmein, which is situated south of Rangoon. When we reached the target it was covered with clouds, but I could see that the other planes were bombing a small town situated a few miles south of the target. I refused to drop our bombs there and I jettisoned them in the Bay of Bengal on the return leg of our journey. On arrival back at the base I was the only observer who insisted that the wrong target had been bombed and was concerned that perhaps I had made an incorrect decision. A short while afterwards my claim was confirmed and I was vindicated.

Another "ops" which I clearly remember was on 7 January 1944, when we mined Rangoon harbour. Flying at an altitude of 300 feet we dropped four 1,000 pound mines. I felt this was a worthwhile effort. The two "ops" to Bangkok, Siam, which were especially long flights also remain in my memory.

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