VJ DAY 15th August 1945
On the 15th August 1945, Japan finally surrendered to the allies bringing the bitter fighting in the last theatre of the second world war to an end.
This day would be known afterwards as “VJ Day” or “Victory over Japan Day”.
On this day two units of the county’s infantry regiment were present in theatre:-
The 6th Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and a contingent from the 2nd (Airborne) Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.
Their stories are told below, members of “the Forgotten Army”.
The 6th Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry was formed in June 1940. After training it was engaged on defensive tasks in Southern England against the threatened German invasion. By early 1942 that threat had diminished but a new threat from the Japanese in Burma and India had arisen. Consequently in mid 1942 the battalion was sent to India where they became part of the 74th Indian Infantry Brigade of the newly formed 25th Indian Infantry Division.
In March 1944 the Division sailed from MADRAS to CHITTAGONG close to the India/Burma border ready to go into action in the ARAKAN region on the north-west coast of Burma. On crossing from India into Burma the 25th Division took up a defensive position near the coast at MAUNGDAW. Shortly afterwards the Battalion moved to forward positions on the southern edge of the British base. An isolated outpost called BOLSTER FORCE was established well ahead of the other British positions. Numerous Japanese attacks were repulsed and extensive patrol activity was continued throughout the monsoon season despite the appalling weather.
The battalion fought many engagements on the ARAKAN Front in a long land and seaborne advance down the west coast of BURMA. In December 1944 the 74th Brigade cleared the whole of the MAYU Peninsula with the 6th Battalion carrying out a daring all-night forced march of over twenty miles to capture the coastal town of DONBAIK. The Brigade then prepared and executed an amphibious landing on AKYAB Island and an assault on AKYAB airfield and town. In order to frustrate a major Japanese withdrawal the 25th Division made a series of seaborne assaults to cut the enemy’s only two lines of communication which led from their base at TAMANDU to Central Burma. The 6th Battalion and the rest of 74th Brigade made a sixty mile journey from AKYAB to support the capture of the MYEBON Peninsula which covered the mouth of a maze of tidal waterways leading inland.
In late January 1945 they sailed eastward to land on the KANGAW Peninsula and carried out a series of water-borne raids at night which culminated in the capture of KANGAW.
Another of the Division’s brigades had sailed fifty miles southward down the coast to land in the Japanese rear at RU-YWA. The initial landing had been unopposed but the Japanese who had been caught by surprise started to react. Consequently the 6th Battalion and the rest of 74th Brigade proceeded in landing craft through a maze of waterways to RU-YWA where a difficult landing was made in an exceedingly muddy mangrove swamp.
They then moved northward to attack TAMANDU where despite heavy casualties the attack went in as planned and the Battalion pressed on northward destroying a number of enemy positions with great dash.
With the capture of TAMANDU the final task was to capture an important feature which completely dominated the west-to-east road leading to the AN PASS. A very stubborn action took place in which the Battalion’s mortars worked for four days and nights virtually non-stop and under great difficulties. Finally the few surviving Japanese ran away leaving their guns.
With all their objectives achieved the 6th Battalion sailed back to India in April 1945 after a short rest at AKYAB, their first respite from a year-long campaign of continuous action.
They then prepared for the next campaign in South-East Asia, the re-capture of Malaya.
In the event hostilities ceased abruptly and the 25th Indian Division was disbanded. Most of those who came out with the battalion came home during October for demobilisation.
The battalion was finally disbanded on 5th December 1945 with the remaining soldiers being transferred to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
2nd (Airborne) Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.
Following VE Day the 6th Airborne Division was withdrawn back to the UK. In the middle of June, the Division was warned for service in Southeast Asia, and an Advance Party of seven officers and thirty ORs from the battalion left for India on 14th July 1945. Their task was to learn how to operate and survive in the jungle. The thought was that an operation might be mounted into French Indo-China or Malaya. The troopship arrived in Bombay on 2nd August but it was not until the middle of August that they reached the India Command Jungle Training Camp. By now Japan had surrendered and the “52nd” contingent would eventually rejoin the rest of the battalion which had been sent to Palestine.