The battle for Meiktila March1945

The remains of a Japanese light tank from the Ha Go campaign, plinthed at the Nagoyan temple in Meiktila

The remains of a Japanese light tank from the Ha Go campaign, plinthed at the Nagoyan temple in Meiktila

Following the Japanese retreat from the borders of India after the defeats at Imphal and Kohima, they were followed by the retrained and reorganized 14th Army. Although many of the units of the British Indian army were the same as those involved in the bitter retreat of 1942, they were now confident and led by competent commanders.

Once they re-entered Burma the army split up into various sections, all making their way towards different objectives on the Irrewaddy river. Lt. General Slim, the British commander, has devised plans to fool the Japanese as to his targets. His immediate opponent, Lt-General Katamura Shihachi ‘s 15th army, was in agreement with his superior General Kimura Heitaro that the British would head for Mandalay.

The Japanese are mistaken

But this was not the case. Mandalay would be taken from the north, while the British used the tactics of the Japanese in 1942, outflanking so quickly the opposition had no answer.

Slim’s “Operation Cloak ” was involved in transmitting radio signals from a bogus HQ, encouraging the belief that the target was Mandalay, but the 4th Corps (17th Indian Division and 255th Tank Brigade) was sent down the difficult Myittha valley and crossed the Irrawaddy, heading straight away to Meiktila to cut off the Japanese supply and communications network to Mandalay and the north.

Meitila stands astride two lakes which become larger during the rainy season

Meiktila stands astride two lakes which become larger during the rainy season

The allies now had complete air superiority, and to the surprise of the Japanese whose high command was having a meeting in the town at the time, the 4th coprs reached the outskirts of the Meiktila on February 28th

This building at the west of the central bridge was the Kempei Tai headquaters, now the  offices of the military backed Union Solidarity and Develpment Party

This building at the west of the central bridge was the Kempei Tai headquaters, now the offices of the military backed Union Solidarity and Develpment Party

Hand to hand fighting

After tough fighting, much of it hand to hand against suicidal defenders, Meiktila was taken on March 3rd.


The Japanese were shocked at the loss and were determined to retake the town, and launched counter attacks, some of which put in danger the airfields north-west of the own which had become the logistic centre of British operations.

This is the road to the railway station along which the Japanese had dug holes, lightly covered with straw. A single Japanese soldier sat inside each holding an aerial bomb and a stone, which they intended to detonate when a British tank crossed. The Japanese had little heavy armour, and this was desperation. In this case an officer from the  Deccan Horse  shot the sitting human bombs, who did not move - they had been ordered to die only when a tank passed overhead

This is the road to the railway station along which the Japanese had dug holes, lightly covered with straw. A single Japanese soldier sat inside each holding an aerial bomb and a stone, which they intended to detonate when a British tank crossed. The Japanese had little heavy armour, and this was desperation. In this case an officer from the Deccan Horse shot the sitting human bombs, who did not move – they had been ordered to die only when a tank passed overhead

The Japanese retreat begins

The attack continued on through the month of March, but by then Mandalay had fallen, and the severely weakened Japanese began a retreat south.

During the Japanese retreat their headquarters were bombed. It is now  on an army hospital base south of the towm

During the Japanese retreat their headquarters were bombed. It is now on an army hospital base south of the town

In 1945 the fighting outside the town was considered desert warfare as the conditions ere so dry. Present day "grening' of the area, financed by the Japanese and South Koreans have transformed the area

In 1945 the fighting outside the town was considered desert warfare as the conditions ere so dry. Present day “greening’ of the area, financed by the Japanese and South Koreans have transformed the area

The Japanese had experienced a heavy defeat. Their communications shattered and their lines of supply compromised – things looked bleak but  the 14th Army advance would be  heavily resisted – there was more fighting to come to get to  Rangoon (Yangon) .

Pagoda outside the former headquarters of the Japanese south of Meiktila

Pagoda outside the former headquarters of the Japanese south of Meiktila

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