A trip past some of the places of military interest – Yangon (Rangoon) to Mawlamyine (Moulmein) Part 1

Taukkyan Cemetery

Taukkyan Cemetery

Today we can explore many of the often passed locations on the route to Bago, and going on further to the Sittang River and Golden Rock, and further still to Mawlamyine and Thanbyuzayat. We will briefly look at ome of the locations of actions which took place in WW2, which changed the world forever

In 1942 the muddled planning and confuse leadership of the British met the determined, war experienced and tactic driven Japanese invasion.

In 1945 the diseased, ill equipped and defeated Japanese army retreated along these same roads and railway lines, routed by the reformed, brilliantly led and well equipped British Indian army – many of the units being those same who were in the shameful retreat of 1942.
Heading north out of Yangon we pass the  the Taukkyan Military Cemetery and still heading towards Mawlamyine, one of the first locations along the route is Hlegu

 

 Hlegu

Hlegu Town

Hlegu Town

On February 28th 1942 General Wavell had taken direct control of the Burma campaign, and he visited Hlegu with his deputy General Hutton (whose policy of splitting British forces to many fronts to resist the Japanese instead of concentrating forces on well defended locations was one of the prime reasons for the British quick collapse).
It was here that General Smyth V.C.(who had given orders to prematurely blow up the bridge over the Sittang while two thirds of his forces were on the wrong side – still a matter of controvery) was dismissed by Wavell. Hlegu was the 17th Division’s temporary headquarters at the time .

A village on the Hlegu bago Road

A village on the Hlegu Bago Road

It was just north of here that the British forces ordered to retreat from Bago encounter Japanese road blocks and very determined opposition. The Japanese had raced across country after crossing the Sittang river by boats supplied by local Burmese boatmen.

 

Bago (Pegu)

Before the advant of the railway and the silting of the river, Bago was an import river port linked directly to the sea

Before the advant of the railway and the silting of the river, Bago was an import river port linked directly to the sea

The action in Bago in 1945 is described in another post. In 1942 the British Indian garrison was ordereed out of the town to join up with the retreat at PayaGyi, but they were outflanked by swift Japanese advance from the Sittang. They managed to breakthrough with losses.

Paya Gyi

Paya Gyi - which means Big Pagoda

Paya Gyi – which means Big Pagoda

Paya Gyi is an important road junction north towards Mandalay, or east towards the Sittang. In he second world wars the scene of fighting in 1942 during the British retreat and in 1945 during the Japanese retreat.

Apart from the total reversals of those retreating in 1942 compared to 1945, by the time the Japanese had reached here to try to get to the Sittang river, the monsoon was in full effect and it was especially heavy All along these roads were dead and dying civilians of allied soldiers in 1942, but in 1945 the whole area was flooded and many had to use the railway embankments which were slightly elevated to the rice fields to walk along.

Waw

Waw railway station and a nearby house was the scene of preliminary negotiations of surrender by a senior officer of the Japanese 33rd Army and various civilians of General Kimura’s ( 28th Army staff) and Gurkha troops of the British Indian army. As the weather was so bad and flooding severe, troops of either side walked along the railway lines which were generally elevated from the floods. Stations and bridges were also fortified by both sides along the line.

Abya

In 1942 is was at this small hamlet, now famous for its dried fish, where General Smyth, who had arrived here, the 17th Divison HQ during the retreat to the Sittang river, was awoken (suffering immense pain from anal fistula) and gave the order to blow the Sittang Bridge after confused message from the bridge head that the defending troop commander could not guarantee to hold the bridge. This decision is still a matter of controversy, and it lead to the end of Smyth’s military career. After the Japanese surrendered 0n 14th August 1945, lack of communications and the bad weather meant Japanes troops were unaware, and difficult negotiation took place here on 26th August beween the Japanese and the British.

Nyaung Khashe

The battlefield of Nyaung Kashe over which th japanese escape the encirclement of the Japanese, who also tried repeated attacks aginst the british lines on the rise in the distance.

The battlefield of Nyaung Kashe over which th Gurkhas escaped the encirclement of the Japanese, who also tried repeated attacks against the British lines on the rise in the distance.

JAPANESE SITTANG SORTIE MADE MORE PROGRESS (from the press 12th July 1945)
Skirmish between Gurkhas and Japanese retreating to the Salween. The action is covered by this press report.
“The Japanese in Burma have made more progress in their Sittang Sally, aimed at aiding their weakening forces west of the river in their escape eastwards, says the Associated Press correspondent at South-Enst Asia Command Head- quarters.
After enduring severe shellfire in a two-day battle to hold the village of Nyaungkashe in a bend of the Sittang opposite Mokpalin, a body of Gurkhas had to withdraw and fought their way through the Japanese who by then were on all sides of the village.

Nyaung Kashe village stationDuring the battle several hundred shells, mostly of 105 mill calibre, fell in the Gurkha's relatively small defended area and at the peak of the shelling 150 fell within half an hour.

Nyaung Kashe village station
During the battle several hundred shells, mostly of 105 mill calibre, fell in the Gurkha’s relatively small defended area and at the peak of the shelling 150 fell within half an hour.

 

We have now reached the Sittang river. An account of the battle for the Sittang Bridge is here. Part 2 of this blog post will follow the road from the east side of the Sittang to the bridge at Mawlamyine.

For more information and assistance to explore this area further please contact www.dtctravel.com.

Posted on by TOBY in Asia, Burma, Day Trip, Myanmar, Remembrance Tour, Specials, Tours 1 Comment

One Response to A trip past some of the places of military interest – Yangon (Rangoon) to Mawlamyine (Moulmein) Part 1

  1. Pingback: Battle of the Sittang Bridge -19 February to 23 February 1942 | Destination Travel Club Asia

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