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
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 .
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.
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 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.
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.