Wednesday 10 July 2013

Burma, My Father And The Forgotten Army (and Patch)

I caught up with a fascinating documentary last night that originally aired on Sunday on BBC 2 but is still available for the next few days here on iPlayer. Burma, My Father And The Forgotten Army is comedian Griff Rhys Jones investigation into his father's service during WW2 as a medical officer for the Gold Coast Regiment forming part of the 82nd West African Regiment which served in Burma.

Elywn Rhy Jones and the men of the Gold Coast Regiment
As I have stated previously, I do find it annoying that the contribution of soldiers from the four corners of the Empire is often forgotten, especially those from countries that were colonies at the time. In Burma itself many of the troops who fought the Japanese were African, Gurkha and Indian yet when we consider the battles of the war the default use of British or Imperial troops leads one to forget that this was not just a white man's war.

Troops of the Royal West African Frontier Force in the Arakan, Burma 1944 by Captain Hugh Micklem
The programme itself was extremely poignant, not only for Griff Rhys Jones' understanding of why his father did not really talk about his experience and his embracing of an ordinary post-war life, but also the interviews with a number of West African veterans from Ghana who fought in the war.

During the war around 375,000 men and women from African countries served in the Empire and Commonwealth forces. Of these 3,387 were killed and 5,549 wounded. It was therefore depressing to learn how poorly they were treated after the war by the Imperial authorities, a protest against broken promises seeing three veterans being shot dead by police in 1948, but really shocking that the families of those West Africans that died fighting the Japanese in 1944 and '45 were not informed of the fact and only found out when the regiments returned to the Gold Coast in 1945 and 1946. It is hard to comprehend that their efforts and sacrifice did not even warrant a telegram to their families.

HQ Company, 81st West African Division, Burma 1944
Overall an interesting documentary, well worth watching not only to gain an insight into the West African contribution in the fighting in Arakan, but also to hear the first hand accounts of brave veterans who fought in the name of the Crown against our enemy.

Gromit of the Day:



  1. Very good and very interesting program. Thanks to sharing.

  2. I thought it was very good too. 'The British Empire in WW2' by Ashley Jackson is a good overview of the contribution by the Empire as a whole.

  3. Thanks for posting that first still - my father was in the GCR and i have a group shot of the european contingent of his battalion, i was going to have to rewatch the programme to check whether Jones was in that shot, but comparing your still will be much easier.

  4. Excellent post. I particularly appreciated the images you used.

    I don't know if you watched Ian Hislop's series on Channel 4, "Not Forgotten", but there were many soldiers from Africa, the Caribbean, India and other parts of the Empire during World War I, too.