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Rare awards to the Burmese Army for World War Two

Article about: I have been very lucky to be researching a collection of awards made to loyal Burmese soldiers for service in World War Two. While many of the Burmese sided with the Japanese, the Christian

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    Default Rare awards to the Burmese Army for World War Two

    I have been very lucky to be researching a collection of awards made to loyal Burmese soldiers for service in World War Two. While many of the Burmese sided with the Japanese, the Christian tribes (Chins, Kachins, Karens, etc) remained loyal to Britain. Their awards are rarely seen; after Burma became independent the Burmese military government turned on them and they were forced into camps along the Thai border where they still struggle to survive today. They deserved a lot better from us, but the British Government walked away. Over the years a private scheme operated by retired British officers has worked to support the surviving veterans and their families.

    The Macgregor Medal. Instituted in 1888 for the army in India in honour of Major-General Sir Charles MacGregor, it could only be awarded once a year, if someone qualified, and was for outstanding acts of military reconnaissance. It is the only British-period award that is still maintained by the Indian Army today. It has been awarded 117 times.

    This award was to 50201 Havildar Sein U, 2nd Burma Rifles. "In December 1942, he was part of a patrol which entered Burma prior to the first Wingate expedition. The patrol traversed more than 100 miles of difficult jungle country, avoiding enemy positions whilst conducting pre-operational reconnaissance. As a result of the knowledge gained, Sein U was able, a month later, to guide a column of the Wingate expedition into the heart of enemy-occupied country."

    He joined the Burma Rifles in 1937 and was discharged in 1947. He died in a refugee camp on the Thai border in April 2001.
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    The fantastic Military Cross, Burma Gallantry Medal group to Captain Kum Je Tawng Wah, Burma Signals

    The Burma Gallantry Medal.
    "As Jemadar he was in charge of a party dropped behind enemy lines. Although out of touch with his base, he continued to carry out his role, and obtained much valuable information by personal reconnaissance. He remained behind enemy lines for a period of 15 months, during which time he showed a high regard for duty and a corresponding disregard for his personal safety and interests."

    Military Cross:
    “This officer landed by parachute behind enemy lines in Nov. 44. He rapidly built up a most efficient intelligence network which provided regular and reliable information of great value. He developed the nucleus of a guerrilla force which was already in a high state of efficiency when other officers were dropped in during Dec. to command this force. He was withdrawn in Feb. 45 and again landed by parachute behind enemy lines in March where he presently is developing an intelligence network with his customary courage and efficiency.”

    Mentioned in Despatches 7 November 1946

    Kum Je Tawng Wah, M.C., B.G.M. died in Burma in 1999
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    Kum Je Tawng Wah married Maran Lu, a nurse who had volunteered with the British forces in Burma at the start of the war and later transferred to the American hospital unit run by Doctor Gordon Seagrave. She was awarded the Bronze Star.

    The White House
    Washington

    "Maran Lu, Nurse, Seagrave Unit. For heroic and meritorious service in connection with military operations against an enemy of the United States from 9 January 1942 to 20 May 1942. As a nurse in a medical unit organized to provide aid for Allied Forces fighting in Burma, Maran Lu, together with the other nurses in this unit, underwent indescribable hardships and fatigue, worked with limited supplies and facilities, yet saved many lives and did much to maintain morale of troops during the fighting in and the retreat from Burma. Her infailing attention to duty, tireless performance of all tasks, resourcefulness, courage, and unceasing good humour, won the respect and admiration of every one with whom she served."

    In 1943 LIFE magazine visited the unit in Burma and Maran Lu appears in the article.

    Although she wore an MiD emblem, I have never found a Gazette entry for it.
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    Thank you very much for posting these.

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    Super medals groups and well researched, thank you for posting.

    Keith

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    What a great group and excellent history and provenance. The story of the minorities in "Burma" and their loyalty to Britain, is not cloaked in glory on the British side. The Karen and others believed they had cast iron assurances from British officials that "after the war" Britain would support the establishment an independent homeland territory for the tribal, non Burmese, who supported the Allied war effort. But of course nothing eventuated, the natives were expendable.

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    Update on Nurse Maran Lu medals. She did not wear and MiD on her medals, the groups got switched with another one. Have just ordered the 2 volumes written by Gordon Seagrave in the 1940s - Burma Surgeon and Burma Surgeon Returns.
    Steve

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    Steve,

    A fine selection of very rare, hard earned and desirable medals you have shown in thread, in a word excellent!

    Question 1). Are you planning to formally publish your research on Second World War Honours & Awards to Burmese recipients?

    Hopefully, the answer to above is yes - and if so, please post any publication details on this page if it does go into print, as I for one have more then a passing interest in the topic.

    Question 2): Is the Bronze Star Medal to Nurse Maran Lu, engraved named & dated on reverse? If so, what are the details. Please advise

    In recent years I handled 5 x USA WW2 decorations (Legion of Merit & Bronze Stars) awarded to, British, French and Belgian recipients, and each of those was officially engraved on the reverse. By contrast I have also been fortunate to handle a couple of 'Medal of Freedom' groups awarded to French and Belgian nationals, who worked on a'Escape Lines' for downed aircrews, but neither of those were named (and I have never seen any other 'Medal's of Freedom' that were named).

    I look forward to seeing your response to my questions when you get the time.

    In the emantime good luck with your research.

    Regards.

    Mark

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    Mark,

    I have compiled the roll of the BGM (most with citations), the roll of the Order of Burma and the roll of the MacGregor Medal. I did print them into book form for myself but not decided yet what to do.
    From memory there was something on the back of the Bronze Star but I didn't make a note. If I ever get the chance I will have a look.

    I have more stories from the collection to write up, will post something soon.
    Steve

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    Citation for Military Assistance awarded to 246 Lance-Corporal Zau Lai, 3rd battalion Burma Frontier Force, attached to the Kachin Rangers

    Statement of Zau Lai as written:

    No. 246 Corporal Zau Lai enlist Burma Frontier Force 3rd Bn on 30 November 1939.
    1942 March joined to Wingate troop of Chin, while column campaign on attack Japanese.
    Burma columns close up to India defence and then Zau Lai was attached to American 101 Kachin Rangers, 1944 to 1945 on 30 June.
    1946 in September British Government recalled inquiring military servants of before 2nd World War in military of British Government.
    Zau Lai got honourable 1939 to 1945 Star and Citation for Military Assistance.

    At the close of the campaign in Burma the commander of the Kachin Rangers enquired whether he should present his men any token of their service. The reply was to present a Citation for Military Assistance; this was meant to be a certificate. However, the decision was made to produce a medal for those deemed to have rendered valuable service. It is believed that fewer than fifty were presented. They were originally on a green neck ribbon, with the Burmese peacocks along the ribbon.

    As can be seen, Zau Lai probably lost his neck ribbon and so hung it from a 1939-45 Star ribbon.
    The C.M.A. must rank as one of the rarest American gallantry awards. There is an example in the Special Forces Museum in Fort Bragg.

    Zau Lai kept his certificate safe:

    Official Citation for his C.M.A.

    Awarded to Lance-Corporal Zau Lai, 1st Battalion Detachment 101

    Citation from 1st Battalion Headquarters, Detachment 101: June 26, 1945

    1. The Citation for Military Assistance award is hereby bestowed upon L/Corp. Zaulai in recognition of his outstanding services to American troops in Burma.

    2. For outstanding service on Jan. 12, 1945, in the patrol clash at Yethin, L/Corp. Zaulai, Section leader of 1st Section, 1st Platoon. Upon contacting 30 Japs on the outskirts of Yethin, L/Corp. Zaulai's and L. Corp. Bang Zing Gam's sections opened fire on them and continued skirmish until they had expended all amo and were forced to withdraw. While withdrawing, L. Corp. Bang Zing Gam was wounded in the left side of the chest by a Nambu machine gun. L. Corp. Zaulai, with utter disregard for his own life, crawled out under the machine gun and pulled him out to safety.

    3. In recognition of his outstanding service, Detachment 101 wishes to show its gratitude by awarding L/Corp. Zaulai the Citation for Military Assistance.

    Major P.R. Maddox
    Detachment 101
    C.O. 1st Bn.

    The picture shows the Kachin Rangers being awarded the C.M.A. at Padang Manau, 1945.

    Steve
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