*** CBI -- forming the Fourteenth Army

World War II CBI: Burma--Forming the Fourteenth Army

Figure 1.--The Fourteenth Army formed in eastern India was primarily formed with Empire (Indian and African divisions). Here we see Burmese children and Australian soldiers in a playful formation, probaly in 1945. There were no Australian dvisions in the British Fourteenth Army. In fact Prime-Miinister Churchill and Prime-Minister Curtin had a majorfracus over the return of the 6th and 7th Australian Divisions from the Middle East. Churchill wanted to deploy Australian troops to Burma. Curtin demanded after the fall of Singapore (February 1942) that they be returned to Australia. There were a variety of small units in the Fourteenth Army. Several hundred Australians served in the Burma campaign 1943-45.  This was some of them, but we do not know what unit was involved.

The British Fourteenth Army was British in name only. It was a multi-national Empire force. It consisted of Empire units with the Dominions playing a small part. Most of the force were Indian Army and units raised in Britain's African colonies. The Fourteeth Army was formed in 1943 in eastern India from the remanents of the British fores retreating from Mandalay after the Japanese invasion of Burma. One of the longest retreats in Brittish history. They regrouped in eastern India and new fresh divisions were added. It becane part of the new South East Asia Command. The Japanese did not pursue the British into India, but did launch a disasterous major offensive in 1944. The Fourteenth Army was unique in World War II. It was the only important World War II army from any beligerent consisting of mostly volunteers and not draftees. It was Britain's largest army, and may have been the largest army formation of the War, with almost a million men (by late-1944). Some 13 divisions served with the Fourteenth Army. Only two were British -- the 2nd and 36th infantry divisions. Eight were Indian Army divisions--5th, 7th, 17th, 19th, 20th, 23rd, 25th and 26th divisions. Three were East (11th division) West and West African (the 82st and 82nd divisions). These were the major division level units. There were also quite a number of smaller formations. Notably there were no Burmese formations , although siome of the minority tribal groups like the Kachin and Karen did support the British. The Fourteenth Army became known as the 'Forgotten Army' because it was the lowest priority of all the British armies for men and material. Also the press paid the least attention to it. Here we are talking about the Amerucan and British press. We are not sure about the Induan press. Historians after the War also gave little attentiin to the Fourteenth Army campaigns. . Its primary mission was to defend India and then to drive the Japanese out of Burma. Given that theBritish granted jndeoendence to Bith India and Burma shiortly after the Ear (1947-48), in British terms the 14th Army may seem to have been pointless, but it did divert Jaoanese men and material from the the campaigns where the Pacific War was decided. The primary commander was Lieutenant-General William Slim.


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Created: 5:39 PM 12/20/2022
Last updated: 5:39 PM 12/20/2022