A little while back, I posted the ‘The extraordinary Tale of a Chinese Agent in Burma’. Here is the story of another Chinese agent, one who trained with Li Jui.
In September 1943, a group of Chinese men arrived in India to be trained by SOE. They came were the first group of Chinese Nationalists to arrive as part of an agreement with General Cheng Chieh Min, so they were specially supplied by the Kuomintang (KMT) Government. They were accompanied by a Chinese officer, ‘presumably’ their interpreter. Relations between the British colonial authorities and the Chinese had not been particularly fraternal during the 1930s, and there was no sudden warmth after the Japanese attacked Burma and the two countries became allies. By 1943, evidently relations had not improved, for it was considered ‘most important for our future relations with CHUNGKING that these men should receive the very best training anf [sic] treatment that we can offer.’ There were 21 students in the group, who were codenamed PANDAS.
One of the Chinese men in the party was Li Fu Tsai, also known as Fu Tsai. Fu Tsai was born in 1920. He was a shopkeeper in civilian life, and spoke Mandarin, Fukinese, Cantonese and a little English. He is recorded as having knowledge of the Rangoon area, although it is unclear whether his shop was in the city. Before going to India to join SOE, he had completed one year’s ‘special training’ in China.
The group received extensive training with SOE. First was the filter course to establish suitability for further training. Fu Tsai’s record has him at Poona from 7 October 1943 until 11 January 1944. The SOE school was actually in Kharakvasla, near Poona, and called the Eastern Warfare School (India), often abbreviated to EWS(I). There was jungle to train in here, and it was the home of the Paramilitary training course.
In October, it was reported that Fu Tsai was ‘[k]een and intelligent. Should do quite well.’ Later, in November, he was described by SOE’s conducting officer for the group, Major Reid, as ‘[q]uite intelligent and a good worker, but gives the impression of never being very serious.’ Reid continued that Fu Tsai tried ‘to avoid leadership, but has the ability to be one if he tries.’
Reporting on Fu Tsai’s jungle training, Lt. Mahanta wrote: ‘Pleasant and willing to do anything that comes his way. Average intelligence. Keen on learning and tries to make himself accustomed to living on hardship.’
His demolitions instructor, Lt. Wheeler, wrote: ‘One of the more active members of the class, and is outstanding as a keen worker. His demolitions work is sound, and he is capable of organising a small raid. Exam. 81%’
After EWS(I), the Pandas went on leave in Madras.
On 23 January 1944, Reid updated his thoughts on Fu Tsai, writing: ‘Gone up one in order of merit. Most intelligent man in class. Still gives impression of being light-hearted but showed up well as leader on schemes latterly.’
On 26 January they started their next course at the School of Eastern Interpreters (SEI). This training school was located in Tagore, about 19 miles from Calcutta. SEI was also known as Eastern Warfare School (Bengal) or EWS(B). Training at EWS(B) was modelled on the SOE training syllabus run at Beaulieu in the south of England, where students learnt ‘security, surveillance, agent management, and the planning of subversive organisation.’ There was also instruction in intelligence gathering and reporting. The training at EWS(B) lasted until 8 March.
The officer commanding at EWS(B) reported that Fu Tsai had good fitness and stamina; ‘Aptitude for Agents/PW work – Yes, his youth is the only factor against him; Leadership – Yes if he were older; Intelligence – above the average of the class; A very useful man, one of the best on the course, the only factor to his disadvantage is his youth. He is steady, keen and intelligent. One of the very few who would face water and appreciated physical fitness.’ Major Reid wrote that he was now a ‘[g]ood leader. Has organising ability. Patient. Good when interrogated. Too young for PW [Political Warfare]. Quick brain. Good physique.’
From the 11 March, the Pandas went on leave in Madras again. They returned to Calcutta on 1 April, but there was a problem. The Pandas ‘[r]efused to drop on operations. Trouble with CHUNGKING. Agents sent back to Madras for holding pending clearance of trouble.’ They were still in Madras on 16 May, five weeks later. This period of trouble with Chungking coincides with a deterioration in relations between SOE and the KMT over Operation Spiers, an operation to the Kokang area of Burma, a region bordering Yunnan province. The issue was the location of the Burma-China border, and had a history going back to the 1890s. SOE was convinced that the KMT were trying to annex Burmese territory; at the very least they prevented the Spiers mission from completing its operational tasks.
Whether Fu Tsai was still in Madras in mid May is unclear, for his personal record and the chronology of his group don’t correlate. Fu Tsai’s record has him back in EWS(I) completing a W/T course from 24 April. Both chronologies agree that by July, Fu Tsai was in Ceylon at ME 25 for further W/T training. The two records then deviate again, with Fu Tsai’s training card indicating that he was at Meerut for the advanced W/T course from 8 November 1944.
At least five courses, 14 months, and several thousand miles later, Fu Tsai was ready to go on operations. He was dropped into Burma on 2 January 1945 as the W/T operator for team Elephant. This operation was part of the Billet operations, and since it was to mid-Burma, it had the geographical designation Grain. The Billet operations in the Arakan were codenamed Manual, and those to lower Burma were Nation.
Fu Tsai’s Elephant team were dropped near Kyaukse with the intention of contacting the Burma Defence Army (BDA) and the Anti-Fascist Organisation (AFO) to help them to raise guerrillas to assist the advance on Mandalay by the XIV Army. There were three others in the team, named on this record as Po Yone, Ko Ko Gyi and Yang Yi. These are aliases, for the lead member of the team was Tin Shwe, one of the original Billets who had marched out of Burma to India in July 1942 with Thein Pe. Tin Shwe, as a high profile Burmese Nationalist, was expected to use his contacts in the Mandalay area to bring the BDA and AFO over to the Allied side.
The results of Elephant were disappointing though. Tin Shwe decided to trek 400km south to Toungoo to get instructions from Thakin Soe, the head of the AFO. This took so long that by the time of his return, Mandalay was almost in XIV Army’s possession; the team was over-run by the Army in March. They reported to 19 Division and were then extracted from the field arriving in Calcutta about 23 March 1945.
On leave in Calcutta in April, Fu Tsai was arrested in a police raid on Chinatown, along with other Pandas. They were arrested for not having ‘their Form 111’s in their possession.’ Fu Tsai is reported to have attacked a police sergeant when being returned to his cell. Apparently he did not receive the ‘rough handling’ that might be expected for assaulting a policeman, so it was asked that SOE ‘take disciplinary action against him.’ Perhaps his disciplinary action was the termination of his SOE service, for at the end of May, Fu Tsai was paid off and on 12 June he was ‘[r]eturned to China.’
What happened to Fu Tsai after that is, similar to Li Jui, probably something we will never be able to find out.