After the success of defending Imphal and Kohima, General Slim was keen to keep the pressure on the Japanese and pursue them to the Chindwin River as they retreated back into Burma. By 10 December 1944, the longest Bailey Bridge of the war had been constructed across the Chindwin, and the bridgeheads were expanded and consolidated by mid-December. Only then did Slim consider the ‘Imphal-Kohima battle’ over, and the next stage of his campaign ready to start. This operation had the intention of pursuing the Japanese to the Mandalay area where Slim hoped he would have a chance ‘of really smashing them before the next monsoon’. It was codenamed CAPITAL.
On 16 November 1944, the commander of Force 136, Colin Mackenzie, wrote his outline of how SOE would support Operation Capital:
- To support CAPITAL and the operations of N.C.A.C. by introducing FORCE 136 Special Groups astride Japanese L. of C. These plans have the approval and support of 14 Army and N.C.A.C. The tasks of these Special Groups will be sabotage and the raising of guerilla forces to attack vital Japanese L. of C. and so to:-
(a) Slow down the Japanese rate of build-up.
(b) Contain the maximum number of Japanese troops which will be required to protect their L. of C. and to attempt to quell local resistance.
2. COMPOSITION OF SPECIAL GROUPS.
Special Groups will normally consist of:-
a. 2 British Officers
b. 1 B.O.R.
c. 2 W/T Operators.
d. 15 Burma Personnel, including 1 G.C.O. or Havildar, 2 Naiks or L/Naiks.
3. TRAINING & EQUIPMENT.
a. Special Groups are now in training in Ceylon with the equipment they will use on operations.
b. All Groups will have a full scale rehearsal in INDIA immediately prior to proceeding into the Field.
4. NUMBERS AVAILABLE.
The first complete Groups will be introduced in December 1944. By early 1945, provided all operational personnel expected ae made available, FORCE 136 will have introduced 17 of these Special Groups into BURMA.
All Groups will be introduced to and maintained in their operational areas by air. Details of the sorties required by 357 Squadron are at Appendix ‘A’.
6. OPERATIONAL AREAS.
(a) The approximate operational areas and the code names by which they will be known are shown in Appendix ‘B’, and on the map at Annexure I.
(b) The ops. shown are liable to postponement in the light of last minute information.
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7. OPERATIONAL CONTROL.
(a) Each group will be in direct W/T communication with Group ‘A’ Force 136 CALCUTTA, which will control all operations in the Field.
(b) Group ‘A’ Force 136 CALCUTTA, will be in direct contact by W/T or other means with Force 136 Liaison officers at 14 Army, N.C.A.C., 15 Corps and Eastern Air Command. And will maintain direct liaison with 11 Army Group at CALCUTTA.
(c) The military commander concerned willissue his orders concerning Force 136 operations to the Force 136 Liaison officer at his Headquarters. The Liaison officer will communicate these orders to Group ‘A’ Force 136 CALCUTTA, who will pass the necessary instructions to operations in the Field.
(a) Similarly operational intelligence from the Field will pass to Force 136 Liaison officer via Group ‘A’ Force 136 CALCUTTA.
(b) This will normally be done by means of daily Sitreps and Intelligence Reports, except in the case of information of immediate importance, such as reports of opportunity bombing targets, which will be passed by the quickest means available.
9. RAISING OF GUERILLAS
(a) It is intended to raise and arm up to 2,000 Guerillas by the beginnning of 1945. The guerillas will be raised either:-
(i) By Force 136 Agents in which case the Special Groups will be introduced after the guerillas have been raised to guide, control ad strengthen them, or
(ii) By the Special Groups themselves.
(b) The aareas in which it is considered guerillas can be raised in support of CAPITAL, N.C.A.C. and 15 Corps. are shown in Annexure I to Appendix B.
(c) For details of the airlift involved see Appendix C.
AIR EFFORT INVOLVED.
10. (a) At Appendix D is a summary of the air effort involved.
(b) This air effort will be supplied by the Special Duties Squadron at the disposal of Force 136.
Often, appendices have gone missing, but for this document they are in place, except for the map. Appendix A set out the need for the following sorties by Dakota:
Here is the proposed distribution of the Special Groups in Appendix B:
Note the multi-ethnic nature of these Speciaal Groups, with at least 4.5 of the 17 being Bamar.
This document has been reproduced to show how Force 136 planned to support 14 Army up to February 1945. Most of these operations don’t have a wealth of surviving documents about them, at least relative to the later operations of 1945, but this nonetheless serves to illustrate how Force 136 was part of the overall effort to drive the Japanese out of Burma from the start of Slim’s campaign which started at Imphal and Kohima and ended in Rangoon.
It is also notable because all seven operational codenames were deployed. There were mixed results, with the most tragedy befalling the Label Special Group, whose W/T was codenamed Rat. Both British Officers and a number of Chins were killed in an ambush shortly after insertion. The Dilwyn Special Groups, by contrast, achieved much in their months in the field under their commader, Lt.Col. ‘Bing’ Crosby (see his book).
Most of these operations were only in the field a short time (Dilwyn is the exception) because it was not long before the Army over-ran them, often enabling personnel to be deployed again in Burma during 1945. They then became part of SOE’s support for Slim’s ‘Extended Capital’.