40. Initial Appreciation. Towards the end of March it became necessary to consider future policy as regards the defence of Upper Burma in the event of the loss of Mandalay and, under my direction, an appreciation was prepared by my staff. The principal factors which influenced me at this time were:—

    (a) The need to give the Chinese Armies every possible assistance with a view to keeping China in the war, and

    (b) The gaining of time to allow India to build up her defences and to complete the ' roads from Assam to Burma and from India to China via the Hukawng Valley.

41. Accordingly the outline plan, which was drawn up as a result of -this appreciation, contemplated the following dispositions in the event of the loss of Mandalay: —

    (a) The Chinese Sixth Army (in the Shan States)—Troops east of the River Salween to withdraw on Puerh. Troops west of the River Salween to withdraw towards Hsipaw and Lashio

    (b) Chinese Fifth Army to withdraw astride the Mandalay-Lashio Road.

    (c) Imperial Forces—In order to maintain touch with the Chinese, the 7 Armoured Brigade and one infantry brigade of the 17 Division to accompany the Chinese Fifth Army.

    (d) The 17 Division, less one infantry brigade, to withdraw on the axis Mandalay- Shwebo-Katha covering the projected route to China via the Hukawng Valley.

    (e) 1 Burma Division to cover the approaches to India through Kalewa. The appreciation and plan were approved by the Commander-in-Chief in India during his visit to Burma on the 31st March and 1st April.

A draft directive, dated the 4th April, was isued to1 Burcorps on the 6th April and this was subsequently confirmed in an Operation Instruction. Administrative arrangements were also put in hand to implement this plan.

42. Rice Situation. During the first half of April, however, it became apparent that, owing to the gradual loss of 'the rice producing areas in Burma, to the closing of rice mills and the difficulties of collecting sufficient gram, to the dis-integration of the railways and the famine in Yunnan, it would be impossible to accumulate in Lashio or beyond, sufficient stocks of rice to feed the Chinese armies for more than a few weeks. Therefore, on the plan as it stood, a withdrawal north of Mandalay would probably mean the starvation of the Chinese armies unless supplies could be sent from China and this seemed highly improbable. I therefore decided to invite the Chinese to withdraw some of their forces via Shwebo should this become necessary, as there was a better chance of their obtaining rice in this area.

43. On the 18th April, Lieut.-General Hutton, who had been replaced as my Chief of Staff by Major-General Winterton at the beginning of the month, returned from a mission to General Headquarters, India. General Hutton had discussed with the Commander-in-Chief in India the question of Imperial Forces accompanying the Chinese in a withdrawal on China. He stated that the Commander-in-Chief was prepared to agree to a change in this part of the plan if I thought it desirable. Nevertheless, I was so impressed with the political considerations that I determined to give the Chinese the opportunity of accepting or refusing the assistance of British forces on the axis Mandalay-Lashio.

44. Meeting with General Lin Wei — Accordingly, I arranged for a meeting with the Generalissimo's principal liaison officer, General Lin Wei, at Maymyo on the 21st April. At this meeting I explained to General Lin Wei all the factors to be taken into consideration and I specifically offered the Chinese the 7 Armoured Brigade, which could only get their vehicles out of Burma- by the Lashio road if we were forced to leave that country. General Lin Wei agreed: —

    (a) That the bulk of the Chinese Fifth Army should withdraw north via Shwebo, and

    (b) That it would be better that no Imperial Forces should withdraw towards Lashio and that the tanks should be employed for the battle of Mandalay on the most suitable ground, which was north of the Irrawaddy towards Shwebo.

On the 22nd April an outline of the new plan was sent by liaison officer to the Headquarters i Burcorps and, on the 23rd April, Operation Instruction No. 46, the contents of which had been agreed by General Stilwell's staff at Maymyo, was issued.

45. Situation North of Yenangyaung.—Before explaining in detail the new plan for a withdrawal north of Mandalay it is necessary to return to the situation of 1 Burcorps north of Yenangyaung. On the 2oth April, the day following my agreement with General Stilwell to undertake offensive operations in this area, the dispositions of I Burcorps were as follows:—

    17 Division holding Taungdwingyi-Natmauk.

    7 Armoured Brigade under orders to move to the Meiktila area.

    38 Chinese Division under command 1 Burcorps with—

      113 Regiment and two battalions 112 Regiment area Yenangyaung.

      114 Regiment under orders to move from Mandalay to Taungtha.

1 Burma Division reorganising in the area of Mount Popa. This Division had lost, in the fighting at Yenangyaung, about 20 per cent, of its personnel, two Bofors, four 3.7 howitzers, four 25 pounders, most of its 3-in. mortars and nearly all its M.T. The Division was not in a fit condition to fight for some days.

Efforts were being made to organise as rapidly as possible the move of the 200 Chinese Division from the Meiktila-Thazi area to Kyaukpadaung and one regiment of the 22 Division to Natmauk. Owing, however, to the lack of transport and to the difficulty of co-ordinating plans with the Chinese Fifth Army, it appeared improbable that the force could be concentrated and ready for offensive action before the morning of the 22nd April at the earliest.

46. On the 21st April the seriousness of the situation in the Shan States brought about the abandonment of the projected offensive against the Japanese 33 Division in the Yenangyaung area. The 200 Chinese Division was ordered by General Stilwell to move to Kalaw and the 22 Chinese Division to concentrate in the Thazi area. In these circumstances it became a matter of supreme importance to hold securely the centres of" communication south of Mandalay. Accordingly the following moves were ordered by 1 Burcorps: —

    38 Chinese Division to concentrate at Kyaukpadaung.

    1 Burma Division to be prepared to move to Taungtha.

    17 Division to withdraw from Taungdwingyi and later from Natmauk to positions north west and west of. Meiktila "at Mahlaing and Zayetkon.

    7 Armoured Brigade to Meiktila under command of General Lo, who now took over command of the Chinese forces on the Pyawbwe front, General Tu having moved with the 200 Division to Kalaw.

47. The New Plan.—The plan contained in Operation Instruction No. 46 envisaged the following dispositions north of the Irrawaddy:—

    West of the River Mu.— 1 Burcorps less the 7 Armoured Brigade with the 1Burma Division astride the River Chindwin and a strong detachment covering the approach to Kalewa via the Myittha valley.

    Between the River Mu and the Northern Reach of the Irrawaddy. —38 Chinese Division and the 7 Armoured Brigade.

    In and South of Mandalay and holding the Crossings over the River Myitnge.—22, 28 and 96 Chinese Divisions.

It will be realised that a withdrawal from the Meiktila area would uncover the communications with Mandalay of any Chinese forces in the area Kalaw-Taunggyi and would prevent their withdrawal via Mandalay. The plan therefore was for all Chinese forces east of the railway -Mandalay-Pyawbwe to move towards Lashio. The situation was very delicate at this time and it was impossible to issue a hard and fast plan for any. further withdrawal since no decision could be made in the existing situation as to whether the 22, 28 and 96 Chinese Divisions would withdraw to the north or whether they would fall back on Lashio.

48. I must emphasise here that I had no intention of withdrawing north of the Irrawaddy unless forced to give up Kyaukpadaung and Meiktila and, for the defence of these areas, I had grouped my forces as follows: —

    (a) Under command of General Lo (Chinese C.-in-C.).—-22 Division, 96 Division and the 7 Armoured Brigade (for the defence of the area Meiktila-Thazi-Pyawbwe).

    (b) Under the command of' Lieut.-General Slim, 1 Burcorps—17 Division, 1 Burma Division, 38 Chinese Division. 28 Chinese Division (less- one regiment not yet arrived) was -preparing -the defences of Mandalay.

I had to consider the dangerous bottleneck of Mandalay through which run the approaches to the Ava Bridge, the only bridge over the Irrawaddy. These approaches were very vulnerable to air attack. I was determined not to allow my forces to be pushed into the loop of the Irrawaddy below Mandalay and be forced to fight with this obstacle at their backs. In order to avoid this and also to avoid undue congestion in the approaches to the Ava Bridge, I had decided that the moment to order .the withdrawal would be when my advanced forces had to leave the Meiktila area. I had also arranged earlier in the month for preparations to be put in hand for the construction of ferries over both the Irrawaddy and the Myitinge Rivers and of the approaches thereto in order to eliminate the bottleneck as far as possible.


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