A Collection of Medals to recipients of the Burma Star

Date of Auction: 17th February 2021

Sold for £220

Estimate: £80 - £120

Four: Gunner I. F. Knight, Royal Artillery

1939-45 Star; Burma Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, with Army Council enclosure, in named card box of issue addressed to ‘Mr. I. F. Knight, 27 Montpelier Villas, Cheltenham, Glos.’, extremely fine (4) £80-£120

Footnote

Ivor Frank Knight was born on 3 August 1908 and attested for the Royal Artillery on 24 October 1940, serving during the Second World War with the 69th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery, in India and Burma. His service records show that he was granted seven days embarkation leave on 2 February 1942, indicating that he sailed for India with his unit, which arrived in India in May 1942. At the beginning of February 1944 the regiment’s three batteries were organised into four 40mm Bofors Gun Troops, named W, X, Y, and Z. They flew in with the second Chindit expedition with responsibility for air defence of the vital jungle airstrips which came under severe Japanese attack from both ground and air. The Regiment was credited with downing at least twenty enemy aircraft at the Broadway, Aberdeen, and White City airstrips, with many more damaged and probables.

Operation Thursday - 69th L.A.A. Regiment with the Chindits
‘Because the 1944 operation depended entirely on air transport and supply it was desired to give landing-strips some L.A.A. protection. The first Chindit operation had received its supplies by parachute, this much larger second operation would require supply aircraft to land and take-off. In Operation Thursday, begun in March 1944, three, originally to have been five, special brigades were to be landed deep in the jungle astride the upper Irrawaddy, to form strong ‘keeps’ or ‘forts’ …the forts were to be given 25-pounder and 40mm guns. 69th L.A.A. Regiment formed W, X, Y and Z Troops, each of three officers and 74 men and 6 x 40mm guns. The operational plan suffered last minute changes: eventually the two principal forts, ‘Broadway’ and ‘Aberdeen’ were sited west of the Irrawaddy. W Troop flew into Broadway on 6th-8th March and deployed its six guns. The airlift continued for five days before air attack began with high-level bombing and low-level strafing. The points defended were the landing strip, the unloading bays and the dispersal area together with Brigade HQ-too many sites for six guns to defend effectively. The high-level bomber formations flew out of range of 40mm guns but five low-level attackers were destroyed and others hit before they disappeared over the jungle. Fort ‘Aberdeen’ was ready two weeks later: X, Y and Z Troops flew in between 24th and 26th March, X Troop having 10 x 0.5-inch machine guns instead of Bofors. Enemy raids began here within two days and lasted until mid-April; they were often preceded closely by decoy raids designed to draw AA fire and so disclose the gun positions. The 40mm, on air portable two-wheel mountings, were moved frequently to alternative positions, some of which were outside the fort’s perimeter. On 4th April, X Troop moved right out, now armed with 40mm guns, to a blocking position set up by the 77th Indian Infantry Brigade on the Irrawaddy at Henu. This new site, known as ‘White City’ was, in its turn, attacked in the second half of April. In a series of ground and air actions X Troop claimed six Category 1 kills for 1,073 rounds fired. The Japanese made great efforts to crush ‘White City’ but it held out, with air supply, despite its losses. Back at ‘Aberdeen’, the two Troops Y and Z were equally involved in close fighting, claiming nine Category 1 kills. A War Diary states that ‘all equipment behaved perfectly’ which is remarkable considering the unusual conditions of their actions. The Chinese/American force under General Stilwell took Myitkina airfield on 17th May but with the Japanese still entrenched round it. W Troop flew in the next day, followed by X, and Chindit columns fought their way through to join Stilwell. The place was under constant shelling, ground and air attack for 78 days, by which time 36th Division had arrived from the north and Upper Burma was secured. The special LAA troops flew back to Assam to join their regiment.’ (History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, Anti-Aircraft Artillery 1914-1955 by Brigadier N. W. Routledge refers)

Thus all four Troops of 69 LAA Regiment played a full part in Chindit operations, operating behind enemy lines for several months, experiences that were presumably shared by Gunner Knight.

At the conclusion of Operation Thursday, in July 1944, the regiment joined IV Corps at Imphal for operations on the Tiddim Road during the reconquest of Burma, which continued until VJ Day. Knight was released from the same unit in the UK on 21 November 1945. His conduct was ’Exemplary’ and he was a ‘Cheerful and conscientious worker. Reliable and trustworthy.’ He died in 1990.

Sold together with the recipient’s Army Book 64 Record of Service; Soldier’s Release Book; and 69 LAA Regt. 1944 SEAC/14th Army Christmas card, sent to the recipient’s wife, which includes a tinted photograph of the recipient in “jungle greens”.