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By February 1944, the relatively static positions on the Burmese-Indian border were set to change. Thai and Indian Nationalist forces had joined the Japanese while the British had been reinforced by further American, Chinese and Commonwealth troops. Amongst them were a large number of soldiers from various African nations including Gambia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Ghana.

Isaac Fadeyebo, a Nigerian soldier in the 81st (West Africa) Division found himself holding frontline positions on the western bank of the Kaladan River, south of Imphal in the province of Arakan, when a Japanese diversionary attack code-named Operation Ha-Go was launched. He remembered the conditions and his own miraculous escape.

Burma was very thick jungle; we don’t have it in Africa. Very thick with leaves, we had to walk with a stick in our hands in full marching order and our kit-bag on our heads, and if you make a mistake, if you slip, you are going to the foot of the hill.

IWM_SE001884_ EastAfricanDivision

Difficult terrain

Burma was very thick jungle; we don’t have it in Africa. Thick with leaves, we walked with sticks in our hands in full marching order and kit-bags on our heads. If you make a mistake, slip, you go to the foot of the hill. ©IWM SE 1884

Difficult terrain

Burma was very thick jungle; we don’t have it in Africa. Thick with leaves, we walked with sticks in our hands in full marching order and kit-bags on our heads. If you make a mistake, slip, you go to the foot of the hill. ©IWM SE 1884

When we were attacked, when the shots rang out around 8 o’clock, I tried to take cover. We were not quite at the front, we weren’t expecting an attack at all. I didn’t know I was hit by bullets. It was when I tried to crawl, I couldn’t crawl anymore. I was tired, I’d lost a lot of blood and I couldn’t crawl. My trousers and my battle jacket were soaked in blood. It was then I realised I was in trouble. Big trouble.

‘Where Do I go from here God?’ It was like a dream. Is this me? Me boy? When we were in enemy occupied territory, if they see us they are going to kill us. They don’t take us prisoner. No. It’s the British, the white people they would take prisoner, they didn’t take us prisoner, they kill us. They came to me, two or three of them. The leader threatened me with a bayonet that I should get up. They were talking their language. I couldn’t get up, I couldn’t even sit up. [For some reason they didn’t kill me, maybe they thought I would die anyway].

The Japanese were very good fighters. They would fight to the last man, the last ammunition, the last drop of blood. Oh, they were dogged fighters.


I. Fadeyebo, Interview with B. Phillips in The Burma Boy, 2011 (Extracts)

The Stories of Kohima and Imphal

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