Choosing my Anglo-Indian tanks for Burma

My British and Gurkha infantry in Burma will need some armoured support. Of course Shermans and Stuarts appeared in Burma, as they did everywhere. But Lee tanks did well in Burma and, unlike other theatres, were in service until 1945. And for armoured car support I’m going for the Daimler. Where possible I’m opting for Sikh units just so these vehicles are obviously different to the same vehicles fighting in other theatres – that Sikh turban (‘Puggaree’) will stand out. However, in Burma, the Lee tank was reserved for British units. This post covers my options and my choices.


9th Deccan Horse - British commander and Indian crew encounter elephant near Meiktila

9th Deccan Horse – British commander and Indian crew encounter elephant near Meiktila


This is what I’m going for

I have decided to go for the 3rd Carabiniers, 7th Light Cavalry, 9th Royal Deccan Horse and 11th (Prince Albert Victor’s Own) Cavalry [Frontier Force] (PAVO):

Troop Squadron Regiment Brigade Crew Ethnicity Vehicle
1 A 3rd Carabiniers (Prince of Wales’s Dragoon Guards) 254th Indian Tank Brigade British 3 x M3 Lee
2 C 7th Light Cavalry 254th Indian Tank Brigade Sikh 3 x M3 Stuart (Stuart III)
3 B 9th Royal Deccan Horse 255th Tank Brigade Sikh 3 x M4A4 Sherman (Sherman V)
1 B 11th (Prince Albert Victor’s Own) Cavalry [Frontier Force] (PAVO) Unbrigaded in IV Corps Sikh 3 x Daimler Armoured Car
3 x Dingo Scout Car

I have a number of reasons for picking these particular units:

  • I want the Indian units to stand out on the table, so I’m specifically targeting Sikh units. That means tank crews are wearing turban (‘Puggaree’) rather than the normal armoured beret. Several regiments of the Indian army had Sikh components.
  • I want some units that featured at 1944 battles at Imphal and/or Kohima
  • I want at least one unit that featured in the 1945 push into Burma
  • I went with ‘A’ Squadron of the 3rd Carabiniers because their Lees defeated a force of six Type 95 Ha-Go Light Tanks at Imphal (Jemina Fawr (Part 7)). ‘A’ squadron also supported 7th Light Cavalry in clearing the Litan Saddle
  • I chose ‘C’ squadron for the 7th Light Cavalry as a guess that this was the Sikh unit. It is also a different troop number to the one I’ve picked for the Carabiniers (‘C’ not ‘A’)
  • One of the squadrons in 11th (Prince Albert Victor’s Own) Cavalry [Frontier Force] (PAVO) was Sikh, and I assume it was ‘B’

Sikhs with Shermans

I only found I couple of units with Sikh crews for Shermans.

9th Royal Deccan Horse (Indian), 255th Indian Tank Brigade, had some Sikhs and was equipped with Sherman tanks.

19th King George’s Own Lancers (Indian), 50th Indian Tank Brigade, included a Jat, a Sikh squadron, and one other squadron. I presume the majority were Muslim (perhaps the Jat squadron and the unspecified squadron) as the regiment became Pakistani after the war. They were equipped with Sherman tanks.


Sikhs with Stuarts

I found three units with Sikhs in Stuarts.

5th King Edward’s Own Probyn’s Horse (Indian), 255th Indian Tank Brigade, included one squadron each of Punjabi Muslims, Sikhs and Dogras. They were equipped with Stuart tanks.

7th Light Cavalry (Indian) had a Jat squadron, a muslim squadron and one squadron of Sikhs. They had M3 Stuarts. The 7th had elements in both 254th and 255th Indian Tank Brigade. ‘B’ Squadron was with the 254th at Imphal, but was obviously a Jat or muslim unit because Jemina Fawr (Part 7) has photo of vehicle 32 from ‘B’ Squadron and the crew are wearing berets not Sikh turbans.

45th Cavalry (Indian), 50th Indian Tank Brigade, included both Sikhs and Pathans. They were equipped with Stuarts.


Indians in armoured cars

I didn’t find explicit mention of Sikhs in armoured cars. I guess all the tank brigades might also have had armoured cars in their recon units. There was only one Indian unit was entire equipped with armoured cars.

16th Light Cavalry (Indian) was equipped with both Humber and Daimler armoured cars. B squadron fought with 255th Indian Tank Brigade. This unit evolved from a lone line of Madrasi units (from southern India), but there was a “gradual phasing out of Madrasi recruitment for the Indian Army in the late 19th century, in favour of Sikhs, Rajputs, Dogras and Punjabi Mussalmans” (Wikipedia: Madras Army), so I assume by World War II some of the unit were Sikhs. But probably just generic “Indian” is fine.

11th (Prince Albert Victor’s Own) Cavalry [Frontier Force] (PAVO) was another armoured car regiment. It had one squadron each of Punjabi Muslims, Sikhs and Dogras. This was an un-brigaded regiment within IV Corps.


British Lee tanks

The British apparently reserved the Lee tank, and the related Grant tank, for themselves. I’ve no idea why. Several regiments were equipped with these:

3rd Carabiniers (Prince of Wales’s Dragoon Guards) (British), 254th Indian Tank Brigade, had Lee tanks.

25th Dragoons (British), 50th Indian Tank Brigade, had both Lee/Grant tanks

146th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps (British), 50th Indian Tank Brigade, were raised from a Battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. They were initially equipped with Valentine IIIs. In Operation CANNIBAL included a half-squadron of eight tanks from ‘C’ Squadron 146th RAC (two troops of three Valentines and an HQ of two). Later ‘A’ Sqn had Grants, while the rest had Lees.

149th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps (British), was raised from 7th Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. It started with 50th Indian Tank Brigade and moved to 254th Indian Tank Brigade. According to the 254th Indian Tank Brigade the regiment was equipped with both Lee and Sherman tanks, and I tend to believe that. Unusually 149th Regiment RAC, citing Commonwealth Formations in Burma by R. Mark Davies, givens them Grant IIs.

150th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps Regiment (British), 50th Indian Tank Brigade, were raised from 10th Bn York and Lancaster Regiment. They were equipped with Lee tanks. ‘C’ Squadron in unique because elements of the squadron fought at both Imphal and Kohima ((Jemina Fawr, 2020)).

In March/April 1944, in the wake of the Japanese offensive Operation Ha-Go (the Second Arakan Campaign), and the subsequent Operation U-Go (the Japanese offensive to take Imphal and invade India), most of the personnel of ‘C’ Squadron 150th RAC were flown into the besieged city of Imphal to take over the reserve Lee medium tanks of 3rd Carabiniers (254th Indian Tank Brigade, which was the armoured component of IV Corps). This ad hoc unit formed the Carabiners’ fourth squadron and was designated ‘YL’ Squadron (for Yorks & Lancs – the infantry regiment from which 150th RAC was formed). These men fought at Imphal until May, when the trickle of tank losses meant that a fourth squadron was no longer viable and the men of ‘YL’ Squadron were then flown out to rejoin 150th RAC. In the meantime, the remaining personnel of ‘C’ Squadron 150th RAC were sent to Dimapur in Assam, where along with some spare artillerymen and infantrymen, crewed five more reserve Lee tanks. These five tanks were initially the only armour available to support the leading elements of XXXIII Corps as they advanced to relieve the garrison at Kohima and the besieged IV Corps at Imphal. (Jemina Fawr, 2020)


References

Davies, M. (n.d.). Commonwealth Formations in Burma. Fire and Fury.

Davies M. R. (n.d.). British & Indian Armoured Units Of the Burma Campaign: A Painting Guide (V1.8). Fire and Fury.

Jemima Fawr (2019-20). The Forgotten Wargames Army: XIVth Army in Burma. Jemima Fawr’s Miniature Wargames Blog – Wargaming on the Edge… of Wales.

Wikipedia: 3rd Carabiniers (British)

Wikipedia: 5th Horse (Indian)

Wikipedia: 7th Light Cavalry (Indian)

11th (Prince Albert Victor’s Own) Cavalry (Frontier Force) (PAVO) (Indian)

Wikipedia: 16th Light Cavalry (Indian)

Wikipedia: 19th Lancers (Indian)

Wikipedia: 25th Dragoons (British)

Wikipedia: 45th Cavalry (Indian)

Wikipedia: 50th Indian Tank Brigade

Wikipedia: 146th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps (British)

Wikipedia: 149th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps (British)

Wikipedia: 254th Indian Tank Brigade

Wikipedia: 255th Indian Tank Brigade

Wikipedia: Madras Army

8 comments to Choosing my Anglo-Indian tanks for Burma

  • Mark Flanagan

    Fantastic research

  • John Rohde

    As a long shot, could Lee/Grants have been reserved for British units on the basis of being regarded as artillery due to the sponsor mounted 75mm?

    • It was basically down to the British having tank units in the theatre first. The Indians were initially only equipped with armoured cars and only belatedly converted to armour (starting with the 7th Light Cavalry). Ironically, that meant that with British armour all being committed to the Arakan, Imphal and Op ZIPPER, the Indian 255th Tank Brigade were the first to be available for conversion on a large scale to Sherman.

  • Nice! I will eventually get around to posting the (half-written) article on 255th Tank Brigade 🙂 Please note however, that I also need to update that guide on the Fire & Fury site, so the info on my blog supercedes the old painting guide, where there are several mistakes (e.g. putting 25th Dragoons with 50th Tank Brigade – they weren’t part of 50th Tanks until the very end of the war).

  • Oh and sorry, the 11th PAVO were badged as the Corps Recce Regiment for XXXIII Corps, not IV Corps. I got that wrong on my painting guide… 🙁

    Markings shown here: http://www.jemimafawr.co.uk/2020/10/06/the-forgotten-wargames-army-xivth-army-in-burma-part-8-254th-indian-tank-brigade-on-the-road-to-mandalay-and-rangoon-1944-45/

    Be aware that I think I’ve got the armoured car organisation wrong. I think they had a lot more armoured cars and fewer scout cars (four armoured cars per troop keeps cropping up). Scout cars probably only in SHQs, RHQ and Liaison Troop. More research needed… 🙂

    I should have the info on squadron ethnicity here, so will try to dig it out.

  • Stephen Holmes

    I don’t know why Lee/Grants were British.

    James Holland (Burma ’44) mentions them being very useful against Japanese log bunkers.
    The ’75 targeted the “letter box” with HE, while friendly Infantry aporached.
    The tank then switched to solid shot and MG fire when the attackers entered the danger zone.

    He also mentions their maneuvering up tracks considered impassable.
    Amazing what you can accomplish with a fresh brew and a bit of determination.

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