Chin Hills Battles * by Donald C. Mellican From:* “Reminisces of World War II” Copyright by Donald C. Mellican All Rights Reserved *Permission to publish by WorldWar2BurmaDiaries.com
In St.Patricks High School in Moulmein the pupils were of all creeds and nationalities where we suffered casualities when the Japanese first bombed us on23rd December 1941. In school I had made many friends with the Indian Christians – Frank Turnbull, who was always included in our football teams not because he could play but only because he owned the only regulation sized ball ;– Sam Chalam (later changed to Carlow) a beautiful boxer, Jack Subramani (later changed to Joseph) our school miler champion) – and Ginge Francis (Ginge because his hair was jet black) a violinist and son of the local Bandmaster. or the other in the fighting ahead of us. Jack was hard of hearing and being paired with Joe Agni who was short-sighted their tactics were “you look for me and I will hear for you). Jack also bought an expensive watch in Calcutta which was billed as all proof but which shattered into about 20 pieces when he knocked it gently against a bed post. He said he bought it from a shop called “Cheap Jacks”. Eventually we were sent out – Ginge and myself – to the Chin Hills keeping an eye on little known tracks leading in from Burma and possible infiltration of the enemy. We were based on a hill called Tui Po (Water Hill or Spring Hill) which was approximately a mile steady climb from the Chin village of Tongsang which was occupied by a platoon of West Yorks commanded by Lt. Stewart. The locals in the village were very loyal and friendly attending their allotments in the hill sides and we picked up their language not without difficulty. The Chin Hills was about the size of Wales, thick jungle through which the sun did not penetrate and a rare open space with waist high grass which the sun had bleached. We had been warned to get the locals on our side and not offend them in any way. Ginge and I did many tiger patrols and it was courtesy to stay in the village headman’s hut which had dozens of human skulls lined on shelves and human teeth adorning their bodies as they were headhunters up to about the 1930s. We slept very fitfully in his hut but whichever village we visited we were feted with Zhu and spit-pork, good fun but we had our ears open for any untoward gossip regarding the “gnarl” or enemy. Father Moses (lad from Mandalay) in Salzang village – he had a small church – and told us that he had been converting the Chins and already taught them not to eat meat on Fridays so Ginge amd I felt safer on Fridays but watched each others backs on the other 6 days! It was bitterly cold on Tui Po and we slept with a 24 hour log fire plus combined blankets and great-coats. I said to Ginge “if it gets any colder we will have to fry our words to see what we are saying” During the night I felt an elbow in my ribs “Don, we have not got a frying pan”
We delicately asked the Chins why they wept when a child was born and rejoiced when there was a death “we mourn anyone comng into this wicked world and rejoice for anyone leaving it.” They had an innocent modesty, women topless and men in the nude would be splashed with water by the women outside their huts. They smoked pipes made of bamboo but he stem had an outlet to which a bowl was attached and which collected the spittle of the several men and women smokers. This juice they prized highly as it was supposed to give youmuch energy and endurance on long journeys. They came to see Ginge and myself off on a patrol and gave us each a swig of this vile concoction. Round the corner I spat mine out but Ginge had unknowingly swallowed his but believe it or not he survived the war!! We had been offering the villagers some of our bully beef and other food, taught them to use soap for washing themselves etc.So one day the headman and his son turned up at our basha with a rat (a delicacy to them) which had been roughly grilled or toasted with fur and eyes present and this gave us a problem as we were awarethat we should not offend them and refuse . So Ginge and I tore a leg apiece and ate it but when the old boy wanted us to finish it we gently declined by saying that such a delicious meal should be spread out over the day. When they had left we buried the meal pronto.. and lived to tell the tale. On one of my patrols I observed through a chink in the jungle4 horses in the distance and started to approach thinking they were some horses of some unannounced patrol but thank goodness when the animals started to prance about I realized they were tigers. There was a cloud of dust, and I was ahead of it back to camp. We had been warned that there were animals and insects in the Chin Hills but as Ginges voice was nasal with a lisp I thought this would put the animals off. I was wrong..One morning when we lft our camp by the spring and made our way to the various paths we discovered the paths strewn with little biscuits and Japanese sardine and other tins. We fled downhill to Tongsang but found the platoonwas already on alert as the villagers were darting around preparing to flee. “Gnarl Gnarl (enemy) they told us had attacked them in their allotments and taken a few prisoners. Lt. Stewart said that a message from Bn.H.Q. had ordered a return, destroy heavy equipment and not to engage the enemy on the way back. We marched over the ridge ofthe hills for a couple of days without incident avoiding possible suspicious features and as we hit the track came upon a group of Japs and INA soldiers. After a brief and fierce fire fight we ascended the hill to Battalion but sadly the 1st (and 2nd?) scout were shot – sadly friendly fire- so close to entering the safety of the battalion perimeter. There would not seem to be a lot going on in Tui-Po but it gave us plenty of opportunities to brush up the techniques of jungle fighting we had been taught in Mhow and the Manipur hills. We moved silently, hid our tracks and resting spots, laid false trails etc.etc but overall there was always the possibility that you could meet up with danger in this beautiful land and so the existence was quite tense and stressful. In some villages we came across pythons, scorpions black and red – large ones and Khargins - no this is not a rude word in Swahali with a Welsh accent used in the far flung colonys of outer Mongolia – it is the dreaded large ant that would eat through the reinforced bottom of your kit bag and into your possessions, and could they sting. They worked very industriously carrying loads more than their body weights and surely suffering from some form of hernia or the other and no organization backed by royalty to help them Like the elephants that we love the ants share a horrible reputation, In the 16th or 17th century the plotters against the king were buried up to their necks in sand and the protruding head was smeared with honey, In the morning only a grinning skull remained of what was a human head the following evening. The elephants were used differently:when a rebel agent was discovered he was shoved into a hessian sack and the elephants played football kicking and stamping on the “football” and the remains of the poor unfortunate prisoner mixed in with building materials under a building or pillar. There were also scorpions black and red types about 3 inches in diameter and wicked stings. At rest some men would start card games with a candle for illumination, however it was necessary for others to stand by to whack these creatures as they made for the light and gamblers. *****************************
Copyright 2008 by Joseph Alwyn Valu. All Rights Reserved.