I Was There! - We Blockaded the Japs Escaping from Ramree
Screaming “Hullo! Help me!” from the darkness of the channel near the Burma coast, a Jap officer was taken prisoner by a motor launch of the Burma R.I.N.V.R. blockading the enemy escape rout from the island of Ramree. The story is told by the M.L.'s commanding officer.
When he was certain he had been detected, the Jap screamed at the top of his voice, using the little English he knew in a bid to save his life. We lowered the dinghy and caught him before he could reach the opposite bank. The prisoner turned out to be a very scared officer, convinced that he was going to be executed. But when we treated him as an officer, allowing him the use of the wardroom, he appeared to regain his confidence. He was a well-educated man, with a university degree, and he had been employed in an official capacity in Tokyo.
He agreed to appeal over our loud-hailer system to his comrades to give themselves up. Unable to escape by sea, they had been wandering in the mangroves for days without food or water. But probably because of the denseness of the mangroves preventing those more than a few yards inland from hearing his appeals, the attempt was abortive. Later he was handed over to the authorities on shore, and placed temporarily in a hut. I was amazed to learn that he turned to his guard, pulled open his shirt, and said, “Now shoot me!” The astonished guard called an officer, and it transpired that, unconvinced by our correct humane treatment he still thought he was to be executed!
Those Japanese who attempted to escape and refused to surrender when challenged received short shrift. One small boat, camouflaged with bushes, shot out of a creek, paddled furiously by a party of Japs. We opened fire and soon reduced the boat to wreckage. On ceasing fire, we shouted to any possible survivor to surrender. There was no reply. But at least one swimmer continued on his course to the other bank, so we re-opened fire until there were no survivors left. We finally brought the remains of the boat alongside, and found it contained one dead Jap and an officer's sword, which now hangs in our wardroom. I think we accounted for six to ten of the enemy on that occasion. Landing craft and other M.L.s added to the bag. The channel proved to be a death-trap for the blockade-runners, and enemy bodies were floating past for days.
In the early part of the campaign M.L.s of the Burma R.I.N.V.R. were engaged on convoy work, patrol operations and bombardments. They also took part in the landings at Akyab, Mayebon, Mkauk Pyu and Cheduba, towing and escorting landing craft, leading assault waves into beaches and giving covering fire.
Our first actual contact with the enemy was on the first night after the Myebon landing. With other M.L.s we pushed up a very narrow stream. On arrival at a junction we heard the chug-chug of engines coming down from the north. Although we had no charts, we went in pursuit. Eventually we turned our searchlight full on—to reveal a motor supply craft, containing five to seven Japanese. Giving them everything we had, the craft quickly disintegrated.
Two nights later we met three more armed motor supply craft. The one we tackled blew up immediately. Of those who jumped into the water we rescued six press-ganged Burman, and captured a Japanese army corporal in charge of one of the boats. We claimed that he was the first Japanese prisoner to be captured by the Navy since the start of the big offensive.
At dawn the next day we again penetrated the chaung to finish of an armed supply craft which had been previously shot up and had gone ashore on a sandy spit (said the First Lieutenant of one of the M.L.s). I went in dinghy with some Burman ratings toward the Japanese craft. Suddenly the captain, warned by an M.L. of another flotilla that the enemy had been spotted ashore, withdrew stern-first, towing the dinghy, under covering fire from the M.L.s. I saw the Japanese in the mangrove swamp and we opened fire from the dinghy with a Tommy gun and a Lanchester carbine. By the time we were hoisted inboard, the M.L. had been carried up the creek. We decided to investigate this reach, and soon discovered a suspected camouflaged boat in the mangroves. We opened fire and when the camouflage fell away a heavily armed Japanese gunboat was disclosed. Pumping her with shells, we started a in her magazine. She blew up, her ammunition exploding in all directions.
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