19th (Indian) Division

The War Illustrated, Volume 10, No. 254, Page 748, March 28, 1947.

Colours: Yellow on Red Background

Formed in the Secunderabad area in October 1941, the original number of the famous "Dagger" Division was 18, and it was commanded while on active service by Major-General T. Wynford Rees. At a time when the threat of a Japanese invasion of India was only too real it was entrusted with the defence of a part of Souther India, remaining there for three years.

The Division went into action in Burma on December 4, 1944, when it began to advance in extremely bad country between the Chindwin and Irrawaddy rivers. At Leiktu, on the edge of the Shwebo Plain, it fought its first set battle, which lasted for five days; and on Jan. 8, 1945, Shwebo was entered. The main crossing of the Irrawaddy was made at Kyaukmyaung, 46 miles north of Mandalay.

The Japanese counter-attacked the bridge-head with two divisions, but all the attacks were held, and early in March the 19th broke through the Japanese lines, thrusting southwards along the east bank of the river to Mandalay. On March 8, 1945, the outskirts of the city were reached, but the Japanese made a very determined stand, holding on grimly to Mandalay Hill and Fort Dufferin. On the hill the Japanese troops barricaded themselves in a tunnel beneath the great reception hall; they were burned out by rolling petrol drums into the tunnel and flinging grenades after them to ignite the oil. The end came on March 20, but most of the garrison had managed to slip away during the night. The British 2nd Division and 20th Indian Division now joined the 19th, and the city was cleared after a few days.

In the meantime a detached brigade had driven the enemy out of Maymyo and cut the railway to Lashio. The Division then moved south and took Toungoo; again a brigade column was detached, having as its task the liberation of Kalaw. This was accomplished during the second week of June, in the face of bitter opposition.