As I haven't got any Birds in my tree who fought in that area, I decided it would be interesting to do a little research to find out what I could about him.
Harry married Sarah Ann Boyle in the Warrington district in the second quarter of 1934. They had three children :
- 1934 John H.Bird
- 1935 Kenneth Bird
- 1938 Jean A.Bird
I therefore went on to the Commonwealth War Graves website and searched "18 April 1945" ..... "South Lancashire Regiment" ..... "2nd battalion" ..... "Taukkyan War Cemetery".
I was not expecting to find 23 others who died on the same day who came from the same battalion and regiment.
Having discovered that a Major died possibly in the same operation as Harry I thought it would be simple to find out what they were doing and where they were doing it. Sadly not. Apart from commemorations on local memorials, I have failed to find out anything about any of the others who died from the same regiment on the same day ...... which is strange, I think !
Harry Bird's possible War
This is conjecture but in early 1940 his battalion was deployed to Bombay manning the fortress and on internal security duties in Bombay before they returned to Blighty in July 1940 to defend Britain from the expected Nazi invasion. They remained in the UK until March 1942 when they again embarked overseas, this time to South Africa arriving at the end of April. They then invaded the nearby island of Madagascar in order to prevent the use of the island by the Japanese. Records show they went backwards and forwards between the island and East Africa a few times before leaving Durban in early January 1943 for a 20 day voyage to Bombay. They then underwent jungle training and for the rest of 1943 they were stationed in various places in India. From April 1944 until the end of the war, the battalion fought in the recapture of Burma and this was obviously where in April 1945 Harry was killed.
The Assistant Curator of the Lancashire Infantry Museum kindly sent me a transcript of the events of 18th April 1945 from the official history of the South Lancashire Regiment :
The operation began at first light on the 18th April, when ' C ' and ' D ' Companies moved out under the command of Major D. Burnett, M.B.E. The ground through which the road passed was very broken, with many small features and numerous ' chaungs,' and before first light Captain Stein's covering party had some difficulty in orientating itself and had moved forward on to another feature where to became involved with enemy parties and, after killing twelve of the enemy, had been obliged to fight its way back to the feature which it had previously occupied, in order to avoid being surrounded.
A platoon sent forward to help Captain Stein failed to secure the ground which it had been ordered to occupy, with the unfortunate result that the enemy were able to take up positions from which they opened fire at very close range on the leading elements of ' C ' and ' D ' Companies as they moved up to their start lines using chaungs as covered lines of approach, in the belief that their flank was secure.
A fierce battle immediately developed, in which the opposing sides were at such close quarters that it virtually became a hand-to-hand fight, with grenades being hurled from chaung to chaung. Both wireless sets were soon put out of action and our casualties rapidly mounted as the companies made determined attempts to fight their way forward over the difficult broken ground against a stubborn and well entrenched enemy. It transpired later that the Japanese troops here were a strong rearguard, numerically superior to our two weak companies, which had been moved up only the night before, and these were picked enemy troops who fought with great ferocity, accompanying their attacks with the shouting and screaming which the Japanese so often used when fighting a ' last ditch ' action.
After the wireless sets had been put out of action communication was maintained by means of the F.O.O.'s set and, after A ' Company had been sent forward to provide a screen to cover the evacuation of the wounded, the enemy fell back and the wounded were brought in without molestation. The evacuation of the wounded men had been a serious problem as several stretcher bearers had also become casualties, and the first thing the battalion did when the battle stopped was to build a hastily improvised landing strip from which all the wounded were flown out before dark.
This was a sad day for the battalion, for its casualties during the fight had been heavy. Three officers, Major Harry Rylands, Captain Andrew Meikle, and Lieutenant J. G. B. MacFarlane had been killed and one officer, Lieutenant A. Siddall, had been wounded. The battalion was also unfortunate in losing a number of valuable warrant officers and junior leaders, among them being C.S.M. Hughes, who died of wounds received whilst very gallantly trying to save others, C.S.M. McDonough and Sergeant Morris, who were killed, and several other gallant and well-tried
N.C.O.s as well as a total of 17 other ranks killed and 29 wounded.
Once again, Captain Pimblett's work at the R.A.P. was outstanding and saved several lives.
On the 19th, the day after the battle outside Yawathit, a sweep was carried out by B ' Company and the road was cleared of mines, and on the 20th the battalion marched six miles to the 8th milestone on the Gwebin—Seikpu road, and went on for another six miles on the following day.
Recent casualties and the fact that no reinforcements had been received had now reduced the strength of the battalion to the point where it had only three rifle companies, and the advance southwards was continued by stages, without serious contact with any considerable enemy forces, until the battalion reached the village of Salin on the 27th April. It remained here for three days and the men were glad of the rest and the luxury of fresh food in the form of duck and duck's eggs, which was a welcome change from the austere diet which had been the rule for a long period.