In March 1945 the Second World War was nearing its end and the general feeling was that "Its good to be alive"
We had a couple more objectives before flying out to India; mopping up operations to clear two villages on the plain south of Mandalay.
The first village we entered was clear so after digging in for the night we followed through into the paddy field beyond at dawn.
Crossing the stubble in extended order, a group of retreating Japs broke cover from behind a hayrick, changing direction like a flock of sheep before a sheepdog. Throwing away rifles and packs, etc and following their leader as he changed direction.
It was hard to believe that these were the same men who, twelve months before had charged in screaming, night after night, in attach and counter-attach.
Their sole purpose now was to get away, as far and as fast as possible, mine seemed to be the only weapon in the platoon to remain silent. I remember cursing the section bren-gunner because he flopped so close behind me that the muzzle blast from his gun was flapping my right trouser leg.
As we continued the advance, I assumed that all the Japs had escaped behind the corner of the rick and reached the hedge beyond. Then, in the middle of the huge field, lying in a hollow, I almost stumbled into the body of a young Japanese. We stared at each other; I became aware of his plight. He was wounded, but he also appeared to be choking by his chin - strap, which, though attached to his helmet in the same way as our own, was also attached to a canvas neck-certain.
I stooped to raise his head and loosen the strap when one of our sergeants appeared. "Give us your bayonet" he said, at the same time snatching the helmet strap out of my hand. As he roughly sawed at the strap he pulled the Japs head and chest from the ground and it was then that I saw the blood pumping from several holes in his tunic. Having cut through the chin - strap, the sergeant dropped my bayonet and with a vicious kick, sent the helmet rolling free. He took the Japanese flag from the small pocket inside the helmet, and, tucking it into his breast pocket ran off to rejoin the platoon.
We had been taught to hate the enemy, to regard him as sub-human, but it was the sergeant I could have shot as I was left kneeling beside the dying Japanese.
© COPYRIGHT RICHARD PATTERSON 2001