When we arrived at Kohima it was getting dark. We arrived on Bren-gun carriers and trucks, I arrived on a Bren-carrier. The cooks were by the roadside with meals ready for us. Everybody was on the hurry up, because we were told to get the meal down, then to go and collect our emergency rations, then assemble for a lecture by some big wheel. I think he was some Major General, something like that, I can't remember the actual individual now.
This all happened being in such a hurry, we all plonked our rifles down. Normally you would pile arms. A rifle has a piling swivel on it. It has a little hook, so you can hook three rifles together, so they can be stood up. You see them in old pictures. But there was no time for that, so fellas just laid their rifles down where they were. I put mine along side some others at the back of a Bren-carrier. I leaned it up against the back of the Bren- carrier, with about half a dozen other rifles.
Then we went up this hill at the side of the road, with our mess tins for our grub. On the way down at the side of the road, there were some Orderlies handing out forty eight-hour ration packs. These were cardboard boxes, one to each soldier. They contained a couple of tins of bully beef, a tin of cheese, and tea, sugar and dried milk. Also a thing I didn't know about, a little packet of vitamin tables.
When I arrived back at the Bren-carrier, 'I was always a devil for nattering, I was probably talking to somebody, I can't remember,' but when I arrived at the Bren-carrier, there was only one rifle leaned up against the back. Assuming that it was mine and that everyone else had picked theirs and gone, I picked up the rifle and I joined the Company listening to the 'Big Wheel' at the lecture.
The 'Big Wheel' was telling them that the Japs were on the hill ahead. He pointed it out. You could just see on the skyline even though it was going dark, what he called a saddle in the hills. I'm just telling you this out of interest, because the tale he told us was, the Japs were up there. He said, "You're going to march down on through this valley, up the hill on the other side. You should be in contact with the Japs sometime early tomorrow morning." According to him, it was going to be a case of kicking 'them Japs' around for forty eight hours, I say forty eight hours because that's where the ration packs came in. Somebody said to him, "Excuse me sir, what if we are way for more than forty eight hours?" He was thinking about his grub you see. We were in jungle country bear in mind. The 'Big Wheel' said, "Oh don't worry about that, you get up there and get at 'em. There are other troops up there on the right hand side of the hill, who you'll be meeting up with. It will be a case of kicking them Japs around from one to the other." Everybody laughed. After that everyone was saying, "Were going to kick'm around till we loose 'em." That's how silly it was.
We met the Japs the following morning and had one or two do's with them. It was not long afterwards when a fellow came up to me with a ration party. He said, "John Murray is at the base, he's playing fuckin' hell with you. He says you took his rifle." Well I was annoyed as well, because I then realised I had Murray's rifle, but it was no fault of mine. Murray had gone before me. So obviously he had taken my rifle. So I had no time for Murray. I was just waiting to get to the twat to have a go at him, because after all, he was back at base. We didn't all go, bear in mind, with the Battalion, because certain people had to be held back at the base. They held back half a dozen motor cyclists to look after the cycles.
This is how bleeding daft it was. We arrived there as a complete division, which is about twenty thousand men, with all our transport, artillery, Bren-gun carriers motor cycles all the bleedin' lot. The road was blocked with vehicles. There was only one road, all the rest were tracks. There was a bleedin' great valley on one side and hills on the other. This is just to put you in the picture of the situation. High Command should have known about this before hand.
So as I was saying this fellow came up from the base telling me about Murray. Periodically what annoyed me was, no matter where I'd been, or what sort of trouble I'd been in, somebody would come to me and say, "Hey, John Murray at the base is playing hell about you."
"How's this?" I used to say, you know, just to confirm what I had previously been told.
They'd say, "He's playing hell, because he says you have his rifle. You took his rifle." Well, I was getting as bleedin' mad with Murray.
Anyway to cut along story short, what happened was that during the course of this campaign, we were on a track one day when some Japanese fighter aircraft came over, they were light bombers as well. They carried two hundred and fifty pound bombs.
They started to machine gun us first. As soon as they came down, .. END OF 936 WORD SAMPLE OF 1,623