We arrived at Jorhat, 65 miles from Dimapur in Assam, by air, after flying from "Armada Road" which was somewhere near the East Coast of Southern India. A couple of days before, we had been sunning ourselves at Bangalore, after finishing a spell of jungle training in the Belgaum area of Mysore. Armada Road remains a mystery to me. I haven’t yet located it half a century later. I have read about it in books and have heard it referred to, but whether it is, or was a road or village, or just an airfield in the middle of nowhere, as it then appeared, is as I say, still a mystery.
We had left Bangalore by truck after something of a ‘flap’ had disturbed our tranquillity.
The other half of the Division, which had gone on leave, was being recalled, and was to travel all the way by road. Our common destination was Dimapur.
From truck to train; and then Armada Road, which to us then, was just a huge field full of bell-tents. In fact it wasn’t ‘till early next morning that a chap said to me, "I wonder where were off to?" I replied that I hadn’t heard, there weren’t even any rumours, everyone seemed mystified. Then he said, "Haven’t you seen all the planes over the hedge?" Although the hedge was no more than twenty yards away I took his remark as a joke, and wouldn’t have moved, but he strolled over and beckoned. The view over the hedge was an unexpected contrast. In place of green grass, the ground appeared as clay; and in place of rows of bell-tents, there were rows of large aeroplanes.
As soon as the news spread, the rumours began to circulate. "We’re going to China, to attack the Japs from the rear," was one I remember. Another more wishful was, "We’re going home to prepare for the Second Front."
We were ordered to parade on the airfield and within minutes all rumours and wishful thinking was killed ‘stone dead’,
The Japs, we were told, had crossed the Chindwin River and were rapidly advancing on India. Our destination was Assam and we could expect to be in action within twenty-four hours.
There were some L shaped latrine trenches at intervals around the perimeter of the airfield, and upon dismissal everyone it seemed, made a dash for one of these.
The one I entered bore a notice on the canvas screen "Officers only." I squatted with all ranks, a captain beside me and everyone else was apparently too pre-occupied to notice. The old "Toc H." slogan crossed my mind, "Abandon rank al ye who enter here."