Saturday, April 6

"Firing into the Brown" #45 - Burma, tables and stuff..

"So Carnehan weeds out the pick of his men, and sets the two of the Army to show them drill and at the end of two weeks the men can manoeuvre about as well as Volunteers. So he marches with the Chief to a great big plain on the top of a mountain, and the Chiefs men rushes into a village and takes it; we three Martinis firing into the brown of the enemy".

Kipling "The Man Who Would Be King"

Time for another update..  just a short one this week (for which I apologise), but there is just so much going on in the other hobby at the moment that there's little time for wargaming'y activity..


Holland is one of my favourite military historians, one because he has a very easy reading style, but second, and most, because his histories focus on the individual - like Richard Holmes (RIP) he is one of those historians who tells the story from the bottom up, rather than the grand sweeping view downwards.. in my view (and theirs), it is the man and woman in the field who make the strategies, and the tactics work, and I am endlessly fascinated by their memories and recollections of what it was actually like to be there at the time..  

Quite possibly the best of his books, was the one I read on the siege of Malta late last year - a real 10 plus'er - so I was looking forward to reading this one immensely, as not only is it by Holland, but I'll be quite honest and say I am not particularly au fait with the Far Eastern theatre of operation in WW2 so was looking to learn a little more.

Holland argues that the Battle of the Admin Box in Burma in '44 was quite possibly the turning point of the war in Far East as far as the British/Indian troops were concerned - up until that point in time, much as Rommel had been the bogey man in the desert, the Japanese had been the bogey man for the soldiers of the Allies in the Far East. They were seen as fierce, unbeatable, and closely allied with the jungle, and between the two of them Allied soldiers at the time were at a considerable morale deficit - they were seen as unbeatable.

When Mountbatten was put in charge of the theatre however (and that in itself was an interesting decision) he proved to be a dynamic leader (also interesting as it's definitely at odds with the picture of Mountbatten you get in the book on Operation Jubilee by Patrick Bishop for example) and one of his first (have to say, inspired) decisions was to put Slim in charge of the 14th 'Forgotten' Army, who together with a talented and inspired staff started training the army to the point where they felt that they might have a chance - one of the hero's for me was Messervy, who after an ignominious career in the Western Desert had been sacked and sent to the Far East (which seemed to be the dumping ground for all the failures in West and Middle East!) but where he argued strenuously that heavy and medium tanks could be used in the jungle - in my mind an absolute game changer and one of the main reasons that the British won the battle..

So what of the Battle of the Admin Box [clicky]?

  • at the start of '44, and after the winter of training mentioned, Slim launched his offensive into the Arakan (the costal province of Burma), 
  • at the same time the Japanese launched their offensive aimed at sucking in Allied resources so as to make a second Japanese offensive on the central front easier
  • the Japanese infiltrated the British and Indian front lines and besieged what was known as the Admin Box - an administration centre for the coordination of operations for the 14th Army
  • as a result of the intensive training, although the box comprised mostly HQ staff, admin, radio operators, engineers, hospital and medical staff - they were all now trained in weapons and tactics, but before they were sealed off, were reinforced by a couple of squadron of tanks (Lee's - which were obsolescent everywhere except the Far East!), and also men of the West Yorkshire Regiment, Gurkha's, and also artillery
  • despite continued attacks the siege was unsuccessful and the British/Indian/Gurkha's held out for a little over two weeks, before the Japanese broke off and retreated
  • other main reasons they won apart from those tanks? 
    • that training - they troops on the ground knew what to do and had been trained in small unit tactics and weapons - their morale was good at the beginning, and only grew as they saw the successes of beating off attacks
    • air superiority through a combination of Spitfire Mk VIII's and the introduction of Battle of Britain style air coordination
    • air supply - the box was getting two or three air drops a day courtesy RAF Dakota's
    • the Japanese tactics of living off the land - which failed when their primary source of supply (the army) refused to give it up - basically the Japanese army starved to death
Excellent book then, and an inspiring read, but only an eight out of ten for me - primarily because of a lack of other first had accounts to bolster the narrative - basically nothing major from any of the Indian, Gurkha or Japanese combatants, as Holland himself admits, they just don't exist..


Wondered if a step by step on how to use a table generator I found online might be of interest???  I use tables all the time in my blog posts for orbats and the like but I appreciate there'll be those this doesn't apply to.. so, if generating tables in your blog posts is of no interest, I'll return you to your normal programming..  "next blog, please" 😏

If you are interested though...

1/. Got to website (HTML Tables generator – and select the HTMLTables option

2/. Set the size of your table.. it doesn't matter if you want to add or delete extra rows or columns later.. default seems to be 4 (rows) by 5 (columns) select the 'table' drop down and then 'set size' to open a little box on which you can select with your mouse to set size of table (just move the mouse over the area you want and click).. it tells you the size at the bottom as a check..  (NB. If at a later point you want to add or delete rows or columns select the relevant drop down for column or row)

3/. Not essential but this is a 'tarting up' point - either do it now or after you've entered your content...  this is how you space the lines and columns - narrow or wide..  just slide the bar with your mouse..

4/. Time to put your data/content in - just click on the cell and start typing - you can either do it here, or copy the blank table into the Blogger post and do it there.. this example assumes you're doing it in the web page..

5/. Set the alignment, font, font characters (bold underlined etc)..  for Blogger I wouldn't bother with these, as you can do the latter in Blogger..  but you can do it here if you want..

6/. Click the "Do Not Generate CSS" check box - CSS is an HTML language but the code is more complex, and isn't necessary in Blogger, as Blogger has it's own CSS code running in the background..  then click the "Generate" button

7/. Click the copy to clipboard option

8/. Go to blogger, open a new post, select "HTML" option at top left (under the pencil icon), and paste the code - the only change I made was to add "Border=1" to the "Table" command right at the beginning so that I could see the lines between the cells...

Click "Compose" top left (under the < > icon)and voila, un table ...  job done....

tutorial fgfgf fgfgf


Laters, as the young people are want to say...


  1. Thanks Steve, I have never read Holland (my loss), so this may the title to change that. I remember reading about the Admin Box years ago as a late teenager in one of those booklets that were always in Smiths.

    I am just reading Blitzkrieg by Lloyd Clark, which I would put down as a ‘best read in a long time’.

    As for tables - I am frightened of them, and the tutorial reinforces that :-) I tend to do a table in the word processor, take a screen shot and then just upload it to the blog like a normal clicky photo ….. I think I will stick with that :-)

    1. Norm - think you're in for a treat with Holland, but if I was to start with one I would go with one of the others first as this one is good, but not as good as the others.. I'd recommend his book on Malta, the Sicily book is good too..