Major Richard Arthur Roberts. O.C. 8th (Indian) H.A.A. R.A.

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by High Wood, Dec 30, 2017.

  1. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Does anyone have any information regarding Major Richard Arthur Roberts, (38245) O.C. 8th (Indian) Heavy Anti Aircraft Battery, R.A.?

    I know that his unit arrived in Rangoon on 31st December 1941 and that he died on the 7th June 1942. I know very little else apart from the fact that he is buried in the Imphal War Cemetery, so he presumably trekked out, or was flown out of Burma and died either of wounds or sickness. There seems to be very little written or on the internet regarding this unit.

    I also have the names of several other officers who served with him in Burma in 1942, Captain Lawrence Campbell Whithead (1453260), Lt John Lawrence Blenkinsopp (155828), Lt R H? Barber and 2nd Lt Dass or Ross, who are part of the story.

    Many thanks,

    Simon
     
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  2. harkness

    harkness Well-Known Member

    Roberts_w.jpg
     
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  3. harkness

    harkness Well-Known Member

    Blenkinsopp_w.jpg
     
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  4. Rothy

    Rothy Well-Known Member

    Blenkinsopp, J.L. - 2nd Lt., Royal Artillery - Emergency Commission, 9th November 1940 (Indian Army List October 1941)
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2017
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  5. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Excellent work gentlemen. The fact that the Casualty list states Died suggests illness rather than wounds. I had previously searched the London Gazette for dates of commission and promotion. I have looked again at Lt Barber and from his signature he may well have been Bertram Harold Barber (153641), who received a MID for gallant and distinguished service in Burma in 1945. He died tragically young in 1960 aged 52. I cannot yet be sure that he served with the 8th (Indian) H.A.A in 1942.
     
  6. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Roberts died of cerebral malaria

    England, Andrews Newspaper Index Cards, 1790-1976
    Name: Richard Arthur Roberts
    Father's name: R G S Roberts
    Mother's name: Roberts
    Spouse's Name: Phyllis Roberts
    Death Date: 7 Jun 1942
    Death Place: Assam, India
    31031_A100150-02778.jpg

    England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, 1973-1995
    Name: Richard Arthur Roberts
    Death Date: 7 Jun 1942
    Death Place: India
    Probate Date: 31 Mar 1943
    Registry: Llandudno
    32858_625988_3358-00318.jpg

    TD
     
  7. harkness

    harkness Well-Known Member

    Barber.jpg
     
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  8. Rothy

    Rothy Well-Known Member

    Richard Arthur Roberts
    Born, Devonshire, 1907.
    Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, No. 3 (Bombay) Fortress Company, Royal Engineers, Auxiliary Force, India, 17th December 1938.
    Promoted to Major, 25th May 1940.
    As Major, serving with No.3 (Bombay) Fortress Company, Royal Engineers, Auxiliary Force, India, July 1941.
    As Major (38245), Commanding Officer, 8th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery, Royal Artillery, 1941-42.
    Died of cerebral malaria after the Burma Campaign, in Assam, 7th June 1942.

    Sources:
    ancestry.co.uk Newspaper Index Cards;
    Commonwealth War Graves;
    FindMyPast;
    Indian Army List October 1939, July 1941

    I'm guessing that if the above Major Roberts is our man then the unit he commanded in Burma 1941-1942 was the 8th Indian HAA Bty and not the 8th British HAA Bty. Confusingly, both batteries served in the first Burma Campaign. I think the war graves record describing him as a member of the 8th HAA Regiment is in error. The Regiment did not arrive in India until 28th July 1942 whereupon it moved to Calcutta.

    Steve
     
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  9. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    TD,

    many thanks, that has really answered my question. I am surmising that the appalling conditions on the retreat probably caused the malaria.

    Simon
     
  10. Rothy

    Rothy Well-Known Member

    Barber, B.H. - Emergency Commission, 2nd Lt., R.A. - 19th October 1940
     
  11. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Steve,

    your summary is absolutely right, we do have the right man. I was thrown for sometime by the 8th (Belfast) HAA Bty. R.A. as there is a lot of info on the internet about it being in Burma but the dates did not add up. The tankard definitely states 8th Indian Heavy A.A.

    Simon
     
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  12. Rothy

    Rothy Well-Known Member

    It is interesting that Lt. Blenkinsopp was wounded on 23rd February 1942. This probably places him at the battle for the Sittang River Bridge. On 19th February, General Hutton gave orders for all available anti-aircraft units to move to defend the Sittang Bridge from the west bank. HAA units still to the east of the Sittang were ordered to be moved to the west bank immediately.

    Steve
     
  13. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    The tankard clearly tells a story and I guess that it may have been presented to Major Roberts's widow by the surviving officers of the 8th Indian HAA Battery after the retreat from Burma. The tankard appears to have been liberated from a Trust House public house before being engraved, it may have even been Major Roberts's own tankard. As you can see, the signatures are not all easy to decipher, or the tankard to photograph.
     

    Attached Files:

  14. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Steve,

    I will have to go through my various books about the retreat to see what I can find. so far I have only been able to place them in Rangoon on the 31st December 1941.

    Simon
     
  15. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    This is the signature that I am struggling to decipher. It may be Ross or Dass.
     

    Attached Files:

  16. Rothy

    Rothy Well-Known Member

    Simon - I have a very few details for the 8th Indian HAA - I'll share them later today.

    Steve
     
  17. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Steve,

    many thanks, I look forward to seeing them when you have a moment.

    Simon
     
  18. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Enjoyed watching this thread grow rapidly from Simon's initial request.
     
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  19. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Indeed, it is being able to call for help when your research hits a wall that makes this forum so special.
     
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  20. Rothy

    Rothy Well-Known Member

    Simon - here is what I have. Most of this is taken from Farndale's book, "History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, The Far East Theatre, 1941-46" Other snippets from teh Britisha nd Indian Official Histories.

    Steve

    8th Indian Heavy Antiaircraft Battery, Indian Artillery
    Formed as part of the 2nd Indian Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, raised on 1st April 1941. The Regiment moved to Calcutta in October 1941.

    The 8th Indian HAA Battery was sent to Rangoon, arriving on 31st December 1941. It was allocated to the defence of Rangoon and surrounding military and air force installations. By 20th January 1942, the Battery had deployed to Moulmein where it took up defence of the airfield and came under the command of the 17th Indian Infantry Division. On 30th January 1942, at the height of the Japanese attack on Moulmein, the Battery was evacuated across the river to Martaban. Around 19th or 21st February 1942, the Battery was ordered to withdraw across the Sittang to defend the bridge from the west bank of the river. After the Sittang Bridge disaster on 23rd February, the Battery withdrew to Pegu where it protected the Headquarters of the 17th Indian Infantry Division. On 7th March 1942, as the Rangoon Garrison evacuated the city, the 8th Indian Battery moved to Hlegu, where it claimed two out of six Japanese aircraft attempting to attack the withdrawing troops. It later withdrew to Tharrawaddy during 9th and 10th March and from where it later joined the other anti-aircraft units in defending Shwedaung, Prome, Allanmyo and Magwe.

    By early April, the Battery was defending Magwe when it was ordered to load the guns onto barges and sail north up the Irrawaddy River 250 miles to Sagaing, near Mandalay. The motor transport followed by road. Towards the end of April, the Battery was ordered along with a detachment of light anti-aircraft guns to Shwebo to protect a nearby airfield. The Battery then withdrew towards Kalewa but was forced to destroy the guns en route at Kaduma. With all guns, transport and equipment destroyed, the unit joined in the withdrawal from Shwegyin and Kalewa on 10th May, crossing the Chindwin River.

    By 15th September 1942, the 8th Indian H.A.A Battery was in the General Reserve of G.H.Q., India, refitting. On 1st April 1943, the Battery rejoined the 2nd Indian H.A.A. Regiment, equipped with four 3.7-inch guns. It served with the Regiment for the duration of the war.
     
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