Aerial photographs of Allied bombing raids on Japanese occupied Burma.

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by High Wood, Jan 2, 2019.

  1. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    You could start a separate thread. What are the other photographs of?
  2. morrisc8

    morrisc8 Under the Bed

    Hi Simon, i have not been away as i am into 1940 forums. One photo of a bridge in India and a few us camps in Burma and one photo in China near Burma.
  3. Bennie boy

    Bennie boy Member

    Hi there,

    Apologies if I'm not posting on the correct forum but I'm a bit new to all this! I've just received my late Grandfather's Second World War service record and I'm hoping to find out more about what he did but I'm not sure where to start. He was a private man who never really spoke about what he did so I'm starting from scratch really. It shows him arriving in India with the 1st Battalion of the Essex Regiment on the 22nd April 1945 and leaving on 25th December 1945 for the UK.

    Is anyone able to point me in the right direction of how to find out what he may have done?

    Again, apologies if this has been asked lots of times before but any help would be greatly appreciated.


  4. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi Tony,

    In Janaury 1945,the battalion had just recuperated from fighting as Chindits around Kohima the year before. It would be best for you to start up a separate thread about your grandfather, or perhaps add it to this one, which is based on the 1st Essex's time in 1944:

    1st Battalion, Essex Regiment - Burma 44th & 56th Columns
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2019
  5. Bennie boy

    Bennie boy Member

    Hi Bamboo, thank you for the reply, I'll do that now.
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  6. Matt Poole

    Matt Poole Member

    [EDIT: I wrote the following before I noticed that Simon had posted additional photos and analysis, also on page 2. Oops...]

    On page 2 of this thread, post #23, Simon posted a photo that he said he couldn't definitively place. Well, I suddenly have Google Earth back on my desktop computer, although some other functions went goofy on the computer at the same time. Ugh!

    Anyway, I snooped around and I have that definitive proof for you, Simon. More or less. It's the rail crossing at Hnin Pale, Burma. I don't know if the current bridge is in the exact location of the wartime main bridge, and I only base that upon the fact that there's a remnant of what looks like a railway curve scar on the far side of the river. However, where I project it would have intersected the main rail line puts the bridge, non-existent now, about 84 yards north of the current bridge. There is nothing in the water to indicate there ever was a substantial bridge there, but such a bridge, including pylons, could have been completely dismantled.

    In following the phantom curve northward, the scarring disappears. And the town of Bilin is on the opposite side of the river. This scar is very symmetrical, so that's why I wonder if it was a rail line.

    The 1:250,000 1950s map of the area only shows the main line, but that map isn't a compilation of all rail features.

    The 177 Sqn ORB quoted by Simon includes this:

    "The rail bridge at HNIN PALE is U/S and coolies were seen at work on a bypass bridge which is nearly complete to the north of the main bridge."

    While, as I explained, I'm not 100% certain that the modern rail bridge is in the precise location of the wartime main bridge, I do see remnants of a) the bypass rail bridge (in the water) about 290 yards north of the existing rail bridge, and b) the scar of the bypass segment from the shoreline back to where it joins the main line, on the eastern side of the river.

    The ORB also mentions that the HNIN PALE road bridge is U/S. I don't think there was a road bridge crossing the river at Hnin Pale, though the 1950s map shows a road crossing the river just a little further north, between Hninpale and Bilin. Right above the text for "Shwelonza", which might be the closest place name/settlement.

    An aerial image would likely clear up this mystery in a microsecond, but I can't get over to the Nat'l Archives to order the film, then to return to view the recon negatives.

    I more or less matched the Beaufighter's point of view to an image I rotated and played around with in Google Earth. However, I also spun the wartime image to make the horizon more or less level. A, B, C, and D are landmark points in the distant hills which are on both GE and the 1944 imagery. At this extremely oblique angle, almost down on the deck, the railway bridge doesn't stand out too well, so I also presented an area view in GE with north up. Also, I added a piece of the 1950s map for comparison.

    Right! I can eat up a block of time like THAT trying to match these old photos. I do get wrapped up in it, don't I?


    Hnin Pale, GoogleEarth,2.jpg
    Hnin Pale, GoogleEarth.jpg
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2019
  7. Matt Poole

    Matt Poole Member

    I should have looked further down on page 2, where I'd have seen that Simon ID'd some of the same features I did. However, Simon, I believe what you thought in post #35 might be remnants of a road bridge were really remnants of the railway bypass bridge to the north of the bombed railway bridge.
  8. Matt Poole

    Matt Poole Member

    Without wartime photo recon imagery for verification, I'm guessing that the bridge mentioned in the 177 Sqn ORB as being the HNIN PALE road bridge was definitely located north of the rail bridge by approx. 1.6 miles. It's the only place a modern bridge crosses the river, and, likewise, it's the only road bridge crossing of this wide watercourse on the map printed in 1960 but compiled from older sources. (The compilation info from the map legend is shown.)

    This bridge is really north of Hnin Pale and just south of the larger regional town of Bilin. Thus, the caption is slightly in error in calling it the HNIN PALE road bridge.

    I've done a comparison of modern Google Earth satellite imagery to one of the Beaufighter images of the road bridge from 18 Nov 1944 [EDIT: posted by Simon in #34, pg 2 of this thread], and the same hills are in the background. I also think I can see part of the watercourse in the background after it has made a sweeping turn, also seen on the GE imagery.

    Looking closely at modern imagery, I believe remnants of wartime bridge abutments can be seen in the water. So the modern bridge was not built precisely in alignment with the original bridge.


    Last edited: Dec 8, 2019
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  9. Matt Poole

    Matt Poole Member

    I just realized that the other photo of the road bridge from 1944, posted by Simon in #33 on pg 2, shows more telltale hilltops in the background, so I did a comparison between this 1944 photo and Google Earth. Same location, I'd say.
  10. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Indeed you do and I am extremely grateful to you for spending so much time and effort in obtaining the results. I am surprised how you can twist and turn google imagery to get the views that you do. You clearly have a greater skill set and perhaps tools/apps to be able to obtain these views than I do.

    I am a bit of a Luddite when it comes to technology, I don't drive and I don't own a mobile phone and I am, for a few weeks more, still using Windows 7. However, that changes early next year when they stop supporting it and I have to change to the over complicated Windows 10. I am not looking forward to it, I would prefer to be left alone with just my photographs, maps and books where I can be as happy as Larry.

    I am not sure why we use Larry as a measurement of happiness though as it isn't internationally recognised. Its a bit like using "an area the size of Wales" to describe the loss of the Amazonian rain forest, when the average Brazilian has no concept of the overall area of the Welsh countryside. Even I, who lives less than 10 miles from the Welsh border could only offer a vague approximation. But I digress.

    Excellent work once again Matt and I and and fellow forum members salute your ceaseless efforts your unwavering thoroughness and your dogged indefatagability.

    Many thanks,

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  11. Matt Poole

    Matt Poole Member

    Mad rush here, Simon, but thanks for the kind words. I'm a bit of a dinosaur myself, but fortunately I've learned a couple of Google Earth tricks which help. However, software goes unsupported over time, and, as you know with the Windows 7 stuff, change is the norm in this industry. Just when you think you know something, some genius sitting in a cubicle in Palo Alto, California forces change. (As a practical example, you may have noticed that twice the Historic Aviation Forum forced change on the masses. The most recent one has been disastrous, as so many functions disappeared overnight and have not reappeared. I know there are essential reasons for change, particularly to keep the cyberbullies at bay, but many other changes are ridiculous and baffling.

    I don't have any teenage computer gurus to help me, of late, when I run into new problems, and my computer is going rogue on me lately, so it's a constant battle.

    Given time (I probably said this before), I'll do more Google Earth work, as it can be intriguing to see how the landscape has changed between the 1940s and now.

    Now, go out and get your driver's licence and become hell on wheels. On the other hand, you don't need a license to be hell on wheels...
  12. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    I have just found this down the back of the internet.

  13. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Here is another example of an original photograph taken on a raid resurfacing as a press photograph.

    These photographs were taken by P.O. A. Gibbs of 99 Squadron on the 16th January 1945 during a raid on the Japanese held airfield at Zyatkwin, near Rangoon. The white dot, the 99 Squadron indicator, can clearly be seen on the tail fins of the aircraft.

    99 160145 Zyatkwin (2).jpg

    16th January 1945. 0910 - 1825 hours. Zayatkwin Airfield near Rangoon

    9 aircraft were detailed to attack the airfield at Zayatkwin in co-operation with Liberators of 99 Squadron, the object being to crater the main runway, and the ketch strip immediately west. No's 6 and 8 Supply Dumps at Prome were the secondary targets. The weather enroute for the target was good, but over the lower Irrawaddy Valley 6-9/10ths cloud impeded observation and bombing. For this reason some aircraft were unable to pinpoint their bursts, but sticks were seen to straddle the main runway, and taxi-tracks nearby. The vic of three aircraft attacking the ketch strip bombed through a gap in the cloud, and were able to see their bursts, extending across the runway. No opposition of any kind was encountered - an unusual feature in the Rangoon area, where combats with enemy aircraft frequently occur. An escort of 24 P.38's and 24 P.47's was provided to cover this contingency.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2020
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  14. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    The photograph on the right was later issued to the press.

    Stitched 009.JPG

    Here is the press release caption.

    Stitched 011.JPG
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  15. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    215 Squadron raid on Kawkadut, 8th April 1945. This was a low level raid and this particular photograph was taken at a height of 400 feet. The liberator carried a bomb load of 4 x 1000lb General Purpose bombs and 6 x 500lb Medium Capacity Bombs, the latter fitted with 11 second Time Delay fuses.

    The aircraft appears to be scarpering as there is a huge pall of smoke in the distance.

    bur 010.JPG

    8th April 1945. 05.48 - 16.51 hours. Bilin Area

    8 aircraft were detailed for a daylight attack on Road Bridges in the Bilin Area, with aircraft of 99 and 356 Squadrons. The weather was good with patches of cloud enroute to the target, where 2-4/10ths strato-cumulus was seen, base 3,000 feet, tops 8,000 feet, but this did not hamper bombing. 4 aircraft (K, C, D & B) attacked the Road Bridge to the north of Rail Bridge No. 64 (near Kawkadut), and the remaining 4 aircraft (H, S, T & U) attacked the Road Bridge to the north of Rail Bridge No. 64. Each aircraft, attacking individually, made two bombing runs over its target. Aircraft "K" saw the first stick of bombs burst in the water and on the bank, near the bridge, blowing out the bracing struts at the eastern end. Aircraft "D" saw its bombs burst 10 - 20 yards north of the bridge on each occasion, throwing much debris over the structure, which appeared to be undamaged after the attack. Aircraft "H" saw its second stick undershoot on to the road at the bridge approach, cratering it heavily. After bombing, the gunners strafed 2 covered box cars from low level, on the railway near Tankmudi. After attacking the most northerly bridge, the crew of aircraft "S" observed the bridge to be down in the centre.

    Photograph: 7. 215/962. 8MAR45. F/L Finch. D. Kawkadut. (AC). 134764 F/L Finch. D.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2020
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  16. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    The Japanese bombed Rangoon on the 23rd and 25th December 1941. This is an official Japanese Press photograph which I believe was taken on one or other of these raids. There were or course, other raids. The H.M.S.O.publication, The campaign in Burma,gives the following account.

    "The Japanese were not long in coming. They had concentrated on Siam before they struck at Pearl Harbour. A week later they crossed the frontier of Southern Burma and took Victoria Point.On December 23rd they sent over 80 aircraft to bomb the great port of Rangoon. Though they did little material damage, they killed more than 2,000 people, and created such a stampede that another 100,000 citizens fled overnight, leaving the docks and railways deserted. Fires broke out and destroyed the homes of many more. On Christmas Day they came again. The R.A.F. and American Volunteer Group fought the raiders, bringing down 52 for the loss of two defending aircraft in the two attacks".

    I am not sure how accurate the figures given here are.

    Photo 010.JPG
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  17. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Here is a link to a short Japanese film about the Rangoon raids. Right at the end of the film the Japanese are over the Kemmendine area of Rangoon.

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  18. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Here is the view from the British side.

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  19. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    The Japanese Press Release is on the back of the photograph. There is a translation on the internet.
    Photo 016.JPG
    Severe Bombing of Rangoon!

    Imperial Army Headquarters News Flash / Dec. 24, 1941, 5:10 PM

    Yesterday, on December 23rd, the combined Imperial Army Air Force heavily bombed the Rangoon Airport; Spitfire fighters (along with possible Buffalos) engaged the bombers in violent aerial battle. Ten fighters were shot down with others (an accurate count could not be determined); also, four fighter planes on the ground plus two bombers were hit and burned. Four of our planes did not return.

    December 23, 1941, after navigating long distances, our combined army air force bomb wing severely bombed the Rangoon, the capital of Burma. On the same day, a second wave continued the attack in the afternoon. Then on the 25th, a third wave pressed on the attack, destroying 80 enemy planes. This severed the military's bloodline, the bombing giving their harbour group a fatal blow.

    Enemy fighter planes engaged our new advanced fighters but one after another, they were shot down, trailing black smoke. The ground erupted from the heavy bombs; valuable buildings were instantly enveloped in heavy smoke as the city, pier and airport were consumed in fiery blazes.

    With the capitulation of Manila on January 2nd a turning point, the fierce air strategy was speeded up; on March 8th, with the capitulation of Rangoon, the air strategy has now started onto Mandalay and Lashio while considering losses.
  20. Matt Poole

    Matt Poole Member

    Sorry, friends, I've been off on my tangents and haven't added a matching Google Earth photo, as I said I would, for the Bilin image. But...on two other tangents that merged:

    I'm pals with Paul Kightley, whose father, Eric, was one of the survivors of the ditching of the 355 Sqn Liberator KH210 "R", in which VC winner James Nicolson died on 2 May 1945. Paul has put together a nice video on his dad's wartime service:


    His dad was on an op to bomb a Burmese pagoda complex on 22 Feb '45, as seen in a photo at 13:52 of the video.

    And so was Roy Andrews, RAAF, whose memoir I am currently editing/revising/expanding into a book. Roy flew for 215 Squadron, RAF, as a wireless operator. At this phase in the war, all of the Liberator squadrons were assisting the Fourteenth Army by flying tactical support ops, in addition to their ongoing strategic bombing ops (such as to attack the Burma-Siam Railway). Thus, Both 215 and 355 Squadron were on the op of 22 Feb '45.

    Paul's info on the video was based upon what he knew a few weeks ago. I have just discovered in the Form 541 in the 215 Sqn Operations Record Book that there is an excellent description of this pagoda target. The caption to the wartime photo, as found in the archive of the Australian War Memorial, touts the public relations line about bombing accuracy and missing the main pagoda on purpose (
    Kaunghmudan, Burma. c. 1945. The pagoda of the Royal Benefaction stands among the blasted ruins of the village surrounding it, a monument to the accuracy of bombing by RAF Liberator bomber aircraft of Strategic Air Force, Eastern Air Command. 200 tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs were dropped all round the pagoda, the area containing a Japanese Headquarters and artillery observation posts. An appeal had been made by the religious authorities that the pagoda should be spared destruction. It was a case of risking the ruin of the most holy place in Burma or exposing any more of our men to death. Aircrews, who included many RAAF members, were briefed to try to avoid the pagoda and yet pinpoint the targets in the immediate vicinity. Proof that the aircrews did their job with remarkable precision and that this famous twelve hundred year old shrine which is revered by Bhuddists throughout the world still stands among the ruins of the Japanese military installations surrounding it is illustrated by photographs taken during and at the end of the raid, which show bombs bursting all round the pagoda and not one on it.


    The 215 Squadron ORB sort of paints a different picture:

    TARGET: - Fortified Pagoda Area at PAGANYAT (KAUNGHMUDAW).
    NARRATIVE:- PAGANYAT, an important Buddhist religious centre, and, until this attack, a prohibited area for Royal Air Force bombardment, had been fortified by the enemy, and used as an outlying strongpoint in the defence of SAGAING. Accurate attack was essential, our own front-line being just over a mile to the west. The target, however, was easy to see, with its lofty central Pagoda, and 8 surrounding shrines enclosed by a wall, with other good landmarks in the vicinity. The attack was made in 2 boxes of four a/c each, from the north. Bombing was well concentrated on the west portion of the target area. Damage Assessment Report PM (S)510 states "The area is seen to be saturated with heavy crater formations which extend well behond the limits of the target on every side. Several small buildings within the Pagoda grounds have been destroyed or damaged. There have been several near misses to the (Central) Pagoda, which, however remains intact." Some amusement was caused by the readiness with which Allied propaganda siezed uupon the non-destruction of the Great Pagoda, as evidence of bombing accuracy, and the Allies desire to spare religious and cultural buildings. The Calcutta "Statesman" was particularly blatant, in this respect. A successful attack.


    More, from the book "Signed With Their Honour", by the 355/356 Squadrons Association:

    Diary extract from Peter Jones – 22nd February 1945 - aircraft EW117/T - time up 08.02 - time down 15.09.

    “This operational flight was flown to attack a strongpoint known as Kaunghmudan Pagoda a location which was guarding Sagaing, an area which protected the western approaches to Mandalay. This enemy position consisted of barracks and stores centred on this large Pagoda. The enemy has held up our advance for the last seven days. The outward journey was regular with weather good and no bumpiness

    We flew number two in the first V. We saw many Spitfires make dummy attacks whilst we were on the bombing run. Our bombing was poor (350 yards to port of the area) and caused no damage (to the pagoda). This fault was due to bad wind velocity and an extremely poor run up. The return was uneventful.

    Formation was easy to maintain, we held a good position until the Sunderbans where bumpiness was experienced. On the whole a disappointing show for our squadron. Bombing of late has been extremely poor, destroying the good reputation we have gained at Group headquarters.

    This newspaper cutting amused us, we were briefed to bomb a square with this famous pagoda as the chief target.”

    Newspaper cutting - Thursday 22nd February 1945:

    ‘Mandalay Front - The pagoda of the Royal Benefaction at Kaunghmudan - the Monte Cassino of the Buddist Husana five miles north of Sagaing, stands this evening among the blasted ruins of the village surrounding it - a monument to the accuracy of the RAF Liberator bombers of Eastern Air Command.

    Two hundred tons of high explosives and incendiaries were put down into the area in half an hour today without touching this 1200 year old shrine which is revered by Buddhists throughout the world. A difficult and critical decision had to be made when it became known that the Japanese were using the area surrounding the shrine as an HQ and an artillery observation post. Unmolested they were able to direct accurate gunfire on to our positions.

    An appeal had been made by the religious authorities that the pagoda should be spared destruction. It was a case of risking the ruin of the most holy place in the country or exposing any more of our men to death.

    Reluctantly it was decided that the risk must be taken. The religious authorities were told the bombing would take place from 8000 feet in daylight and that all crews would be instructed to avoid the pagoda. A guarantee could not be given that the pagoda would remain intact.

    The enormous explosion of salvoes of 1000 lbs bombs from the first formation of eight Liberators and the roar of the ammunition dump on which they had scored a direct hit, began the attack. Smoke rose in a thick column to 8000 feet and huge fires broke out in and around it.

    The second wave came in and after their load had fallen only the great dome of the pagoda, shaped like a woman’s breast, could be seen shining in the sun. After the fourth wave the whole landscape was obscured by smoke suffused with fire. The pagoda could no longer be seen.

    Japanese anti-aircraft guns put up shells but they were wide of the mark. After the Liberators had left nothing could be seen for fifteen minutes. When the smoke thinned the pagoda was still there.’


    Mad rush...gotta head out the door, so I hope this makes sense!

    Lastly, I did a then-and-now comparison to post here.



    Last edited: Feb 19, 2020
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