Interesting Tobacco tin. 7609577 J. Lawrence. R.A.O.C.

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by High Wood, Apr 18, 2021.

  1. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    I purchased this tin this morning from a house clearance man who was stalling out at the local flea market. It would appear to have an interesting tale to tell.

    Unfortunately, J. Lawrence does not appear in any official lists that are in the public domain and did not join the Burma Star Association, so it may be some time before I know the full story.

    Tin 001.JPG Tin 003.JPG Tin 004.JPG Tin 006.JPG

    The coins would suggest that he was in both India and Ceylon during his time in the Far East.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2021
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  2. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    The cap badge is of the "theatre made", sand cast variety.
    Tin 017.JPG Tin 018.JPG
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  3. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    The few scraps of paper show that he was in Ceylon in July 1944.
    Tin 008.JPG Tin 009.JPG Tin 012.JPG
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  4. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    For some, as yet unknown reason, he kept this newspaper clipping of a map of Burma and inked in a route that would suggest that he might have travelled from Mandalay to Imphal or perhaps from Imphal to Mandalay. If it was the former, he may have taken part in the 1942 retreat.
    Tin 010.JPG
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2021
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  5. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    I cannot think of a reason why a member of the R.A.O.C. would keep three damaged .303 cartridge cases unless they had some special significance. They appear to have been struck by a bullet.
    Tin 015.JPG Tin 014.JPG
    After cleaning.
    Tin 020.JPG
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  6. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review... Patron

    I know of one Chindit that had a tin stop a bullet in his breast pocket... my dad was with someone during a known event where a bullet passed through the hat of the squaddie next to him... if something saved your life or was close to you in a similar moment you would be rather loathe to part with it... curiously though the pair of cartridges appear to have been fired... could always have been "made-safe" at a later point...
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2021
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  7. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    I really cannot work it out as a member of the R.A.O.C. must handle an inordinate amount of ordnance during a war. If he wanted a
    souvenir he would probably keep something used by the enemy. I cannot explain why he would keep spent cartridges, unless they were the first ones he fired in action, but even then, would he cart them around for the rest of the war? It is possible, that they were in a back pack when someone took a shot at him. It is even possible he himself shot at some empty cartridge cases to either show off his marksmanship, or perhaps to have a tall story to tell down the pub when he returned home.

    As the tin is marked "Simmo coins", it is possible that he gave the tin to a son or nephew as a souvenir and jazzed it up with the cartridge cases. We will probably never know.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2021
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  8. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    I have tried to work out a possible unit from his service number, using the numbers in the block either side of his. There are some interesting results.
    7609570. De La Tour D'Avergne D'Abrantes. (Yes, really). Pte. W.H.F.V. Wounded B.E.F. Date Not Reported. (May 1940).
    7609574 Inglis. Pte. J. Attached R.A. Wounded France. Date Not Reported. (May 1940). Later reported Missing (Middle East) 04/06/1942. Later reported PoW.
    7609576 Kaye. Cpl. A. Attached 5th Green Howards. Reported Missing 04/06/1942. Later reported Now Not Missing.
    7609577. Lawrence. Pte. J
    7609583 Taylor. Pte. David Alexander. Reported missing. (Hong Kong) 25/12/1941. Later reported KiA 22/12/1941.
    7609585 Pitkeathly. Pte. W.E. Attached 9th Btn. Durham Light Infantry. Reported PoW. (Western Desert).
    7609586 Sweeney. Cpl. Eugenne. Attached 4th Royal Norfolk Regt. Reported PoW. (Malaya), 15/02/1942.

    So it would seem that Pte. J. Lawrence would have been a pre war enlistment as others from his immediate number block were with the B.E.F. in France in 1940.
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  9. AB64

    AB64 Senior Member

    I have a paybook about 500 lower number and he enlisted 15/7/39 - so probably July/August 39
  10. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Looking more closely at the map, which was clearly taken from a newspaper, I am pretty certain that the inked route refers to the retreat from Burma in 1942. The reverse of the cutting mentions the bombing of the airfield in Buna (Papua New Guinea) that took place "last September". As the final U.S. bombing of Buna took place in late 1942, the cutting must date from 1943.

    More map 006.JPG
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  11. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    The route appears to start at Prome, just north of Rangoon and lead via Magwe, Yenangyaung to Mandalay.

    More map 001.JPG
    Then on to Shwebo before crossing the Chindwin at Kalewa before arriving at Imphal.

    More map 004.JPG

    This is the route largely taken by the 1st battalion Gloucestershire Regiment, 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the 2nd K.O.Y.L.I. and the 7th Hussars as well as the various Indian and Gurkha Regiments involved in the retreat. Obviously, not everyone took the exact same route, as some smaller parties were flown out via Myitkyina.

    I would guess that J. Lawrence would have been attached to one of these units.
  12. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    The 1/Gloucestershire Regiment spent the rest of the war in India and saw no further action. The 1/Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were later involved in the Arakan and the 7th Hussars went off to Italy. The 2/K.O.Y.L.I. spent the rest of the war in India.

    If a soldier of, or attached to, any of the three infantry battalions mentioned took leave, I think he would be very unlikely to spend it in Ceylon, unless his unit was stationed in southern India, due to the amount of travelling involved.

    Does anyone know where in India the 1/Gloucestershire Regiment, the 1/Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the 2/K.O.Y.L.I. were stationed in 1944.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2021
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  13. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    Good afternoon all, excellent thread Simon.

    My thoughts (based on a little experience) as to why these cartridge cases in particular were kept (and I'll give Dave55 a heads up so that hopefully he'll weigh in with his take on them too).

    I think Mr Lawrence may well have been an armourer, or at the very least tasked with small arms maintenance, and he's kept those cases by way of examples (to show other chaps to get the point home) of what can happen with worn/poorly made/poorly maintained weapons and ammunition, as they all look like case head type separation "detonations".

    Please excuse the liberty of my adjusting one of your excellent photographs Simon to illustrate what I'm (chuntering!) on about.

    Marked "B" in photo is(for me) a classic example of an ill fitting (within chamber) case that's blown on firing and subsequently "rattled around a bit" (note the "tapering out" expansion circled at the neck end due to minute tiny, tiny, tiny loose-fit tolerances)

    And although they all might be thought to have been "struck" from the outside on this type of misfire/mishap the initial case rupture is outwards followed by massive expansion/push back inward on the rapidly (in milli-seconds) deforming case, with resulting injury to face of the poor bloke on the receiving end of rifle.

    First four minutes here gives the gist of it (please ignore the handloading side of things, they definitely do not apply to your cases Simon, and my advice, don't dare go down the "headspace" road!) re full bore military centre-fire rifles using either rimless or rimmed ammunition.

    Apologies for knocking any notions of damage by "incoming" here, but I'm nigh on certain of why these cases look like they do, and maybe why they were kept. And again Simon, please excuse the liberty with your photo.

    Kind regards, always,


    Tin 015 circled.JPG
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2021
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  14. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member


    thank you for your thought provoking post. I know very little about arms and how they behave if not properly maintained.

    There is however a different explanation of the "tapering out" expansion on the neck of cartridge B, as can be seen in these photographs.

    Cart 001.JPG Cart 003.JPG Cart 002.JPG Cart 004.JPG

    It appears to have been squashed inwards.
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  15. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    Excellent Simon!

    I think the resourceful Mr Lawrence has "pushed in" one side of the neck end so as to use one of his "keepers"" as a pry/extraction tool (dual purposing ingenuity on his part!)

    Kind regards, always,

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  16. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member


    an excellent response, which would make the "pushing in" a consequence rather than a cause.

    Many thanks,

  17. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Using my copy of 'The Military .303 Cartridge. Its History & Variations'. by Lynn H. Harris, it would appear that the two cartridges marked WRA 1942 .303 were made by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.A.

    Make of that what you will.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2021
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  18. AB64

    AB64 Senior Member

    I think Winchester ammo must have been quite common, the boxes for it turn quite often

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  19. Bruneval

    Bruneval Well-Known Member

    Hi Simon,

    Where did you purchase the items? Town/city?


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  20. Wobbler

    Wobbler Well-Known Member

    Great purchase Simon and what a fascinating thread. Thanks to all who’ve chipped in. Jim, I learned sumfink today.
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