By Tom Dare
THESE FASCINATING images from a new book about the men and women who served in India and Burma during the Second World War were based a deceased RAF serviceman’s private papers discovered by his daughter during a home move.
Images from Clipped Wings by Elizabeth Dent show RAF groundcrew working on fixing several aircraft, while others show pictures of Indian locals during the 1940s.
In further pictures, Japanese soldiers can be seen surrendering in the Burmese capital of Rangoon (now Yangon in Myanmar) while another shows Japanese commanders marching through the centre of the city.
The book is a collection of the diaries, photographs and letters of Cpl Peter Walker, an RAF serviceman stationed in India and Burma during the Second World War who was deprived of his pilot’s license due to being colour blind.
His main duty in India was maintaining and fixing depleted aircraft, while in Burma he was also used as a cargo handler and stretcher bearer, having to land and take off in the most hazardous of conditions on short bush strips hacked out of the Japanese-infested jungle
The book was put together by Cpl Walker’s daughter, Elizabeth, after she discovered her father’s collection while helping her mother move house ten years ago.
And she says that, other than telling her a few stories when she was a child, her father didn’t speak to anyone about his time in the war.
“As the youngest child Dad did talk to me about the War, but not to the other two children or apparently to my mother,” she said.
“Although an historian, I knew very little about the Second World War – most of my knowledge came from the “The Guns of Navarone” and “South Pacific”.
“Now I know what atrocious conditions those brave soldiers had to endure out in Burma. At the book’s semi-official launch, I was really taken back by how many people spoke to me of their fathers/brothers etc. who had fought out in the Far East and everyone without exception said ‘they never spoke about it’.”
So what was the hardest part about serving in India and Burma?
“One was being away from home for over four years when most of the youngsters had never been overseas before,” Elizabeth says.
“Another was the monsoons – continuous torrential rain for days continuously and they had to work in it all the time.
“In India there was entertainment and sports laid on and their bashas had the bare necessities, with Dad even having his own Indian bearer.
“But everything was a lot more basic in Burma: water had to be collected in drums, tents erected in clearings hacked out of the jungle, pretty much non-existent washing facilities.
“Food was pretty basic too.”
Clipped Wings by Elizabeth Dent can be purchased on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Clipped-Wings-Illustrated-Service-1942-1946/dp/0995581010/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1502450163&sr=1-2&keywords=clipped+wings