The war in the Far East which began in December 1941 would see the seemingly invincible Japanese navy, army and air force overrun much of South-East Asia in the space of just six months. The British-Indian forces in Burma were to be pushed back to the very borders of India. From this perilous position, however, the Allied forces would defeat the attempt in 1944 by the Japanese army to invade Eastern India itself and by mid-1945 would recapture Burma and take the surrender of their erstwhile enemy across South-East Asia.
A key contributor to the eventual Allied victory in the Far East war was the use of air power. Following its formation in early 1942 the RAF Regiment provided a dedicated and specialist ground force for the active defence of airfields which were essential for the provision of fighter and bomber support and in particular air supply by squadrons of the RAF supporting the British-Indian Army as they fought through the jungles and swamps and across the parched plains of Burma.
RAF Regiment squadrons would play a vital role in airfield defence for the Allied air forces during the crucial battles in the Arakan and at Imphal. The latter battle ranking with Alamein and Stalingrad in its importance for the defeat of the Axis forces. In March 1945, Regiment squadrons would participate in the masterstroke of the campaign to retake Burma; the thrust for, and capture of Meiktila.
Initially deployed as a few field squadrons and small anti-aircraft flights protecting forward airfields, radar and signals stations, by the cessation of hostilities there were ten Wing HQs, eighteen field squadrons and twelve light anti-aircraft squadrons in the field.
Following the successful conclusion of the long campaign in South-East Asia the Regiment had a major role in taking the surrender of Japanese forces and the re-occupation of Singapore, Malaya, Borneo, the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia), Vietnam and Hong Kong. That the Regiment was able to carry out its tasks so effectively and efficiently despite inadequate numbers, being in a theatre with the lowest priority for equipment and often facing debilitating tropical ailments is a tribute to the diligence, tenacity, persistence and professionalism of its officers and airmen.
Dr Nigel Warwick
Corps Historian RAF Regiment
Victory over Japan Day (VJ Day) commemorates the day on which the war against the Empire of Japan, and the Second World War as a whole, came to a close. Marked annually on 15 August, this year is a significant milestone, constituting the 75th anniversary since the world woke up to peace.
VJ Day 75 offers us the chance to thank our Second World War veterans for the sacrifices that they made on our behalves. This is especially important now, with many of our veterans shielding at home.
Often, when compared to the European War, the war in the Pacific and the Far East has received less attention and has been dubbed ‘the forgotten war’. In spite of this, we remember the great deeds carried out by our veterans on our behalf.
The War against the Empire of Japan was a multi-racial and multi-national effort, pulling in over 1 million men from nearly 30 different countries across Asia, Africa, the Americas and Oceania.
Further detail on the involvement of the RAF Regiment in the War Against Japan can be found in my book, Constant Vigilance – The RAF Regiment in the Burma Campaign