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Who Got the Gongs?
I placed a post recently about a VC in Burma, to which one of my readers asked the question: ‘What was the proportional difference between awards to British as opposed to Indian and African soldiers in Burma?’
Well, with the help of data given to me by my friend Harry Fecitt, who’s made something of a habit of collating the awards made to members of the Indian Army in Burma, I’ve come up with an allocation. It may not be 100% accurate, but it is close enough for government work (I went through every gazetted award, so should have captured them all). In all I counted 474 awards made between 1942 and 1945.
This is the result:
Now, there’s a couple of health warnings here.
First, I’ve assumed that the 1945 numbers of troops in 14 Army were static during these years. They weren’t of course, but the work in calculating the total number of troops of each country of origin in each of the 4 years of the campaign is more time than I have available at the moment. I hope you will forgive me.
Second, I’ve used Frank Owen’s lower number of 530,000 men in operational land forces in 1945 (rather than the number of 606,000 recorded in Mountbatten’s 1951 Report), because Owen’s number excludes Chinese troops, only one of whom, so far as I know, received a British award (Lt Gen Sun Li-jen, by the hand of General Alexander in 1942). Remember, these are described as ‘operational land forces’, i.e., fighting men, not the much larger total of men and women in the whole of SEAC (1.3m in 1945).
Now, I’m sure that statisticians will warn us about Lord Acton’s famous dictum (not least because awards might reasonably be considered to reflect the amount of combat each group experienced), but superficially at least the numbers are interesting. The British and Africans had roughly the same number of troops in SEAC, but there is something of a disparity between the number and relative percentage of awards. Likewise, with 64% of troops, the Indian Army received about the same percentage of awards as did the British, who had ‘only’ a fifth of the total combat troops in theatre.
For what its worth, there we are. After counting 474 awards in the London Gazette today, I wanted to have something to show for my labours before I head off to the cocktail cabinet…
(If you’ve spotted any errors, give me a couple of days before you let me know).
Next, I’m going to break down the Indian numbers into Gurkha and non-Gurkha. It should be interesting, but I’ll leave that to another day.
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