The Forgotten Wargames Army: XIVth Army in Burma (Part 3 – Indian Cavalry)

A Jeep patrol of the British 2nd Recce Regiment in Burma, 1945

Some more Burma stuff today, namely a reconnaissance patrol from the Indian 16th Light Cavalry Regiment.  When we did our game of the Battle of Wetlet late last year, we needed a recce group from that regiment and rather than use some of my NW European collection, I decided to paint some specific vehicles for Burma.

Wheeled armoured recce isn’t exactly what you might imagine as being suitable for the Burma Campaign, as in the main they were limited to the extremely sparse (bordering on non-existent) motorable road network.  As a consequence, a lot of recce units, such as the 2nd Recce Regt, 11th (East African) Recce Regt, 81st & 82nd (West African) Recce Regts replaced their armoured cars and scout cars with Jeeps and just retained a few tracked Universal Carriers, while 45th Recce Regiment was completely converted to Chindits.  The Indian 7th Cavalry Regt traded in its armoured cars, scout cars and Carriers in 1943 for Stuart light tanks.  The 3rd Gwalior Lancers (XV Corps Recce Regt) did things a bit differently and instead had a 50/50 split of Carriers and horsed cavalry.  The West African Recce Regiments even converted in late 1944 to waterborne recce, using native Arakanese small water-craft called khistis.  The recce element of most infantry divisions meanwhile, was a ‘Scout Battalion’ consisting simply of light infantry with no weapons heavier than Brens.

A Daimler Scout Car of 116th RAC’s Recce Troop (255th Indian Tank Brigade) leads a Sherman and a Dodge Weapons Carrier in crossing the Irrawaddy, February 1945

However, the British and Indian armoured regts in the theatre did retain a Recce Troop of either Daimler Scout Cars or Universal Carriers and three Indian cavalry regiments; the 8th (King George V’s Own) Cavalry, 11th (Prince Albert Victor’s Own) Cavalry and 16th Light Cavalry were retained as armoured car regts.  Given the nature and terrain of the campaign from 1942 to 1944 they had precious little chance to operate in their dedicated role.  However, that all changed with the defeat of the Japanese 15th Army at the Battle of Imphal and Operation CAPITAL which followed (and which then became EXTENDED CAPITAL).  As the XIVth Army crossed the Chindwin and broke out of the jungle onto the ‘Dry Belt’ of central Burma, they were finally able to act in their traditional role and provided invaluable intelligence on the position, strength and movements of Japanese units.

Armoured Car Regiments typically organised with three squadrons, each with five Armoured Car Troops of 2-3 armoured cars and 2-3 scout cars, a Heavy Troop with heavy armoured cars, SP guns or mortars and a Support Troop of two motorised infantry sections, equipped to conduct limited sapper tasks such as detecting and lifting mines.  However, this basic organisation was modified quite extensively due to the tactical, environmental and logistical limitations of the Burma Campaign and the number of squadrons was reduced to three.  The squadron organisation for 16th Light Cavalry varies with the sources and both versions might be true at different times:  one source states that each squadron had two Armoured Car Troops, three ‘Jeep Troops’ (i.e. Jeep-motorised infantry) and a Heavy (Mortar) Troop, while another source suggests three Armoured Car Troops, two lorried Rifle Troops and a Heavy Troop (both sources agree that the mortars were self-propelled).

In terms of scout car types, all three regiments used Daimler Dingo Scout Cars (some may actually have been near identical Canadian-built Lynx Scout Cars).  For armoured cars, the 11th PAVO used exclusively Daimler Armoured Cars, but the 8th KGVO and 16th Light Cavalry used a mix of Daimlers and Humber Mk IV Armoured Cars (probably two squadrons of each type).  The 7th Cavalry had been equipped with Fox Armoured Cars (Canadian-built Humber Mk III, armed with Browning .50 Cal) until conversion to Stuart and some of these may well have been used in lieu of Humbers.

In other theatres of war, the Heavy Troops were equipped with AEC Armoured Cars or Staghound Armoured Cars, or with M3 GMCs, but by 1944 the Heavy Troops of all three regiments in XIVth Army were equipped with two Wheeled Armoured Carriers (India Pattern) Mk II, refitted as self-propelled 3-inch mortars.  Other Wheeled Carriers were apparently used as command vehicles.

The Daimler Armoured Car, Dingo, Jeeps and Dodge Weapons Carrier models are by Skytrex.  The India Pattern Carrier and infantry are by Flames of War.  The India Pattern Carrier has a spare plastic mortar added from a Team Yankee M113 APC kit.

In terms of markings, I’ve given these the circular version of the XIVth Army badge, which was the standard form of the badge when painted on vehicles.  I’ve given them square squadron signs (signifying ‘B’ Squadron) in white, which indicates an un-brigaded regiment.  I’ve seen a photo of a 16th Light Cavalry Daimler Armoured Car with just the troop number (2) on the turret side and no squadron sign, though a photo of a column of 11th PAVO Daimlers shows them all painted with squadron signs and troop numbers painted within the signs.  Going into 1945 they would have large white Allied Stars painted on the sides, but apart from the India Pattern Carrier, there are no suitable flat surfaces on which to apply the decals, so I’ve left them off.

That’s it for now.  Artillery next time…

This entry was posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: WW2, Painted Units, World War 2, World War 2 - British Commonwealth Armies, World War 2 - Burma Campaign. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Forgotten Wargames Army: XIVth Army in Burma (Part 3 – Indian Cavalry)

  1. Rhys says:

    Wonderful work Mark.

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