From The Daily Telegraph 14 June.
Roger Browning, who has died aged 96, was a sapper in the Burma campaign before taking up farming, and subsequently became mayor of Colchester.
In 1941, he enlisted in the Corps of Royal Engineers. After being commissioned, he was posted to India and, having arrived at Lahore (now in Pakistan), he took command of a section of 751 Indian Mechanical Equipment Platoon (751 IMEP). He learnt to speak Urdu and was trained in heavy earth-moving equipment before leaving for the war zone in Burma.
In December 1944, after rigorous training in India, Browning moved to Myitche, Burma, where 7th Indian Infantry Division and 17th Indian Infantry Division had established a bridgehead on the banks of the Irrawaddy.
All the equipment for the two divisions had been ferried across the river on large rafts powered by massive outboard motors. There were no lines of communication. The troops had to rely on airdrops for their supplies.
In February 1945, they were ready to break out and push for the strategically important town of Meiktila, held in strength by the Japanese. The task of Browning’s platoon was to advance with the leading brigade and help tanks to cross rivers and creeks, remove obstacles and craters and establish short airstrips to enable small aircraft to land and evacuate casualties.
He took part in a 10-day approach march to Meiktila and arrived on the outskirts on March 1. The Japanese were firmly entrenched. Snipers, machine gun nests, anti-tank gun emplacements and strafing from enemy aircraft were among the many hazards. His section started work at once repairing the airstrips so that Dakotas could land. This work became increasingly dangerous when the defenders began attacking the airfields in order to deprive the Allied forces of supplies.
When a replacement part was urgently required for one of the machines, Browning scrounged a lift to Chittagong aboard a Dakota supply aeroplane, and having secured the part, hitched a lift back on another Dakota. This one, however, had no seat for him and no parachute and he was obliged to travel in the cargo hold alongside barrels of high octane fuel.
By March 3 Meiktila had been captured but, for the rest of the month, the Japanese made determined but unavailing attempts to retake it. At the end of the campaign, Browning and his unit had reached Rangoon and he had been promoted to captain. His steadiness under fire and his determination to keep his unit operational, whatever the dangers and difficulties, resulted in his twice being mentioned in despatches.
Full obituary with photograph.
1 post • Page 1 of 1