Thanks to John Tomalin for his dad's story.
It was lovely to see the 1st Cameronians (SR) represented at the Cenotaph today.
First part of story.
My father, L.Cpl Cyril George Tomalin (known as Bud or Tom) s/n 3245259, served for 10 years with the 1st Bttn The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) in India before the 2nd World War and in Burma during the War. He was involved in the retreat from Prome back to India via the Chindwin River in 1942. He was a PT instructor with the Battalion.
He would not talk about his dreadful experiences to us children and I have only lately been able to piece together part of his story from my latte Mother, his Army records and other records on the internet. He did not claim his War medels and it was only after he died that my Mother sent for them.
What I have discovered is that he joined the Regiment in London on the 13th Nov 1935 with his friend Laurence William "Laurie" VINER s/n 3245258. and served until 30th May 1945. They had both left home at the age of 14 years,, after their mothers had died. On reaching the age of 18 years, they decided to join the Army.The Regiment was the only one they found in London that would accept them both, as Laurence could not read or write. My father spent most of his service life stationed with the Regiment in India before War was declared. He did not altogether enjoy Army life and, on telling his father this, his father offered to buy him out. Tom would not accept this though and said he had made his bed so must lie in it.
He and his Battalion were amongst the first troops to be sent into Burma in 1942 to deal with the invading Japanese but found them a more formidable enemy than expected. On the 28th Feb 1942, he was threatened with Court Marshall - his "crime" being to use wood from the side of an Army lorry for a make-shift cross for his best friend "Laurie", who had been killed beside him! Although there are several references to the "Retreat from Burma", I get the impression it was not as well organised as it was described. Certainly my father was separated from the main body and had to make his own way back from Prome to the Indian border, using his skill and the stars to guide him. He was leading a small group of Cameronians and, at one point, one of their number, Charles "Charlie" Connor s/n 10602700, said he thought they were going the wrong way and left to make his own way. Unfortunately, he was captured by the Japanese and ended up on the Burma Railway, where he died on the 8th Apr 1944. When he reached the Chindwin River, it was heavily swollen with rainwater. The Japanese were firing on them from the jungle and many soldiers lay dead on the banks or drowned in the river. My father had the forsight to collect as many water bottles as he could from the bodies strewn on the bank and emptied them out before tying them around his waist. Entering the river upstream and with the aid of the empty bottles he managed to cross the river on the current and then had to scale the bank on the far bank with the aid of ropes sent down by friendly forces.
When he reached India, he was immediately hospitalised. He weighed half his normal bodyweight and had Malaria, Dysentery and was physically and mentally scarred and exhausted. He was then evacuated back to London and spent some time in Hammersmith Hospital, where my Mother was one of the nurses who cared for him. The rest, as they say, is history.
He was, however, to suffer from recurring bouts of Malaria and nightmares from the mental scars for the rest of his life. He died in 1984 from lung cancer from heavy smoking, which was the only thing that kept him sane but was to kill him in the end.
The 1st Cameronian (SR) reformed and re-entered Burma as the Chindits. This time thay were successful in defeating the Japanese.
I remember my mother was upset at the VE Day celebrations as the War was not over and our men were still fighting, until we succeeded in defeating the Japanese.
My father was transferred to the R.A.O.C. on the 13 Jun 1944 and finally discharged on the 30 May 1945 as no longer meeting the Army’s physical requirements.. He had served 9 years and 199 days with the colours (6 years 195 days in India). During his service he was awarded the 1936-39 GS Medal with Palestine Clasp, the India GS Medal with NW Frontier 1937-39 Clasp, The 1939-45 Star, the Burma Star and the War & Victory Medals and a Silver War Badge. Although he did not claim his medals, I know he wore the 1st Cameronian (SR) badge on his blazer pocket with pride. I arranged for a Scottish piper to play at his funeral and his coffin was draped with a Union Jack with his Regimental Glengarry on top. My mother sent the Glengarry to the 1st Cameronian (SR) Museum.