A War of Empires

Japan, India, Burma & Britain: 1941–45

A War of Empires cover

A War of Empires

Japan, India, Burma & Britain: 1941–45

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'This is a superb book.' - James Holland

In 1941 and 1942 the British and Indian Armies were brutally defeated and Japan reigned supreme in its newly conquered territories throughout Asia. But change was coming. New commanders were appointed, significant training together with restructuring took place, and new tactics were developed. A War of Empires by acclaimed historian Robert Lyman expertly records these coordinated efforts and describes how a new volunteer Indian Army, rising from the ashes of defeat, would ferociously fight to turn the tide of war.

But victory did not come immediately. It wasn't until March 1944, when the Japanese staged their famed 'March on Delhi', that the years of rebuilding paid off and, after bitter fighting, the Japanese were finally defeated at Kohima and Imphal. This was followed by a series of extraordinary victories culminating in Mandalay in May 1945 and the collapse of all Japanese forces in Burma. Until now, the Indian Army's contribution has been consistently forgotten and ignored by many Western historians but Robert Lyman proves how vital this hard-fought campaign was in securing Allied victory in the east.

Detailing the defeat of Japanese militarism, he recounts how the map of the region was ultimately redrawn, guaranteeing the rise of an independent India free from the shackles of empire.

Table of Contents

Author's Note

Part 1 – Hubris, 1942
Prologue – Major John Hedley, 4 Burma Rifles
1. Burma at the Intersection of History
2. Defending Burma (Badly)
3. A Hurried and Ill-Considered Plan
4. The First Shots
5. 'We Could at Any Rate Send a Man'
6. A Slim Chance to Save Burma
7. The Battle for Lower Burma
8. Exodus
9. Independence Armies
10. The Reason Why

Part 2 – Hiatus, 1943
Prologue – Lieutenant Philip Brownless, 1 Essex Regiment
11. Aftermath
12. Taking Stock
13. Arakan Round One
14. Bharat Choro!
15. Vinegar Joe's Travails
16. Trying to Crack the Donbaik Nut
17. Irwin's Blame Game
18. 'Our New God, Orde Wingate'
19. Re-thinking Training
20. Building a Base
21. 'A Blind Man Searching for a Black Cat in a Dark Room'

Part 3 – Resurrection, 1944
Prologue – Lieutenant John Twells, 1 Gurkha Rifles
22. Arakan, Again
23. Ha-Go
24. Okeydoke
25. Sinzweya
26. The March on Delhi
27. Cock-up on the Tiddim Road
28. The Chindwin
29. Thermopylae in the Naga Hills
30. The Spokes of the Wheel
31. Forty-Seven Days of Battle: Kohima
32. Seventy-Six Days of Siege: Imphal
33. Down the Hukawng Valley to Myitkyina
34. The Road of Bones

Part 4 – Redemption, 1945
Prologue – Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Pettigrew, 2/14 Punjab
35. What to Do About Burma?
36. A Change of Plan
37. Third Time Lucky in Arakan
38. Meiktila and Mandalay
39. Extract Digit!
40. The Empire Strikes Back

Appendix 1: The Indian and Gurkha Infantry Regiments of the Indian Army
Appendix 2: Indian Army Structure and Numbers – 9 September 1943
Appendix 3: Definitive Numbers for Indian Army in SEAC
Appendix 4: Estimates of Japanese Soldiers in Operation U-Go
Further Reading

Product details

Published 11 May 2023
Format Paperback
Edition 1st
Extent 560
ISBN 9781472847157
Imprint Osprey Publishing
Illustrations Illustrated with 16 pages of black-and-white photos and 12 black-and-white maps.
Dimensions 234 x 153 mm
Series General Military
Short code GNM
Publisher Bloomsbury Publishing

About the contributors


Robert Lyman

Robert Lyman is regarded as one of Britain’s most…


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