Burma ’44: The Battle that Turned the War in the Far East by James Holland - review by Saul David

Saul David

Admin Nightmare

Burma ’44: The Battle that Turned the War in the Far East


Bantam Press 319pp £20

For eighteen days in February 1944, a ‘motley collection’ of British-led ‘muleteers, clerks, engineers, orderlies and medical men’ fought off repeated attacks by the Japanese Imperial Army in the jungle-clad mountains of Arakan in northwest Burma. Known as the Battle of the Admin Box, it was the ‘first time’ British forces had beaten the Japanese in a major action and was to prove a ‘crucial turning point’ in the war. Yet few have heard of the battle. It ‘deserves to be remembered’, writes James Holland.

By the turn of 1944, the British had suffered ‘one humiliation after another’ in Southeast Asia, including the surrender of Singapore, the sinking of the capital ships Prince of Wales and Repulse, and the withdrawal of their forces from much of Burma. But hopes were high that General Bill Slim,

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