Battle Honour 'YENANGYAUNG 1942'.

Saturday, 18 April, 1942
YENANGYAUNG 1942 Battle Honour
Battle Honour 'YENANGYAUNG 1942'.

The Battle Honour YENANGYAUNG 1942, awarded to The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and carried forward by The Royal Irish Rangers, is now emblazoned on the Queen's Colours of The Royal Irish Regiment.

Faced with a superior Japanese force in Burma in 1942, the British Force was to withdraw towards the Indian frontier and also deny the Burma oilfields to the Japanese by destroying the oil wells at Yenangyaung. On 17 April 1942, the 1st Burma Division, including the 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, reached the oilfields on 17 April only to find that the allied Chinese Expeditionarry Force, having advanced from the north, had already demolished the wells. However, the Division was cut off by a ring of Japanese positions.

Below, Yenangyaung's oilfield's electricity and generating plant's million gallon oil tanks ablaze; the plant produced power for 85 per cent of the oil production in Burma and its demolition prevented any Japanese extraction of oil for at least a year. (Image © IWM (K 2202))

OilfieldsOn 18 April, a break-out was attempted through the enemy lines at Yenangyaung along a ridge and close to the allied Chinese force. The advance was led by 13 Brigade and the Inniskilling battalion was to leap-frog through to a position on the ridge. As the Inniskillings set off, enemy fire inflicted casualties, especially from Japanese snipers who targeted company and platoon commanders. Both B and C Company consolidated their positions on the ridge while A and D Company reached the village of Twingon where, believing they were linking up with the Chinese, were ambushed by the Japanese and virtually decimated. The acting Commanding Officer, Major S B McConnell, organised a defensive perimeter for the night. Darrell Berrigan, an American war correspondent with the Inniskillings described the scene that night:

'An Inniskilling Major with two other officers and myself, walked forward to inspect the outposts. We passed groups of men resting beside the road, dark shadows from which a voice quietly said "A Company , sir", "B Company , sir". There were other lumps of black shadow which were silent, Irish, Indian and Japanese dead, lying in heaps off the road ... Returning, we stopped beside a derrick where the Major struck a match; for a fleeting moment it flickered over the bodies of two dead Inniskilling Officers. The tired voice of the Major came from the darkness; "These officers must be buried according to regimental custom, tonight"'.

It was only when the Chinese attacked the Japanese from the east that the remnants of the British Force were able to the move north, bypassing enemy blocking positions. After resting, the Inniskillings continued their march on 24 April and despite hunger, thirst, lack of sleep, dysentery and malaria, arrived at Imphal, India on 11 June. The other ranks strength on arrival was 114. Both the Commanding Officer and the Second in Command, along with other sb-unit commanders, had been killed by enemy snipers.