Harold Thorp (on left) and Bob Monroe in Burma, 1944.Harold Thorp
Group photo under Squadron flag (No. 436 Elephant Squadron, RCAF) and a captured Japanese flag in Burma, 1944. Harold Thorp is at middle under the Japanese flag.Harold Thorp
Photo of a camp in Imphal Valley, Burma, 1944.Harold Thorp
Australian Bush Hat issued to Harold Thorp in 1944.Harold Thorp
Jungle pants worn by Harold Thorp during the war.Harold Thorp
"They figured it’s the only time that a Japanese or any ship had been bombed with bricks."
Gujrat [India] was an old British thing, but hadn’t been used for a long time. They had a camp there and it was all mud huts, and in terrible shape. They had, full of scorpions and white ants, or ants that [were] almost white. And so we had to clean that up; and that actually, Gujrat is where the two Canadian squadrons, there was only two complete Canadian squadrons there [in the southeast Asia theatre], [No.] 435 [Chinthe Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force], and [No.] 436 [Elephant Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force] and I was in 436 Squadron.
That’s where the two squadrons were formed up, and that wasn’t until late September and October 1944. And they started right the next day, after we formed these squadrons of flying supplies into the British 14th Army. And they dropped everything from rice to jeeps, even hauled mules.
Our biggest problem, at that time, was getting proper tools and they even sent one set of tools over, well, lots of them, from England; and the planes were all made in the [United] States, so any of the spanners, wrenches or anything, just didn’t fit. So I think some of those are still over there, thrown out in sand.
One of our [Douglas] DC-3s [Dakotas: transport aircraft] was just sitting parked beside the runway with the motors running, ready for takeoff, when a flight of fighters, I don’t know the name of the planes, but they were a Chinese group came in; and one of the planes, out of control, landed right on the front end of the DC-3 sitting there. It just took the motors off and parts of airplane were flying all over; and it killed the, now I’m not sure whether it killed the pilot or the copilot. I think the copilot was killed, yet the pilot survived. I was right there at the time and stood there in shock or dumbness, or whatever, and didn’t move until someone said, grab the other end of that stretcher. I still wake up sometimes and see it like, you know.
They were loading a whole bunch of bricks and it was a commanding officer and the fellow that writes this Pukkha Gen [newsletter for the 435-436 Squadron Association], he’s been our chairman, his name is Art Adams. And so anyway, they said, how much the bricks weight; and they told, they thought they weighed two and a half pounds each. So he told them to load a certain number, you know, how many thousand. And it took three tries for him to get up off the runway, before they finally could get up. Now once they got up, they found out the bricks weighed three and a half pounds each and so they were completely overloaded, more bricks than what they could … If they landed with that, the landing gear would smash.
So they were wondering what to do with it and they were flying around right by Akyab. And by this time, Japanese had already lost pretty well all their power right in that area and there was a Japanese ship sitting right in the thing and so the commanding officer, that was flying, he said, we’ve got to get rid of a bunch of these bricks, so they flew around and around real high and dropped bricks on this Japanese [sea] plane. They said they figured it’s the only time that a Japanese or any ship had been bombed with bricks. And they unloaded enough so they could, when they got to Ramree Island, they were able to land.
Interview date: 19 October 2010