Veteran Stories:
Monty Brown

Army

  • Mr. Monty Brown is pictured here wearing the issued uniform for those in the 20th Indian Division, India, 1944.

    Monty Brown
  • Group portrait of the 63rd Indian Infantry Workshop Company, I.E.M.E, 20th Indian Division, 80 Brigade in Tharrawaddy, Burma in 1945. Mr. Brown is seated in the 2nd row, 5th from the left.

    Monty Brown
  • Gurkha Guards, seen holding their Kukri Knives, stand at attention during the 80 Brigade Farewell Parade in Makassar, Indonesia, in 1944.

    Monty Brown
  • The 1st Battalion Kumaons are seen marching during the 80 Brigade Farewell Parade in Makassar, Indonesia, in 1944, while Gurkha Guards stand at attention holding their Kukri Knives.

    Monty Brown
  • Portrait of Monty Brown painted by a Japanese POW using a 6p box of water colours found in the local bazaar in Burma, 1945.

    I. Miyazaki
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"My first strange encounter was when I first went in there. I noticed a sweet smell in the atmosphere, then I was told that was decaying Japanese bodies."

Transcript

We sailed, we were told our destination was Bombay. The Mediterranean had been opened by this time, so we would go through the Mediterranean. The voyage out there was quite uneventful. Landed in Bombay and I was then seconded [transferred] to the Indian army; and was posted to a unit in the Punjab, which serviced a large driver training group that would service 900 vehicles, three groups.

And I was there for three or four months acclimatizing and I went on a course to get further indoctrination and you had language, I was taught Urdu. Finally I was posted and I was posted to Burma. And I joined the 20th Indian [Infantry] Division and life in Burma was interesting. My first strange encounter was when I first went in there. I noticed a sweet smell in the atmosphere, then I was told that was decaying Japanese bodies.

After the Battles of Imphal and Kohima, the Japanese retreated down through Burma and they were chased all the way through and the Japanese will not come back and try and rescue a wounded soldier and they were one that’s already dead, no point in dragging that around. There was the pervasive smell of rotting bodies.

When the Japanese surrendered, I was lined up outside on the road in Rangoon to take a small group. We had a special, we had five specially equipped jeeps with all sorts of tools or artillery for transports and that sort of thing. And the 80th [Indian Infantry] Brigade, which was what we were part of, was going to take part as one of the, for one of the groups, to make a landing in Malaysia, to cut off the Japanese routes right down to Singapore and have them totally trapped.

Anyway, we actually saw the Japanese surrender plane painted white fly into Rangoon; and at that time, they immediately changed the destination that we were going to and as soon as the Japanese signed the surrender, we were loaded onto a boat and we sailed for Singapore. We landed at Singapore, just as a stop to refuel, and then we continued to Saigon. And the whole of the 20th Indian Division went to Saigon and we were the occupying force. The only POWs [prisoners of war] that I came in contact with were Japanese POWs because I have my portrait. I’m looking at it right now, painted in watercolours by a Japanese prisoner of war. And I don’t know how I found out about his artistic talents but, for them, it was a great opportunity to come out of the prison camps that they were in and do jobs. And I used to give him cigarettes, I don’t smoke, but I had access to, Red Cross would send out supplies, and I’d give him a can of cigarettes and he’d think he was in heaven.

And what difficulty we had was to get paints. I sent some of my troops out searching and they found what we would have called in England a six penny tin of paints. Watercolours, you know, you’ve got a brush and then you’ve got all the different colours in a thing and we found one of those in the bazaar [market], we bought it and with that, he painted the picture which I’m looking at right now.

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