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Remembered Today:

Burma Rifles


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Dear folks,

I have recently received a query regarding the 70th Burma Rifles during the Great War; essentially, I have been asked to provide some information on behalf of an old gent who has a 'swagger-stick' marked '70th Burma Rifles' that once belonged to one of his relations. He is convinced that his un-named (to me) ancestor served with a battalion (certainly TF)of the Devons during the war.

From what I can gather, the 70 Burma Rifles were a Pioneer battalion raised in 1917...but to which division were they attached, which British units did they serve alongside and how did a British soldier get hold of such an object? I can only guess that British and Indian Army units serving together and working in close proximity would have exchanged souvenirs and keepsakes just like everyone else...I well recall, for instance, seeing a large framed exhibit at the Military Museum of Western Australia of badges, buttons, shoulder titles, etc, brought back as swapped-souvenirs by returning Diggers.

Any help on behalf of this gent would be appreciated,


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Two War Diary references give a clue or two:

WO95/4732 1/70 Burma Rifles from APr 1918 to Feb 1919 as Lines of Communication troops in Palestine.

WO95/4689 1/70 Burma Rifles from Mar to Nov 1919 75 Division Egypt,Palestine and Syria.


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He might have been given a commission in the Indian Army Reserve of Officers, which supplied most of the British Officers for the 2 battalions of the 70th.

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John Gaylor's book "Sons of John Company" contains several entries on the Burma Rifles.

In November 1916 two companies of Burma Pioneers were raised in Mandalay from all races who volunteered.

"Increased to to four companies, the Pioneers were converted to the 70th Burma Rifles in September 1917.

In the meantine the 85th Burman Rifles had been raised from the Burma Military Police (Sikhs & Punjabi Mussulmans recruited in the Punjab).

The 2/70th Burma Rifles was raised in January 1918 and both 1/70th and 2/70th served in the Middle East, the 1/70th returning to to Burma in 1920, only to be shipped to the Straits Settlements (Malaya).

The 3/70th, formed in April 1918, went to Southern India to suppress the Moplah Rising whilst the 4/70th raised in May 1918, remained in Burma.

A 5/70th was also raised but saw no overseas service."


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  • 1 year later...


I realize this is a little late, but hopefully it will be still be useful.

1/70th Burma Rifles Began life as a pioneer company in Burma. It was then raised to two companies. Then it was transformed into a full battalion at which point it switched to being a Rifle battalion rather

than pioneers.

The 1/70th Burma Rifles arrived in Egypt 14-May-1918 and was under Force Egypt HQ doing training until it moved to Palestine.

As far as the Devon Regiment....

The most likely suspect is the 1st Garrison Battalion, Devon Regiment. I have both battalions under HQ Palestine L of C in September 1918. There are also three Animal Transport Companies marked as

Devon under that command as well (555, 569, 570).

2/4th Devon is vaguely possible. It was in Egypt while 1/70th Burma Rifles were there but was disbanded in August 1918. But the Garrision battalion in Palestine seems more likely.

In early 1919, 1/70th Burma Rifles comes under command 234th Brigade of 75th Division.

There was a 'swagger-stick' of the 70th Burma Rifles auctioned on ebay very recently. I'm assuming that it was probably the one you describe. It was a very nice piece with the carved wooden


- L.

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