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Indian Field Broadcasting Units: Their Purpose and Activities

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A British soldier speaks through a loudspeaker to Japanese troops in Burma





The five Indian Field Broadcasting Units now operating in BURMA had their origin in a single Forward Propaganda Unit which operated in the ARAKAN campaign of 1943. This Unit – like the present FIVE units – was under the command of Major G L Steer who had considerable previous experience of forward propaganda work in ETHIOPIA and ERITREA.

The main purpose of the units is to carry out front-line propaganda against the enemy, and also behind the enemy lines.

This is accomplished by loud-speaker apparatus, by distribution of leaflets, cartoons and other printed material by hand and by mortar, and by patrols whose ostensible purpose is to sell trade goods to local inhabitants. This trade goods programme, while it secures the growth of goodwill toward the Allies among the local inhabitants, is also highly productive of intelligence about the enemy’s movements, plans and general behaviour. The IFBU’s are thus able to assist local formations outside their propaganda distribution role.

The Units are controlled administratively by Force 136 and receive their propaganda policy direction and propaganda material from Psychological Warfare Division, SEAC. In the field the units are under command of Army formations.

Each unit has a present strength of 60 all ranks. It is, however, proposed that future units should be much larger and be of a more elastic composition so that they can carry out several varying propaganda roles simultaneously. It is also suggested that the allocation of these larger units should be on the basis of ONE unit to each Corps.


1. No. 1 IFBU (Assam Regt). No. 1 IFBU completed training at IFBU Training Camp, FAGU, at the end of December 43 and under Captain H J Hardwick, Officer Commanding, reported to 15 Corps early February. The Unit was immediately given the role of Advance Guard to the LINCOLNSHIRE Regiment in the advance to relieve 7 Division.

2. No. 1 IFBU was also able to supply one of its ARAKANESE agents to Major Davies of the West African Recce Battalion who with him was the first to enter TAUNG BAZAAR to find it deserted of Japanese.

3. 7 February No. 1 IFBU moved to TAUNG BAZAAR via GOPPE Pass. At this time “V” Force had broken down in the area East and South of TAUNG BAZAAR as a result of two Officers becoming mental cases. No. 1 IFBU was, therefore, allotted the area to the flank of 7 Division including TAUNG BAZAAR north and east to the KALADAN River, (and if necessary beyond) and south and east including KYAUKTAU an area of approximately 300 square miles. "V" Force continued to operate south of this and for a check on intelligence information an overlap was encouraged.

4. 7 March No. 1 IFBU moved to LETPANYWA, east of TAUNG BAZAAR, where an HQ was established and trading was commenced. Trade Goods were taken as far as TARAGU by mule then on by porters to LETPANYWA. At first the porters were willing and worked for reasonable wages but these conditions did not obtain for long and porters became scarce.

5. Captain Hardwick then decided to move to TARAGU KHAMWE, woth (sic) of OJARAGU, which was accessible by mule from TAUNG BAZAAR. Markets were held there and the population from Japanese Occupied territory attended. Numbers attending eventually attained 100 at a time. All were carefully cross-examined by Captain Hardwick and his ARAKANESE leader MAUNGWE who acted as interpreter.

6. Information in regard to Japanese dispositions, areas free of Japanese etc. was obtained. This information was subsequently checked by patrols carried out by Captain Hardwick, his officers and VCO’s. The Medical Officer also carried out some medical propaganda patrols which were appreciated by the population; these patrols and the supply of such items as SALT and LOONGYIS at the IFBU markets helped to win over the population, and the services of some second line agents were enlisted.

7. At this time No. 1 IFBU were attached to 36 Brigade and were the only source of intelligence information in that area. Later 89 Brigade moved into TAUNG BAWAAR and 114 Brigade into the area near PALEDAUNG.

8. 27 March a concentration of Japanese were reported about half a mile South West of No. 1 IFBU’s HQ at TARAGU KHAMWE. This subsequently proved to be about 300 plus. That day, the IFBU mule convoy from TAUNG BAZAAR was attacked and captured. This consisted of one NAIK, 10 men and 23 mules. The Naik went temporarily missing but subsequently turned up.

9. The Unit itself was attacked during the night 27/28 March, and known results of the battle which followed were 17 Japanese killed against two IFBU sepoys wounded, one of whom dies later of his wounds.

10. 204 IFBU (MADRASSI). This unit arrived in the ARAKAN shortly after No. 1 IFBU and was offered to Commander 5 Division who occupied in the relief of 7 Division decided he could not employ it. Most of the Unit is now being employed on the ASSAM/BURMA front in a broadcasting role.


11. 201, 202 and 203 IFBU’s. 202 and 203 IFBU’s completed training at IFBU Training Camp, FAGU, 7 January and arrived in 4 Corps area 1 February; they were attached to 100 Brigade of 20 Division and the Unit established its HQ at MYOHIT. 201 IFBU was attached to 17 Division in the TIDDIM area.

12. Major Steer and his officers carried out patrols in the area east of MYOTHIT along the west bank of the CHINDWIN from MANTHANYIT, 2 miles north of THAUNGDUT to MINYA, a reputed bad village, about 15 miles south.

13. 15 March a convoy of IFBU mules under a Jemadar ran straight into the Japanese Battalion which crossed the CHINDWIN at NANTHANYIT, but the Jemadar with considerable presence of mind marched deliberately through, and against, the Japanese column until he found a side track which he took and escaped.

14. One of the IFBU Officers had a skirmish at close range with the Japanese in the village below THAUNGDUT when the Japanese arrived there. After this 202 and 203 IFBU’s withdrew doing advance guard to a Platoon of FFR with their mules in the middle of the Platoon; they withdrew over the hills via THALAUNGGYAUNG ALEWYA to the KABAW Valley. This trek took two days and they reached MAUNGKEYCHA during the evening 17th March.

15. 16th March. One trade Goods markets was held at MINTHA.

16. These units then withdrew further with FFR to LAMYANG KUKI along the AT Track west of YANGOPOPKI towards SITA and from 19th March were employed as rearguard.

17. 202 and 203 IFBU’s made a strong point for themselves at DOLAIBUNG KUKI the next village along the track west to SITA. 21st March they were ordered back to SITA.

18. 22 March FFR stragglers reported about 300 Japanese in MINTHA-YANGOPOPKI. A patrol under Major Steer did a recce at LAMYANG 23 March when they ran into the Japanese and had to fight their way back. They took up a defensive position over a one and a half mile front and one IFBU Section held up a platoon of JIFS, who had two LMGs for six hours and eventually captured one of the LMGs. In this engagement some eight JIFS were killed. Subsequently during withdrawal through our own main position the Section was shot up by a Madrassi Company.

19. The Madrassi Company later withdrew and 202 and 203 IFBU’s then took up positions at TENGNOUPAL and at SHENAM: the broadcasting section remained at TENGNOUPAL. From SHENAM the Units had hoped to work the KUKI villages with trade goods, but the Japanese were all round them and this was not possible. Good and productive broadcasting, however, was done at TENGNOUPAL and a few direct surrenders of Japanese were obtained.

20. 201 IFBU. From the time this Unit took the field with 17 Division Wireless contact was not made. It withdrew with 17 Division to IMPHAL and with the exception of losing one mule suffered no casualties. Commander 17 Division complimented MOON (a Korean Officer attached to the Unit) on the valuable ‘I’ work he did during the Division’s withdrawal.

21. One Section under Captain MOLLISON (OC Unit) has been operating the 17 Division on the BISHENPUR/SILCHAR track and one under Captain M PERFITT, MC, under 5 Division at KANGLATONOBI. On 24th April Major Steer reported that one section remained at BISHENPUR and the remainder of the Unit had been withdrawn into the 4 Corps box. Both 201 and 204 IFBU’s have broadcast to the Japanese on the BISHENPUR and UKHRUL track areas.



To Japanese. Up to date direct propaganda has been of two types, firstly, encouraging Japanese to surrender,

(a) by broadcasting to them in their forward positions.

(b) actual speaking to them by megaphone.

(c) distribution of the surrender pamphlet known as the “Honour Ticket.”

Secondly, broadcasts and pamphlet distribution in the vein that Japanese Victory is hopeless, based on

(a) it is impossible for them to get final victory or even victory here, for several very clear reasons - lack of aircraft and heavy weapons, lack of naval support, lack of allies, lack of manpower and productive capacity.

(b) they are now encircled.

(c) we treat Prisoners of War well and it is a tradition of all the Western Powers to take Prisoners; we are not fighting Japan but Japanese militarism.


All possible is done to discredit and discount Japanese currency. At date the Japanese rupee is at a 50% discount. When IFBUs have to accept Japanese money the numbers are torn off the notes and the notes are then burned in front of the people concerned.


An order by 33 Division Commander captured states, that the United Nations have started an atrocity campaign against the Japanese saying that they are uncivilised and treat Prisoners of war barbarously and that it is therefore up to the Division to treat our people well.


Major Steer has ascertained that JIFS for the most part are anxious to return to India and to their families but like the Japanese want to be shown how this can be done. 24 April Major Steer reported that the GHURKA JIFS wished to come over and arrangements for this were being made.

IFBU personnel actually captured by JIFS have talked with their guards over and returned to their own lines with them. In order that every soldier can be a potential propagandist to JIFS Major Steer has suggested that each one should carry a propaganda leaflet and a suitable one is now in production.


Special broadcasts for both Indian and British troops have been arranged by IFBUs and these appear to have been well appreciated. Music during Japanese artillery bombardment has been found a useful palliative.


This is the responsibility of Psychological Warfare Division, SEAC, and for the greater part is controlled by Peter Grieve, Esq, in charge Psychological Warfare Division SEAC Forward Base, Calcutta.

IFBUs in both ABAKAN and ASSAM/BURMA have been instrumental in distributing pamphlets on patrol, through agents, and through formation patrols.


IFBUs have been the source of straightforward intelligence in two ways:-

(a) by trading with the population in enemy occupied territory and

(b) by interrogation of Prisoners of War.

Trading. It has already been explained that propaganda training with such items as SALT, SUGAR and LOONGYIES, articles in extremely short supply and in many cases non-existent, has helped to win over the local population in Japanese occupied territories. Trading in this way is a profitable and economical form of obtaining straightforward intelligence.

Interrogation of Prisoners of War. Information of most value has been obtained by Major Steer whilst in command of 202 and 203 IFBUs. This summarised as follows:—

Japanese Prisoners of War. All Prisoners of War of whatever category have a good idea of Japanese intentions and plans. When the Japanese crossed the Chindwin according to Prisoners of War the intention was to take IMPHAL by the end of March. This is substantiated by the fact that 10 days rations only were carried and no blankets.

14 April a Prisoner of War from 213 Regiment reported 3 Battalion had had approximately 200 killed during the engagements of 11 April.

Several Prisoners of War also confirmed that a Japanese victory was hopeless but that they obeyed order to fight to the death.

They mentioned too that they were greatly impressed with our Air Force, Motor Transport and superior heavy equipment. Prisoners of War further stated that surrender would be on a much larger scale if they but knew how to do this. They offered the suggestion that the best time would be at night when they could slip away unseen.

First IFBU broadcasts inviting direct surrender, resulted in some Japanese coming forward with white bandages including a Platoon Commander acting for his Company Commander, but although arrangements had been made with troops in the area not to fire for 15 minutes after the broadcast fire was opened and the Japanese dispersed.

Major Steer also reports that it was difficult when clearing up bunker positions to prevent Indian troops from throwing grenades into these whereas Prisoners of War when invited to come out by Major Steer’s ARKANESE officers readily obeyed.

At least one Prisoner of War taken by IFBU offered to work for them and General SCOONES Commander 4 Corps, loaned a Japanese deserter to IFBUs for broadcasting. Some Prisoners of War suggested that our propaganda invitations to surrender might be more fruitful if addressed to their Officers and Leaders.

[Source: TNA HS 1/198, transcribed by]



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