Local historian visits Burma for World War II research

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A Bushmills woman will embark on a fact-finding journey to South East Asia later this month in the search for local men who fought in the Second World War.

Glenda Rodgers, a respected historian who has already written one book on World War 2, plans to spend almost four weeks in Burma where she, along with friends from England, will be visiting all the Commonwealth cemeteries as well as the notorious 'Death Railway' made famous in the film 'Bridge Over the River Kwai.'

The aim is to discover more about the men from the Coleraine, Ballymoney, Bushmills and Ballycastle areas who found themselves under the oppressive regime of the Japanese Army in prison camps where conditions led to many dying of starvation and illnesses.

Glenda will not be leaving her Bushmills home until January 27, but preparations for the journey began well beforehand with the Burmese Government insisting on a full itinerary of places where the party planned to visit.

"We go to Rangoon, but in order to travel elsewhere you have to have permission. We have been fortunate this time in that we will be going to the Chin hills as well as the Burmese side of the River Kwai bridge which is very exciting," Glenda said.

The party will focus on the men from this area who were Prisoners of War and who were forced to work on the railway often in extreme conditions.

"We know that men from the Coleraine, Ballymoney and Ballycastle areas are buried there including two brothers called McCandless from Ballymoney," Glenda revealed.

Glenda's first book concentrated on the Bushmills War Memorial and she has now moved her focus to Ballymoney and Ballycastle and, in particular, those who fought in Burma.

The research findings will provide important material for Glenda's next book and will, no doubt, be of huge interest to those who have family connections to the soldiers.

"It will be quite intensive but very interesting. We are going to cemeteries we haven't been to before as well as the Chin hills which took us some time to get approval to visit.

"And while we are there we hope to take in some sightseeing in what is a very beautiful country," Glenda said.

The Burma campaign was waged between the Japanese and the Allies and was the longest campaign in which the British Army participated during the Second World War, lasting from December 1941 to August 1945.

Indian troops predominated within Slim's victorious Fourteenth Army and a wide variety of races, including Burmese, Chinese, Chins, Gurkhas, Kachins, Karens, Nagas, and black troops from British East Africa and British West Africa also took part.

Ultimate victory was therefore principally won not by the Americans and the British, but by the Indian Army, albeit under British leadership. It was fought over equally diverse terrain which included not only jungle but mountains, open plains, coastal waters, and wide rivers, too. On the plains, during the Imphal campaign, tanks played an essential role.