8th February in wartime Northern Ireland

On 8th February 1944, 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment sustained casualties during the Battle of the Admin Box as enemy forces shelled their position.

In January and February 1944, 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment took part in the Second Battle of Arakan in Burma. Joining XV Corps, the regiment's accuracy and effectiveness against ground targets during the battle soon earned them the nickname 'The 12-Mile Snipers'. On 8th February 1944, Japanese forces were 3 days into a counter-attack in the Admin Box. Heavy shelling and mortars fell on 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment's position. 21st Battery sustained heavy casualties.

After two weeks of fighting, the Japanese were outfought and running out of supplies. Heavy monsoon rainfall was on the horizon and the enemy eventually withdrew. 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment played a significant role in this victory in the Admin Box. Three members of B Troop received gallantry medals; Captain Robin Reade M.C., Sergeant William Adrain M.M., and Lance Bombardier Miles M.M.

In an Order of the Day, General Slim wrote:

Anyone who was there has something for which he can be very proud.

8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment in Burma

The following 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment casualties sustained on 8th February 1944 during the Battle of the Admin Box were recorded in the diary of Sergeant William Adrain M.M.

Last Name First Name(s) Rank Information
Thompson James Gunner 1468872. Wounded.
Anderson David Watters Bombardier 1569930. Killed.
Sherratt Norman Bombardier 1683120. Killed.
Galway John Gunner 1457034. Killed.
Shields James Gunner 1487581. Killed.
Wakefield R.C. Gunner 1433743. Wounded.
Buller Ernest Gunner 1468868. Killed.
Sharpe Harold Gunner 1438782. Killed.
Graham J. Gunner 1468878. Returned to Unit.
Talbot William Thomas Gunner 1780431. Killed.
Kinnon Albert Gunner 1459544. Killed.
Buchanan S. Gunner 1473919. Returned to Unit.
Miller A. Sergeant 1456622. Returned to Unit.
Burke P.W. Gunner 881314. Wounded.

Fired at some of the hilltops in Japanese hands, patrol later found dead Japs. We are being pounded by Jap 75mm gun and mortars from hill at the opposite end of the valley. Men in good spirits. We received our first severe casualties to direct hits on the gun site, the first one in the morning and about six were wounded, but not seriously, including H. Lockhart.

In the afternoon, it was a bad smash. Jack Thompson and about a dozen others were severely wounded. Bombardier Sherrard (sic) was killed instantly, on Jim Dubois’s gun and Talbot at the Bren gun pit nearby. I brought a vehicle onto the park to take the wounded to the ADS about 100 yards away. We had a job of getting them into the EDS as Japanese gunfire was coming right over the lorry and we had to take shelter. Lt. Warke was also killed, and both men were buried on the gun site.

Lance Bombardier Thomas was with me. When the gunfire ceased, we could not get any stretcher-bearers. We later found out that a lot of them were killed. We managed to get some stretchers ourselves and then we had assistance from an RMC sergeant and private to get the worst cases of (14 that day. Six of them and died later, making eight dead that day.)

The ADS had to be moved to a more sheltered spot, the other side of the river in the pass. We are brought over blackouts and medical supplies, that had been left.

I was called by some of the drivers and Bassett played in a Nullah beside two bulldozers an RE officer had parked. He had been left there to rest as he had a touch of malaria. It was a shock as no one knew he had been hit. A Padre conducted funeral services, for some of the dead, who are buried on the gun site and the enemy guns were firing away all the time. Bassett was buried next morning, where he was killed, Mr. Bing, taking his pay book and I have his wallet.

The guns of the 5-5, the 25 Pounders, the tanks and ourselves (3.7 inch) have blasted away at the Hills whenever we find a sign of Japanese 75 mm or mortars.

The crows are finding plenty of deadly Japanese.

Throughout this period, during which the compound was dive-bombed, shelled, mortared, and machine-gunned, he was outstanding…, and by his example did much to maintain morale at a high level. In particular, on the 8th and 10th of February, he was conspicuous for his devotion to duty under fire, attending to the wondered and moving ammunition lorries which were endangering the gun position, regardless of personal danger.

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