Our Century

Burma Soldier writes to his wife

Cliff Whitehouse
Born 1913

Cliff Whitehouse

July 19, 1942

"I don't know whether it was clear to you back home but the whole Burma campaign was a matter of road blocks. You see, with our mechanisation, we had to keep to the roads - and there were few. The Japs would go out into the jungle and cut on to the road at some well-chosen spot, thereby trapping everyone to the south of the block. Usually they set fire to the first lorries they shot up and made a proper barrier - and then the trapped folks had to fight their way through.

"From the thick jungle at the side the Japs had machine guns and mortars (they were devilish with these) trained on the road. Always it fell to the tanks to break these road blocks down and they did it marvellously, saving the infantry lots of times.

"Guess what I've bought! Something for myself. Something I've longed for every time I've been near civilisation. A pair of shoes. Dirty, illiterate peasants make them with the simplest of tools. You choose your style, put your stockinged foot and have it drawn round and, hey presto! Only eight chips each - 10s 6d. I'm childishly happy about them.

"I ate an emergency ration I found. I smiled to remember Bernard showing us one at Codsall, on his leave, saying that it was so rich you simply couldn't eat more than two squares at once! The heat had melted mine and there were no squares marked but I downed every single bit of it and then licked the tin! Lovely, it was!"

  • After the war Cliff Westbourne was headmaster of Cotwall End School, Sedgley. He died in 1986.