medal code j3073

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A RARE FIRST ARAKAN “OPERATION CANNIBAL” IMMEDIATE AWARD MILITARY CROSS WITH AN OUTSTANDING FIGHTING CITATION TO AN OFFICER OF THE 1ST BATTALION, 15TH PUNJAB REGIMENT, 123RD INDIAN INFANTRY BRIGADE, FOR RALLYING HIS COMPANY AT RATHEDAUNG, BURMA 8 MARCH 1943. DESPITE REPEATED ATTACKS, DURING TWO COUNTER ATTACKS, HE WAS “LEFT TO MOVE ON PRACTICALLY UNACCOMPANIED. HE HIMSELF SHOT THREE JAPS WITH HIS REVOLVER AT POINT BLANK RANGE BEING QUICKER ON THE DRAW-THAN HIS OPPONENTS.”

MILITARY CROSS, G.VI.R., REVERSE OFFICIALLY DATED 1943, WITH RIBBON PIN, IN ROYAL MINT CASE OF ISSUE IN OUTER CARD BOX (LID MISSING), WITH BUCKINGHAM PALACE FORWARDING LETTER NAMED ‘MAJOR D. L. WILKINSON, M.C., PUNJAB REGIMENT, INDIAN ARMY’, 1939-45 STAR, BURMA STAR, ITALY STAR, DEFENCE AND WAR MEDALS 1939-45. Together with a 15th Punjab Regiment shoulder title, two Regimental collar badges, a photograph of the recipient in uniform and a silver plated presentation flask, inscribed with the Regimental crest and ’15 Punjab Regiment D. L. Wilkinson Oct 1946’.

M.C. London Gazette 1 June 1943.

The original recommendation for an immediate award, dated 9 March 1943:

MILITARY CROSS (Immediate).1/15th Punjab Regt. Lieut (T/Capt) Wilkinson, David Langley. AT RATHEDAUNG BURMA 8 MAR 43. This Officer was in command of a hastily organised Coy. This Coy. Had been made up temporarily out of a handful of old soldiers, together with a vast majority of recruits who had joined the Bn. From “T.B.” two or three days before. Wilkinson had no V.C.O’s. with him. Of the few N.C.O.s most were newly made to replace casualties and very inexperienced. This Coy. Took up position on the long low wood covered feature in Sq.7708 map. 84 D/14.

Before dawn on the 8th this position was attacked by Japs in considerable strength. The attack was held till the danger period before dawn was well past. However on two of the forward V.Bs becoming jammed nothing could persuade the recruits of the forward element of withdrawing. Withdrawal became infectious as five casualties occurred among the N.C.Os who might have steadied the remainder. Soon the Japs had taken over half the feature and I saw Wilkinson stop the whole party who were actually leaving the last position of the feature. He rallied the men and succeeded in holding the North end of the feature. This saving the Bn. H.Q. and NAWLAG-GAW village, both from dangerous exposure. The moral of the weary and untried troops was now poor. It was due to Wilkinson’s personal example that this position held until the Coy., was relieved at 2200 hrs that night.

Wilkinson tried to put in local counter attacks twice but the men lacked spirit. Each time Wilkinson was left to move on practically unaccompanied. He himself shot three Japs with his revolver at point blank range being quicker on the draw-than his opponents. Wilkinson was always up front and by his almost foolhardy act in twice advancing practically alone, he set a magnificent example. It is clear from various accounts and from the Japs subsequent lack of thrust that they had suffered heavy casualties. Out casualties were 2 killed, 8 wounded, 9 more wounded and left out and 12 missing.”

Signed Com. 1/15th Punjab Regiment and Major General W.W. Lloyd, Commanding 14th Indian Division”.

During the First Arakan Campaign, the 1/15th Punjab Regiment formed part of the 123rd Indian Infantry Brigade, along with 10th Btn Lancashire Fusiliers and 8/10th Baluch Regt, Commanded by Brigadier B Hammond. The Brigade was part of the 14th Indian (Light) Division and was one of four Brigades that were originally tasked with the capture of Akyab Island, in the Arakan, on the West coast of Burma. Akyab Island which held a port and all-weather airfield, being prominent in Allied plans to recover Burma. Codenamed Operation Cannibal, 14th Division began its advance near the frontier between India and Burma on 17 December 1942:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arakan_Campaign_1942%E2%80%9343

During January and February 1943, the 1/15th were involved in heavy fighting in the hills north of Rathedaudaung, assaulting hill features and holding them against Japanese counterattacks. By March, having been in continuous action for five months, the soldiers of the 1/15th were exhausted and their morale at breaking point and it was at this time that elements of the Japanese 55th Division started their own counter offensive against 123rd Brigade still holding positions at Rathedaudaung. 1/15th Punjab in particular were finding it impossible to hold its position on a hill called ‘sausage’ it was during such attacks that Lieutenant Wilkinson would be awarded the M.C.

By early April, the Japanese had severed 14th Divisions lines of communication and they were forced to retreat. By early May, the Division was back where it had started in December 1942, having suffered a major defeat in the Arakan. Not only were the losses incredibly high but the defeat had a dreadful effect on morale and was certainly one of the most disastrous operations of the war.

Condition EF. Medals mounted as worn on a medal ribbon bar. MC kept in case but recipient clearly pinned his MC to the bar when wearing as pin marks can be seen on MC ribbon. A fine and rarely seen Gallantry award group for the disastrous first Arakan campaign.

Code J3073        Price £ SOLD