One of the British Burma veterans, 102-year-old retired Lieutenant Jack Osborne, led Nigerian troops in Burma and is still haunted by what he saw and by how many men they had to bury and leave without memorial in the jungle. But he also remembers fighting alongside them against the Japanese.
"It was a mixed bunch. They got on very well together, no sort of communal hostility among them. They accepted British rule. We were all known by nick names to them. I was granddad I'm told, unofficially. The company commander was... frog, because he got protruding eyes. And it went on. Of course I couldn't speak a word to them because their common language was Hausa. So I had to set to and learn Hausa, as did my white sergeant.
We were flown into Burma, landed at a jungle airstrip, at a level stretch of paddy fields and then had to march off to White City, which was a very big fortified area. And while there, Japanese force appeared from nowhere. We didn't know they were there.
First of all I started pounding the hill just to my left and I could see these hills smothered with explosions. And I thought: 'Nobody is going to survive that lot'. Then they moved to the hill that I was on - and up came a tank, it broke down not very far away, and a Japanese got out of it and started to repair it. We were so amazed, we forgot to shoot him.
Then that failed, but later on they did break through and got into the compound and it was a charge of African troops that drove them out. So they did learn, and they did learn quickly. And I say they scared the enemy. One of our chaps was captured and the Japs gave him a bicycle and said 'You paddle back to your camp and tell the others of your company: come back here and we give them all a bicycle.' Fortunately, we saw that none of them went back out to accept that offer. But once the Japs got used to them, that was a trick that they tried."
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Source: Al Jazeera