The Battlle for Mandalay’s Fort Dufferin

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The Mandalay Palace walls and gates were damaged during World War II. The destruction of this historical edifice wring the war was described on age 3537 of the Second Great War, volume 8, edited by Sir John Hamerton, as follows:

The 19th Indian (dagger) Division entered Mandalay on March 8,1945. By March 12 the only serious enemy strong point remaining was Fort Dufferin*, a powerful fortification, fanatically, with side 11 /2 miles long, walls 30 feet high and 12 feet thick, surrounded by a moat 70 yards wide. R.A.E Hurribombers unsuccessfully attacked the walls, which with stood all onslaughts until March 19 when they were breached by Mitchells with 2,000-lb bombs.

[‘After British conquest of Upper Burma in 1885, the Mandalay Palace was renamed as “Fort Dufferin” to commemorate Lord Dufferin, then Viceroy and Governor General of India — Ed.]

Similarly, the incident was described in the report to the Combined Chiefs of Staff by the Superme Allied Commander, South East Asia 1943-45, Vice-Admiral ie Earl Mountbatten of Burma, as flows:

469.19 Indian Division pushed on, capturing the enemy’s carefully prepared positions about Mandalay, on the south bank of change, before the Japanese themselves had time to fall back on them; and on the 9th March our troops entered Mandalay City. Siege was immediately laid to Mandalay Hill and Fort Dufferin: the two strong points of the city, in which the enemy had concentrated nearly all the defending troops. Mandalay Hill is a great rock, covered with pagodas and temples, which rises to nearly 780 feet above the surrounding paddy fields and completely dominates the north-east sector of the city; Fort Dufferin, which lies to the south -west of this hill, and two miles from the river, is encircled by a moat 230 feet wide and has walls 20 feet high backed by an earth embankment which is some 70 feet thick at its base.

  1. Mandalay Hill was captured on the evening of the 11th March, after twenty-four hours of severe hand-to- hand fighting in which the enemy was only finally destroyed by lighted petrol drums which were rolled down into the tunnels destroyed by lighted petrol drums which were rolled down into the tunnels where he was holding out. After three more days of street fighting, the city area was cleared by the 14th March, and Fort Dufferin, which was strongly held, was invested by our troops. On the 16th, Hurricanes and Thunderbolts (P-47), carrying 500-lb bombs, made three attacks on the walls of the Fort; one of these strikes damaged the north wall, but did not breach it; even medium artillery fire at 500 yard, range failed to break through the massive walls and their earth embankments. After a further air strike b Thunderbolts had made a breach in the wall, infantry tried the following night to cross the moat and scale the breach, but were driven back by heavy enemy fire. Three more unsuccessful attempts were made on the 18th, our troops having to withdraw on each occasion.
  2. On the 19th, yet another attempt was made to cross the moat; but this was also unsuccessful, because of weeds. Later that day, three Mitchells (B-25), carrying 2,000-lb bombs, made an experimental attack on the wall, using skip-bombing technique and succeeded in blowing a 15-foot hole.

These accounts, incidentally, gave credit to the compactness and durability of the city walls which were built more than 100 years ago by Burmese artisans using pure Burmese methods, Burmese architectural style and material.

It may be noted here that the Allied troops entered Mandalay not on the 8th March, 1945 as stated in the Second Great War, Volume 11 L on the 9th as stated in the report the Supreme Allied Commander, South-East Asia.

Ever since the fall of Mandalay i November 1885, the remains of th Mandalay Palace had served as a beacon to rekindle the submerged nationalist and patriotic feelings c the Myanmar people in the various stages of the country’s struggle for independence. The palace walls with their crowning Pyatthats (turets) had stood as a pillar to remain the people never to forget that they had at one time been a sovereign and independent nation.

Fully aware of the immeasurable value of such historical monuments in the promotion of national cults and patriotism, the Revolutionary Government of the Union of Burn had renovated and restored the

damaged portions of the palace walls and the Kyaw Moe Gate at a cost of Kyats 370,000 in 1963.

Source : The Traveller, Vol 2, No, 23

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