Book tours are punctuated by all kinds of unforeseen encounters: most are pleasant, some are disconcerting, and a few are rewarding beyond all expectation. Thus it happened for example that the Asia House event for ‘River of Smoke’, on June 8, in London, led to a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi’s brother- and sister-in-law (cf. my June 9 post).

At the same event I also met, very briefly, Dr. Krishnan Gurumurthy, who told me that he had read ‘The Glass Palace’ and that he was himself a survivor of the exodus from Burma that figures in the book. I have often urged people to record the memories of those who lived through that epic trek over the mountains of the India-Burma border. The last survivors are now in their seventies and eighties and their memories constitute an invaluable living archive. Very few published accounts of the march exist and most were written by Europeans; Asian accounts are exceedingly rare (this is one of the reasons why the historian Hugh Tinker described it as ‘The Forgotten Long March’[1]).

First a few elements of the background: In 1941, when the 2nd World War spread to Asia, Rangoon was predominantly an ‘Indian’ city in that the majority of its population consisted of people of subcontinental origin or descent. According to the 1931 census, there were slightly more than a million Indians in Burma at the time; of these some sixty per cent (617,521) were born in India. The consequences of Indian migration into Burma were too complex to go into here. Suffice it to say that the through the 1920s and 30s, there were some powerful currents of hostility to the Indian presence in Burma. In 1930 bloody anti-Indian riots broke out in Rangoon and many thousands were killed. As a result of these developments, there was an increasing nervousness within the Indian population in Burma.

Japan entered the 2nd World War with simultaneous attacks on Pearl Harbour and northern Malaya. On December 23 came the first Japanese air attacks on Rangoon.

This attack created absolute panic in the city. It is important to remember perhaps that generally speaking, very few civilians had expected the war to spread to Asia. The survivors I spoke to were almost unanimous on this. The attitude is hard to account for because in military circles, Indian as well as British, it was well-known that the Japanese were preparing for war. Similarly, the British municipal authorities had made preparations for air-raids: trenches had been dug, an Air Raid Precautions authority was set up in Rangoon and other cities, on the model of similar bodies in London. Yet, psychologically, the civilian population of the British territories in Asia appear to have been completely unprepared for the coming war (Dr. Gurumurthy’s father was by no means unusual in this).

The first Japanese air raid on Rangoon, was on December 23, 1941. The air raid of Dec 23 was followed by another on Dec 25. The air raids created chaos in the city. There was a general breakdown of law and order and the Indians, already wary after the riots of the past decade, began to panic.The perception was that the British were about to withdraw from Burma, and that in their absence, Burmese mobs would have free reign to terrorise the Indian population. Suddenly, the Indians began to move northwards. But without the Indians the city simply could not function: they made up almost the entire working class of Rangoon. The dockworkers were the first to abandon their jobs. This meant that essential supplies could not be unloaded from the ships in the Rangoon docks. Many of these vessels became sitting targets for Japanese bombers.

In January it became clear that the Japanese were advancing rapidly and that the British forces would not be able to hold them. Leslie Glass, a British civil servant, was present in the city; this is how he describes the atmosphere: “Every Japanese air raid increased the steady stream northwards of the city population, and more and more institutions ground to a standstill. One afternoon, I joined in a bizarre and melancholy foray to shoot all dangerous animals in the zoo, as all their keepers had decamped. Tigers, panthers and poisonous snakes were killed and the deer released in the park, except for one which we shot for fresh meat. When we had gutted the poor beast, we threw its entrails into the lake and great fish thrashed and swirled in the course of their unusual meal.’

At this point the British began preparations for evacuating their government: the civilians were left largely to fend for themselves. The Indians began to stream out of Rangoon and central Burma, and soon vast crowds clogged the principal roads. As to why so many Indians took the decision to leave Burma, at such great personal cost – this remains something of a mystery to this day. Some of them certainly saw themselves not as a group separate from the British but also as colonists, extensions of their master’s house. Some evidently believed that they would be a hostage population in the hands of the Japanese; others thought that the Burmese would turn upon them once the protective hand of the British had been removed. But these apprehensions were unfounded: in fact well over half the Indian population chose to remain in Burma. They were not singled out after the British withdrawal and were spared the suffering of the exodus.

Whatever the reasons, a great number of Indians decided that the difficulties of the road were preferable to the uncertainties of remaining where they were and the march quickly developed an unstoppable momentum. In the initial stages, the exodus moved in two directions. One took the easterly route, over the Arakan Hills into Chittagong. This was a relatively short route, though also very dangerous. It is estimated that one to two hundred thousand Indians crossed to India over this route.[2]

The other route was the northerly route, essentially following the course of the Irrawaddy and then the Chindwin river. This route was several hundred miles long (depending on the starting point). The final crossover into India lay through uncharted terrain – over the mountains that separate Manipur from Burma.

All the while, a certain number of planes and boats stayed in operation, but they were used mainly for the evacuation of ‘European’ personnel. There are innumerable stories of how these fleeing officials sometimes used their transportation privileges to carry away pianos and dinner sets, while their subordinates had to make their way on foot, abandoning everything.

In the early phases of the air evacuation, according to Hugh Tinker, ‘Europeans and Eurasians were in the overwhelming majority’. Then, ‘after protest by Indian leaders, the proportions were reviewed.’ But on May 9 the air route was shut down all together and now only the mountain route remained. This was the route taken by Dr. Gurumurthy’s family.

On meeting Dr. Gurumurthy I immediately urged him to record his memories on paper. A few days ago he sent me a short memoir of the march; I am posting it here with his permission (in three parts: the accompanying pictures are mine and were taken in 1996).

Here is Dr. Gurumurthy’s account of the march.



My wife and I met you at the Asia House and you mentioned that you might be interested to hear from me about my experience trekking as a war evacuee from  Burma during   Feb/April 1942.

Before that  a brief preamble.

My grandfather migrated to Burma to make a living and my father was born in Rangoon in 1902.

My father grew up in Burma and in due course married my mother who was from a small village near Madras ( Chennai ).In time they had 7 children, 6 boys and a girl.

I am third in the pecking order and was born in 1933. I was 9 in 1942.

My father was an employee in the Burma Railways and we lived in a place  called Toungoo, which , if I recall right was a railway town. It seemed to be always sunlit and with my brothers always playtime. So at least I imagine.

My father, I felt was a practical and responsible person.  I therefore cannot fathom his apparent failure to apprehend the imminent menace of  a Japanese conquest of Burma, and leave for the safety of india, especially with a large brood.

Toungoo is a medium-sized town about 200 miles north of Rangoon. It is the District Headquarters of Toungoo Dist. I do not know when my father moved to Toungoo but life was largely easy and  delightful.

All this was to vanish.

The Japanese were advancing  towards Burma after their conquest of malaysia. The full impact could be felt only in the year 1942.  There was panic all round in Toungoo. Many of them were making attempts to flee. My father at last decided in January 1942 to send us to India and he wanted to stay behind.

Our next step would be to catch a steamer at Rangoon for our journey to Madras.


Steamers, Rangoon


We left for Rangoon sometime in the  end of January 1942. With great difficulty, my father managed to get steamer tickets to Madras. On the appointed date, we went to the Rangoon port to board the steamer and at the last moment fate again played its tricks. Just as everything was seemingly going well, we were denied entry into the steamer. By that time, the Japanese had advanced to the outskirts of Rangoon City, and the then British government thought that only the lives of the British, and Anglo-Indians were worth saving and allowed only them to board the steamer. The rest of us were thrown out to fend for themselves.[1]

Immediately thereafter the Government declared an emergency and handed over the city to the army. They directed all the inhabitants to leave the city within 48 hours. [2]All hell broke loose. All exit points were closed.

My father decided to go back to Toungoo. But there were no trains or buses or any other transport available.  Since my father was in the Burma railways, he sought the help of the local railway station master of a suburban station and managed to board us into a coal compartment of a goods train. The whole night we travelled without water or sleep, perched precariously atop the coal heaps to reach Toungoo.

We did reach Toungoo in the morning tired and hungry. But our erstwhile house was a sight to see. Instead of the house we left behind we could see only a big crater and the house destroyed. The locality must have been bombed in our absence. But, had we stayed behind in Toungoo the entire family might  have perished.

The only alternative was to go to India through the land route.

The land  bridges were bombed, travel by train to North Burma was out of question. My father’s  contacts came to our rescue. One of them  lent his car and driver and asked us to go to a place called Maymyo in the north  and from there proceed on our onward journey.

On reaching Maymyo  we were lodged in a Dharamsala on  the banks of the river Chin Win. We stayed there for a few days. Like us, there were others who were trying to go to India. Maymyo was the starting point for our journey. To reach the 2nd stage of our journey, viz., the Naga Mountains, we had to travel another 100 miles partly by boat/ferry and partly on foot and bullock cart.

We  managed to hire a large boat called “Anda boat” (egg shaped). The boatman  agreed to ferry us to a specified spot delineated in a map given to us, from where we could continue our trek, at a fare of Rs 20 per person. To facilitate our journey, pamphlets and maps were distributed showing the places of halt, evacuee camps, availability of free rations etc. No monetary aid was given. The maps were however useful. This particular travel by boat was enjoyable in parts. The boat wended its way smoothly through the river. The weather, I remember,  was clear and fine. The boat used to ply during day time and in the evening anchor at some place near a village. Near the river bank, several fruit and vegetable gardens were laid out. Our co-passengers and ourselves simply helped ourselves to this produce and with wood gathered from the neighbourhood, we would cook our meals. We had a small stock of dhal, rice and salt available with us. These events at the time  affected me very little. God knows what kind of mental agony my parents must have been undergoing, their main concern being our safety. Thus, we travelled for 7 days and 7 nights and reached another stop  (I do not remember the name) from where we were to travel by foot to reach  a small town called Tamu, at the foothills of the Naga Mountains.

This stage of the journey was nothing but real agony. This stage covered about 50 miles by foot through dense forests. My father engaged a bullock cart for my grandmother, mother,  my  three younger brothers and my sister.

I and my older brothers and father  had to walk. We were told that this particular route was hazardous both from the danger of wild animals. There were warning signboards in some places that one had to walk non-stop to escape death by inhaling poisonous air. One may wonder as to how we could go through these forests safely. This was possible because about 5000 evacuees were moving at a time together for mutual safety. In our group there were many Sikhs carrying weapons. Those who had no weapons made noise through drums to scare the animals. Once, we encountered a large python. Thanks to the cover provided by these able bodied youth, we were able to cover the route without fear and danger, from dacoits and wild animals. After an arduous travel for seven days, sometimes without food or sleep, we reached  Tamu.




Tamu, now,  is a very important transit point at the foothills of the Naga mountains. Lot of commercial activity, both legal and illegal (Peddling of drugs and contraband goods) takes place in Tamu.  But in 1942  it was a small place perhaps not exposed to present day nefarious activities. But it was an important place from where one has to cross the Naga Mountains to reach India. At that time, in 1942, it was over-crowded with thousands of desperate Indians, classified as Burma evacuees, all eager to reach India. One has to obtain a permit from the Camp In-charge to start our trek over the mountains. My father obtained this permit and we began the trek over the mountains.[1]

When one is struck between a rock and a hard place and is faced with no alternative one gets enormous strength to fight to survive. The very thought of climbing the mountains bare-foot is mind boggling. My father engaged three Manipuri coolies to carry the three young siblings. We discarded the remaining small items at this place and started trekking literally with just our clothes on. The first day was the most arduous  with unbearable strain as the mountain was steep with no down hills throughout. My mother and grand-mother were the worst sufferers. Many unfortunate evacuees perished on the way side. There was no one who cared to remove the corpses of the dead. One’s mental attitude at that point of time was such that even if your own child or near or dear ones perished you would just walk on to save yourself. Quite a few did just that. No one even bothered to remove the small gold ornaments still on the body. I can vividly remember holding my father’s hand and asking how far still  to go . He used to point at some flickering light and say that was it. I, of course believed him. My feet were heavy out of tiredness and I could hardly lift them; often I hit the  stones in the path and bled from the nail beds.

We travelled throughout the day and rested at night at some convenient place in the mountains. Over 5000 evacuees were moving together. Thanks to our able bodied Sikh and North Indian friends, we were able to sleep peacefully at night. They kept guard over us throughout our journey through the mountains. It was an ordeal. Perhaps, the very noise and the human crowd appeared to have scared the animals. We sustained ourselves from the small quantities of rations, consisting of rice, dhal and salt provided by the transit camp authorities. After seven days of trekking, half-dead physically, one fine morning we descended and set  foot on Imphal. I  still can recall that moment. My mother and grand-mother were in a state of acute mental and physical collapse due to exhaustion.

My parents were overjoyed to set foot on Indian soil. Only those who underwent the trauma of fleeing from their homes could fathom the ordeal we went through to arrive in India alive.  Many perished and hardly any family escaped without a loss. The transit evacuee camps at Imphal were big bamboo thatched sheds and were being used to house thousands of evacuees. This was the first transit camp provided to us  since we fled Toungoo. Free food and medical facilities were provided. Notwithstanding the medical attention, many evacuees were dying of cholera due to contaminated water, inadequate food and exhaustion. The magnitude of the problem was such that nothing better could be done. During a week’s stay at Imphal, we could somewhat recoup from our trauma, but the condition of our grand-mother began to deteriorate due to old age, fatigue and weakness.

Our reception in India was in sharp contrast to our journey through Burma. Spontaneous relief and assistance was forthcoming from various non-Government organisations like the  Indian National Congress, Marwari Relief Society etc. to make our life as comfortable as possible. There was an air of sympathy and fellow-feeling all-round. They arranged free food, accommodation, travel and medical care. In short, our Indian people regardless of caste, community or language welcomed us with open arms. From Imphal, we were taken to Dimapur (then in North-East Frontier Agency) by bus. The travel took the whole day through the Naga Mountains and was very tiring. My mother was vomiting throughout the journey.

After being fed and housed for two days, we were put on the train bound for Sealdah (Calcutta). On reaching Sealdah, we were taken to a guest house managed by volunteers.  We really had a tough time at this guest house as it was over-crowded with a large number of evacuees. Within two days, we managed to get out of the guest house and could catch a train bound for Madras at Howrah station. However, in the midst of adverse conditions, we found some time and energy to go round Calcutta and visited Victoria Memorial and New Market.

The train to Madras was unusually a long one with a large number of compartments. It took about ten days for us to reach Madras. The train wended its way slowly, partly because of the over-load and partly because it stopped frequently in all major stations. At every major station, people from the villages flocked to the train and showered us with delicacies, fruits and beverages. The affection shown to us by Bengalees, Oriyas and Andhras en-route was touching. At that time in the year 1942, the fervour of patriotism and freedom from British Rule was such, everyone was vying with each other to do their bit for their fellowmen. Slowly, the evacuees were trying to recover from the trauma of fear and anxiety. Sometime during the first week of April, 1942, we reached Madras Central Station. A big feast was arranged by the local philanthropic organisations on the platform of the Station itself for about 2000 people. All the evacuees thanked the Almighty for getting us safely against very heavy odds. But, in the midst of our happiness, tragedy struck the family. The condition of our grandmother worsened and she died at the General Hospital opposite the Central Station. Perhaps, it was the price we had to pay for an otherwise safe but hazardous journey.

We started sometime in February 1942 on our trek to India and reached Madras in the 1st week of April, 1942 – a period of two months.

All this mostly from memory. I could not swear to its exact details. Obviously,during the years there was much reminiscing in the family which kept the memory alive and  partly coloured the memory.

I have stuck to the old names for the places. To me Madras is still Madras; for Yangon I would need a map!

I hope this is of some interest.


Krishnan Gurumurthy

[1] These permits, and the routes they provided access to, were also racially coded. The ‘White’ routes were generally shorter and easier and were largely reserved for retreating soldiers and European and Eurasian civilians; the ‘Black’ routes were longer and much more arduous – Asians were generally allowed to use only these routes. Another account in my possession, written by an Indian, provides a harrowing account of the writer’s attempts to acquire ‘White route’ permits for his wife and young children.

[1] The racial hierarchies of the British Empire seem to have become all the more stringent in this moment of crisis. Instances of exclusion and discrimination, such as this, are often foregrounded in Indian accounts of the march. For many Asians the closing of the escape routes would mean death.


[2] Here I think Dr. Gurumurthy may be misremembering, which would hardly be surprising since he was only 9 at the time. Contemporary accounts suggest that the British administration did everything it could to discourage the Indian migration. They sealed off some of the exit roads from the city and they sent prominent Indians out to cajole the migrants to return, promising them safety in govt. organized camps. It was at this point that administrative action turned race and class into tickets for survival. For example, orders were issued that no adult Indian would be allowed to leave Rangoon by ship as a deck passenger. This meant that the working class was trapped in Rangoon, for only the wealthiest Indians could afford to travel other than on deck. But soon, these routes were cut off too because the major steampship company, British India Steam Navigation Co. confined its allocations mainly to ‘Europeans’.


[1] Hugh Tinker, A Forgotten Long March: The Indian Exodus from Burma,1941, Journal of South East Asian Studies, 7/1, March 1975.

[2] Tinker, ibid. p.6





176 thoughts on “Exodus from Burma, 1941: A Personal Account, Parts 1, 2 & 3”
  1. Dear Mr Ghosh

    Thanks for giving this an airing.
    I particularly enjoyed reading your very interesting and informative
    preface. Your observation about the Indians who chose to remain did not after all do badly is true.. This was lost to me even though I have friends in London who did just that and did quite well.

    Many thanks for your interest.

    Kind regards

    Krishnan Gurumurthy

    1. I am so glad you took the time and trouble to write this brief memoir, Dr Gurumurthy. If you know any other survivors of the march I hope you will encourage them to write accounts of their experiences.
      Wishing you the very best
      Amitav Ghosh

      1. My paternal grandparents crossed the Burmese border during these times with their 4 little children – my father and his siblings. His brother died of illness and exhaustion when they arrived in India. My father and his parents have passed away but I am glad someone told the story.

        1. Dear Ms. Iyer,

          I write to you regarding research work that my team and I are doing for a documentary focusing specifically on the Burma campaign and the existing documents and records of the same. We are also specifically focusing on the movable and immovable assets of families displaced as a consequence of that war.

          I would love to have a conversation with you about this and would be ever so grateful if you could share an email address by means of which I may contact you.

          Warm Regards
          Meghna Talwar

          1. This is such a fascinating discussion. I am personally very interested in learning more and tracing family history.
            My mother was born in Burma, the youngest of seven siblings, all of who were born there. Her father was a doctor, Dr. C. George Philip, hailing from Kerala. The family moved to various places in Burma but unfortunately my grandfather passed away prematurely, leaving a young wife and seven children. Two of the sons joined the RAF and one lost his life as a result of an accident while in service. My oldest uncle went on to serve proudly and retired as Group Captain.
            The remaining brother stayed on in Burma while my grandmother and her four daughters sailed from Rangoon to Madras. Tragically, they lost contact with their brother in Burma. This unresolved family history haunts us, especially my mother, who is the only remaining sibling, now in her mid-80s.
            I am very interested in learning any details about this fascinating but sadly forgotten chapter of our history.
            Any help will be appreciated!
            Thank you.
            Priya Isaac

          2. Ths posting is very interesting to me as my grandfather was in Burma during the 1940s war and he never returned. I am from Kerala and my grandfather was from Trichir. If anyone reading this know anyone from Trichur, Kerala, please share more details on

        2. Hi Anita,

          My grandfather was in Rangoon during that time. He was from Kerala. If you know anyone from Kerala who has any connection to Rangoon, please let me know.

          My WhatsApp is +918547884621

      2. Dear Mr. Ghosh,
        I am currently working on a documentary based on the families that migrated from Burma post World War II. Since you have worked closely on this subject, I was wondering if you could perhaps share contact details of families/organisations I could possibly get in touch with for the same?

        I have been trying to locate some but haven’t had much luck so far. Looking forward to your response!


        1. Dear Mr.Amitava Ghosh

          Your writings are heart touching narrated by Dr Gurumurthi
          Thank you all
          I am also born in Rangoon hospital in 1940,dont have any birth certificate or any other required doc
          Same story of mine as Dr Guru
          Likely, me, my mom, brother and sisters we came by ship to Madras
          My father Late Sri Upendra nath majumdar died at Burma in 1941/1942
          due to non availability of any doctor at that time due to bombing in Rangoon at that time ,He died by blood vomiting .
          I have no death certificate of my father.
          He was Supdt at A G BENGAL OFFICE , I will be grateful to any body who can help me locating my BIRTH CERTIFICATE AND MY FATHER’S
          DEATH CERTIFICATE.I lost my father and one of my elder brother of approx age of 10 yrs old due the war in Burma.
          Kind regards to Mr Amitava Ghosh, Dr Guru and all other helping old Burmese people of that war time.
          My elder brother Late Sri Pijush kanti majumdar and my Jamai babu ( Hus band of my Elder sister Dr P C Das also came by walking from Burma by same root as Doctor came , he might be Knowing them or my Father Late U N Majumdar.

          Just now I am at USA with my son working here
          I shall be more than happy if some of evacuees contact me in my email as given above

          Warm Regards

          shankar Mazumdar

          1. Hello Mr Shankar Mazumdar,
            My name is Saheli Chatterjee and I am an undergraduate student at St Stephen’s College and I am currently pursuing a project to document the personal stories of Indo-Burmese evacuees under the Ministry of External affairs. I would love to get in touch with you and carry forth an insightful exchange, if you are comfortable in doing the same.
            My email ID is attached to this comment and I shall await your response.

      3. It is interesting to read replies of somany Indians who have been evacuated from Burma. My grand father Mr. Krishnaswamy Naidu was one of the Station Masters of Rangoon Railways, Rangoon, Myanmar. With great difficulty he along with his family. Even my father was working in Myanmar. All of them reached Madras except my uncle Anantasainam Vepuri.


    2. Dear Dr Gurumurthy
      I read your story with great interest.Although I have heard many such stories of survival the strength and resilience of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me.
      I have edited a collection of stories, first hand accounts, by survivors of WW2 in Burma. The title of the book is “Songs of the Survivors” published in Dec. 2007 and the contributors were mainly Goans whom I knew.I now live in Goa but grew up in Burma where my parents used to tell us of their incredible war-time experiences during the Japanese occupation of Burma. I wanted to record these stories because i know that so much oral history is lost or distorted with the passing away
      of each generation..Another reason why I wanted to share the stories is because I was aware that not many people knew about the war time experiences of Indians in Burma.
      I am glad that my book was well received, is now sold out and we are going into the 2nd edition. If you or others would like to share your stories I would be happy to include them in the new edition.
      If you are interested in reading “Songs of the Survivors”, the link to download it is http;//
      Warm regards

      1. Dear Ms. Ezdani,

        I write to you regarding research work that my team and I are doing for a documentary focusing specifically on the Burma campaign and the existing documents and records of the same. We are also specifically focusing on the movable and immovable assets of families displaced as a consequence of that war.

        I would love to have a conversation with you about this and would be ever so grateful if you could share an email address by means of which I may contact you.

        Warm Regards
        Meghna Talwar

        1. Hi Meghna – I am also in search for our heritage back in Burma- was wondering of you can help or anyone in the forum has been able to tell you anything.
          Arun Grover

        2. Hello Meghna,

          My grandfather was in Rangoon during that time. I would like to connect with you to get more details you collected.

          My WhatsApp is +918547884621.

          Kindly connect.

          Kind regards

      2. In reference to writings by Dr Gurumurthi
        Thank you all of Burma evacuees
        I am also born in Rangoon hospital in 1940,dont have any birth certificate or any other required doc
        Same story of mine as Dr Guru
        Likely, me, my mom, brother and sisters we came by ship to Madras
        My father Late Sri Upendra nath majumdar died at Burma in 1941/1942
        due to non availability of any doctor at that time due to bombing in Rangoon at that time ,He died by blood vomiting .
        I have no death certificate of my father.
        He was Supdt at A G BENGAL OFFICE , I will be grateful to any body who can help me locating my BIRTH CERTIFICATE AND MY FATHER’S
        DEATH CERTIFICATE.I lost my father and one of my elder brother of approx age of 10 yrs old due the war panic in Burma.
        Kind regards to Mr Amitava Ghosh, Dr Guru and all other helping old Burmese people of that war time.
        My elder brother Late Sri Pijush kanti majumdar and my Jamai babu ( Hus band of my Elder sister ) Dr P C Das also came by walking from Burma by same root as Doctor came , he might be Knowing them or my Father Late U N Majumdar.
        Just now I am at USA with my son working here
        I shall be more than happy if some of evacuees contact me in my email as given above
        Warm Regards
        shankar Mazumdar

        1. My Grand Uncle after the war, owned Rangoon Hospital. His name was Dr. Solomon Suvi and seemed pretty well known in Burma. my dad Mr. A.J.Samuel worked in the Burmese Government. He was one of those several folks who made the trek from Burma to India and reading these fascinating articles allows me to visualize what he must have endured to cross into India. Thank you to the author.

          1. Hello Michael. I was really excited to read your comment.
            My father, Joseph Manasseh, was born in Rangoon in 1911.
            One of his dearest friends was Dr Solomon Suvi who must be your grand uncle.
            My father managed to get to Calcutta during the war and returned to Rangoon before emigrating to the Uk in 1955. Dr Suvi was definitely in Rangoon in the 1950s. At some point he returned to India where he ran a clinic and grew orchids.
            My sisters and I grew up hearing stories of Dr Suvi. We heard that not only was he an amazing and dedicated surgeon, but that he was the kindest and most generous person. In the 1980s, we heard that he was coming to the Uk so we would finally get to meet him. I can tell you that he was one of the most wonderful people I have ever met and I consider it a privilege to have done so. Kind and generous to a fault, he was as warm as he was wise. I am so happy to have met him. Shortly after he returned to India, we heard that he had passed away and my father was so grateful that he had seen him. He was a truly wonderful man. If you have any memories of him, I would love to hear them.

          2. Hi there,
            I know about you, & have met your sister Sheila.
            Dr. Suvi was my mother in law’s cousin, & we were fortunate to have him in our home in the summer of 1981, during his farewell, round the world tour. He was a very interesting person.
            C. Rendall.

    3. Dear Mr. Gurumurthy,

      I write to you regarding research work that my team and I are doing for a documentary focusing specifically on the Burma campaign and the existing documents and records of the same. We are also specifically focusing on the movable and immovable assets of families displaced as a consequence of that war.

      I would love to have a conversation with you about this and would be ever so grateful if you could share an email address by means of which I may contact you.

      Warm Regards
      Meghna Talwar

  2. Thank you very much for sharing this experience. My grand parents were in Burma and I have heard about my grand father walking to India to make his way back to Chennai. This is the first time I am reading any detail on the depth of the ordeal.

    1. My mother was part of the Armenian community in Rangoon and also trekked out of Rangoon in 1942 and went to Calcutta and then on to Karachi.Her name was Pearl Nahapiet

      1. hello ian – I am writing a book on my parents life in Burma and beyond here in Australia. their experience of the trek is harrowing to say the least and I would be very interested to correspond with you. many thanks
        patsy evans
        p.s. I was born in india in 1944 and we went back to Burma then left at independence neared – 1948.

    2. Dear Mr. Venkatasubramanian,

      I write to you regarding research work that my team and I are doing for a documentary focusing specifically on the Burma campaign and the existing documents and records of the same. We are also specifically focusing on the movable and immovable assets of families displaced as a consequence of that war.

      I would love to have a conversation with you about this and would be ever so grateful if you could share an email address by means of which I may contact you.

      Warm Regards
      Meghna Talwar

  3. it was really nice reading the great exodus. I am researching on the WW2 part of Burma campaign. If you can send me some picture relevant with the exodus, i will think myself really lucky. currently i am researching on this particular exodus. i shall share some of the accounts of the survivors of the exodus. Thz.

  4. Dear Mr. Ghosh,

    Dr. Gurumurthy’s wonderful article brings back vivid memories of stories told by our parents, who made the trek to India in 1942 with seven children. We all survived the long journey and made it back to Madras. My father C. K. Nair was at the time working for E. M. Desouza & Co. a Pharmaceutical Manufacturer & one of his colleagues & later a partner in the firm was a Mr. Ghosh …. Could you be related .??

    Thanks !

    Cyril Nair

    1. Dear Mr Nair

      Thanks very much for this letter. It would be wonderful if you too could put down some of your memories, or the stories told to you by your parents.

      The Mr Ghosh you mention was not an immediate relative but it’s quite possible that there was some kind of distant relationship.

      With my best wishes

      Amitav Ghosh

    2. Hello Cyril,
      My grandfather Sales de Souza was the proprietor of E,M. de souza Pharmacy and trekked to Goa with his family leaving all behind. We are a large clan of de Souzas , some are in Canada and would love to know more about the pharmacy if possible

    3. Dear Mr. Nair,

      My great grand uncle was E.M D’Souza & I know that my Uncle Tony also treked from Burma. This is a small world because I too am in Canada.
      Please contact me on the email provided.
      I would definitely want to connect with you if possible.
      Kind regards

    4. Hello Mr. Nair,

      I know I am writing to you more than 6 years after your post here, but that’s because my cousins are direct descendants of E.M D’souza & Co’s owner and have asked me to reach out to you because I too am in Canada, in Toronto.

      Please let me know how we can connect as all of us would like to hear about your father’s time with EMD and learn about our famous great grand parent 🙂

      Are you the same person who provides statistical research for Stats Canada?

      Kind regards

    5. Hello Cyril,

      My name is Joseph and want to connect with you. My grandfather was in Rangoon that period.

      My WhatsApp number is +918547884621.

      Kind regards

  5. My uncle with his wife and two children were a part of this exodus. I have heard many tales from my grandmother and father about them reaching Calcutta and then Bombay (Mumbai). Their daughter was lost at one of the river crossing and the rest of them passed away in Bombay hospital due to severe dysentery – probably cholera.
    An excellent account of this exodus is available as an autobiography “White Butterflies” by Colin McPhedran of British Burmese decent.
    I am fascinated by Dr. Gurumurthy personal account of the trek and more details. I am hoping one day to trek this route and write an account of “the most forgotten and the largest exodus”.

  6. Dear Mr Ghosh,
    My grandfather migrated to Burma in the early 1900s. My father was born in Rangoon in 1922 and so were all his siblings, 5 of them. Though my grandpa returned to India in 1939 due ill health, tons of relatives stayed back. I have heard many stories in my childhood about uncles , aunties and cousins trekking overland through the jungles of Nothern Burma and N.E India. Sadly many of them perished due to malaria and other complications.
    I will forward your blog to my dad and perhaps he still remembers some survivors of that traumatic period.
    Thank you

  7. hello amitav, i met you on your visit to brisbane for your Glass Palace launch. I told you my parents story of their trek out of Burma and you asked me to tell the people who were present at your book launch.
    Many years later and much water under the bridge and I am now writing my parents story of their life in burma, trek out and their story here in australia.
    Thank you for printing story by Krishnan Gurumurthy – like so many i have printed out for my research these account all so heart breaking, but in their darkest moments they have found the strength to continue and many many years later we are still learning about the biggest mismanagement of wartime retreat from Burma and as one review said “It is one of the greater injustices the British were able to consgn to anonymity.”
    I have just returned with my family from Burma (having flown out on 31st December 1947 just prior to independence) and we scattered my parents ashes on the Irrawaddy River – on our charter boat we had a Buddhist Monk from Taung Be Monestery who “helped my parents voyage to the next life”.
    Ive just read account by Manny Curtis and his return in 2005 to Pagan after they had treked 500 miles from Kohima and Imphal to Pakkoku 60 years earlier. He spoke of the 100ft cliff on the Irrawaddy River that he climbed on 14th february 1945 – how ironic that it was infront of these cliffs that we moored the boat and scattered my parents ashes.
    Amitav, I have tried to buy A forgotten Long March: The Indian Exodus from Burma, 1941 by Hugh Timker and have no luck – if any of your readers could help me out and loan or sell me their copy, I would be most grateful.
    best wishes
    patsy evans

    1. I’m glad you went back at last. If you’d like to write about this at greater length I’d be happy to post it. The Hugh Tinker book is unfortunately out of print and very hard to find. But I am sure you could ask your library to get it through inter-library loans.

  8. I was most interested to read your account of the long march. My father who was the engineer in charge at Mingaladon aerodrome, was killed in the first air-raid on the 23rd Dec. 1941. (just a month after my 8th birthday. My mother and I were lucky, we managed to get away by sea and arrived in Madras just a few days before Rangoon fell to the Japanese. However, we too, had our moments of anxiety. A journey through a minefield a couple of attacks by submarines and an air-raid while at Madras station waiting for a train to Bangalore.
    F. Trevelyan

    1. I’ve described that air raid at great length in my book ‘The Glass Palace’. If you ever get around to writing an account of your memories I would be very glad to post it here.
      all best

    2. was your father by any chance a ‘Joseph William’ I have the surname Trevelyan but seems a co incidence as this man worked at Mingaladon aerodrome and was killed in an air raid.

    3. J.W.Trevelyan was in 1941 a member of Ormond-Iles Lodge 4270 in Rangoon Burma would you be willing to contact me so I can correct some errors in our written history. The Lodge still operates and is working in London now as Rangoon & Ormond -Iles Lodge No.1268.
      many thanks

  9. My dad was born in 1933 Albert Ryan. He is one of 10 siblings. My grandfather was Arulnathan, station master of Rangoon station back then. When the family started their trek it was December 1942, arriving in Kumbakonam in May 1943. We are visiting Yangon with my father to reminisce the places he remembers like the church and school close by. Do you have any recommendations for someone trying to find birth records, school records, places that may still exist from WW2 to help with the journey? I read your book cover to cover and it helped me understand a little of what the family went through at that time. It was an amazing read and I will send a copy to my dad before we visit Yangon.

    1. Thanks for heart touching narrations by Dr Gurumurthi
      Thank you all Burmese evacuees.
      I am also born in Rangoon hospital in 1940,dont have any birth certificate or any other required doc
      Same story of mine as Dr Guru
      Likely, me, my mom, brother and sisters we came by ship to Madras
      My father Late Sri Upendra nath majumdar died at Burma in 1941/1942
      due to non availability of any doctor at that time due to bombing in Rangoon at that time ,He died by blood vomiting .
      I have no death certificate of my father.
      He was Supdt at A G BENGAL OFFICE , I will be grateful to any body who can help me locating my BIRTH CERTIFICATE AND MY FATHER’S
      DEATH CERTIFICATE.I lost my father and one of my elder brother of approx age of 10 yrs old due the war in Burma.
      Kind regards to Mr Amitava Ghosh, Dr Guru and all other helping old Burmese people of that war time.
      My elder brother Late Sri Pijush kanti majumdar and my Jamai babu ( Hus band of my Elder sister Dr P C Das also came by walking from Burma by same root as Doctor came , he might be Knowing them or my Father Late U N Majumdar.
      Just now I am at USA with my son working here
      I shall be more than happy if some of evacuees contact me in my email as given above
      Can you please help me getting my Birth certificate and my father death certificate.
      Warm Regards
      shankar Mazumdar

  10. […] In 1941, as World War Two raged, the Japanese advance on India’s borders had an unforeseen effect on the country’s jazz scene. Among the hundreds of thousands of people who trekked out of Burma for India ahead of the Japanese vanguard were several Burmese jazz musicians. The refugees who arrived in Calcutta in March 1942 included members of one of Rangoon’s hottest bands, the Jive Boys, which featured Reuben Solomon on clarinet, Paul Feraz on bass, and three guitarists: Ike Issacs, Reuben’s brother Solly and Cedric West. (See Amitav Ghosh’s note on the great trek here.) […]

  11. My father, after completing high school in small town in Gujarat, joined his brother and brother-in-law’s large business enterprise in Rangoon & Prome. They had rice mills and were importing merchandise for British Army in Burma. After a few years went to his small village in Gujarat to get married & returned to Burma with mother.
    Later, my father became member of “War Commission” and flew with Lord Montbatten to survey Rangoon before Japanese air raid.
    On the onset of Japanese march towards Rangoon, he was able to obtain air passage (sea plane) for my mother and eldest sister (who was about 6 months old at the time) to Calcutta. The plane did not leave as scheduled due to Japanese air raids. When my mother and sister eventually reached from an Indian port city (don’t know which port) Calcutta by train, relatives were unable to go to train station due to cerfew, black-out, air raid sirens etc.
    British authority had asked father to stay behind because he was, at least in British eyes, Indian community leader. British had their own interest in mind. They wanted rice for the Indian soldiers in British Army.
    Most busineses in Burma were owned and run by Indians. Father’s business processed most rice in those 2 cities.
    As Japanese marched into Rangoon, my father and some one hundred of his employees left by foot. Month long walk took them to a port city and waited for ship. Father did not want to board the ship because an employee sick with cholera was denied permission to board. He believed it was end for him as the ship left. But other employees on board bribed (?) the captain and a tender was sent for them.
    One side story: along the way on the ship,he found a marwadi business aquantance in distress and crying. He wanted to end his life. He had recovered from cholera during the long walk. He did not want to go back home because his wife and family had left him behind when he was stricken with cholera. He was not sure how he would face his family. Father made him realize how much agony his wife must have gone thru to leave him behind to save other family members.
    Father, Mr. Jadavji Somchand Mehta, passed away 3 years ago at age 94. He has written in little more details about those days including names of towns along the way & port city. What I wrote above is what I remember from his stories. His brother and brother-in-law returned back to Burma after the war and had very successful business.
    Mother is still alive in India, and has more stories to tell.

    1. Thank you very much for this story. I am glad to know that your father wrote down some of the details of his experience. I strongly encourage you to publish everything he may have written on the subject. There is very little material on the march out of Burma in 1941-42, especially from an Indian point of view – every detail is valuable. I would be glad to post it on this site, if you like.
      With my best wishes

    2. Hello everyone,
      I was a small boy about 10 when I with my Mother, 2 brothers, a sister few days old,an uncle with a servant 2 bodyguards left Toungoo via the Tamu route. stopping at various places on the way, The British did nothing to help except their own.
      Near Tamu 2 British soldiers tried to stop us proceeding(route reserved for europeans)saying Japs were around so telling us to proceed via the much longer and dangerous route but my Mother had a pass signed by District Magistrate that we were not to be stopped, so allowed to proceed.
      WE did not see any Japanese it was a lie those 2 probably were deserters.
      I could see from all this that British rule in India was over.Those europeans were not very humane people. Name one that died unless ill before, thousands of Indians died

  12. Your comprehensive description of the 1941 exodus has been written very beautifully and feels as if a live documentary is being played in front of me. My grandmother was a part of the exodus, her father serving as a chief engineer in Burma in those days. I read out the post to her and she sent out her sincere blessings to you.

  13. My Grandparents and their relatives too took the same route to reach Calcutta, during the same period. Now I can feel how difficult it is to survive during those hard times, and I am proud to be called as their decedent.

    I wish I would visit Burma and Iravathi river, where my great grandfather was running a ferry service.

    I heard we do not have consulate office in Burma so far and that is the reason why we don’t have direct flights, Is that true ??

  14. Hi Amitav and Dr. Gurumurthy thanks for the memories and I really appreciate the time you have taken to get this on record.

    My grandmother (Late)Mrs. Rajeshwari Devar was one of the evacuees who evacuated during this period (1942) at the age of 10-12, and we are in search of her lost family.

    The sudden evacuation happened when she returned from her School in Yangoon to Boklaw Bazaar Halli. When she reached Boklaw, she was shocked to see her house ransacked and her family missing. From their we heard that she reached Vishakapatnam by ship and then to Madras by Train.

    Following are the details that we heard from her:

    They owned a watch Company in Boklaw Bazaar.

    Her family details at the time of Exodus:

    Father: Kamalappa Devar (Native of Tanjore, Tamil Nadu, India), Age – 35-40 yrs
    Mother: Lakshmi Devar
    Siblings – 2 (1 Sister and 1 Brother)
    Sister – Vaduvambal, Age 13-15 yrs
    Brother – Krishnan, Age 8-10 yrs
    My Grandmother – Rajeshwari, Age 10-12 yrs

    We have been searching for her family for over 70 years and will very happy if we could find our roots.

    1. Hi Joel
      It was interesting to read your comments as your search mirrors my family’s search for relatives in Burma.
      My grandfather died in the 1920’s. His brother, our granduncle was living in Burma during the Japanese raid. My granduncle lost all his children in the bombing as he and his wife were at work. After the bombing they could not find any of their children (5 or 6) aged from 5 to 15. They made the overland route back to India. We don’t know if any of their children (our second cousins) survived the bombing.
      Our granduncle’s name Veliappa Thevar.
      We too would love to hear from anyone as to how we can find our relative (if they did survive)
      Hope you succeed with your search.

    2. Hi Joel
      My Mother In Law also left Rangoon around the same time and came to Vizag by ship. Her father was Mr. Shasthri of General News Agency. My M-in law attended St.Anthony’s School near Rangoon station. They lived in Phayre Street opposite Sofer Bldgs. I would appreciate any details you have since I am writing a note on the above.

    3. Hello Joel, Like you, I am also searching for my grandfather who disappeared in Rangoon during 1941. Did you get any information of your family? Please connect with me on +918547884621, WhatsApp.

  15. I am interested to know how far the ‘forgotten long march’, as H.Tinker calls it, has been chronicled in Bengali fiction? Also, how were the refugees accommodated in Bengal? Can anyone help?

  16. Hi, does anyone know of a Sidney Coote of Rangoon who went on the trek with his 2 young daughters? He worked at Rangoon station and was one of the last to leave his post apparently being awarded the OBE.

    1. Could you mean the brother of Daisy De Souza (or D’souza) of Mandalay, Myanmar??? She and her brother Sydney became coverts of Jehovah’s Witness missionaries around 1914. I am the great-grand-daughter of Daisy. She had many daughters and I think 2? Sons. My grandmother was her daughter Celia Beryl(deceased). They left as refugees due to being outcast as Anglo’s and settled in Perth, Western Australia in the early sixties. Celia had a a sister called Phyllis Tsatos (deceased) (married to a Greek-Burmese man called Basil(deceased). Celia had 2 daughters: Wendy and Sabrina and a son (now deceased) called Gavin. My mother Sabrina(alive) came to Australia aged 8. They still live in the Burmese community in Perth. Phyliis & Basil had one daughter, called Penny.

      1. Hello,
        In the last line are you referring to basil Manuel and Phyllis from Calcutta. Basil served as the presbyter of St James church in Calcutta and phyllis served as the principal of its girls school…Pratt memorial school …
        Hi amitav, i just discovered this site and my maternal grandparents were tamilians who migrated to Calcutta from Burma in the 60s. We know very little but it seems to have been an extremely painful uprooting from a good life there. My grandfather was lucky to have received an internal transfer within standard chartered bank – he had the option to goto London alone or Calcutta with family and he chose the latter. Are you also covering accounts of people who moved during the subsequent migration well after ww2?
        Charles amos

        1. Thanks very much for this. I’m mainly interested in the 1940s-1960s migration from Burma.

  17. I at age 9 came by the Tammu route in 1942 from Toungoo. The British were caring for their own people only the rest were abandoned. No white suffered they traveled in relative comfort dancing drinking whisky most were on horses crossing from Tammu to Palel in Assam. White soldiers tried to stop us going acrooss from Tammu intio India saying there was danger of the japs in the area.Luckily my Mother had a permit from the District Magistrate to let us through. In short Indians were stopped by British from entering India were compelled to go by longer dangerous route where many died.
    No wonder the then British were bad people. Birmingham UK

  18. My great-grandfather was an Armenian called Arakiel Minus married to a Burmese woman called Woscoombe. Although they were both dead by 1942, nearly all their children and grandchildren trekked out to Calcutta, with many losses. The only one who didn’t leave was my grandfather, Mackertich Arakiel Minus, who survived the war and died in 1948 in Rangoon. He had two sons, Arthur and Norman (my dad) who had joined up after leaving Lawrence Memorial Military school in 1941. His two younger daughters were living in Calcutta with their mother, so all four children missed the trek out. However, after the war, my uncle Arthur trekked back from Calcutta to Rangoon and was reunited with Mack, staying until Mack died in 1948. I am trying to prise the story out of him – he is reluctant to talk about it, is nearly 92 years old but very sharp!
    There is a plaque in the Armenian Church in Rangoon which honours Arakiel Minus’s children & grandchildren who died on the trek. I am going to Rangoon in January and would like to hear from those Minus’s who survived.
    The names on the plaque are listed below by family:
    ABRAHAM: Constance, Albert. Lionel, Margaret and Edward
    LAWSON: Gladys, James and Patricia
    MINUS: Ester
    FAIRLEY: Phyllis and Donald
    SEYMOUR: : Terence and Cyril

    I would be grateful for any information before I go to Burma in January 2013.

    1. Dear Sharman Minus,
      wishing you safe journey and happy trip. i would like to give information regarding to Armanian cemetry which was in the city centre of Yangoon.The cemetry was situated at the corner of Sulay pagoda road and anaw ra da road(before it was Dalhosie road).but the cemetry was moved or destroyed before 1988?. Now sure. Just for your information.
      With mitta and best regards,
      shwe Myint(a burmese living in Australia) 30/1/2013

    2. Dear Sharman

      I am a photographer, and I have been on a photo story, Armenians of Calcutta for the last 4 years.
      Interestingly, my new project is about the shared history of India and Burma.
      I was wondering if your grandfather would have any photographs from the time that he may be willing to share? Any letters, or documents perhaps that will tell us something of the time?

      I hope your trip to Burma was a good one.

      I look forward to hearing from you.

      My email is

      Warm regards


  19. My grandparents were British Salvation Army officers serving at the Maymyo Salvation Army Soldiers Home from 1936 to 1942. My grandmother, mother and uncle trekked from Maymyo to India late in February 1942, reaching Calcutta three weeks later. I have my grandmother’s diary. It was not easy for them. My grandfather evacuated Maymyo in May 1942, the last to leave the Soldiers Home, He was forced to take the more northerly horrendous route to comparative safety. He never spoke of his journey, but it left scars on his body and soul.

    1. My grandparents were among the first SA Officers to be stationed at the Solders’ Rest Home in Maymyo, from 1922-26. We have photos of the people from then but none of the building, just wondered if you have any?

  20. thankyou to all contributors
    my mother’s story was similar.Just wish had the chance to talk to her about it.

  21. Dear Mr. Ghosh,
    What a joy it was to find your blog, especially when I have your signed autographed copy of ‘the glass palace’ sitting right before me. (I also have a similar copy of ‘the hungry tide’ on my bookshelf).
    I had the pleasure of meeting you at the ANU in Canberra some years ago.
    I was looking for some details on Creek Street, Rangoon, where my dear mother, the tenth of a healthy pack of thirteen, lived and played when the japs attacked. She was eleven at the time.
    Now no more, she would often recollect their exodus during that fateful period. They were the very last to be allowed to leave by steamer. Even so, it was ‘women and children only’. The menfolk of the family walked the hazardous route. They all survived, had productive lives, and have all departed.
    Mum ‘s life was a little more colorful, as she later migrated to Uganda after marriage, where history repeated itself, albeit in varied hues.
    I am trying to reconstruct my mothers story, her pain and trauma, and trying to get a more vivid picture. Does any one have photos of the old Rangoon?
    Thank you for this blog.

    1. hello lakshi
      like you I am also after photos of ‘old’ Rangoon. I am currently writing a book of my parents life in Burma and beyond here in Australia. I recently took my parents ashes back to Burma and scattered them in the Irrawaddy river.
      please let me know if you have obtained any old photos of Rangoon.
      thanking you
      patsy evans

      1. G’day Patsy … Thanks to Amitav’s remarkable site I was able to recapture a bit of family folklore of Burma on my Mum’s side. While she and her parents left Rangoon some years before the Japanese invasion many of her relatives apparently perished; bar one who made that awful trek and survived … I am currently putting together my “autobiography” [of essentially my youth] and would like to include something about her life in Burma/Rangoon/Mandalay which she would briefly reminisce about … If there’s anything you could share I would appreciate it … Thanks & regards … Peter … Adelaide. South Australia.

  22. Please fwd to Dr. Krishnan Gurumurthy: My friend the late author of The Paddy Field Tigers ( discovered that her father was a British Secret agent who also ran the largest newspaper in Rangoon when the Japanese invaded. He made the trek and was in charge of 5 groups totaling close to 25,000 refugees. Unfortunately, with the recent passing of the author I am left with little information regrading his true identity. If he would like, I’ll be happy to supply him a free PDF copy of the book to see if he happened to be in one of the groups that made it to India. I”m hoping to find facts to help support the book. We are hoping to make this part of history into a major motion picture and his contributions will not go unacknowledged or unrewarded.
    Sincerely, Richard Payton

  23. I am from Manipur, India: my grnd parents use to tell me tales about this great migration.
    How black people (we called kol) were travelling in groups. Dead bodies were lying everywhere, babies were crying over their mothers corpse. They were carry some kind of disease with them thats why village elderd didnt allow anyone to touch them. A whole village was wipe out with the disease by helping them.
    Rumours are there though, that some babies were helped by villagers and is within our community, Kuki tribe. Still living but without knowledge of their roots.

    1. I’m glad to hear from you. The disease was probably cholera. If at all you can, you should collect the memories of elders who remember the march. Some day people will thank you for it.

      I have a close friend from the Kuki tribe – Ms Nengcha Lhouvum.

      best wishes


  24. Dear Dr.Gurumurthy,
    After reading your brief description of your journey from Burma to India reminded me of the same what my aunt , granduncle and grandmother and greatgrand parents used to tell me about their trek from Burma to India. One of my aunt from that group passed away a few months back. My mother was also one in that group and she was 9 years old at that time. Unfortunately she left us all 48 years back. It was nice reading. Thank you very much uncle.

  25. Dear Mr. Gosh and dear all,

    Thank you for sharing these stories. We should never forget these terrible event.

    I lived 4 years in Burma and I published a first one last year about Burmese alchemy and 2007 demonstrations untitled “Zawgyi, l’alchimiste de Birmanie”. I am currently working on my second novel about Burma which will take place in 1942, starting with the battles of Bilin and Sittang, continuing with the Fall of Rangoon and finishing with the Trek out of Burma.

    I would be grateful to anyone who could send me memories, documents or pictures and personal accounts of these events to help me in my research. I am also doing research about Freemasonry in Burma and any information regarding what happened to the Lodges in 1942 would be of great help.

    I thank you all in advance for your help. I think it is vital to keep these memories alive in order to prevent history from repeating itself. Current situation in Burma, where antimuslim riots take place, show that we need to remind people of the suffering which have been inflicted in the past, and the importance of not following blindly hateful propaganda.

    If you wish to send me information, you can contact me at the following email address:

    1. Hi
      I can help a bit with freemasonry in Burma, at least one held meetings in Calcutta after the long march, lodges resumed after the war in Burma until forced to close in the 1980’s by the Govt – one came back to London in 1968 and is still working here. Actually it’s history is of two lodges that operated in Rangoon
      Lodge Rangoon No. 1268 since 1869 and Lodge Ormond-Iles No.4270 since 1921 they amalgamated in 1964 to become Rangoon & Ormond-Iles Lodge No.1268 contact me for more details

      1. I grew up in Maymyo and there was a Free Mason Lodge there on Lodge Road – it was hired out on weekdays to Miss Cusack’s Private School. I left Maymyo in 1957 to settle in Rangoon and then migrated to the UK in 1964 and then Australia in 1976. Went back to Burma on holiday in 1994, 2004, and finally in 2013 and visited Maymyo each time and the Lodge building is still there but taken over for the Army use.

        1. Helyn:

          Since you knew the Freemasons Lodge, I was told there was a building back of the Lodge which housed the “Girls Friendly Society.” I was wondering whether you knew if that building is still standing. I am trying to find info from anyone who stayed there or ran it, but it’s very hard to get any info out of Burma. Thanks.

        2. I wonder if you would be able to help me. My grandfather Anthony Rock an anglo indian probably lived in maymyo. He was married to Mathe who had a sister by the name Htain. They came to calcutta and settled in madras but mathe went back to maymyo. Please let me know if you can help in anyway. I saw the address on a letter as house no. 464, avenue road, maymyo. I wonder if it is possible to locate that address now.

          Thank you,

  26. Dear Sharman

    I am a photographer, and I have been on a photo story, Armenians of Calcutta for the last 4 years.
    Interestingly, my new project is about the shared history of India and Burma.
    I was wondering if your grandfather would have any photographs from the time that he may be willing to share? Any letters, or documents perhaps that will tell us something of the time?

    I hope your trip to Yangon was a good one.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    My email is

    Warm regards


  27. Thanks to Amitabh and other contributors,

    Just to share with you friends:

    I am reading two published accounts of the 1942 exodus: a contemporary record (written around 1943, and published as Memories of Burma by Ranasur Limbu from Kathmandu in 1961) and latter reconstruction (written around 2006 and published as From Burma to India, 1942 by Nandalal Rasaili from Darjeeling in 2008). I am sure there are several more poublished accounts of the event in Nepali. One of my friends Ram Tiwari is also working on the oral history of the Burmese Nepalis settled now in Nepal.

    As many may know, the Gurkhalis were a large population in the 1940s, both as a part of the Gurkhali Brigrade 42 in the British Army and also as a mine-working civilian population. According to these published accounts, the rest were pensioners, cattle-herders, cultivators and petty traders.

    Limbu’s account, being fresh, is bare and interestingly dispassionate. Rasaili’s on the other hand is ornamental and tainted with nostalgia. Nevertheless, these narratives are vivid to get the sense of the scale of human castastraphe that the 1942 exodus was.



  28. Very excited to have found this site and also to connect with Amitav and the other contributors. My late father Nadir Tyabji, grew up in Burma and worked for TOMCO until war came. Because of the nature of his work, he had gained detailed knowledge of the widely dispersed Indian and Indo-Burmese trading networks that had worked their way down to the smallest and remotest villages the length (if not the breadth – because they were not very numerous in the Shan States) of Burma and were therefore the most isolated and potentially vulnerable to the anticipated anti-Indian violence on the part of the Burmese. His services were co-opted by Robert Hutchings ICS, the Agent of the Government of India to Burma in charge of Indian refugees and he was appointed Hutchings’ assistant responsible for the refugee columns using the Mandalay-Kalewa-Tamu-Palel-Imphal route. As a youngster I listened enthralled to my father’s stories. In the meantime my grandfather Salahuddin Tyabji, a fairly prominent member of the political and business establishment of Rangoon and an authority on the rice industry, had also been co-opted by the government. When Rangoon fell and the long retreat began my grandfather was made responsible for the supply of rice to the refugees and the army units retreating northwards. To enable him to function in this complicated situation he was given the honorary rank of a Lt. Colonel in the (British) Indian Army – probably unprecedented for a Congressman! While my grandfather always joked about this I never heard him mention the actual walk out and it is only recently that I have confirmed that he walked out of the northern Hukawng Valley route reaching India on the verge of death through malaria. I have just finished reading a book called “Through the Jungle of Death” by Stephen Brookes which eloquently and movingly describes his family’s experiences walking out through this route and the affect it had on all the members who survived. It is available on Amazon and I would strongly recommend it to those of you trying to fill the space between the silences of the survivors of the northern route.
    In common with some of the others on this page I am trying to understand the overall situation of this stage of the war – military, civilian and governmental and will share my understanding of this story as I delve into the details that are available. I have also discovered a book called “Battle Tales form Burma” by John Randle who served as a young company commander in the 7/10th Baluch Regiment and fought through the entire Burma campaign from the first defeats on the Salween River at Hpa-an, through the long retreat, the battles of Imphal and Kohima and the fight back to finish the war virtually back on the Salween where he had started! To match the chronology of events that my father describes with John Randles’ story has been fascinating, providing depth and context to the story of the refugees.
    My father’s story runs to over 40 typed A4 pages so I am just sending a copy to Amitav which he can perhaps share with anyone who may be interested or I will be happy to send it as well.

    Hashim Tyabji

    1. good morning hashim
      is there any chance I could read your your dads journey out of Burma. I am currently writing a book on my parents life in Burma, the trek out and then their life in Australia when we left.
      look forward to hearing from you
      patsy evans

    2. Dear Hashim Tyabji
      I read with interest your entry on this blog and note your father had written a set of notes on his trek out of Burma. My own father did the same and mentions talking to a “Mr Tyabjyi” at Katha on April 22 1942, as they awaited others and pondered which route to take. It appears that Mt Tyabjyi was planning to go north to Myitkyina. My father went west from there to the Chindwin River via Mansi and Homalin.
      Is it possible to obtain or read a copy of your father’s notes on the trek? He is likely to be the same man my father mentioned.
      Thank you, Jan

  29. Hi I have an un published novel written by my grandfather he worked as an accountant for a major oil company in burma during 1940s the novel covers his trip from rangoon to the oil fields in yenangyaung his travels up river by steamer to a small town about 50 miles out of mandalay. There journey by road and rail to the extreme north myitikyine and his trek on foot for over 400miles to ledo in upper assam and lastly the journey from ledo to callcutta where he was lucky enough to be re United with his wife who had gotten on the last evacuation plane out of myitkyine the book entails all sorts of trials and trebulations as my grandfather left rangoon in febuary 1942 and did not reach calcutta until late may please contact me if you wish for any further information there are some truly amazing accounts in this book

    1. hello William
      my parents also trekked out of Burma through the mountains to india. I am currently writing a book on their life in Burma and beyond and would be very interested in reading your dads account and your friend KK’s parents account of the trek.
      thanking you
      patsy evans

  30. Dear Hashim.

    It is really wonderful than you have saved your father’s story. It would be great to read it – if you will – and compare it with the two narratives I am studying at the moment.

    Amitabh, could you please share it with me as well?


    1. Dear Yogesh,

      Apologies for my delay in responding. I have been busy and could not find time to visit this site. However, I have sent my father’s account to Amitava and I think he plans to publish it in segments as the formatting is time-consuming. Must keep in touch through this forum.

      Thanks you

  31. Dear Mr Ghosh

    Thank you for this. Your prefatory piece is the clearest and most succinct I have read for a long time. I do hope there will be yet more memoirs of the Burma trek before all those who experienced it are no longer with us.

    I enjoyed The Glass Palace very much.


    Shobhana Bhattacharji

  32. it is interesting because my grandfather subbusamy who was a postmaster in than malaya in tapah had a brother who was a docter in burma during these times under the british govt they are from tanjore

  33. I am currently compiling a book to be called “Movietone at War”. One of my former colleagues in Movietone was Alec Tozer who was in Burma from December 1941 to the middle of 1942. He was a cameraman and he filmed the events of that time. He travelled with the renowned photographer George Roger who was working for Life Magazine. Roger’s book “Far on the Ringing Plains” includes details of their experiences in Burma at that time. Roger and another photographer got out of Burma by driving their Jeeps into the Naga Mountains until there was no road left. Then they engaged Naga tribesmen to carry their baggage over the mountains down into India. Alec Tozer also had a Jeep and he escaped by a similar route. In his case, it seems, he was able to drive all the way to India carrying with him all his camera equipment. I am intrigued to know how he could have driven to India when Roger could not. Any ideas ?

    Tozer spent two more years in China before returning to Burma to see the Japanese driven out.

    I have found your blog and your correspondents’ comments most interesting.

    1. Thanks for your comments and for this interesting sidelight on the march. I have no idea how he could have escaped in a Jeep – I haven’t heard of anyone driving over the mountains. It must have been a special route.

    2. Dear Terence Gallagher….it’s pretty late in 2020 for the reply nevertheless a drive back to India from Burma is in all sense very possible in 1942. The roads were rammed up in anticipation of the exodus particularly for the the military.

  34. Dear Mr. Ghosh,

    I met you at the book opening ceremony for the River of Smoke in Bombay. I came upon this page about a year ago and realized that my grandmother used to talk a lot about family in Rangoon and that maybe I had a connection to the exodus. I dug a little deeper to find that though it wasn’t my grandmother or her immediate family that had to face this tragic experience, my dad’s cousin’s husband did the walk when he was 9 or 11 years old along with all his siblings. His mother had written a good account of the story in a booklet that I now possess with me! If you would like to use it for your research, please do let me know.

    Best regards,
    Anand Ganesh

    1. Dear Anand

      Thanks for this. Several people have written to me about the exodus and I am planning to do a series of guest posts on the subject. If you would like to send excerpts from your relative’s booklet I would be glad to post it. It’s important I think to make these accounts available to those who are interested in the subject.

      Best wishes


  35. Grateful for the opportunity to read Dr. Gurmurthi’s narrative. I was born in Burma in Shwebo in October 1937. I have two elder sisters both born in Burma. My father, an engineer, had served in the PWD in Burma. My mother with we children and many relatives returned to India by ship before the Japanese invasion (may be in 1941). My father remained to serve in the war efforts of the British but had to trek to India when the British evacuated Burma. He walked through the “Black Road”, and used to be bitter about the racism of the English even in such dire situation. A dramatic even on the route was his spotting his brother-in-law lying unconscious by the roadside, revived him and the two managed to reach Imphal. My father used gratefully recall how his loyal office peon (Indian) accompanied him and help and assist all the way. My fathers’ accounts match that of Dr. Gurumurthi.

    1. Thanks very much for this. If you would like to write a longer account I would be glad to post it here.
      best wishes
      Amitav Ghosh

    2. Dear Mr. Krishnan
      Could you share more details about your father and family. My in-laws also lived in Rangoon between 1918 and 1941. Maybe we can find some lost connections. I have given details in the comment section of this blog.

  36. Does anyone know anything about the “Girls Friendly Society” operating in Rangoon as a residence for girls who had lost their families during 1930s? My mother, Julia Helga Francine, lived there and I am trying to contact anyone who lived there. So far I have not a trace of the place.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi my name is Karen. My Grandma used to live at the GFS which was situated just behind the Masonic Lodge in Maymyo. My Grandmas Mum ran it for a time. The family name was Bacon. Does this help at all?

      Best Regards

      1. Karen:

        I have only just seen your reply to my email. Unfortunately, my mother died and did not give details of her residence. All I got to find out is that she lived at the Girls Friendly Society, which I was led to believe was run by a Catholic organization. I have not been able to get any info on the place, although I’m led to believe the place does not stand any more. Do you have any idea how to contact anyone who resided there, or whether they have any records of prior residents. Very difficult to get info out of Burma.
        Kindest regards and thank you.

      2. Karen:

        Do you know if the building that housed the “Girls Friendly Society” in Rangoon is still standing? Do you happen to know where I might find out any information on the place? I’m still trying to find anyone who might have known my mother who lived there for awhile – Julia Helga Francine Moment. Her father ran a rickshaw company in Rangoon. Sadly everyone passed away without leaving any history, so it is very hard to trade their stories. Her father was originally from Australia and went to Rangoon for business opportunities. It seems it’s impossible to even get birth certificates for anyone born in Burma. They tell me the govt buildings were bombed, and hence took the records with them. Very frustrating. Thanks for your time.

  37. Dear Dr. Gurumurthy,
    Thank you very much for sharing the story. My mother, then 12 years old, did a similar trek with her parents and siblings in January, 1942. My grand father, Mr. Dhirendra Nath Roy Chaudhury, was an advocate in Toungoo at the same time. I am trying to piece together the story as I talk to my mother who is 84 years old.
    I just wonder whether your father and my grand father knew each other or if the two families ever met.

    Prajit Basu, Hyderabad

  38. My grandfather, Ernest Macaden, stayed in Maymyo after 18 April 1942, while his wife, son and daughter were in probably one of the last trains out of Maymyo. He was a noncombatant in the Indian army and a pianist who played at official events there. We have been trying to find out what happened to him and I wonder if anyone could shed light?

  39. Dear Amitav,

    This is Angamba here co-founder of 2nd WW Imphal campaign foundtion..just finished the book Exodus Burma the britishescape through the jungles of death 1942….the contribution from Mr Nadir Tabyji is wonderfully accounted in the book…..we are also told that Mrs Helen from bollywood trekked through Tamu-Moreh-Imphal axis during the exodus
    We recently commemorated the 70th annv of Battle of Imphal.
    Please let me know if I can be of any help to you.


  40. Dear mr Ghosh,
    First of all your recent book the glass palace was very interesting. It was a very timely find as I was chronicling my parents’ account of their adventures through their livelihood in Burma. I have only my mother to tell me about what she remembers and my sister born in Rangoon is also beneficiary of the account that I am compiling. My thanks to your book as I was able to locate Maymyo only after I learnt the correct spelling in your book which is buried somewhere in its interior. Her tale is very different as her period of stay was from 1945 to 1949. I am curious to know about places Pyabway and Meewa. She has very interesting tales of these places where she stayed in 1946/47. Can you help please?
    PS Krishnan

  41. Hi! Amitav Ghosh. i am very surprised to know about your ancesstors relating to Rangoon or according to you Indian city at that time. I am also very anxious to find my ancestors.
    Grandfather Name: Syed Najam Saleem Shah
    Grandmother Name: Zohra Bibi
    Please tell me or send me document if any you have related to him. My grandfather had a son named Ali Ahmad and I am not confirmed about other children and this Ali Ahmad (diseaced) was my father. Please reply me as soon as possible.
    Iftikhar Ali

  42. I am born in Rangoon, and was 8 years of age, when it was bombed. I have already written about 10 essays/ articles on Burma, Rangoon, and What happened, from my memory and tales I heard. My family returned after end of war and left after it became communist. I lived, attended school and college, had business and services. As a member of writers’ Group, I have written many essays/articles. Members encouraged me to write about my experience of Burma, and that is how it all started. I searched web sites and came across your topic, which is interesting and informative. I hope you may help me to publish my work for readers to read for their pleasure, and comments if any. Thanks for your assistance.

    1. hello esmael
      have you published anything yet? I live in Australia and am currently writing a book on my parents life in Rangoon, the trek out and life beyond in Australia. I would love to read anything you have written, particularly a out the trek – same route my parents walked.
      patsy evans

  43. I read the accounts of several.I am now living in Sri Lanka. My father too was working in Burma. He was a Station Master in the Burmese Railways. My father and the family travelled to India by the most difficult path in the north climbing the mountains and reaching Manipur (Imphal) and to the camp at Dimapur in Assam and from there to Calcutta-Madras- Ceylon by Railway. My father, mother and 12 children did journey. I have record of this journey and written an account. A classmate of mine by the name KK Saksena whose parents are Uttar Pradesh(India) sent me an account of their travel in 1947. For further details you can contact me. My email is there

  44. I am doing a Major Research Project on the life of the Manipuri during the World War II.
    It was based on recording from those who have witnessed the incidents.
    One of the topics I have included was the Flight of the Indians from Burma during the World War II. I have interviewed many Manipuris and their experiences with the Manipuris.
    They were not able to state about the type of the aid given at the rest house. Thanks to Dr. Gurmuthy and Amitava Gosh I would like to quote this experience of Dr. Gurmuthy…………..

    I have sent the paper to Shodak for publication. Some of the excerpts that have been narrated by some of the interviewees were…….

    Tongkholun Haokip of Ukhrul says that with the rise in the number of the exodus of the refugees around his village, all the villagers fled away from the village to a safer place for the fear of inflicting disease from the refugees.He often came to his village to look after his house. He says that one day he saw a woman refugee lying on the road. When she saw him she covered herself with cloth. He passed her and went to the village. On the way back from the village, he uncovered the cloth and saw the woman was dead. Besides the mother was a baby sucking the breast of its dead mother. At that time he was in great dilemma. He did not want to leave the young toddler all alone in the jungle. On the other hand, he can’t carry the child to his home as he fears that the child would bring epidemic to his villagers. With heavy mind he came to his village leaving behind the young baby sucking the breast of the dead mother. He came back the next day. But he did not see the dead mother or her child.

    L. Bidur of Lairikyengbam Leiaki also experiences such incident with the refugees. He says that he once saw about 12 years old Mayang refugees with little cloth lying on the ground at Lamlong Keithen (Market). The boy was so sick that he saw the skeleton outline of the boy. He continuously loose motion. His brothers about 14 years old poke his younger brother with his stick pursuing to stand up. The younger brother lay flat with no sign of getting up. The older brother cried sitting down near his younger brother. The other refugees carried away the elder brother. The elder brother goes away crying looking back at his younger brother again and again. L. Bidur says that he saw many such scenes near Lamlong Keithen (Market). Many of the weak refugees were left at the gadi of the dukan (shop) of Lamlong Keithen (Market).

    In other circumstances, there are references of the young abandoned refugees being adopted by benevolent local populaces. Kh. Nimaicharan in his memoir states that when he went out for strolling on the riverside along with some of his friend they heard the sobbing of a young girl of six or seven years. When inquired by them, the girls answered in Hindi that her parents pass away on the way and she also lost her uncle and she had nowhere to go. Nimaicharan says that Yaima Basu, one of his companion took up the carry her to his home and adopted her as his own daughter. Ch. Ibemhal, one of the interviewees also mentions that Chungkam ningol Chingangbam ongbi Leirik Macha, one of her aunties had no issues. During the World War II she found a young boy of two years old all alone near pond of her house. She brought the boy to her house and adopted her as her own son.

    I am looking for sponsorship to further expand my studies. If there is any organization ready to sponsor it I will be very obliged.

  45. Dear Amitav Ghosh,

    I read your book with keen interest ‘Glass Palace’ and was intrigued to see the story started from Chittagong where I live now. Also I was unaware of rubber tappers of Indian origin to be involved with Indian National Army. I had been trained in Malaysia as I am a tea and rubber planter, now I am a plantation advisor. Also I would be grateful if you can provide me the email id of Mr Angamba, Imphal. Can you provide me titles of books written in Bangla (Bengali) regarding the burma civilian exodus during world war two. Regards

    Nasim Anwar
    PATE Services

  46. My paternal grandfather, was in the burma railway. He died of heart attack during an air raid , in rangoon. my widowed grandmother, alongwith her six children, and my mother as an infant in her arms, travelled to india, by land. The write up by Mr krishnan, is strikingly similar to the what my grandmother used to tell us, when we were kids, and it usually ended up with her in tears. Yangoon, mandalay, irrawady river, ewtang, maymyo , thegold covered shewadang paya and the the happy and contented life they lived were our usual bedtime stories from our late grandmother. The generosity of the indians on their arrival was held very dear by her. It is nice to find her sentiments being echoed by many.

  47. I’m looking for some Bengali family who had lived in Bago, formerly Pegu, – before 1947.
    Sri Srish Chandra Chanda, my husband Arijit Chanda’s grandfather lived and worked there between 1930’s to early 1940’s.
    He has been the man who was always shrouded in mystery. No one seems to know about him beyond these few things – his family was from Kumarbhog, Dhaka or Baishal; He was part of a nationalist organisation during his young days and that in his professional life, he was associated with the court in Pegu – a lawyer or a judge???.
    He had moved on to Dhaka and then to Kolkata where he died at a very young age.
    Arijit and I are trying to find him. We would like to meet anybody who/ whose family might have known him or his family when they were in Pegu.
    Sri Srish Chandra Chanda’s wife was Sarajubala Chanda – second daughter of Lalit Roy of Noshyindi village, Bangladesh. The couple had 3 sons – Sati Prasanna, Jati Prasanna and Rati Prasanna and 2 daughters – Nandarani and Kundarani.
    Looking at the picture of Sri Srish Chandra Chanda, one would definitely wonder whether he could be a dhakar bangal or was he actually a Bengali!!!

    1. my father was born and brought up in Pegu. My grandfather was a prominent lawyer practising in Pegu. My father was educated at Rangoon University and was inducted into the first batch of the IAS.
      He fled in 1942 on the last available steamer, while his elder brother, U.L.Goswami had to walk as part of the infamous ‘Long March’.
      I am trying to research the Long March with special reference to the Indians from Pegu. Can you help?

  48. I am compiling a record of Ms. Vilaswati, my Mother-in-law’s life. She was one of the Burmese evacuees who left Burma in 1941 December. She was living in Phyare Street now known as Pansodan Street. Her father was the agent for The Hindu In Rangoon. If any of your correspondents have any details about it I would be happy to get in touch with them. She studied in St,. Antony’s School for Girls School at Pansodan l between 1930 and 1941. Later she worked at the German Democratic Republic in Rangoon between 1956 and 1960. Her brother-in-laws were S.R.Subbiah and S.R. Krishnan.

  49. Dear Amitav
    Further to my earlier note I forgot to add that Ms. Vilaswati’s Father was V.B. Shasthri and he was running an enterprise named General News Agency. Apart from being the news agent for The Hindu he was also distributing Andhra Patrika, Sudesamitran and My Magazine. My Mother -in-Law was secretary to the GDR Counselor.

  50. You are such a special person Mr Gosh. Thanks for these accounts and thanks for Glass Palace. I have heard from several grand uncles and aunts when I was in school ( 80’s). They used to talk about the horrors of the evacuation and their journey through Burma. I’ve been travelling to North East – Thamu border and then north along the Indo Myanmar border all the way to the place where Nagaland meets Arunachal and Myanmar. A remote Konyak village called Lungwa. I then flew to Myanmar cause I learnt from oral sources that there were some who showed up in Changlan – I thought that the exodus party could have split at Myamo and one group probably drifted into Kachin. I headed to Putao and went upstream Malikha river to the wilderness what is now known as Kahaborazi National Park. Here I was told that a 3 weeks hike will take me to Miao Jairampur in Changlang, Arunachal Pradesh. And also there are several Taron villages along the way. Probably the people who showed up in Changlang were south Indians. I say this cause there are many very south India looking people appearing in remote villages of Arunachal and Nagaland. They are probably descendents of people who were left behind in the trail by the exodus part of 1942 – injured, or mistaken as dead.. I want to learn more about this piece of India’s story. I will try re-connecting with some of my elderly relatives to find and interview survivors. As you rightly said most would have passed over.. I had a grandfather who died last year at 103 years. He was an army person posted in Burma and then became a civil servant, spent most of his time in Burma. In 1970’s I remember a grand old uncle showed up with his Burmese wife after 30 years – his original Indian wife (my Grandmoms sister) was a widow for 30 years. But one fine day this man shows up with a Burmese wife. They lived together as a husband and two wives for few years. I also had a cook – we used to call her Ayah – she was from Mayavaram in Tabjavur district. She was also a survior, infact she was originally was taken as contract labor to tap rubber in Malaya. She then moved to Burma due to the Japs aggression and joined the exodus party. Likewise there were several relatives..

  51. There are so many touching and heartwrenching stories on this blog. My grandfather, Joseph Athaide, was the head of the Electrical Engineering department at the British Railway in Myitnge, just outside Mandalay. In 1941 my grandmother took their 5 children, including my father, Kevin, and fled to Rangoon, where she was able to get them on one of the last boats to leave for India.

    Of course, they lost touch with my grandfather, who ultimately walked out along with so many others. I have his hand-written diary which he wrote on the back of scrap paper during the walkout. I am working with my nephew, a cartographer, to build the map of his walk. Once that’s done I’d like to get any pictures that others may have posted on the different points on the walk.

    I wonder if there are any tours available to track the route that our relatives had to trek

  52. Dear Mr Ghosh my Grandfather Mr Jogandernat Bhattachargee was a senior officer working for the British Government in Rangoon. My mother and all her siblings escaped to India via the northern route. They were abandoned at one point by the British members who took off in a boat early morning leaving my Mother and her family to fend for them selfs. They walked through the Jungle and joined the long line of Indian refugees walking towards India. My mom is still alive as most of her siblings. I am recording a detailed account of the walk. Robi Chakraborty 001-612-250-2956

  53. Dear Mr Gosh and commentators/writers

    I have just finished reading The Glass Palace, which provides an excellent account of the exodus from Burma, and the overall situation then. It’s a very well researched book. Mr Ghosh, your style of writing made it an easy read.

    I am a member of a Burma Book club, wherein we read books on Burma and discuss them. I am currently based in Yangon/Rangoon. I wonder if I could help any of you in any way??!

    Also, I am a descendant of the Tyabji family (a great great grand daughter of Badruddin Tyabji) and my mother is related to Nadir Tyabji. I had no knowledge of the family connection to Burma, till I arrived here a year ago….your writings throw a lot of light and I wonder if I could find out more information while I am here?

    I would be most happy to help or support the cause while I am based here. Any leads? Where could I look for information?

    Looking forward to hearing from you!



    1. I came to know that some of my ancestors migrated to Burma from Village Banskandi, Assam, India more than a century ago.
      Do you have any idea of any family residing in any part of Burma who have roots in :
      Village : Banskandi
      City ; Silchar,
      District : Cachar,
      State : Assam,

      I may be contacted at or at +91 9435172369.

      Thanks and Regards.

  54. Dear Amitav
    I am Mizanur Rahman.
    My grandfather Matior Rahman was living in Insein. Rangoon.
    He was known as M. Rahman.
    He was killed on 28 January 1943. May it was near in Hliang river Ferry ghat in Insein.

    He was General Merchant.
    He was Baker, Contractor & Commission Agent.
    He was firewood supplier in Railway LocoDepartment.
    He had contract with Railway & forest department.
    He had also contract with with 2 Ferry Ghats.
    1. Tantabin Ghat
    2. Insein Ghat

    He had a cloth Shop at Rangoon.
    Shop No. 339-340 ,SURTEE C BAZAR.RANGOON.

    He had Bakery & Firewood shop at Inasein.
    No.7 Hliang river road,INSEIN.

    I am reading in BBA in Chittagong University.
    I want to know my grandfather buried.
    I would therefore be very grateful if u kind enough to search & give me information about my grand father.

    He had Bakery & Timber shop

    1. I came to know that some of my ancestors migrated to Burma from Village Banskandi, Assam, India more than a century ago.
      Do you have any idea of any family residing in any part of Burma who have roots in :
      Village : Banskandi
      City ; Silchar,
      District : Cachar,
      State : Assam,

      I may be contacted at or at +91 9435172369.

      Thanks and Regards.

  55. Dear Amitav,
    Greetings. I hope you would recall the year you spent at the Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum, Kerala as a Visiting Scholar . As you would recall, I was a Faculty Member there, living in Quarter No H1 which you used to visit once in a while.

    I was moved by the accounts posted above by the Burmese evacuees .Our family also belonged to the same category. I do not know the exact year, but my father Shri G.Subbaiah had migrated to Burma in late 1920s in search of a job.. We, the three brothers were born in Rangoon. I was the second one..The family had to flee Burma when the World War II broke out. My younger brother and I were infant when the family was leaving Burma. Along with other migrants our parents trecked the land route via Assam and brought us home in Andhra under great physical strain and agony. Our mother passed away on a river bank when she was washing clothes. Apparently the Japanese dropped a bomb on a steamer which was passing through the river waters. My mother heard that huge sound so close by and collapsed.. She died on the river bank. Under these stressful circumstances my father brought us home in Andhra . I was told that as they reached Calcutta, some business family asked my father to let them adopt one of us children. But may father declined this offer.I never had a chance to discuss this matter in detail with my father ,as he was always away from home working outside the state, when we brothers were growing up. We were looked after with great care and affection by our late chacha and chachi–Sri Balayya and Smt Durgamba. May their souls rest in peace ! .

  56. Does anyone know the Monin family from Rangoon? My father too trekked from Burma during the war and told us stories about his journey. I am his daughter. My father married my mother who is from Assam and had two daughters, me and my sister Christine Monin. My mail id is

  57. Dear mr. Ghos,
    My grandparents with my mother cross the border through manipur rout.
    My grandfather had a business of gold. Due to war they decided to migrate to india they settled in kathor nr. Surat, gujarat.
    We faced a problem while we were in process. Of my mother passport. She dose not have birth certificate of Myanmar. Passport officer asked her that how did you came without passport. He dose not know that in which situtation people came from Myanmar.
    Now it is difficult to get indian passport and not having any proof of birth in Myanmar.
    For ref. My grandfather name is – Mohanlala Mulchand Bhavsar.
    If any one is facing same problem or faced in past pls. Give us some information regarding passport process.

  58. dear mr ghosh: my father and mother left rangoon by the last ship that
    sailed to Madras before the service was totally stopped as told by my
    mother. She was just 20 and my father was in his 30s, he worked for the Burmah Railways . My father died in 1980 and my mother in 2013. My uncle who was in a senior position in the railways that Indians could reach, walked with his wife and kids thro assam. in the process he lost 4 of his children and only 2 are surviving today. i am still trying to get the passengers list in the last ship. my mother told of her ardous days in the ship . your blog came as a huge reprieve of my longing to get more info about their return from burma. i was born soon after they arrived in India . Your blog could help in bringing together so many like us to a common platform to exchange stories and who knows many of us might cherish those days our elders did so that we survived and perhaps some common thread could surface to link our families.
    thanks and hope you will continue to share more info as it becomes available to you.

    1. Dear Mr. Janardhan
      My mother-in-law also came from Burma in one of the last ship to Vizag. She left Rangoon around 27th Dec and walked to Akyab and caught the ship to VIzag. I am presently writing her biography and would be obliged if you could get in touch with me. She passed away about 15 Days back

      1. Hello, I am researching the war years in Visakhapatnam and am very interested in stories of Burma Indian evacuees who arrived there. I would love to learn more about your mother’s story if you would be willing to share details. Thank you!

  59. Dear Sir,
    I am an author and a film director. I am currently working as associate Dir on a Tigmanshu Dhulia film called Raag Desh that is on the INA redfort trials of the Indian national army in 1945. I have done some research on the subject and am currently working on the film that is in production. I have also gone through your posts and read the Glass palace that was so invaluable. My debut novel was published by Neogi books Delhin in Jan 2016 its title is Tiger in You.

  60. My paternal parents were in Burma. My father was working in Post office in Rangoon. My grandfather was also working there. They were three brothers, Ramanathan Mudaliar, Amalanathan Mudaliar. My grandfather was Ramanathan Mudaliar. Life was good in Burma before war. It seems every month my grandfather used to present a gold coin to my grandmother. When they started to walk back to madras they used to sleep beside dead bodies on the way. As Japenese did not know how to remove the nose rings and ear studs, it seems they just used to cut them off from the body. By reading Mr. Gurumurthy’s description, now I know what a hazardous travel my parents must have taken.

  61. My grandfather was a PWD engineer in Rangoon after graduating from GTI Rangoon in 1932. My grandfather’s name: Mr.M.R. chowdhury )Manoranjan), his oldest daughter Gowri was born in Rangoon, my dad Samar was born on their journey toward Bangladesh in April 1942. The history and the stories are not documented but I have the transcripts from my granfather from GTI which I think is remarkable. He lost his dad who was a station master in Burma(don’t know the place) and was a brilliant student and engineer. I hope to connect the dots of his amazing life.

    Thank you all for sharing your stories.

  62. Thank you for sharing the story, which is,like hundreds of others, similar to that of what my grand parents went through.They finally arrived in Punjab…I’m trying to trace where they lived in Burma.Grandfather was a Chief Engg PWD based in Rangoon.

  63. Very good reading , My parents would have gone through a similar experience no doubt and you may have referenced them in the Glass Palace

  64. My father’s family, they were the owners of E.M. de Souza Pharmacy trekked from Rangoon to Calcutta and then on to Goa where they had a house. Would love to hear from Cyril or any one about the pharmacy

    1. Was this person Cyril Monin and his wife was Ivy Monin who stayed in Nandlal Court (Wellesley St) in Kolkata?

  65. My grandfather late Krishnaswamy Naidu was one of the Station Masters in Rangoon Railways then. During evacuation he along with his family reached Madras India, after so much hurdles.. bhaskar

  66. My paternal grandfather vijayarangam naidu was a station master at Rangoon railway station.He lost his life to deadly plaque infected while helping his Chinese friend,s cremation.My grand mother along with my father and other family members left Rangoon and reached Calcutta via Nagaland..This was narrated by my father who was born in Rangoon.

  67. Thank you all so much for your entries and stories on this thread! I have learned so much about my own personal history as a result. My paternal grandmother (as a child) walked from Burma back to Calcutta – then onwards by train to Madras. My great-grandmother was barely twenty, and had five children under her care, made up of her nieces, nephews and her own two children. Her husband died in Burma, and she walked to Calcutta with the children, carrying her youngest, still a baby. I have always wanted to know more about their journey, but my great-grandmother passed away a few years ago, before I had the chance to ask. Through sheer perseverance and determination, all of our families made this journey so their future generations could live in peace far from struggles of war and conflict. They didn’t give up for a single moment. We do them credit to keep their memories and stories alive today.

  68. Greetings.

    Meghna Talwar wrote above regarding “research work that my team and I are doing for a documentary focusing specifically on the Burma campaign.”

    I wonder if the proposed film was completed and if anyone can shed any light on where it may be viewed.

    Thank you very much.
    Michael Duffy.

  69. Not sure if I am too late to visit this site. My great grandfather Dr S Rama Iyer served in Burma during first and Second World War and we have already done bit of research through archives in British library at London. My great grandfather had won Medal Triple and Kaiser-e-hind silver medal for his successful stint in eradicating plague in 1918 from Burma and for increasing vaccination coverage across many parts of Burma. You can get in touch with me for further details. I am keen to know how I can provide details from my end for the research work you are currently doing

    1. Dear Mam,

      My great grandfather, Dr.Rangaswamy Iyer too was from Burma and my Late Grandfather told me he settled in Kashi. We are from Lalgudi.

      Searching my roots. Could you throw some light


  70. hello sir
    i wandered into your blog while searching for any leads about the ship that sailed from rangaoon to madras in late 1941. my mother had told me they were among the last group of indians to make it to the ship. i even searched at the british library in london for details of the last ship but due to paucity of time, could not make a second trip to the library. my father late C naraayanan nair and my late uncle PK raghavan nair were in burmah till the last days. my uncle pushed my parents to the ship and had to resort to walking back to assam and then by train to madras. my uncle had reached a very high level in the burma railways workshop as a supdt. i do not expect any of his contemporaries to be alive now, but nevertheless wanted to know more details of the last ship. if you have any definite details like date and time and name of the last ship to madras, i can pursue it further. thanks.

  71. dear mr ghosh
    i like to know details of the last steamers that left rangoon to madras in
    1942 as my parents returned by that ship. i checked in british library for
    details but i could not spend much time to do research.. i could see the manifest of many ships with the names. i f i could know the details of the date of departure from rangoon i could further investigate. my daughter is in UK and will be too happy to visit the brirish library . I also found the
    list of employees at burma railways and i am sure more details can be found .
    pl. give me whatever info you have . thanks.

  72. I lived in Burma from 1931 to 1941 (age 1/2 to 11). My father was working for the Burma Government, and like most Indians, was left to fend for himself after the British Government officials left by air to Simla, where the asylum government was set up. After he reached India by walk, he rejoined the Burma Government and went back with them in 1945 after the British won, only to die in a few weeks due to drinking polluted water.
    He had sent me, my siblings and my mother to Chennai on one of the last ships while he stayed back in Kamayut, a suburb of Rangoon. We were hoping he would get us back to Burma in a few months, but he passed away, and we could not be with him.
    As an engineering teacher, I went to Yangon for a conference in 2004 … More later. Now I am interested in hearing from descendants of South Indians (or Indians) who did the walk in Dec. 1941 or thereabouts!
    Prof Krishna

    1. i was born on as train travelling to Kalaw in 1938.
      My mother and I escaped Burma on the last boat to leave Rangoon Harbour before it fell. I am interested in learning anything about those final days and about the ship that took us to Calcutta.
      My father with a group of missionaries drove their vehicles as far as they could and walked into India in march 1942.
      i returned to Myanmar in 2015 to visit the very place we lived in at Shwenyoungbin . Found the very house we lived in even though mostly just a bare frame with rusting iron roof. What was truly heart warming was to meet my carer who looked after me as a child who is still alive though frail and approaching 98 years of age.

  73. Hello,
    My father in law’s father Anantanarayana Aiyar was a Rai Bahadur in Rangoon. Due to the war he left behind everything and walked down to India while his wife and 4 children came by streamer to Madras.
    The walk that too 100 days took a toll on his health. After a brief period in Madras,Finally they settled in Mumbai.
    My father in law who will turn 80 next year was just 1 year old when they left Rangoon.
    He wants to trace his birth and go and see Rangoon where they lived.
    How can I go about this? Where can I ask for help?
    Thank you.

    1. Hello,

      My grandfather was in Rangoon during that time and if you know anyone from Kerala who was in Rangoon, please connect.

      My WhatsApp is +918547884621

    2. Hello Lakshmi Aiyar…the best way to remember the journey and discover Rangoon is traveling overland from Tamu the last Indian town. There are regular VIP bus services from Tamu to Kalewa. Then you can fly out to Rangoon from Kalewa…Best wishes on your search.
      I had traveled in 2019.
      Best regards,

  74. Hello everybody!
    My father’s maternal side lived in Mandalay and Maymyo until 1941. I am actively researching on this field-especially the Bengali women’s experience of the war. I would be grateful for your cooperation. I reside in Heidelberg, Germany.
    Priyanka Bhattacharyya
    please email me if you want to share your stories, which will help me in my research

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