A Collection of Awards for Burma Operations during the Second World War

Date of Auction: 27th September 2017

Sold for £1,200

Estimate: £1,200 - £1,400

An outstanding Second War ‘Battle of Imphal’ M.M. group of five awarded to Private S. W. Murrin, Devonshire Regiment, for gallantry during a four-man patrol which was ambushed on the Mombi Track, 4 April 1944. During the ambush the patrol’s Bren Gunner was seriously wounded - and in an effort to escape, Murrin carried both wounded man and Bren Gun for an hour through dense jungle. On his way back to friendly lines he encountered three Japanese soldiers in a weapon pit - Murrin lay the wounded man down, and promptly dispatched the enemy soldiers with the Bren Gun

Military Medal, G.VI.R. (5616975 Pte. S. W. Murrin. Devon R.) contact marks; 1939-45 Star; Burma Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, mounted for wear, therefore nearly very fine (5) £1200-1400

Footnote

M.M. London Gazette 16 November 1944:

‘At approx. 10.15 hrs on 4th April 1944 in the Mombi Track area a patrol of 1 N.C.O. and 3 men was sent to contact No. 12 Pl. of ‘B’ Coy. On the way two Jap L.M.G.s opened fire on the patrol. Pte. Vanstone the Bren gunner was seriously wounded. Pte. Murrin carried Pte. Vanstone and the Bren Gun for about one hour through the jungle. On the way he encountered 3 Japs in a weapon pit. Pte. Murrin put down the wounded man, shot and killed the 3 Japs with the Bren and brought Pte. Vanstone back to the Pl. position.’

By the second week of March 1944 the main body of the 1st Battalion Devonshire Regiment were positioned on a feature that was given the name of Devon Hill, east of Sibong Bridge. Devon Hill was one of the high points covering the British withdrawal along the Imphal Road, and the latter were ‘essential to the recovery of everything that might be salvaged: for hour after hour it was packed with slow moving columns of transport: anything that could not be moved back was destroyed but, for the lightly equipped Japanese advancing from the south, the east, and the north, the road and the main positions defending it had only to be avoided.... Using jungle tracks the route could be attacked whenever an opportunity arose using temporary road blocks, and ambushes and the like with the result that, as day succeeded day, the Brigade’s command of the route became increasingly precarious.’ (The Bloody Eleventh, History of The Devonshire Regiment, by W. J. P. Aggett refers)

The Japanese brought up artillery to shell the ridge behind Devon Hill, and at night ‘jitter parties’ infiltrated the main perimeters firing tracer ammunition with the object of keeping the occupants on edge. As ‘pressure increased, a particular danger point developed further back towards Palel in the area where a path known as the Mombi track, joined the road. (Mombi lay some 40 miles to the south west.) There, a platoon of the 1st Battalion was already part of a mixed Indian Force, commanded by a Sapper major, which was in such danger that Harvest was ordered to send assistance. ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies, Battalion Tactical HQ and the Mortar Platoon set off along a hillside but soon ran into trouble. Harvest, moving with Battalion HQ and with ‘B’ Company as local protection heard the sound of firing from an ambush just ahead and a shout by Second Lieutenant Corderoy ordering his men to fix bayonets and charge. The ambush was dispersed by Corderoy was hit and rolled down a steep slope into the scrub....

For the next ten days the 1st was based at Devon Hill sending out patrols in various directions, most of which provided evidence that the enemy was present in strength on both sides of the road. The Mombi Track was the scene of much close-quarter fighting: the 1st Battalion had by that time learned the effectiveness of the hand grenade in these brief but deadly engagements.’ (Ibid)

It was during one of these ‘brief but deadly engagements’ that Murrin distinguished himself, and by the evening of 4 April (the day of his M.M. action) the Battalion had withdrawn to a position on Patiala Ridge.

1 of 9 M.M.’s awarded to the Devonshire Regiment for services in the Burma theatre of operations.