[Lone Sentry]
  [Lone Sentry: Photographs, Documents and Research on World War II]
Home Page  |  Site Map  |  What's New  |  Search  |  Contact Us

"Notes on Patrolling in Jungles of Burma" from Intelligence Bulletin, January 1944

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following report by British officers on patrolling in the jungles of Burma was published in the January 1944 issue of the Intelligence Bulletin.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Intelligence Bulletin publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



British forces in the jungle areas of Burma are emphasizing the importance of patrolling in their combat against the Japanese. The following notes on patrolling summarize conclusions drawn by British officers, or by units, from their combat experiences in the western Burma area. These conclusions, while not official British doctrine, should prove a helpful stimulus to U.S. thought on the subject of patrolling.


A British officer recently stated that, for jungle fighting, a soldier can hardly have too much training in patrolling. The improperly trained soldier, he continued, is completely lost when he gets off paths or trails in the jungle. "He must learn to find his way about in the jungle, and not be afraid of it. The jungle is totally new to our farm-bred soldiers as well as to our city-bred soldiers, since it bears no similarity to either environment. The jungle can be a friend and protector to you, as soon as you know how to utilize it.

"You cannot utilize the jungle very well unless you are a well-trained observer. You must know all the means of detecting the presence or passage of the enemy—such as fires, ashes, cartridges, broken undergrowth, footprints, misplaced foliage, and so forth.

"When fired upon in the jungle, patrols should pause momentarily to observe and formulate plans. These should be executed promptly—the patrols must keep moving, and not pin themselves to the ground. They must be trained to get rid of obstacles quickly or to avoid them, depending on their mission."

Another British officer said, "In the past, lack of clear orders has been responsible for more bad patrolling than any other factor." He added that orders should be "crystal clear and not beyond the ability of the patrol to execute."


A large group of British officers submitted the following points for consideration in connection with giving orders to patrols.

"(1) Give the patrol leader all available information about the enemy.

"(2) Give him full information about other friendly patrols which are operating, or which may operate, in the neighborhood of this area before he returns.

"(3) State his mission in clear and unmistakable terms.

"(4) State, in general terms, the route the patrol will follow.

"(5) State the time by which the patrol is required to return, and the place to which it should endeavor to return.

"(6) Give the recognition signal for challenging friendly patrols.

"(7) State clearly what action the patrol leader will take if he meets the enemy before completing his mission, or after completing it. For instance, should he attack, withdraw, or remain in observation?

"After stating the mission to the patrol leader, have him repeat the main points.

"Don't send out more men than are necessary for accomplishing the mission. Every unnecessary man in a patrol is a hindrance and increases the chance that the patrol may be discovered."


Another group of British officers had this to say:

"A company is not a patrol, not even a large fighting patrol, but it provides the element from which patrols are produced. Whether a whole company is sent out depends upon the distance patrols will have to cover in order to carry out a mission. If the situation calls for use of a company, the latter will provide the necessary patrols and the remainder of the unit will form a mobile base from which the patrols can, if necessary, be assisted and a base to which the patrols can withdraw after completing their missions.

"It is important that the remainder of the company not take up a static position, where it can be pinned down; therefore, it must operate in a specified area, with a place of assembly having been determined in advance, in case of enemy action which necessitates its use.

"Another way in which a company may be employed in this type of warfare is to carry out an ambush based on information gained by patrols."

These officers considered the Bren gun too heavy for patrols which were to stay out more than two days. The rifle, Tommy gun, and grenade were considered the best weapons for patrolling.

During the daytime, the officers said, Japanese patrols almost invariably consisted of two or three men, who generally were led by a native guide.


A high-ranking British officer stated that the major slogan for jungle warfare against the Japanese is "Patrol! Patrol! Patrol!" A patrol, he said, must avoid taking up a static defense; it must be "offensive" in its tactics. It should stay out two or three days, sometimes up to six days, and it should be self-sufficient.

"You must outfox the Jap," this officer explained. "The main point is to confuse him as to what you are doing; then you have an even chance of inflicting casualties.

"The Japs watch and listen all the time. They attempt all sorts of ruses to deceive our patrols. We soon caught on to the enemy's tricks, and he appeared to be foxed completely....

"You can frequently catch the Jap on the loose—swimming, eating, resting, playing, and so forth. Usually when he is caught under such circumstances, he is absolutely unprotected. Once, during a recent campaign, one of our platoons caught more than 100 Japs completely off guard; the platoon killed 30 of the enemy while the others fled in confusion.

"The British patrols usually moved by day, and frequently caught the Japs unaware. At night the patrols generally hid out, away from streams, watering places, and trails."


A group of British officers made the following suggestions for getting better results from patrolling:

"a. Avoid the 'circular tour' tactics by patrols; use a larger number of smaller patrols to deal with a larger number of smaller areas.

"b. If possible, avoid entering villages or being seen by local inhabitants. More reliance should be placed on silent observation at close range.

"c. If it is impossible to avoid being seen, employ the maximum guile to conceal the route and intentions of the patrol. For example, the patrol leader might tell local inhabitants of a village that his destination is a certain place. The patrol would actually start for the place named, but later would either return close to its starting point and watch the village for, say, 24 hours, or cut through the jungle to another route.

"d. Seek to complete the mission of the patrol. The patrol must not turn away because of resistance. If its route is barred, the patrol must probe the enemy front until it finds a suitable approach route, or it must try to maneuver around a flank.

"e. Use cunning, regardless of whether the patrol's mission is to fight or strictly to reconnoiter.

"f. Patrol deep enough to get the desired information."


[Back] Back to Articles by Subject | Intel Bulletin by Issue | T&TT by Issue | Home Page

LONE SENTRY | Home Page | Site Map | What's New | Search | Contact Us